coworker made it obvious she didn’t want the gifts I gave her, employee’s husband hangs around, and more

It’s the new year, so we’re back to regular programming! It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworker made it obvious she didn’t want the gifts I gave her

I work in a corporate office and am fairly new to the organization. There is a director, Jane, who is known to be dark and moody. She is not my boss, but is above me in the hierarchy. I support her with some tasks when a colleague is out of the office.

I gave Christmas gifts to my direct boss, two colleagues, and Jane. The gifts are thoughtful and not expensive. Everyone basically got the same thing. Jane received a total of two gifts, which have been sitting unopened on her desk for several days now. She isn’t in the office today, and we are all out next week for the holiday.

I now know after reading through your website that I shouldn’t have given her a gift in the first place. However, what’s done is done. And it is obvious Jane doesn’t want gifts because she didn’t take them home and has been known to do this in the past. I guess the question is, what is the best thing to do in this situation? Leave the gifts and let it go? Or take the unopened gifts back?

Don’t take the gifts back! That would be really odd. You gave them to her, and now they’re hers to do with what she likes.

I think you’re feeling stung because it seems like she’s ostentatiously leaving them unopened on her desk to intentionally signal “I don’t care a whit about this gift” or even “I reject you and your attempt at warmth.” But it’s much better for your quality of life if you give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she just didn’t have a chance to open the gifts before leaving the office. And that’s okay! Not everyone prioritizes the gifts the same way. (But even if she is trying to send a rude message, that would be about her, not about you. You didn’t do anything that would warrant deliberate rudeness; even people who don’t particularly want gifts from their coworkers usually have the manners to be polite about it, and if she doesn’t, that’s on her, not you.)

If the gifts still remain there unopened for days after you’re all back in the office, ideally you’d try to see it as a funny story you can tell friends rather than a hurtful snub that needs to bother you.

2. CEO joked that we wouldn’t get extra time off if we didn’t attend the holiday party

I want to get your opinion on a “joke” that our CEO made today. I think it’s in bad taste, but I think she thinks she’s hilarious.

We had a social hour as a work holiday party. Attendance was optional, and, while most people made an appearance, a large portion of the employees didn’t. Today we got an email saying that only those people who went to the holiday party were getting an extra day off around Christmas. About 30 minutes later, we got a follow-up email saying that it was a joke and everyone was getting the extra day.

If it was all in one email, I would probably roll my eyes and do the fake laugh of “sure … that was definitely funny…” But the 30-minute gap was long enough for people to get really angry and stop working on things to talk about it. (And to get to talking about looking for new jobs.)

I appreciate the extra day off! But am I off-base for thinking that the initial email saying that only the party attendees get the day was way off-base and not how they should have handled it?

You are not off-base! Why would that even be a joke? What exactly is the joke, just “ha ha, I’m bitter that some of you didn’t attend the party and wouldn’t it be funny if I penalized you for it?” Hilarious.

There are managers who think it’s okay to “joke” by lying about people’s pay/jobs/vacation time/other important things their authority gives them control over, but in this case I suspect it wasn’t even a joke originally! I wouldn’t be surprised if she meant it originally but, after getting blow-back, quickly backtracked by claiming she was only kidding.

3. Employee’s husband hangs around when he picks her up from work

I own a small business and recently have been having issues with an employee whose husband picks her up from work. He shows up about 15 minutes before the end of her shift. And at least once, he went and stood behind the cash counter while waiting for her! He was also watching her do the entire closing the cash procedure, which I don’t think it is appropriate. I’d like to stop this from happening again! Please help me word this.

Be straightforward! “Jane, when your husband picks you up, he needs to wait in the customer area — he cannot be behind the counter. He also can’t be in the store after we’ve closed and needs to wait outside or in the parking lot.”

I think you’re feeling weird about this because it’s so obvious to you that it’s not okay and thus since it’s happening anyway, it feels like it will need to be a Big Awkward Conversation. But instead, just treat it like any other work instruction: be direct and matter-of-fact and assume she simply doesn’t know and will comply once she does.

Also, if you get the sense she’s going to be uncomfortable enforcing this herself, you can do it yourself if you’re around — it’s fine to you to simply intervene and say, “Oh, we don’t allow non-employees in this area so you need to wait over there” or “we can’t have non-employees inside after closing, so we need you to wait outside.”

4. Should I leave my language skills off my resume?

I speak 8 to 10 languages and I’ve been applying for graphic design jobs, but I never get many interviews even though I list the languages that I know on my resume.

I’ve been reading articles on how being multilingual would land high-paying jobs of all sorts, but it’s never gotten me any. Should I avoid listing my multiple language skills on my resume just to make recruiters feel secure and ask me for interviews, especially in my field?

Being multilingual can help you land jobs when you’d be using those languages in your work. If you wouldn’t be, languages are more in the category of “interesting fact,” not a job qualification that will get you hired.

It’s possible that some of the languages you speak would help with some of the jobs you’re applying for, but it’s also possible or even likely that they wouldn’t, since there are a lot of graphic design jobs in the U.S. (frankly, probably most of them) where you don’t need any language other than English. It’s similar to if you were a competitive baker or a wiz at pivot tables: those are both interesting and useful skills, but if they’re not skills you’ll be using on the job, they don’t strengthen your candidacy. Your track record in graphic design will be what matters.

This isn’t about recruiters feeling secure, either! It’s just about them assessing you on the skills that matter for the specific jobs you’re applying for. (And to be clear, language skills are indeed generally useful in life! But that’s different than being useful in every job.)

5. Submitting poetry from my work email account

As well as working part-time, I am also a poet. Recently I submitted some of my work to a publisher that was seeking submissions and without thinking used my work email account. Afterwards I started second-guessing myself and wondering if this was inappropriate. It’s too late to change my submission, but should I make sure to use a personal account or is this something that shouldn’t matter?

Always apply to things like that from your personal email. It’s not so much that a publisher will think “how outrageous that this person used their work email to submit a poem,” but replies from publishers are usually measured in months, not days, and what if you’re no longer at that job by the time they reply? You might have no plans to leave, but there’s no guarantee you’ll still be there a few months from now (layoffs happen, etc.). Using a personal email address that’s fully under your control ensures you’ll receive their response no matter when it comes.

On top of that, a lot of employers frown on using work email for personal business. Some don’t care … but if you do it a lot and they happen to notice, some will feel that it’s a sign that you weren’t fully engaged in your work. A single email like the one you described isn’t likely to be a big deal, but doing it regularly can look off. (And employers do have the ability to review what emails you send out on their systems, and sometimes will see them for reasons that have nothing to do with you.)

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW3 My tendency is Worst Case Scenario. A relative stranger is in your store after hours who is familiar with your cash closing procedures. They should be waiting outside at the very least. For security and safety procedures one person should not be be doing the final count alone. Maybe your employee is honest but you don’t know about her husband or anyone that he knows. Better safe than sorry. If you don’t have any cameras in your store, one camera at least should be in the register area.

    1. Observer*

      If you don’t have any cameras in your store, one camera at least should be in the register area.

      You should do that regardless of Jane and her husband.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      As someone who worked in retail in a past life, I agree that this could be a safety/theft prevention issue. It just feels like he could be up to no good. (He could be clueless, too, but either way, he needs to stay out of employee areas and be out of the store at closing time.)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I’m leaning towards clueless. Like, why shouldn’t I hang with my wife while waiting for her? Its stupid to sit in the car when there is no one in the shop.

        But it is a good idea to have security procedures anyway because the next person might not just be clueless. Sean Taylor was killed by so-called friends of his sister because they were at her birthday party where Taylor gave her a designer purse full of cash. They realized that meant he had money. They broke in to steal it thinking he would be in DC for the game. Instead he was home rehabbing his knee, they shot and killed him.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It’s standing behind the counter that makes me suspicious. I never had a ride do that when I worked retail. Because that’s employee-only space.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            This was where my eyebrows went up. Sure, my ride would come in and hang out if they got there early – both when I was in retail & when in food service. Just so I wouldn’t be walking to the car late at night by myself. However, they NEVER went behind a counter or watched me count money.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Same. We took our drawer to the office to do the counting out with the manager and in full view of cameras. Not only should he not be in the store after hours, he should NOT be behind the counter, especially when she’s counting money or something. This doesn’t pass the sniff test.

            2. Candi*

              When I worked my first job and dad came to pick me up, he never came inside the fence when I was counting the till -and that was technically public access space if you had a token for the merry-go-round.

              (Incidentally, a small wooden ammo crate with a combination lock chained to the frame inside the center of the merry-go-round is not a substitute for a safe. Yet management was alllll shocked when, just a few days before our last lease was up, the thing was robbed.)

            1. Elves Have Left the Building*

              100% Red Flag. He’s either learning the routines and looking for weaknesses in them or he’s SUPER controlling of his partner. Either way, that’s a “Nope” from me, dawg.

          2. IneffableBastard*

            it might be innocent curiosity, really, but it’s much better to play it safe. Even if it is innocent, the next person to do this could not be so innocent one and then OP would have to treat them differently which would become a headache

      2. Baby Yoda*

        We’ve also seen here that these situations can signal a control problem with the spouse.

        1. Observer*

          We’ve also seen here that these situations can signal a control problem with the spouse.

          Sure. But how is this actionable for the OP?

          There should be a camera, and the OP should not allow Spouse to be there regardless of the reason for his behavior.

          1. FirstTimeCaller*

            This is where my mind went first, too. I once worked at a food service location where a manager’s spouse was always hanging around when she was working. Tragically, I found out years later that he had committed SA against other employees and the manager lost her life in a DV situation with the husband (I’m putting it this way for sensitivity’s sake, but the dude is in prison for life). Obviously, that’s a very extreme scenario and OP shouldn’t jump to any conclusions, but it’s a good argument for taking the issue seriously and not just dismissing it.

      3. SlightlyLions*

        Haha, we have the opposite problem in my workplace. A colleague’s spouse comes to meet her at the end of the day, and also brings her coffee occasionally- but he will NOT step foot in the building! He sort of lingers outside until someone spots him and tells her he’s there. No matter the weather or how long he is waiting he just stands 6 foot away from the door so he isn’t blocking anyone. There is certainly a middle ground between #3 and this method, but 100% should stay well out of the way of any actual paying customers and any colleagues working. Standing in the workplace is fine, but behind the counter? No way.

      4. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Most retail jobs I’ve had, no one would blink twice at this kind of thing. Since OP is the owner they absolutely should have a higher standard, but I don’t think it’s inherently a signal he’s up to no good.

        If he pushes back at all or creates any kind of issue, then yeah that’s a red flag. But it doesn’t sound like OP has tried to set the boundary yet.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          Agreed! I have worked in retail at stores where at both open and close there is only one employee. We had several people who closed over the years who had a ride who would come and spend the last half hour to an hour with them and then would stay in the store for the 15 min it took to close. Sometimes they just wanted to spend time with their significant other since work schedules didn’t result in much time together other times they felt safer with another person there. Never was an issue for us and the reality was it made it so that person was willing to work at that time. It is of course up to you as to whether you are comfortable with this and just because we were, doesn’t mean you have to be and saying he can’t be behind the till feels like a reasonable boundary.

          Transportation is a huge hurdle in a lot of retail jobs and if you are telling the ride they have to wait outside for the time of closing that ride could decide to stop driving the employee and you have lost that employee or they become much less consistent in attendance since they have less reliable transportation. May not be an issue here or you may decide it is worth the risk.

        2. MassMatt*

          No idea if the husband is clueless, controlling, or up to no good. But I’ve worked retail for years, for several companies, large and small, and having a non-employee behind the counter, especially when cash is being counted, was always a huge no-no. LW is right to say no to this.

        3. Michaela T*

          Wow, I worked retail for years and had the exact opposite experience! No non-employees behind the counter or in the store after close. I mostly worked at national chains but some small businesses too. Same rules.

        4. Elves Have Left the Building*

          Nobody would blink at a NON EMPLOYEE being BEHIND the checkout counter AT the register? I seriously doubt that. In the store? Checking out his phone while hanging out waiting? Sure….maybe. But nobody who is not an employee has ANY business standing behind the counter at the register. Period.

          1. Chris too*

            I’ve worked retail too and I have to say it depends on the store setup as to whether my mind would jump to no good. Sometimes staff exits out the back, through the staff rooms and offices, and the store entrance to those offices and break room is…behind the counter. It could be the ride was waiting in the break room and came out to see how much longer the wait would be.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              Waiting in the break room and watching the closing procedure from behind the counter are two different things.

              1. Elves Have Left the Building*

                Bingo! Ding Ding Ding. I cannot think of a reasonable, justifiable reason for him to be standing next to her AT the register, in an employee zone while she’s counting the money, closing down, running reports, etc…

    3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I was thinking LW3 could cite insurance requirements (whether it’s true or not).

    4. Artemesia*

      This. This should not have been tolerated even once as a ‘matter of policy’; it was sloppy management to allow it and it is dangerous. Most theft in small business is an inside job; having him there while she closes out the cash is very risky. And having one person doing it, it risky. This is probably something the owner needs to be managing. I’d be looking at changing the cash management procedures, now that he is aware of every step; installing a camera; and making sure you have a safe way of dealing with keys and money.

    5. Fellow Canadian*

      Also a former retail worker (including selling tickets at a theme park, which involves a. LOT of cash!) and also thought about that too. Closing/cash-out time is when the drawer is open for the longest so it’s definitely the time of day for the store to be a “secure area” (i.e. door is locked and only employees are allowed inside).

    6. Ozzac*

      As a store owner I think it should have been closed down the first time. LW3 should follow Allison script, and if there is a pushback take it as confirmation that there is something going on and reevaluate Jane’s employiment.

    7. The Other Fish*

      You might also find that any insurance you have doesn’t cover you if you have non employees in the area during cash out.
      If you are robbed in this moment you’ll want your insurance to cover you! Even if the perpetrator has absolutely nothing to do with your employee/her husband, the mere fact that there was a distraction or extra unauthorised set of eyes in there is a Big Thing.

    8. Laser99*

      In your personal life you are free to believe everyone has pure intentions and treat them as such. This is work.

    9. Fellmama*

      I manage a small business, and I think many of commenters in this thread are coming at it from a corporate retail background, where there are all sorts of procedures and policies in place to prevent theft (mostly by employees). Moving drawers to a locking location, two or more people present for a count, cameras in the counting room, etc.

      My business simply doesn’t have enough cash volume to justify any of this–if I’m closing alone, I’ll lock the doors and that’s it. But by the same token . . . our counter is barely big enough to fit one person behind it, let alone two! If this were my employee, I’d tell her ride not to distract Amanda while she’s closing and that he was welcome to wait on the couch.

      I was going to make a crack about our closing procedures being “oh, you know how to count to $100?”–seriously, very little cash business–but it’s definitely a legitimate concern–you don’t want this guy knowing the combination to the safe/where you hide the keys, what night(s) you make cash drops, if there are employees who routinely close alone, what bank you use and which route you use to get there.

  2. blue rose*

    #1: I don’t know if it’s like this for anyone else, but gifts from coworkers tend to pile up at my desk because if it’s not something I habitually take with me in and out of work (bag, water bottle, hat, etc.) I’m very likely to forget to bring it with me. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the coworker or the gift or anything, I just made a mental note to take the gift with me in the middle of the day, and by the end of the day, I just walk out with my usual personal effects because that’s what I do every day.

    Point being, there’s any number of reasons Jane left the gift on her desk, and from what the letter describes, I don’t see anything yet to indicate Jane has particular thoughts/feelings about LW or the gifts in any direction.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Totally agreeing!! It’s a very bad idea to try to interpret what someone else is feeling / thinking, when you don’t know them very well (and sometimes, even when you do).

      Jane may not appreciate your gift. OR she might feel awkward that you gave her the gifts – she might feel like she doesn’t know how to deal with this. OR she might have been on autopilot when she left for the holiday. OR any number of other things.

      1. Baroness Schraeder*

        OR she might have ridden her motorbike to work that day and doesn’t have any spare luggage space to carry extra items – that’s the #1 reason I leave things on my desk!

        1. anononon*

          Ha! I came to say ‘maybe she cycled to work and didn’t have space for extra stuff’. This is why I leave stuff on my desk all the time (and why once in a while I get the bus home with a HUGE bag of tupperware, random clothing items, etc.)!

          1. CommanderBanana*

            I call it the Great Tupperware Migration. A few times a month I have to gather up everything that came in with me and take it home.

          2. Elitist Semicolon*

            Same. I have a colleague who sometimes gifts staff with a bottle of wine, and it stays in my office (hidden out of sight) until I can swing by work with the car. Too heavy – and risky – to bike with wine in the pannier.

            1. Phryne*

              I have the exact opposite, funnily enough. I can transport way way more by bicycle than I could ever possible carry otherwise. I have panniers and can fit my work backpack on one side and a weeks worth of groceries on the other easily. I have moved pieces of furniture on my bicycle. But I’m Dutch, so I guess that comes in the blood… lol.

          3. Candi*

            I ride the bus to work. My work carries a decent amount of stuff I can use (shampoo & conditioner, USB A to C cables, etc.), but I buy it 1-3 items at a time because it’s a paaaiiinnnn to carry purchases and my lunchbox and my purse -even when I dump them together in the reusable shopping bag. Gifts would also apply if I’d participated in the Secret Santa. (Totally optional! Love it.)

        2. lyonite*

          This year my work Secret Santa gave me a LARGE garden plant, apparently unaware that I commute on public transit! It made it home, but I was thinking of Macbeth quotes all the way.

      2. Office Lobster DJ*

        I was going to suggest feeling awkward as a possibility as well: “This makes me uncomfortable and now I’ll need to follow up and decide whether to just thank the givers or explain that I don’t want gifts and they shouldn’t get them for me anyway, and now it’s a whole Thing. Let me just put these over here until I have the bandwidth to deal.”

        As for advice to the OP, I think the best answer would be to let this year go and then either not gift up or replace the gifts with a warm card and a treat for the group. If OP continues with individual gifts, I think they should just stick with something small and low effort and resolve to forget about it the second it hit Jane’s desk. (I would have said don’t include Jane next time, but if OP was inclined to include her this year, I understand that excluding her next year may make things weirder than it’s worth. We also can’t know Jane’s mind, and hopefully if she truly hates receiving gifts at work she can manage to speak up for herself.)

    2. Knope Knope Knope*

      Yeah this is me. I’m a VP but I havd ADD and trying to remember things like this that seem like common sense to many people is actually like a Herculean task for me.

      It’s also possible she had plans after work and didn’t want to carry the gifts. At that time of year there’s can be parties and dinners like every night.

      I am also someone who just doesn’t place a huge emphasis on gifts. We didn’t really do them in my (very loving!) family. So I kind of just view them as an obligation though I’ve started to realize other people view them as important or genuine shows of kindness. That was not obvious to me and I had to learn it. My true inside reaction to gifts is usually stress about having to spend so much money.

    3. Random Dice*

      Agree – LW1 is way overthinking this. The holidays are hectic, and there is a lot to juggle. There’s no message except being busy.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I think OP is overthinking it because Jane is harder to work with than the others she gave gifts to. So it can’t be that Jane just got busy, it must be that Dark and Moody Jane hates the gift. OP don’t dwell on this because it is most likely just an oversight rather than further evidence of Dark and Moody Jane.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          That seemed like such a strong description to me! Like I definitely have had coworkers who could be described as moody… but dark?! I don’t doubt the OP has her reasons for the description, but I kinda want to know what they are. It can’t be about unopened gifts.

    4. Cat*

      Yep! I bet I could come up with a dozen theoretical reasons why Jane left a gift from LW on her desk, none of which involve sending a spiteful message to anyone.

      I actually find it so stressful to think that people may be ascribing weird hateful behaviors to me because I left work with my hands full one day. LW I encourage you to hang out with your thoughts and see if Jane is actually a mean person or maybe it’s a you thing. It’s /okay/ if it’s a you thing, but deal with it! Don’t put that on Jane! And if Jane actually is mean then who cares what she thinks of your gift.

    5. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Interesting I read “unopened” as “wrapped”, which I can see feeling a little more like a slight (though OP should still let it go). But if it’s more “this is a bottle of lotion that she put on the corner of her desk and didn’t think about” then yes, I have been super guilty of that.

      1. ferrina*

        I read it as “wrapped” as well. Which does feel a little more intentional, but either way, just assume that Jane is doing Jane (whatever that is) and let it go.

      2. Colette*

        If I’m given a gift in a gift bag, I tend to open it, think “oh, that’s nice” and leave it in the bag until I am ready to deal with it (i.e. take it home or put it away). It would look wrapped to someone who didn’t see me do that. A lot depends on the details!

      3. amoeba*

        Yeah, me too. Which does make a huge difference – I’d find it very normal for my coworker to leave the presents in the office, but not even unwrapping them would at least read like a slight to me!

      4. Ellis Bell*

        Even if the gift is still giftwrapped, it’s still a lot more likely that Jane was busy and forgetful, than using unopened gifts to send a deliberate message.

        1. Candi*

          Maybe she doesn’t want to open them at work. We KNOW there’s workers who will have absolute snit fits about someone giving the boss something “nice”, even if the worker in question never planned to give a gift themselves.

    6. Bookworm*

      I also want to point out that not opening doesn’t mean that she’s not excited. I love Christmas – giving gifts is one of my favorite things, but receiving them is fun too. I often wait to open gifts because it prolongs the excitement for me (and somehow seems more polite – like I don’t feel like I should tear into gifts immediately lest I be seen as too grabby?). However, if someone gave me a gift and then the gift disappeared, I wouldn’t actually assume that the person had taken it back, but rather that someone had STOLEN it. Which opens up a whole other can of worms. I encourage you to not think so much about how quickly people open your gifts. It’s not necessarily (or even likely?) an indication of how they feel about you, but rather a symptom of a lot of other things. Other people have mentioned many such as inability to carry with travel, ADHD, etc. In addition (giving Jane the benefit of the doubt) outward personality doesn’t necessarily indicate how they’re actually thinking/feeling – I know that from experience, I come across as aloof and sometimes “stuck up” especially when I first meet people because I’m severely introverted and anxious (although this is much more true in social situations than at work because I work really dang hard to be approachable/kind/friendly at work – which then uses all my “extrovert energy” at work and I’m left with nothing for social situations).

  3. Cj*

    it’s possible that the person that didn’t open a gift left it there because she belongs to a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. since the specific religion I’m thinking of is often considered a cult, she might not want to out herself as being a member.

    1. Throwaway Account*

      If it were true that she did not want to “out” her religion, she is doing the opposite by leaving the gifts in full view on her desk!

      I think a simpler possibility is she forgot or she is such a curmudgeon that she did not care about the gift or about being polite about it.

      I don’t think speculating about the cause is going to help OP very much. Alison’s point that it is about the person, not the OP is the most helpful approach.

      1. AnonInCanada*

        This. There could be a million and one reasons why “Jane” didn’t take the gifts home with her before the holidays. The point is: OP shouldn’t dwell upon it, not speculate on the reasons why.

    2. Fikly*

      Or, just a thought, you could phrase this much less offensively as “Perhaps Jane isn’t a member of a religion that celebrates Christmas.”

      To LW1: If you gave 4 people you know at your job nearly identical gifts that you describe as thoughtful, and 2 of those people are above you, and 1 of them you only work for occasionally, while I do not doubt you put thought into the gifts, I do doubt they are actually thoughtful gifts, in that they are gifts that everyone would be able to use or enjoy. It’s one of the many problems with giving gifts at work.

      You seem to be at the stage of learning professional norms, and take this as an opportunity to learn how to be less invested and work on boundaries.

      1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yes, even well meant gifts can be trouble. I hate the horrible scent bombs everyone gifts as far as lotions and candles for example.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I enjoy (some, nicely) scented soaps and lotions, but I work in a scent free building, so I was deeply amused that one of my coworkers gave out scented products as her gift.

          (If nothing else it means I also go through them slower than they can arrive, as I am much more likely to put on lotion at work or before work than after).

      2. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I disagree. You can have thoughtful gifts that work for everyone. For example, I recently made and gave small notebooks to all of my coworkers. They are thoughtful because I thought carefully about each of the designs and matched them to each person.

          1. GythaOgden*

            Same here. My colleagues have generally given me notebooks because they know I like writing and drawing. It’s also the thought that counts for me — I can regift or donate stuff that I don’t need or want. I used to give my co-receptionist scarves (like the kind you wear on formal occasions) on a regular basis, sometimes just because I was clearing out my bedroom and found one I’d been given but hadn’t worn. She had a huge collection of them and it was nice to give it to her rather than have it collecting dust in my room.

            I once asked various people if they’d let me make them scarves when I learned to knit. Some were chunky, some more kind of kerchief-style or ornamental. It was really nice to see people actually wearing them. (I generally used acrylic because of allergies, but it was nice just to make them specifically for people in colours they’d said they liked.) That year my supervisor sent me a gift of one of those crochet hook sets from Amazon. A small gift, but a very nice thoughtful one.

            It’s a very human thing to want to show appreciation for someone. Sometimes, yes, professional boundaries do get in the way, but I’d go mad if I ever felt I couldn’t bring someone home something they’d appreciate from a distant place. (I’m also the sort of person who collects animal trinkets, as was my co-receptionist, so that was a pretty easy and cheap way to do things for people.)

    3. GythaOgden*

      Oh wow no. Plenty of non-‘cult’ religions out there and atheists who don’t celebrate. Also, I’d imagine that someone in what they consider a mainstream religion wouldn’t think of it that way or want to hide the fact they’re in something that some people think is a cult. Because that label can be applied a bit too liberally by others and lead to offensive behaviour like this.

    4. Jessie J*

      CJ, offensive comments about other people’s religious choices is not constructive. It’s borderline misguided as well. Let’s be supportive of each other.

    5. Random Dice*

      That’s a weird and honestly pretty offensive take. The letter says they took home other gifts promptly. When I’ve had Jehovah’s Witnesses on the team, it’s been apparent by their approach to birthdays and holidays, and they would just opt out of all of it.

      Occam’s Razor says she just got busy, and this LW is being weirdly oversensitive.

    6. Cj*

      I apologize if people found this offensive. I didn’t even say I think the religion is a cult. however, this is a common conception, and then it’s all I meant to point out.

      1. metadata minion*

        Given that the vast majority of religions other than Christianity don’t celebrate Christmas, including plenty of minority religions that someone might not want to talk about in a majority-Christian workplace, jumping to guess a specific one is kind of unnecessary to the question.

      2. T.N.H.*

        But did you miss the part that she has taken other gifts home? This theory is so out there (and directly unsupported by evidence) that it feels like an agenda.

      3. Observer*

        I apologize if people found this offensive.

        Ah, that sounds a lot like “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt”. People found it offensive because it is actually offensive. Because your entire comment is not just Christian focused, but just blind to the existence of the 70% of the world population (and 37% in the US) that is not Christian – and also that doesn’t look at this religion the way other Christians do.

        Which is to say that your comment was a problem not just because of the way you referred to a specific sect, but because of how utterly Christian-centric and dismissive of other religions it is.

    7. Jessica Clubber Lang*

      Where are you getting all that from? It’s just as likely they think the gift is haunted by the Trix Rabbit and are afraid to touch it.

      There’s a reason we’re not supposed to speculate, jeez

    8. Nancy*

      There is no need to speculate. The simple reason is she either forgot or hasn’t been able to take them home yet.

    9. Observer*

      it’s possible that the person that didn’t open a gift left it there because she belongs to a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. since the specific religion I’m thinking of is often considered a cult,

      Do you realize how many religions do not celebrate Christmas? And that *some* (ie plural) of those religions may actually have a problem with it? Why on earth would you jump to *one* particular religion?

    10. NotSoRecentlyRetired*

      I purchased 40 or so calendars of various themes at the “dollar store” every year, put a ribbon on each and gave them to coworkers and managers at the large company I worked for (letting each recipient select their own, as the photos were visible). One year I pushed a non-Christian manager to choose a calendar anyway as a holiday gift. It ended up sitting in his cubicle for the entire year, with the ribbon still on! As I think now this was passive insult to me for not respecting his religion, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Honestly, it seems more like you were insulting him. Why push someone to accept a gift to mark an occasion they don’t celebrate?

      2. Elves Have Left the Building*

        “I pushed a non-Christian manager to choose a calendar anyway as a holiday gift. ”

        I’m sorry; who was insulting whom?

    11. Maggie*

      She probably just forgot. Also the biggest religion in the world doesn’t celebrate Christmas so it’s hardly an indication that someone belongs to a small religion or cult.

      1. Observer*

        Christians make up approximately 30% of the world’s population (if you include cultural Christians), Nothing is close to that.

        Having said that, that’s *still* approximately 70% of the world’s population that are not Christians and that do not celebrate Christmas. So, yeah, the idea that she must be (or even is most likely to be) a member of a small *Christian* sect is kind of odd. And calling out that many Christians consider it a cult in a way that doesn’t even recognize that this is a specifically *Christian* issue just makes it odder.

  4. Observer*

    #2 – Unfunny “joke” about time off.

    I really think that Allison is on to something when she says “I wouldn’t be surprised if she meant it originally but, after getting blow-back, quickly backtracked by claiming she was only kidding.” I would be willing to bet the same thing.

    Firstly, even as bad “jokes” go, this is weirder than most. I’d be willing to bet that she REALLY was not expecting this much blow back. But also, I get a very strong sense that this is the tip of an iceberg of bad management. Because as out of line as this is. this – “But the 30-minute gap was long enough for people to get really angry and stop working on things to talk about it. (And to get to talking about looking for new jobs.)” – is a pretty intense reaction – especially the talk about finding new jobs.

    I suspect that if your CEO were a generally good boss, and the company a good place to work, people would not be jumping to quitting (even with a new job lined up) so quickly.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Oh, absolutely. This screams someone having been petty, and a more reasonable person immediately stepping up and saying “you can’t say or do that.” Half an hour before the face-saving “just a joke” email went out means there was probably a phone call or quick meeting involved, but is actually a really short timeline for a response in my experience.

      But yes. Everyone just got stung by a murder hornet, more or less… it’s the sort of thing that brings simmering discontent to a full boil very quickly.

      1. Random Dice*

        The CEO definitely meant it, and was already talked to by someone reasonable (probably in legal or HR, about laws).

        But the reaction of everyone is a signal about the broad pattern of a messed-up workplace – this is Last Straw reaction rather than First Offense reaction. You can tell by how fast everyone went to looking for another job. That’s something people only jump to when they’re already fed up. And to do it out loud, to coworkers! They’re all done.

        1. ferrina*

          Exactly. I’ve worked with several CEOs that would do exactly this- agree to make a party optional but really they expect everyone to come (Issue #1- saying one thing but meaning another), then get upset that not enough people came (Issue #2- expecting everyone to read their mind) then punishing people for not coming (Issue #3- clearly going back on their word).

          There are usually a couple rational people high up who are able to talk the CEO down (or sometimes yell at them enough to get them to back down)- 30 minutes is just the amount of time for one of them to see the email, march down to the CEO’s office and say “This is a joke, right?!” The CEO sees their expression and quickly says “er, ha ha, yes, a joke! I was just about to send the email explaining that!”

          And yeah, this is definitely not the first time this CEO’s issues have impacted the staff.

          1. My cat is funnier*

            Yep. I can totally see that being how it went down. I even have a pretty good guess of who all went marching to her office.

            And you’re right. While she has been working on her management skills, there have been serious issues in the past and there are still occasional issues that affect moral and the staff. (everyone’s human, but it’s more than that)

        2. JustaTech*

          Yes, this feels very Last Straw.
          There was a time my coworkers and I joked-not-joked that the day they stopped supplying the coffee was the day we all quit. Not because we cared about the coffee that much (it was cheap pre-ground we brewed ourselves), but because canceling the coffee order would be a sign the company was going under imminently.

          Given the reaction, I think it is very likely that the CEO has regularly messed with people’s leave or otherwise been unpredictable and vindictive.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        If it was meant as a joke, 30 minutes wouldn’t have elapsed between emails, unless the boss thought it would be REALLY hilarious for everyone to get all upset about her little joke.

        I think she meant it too but then either realized what was happening or got told to fix it.

        I also agree that there is more here if people were already talking about job hunting. Which if this is this boss’ sense of humor might not be a bad idea. this probably isn’t the first time she pulled something like this.

        1. Betsy*

          Yeah, at one of my previous jobs, management was frequently nickel-and-diming us, so I didn’t have any good will towards them and never gave them the benefit of the doubt, etc. If they ever sent an email like the one in the letter, people definitely would have started looking for other jobs. I only stayed as long as I did because there were other benefits for me with that job.

      3. My cat is funnier*

        I also have a funny feeling that she wasn’t joking originally. I know at least 1 person went straight to HR and several others went to their supervisors immediately. I bet there were some very fast discussions and number crunching to make sure everyone got the day off.

      4. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        Yeah, especially without a big mea culpa like “I hit SEND on the follow up email 90 seconds after I sent the first one and then jumped onto a call. Turns out, the follow up was apparently sitting in Outlook with spell check asking me to correct “Psych!” to “Psyche!” for 30 minutes. I am mortified!” Because then, yeah, it’s still a bad joke, but the CEO is clueless and careless rather than a jerk.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, it was clear to me that that’s what had happened. This is annoying in itself of course but is it a pattern for the boss? Does boss have a habit of making “policy” on impulse and via off the cuff emails / pronouncements?

      I almost wonder if it was someone in HR who said to him e.g. “we might be in trouble legally with that, because people not coming to the social event are disproportionately parents / don’t drink maybe for religious reasons / etc” and raised it as a potential discrimination issue.

      1. JSPA*

        Yep, or a quick phone call from Legal to say, “if non‐Christians are staying away because they find the holiday party to be too Christmas-themed, or more broadly disallowed under their faith, this is actively discriminatory” might have brought her up short.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        It could also have been one higher-up saying, “My team was working on Major Vital Timely Business Need and didn’t have time to go to a party. Are you punishing my team for doing their job?” Especially if it were something that would be disastrous not to be taken care of.

      3. Antilles*

        To answer your first paragraph, I am 100% confident it’s a pattern. In a good workplace where this is out of nowhere, nobody would instantly jump straight to anger and considering quitting.

        Instead, if this was an out of nowhere one-off, people would be baffled and confused for those few minutes. Huh that’s weird, nobody’s ever cared about party attendance before, maybe I’m misreading the email. Employees would start talking of course, but it’d be framed a lot more along the lines of “that email has to be a mistake right” and “did I miss something crazy at the holiday party to prompt *this*?”

        It’s only in toxic workplaces/toxic bosses where people would immediately believe this enough to jump to job searching.

        1. Observer*

          To answer your first paragraph, I am 100% confident it’s a pattern. In a good workplace where this is out of nowhere, nobody would instantly jump straight to anger and considering quitting.

          Exactly. Something has already poisoned the well here.

          And the OP’s updates do confirm that.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Shrödinger’s Douche came early this year.
      “but i was joking!”
      No. You weren’t.
      If your employees had grumbled at their individual desks, that sending email would not have appeared.
      It was not a joke.
      But your manager is.

    4. Web of Pies*

      Honestly, this is such a clear red flag that the boss has no understanding of power dynamics that I think it IS a quittable offense. My boss is the same, thinks she’s hilarious when she jokes about FIRING PEOPLE, makes inappropriate jokes all the time and actively tries to be friends with employees. She’s not changing and your boss isn’t either, OP.

      If you do stay, keep a close eye on what she says and does.

    5. el l*

      I think so too. Because it’s an extremely common rhetorical tactic:

      People floating something controversial – be it in writing, voice, or in-person – and when they get pushback claiming it was just a joke.

      1. MassMatt*

        Also a frequent tactic to attempt to inject racist, sexist, homophobic, etc comments while evading potential consequences.

    6. My cat is funnier*

      I will give our CEO credit where credit is due— she is working on being a better manager. Over the last several years I have seen a general improvement, but her past behavior might explain the hair trigger.

      I also have a funny feeling that she wasn’t joking originally. I know at least 1 person went straight to HR and several others went to their supervisors immediately.

      1. Observer*

        Oof. It sounds like she has a looong way to go. The level of pushback – talking of quitting and immediate vists to HR and managers, tells me that bad management behavior is not far enough in the past to earn her the benefit of the doubt.

        The thing that concerns me a bit is that it looks like you may have normalized some fairly bad behavior. Just the fact that you needed a “gut check” on your feeling that this behavior was really off base makes me wonder what kind of shenanigans go on that makes this feel like it might be “normal”. Because there is nothing normal or acceptable about her behavior here. The fact that you boss is *less* toxic than she used to be is clearly a good thing. But that does not necessarily mean that she’s close to being a good manager.

    7. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. If my management said this, I’d mostly be confused because that’s not how scheduling works here, but they’d get the benefit of the doubt. However, they’ve also earned that over time. I know they’re not the sort of people to play around with time off. If multiple people jumped immediately to “job hunting time” at that point, it says a lot about the CEO, and what it says is TERRIBLE.

    8. Kevin Sours*

      I agree that a CEO that would pull something like this — joking or not — is most likely problematic in other was. But I wouldn’t necessarily read too much into the “looking for new jobs” comment. A day off at Christmas getting taken away is an emotionally fraught thing. Office parties being officially optional but actually not is a a fraught thing. The rules changing on you retroactively is a fraught thing. All three together is some hot nonsense.

      People are going to get mad. Mad people have a tendency to spout off in ways that might not survive the cold light of the next morning.

      1. Observer*

        Eh, people do spout off, but generally not this level.

        And, the OP’s additional details absolutely support that. Most people do not run to HR and their managers the *first* time their big boss pulls some “hot nonsense” (I like the phrase!) And, yes, there is a history.

  5. Coin Purse*

    #1 People leaving me holiday gifts at work always made me uncomfortable. I’m not a Christian so it felt even more awkward. I’d thank people individually and in writing but 90% of the time the mug/candle/ornament went right to the Salvation Army.

    Try not to overthink what the unopened gift meant.

    1. Wouldn’t you like to know*

      Salvation Army is harmful to many people. More people than they help. And they charge for their “volunteer” services that no one asked for.

    2. Heather*

      Same. Especially when everyone knows I don’t celebrate Christmas. I understand that they are being nice. I understand that, to them, it’s more about a thank you at the end of the year. I still feel extremely uncomfortable with the whole holiday gifting at work thing.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yeah, it can get awkward.

        I’m lucky in that my winter holiday (Yule/Solstice) has a gifting component to it, but it’s mostly small and/or handmade things, as the holiday has a hearth/home/family aspect. Giving food or natural candles is a thing.

        When I was in an office, I gave out homemade jam as a yule gift. If people didn’t want any, that was fine. I had several flavors, and the person got to pick which one, so no wrapping, religion, or whatever. I did it as an annual way of saying “It’s been great working with you this year.”

        If a person says they don’t celebrate whatever holiday, that’s fine. If they wanted some jam anyway, or not, that was fine too.

        If someone said from on high “No December holiday gifts in the office”, I would comply. Maybe I would shift when I handed stuff out to the Spring Equinox instead. Or maybe some other random time. Because when it comes down to it, I do enjoy giving people small things to enjoy, without it being a holiday thing. IMO, the holiday thing is, at least for me, an excuse. I know that for others it isn’t.

        I squirm at the religious wrapping paper, religious displays in public areas, religious music for two months, and all that yaya. But thanking people at the end of the business year with a small gift? I’m fine with that. If the business fiscal year ended in June, and all the thanks were then, then I would probably do my gifting then.

        My outlook on this is heavily influenced by American business culture, so YMMV.

    3. Coin Purse*

      I meant Salvation Army as a place holder for a donation site. It’s the largest in my area.

  6. Daria Grace*

    #1. Try not to read too much into this. Different people and families seem to have different customs around gift opening. Some think it is most polite to open immediately in the presence of the giver, some privately later. Also at this time of year its even more likely than usual they had a reason to leave the gift behind. Perhaps they are going straight to a Christmas event or out shopping from work. Maybe they had other possessions they had to take home ahead of the break. Maybe they’ve got so much to wrap up before going on holidays that it slipped their mind

    1. Coverage Associate*

      There are definitely work days where I couldn’t take another thing home that day, and the last day before a break is more likely to be one of those days.

      I take the subway, so I can take at most my briefcase and one other bag, unless I knew to bring a roller. Before a break, I am more likely to want to be carrying personal items that have collected at the office or that I might need for the break, like headphones I might want for a flight. And I am very likely to have gifts I bought for family on work breaks that I need to take home and wrap and give to them during the break.

      It goes both ways, too. It took me a few days to bring in all the treats from Santa that I wanted to share with the office.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, definitely. The vast majority of people in London use public transport to get to work, or they cycle, and you just don’t always have the means to carry things home after work if you’re not expecting to have to do it. Usually I have a cotton tote bag in my work bag in case I go to the supermarket on the way home, but sometimes I forget to put it back in my bag, and then it’d be difficult to carry stuff home. If I’m going out straight after work I also probably don’t want to carry an extra bag with me, which might get in the way, or get forgotten and left behind in the pub, or whatever. There are many reasons why I might thank someone for a gift and then think ‘I’ll have to leave that here until January, can’t take it home just now’. I don’t think leaving it on her desk is meant to be some sort of huge show of ‘I don’t want this’. If she didn’t want it surely she’d have stashed it in a drawer or something.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yup, plus if you keep the item wrapped for taking home another day, you keep it more contained and transportable, a lot of the time.

  7. Not A Manager*

    LW4, for better or worse, in this world I just wouldn’t take someone seriously who listed 8-10 languages on their resume. I’d assume that they’d taken an online class and were claiming unwarranted fluency. It would cause me to look askance at the rest of their application.

    If I were you, I’d pick one or two that you know best and list them under “other skills” and leave it at that, unless the job specifically would benefit from multilingualism.

    1. Lilo*

      I had the same thought. I’ve run into people who claimed, say, Spanish fluency and then failed a basic conversation test. The Trevor Noahs of the world are a bit rarer.

      1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Eh… only really in the US, which despite lacking an official language, has a very one-language-dominant culture on a massive geographical space.

        Step into Europe (especially continental Europe) and most people are multilingual to some extent (not necessarily full fluency). I’ve heard that this is also true throughout most of Africa and Southeast Asia. Especially if they’re related languages, I could see it being possible.

        1. vombatus ursinus*

          Hmm, while it’s certainly possible, I live in continental Europe and my impression is that speaking 8+ languages *well enough to use them at work in an office job* still seems a little improbable. I’d say working proficiency in 2-5 languages would be unremarkable here (though still very impressive to me, who ‘speaks’ some level of 4 languages but is only comfortable working in English!), but 8-10 would still stand out a bit …

          1. Random Dice*

            I agree that 8-10 is much more likely to be a linguistic dilettante rather than a polyglot. (Especially with the range – is it 8 or 10?)

            Some countries lend themselves to needing multiple languages, either because of internal divisions or by being small with a lot of nearby countries.Most Indians I meet speak 3-4 languages as a matter of course (English, Hindi, and several regional languages). Swiss people tend to be polyglots too, for the same reason. (German, French, Italian, some speak Romansch, and English)

            If linguistics are not needed for a role (and graphic design generally doesn’t require it), as a hiring manager I’d have a mild positive impression of them, even if a dilettante, because it shows mental flexibility, an inclination to learning, and comfort with other cultures and ways of doing things.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              The range really stuck out to me. Maybe that’s “8 at a conversational level, and 2 at just a read a newspaper level.” But if someone said “I can program in 8-10 languages” or “I have 8-10 professional certifications” then potential bosses would likely be puzzled rather than excited.

              I agree that put in the right spot on the resume, speaking multiple languages suggests mental flexibility etc.

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Maybe the 8-10 is reflecting that some languages can be considered as either languages or dialects? I can see this with programming languages as well, actually.

                For a programming language example that I wouldn’t bother putting in detail on my resume (unless I was applying for some very esoteric job!), I’ve written programs in a ton of different BASIC variants, including the ones on both Apple/Franklin DOS, MS-DOS, TI calculators, some weird old minicomputer with really small file sizes, mid-90s Visual BASIC, and probably a ton of other others that I’m forgetting. The differences between these variants are important when you’re actually using a specific machine from the 1990s or earlier and trying to write a program in BASIC on it, but I probably wouldn’t even bother listing BASIC as a language I knew on my resume unless I was applying for a job unless it was in the job description, let alone break out the specific variants that I’ve used. If I were applying for a programming job (which I am unlikely to do), I’d probably list the more currently in use/professional languages I knew, and then maybe add a bullet point of “and assorted hobby languages” or something to cover that I can also program in BASIC, Logo (which I also know many variants of), and similar, if that. (I wish I could get a job in which I spent my time dealing with the nuances of 1970s-1980s BASIC and Logo variants, but that is definitely more in the nature of “weird hobbiest accomplishment” rather than “something that companies pay you to know”.)

                1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  To tie this more closely to the letter, I’d suggest tailoring the list of languages spoken on the resume just like I would with programming languages: put the both ones that you are most fluent in and the ones most useful for the job, and emphasize your fluency in those rather than your full range unless it’s a job where breadth would be prized over depth. I also wouldn’t list any language on your resume that you wouldn’t be comfortable conducting work in. (I personally might fudge this a bit with programming languages to “I would be comfortable programming in this again given suitable reference material and a week to get back up to speed”, but even that can be pushing it since there might be a coding test in an interview. I definitely wouldn’t list a foreign language unless I was prepared for the interview itself to be conducted in that language.)

                2. JustaTech*

                  Seven Hobbits: there used to be a job posting at the Living computer Museum in Seattle for someone with expertise in BASIC and Logo, but also who would be able to re-wire the mainframe computer than had been chopped into pieces to get it out of its original building.
                  Sadly I think the museum closed, because it was super cool.

                3. I Have RBF*

                  I have written code in about 15 different computer languages – macro, scripting and compiled. There is no way that I list them all on my resume, because some are just “took a course in this because it was required” or “this macro language isn’t in use any longer.” I only list the ones I use currently that I consider myself fluent in.

                  IMO, the same thing should apply for spoken/written ones – is the ability to read Ancient Greek a needed job skill? If so, include it; if not, leave it off.

        2. Matt*

          Not really. In Europe everyone speaks English as a foreign language to some extent because it is taught in schools from very early on. A certain population has French as a second foreign language because you can choose it in high school and most students who don’t strive for medicine or law choose it over Latin. And some people living in border regions are bilingual. But I’d say more than two foreign languages isn’t common at all.

          1. Wings*

            There are differences across Europe too. I’ve studied three foreign languages in school (minimum two are mandatory in my country) and a fourth one at university as a sort of hobby. Latin is not commonly taught here. I only claim fluency in one of them (English) and the other three I can maintain a casual conversation, run everyday errands and/or read professional materials albeit quite slowly. With regular practice, I could become fluent in any one of them. To me, 8-10 foreign languages sounds a lot too (though not unheard of) so my tip for the LW would be to really be specific as to their level of professional fluency in each one of them and try to concentrate on the ones that are likely to be the most relevant for the positions/companies they are targeting.

            1. Ozzac*

              Yes. I’m italian, and I know english (obviously). I studied latin and classical greek in high school and while I haven’t used them in 20 years I can probably remember them if picked up my old textbooks. I can parse a text written in most neo latin languages with a bit of help from a dictionary enough to understand the general idea, but not enough to claim to “know” them

          2. Lilo*

            I have family in the Netherlands so I’m not unfamiliar with people speaking a few languages, but even there ten is rare.

        3. Sz*

          Not the OP.

          Just wanted to point out that multilingualism is extremely common in the Indian subcontinent as well. To give you my own example, I am Pakistani, my grandparents came from different parts of India, so collectively they spoke 3 native languages + English. They moved to what is now Bangladesh in 1947 where my parents and their siblings were born and learnt Bengali. Then everyone moved to Karachi in Pakistan in 1972 and learnt Urdu, after which I was born. This is how I grew up speaking six languages, and I consider all of them my “native” languages because I spoke them from early childhood with my parents. I later learnt German when I went there to study, and my German is good enough to work in. Applied for Canadian immigration and had to learn French, which I now teach. So there you have it, I am fluent in eight languages.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Yes, someone I know from a specific culture within India has multiple native languages to start — I believe she speaks a different language with her siblings than with her parents, and then you start getting into everything else.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              But she would definitely not say “8-10”! And she knows that most of her languages are not specifically helpful to her English-language workplace in the US.

        4. münchner kindl*

          Europeans are not “Mulitlingual” enough for fluency in work context.

          Learning 2 foreign languages (English and another one, though that might be latin or ancient greek) at school is not at all the same as speaking with enough fluency to use in work context.

          Even those people who have immigrant parents and thus grow up bi-lingual have not good fluency in the foreign language because they don’t learn it to adult level (usually it tops out at age level 10 years, when they improve on the current country’s language in school, but not in their parents’ language because no school for that).

          There’s a big difference between speaking some bad Italian for holiday and putting Italian on your job letter as fluently for work. And because most Europeans have experience on how long it takes/ how hard it is to master all four aspects – listening, speaking, reading and writing – in a foreign language, plus the special vocabulary many jobs have (so even being fluent in English you need extra lessons to talk about engineering or medicine in English) they hesitate to put foreign languages on the application letter.

          Even English, which is the first foreign language everywhere by now, even in the former Soviet countries outside Russia, people are reluctant to use it with tourists/ foreigners, because they can’t understand it when spoken too fast and with an accent, because it’s stressful to think of the right words when trying to translate the answer, because they worry of making grammatical mistakes, so in a lot of cases, the natives play dumb with english-speaking tourists despite “speaking” English on paper.

          1. TechWorker*

            Any statement that starts ‘Europeans are’ is generally going to be wrong or at best a huge generalisation… I’m British and few (but not no!) brits who aren’t on multilingual families speak multiple languages well enough to work in, but of course some do. And then there’s a whole bunch of Europeans who end up speaking other languages fluently because their native language is not exactly over represented in media and education – I have a bunch of friends who are genuinely fluent in 3-4 languages, having studied or worked in all of them.

        5. Prismatic Garnet*

          Four or five is believable and impressive! Speaking eight languages well enough to list them on your résumé isn’t super believable unless that’s specifically your job or area of study. It’s technically possible but so wildly unlikely that I do think the majority of people are going to assume that you’ve completed eight Duolingo courses rather than actually speaking eight languages at e.g. a B2 level.

        6. Oatmeal Mom*

          I’m in Europe and I would only list languages I have a professional fluency in. If you can’t work in that language with ease, then it’s more of a hobby factoid about you than an actual credit.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        A reminder that the commenting rules ask that we take letter-writers at their word about the facts of their own situations. It’s fine to say “it could sound exaggerated” if you believe that; it is not fine to assume they’re definitely wrong. (And for what it’s worth, it doesn’t really change the advice either way.)

        1. vombatus ursinus*

          I posted above at the same time as Alison, so apologies if it was out of line! I do believe LW4. Probably “would seem unusual” would have been a better choice of words than “improbable”.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I think that the pooibility that some hiring managers may react with incredulity rather than jealousy/insecurity is still a valid point. And I do think it changes the advice, because “theyre all just jealous” is not a productive mindset when applying.

          Perhaps the LW could tweak their CV/cover letter to lend credence to the language claims (stays abroad? language courses? official tests?) and leave those languages off where they can’t do that or it completely lacks relevance.

            1. Kiki Is The Most*

              Pooibility = the possibility of someone spoiling your fun

              “There’s a high pooibility if Jane is attending the cocktail hour”

              *yes. I just made this up. Thanks for my new word!

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            The I have to make recruiters feel secure in themselves also jumped out at me. I have to wonder if more of that is coming through the application and cover letter too.

            Of course applying for jobs is also a numbers game. 200 applications for one opening. Something has to be weeded out. OP are you emphasizing your language over your actual design skills? because what they want to see when applying for graphic design jobs is design skills not multiple languages.

            1. MassMatt*

              That struck me as odd also, it’s very weird to think that hiring managers and recruiters are intimidated by job applicants.

              This kind of info belongs on a resume/cover letter where it’s applicable to the particular job. Is the job with an international company with products/services all over the world? Maybe it’s useful. If it’s a more typical graphic design job, it comes off as a little unfocused.

            2. Rex Libris*

              All this. I’m currently hiring for open positions, and I’ve passed over a couple resumes because they really, really emphasized skills that have absolutely nothing to do with the job. I wasn’t insecure, I simply thought that either their resume wasn’t showing sufficient background and interest in the right areas, or that they were confused about what, exactly, they were applying for.

            3. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              Same. Ironically, it made me wonder if they meant to use the word “confident” (as in confident in LW’s suitability for a design position) and that they may not understand some of the nuance of the English language. Like the recruiter thinks “Oh, languages are LW’s interest, not really design” or “LW speaks a bunch of languages so she is going to be looking for a higher salary than most design jobs at her level”, so they do not feel solid about putting LW forward for anything.

              Otherwise, it really seems like the LW is saying “Am I just TOO intimidating?” Which feels so odd to write to an advice column about…

          2. fhqwhgads*

            It doesn’t change the advice because the advice already indicates insecurity is unlikely to be a factor. The point is still whether they’re incredulous or the 8-10 just don’t matter for the role, or both, the OP’s current mindset about what effect this list is having is very likely off base.
            Unless the job posting indicates usefulness of a specific language or languages, listing them isn’t really relevant to the application.

          3. Anon in Canada*

            This. “Insecurity” seems unlikely; but speaking 8 languages fluently is so rare that stating that on a resume will make some hiring managers think it could be exaggerated. Some people do really speak that many languages fluently (think of Novak Djokovic – he speaks 11!) but speaking more than 5 or so fluently is rare, and some will find it hard to believe.

            Also, the number of jobs where all those languages would be relevant is minuscule. A particular language may be useful in a particular job (in which case the job posting will list it), but unless you work a customer-facing in-person job in a very diverse city (graphic design is not such a job), speaking that many is unlikely to be relevant).

    2. Shakti*

      I know quite a few people who speak that many languages fluently so I wouldn’t think they were lying what a strange conclusion to jump to. But I would wonder about the relevance of the languages to a graphic design job unless it was for a company that has a ton of international clients or communities they serve. If it was for a clinic in New York City that serves a large diverse immigrant population then yes that would be helpful, but that’s a really specific example. I’d do what Allison says and stick it in skills or facts

      1. HelveticaParty*

        I live in Seattle and have worked as a designer (graphic, web, UX/product) for the past 10 years. I strongly disagree with people telling you it’s less relevant. Listing Spanish and/or French would be extremely useful, imo. I’ve worked 4 jobs where Spanish and/or French particularly are highly desirable and would give you an advantage interviewing.

        My current job is for a company focused on serving immigrants – any and all language skills other than English are looked upon extremely favorably and would definitely make you stand out in the hiring process. University and nonprofit design roles that I’ve noticed frequently look for multilingual skills.

        1. MuseumGeek*

          In my work, we often have bi or trilingual signs for museum exhibitions. It is very helpful to have the graphic designer know those languages if the layout is not just blocks of text ( which is usually the case). The client still has to proofread everything but even understanding their corrections is easier if the designer knows the language!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I work in state government, and I agree, provided the languages are commonly used in our state. It can be an advantage then.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              But, you must be familiar with the written form of the language, which is different than speaking it. I hope that’s clear on the OP’s resume.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Also, knowing it colloquially is not the same as knowing it formally enough for all professional situations. I know enough Spanish (I’m in Texas and have no ancestry from any Spanish-speaking countries) to do a rough translation of materials up to about 5th grade level, but not to a level of polish that would be acceptable in, in my case, an academic setting.

                It seems like knowing multiple languages would be an advantage at my job–medical library–except that patrons tend not to request materials in languages they don’t know, and a lot of things are already available in multiple languages. I can only think of two or three times in almost twenty years that we’ve needed translations.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I will posit:
          • The languages aren’t the problem, and LW has fallen into the “it must be this one narrow thing keeping me from getting interview” when it’s more a conglomeration of small things.
          • Listing 1-2 relevant languages (a la the advice to tailor the resume to the job) would probably be more effective than a list of 10 languages.

          1. Smithy*

            This right here.

            I will also posit that if the vibe the OP is getting is that recruiters are intimidated, I think that might be missing the point that the recruiters might moreso be confused. Which is not an unlikely vibe to mistake if you really want to hear a yes and you’re hearing no.

            If the OP’s resume is looking to target a wide range of graphic design jobs and has the languages with equal or prominent billing – then I could see that confusion from recruiters being that the OP is looking for graphic design jobs in multilingual environments or is specifically targeting multilingual positions. So think of getting a graphic design resume and a good chunk of it is listing language fluency certificates/testing achievements and multilingual work. And then the other good chunk is around graphic design.

            It may be that the languages are padding out a weaker graphic design resume, or they’re hiding a strong graphic design resume resume, or again – it’s just confusing to hiring managers/confusing.

          2. EmmaPoet*

            This. I think that listing the languages that are most useful to the specific job would be safer than reeling off eight or nine options. Pick two or three at most. It’s like listing your education- when I started out I would list relevant course work for the job, rather than every class I’d ever taken in grad school.

        3. ApollosTorso*

          Yeah I’m a graphic designer and hace had to do a few translated publications. Usually I know enough to copy and paste some texts.

          And we have native proofreaders, since I have no idea whether I’m introducing mistakes that I’d definitely catch in English

    3. Mmm.*

      What jumped out at me was the “8 to 10.” How does that work? Wouldn’t you know how many you speak? That would raise an eyebrow for me.

      1. linger*

        Nah, the CV has a list rather than an imprecise number. Imprecision in the number cited when writing in could easily arise about
        (i) what level of fluency merits inclusion in the list; and
        (ii) whether or not closely related languages should be counted separately (often a political rather than linguistic decision, e.g. Serbian/Croatian vs. Serbo-Croat; Swiss German vs. “standard” German).

      2. Emmy Noether*

        That jumped out at me too. Maybe some of these languages are still being learned and LW is not sure how to count them?

        That detail also did prime me to be very sceptical about the level. Eight languages at a decent level are quite unusual in itself and seem impossible to maintain unless it’s your full time job. The thinking that it makes other people insecure also pings my radar for exaggeration.

        I speak three fluently (English is actually my third!) and find them hard to maintain, even though one is my mother tongue and work language, one is my main household language, and I read a lot of English. There’s a fourth language I have basic understanding in. I could see having a fluent fourth as a work language, and do know people good at four, with decent passive understanding of like two more, but more than that… yeah, that’s a full time job to get in the practice to maintain.

        Once something in a CV makes me raise my eyebrows and think they’re exaggerating – yeah, I’m probably sceptical of the rest too. It’s kind of unfair to people who really do have unbelievable skills, but if those skills aren’t relevant to the job, I’d try leaving them off and see if that improves the response.

        1. amoeba*

          Apparently it gets easier to learn more languages the more you already speak! I do know at least one guy (American, at that – I’m in Europe) who can basically learn a new language to decent conversational levels within a few weeks of immersion. Super uncommon, sure, he certainly has a rare talent there. But also definitely not impossible.

          Honestly, I’d assume the languages just… don’t have much of an impact either way? Like, I’d also list them on my CV (OK, as a European, I generally have a full CV instead of a resume, so ymmv!), but not expect that they’d influence anybody’s decision in any major way, beyond a kind of impressive entry point for small talk in an interview. Or of course there’s always the chance that one of them might actually be useful in a way that’s not obvious from the job posting! Like “oooh, cool, you speak Bulgarian? We actually have a lot of customers from that region whose English isn’t always great, that might be super helpful!”

          So yeah, I’d leave them on, specify the level of each (I do think you can still list the ones that you’re at least conversational in, even if it’s not full business proficiency! Don’t mention your A2 level Spanish, unless it’s actually really relevant for the position…), but don’t expect any major impact. And definitely don’t make them the focus of your application.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            I think the maintaining is actually harder than the learning. As you say, the more languages you have learned, the easier it is to acquire new ones (romance languages tend to transfer fairly well between each other, for example).

            Maintaining fluency is the hard thing. As I said, I struggle maintaining my level in just three. The passive understanding stays better than active speaking or writing, but I don’t really count passive-only languages as fluent. You have to practice regularly (speaking with native speakers, and writing), or you lose fluency, and languages that are too similar can actually interfere with each other (I know more than one person where Italian has completely displaced their Spanish or vice versa).

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Definitely this on passive v active. I was known as the languages person at OldJob because someone would say “Hey do you speak Italian?” and I’d say “not really” and they’d say “OK but can you read this document and let me know whether it’s likely to be relevant?” and I’d say “oh yeah I can do that much”. And the list of languages I could skim read was pretty long, even if the list I could translate was shorter, and the list I would actually put on my CV shorter still.

              I can do incredibly technical comparative translations in my proper languages (previously had an actual translation job and a tutoring gig), but nowadays I would never volunteer to have a phone call in anything but my mother tongue.

            2. Captain Swan*

              Maintaining is definitely harder. My husband was at one point functionally literate in 6 languages other than English (we are in the US). That’s because he has a Masters in medieval history, so he had to read everything in the original language. The only ones he kept up with are German and Latin and the only one he claims any proficiency on a resume is German.

          2. Anna*

            “I do know at least one guy (American, at that – I’m in Europe) who can basically learn a new language to decent conversational levels within a few weeks of immersion.”

            I believe this, but this is basically a party trick. There is a whole internet subsection of ‘polyglots’ who can have a simple chat in [insert improbably high number] of languages, without learning any of them to the point that they could read a book or have a meaningful conversation or do work in it. It’s still neat, but it’s not ‘knowing a language’ and they are wise not to put it on their CV as such.

            That said, basic knowledge of many languages can be useful in graphic design. It’s useful when the designer can see at a glance if the characters are upside down, or mirrored, or cut off at strange places.

        2. Oatmeal Mom*

          True polyglots who easily master languages at good levels of fluency do exist bit that to me is a separate thing. I am like you, I speak many languages but with different proficiencies. I could speak 3 at work, and do use two at work somewhat regularly. My fourth language is more conversational proficiency and my fifth and sixth are just something I picked up a bit of due to my own interest in languages and media from those cultures. I wouldn’t list anything beyond the three I would feel comfortable using at work on my CV.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        I assumed they spoke ten…well, probably not fluently but well enough to use in work and two that they could hold simple conversations in but wouldn’t have the same level of ability.

        Like I’d say I speak two languages, English and Irish, but I studied both German and French at school, for 5 and 6 years respectively. I’ve forgotten basically all my French, but I do have some basic German, so could imagine saying 2-3 languages.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yeah, I’m fluent in English and Spanish, could hold a basic conversation in ASL or Portuguese once I got back in the mindset, and there are a few others that I could get to basic conversation level with a little bit of work. My answer to “How many languages do you speak?” varies wildly based on whether I’m trying to sound impressive, or whether I’m telling my boss what languages I can communicate in. (I list the reasonably solid ones on my resume with level of proficiency.)

    4. Halley*

      Indeed. I wonder if even just mentioning “studying languages, including [two or three you are most interested in]” as a hobby rather than a skill might be more appropriate? I can envision someone picking up some level of maybe four languages as part of their upbringing (eg in places with lots of languages in use such as Switzerland, India Singapore), but more than that surely means they’ve dedicated lots of independent study time to it.

    5. Myrin*

      I wouldn’t not believe it on its own but I do wonder what’s up with “8 TO 10” – like, do you speak either 8, 9, or 10 languages, or do you not?
      Possibly OP chose that wording for anonymisation of some sort, and I’d assume in a resume, she just lists the actual languages, but if there’s any of that “to” wording in there for some reason, it’d give me pause and make me scratch my head.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I would assume can speak 8 well enough to live in the country and has studied the other two for a couple of years and can hold basic conversations but wouldn’t be able to manage completely in them.

      2. Jessica Clubber Lang*

        That seems like there’s an obvious explanation – they know 8 fluently and two others pretty close to fluent.

        I think it’s great that OP knows all these langs, and I’d include that somewhere in the resume, but as the original answer said it’s probably just not relevant for the vast majority of jobs you’re applying to

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Someone posited above that there might also be a question about whether a couple of them are ‘true’ languages, as opposed to a dialect.

    6. allathian*

      At the very least, they should be prepared to answer questions in any language they say they’re fluent in.

      My first languages are Finnish and Swedish. I’ve spoken fluent English since I was 13, after a year in the UK. I spent 6 months in France as an exchange student where all my coursework was in French and another 6 months in Spain as an intern using only Spanish, but I no longer list French or Spanish on my resume because I’m no longer fluent in either.

    7. Covered in cat hair*

      Quality of the education can also differ a lot – I remember once reading someone wondering why in French they have to refer to their female dog as a male (le chien).

      Un chien/une chienne is literally an example cited in the Bescherelle, so suffice to say that person’s French teacher was either full of merde, or there is some variant of French that doesn’t do this but it sure isn’t European French.

      1. elvie*

        “Chienne” is also an insult commonly thrown at women so some people prefer to refer to their female dog as “mon chien” (my dog) to avoid the negative connotation, but that’s just something I’ve noticed with people around me and certainly not how it’s taught in school!

        1. amoeba*

          Eh, I’m not French but in German that would actually be a really normal thing to do! If I’m talking about a dog, I’ll generally use the male “der Hund” and for a cat, the female “die Katze”. There are gendered versions of both words (“die Hündin” and “der Kater”) but it would be way more common to use the generic one when talking about your cat or dog and the gender isn’t relevant. So, like, if it’s about having your female dog spayed, you’d probably use the female form. If it’s about how they ate your homework, the male.

          Also, fwiw, have never actually heard or used the word “chienne” for a female dog, and I’d say my French isn’t that bad!

          1. Covered in cat hair*

            True, but the argument that specific post/comment was making (I’m trying to find it again but I can’t even quite remember where it was) was that you cannot under any circumstances refer to your dog as a female according to the teacher, which is false. If the teacher had simply said “hey that’s not common” or “just for the record, chienne is also an insult akin to the word for a female dog in English” that would have been a whole different thing. The teacher’s argument was that it was grammatically incorrect, when it’s used as an example of words where the ending changes based on the sex of the being that is talked about (Bescherelle – L’ortographe pour tous under “genre des noms”, at least in my version).

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              I don’t know if I was the one who made the comment you’re looking for, but I did have (and have mentioned here) a community college French 101 instructor who insisted that it was grammatically incorrect to use a feminine ending for my female dogs. The French 102 instructor, who was in fact French in origin, disagreed. :)

            2. Cmdrshprd*

              “was that you cannot under any circumstances refer to your dog as a female according to the teacher, which is false. If the teacher had simply said “hey that’s not common” or “just for the record, chienne is also an insult akin to the word for a female dog in English” that would have been a whole different thing. ”

              I don’t know the comment you are referring to, but it is also possible the teacher/instructor said X or like you suggested “that is not common” and the person interpreted/understood it as that is not done. I have been in situations with others where someone/instructor/leader says “we generally don’t do X.” and later a person that was in the same training/meeting says instructor Jane said “we never do X.”

              What people actually say and what others understand are not always the same thing.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                the instructor actually dinged me points on the assignment because “chien is a masculine noun, regardless of the gender of the dog in question.” We have established, however, that he was wrong :)

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It does seem like a lot. Are some of them perceived as ‘esoteric’ relative to the place where OP is based? (e.g. spoken by only a very small number of people in the country and there isn’t a significant local population of speakers of that language, etc). I would be wondering whether they’ve learned all these languages to actually apply them in a work context or is it more that they are interested in so many different things that they are likely to go off on tangents and get bored easily with whatever the job, move on to the next thing quickly?

      It is similar with programming languages actually (I work in the software area) as it is with natural languages. “Fluency” in a few relevant languages is better than just a single one in general, but a CV/resume full of “alphabet soup” with more than 10 languages listed would come off the same way as the natural languages imo. There are very few jobs where 10 languages (natural or programming) are all used by the job holder.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      As a recruiter, I would not at all feel insecure about someone having different skills / education / accomplishments than I have – we all have our own strengths. Almost every candidate I speak with has a different set of skills and experiences from what I have, and many candidates with whom I speak are fluent in multiple languages. I know people who are fluent in multiple dead languages (to the extent one can be). I’m not gifted in languages at all, but it’s not a factor in who I interview – unless a particular language is a job requirement. I might find it an interesting point of conversation that a person says they are fully fluent in 8-10 languages: some people are naturally gifted at languages.

    10. Juniper*

      Yeah, it’s the 8-10 languages that has me side-eyeing this whole claim. Don’t you know if you speak 8 or 10 languages fluently? At least fluently enough to include on your resume?

      1. Lilo*

        My office also has a translation service and while the translators have a base knowledge in some languages, they’re kind of useless in idioms, so we try to find someone who speaks the language fluently to chat with. I’ve had the translation service massively mess up documents.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Yeah there’s a big difference for an employer between “I need this important legal document translated for submission to a government department” and “is this customer asking for soup or salad?” which is why it’s better to put actual quantifiable competence levels on a resume/CV or job spec if you want to rely on them.

    11. Kotow*

      One of my hobbies is learning languages and speaking with other language learners so hearing someone say 8 definitely isn’t a shock anymore! I could even see the range of 8-10 depending on how you classify specific languages (for example, are Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, and Montenegrin one language or four). I could see listing languages once you get to a B1 level depending on the specific job description.

      For resume purposes though, I agree it’s better to use a specific number and if you have any official credentials for any of the languages, to list them as well. I’m general though, this is seen as an interesting hobby but not a necessary skill in the U.S.

      1. Roland*

        I think this is exactly the problem I would have with this resume – “8-10” brings to mind a hobbyist, not someone whose language abilities can really be relied on in a business context. I’d go farther than “use a specific number” and say “list the specific languages”, because the number is simply irrelevant to a graphic design job.

    12. Bonnie*

      I was thinking the same thing. 8-10 is an odd way to list languages – truly fluent languages should be listed, with perhaps a list of other specific languages listed with a qualifier. There’s even an Indeed article about how to determine and list fluency on a resume.

    13. RNL*

      Yes, I hire a lot and for better or worse things that don’t hang together on resumes are red flags for me, and claiming fluency in 8-10 languages would be one.

    14. Thomas*

      My thought too. To the extent that readers of your CV even notice or care, I reckon a lot of people are going to think either “yeah right” or “what a showoff”.

    15. Rachel*

      My husband speaks eight languages fluently. He’s lived in multiple countries due to his family situation, Peace Corps, and other work. It’s reasonable to ask someone with that many languages listed to talk about it but not to dismiss them outright.

    16. PlainJane*

      Yeah, I thought that, too.

      What I’d do, if you’re genuinely fluent, is put it in your cover letter. “My graphic design work is top notch, but due to my fluency in Kikuyu, I can also integrate copy in that language for your [known project] in Kenya…”

  8. Coverage Associate*

    For 3, I would want to be able to offer some compromise if outside is not a safe place to wait for the employee. If the employee is closing, it’s probably dark outside, and there are some parking lots I wouldn’t want to be alone in late at night, even in my car with the doors locked, even knowing another person was just inside.

    Just really good lighting at the closest parking spot might be enough.

  9. Covered in cat hair*

    LW4, one thing to also keep in mind: are you fluent in those languages *in the context of graphic design*? The reason I’m saying this is that usually in non-native languages we’re more focused with our fluency – I’m fluent in a few, but probably couldn’t talk to a dinosaur-loving child because I don’t know most dinosaur names (though I’m sure aforementioned fictional child would love to teach me). Especially with that many I’m wondering if they actually bring something to your job at all.

    Personally if I saw someone who isn’t a professional translator or at least professionally involved with languages, I would also wonder what the definition of “speaking the language” is and how on earth one is keeping up with all of them. It’s not unusual for official language tests to be not great (a lot of people can be fluent according to some test or other but struggle to ask where the bathroom is – a lot of tests only actually test passive skills, not active ones). It looks like maybe you are even questioning what counts as speaking a language, considering you list them as “8 to 10”? Or are you counting dialects?

    Speaking multiple languages can indeed lead to a high-paying job, but usually more in context where you’ll be speaking to, say, foreign business partners – and then there is a lot of variance what they’ll put up with: some will love any attempt to speak their language, others may pretty harshly shut you down if your pronunciation or grammar isn’t On Point.

    I can’t quite tell if the language learning came before the articles about a high-paying job, but on average I would also recommend against learning skills unrelated to your actual job solely because they might get you a better paying job (unless you are looking to change careers). If you don’t like learning those things (in this case languages) or don’t have a clear goal for them, it is unlikely you’re going to be motivated to actually do a good job learning it (this is more general you than the LW specifically – if this last paragraph is not applicable to the LW, I hope that at least it’s useful to someone else)

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      > on average I would also recommend against learning skills unrelated to your actual job

      The other aspect of that is opportunity cost. Better to spend the time (that would have been spent on unrelated languages) on new skills that are related to the current job or a hoped-for future one.

    2. Annie*

      I doubt one would would speak 8-10 languages if they didn’t like learning languages. But it seems weird to expect that hobby/ability to automatically lead to a higher salary. Being a triathlete is impressive but not raise-inducing in an office job.

      1. Covered in cat hair*

        I doubt it too, but I wanted to touch on it just in case. It wouldn’t be the first time we see someone trying to slog through something they don’t enjoy because they read somewhere it is an advantage to have.

        1. Covered in cat hair*

          (And if it’s not relevant to the LW it might help someone else who stumbles across this)

      2. John Smith*

        I think the comparison is a bit unfair. Being multilingual will always be useful as communication is fundamental. I think the issue here, as touched on by previous commentators, is a potential lack of qualification / certification that would apply to any supplier in terms of quality management. If you were buying a product / service for a specific / important purpose, you probably want to ensure it meets the relevant (international) standards to comply with requirements of a quality management system in place. The same would apply with language as with any other skill. It may be useful to an employer, but they’d want someone qualified. You wouldn’t want someone performing heart surgery on you unless they had been through all the training, qualification processes and gaining hours of experience necessary rather than “I am extremely familiar with the workings of the cardiac and circulatory system”.

        In the UK,we’re always taught that having a second language is a distinct advantage (after realising speaking English loudly and slowly to non-English speakers doesn’t get you anywhere) and should be listed on a CV, but maybe the insularity of the US makes language skills different. If your employer decided to branch out to another country, and you happen to be fluent (and qualified) in the national language of that country, guess who’s going to be very popular with the boss?!

        1. Covered in cat hair*

          I still maintain “qualified” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. You can be fluent in a language without being fluent in the exact part of the language that is required at the time.

          I would also be extremely confused if I was a graphic designer and the higher-up approached me for help setting up a business in a different country whose language(s) I happen to speak. I know next to nothing about setting up a business and may or may not even be able to speak towards the finer things of what other departments do.

          I’m fluent in a language, that does not make me a translator. Very different skill set.

          1. Industry Behemoth*

            An acquaintance who immigrated to the US decades ago, told me that her first language skills are definitely not translation-level now.

            The biggest gap? Internet terminology.

            1. Tangochocolate42*

              Two new people in my team made a similar comment to me a few weeks ago. They said they would struggle to work in their countries of origin because their business vocab is all in English

        2. Random Dice*

          In the US, Spanish is always useful, but especially in certain border-adjacent states (Texas, California, Florida, etc), and in certain industries (construction, restaurants, cleaning, customer service, etc). In Miami, good luck ordering a pizza or taxi without Spanish. But in most office settings I’ve been in, I haven’t ever had to use my Spanish.

          I think languages might be useful for a teacher, so long as the language lined up with local populations.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            There are a lot of advantages to at least understanding Spanish in the NYC metro where I grew up, but it’s not been much of a help with my office jobs. (Retail, absolutely, even in my fairly white, English speaking suburban store, I’d occasionally come across people who communicated a little better in Spanish. But office? Not really.)

            1. doreen*

              Even in office jobs, that’s going to depend on exactly what sort of office job it is. For example, other languages are often useful in the sort of office jobs that are similar to retail in that they deal with “customers” of some sort , whether it’s a medical office or insurance agency or a grocery distributor that sells to restaurants and grocery stores.

          2. just a random teacher*

            Specific languages are very useful for a teacher here (different part of the US), but outside of the ones commonly spoken by that district’s students, it’s back to “nice personal accomplishment to use as an icebreaker”, on par with “can play the mandolin”, rather than “major thing that will help you get a job”.

            At job fairs, I’ve seen some districts that set up a separate line for bilingual English-Spanish speakers and conduct those screening conversations entirely in Spanish. We always have a hard time hiring enough fluent Spanish speakers in my district, but we expect that fluency to be at a level of “could teach subject-area classes in Spanish” rather than “can flail through a Spanish-language document to see what it says”, so I don’t list Spanish on my resume.

        3. Roland*

          > Being multilingual will always be useful as communication is fundamental.

          That’s simply not true. If I were to pivot to graphic design tomorrow, knowing Hebrew would not be a boost in any way for 99% of graphic design jobs in the USA.

          > If your employer decided to branch out to another country, and you happen to be fluent (and qualified) in the national language of that country, guess who’s going to be very popular with the boss?!

          We’re talking about graphic design here. They’re not going to branch out into countries where those “8 to 10” languages are spoken. And they’re not going to use one person for 8 to 10 languages.

      1. Covered in cat hair*

        True, probably a bad example ^^’. Maybe fish or trees would work better, though none of my niblings are particularly into those so my mind grabbed onto dinosaurs as an example.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I liked that example and could immediately picture the child instructing you.

          I will toss out the podcast Terrible Lizards as great fun for anyone really into dinosaurs. The last episode of each season is a compendium of questions.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I could hold up my end of a conversation about fish in… zero languages, so there’s that, lol.

          Also, I did my PhD in a language other than my native language, and was kind of shocked that I sounded like a complete nincompoop trying to talk about it in said native language. I knew none of the specific words.

          1. UKDancer*

            I can relate, I did several law modules at a German university. I have no words in English to explain how Gefahruebergang works in German contractual relationships. It’s basically the word in German for the passage of risk and liability during a contract and I could explain the process and rules in German but I just couldn’t translate the concept into English because it doesn’t make sense to me in English and I was only taught it in German.

            1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

              To be fair, I think in most languages explaining a legal term of art in common language is a challenge.

              I have never felt less competent as a lawyer than when I tried to explain the differences between representations, warranties, and indemnifications to a non-lawyer. I might as well have been trying to explain what the color blue is.

    3. myfanwy*

      Yes, this. I’ve worked as a translator, and it’s very possible to be fluent while still having no idea of the vocabulary needed for a specific topic! I’ve had to work on texts about mediaeval art, printing, the invention of the barcode, medical stuff (aimed at laypeople, I would never take on anything more specialised), fiction written in a specific dialect, all kinds of things – and I had to do considerable research each time to get all the terminology right. And that’s working into my native language. If you haven’t worked in that field with those languages before, it will take time before you’re up and running with the vocab.

      I also know that, having left translation a few years ago, my language skills are absolutely withering on the vine. I can still read, but throw me into a full-speed conversation with a fluent speaker and I’d have no idea what was going on. One of my goals for 2024 is to get back in shape in that regard. But I’d definitely wonder how LW was keeping all those languages fresh and fluent. Do they really use them all regularly? Or is this a case of getting fluent and then moving on to the next language?

    4. Harper the Other One*

      You are so right about fluency from a job perspective. I’m Canadian and took French Immersion at school, and by grade 12 I had achieved a very high level of fluency. But on a driving trip that year, I couldn’t explain a car problem to a mechanic in Quebec because I didn’t know the term for “fan belt”! There can be surprising gaps in language education that you don’t identify until you’re in a spot where you need vocabulary you don’t have.

      1. Rebecca*

        this is so true! I majored in Spanish, and when I studied abroad I realized there were some extremely basic things I couldn’t say (like the word for faucet). But if you wanted to discuss 17th century Spanish lit, I could go for hours! Fluency is a complicated concept

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I’m the opposite. I speak German well and have learnt the technical vocabulary for my field so I can deal with suppliers and understand their written documentation when I’m deciding whether we want to use them. I’ve studied and lived in Germany so have good everyday fluency as well as technical knowledge.

          During lockdown I took a zoom evening class discussing German literature and discovered I had no German vocabulary for discussing poetry, minnesang, lieder and how they made me feel or what the author might have been feeling at the time. Even when I lived in Germany I never had to discuss emotions or existential angst so I had no vocabulary that worked for it. We learn the words we need but it doesn’t mean we have all the words.

      2. RetiredAcademicLibrarian*

        Knowing a subject area in both languages is key! My dad’s engineering company once had a translator come up with “electrical pasture” from the original French.

    5. Baunilha*

      I think your first paragraph is key, as well as Alison’s advice: for the languages to be useful in landing a job, OP should be able to use them in a graphic design context, AND they should be relevant to the job.
      I speak two other languages, but none of them are relevant to the job I do now. Sure, it’s interesting that I speak them and it looks good on my resume, but for my specific role, that are more important skills. So I think OP should only list the languages that are more relevant to their industry, as long as they are able to use them professionally like Covered in cat hair said, or they should look for jobs where speaking multiple languages is a requirement.

    6. Lilo*

      I’d also want someone I was hiring to do graphic design in a particular language to low specific slang and idioms in that language. I mentioned above but my office uses a certified translation service but it is notorious for being terrible at slang and idiom. So the reality is if I’m hiring someone to design a product package or advertisement in a specific language, I want someone who is a native speaker or has spoken the language in context for years.

    7. kudu*

      I love this example for fluency vs fluency. There’s a store near me that sells things like cookies that originate in Eastern Europe. The packages have little flags for countries with the ingredients listed underneath, in that language. There are approx 8 or 12 languages listed. There is a UK flag and a US flag, with different ingredients listed (in English) under each flag. Why? I presume that there are different regulations for how much of an ingredient must be present for it to be listed. That’s an example where language fluency + design skills are not actually enough to create the label, but are presumably enough to create the layout of the packaging.
      So, OP, there’s an example of where you might work.

  10. vombatus ursinus*

    LW4, it sounds like the articles you’ve read might have the logic a little back-to-front — there are quite a few jobs out there that are high-paying *and* where multilingualism is required or a huge advantage (thinking e.g. diplomacy or working at an international bank), and I wouldn’t be too surprised if it were true that multilingual people on average earn more than monolingual people, partly because of this — but being multilingual doesn’t generally guarantee a high-paying job, or mean that any job you have will be higher-paying than if you were monolingual. As Alison said, it really depends on whether it’s relevant to the work you would be doing.

    Perhaps (if you’re not already) you could try targeting design positions at multinational companies and list the languages used in the regions where those companies are active on the resume? I don’t know if it would get you a higher-paying job than you would otherwise have, but it might help you get that specific job over other local candidates without the relevant language skills.

    I hope that your luck in the job search improves soon!

    1. WS*

      +1. My sister-in-law is fluent in 4-7 languages depending how you count different dialects of Chinese, and has landed higher-paying positions using 2-3 of those languages at a time (usually Japanese/Mandarin/English), but not all of them at once, and only with companies that have business in the relevant countries. During the pandemic, she lost her job and then gained and lost a second job because the travel restrictions meant her skills weren’t needed, so took some study time to formalise her language qualifications…and then got a new job that only uses English!

    2. münchner kindl*

      There may be a “zebra (not horse)” design job out there, where speaking several languages fluently would be useful and necessary part of the job – working with mixed-language clients, regularly producing brochures in several languages.

      And if the job description calls for a rare person with the necessary skills, I would expect such a zebra to negotiate a higher pay than for a normal designer who can do monolingual work.

      But that’s not automatically a high-paying job because of speaking multiple languages.

      There are also lots of low-paid jobs that require foreign languages – retail employee with large population of foreign-language speakers is useful, but being able to speak Spanish and English in Florida or California won’t get you a higher wage.

      Because these articles are about general trends or statistics, not a general law that applies to all jobs.

      And the weird belief of recruiters being insecure isn’t going to help you; it sounds adversial, and Allison has often pointed out how a job interview is not about getting the job, but both sides finding out if the job is the right fit – skill set, company culture, pay, all of it.
      So going in with the attitude that recruiters feel insecure because of how … awesome? … LW is, may not be conductive to that goal.

      (My father told me after a year abroad to improve my English, that now I could get very well-paid jobs like … tourist guide. Yeah, his advice was often completly off-base, no matter how sure he was he was right.)

    3. BethDH*

      I don’t know a lot about graphic design, but this seems like an opportunity for OP to show they’ve researched the company before applying and target the language descriptions better.
      If graphic design companies mention enough detail about their clients or describe projects that OP can identify as using one of their languages, they can highlight the most relevant ones in the resume. If it seems like they do a lot in a particular language, also mention in the cover letter to give an indication of skill level.
      Overall I get the feeling that the language thing is actually a flag that OP may not be targeting/prioritizing skills for the resume that match a particular role, and that’s likely to be a bigger deal than anything about the languages specifically.

    4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      THIS. Language skills alone are not enough to land you a high paying job. The languge skills might enhance your chances if you already have the qualifications but by themselves are not a guarantee.

      Unless the job is such that it would enhance your application, leave them off.

      1. Jackalope*

        I would disagree with this because languages are a skill that can come in handy in unexpected ways; you don’t always know beforehand what languages are going to be useful, or who is wanting to create a customer base in a new group of people, etc. But the languages don’t have to take up a ton of room on your resume or CV. Leave off anything you don’t consider yourself fluent in, and then do something like: “Fluent speaking/reading: Chichewa, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Urdu. Fluent speaking only: Karen, German, Bulgarian, and Navajo.” That way whoever is looking at your resume can see the languages, tell at a glance your proficiency, and that’s only taking up maybe 2 lines on your resume/CV. (And if you have a specific certification in a language then list that as well.)

        1. Jackalope*

          And I know I’ve commented on this multiple times, but… I sat down and thought about it, and realized that my language skills have been instrumental in obtaining roughly 3/4 of my jobs. That’s run the gamut from “this job requires bilingual employees and I speak one of their 5 needed languages” to “the person interviewing me happened to speak the same slightly obscure language I do and that helped break the ice enough that I aced the interview”. Other people have compared knowing multiple languages to random hobbies like playing the mandolin but it’s really, really not. It’s definitely not a guarantee that you’ll get a high-paying job but it’s relevant to a lot of positions that you might not expect, and is worth dedicating a line or two on your resume in a way that mandolin skills likely are not.

          (For what it’s worth, on the second job I mentioned where my language was helpful because of my specific interviewer, it later ended up being helpful for the position itself, since I had a somewhat niche skill that was useful with clients not foreseen when I was hired. So even when it’s not expected, it can still turn out to be a bonus for the company.)

    5. el l*

      Similar comment: If “language skills” is one of OP’s core strengths, then the field of graphic design probably won’t play to it.

      There are lots of areas of international business where – assuming the rest of the resume is sound – this would distinguish OP from the rest of applicants. If they’re completely fluent in Mandarin or whatever, this would make them an obvious addition to a negotiation team. But not sure how that’s supposed to aid someone hoping to do graphic design for a mainly-domestic client base.

      General comment. The thing to be careful about articles like OP is reading: It helps when trying to get hired to show that you’re bright – which is probably the main subtext they’re banking on – but ultimately that’s not enough. The primary test is “do they have the relevant skills,” and the secondary is, “Do they have an extra specific-quality that’ll increase their usefulness.” That’s the hierarchy of needs for getting a competitive job.

  11. Blue*

    LW #4:

    Should I avoid listing my multiple language skills on my resume just to make recruiters feel secure and ask me for interviews

    This feels like strange framing for why your language skills are not leading to jobs, to the point that I wonder if it was part of another paragraph that got cut? If listing skills that you were proficient in lead to recruiters feeling insecure, no one would get a job.

    “I speak 8 to 10 languages and I’ve been applying for graphic design jobs, but I never get many interviews even though I list the languages that I know on my resume.

    First off, are you listing only the ones you are fluent in, specifying varying degrees of fluency or just a list of all the languages you speak. If, for example, I saw someone who listed eight languages without any further detail, I would honestly assume that it included a lot of puffery and/or that you didn’t understand what it means to be fluent. It also matters whether the fluency is in reading/writing/speaking.

    Second, I agree with Alison here – you should evaluate whether your specific language skills are relevant for the job. For example, I know a friend who got a job in part based on her fluency in her native language, which is uncommon in my country but the company she applied to was looking to expand into a group of countries that also spoke the language. So it might make sense to search specifically for design jobs advertising the need for similar skills.

  12. Still*

    LW#4, I think the only way the languages could be actively hurting you is if someone assumes that you’ve listed languages you’re not very advanced in as a way of trying to inflate your skills. To avoid that perception, I would make it very clear what language level you have, and possibly skip any language in which you don’t have professional working proficiency.

    If you’re comfortable working in all of them, I think one line stating “native proficiency: X, Y, Z, full professional proficiency: A, B, C, D, E” should be fine! I would avoid listing them as bullet points because that will probably take up too much valuable space that you could be filling with more relevant information.

    It might not help with graphic design jobs but could at the very least be a bit of small talk fuel.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think that’s a great way to write it on your resume.

      What’s confusing me is that OP seems to think this one skill is making or breaking their job search, in either direction. In addition to how this particular skill is presented, I’d recommend they spend more energy on reviewing the resume as a whole.

      1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

        The only ways I could see this being “make or break” would be if all or most of them are ancient/dead languages and/or dialects thereof.

        It is one thing if the logic is “I can speak to customers/clients, take meetings, attend conferences in all these languages”, but spending resume space showcasing languages that aren’t used in the business world would just feel like either the applicant is trying to cover for a lack of useful skills, or they straight up don’t understand what IS useful.

    2. Barefoot Librarian*

      I was going to say much the same thing. If you are truly proficient, it might be more useful to pick a couple of languages that you think could be useful in a particular geographic area or job and list those PLUS your level of proficiency. I work for an international software company and let me tell you, we love having multilingual people on board, even if they aren’t in a customer facing sales or support position, but they need to be demonstratively proficient at a professional/technical level for it to be terribly helpful. Just last week our sales team pulled in someone from an unrelated department to act as a translator on a call with a partner in Chile because the rep for that region was on holiday.

      So basically if your proficiency ends with ordering dinner or complimenting someone’s sweater, it’s not necessarily going to add anything to your candidacy. Just leave it off. It might be that you’re at a high degree of proficiency in all of those languages. Even so, I would pick a couple that you think are relevant in your field or the geographic area you are applying for work in, and be sure to clearly indicate your level of experience and proficiency.

  13. Melissa*

    List languages that might have relevance in your job and area! Where I live, it would be a huge strength to say “proficient in Spanish and Bosnian.” But listing French and Korean wouldn’t help your application at all.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, I was thinking something similar. Spanish is pretty much always going to be a positive in the US, because we have such a large number of native speakers. And there are local pockets of immigrant or native population who speak a particular language. But if you don’t speak the right language, it’s not going to do much good, because there aren’t very many people who speak it there, and if you do happen to run into one, she will have been highly motivated to learn English.

    2. Jackalope*

      As a counterpoint, I am fluent in a language that is comparatively rare in my region, but that means that when it’s needed I’m super useful because there aren’t a ton of people who can help out in that area, whereas the more common languages have more people who can jump in if needed.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, if you were applying at my company and speak English, French, Spanish, Welsh, Norwegian, Danish and Swedish, that could potentially be handy – although if it were required or nice-to-have for the role, the posting would’ve said that. But if your languages are Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Lao, Malay, Tagalog, Hebrew, Arabic, that’s cool but completely irrelevant to the application.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          This obviously depends on the job. I’m sure any language in this list would matter in some job out there, but there are plenty (such as the overwhelming majority of STEM jobs) where no language other than English will matter, even in a diverse “international” city.

  14. Awkwardness*

    “I think you’re feeling weird about this because it’s so obvious to you that it’s not okay and thus since it’s happening anyway, it feels like it will need to be a Big Awkward Conversation. But instead (… ) be direct and matter-of-fact (…).”

    Such a valuable reminder applicable to many situations!

  15. Testing*

    For LW4 or anyone else putting their language skills on their CV (which you should — you never know which language may come handy in which job!), please consider using the Common European Framework of Reference, CEFR, for describing your level.

    It’s SO much more descriptive and exact than to just say “fluent” or “studied X years” or whatever. Although it’s a Council of Europe (not the European Union but a much wider group of countries) thing, it’s quite frequently used by language schools across the world, so people who know about languages will understand it.

    And for anyone wondering about the 8–10, language skills are not a 0 or 1 thing. A language can be very, very useful even before you’re fluent in it, and it’s not like you wake up one day and that’s the day you’re fluent. I speak 6 but read 8 languages, and both those I only read have been useful for me in past jobs. On the other hand, one of the fluent ones I don’t get to use at all anymore (which of course makes me forget it a bit, but it’s there to be revived if I need it).

    1. TX_TRUCKER*

      If you are applying for a translator position, or other job where language skills are key, then a CEFR is useful. But in other positions, where it’s just a “nice to have” most folks on the the interview panel (at least in the USA) will have no clue what that means. In multi-lingual USA cities where language acquisition often happens organically (and not in school), folks probably never heard of CEFR. I only know it, because I’m a language nerd. My company has a language bonus for folks who speak Spanish or ASL, but we use our own exam and don’t recogninize CEFR. certifications.

      1. metadata minion*

        Yeah, I’m a language nerd and am in one of the few jobs where knowing little bits of tons of languages is useful and I’ve only heard of the CEFR on this blog. I’m sure it’s standard terminology in plenty of international fields, but it’s far from universal even for jobs that need language proficiency.

      2. amoeba*

        Huh, interesting! Maybe it’s because I’m an expat myself and know many other expats but I’m pretty sure the CEFR scale is extremely common in my part of Europe and would be very surprised if somebody hadn’t heard of it.

        That said, I don’t use it on my CV because especially my third language skills are quite a bit erratic and I’ve never taken any kind of exam, so honestly no idea how I’d rank myself. (Also, active/passive and spoken/written/correct grammar are probably quite different!) So it’s easier to just write “intermediate”.

        1. UKDancer*

          It’s pretty common everywhere in Europe I’ve worked and when I’ve advertised for people with knowledge of a language I’ve specified it in terms of CEFR. That’s what I put on my CV (but then I have only ever applied for jobs in Europe).

    2. Ex-prof*

      I never heard of that, and I was a language teacher! I just went and checked it out. Interesting. I see from the rubric I’m a C1 at my best L2. (Second language, for non-linguists.)

  16. Seriously?*

    On the subject of gifts, please DO NOT gift alcohol to someone before finding out if they drink. I quit drinking 16 years ago. A person in my office gave several of us bottles of wine. I thanked them, but then said I don’t drink, my husband doesn’t drink wine, and I’d rather not take it. They insisted. So now I have to find someone to give it to, as I’d rather not have it in my house. My boss knows I don’t drink, but wasn’t asked. Please don’t do this. If I had been in the first year of quitting, it would have been more upsetting. Only gift alcohol to people you know will enjoy it.

    1. Jade*

      I think gifting alcohol to anyone at work is not the best. I was once gifted a special type beer. I don’t even drink beer. It was weird.

    2. HonorBox*

      That can be the case, but nothing in the letter mentions alcohol. Also, it is fairly easy to regift alcohol, too. Not saying you should have been happy to take it. Just that it is easier than some things, and fairly ubiquitous as a gift.

    3. LilPinkSock*

      Yes. However, I didn’t see any mention of alcohol-related gifts in any of the letters.

    4. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

      An ex-boss gave me a bottle of wine and then said, while handing it over, that he remembered after buying it that I never partook. Go figure.

  17. Jade*

    I wish all gifts at work would just go away. The amount of feelings created by gift giving and receiving isn’t worth it. I don’t think the superior here has any malcontent. I think gifts are just not a priority to her.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I thought that oh, she wants to open them when the chaos is over and she can quickly and properly say thanks.
      But yeah, OP, no gifts next year.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      “I wish all gifts at work would just go away.”

      YES. The awkward convo I had to have qith a coworker who wanted to get our boss a gift card at the last minute–because he got us a gift card–wasn’t fun for me. I did it, but I’m sure she thought I was being a stick in the mud.

  18. cabbagepants*

    #4 — 8-10 languages is A LOT to have functional fluency in. If I read a resume that listed language skills in 8-10 languages, I would assume that you were listing every language that you had studied superficially but that you were functionally fluent in fewer/none of them.

    Is this true of you? By functionally fluent I mean — could you comfortably do your interview in that language? Comfortably conduct business in real time in that language?

    I’d only list languages with functional fluency and then give examples of your work in those languages. A link to an online portfolio could be useful here.

    1. Random Dice*

      I speak Spanish decently well.

      But I couldn’t take a graduate level class in Spanish, or explain the mechanisms by which industrial mining drills are lubricated in Spanish, or list the top 10 cybersecurity attacks in Spanish, or detail the impacts of sepsis on internal organs (beyond “no es bueno”).

      There’s fluent, and business- and industry-fluent.

  19. Mumof3*

    I’ve seen LW#3 multiple times in my career and it’s almost always a red flag of a possessive spouse and needs to be nipped ASAP. A close coworker I had at one time was working when I delivered my baby (we worked for a large hospital in the area). I was still high on endorphins and the shot of morphine for pain control when my parents and husband went to get something to eat. As I was drifting in and out of sleep a guy walked in the room asking where his wife was- my coworker. It turned out she was on a different floor doing her job, but that incident was a catalyst in their eventual divorce.

  20. Ash*

    What does speaking “8-10” languages mean? Wouldn’t you know exactly how many languages you speak?

    1. anononon*

      Perhaps you might not feel your strength is the same in all of them – after all, if we don’t use it, we lose it!

      I went to uni with a guy who was born and brought up in a bilingual area of Wales to parents who were Danish and Dutch and spoke their mother tongues at home, so that’s four languages from childhood. At school he learned French and Spanish like we all do, and did a gap year in Brazil for which he learned Portuguese. That’s a total of seven languages, but he always said ‘I only really speak six – I’d have to dig to the depths of my brain with a shovel to be able to cope in Welsh!’ but then had a fully fluent conversation with me in Welsh…

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      Well, it takes a long time to attain fluency in a language, if one ever does and exactly what counts as speaking a language is quite debateable. I would say I speak English and Irish, but I also studied French for 6 years (though only 3 were in any depth; the first three were once a week in primary school) and German for 5. I definitely wouldn’t say I remember any French but I do retain a bit of German. I wouldn’t count it, but I can see how somebody might. Sometimes I even wonder if I should count Irish, as I can speak it and read it, but I can’t really write it and my grammar isn’t great, so I wouldn’t consider myself fluent.

      I would think it’s generally hard to say how many languages you speak because learning a language in an academic context doesn’t really give you much indication of how you’d manage speaking it with people who do not speak your native language.

      1. Ash*

        Studying a language in school does not mean you “speak” the language. Speaking means having an adult-level conversation with proficiency. And you definitely should not misrepresent yourself on your resume by saying you speak a language when what you mean is that you know some basic phrases and grammatical constructs.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          Yes, that is what I am saying, that there is a huge middle ground between knowing some basic phrases and speaking the language and I am guessing the LW falls somewhere in that large middle ground in the two languages they don’t know whether to include or not. Somebody who has studied a language in school for 8 or 10 years probably has more than some basic phrases, but they also probably aren’t fluent.

        2. Pescadero*

          “Speaking means having an adult-level conversation with proficiency.”

          I disagree – and that is why the term “speaking” is pretty useless.

          A toddler speaks English. Barack Obama speaks English. The latter can have an adult conversation with proficiency, and the former cannot.

          … but they are both “speaking” English.

          Speaking does not equal “fluency” (which is itself not a great word).

          1. Ash*

            When you put it on a resume, unless you say you are a beginner or other qualifier, “speaking a language” means you can speak like an adult to other adults. It doesn’t mean native proficiency or that you can write poetry in that language, but it means if the interviewer began speaking with you in that language, you should be able to respond. I still don’t understand how a person says “I speak 8-10 languages.” We’re not talking about dozens, someone should be able to narrow it down to 8, 9, or 10.

    3. Kotow*

      Not the OP, but I could see someone counting it this way if they’ve studied a particular dialect where there isn’t always consensus about whether it’s a dialect or a separate language itself.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      I think folks are getting too hung up on this. I think it’s either: depending on the application, sometimes they list 8 (omitting 2) and sometimes they list 10, OR depending on if you count dialects as separate vs one. Such as: do you speak Parisian French and Quebecois? Is that one language “French”? or two?
      In other words, “8-10” was directed at Alison, but it’s not what’s on the resume. The actual languages are on the resume, and whatever the list says is how many are on the resume at any given point.

    5. Dahlia*

      Are Cantonese and Mandarin the same language or 2 separate ones?

      Language is tricky and there often aren’t clear-up answers to things.

    6. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Possibility 1: the LW wanted to be vague for anonymity.
      Possibility 2: It can be trickier than you think! I know I’m bilingual, but what about the language I studied for 3 years, would never be able to function in, but could use in a pinch? What about the “Duolingo every day since the pandemic” but in no way fluent language? What about the creole of a language I am fluent in (fluent in the original language, not at all fluent in creole)?

      In the case of a job application, I would definitely put L1 and L2 (with relevant credentials for L2) and possibly my Duolingo language as an additional skills or as a fun fact since it’s an endangered language and part of the cultural heritage of my region.

  21. Engineer*

    I would say LW4’s problem is not their multiple langauges and fluency thereof, but their superior attitude and entitlement dropping from …just to make recruiters feel secure and ask me for interviews…

    That kind of attitude that comes across in phone screens and emails. Start by correcting your sense of superiority and reformat your resume based on Alison’s years’ of advice, and maybe you’ll start getting callbacks.

    1. Heidi*

      Yeah, this whole line of thinking (“I’m jealous of this person because they speak all these languages, and therefore I will not recruit them for jobs even though that is what I get paid to do.”) does not make a lot of sense. A recruiter is going to see lots of CVs from people who have skills they don’t have. Why would they self-sabotage over this specific skil?

    2. Salsa Verde*

      That very much jumped out at me – like the LW thinks that they are intimidating recruiters, and that’s why they are not getting jobs? That seems a little odd.

      Actually, this letter was only three sentences long, and it seemed to convey that the writer read that having multiple languages is a plus to getting hired into a high-paying job but took that to mean that a high-paying job would be automatically given to a person who was multilingual, which is not really accurate. The letter kind of reads like the writer feels entitled to a job because of their language skills, which is probably not a helpful attitude to take in job searching – it can only lead to frustration.

    3. EmmaPoet*

      Yes, I doubt they’re insecure. Possibly skeptical, depending on their own experience. Or they look at the resume and think that this person doesn’t seem to understand what a graphic design job actually involves, and that they are more interested in languages than the career they say they want.

  22. EmmaUK*

    LW1- They might have been waiting to take it home for Christmas to open. They might also be of a different religion and are uncomfortable with receiving Christmas gifts… who knows?

    I don’t think you should take it as a slight.

    1. Cabbagepants*

      maybe they wanted to save it for a time when they didn’t already have a lot of gifts

      maybe they forgot it on their way home

      maybe they have a very small house and knew they couldn’t store it

      The possibilities are endless!

  23. Nancy*

    LW4: unless knowing certain languages is important to the job, you can leave them off. I get resumes from applicants who list multiple languages, and while I think its great, it has no relevance to the job so is never considered when deciding who to interview.

  24. Bookworm*

    LW2: Sending my sympathies. Worked in a place a few years ago where AFAIK, holiday party attendance was not mandatory, and in my first year I requested time off to return home for the holidays long before the holiday party was even set up. The following years I noticed the holiday party was moved so it did not conflict (I do not make any claim of credit for this, I assume this was really a matter of flexibility for everyone) and I got feedback through my managers that senior leadership was unhappy I skipped them.

    Sadly, this wasn’t a joke and I have some reason to believe it hindered my advancement there (there were other issues so this wasn’t the only thing). (Yes, I know it’s generally considered good to make an appearance but I really don’t care.)

    The very least organizations could do is make these things lunches/late lunches instead and give people a half day. Like, stop making employees spend even more time with you, yuck.

    1. HonorBox*

      Unwritten rules may work in baseball, but shouldn’t be part of regular functioning workplaces. If you are penalized for not attending a function that isn’t mandatory, that’s not a great sign.

    2. LilPinkSock*

      Ugh, that’s so petty. I enjoy my company’s holiday events, so I’d be sad to miss them, but very upset if I were penalized for it.

  25. HonorBox*

    OP3 – When you have the conversation with your employee, you may make things less awkward if you offer to have the conversation with the husband. While it shouldn’t be difficult, it may not be ideal for your employee to chat with her husband and walk back some of his activities. If you suggest, not demand, that you could step in, it may alleviate some pressure on your employee. Depending on the situation, if the parking area is not great, maybe you should also specify the amount of time you’d allow him to sit in the customer area. Is 5 minutes OK? Because 15 seems like a lot. Honestly, if I was him, I’d much rather be sitting in my car waiting, but maybe the parking situation isn’t ideal, so you may want to consider that when you’re having the conversation.

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I would also say something like “we’re not insured for non-employees after closing time” meaning if ever anything happened to the husband in the shop, there’s no insurance and you’re not prepared to be liable for anything. Presenting something as a “security issue” is often the clincher in today’s world.

  26. Dido*

    I know polyglots exist, but quite frankly, if someone listed 8-10 languages on their resume with nothing to indicate that they’ve lived in multiple countries or extensively studied languages, I’d assume it’s BS – that they don’t understand how to measure fluency and are just listing all the languages they started on Duolingo. Then I’d wonder what else they exaggerated on their resume.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      To me, it would be a big plus and would probably follow up on it. Learning languages just out of interest, without any practicality or necessity, would really spark my interest in the candidate. I would assume that they have great analytical skills and a curious mind.

    2. Ash*

      I totally agree. When you write that you speak a language on your resume, you should be prepared for the interviewer to begin speaking to you in that language, expecting you to respond. If you would not be able to, you should not list that you “speak” that language on your resume.

  27. Elle by the sea*

    I wouldn’t be sure that your coworker doesn’t want the gifts! She might just find them beautifully pack or probably belongs to a culture where this is considered the polite thing to do.

  28. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #2 Did you hear a sonic boom and then brakes screeching?

    That was HR rocketing over to the CEO to say/shriek that she cannot do this, unless she wants resignations and maybe even non-Christians taking legal action for discrimination.

    She meant to do this, but then HR quickly forced her into a reverse ferret. So “just a joke, ha ha” to save face.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      #4 When listing foreign languages, what I’ve seen in resumes here (Europe) is clear specs for each as to written/spoken/technical / combination.
      In several EU countries, there are specific fluency grades that you can obtain via exam and then list.
      This would make the languages a positive asset – if at all relevant for the job – and should not be negative even if irrelevant.

      In Germany, Netherlands & Sweden, every professional I met and also some blue collar workers speak English fluently and some are also fluent in a 3rd language, but more than that is rare.
      I know a world-class engineering consultant who flies all over the world and works in 4 languages.
      I only met 1 person who claimed 8 languages – he was a language teacher at a high school and only claimed conversational fluency and a 1,000-word vocab in each.

    2. My cat is funnier*

      I am almost certain you are right. I know at least 1 person went straight to HR and several others went to their supervisors immediately.

  29. prm*

    re: languages: I had a huge discussion about this with friends some years ago. I think putting language fluency on your resume can work in your favor and/or hinder you: it can signal ‘cosmopolitanism’ (with all its class implications) — which can be desirable in an elite setting whether you use the language in work or not, for example. But it can also allow hiring managers to make assumptions about your identity (yes, I know this is not kosher, but this is what humans do — we all have biases). Also, there’s a difference between a person noting their heritage language and a white person signaling that they are fluent in a language (see: Zuck and his Mandarin).

    1. Elle by the sea*

      I agree with the white people thing. But that’s more common with African and Indian languages.

      1. Ash*

        It’s definitely true for Spanish. There are millions of native Spanish speakers in the United States, but many would not be considered for many positions that state “Spanish speakers encouraged to apply” or “Spanish speaker strongly preferred.” There have been many studies that have shown that even in international work, American companies want white Americans who have studied Spanish rather than native Spanish speakers. Somewhat tangential, but it reminds me of that guy on “Indian Matchmaker” who wanted the matchmaker to find him a woman who speaks Hindi. So he went on a date with a woman who grew up in India speaking Hindi, but he rejected her because she was too Indian and not Americanized enough.

  30. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #4 When listing foreign languages, what I’ve seen in resumes here (Europe) is clear specs for each as to written/spoken/technical / combination.
    In several EU countries, there are specific fluency grades that you can obtain via exam and then list.
    This would make the languages a positive asset – if at all relevant for the job – and should not be negative even if irrelevant.

    In Germany, Netherlands & Sweden, every professional I met and also some blue collar workers speak English fluently and some are also fluent in a 3rd language, but more than that is rare.
    I know a world-class engineering consultant who flies all over the world and works in 4 languages.
    I only met 1 person who claimed 8 languages – he was a language teacher at a high school and only claimed conversational fluency and a 1,000-word vocab in each.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Not that I personally disbelieve the OP, but many HMs could be dubious unless the language claim is specific

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Could be dubious, absolutely. Could also simply not care – I think OP is putting too much weight on this one factor of their resume.

  31. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #3: Don’t forget your vibe check on loitering hubby. He could be clueless and clingy, or an “always early” kinda guy. However, this could also be a sign of controlling and/or abusive behavior. That doesn’t mean you should immediately jump into some sort of “savior” mode which could have all kinds of unintended consequences. But it’s something to have an eye on.

  32. Bikirl*

    #2 “We had a social hour as a work holiday party. Attendance was optional, and, while most people made an appearance, a large portion of the employees didn’t.” This is unclear–if most people made an appearance than how could a large portion of employees not make it? It would help to know how many exactly in relation to all didn’t go. I agree that the CEOs comment and waiting so long to retract it was out of line. However, I believe I’ve heard Alison say that employees should make an effort to attend holiday party at work, especially if it’s scheduled on company time.

    1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      Alison says that it is worth trying to attend if you can as it is in your best interests to do so. But she also says that ultimately it’s your choice and there are many, many reasons why somebody might not attend.

      People aren’t doing anything wrong by not attending an optional party event. But all these being equal, is it worth making an appearance, if you can? Sure.

      1. Bikirl*

        Yes, I agree w/ above parameters for attending holiday parties at work. There are a lot of factors for any given employee on whether it makes sense to attend any particular work holiday party. I just am unclear how many attended vs. didn’t attend in this case–was it noticeably few to the point that it pointed to extremely low engagement among staff; or were they calling out a handful who for whatever reasons did not attend?

    2. Hlao-roo*

      if most people made an appearance than how could a large portion of employees not make it?

      Not the letter-writer, so I can’t answer what the breakdown of people who went to the party for the whole time vs people who made an appearance vs people who did not attend was. But to answer your question: if 60% of employees went for any amount of time and 40% did not attend at all, 60% is “most people” and 40% could be considered a “large portion.”

    3. Roland*

      “Most” just means a little over half at minimum. If 30% of people didn’t go, that’s still quite a large portion.

  33. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I don’t think there is anything for you to do. You’ve already given the gift; that’s your part done. What happens to it now is simply her choice.

    There are all kinds of reasons she might have left it there from feeling uncomfortable with a gift from somebody earning less than her to not wanting to open gifts until Christmas to simply forgetting about it. The last strikes me as probably the most likely. I know quite a few people who would do “oh, must take that home this evening,” and who would then get sidetracked and leave it behind and then repeat the next day. But it doesn’t really matter what her reasons are anyway.

  34. Misty*

    Regarding letter 3: This reminds me of a coworker I had several years ago. Her husband would show up nearly every day while she was working. I did not know at the time, but he was an abusive husband. Later she ended up in the hospital because he had beaten up so badly. I wonder if this is the case with letter 3?

    1. Turquoisecow*

      It sounds like he’s picking her up from work and arriving a bit early. I used to pick up a friend from his job at a coffee shop and would hang out inside the shop while they finished. Sometimes closing took five minutes, sometimes half an hour, and no one minded, so it’s not unreasonable for the husband to think the same, in my opinion (I did not go behind the counter, and the other employees specifically said they were fine with me sitting there out of their way, they were all friends. I would not have stayed if anyone told me not to.)

      I don’t see anything here indicating that he’s trying to control his spouse, it’s just his presence as a non-employee making OP nervous, which is valid.

      1. Radixoxo*

        Agreed. In my early 20’s I used to visit a friend at her job when I was bored, bring her a coffee, and sit behind the reception desk with her to chat (very few people would actually come in, so nobody cared that I hung out there). But in most jobs I’ve had, that would clearly not be ok, and I wonder if the employee in #3 just used to have a more casual job where it was fine and hasn’t been able to read the atmosphere in this job that it’s not, in which case, being directly told it’s not ok would be a good thing for everyone.

  35. The Person from the Resume*

    I speak 8 to 10 languages and I’ve been applying for graphic design jobs, but I never get many interviews even though I list the languages that I know on my resume.

    I’ve been reading articles on how being multilingual would land high-paying jobs of all sorts, but it’s never gotten me any. Should I avoid listing my multiple language skills on my resume just to make recruiters feel secure and ask me for interviews, especially in my field?

    Yes; the statement “I speak 8-10 languages fluently ebough to work in them” has a suspicious vagueness but I assume that’s not how it is written on the LW’s resume.

    However, if you want your language fluency skills to get you high paying job, you need to apply for jobs where multilingualness is important skill for the job.

    You say you are applying for graphic design jobs, but don’t mention anything about your graphic design skills. How good is your portfolio? That and graphic design experience is what is going to get you interviews for graphic design work, not foreign language skills if the role you are applying for doesn’t require them.

    It’s highly, highly unlikely that you are a great applicant for the graphic design job, but your lanuguage fluency is intimidating the interviewers. You should review other parts of your resume, experience, and portfolio for areas where you are lacking.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      “You say you are applying for graphic design jobs, but don’t mention anything about your graphic design skills.”

      That’s the part that’s standing out to me too. If you’re not getting graphic design jobs, this is not the reason.

  36. I'm just here for the cats!*

    #1, make it a game with yourself on how long the gifts stay before she moves them/opens them.

  37. Brian*

    LW 5: Yes, by all means use a personal address. What happens when your company retools they email format and the publisher’s email gets bounced back?

    1. Artemesia*

      Use a personal address henceforth but don’t belabor this mistake. It is unlikely to be any sort of big deal and no point being anxious about it.

  38. BecauseHigherEd*

    LW 4 – yes, being multilingual is one of those things that everyone TELLS you will lead to higher-paying jobs, but in practice, it doesn’t always. Still, that’s extremely impressive that you speak so many languages, and it does signal a lot of impressive other things (natural talents, hard work, cultural knowledge, ability to learn new things, etc.) so I think it’s good to mention as an additional skill in a cover letter or lower on the resume. If nothing else, it’s interesting, memorable, and shows you’re a unique and intelligent person.

  39. IPRights*

    Never associate personal intellectual property with any work machine, account, etc. In many cases that would give your employer ownership of the IP.

    As a fellow poet, I know that unless you get extremely lucky this won’t have financial impact, but it will make it harder to publish the work (may technically make it unpublishable even depending on terms required by various outlets) and can lead to all sorts of other issues between you and your current employer even well after they’re no longer your employer.

    Changes to intellectually property clauses of job offers/contracts/handbooks is the single most common change I’ve had to request from employers/agencies/etc as someone who has IP unrelated to my employer.

    1. absurditea*

      LW #5 — Absolutely, the IP angle is a huge reason not to do this, and I’m surprised Alison didn’t mention it!

    2. LW5*

      Thanks, I shall definitely make sure to send from my personal email in future, for this and other reasons.

  40. Juicebox Hero*

    Joker CEO has rocketed out of the gate and has taken an early lead in the Worst Boss of 2024 Derby!

  41. RVA Cat*

    #1 – I’m not a new year’s resolutions person, but a good one could be to stop assuming people are doing things *at* you. It certainly brings peace of mind.

  42. Observer*

    #4 – Lot’s of languages and no nibbles. You’ve gotten some good advice on how your long list of languages might be perceived, so I won’t rehash that.

    But this jumped out at me: “Should I avoid listing my multiple language skills on my resume just to make recruiters feel secure?” The assumption that’s baked into that question is a wild and fairly bizarre leap. And it’s an attitude that is going to do *faaar* more damage to your ability to gain interviews than all of the “extra” qualifications (that may not even be relevant to positions you are applying to) in the world.

    I would suggest that you have someone look at your resume, cover letter and any other materials you are submitting. Make sure that you are not coming across in a negative manner.

    1. Emmy Noether*

      I alluded to this point also in other comments – I agree absolutely.

      People who jump to external attribution immediately when things don’t go their way (other people are jealous/insecure/mean/dumb/out to get them etc and that’s the only reason why the person didn’t get what they wanted) get my hackles up so fast. This fundamental attitude also tends to leak out in other ways.

  43. jojo*

    I can’t get past LW4’s apparent assumption that they may not be getting bites from recruiters because their multilingualism is *making the recruiters feel intimidated and insecure.* This, combined with their belief that being multilingual should not only automatically win them lots of interviews but should also secure them a high-paying job in graphic design, makes me think their sense of self-importance (or perhaps their sense of reality more broadly) needs some serious recalibrating. LW4, I promise you, recruiters are not scared of your multilingualism.

  44. Ex-prof*

    LW #4.

    Being multilingual tells the recruiter more than just that you can use those languages in your work. It also shows that you’re adaptable, a good listener, and culturally sensitive.

    One of the languages I picked up on the streets is an indigenous language with only a few thousand speakers. Literally no one is ever going to ask me to use it in my work, but it goes on the resume because it shows something I want to show.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Including known languages is generally a good idea, but unless it’s directly applicable, in most cases it’s not going to make a huge difference. It might help distinguish you from candidates who are otherwise comparable to you.

      I don’t think you can say that it definitely shows you are adaptable, a good listener, and culturally sensitive. You can know multiple languages and have none of those things be true.

      1. Ex-prof*

        Well, I suppose in the age of /shudder/ Duolingo that’s true. But if you actually have communicative competence, then you have to have listening skills.

        1. Observer*

          But if you actually have communicative competence, then you have to have listening skills.

          Well, it depends on what you mean by “listening”. I know people who know languages well enough to converse reasonably well, learned pre-computer, and they are neither culturally sensitive nor good listeners. And in some cases they may be culturally sensitive in the language they know, but for other cultures? Watch out! Or even worse, “ignorant” variants of their language – think Creole.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          Knowing multiple language means that you know multiple languages.

          Ascribing more value to it than that may be how the LW found themselves in a situation where they believe the knowledge would land them high-paying jobs.

        3. metadata minion*

          If you can converse in several languages, you might have a good ear for sounds (which is itself a useful skill), but it doesn’t inherently give you any better ability to pay attention and respond intelligently/compassionately to someone. If I’m learning a language, I certainly have to put more effort into listening to the other person, but if anything I’m giving *less* thought to the nuance and emotional content of what I’m saying because I’m just trying to remember what the words mean. And for the one other language I’m truly fluent in, once I can think in the language my usual social skills take over and I can be equally vaguely awkward in either English or German.

    2. Bunny Lake Is Found*

      I see listing a language that is rare as akin to someone like me listing that I can play theremin. It demonstrates I do a quirky thing most people consider challenging and it is something that may make a reader curious to know more, but I am not sure anyone would see that and see it as me highlighting my spacial awareness and commitment to anachronistic tech.

      If I listed 8-10 instruments I play (I don’t play 8-10 instruments, FYI) and I wasn’t applying for a job in music, I would not feel like listing all these instruments was demonstrating that I am adaptable and pick up new skills well.

      But I suppose we would all go mad trying to control how people interpreted the “Special Skills” section of our resumes…

  45. Jiminy Cricket*

    LW4: This may seem obvious, but have you been looking specifically for jobs where your language skills would put you at an advantage? Such as multinational corporations, social services agencies that serve people who speak one or more of the languages you know, or design agencies that serve clients in many countries?

    Somebody out there is looking for a unicorn and you may be it!

  46. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Sending emails from your work account could imply that what you’re saying is somehow in your employer’s name. If your poetry is about anything political or controversial that could potentially create a risk. I’m sure your comms team would have something to say about it.

    1. LW5*

      Fortunately none of them were in any way controversial or political, but that’s another good point.

  47. Design&Grind*

    LW #4 – As a graphic designer too, while I don’t speak multiple languages I’ve developed designs in Japanese, Bahasa, Spanish, Mandarin etc. and they have been a great selling point in my portfolio. Being able to understand the nuances needed to design with character based languages, or languages with longer translations from English is a definite skill set, especially with orgs with worldwide branches. It’s also interesting and worth studying up on design trends and color theory for other countries as some colors meaning take on very different meanings based on where you’re located.

  48. NotARealManager*

    LW 4 – I’ve landed more than one job because of my additional language skills and the jobs had little to do with my foreign language ability. The interviewers just thought it was cool so I don’t think you need to remove them outright. But also don’t count on them to land you a job.

    If I were in the interviewers seat, I would be skeptical about fluency in 8-10 languages. It’s not impossible for that to be true, but it would be very unusual (in the US at least, particularly if your native language is English). I’d suggest keeping your “top two” languages, other than English, on your resume and mentioning the others if it comes up in the interview process.

    Also worth considering: if you are fluent in 8-10 languages, maybe you’re limiting yourself by working in graphic design?

  49. 248_Ballerinas*

    Re Letter 2, about time off: I hate it when people misuse April Fools Day with this kind of witless prank, and I hate it even more when it occurs in December.

    I suspect Alison is correct about the CEO walking it back after hearing the reaction.

  50. BridgeofFire*

    I definitely think #2 was what I’ve heard called “Schrodinger’s Joke”. If it is taken well, it’s serious. If it upsets anyone, it was a joke.

    1. Anonymosity*

      Executives sometimes have a skewed idea of what is amusing and what is not. Managers at any level should not play with people like that, especially over email where you can’t tell when someone is kidding.

      1. Anonymoose*

        Yeah. Long ago, the jerk owner of a former company called everyone into the conference room and got the other offices on speaker phone. He went into a lengthy explanation about the company being valuable and that he’d been approached over the years to sell and was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, blah, blah, blah. He ended his speech by saying that we should all update our résumés so that we could be ready to wow the new owners to keep our jobs. People were asking all sorts of questions and many were crying. After several minutes, he smirked and said “April Fool’s! You are all so gullible.” What an ass. I never truly trusted him after that.

        1. Anonymous For Now*

          I think it would have been funny if everyone came back from lunch and said they decided to resign en masse, effective immediately.

  51. Design Shop Owner*

    LW4 – In the graphic design industry, your portfolio or reel is the #1 factor in your employment. A busy creative director will know within about 2 seconds of opening your portfolio if they want to continue looking at it, or if you are a pass. They will start there. They won’t look at your resume first. Your resume and experience are something they will look at after they’ve taken an interest in what you can do, generally not before.

    Having more language skills can be seen as a perk, but in most design work, the language is irrelevant. However, multiple languages COULD present the idea that English (or whatever the native language of the firm is) is not your native language. Language barriers can be challenging in such a subjective field, even when the non-native speaker is pretty fluent otherwise.

    TL,DR- Make sure you lead with your work, first and often. Be so good they can’t ignore you.

  52. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Let it go. I think “obviously doesn’t want gifts” is a big leap and there’s a lot of other possible reasons why she may have left them, including distraction and/or holds traditions about when to open gifts. In fact, I’d say it’s very unlikely that she’s deliberately snubbing the gifts by leaving it on display and yet not saying anything about it to the gifter directly.

    #4 – If all of these languages are spoken to the level of being conversational, I would say leave them on. A recruiter likely won’t feel insecure, but may be suspicious as to whether that many languages are spoken to a level of usefulness. LW could easily clarify their level of proficiency by listing it (e.g., native speaker, full-professional, conversational). But I’d also consider maybe it’s not the language skills at all.

  53. Risha*

    Wow LW4. I’m actually in awe of your language skills! I’m an aspiring polyglot and cannot find the time to even brush up on my Spanish (only one of them). I have no advice, as I’m not familiar with your field of work. I just wanted to say that’s so awesome

  54. Anon in Canada*

    The notion that being multilingual will help one gets jobs is not totally false, but wildly overstated.

    There are definitely some jobs out there where speaking a certain language, or several of them, will help. But this is a rather small percentage of jobs, and there are entire fields/job types (probably including graphic design!) where it will never have the slightest relevance on someone’s candidacy, therefore will not help. People who make wild claims about languages getting people jobs usually omit to mention that it only applies to some very specific jobs.

    The notion that “if they ever need someone to speak that language, they’ll pull you out of your regular job and assign you to that task” (which I have heard a lot) is pure wishful thinking. Either the need to use that language will never arise, or if it is something that is expected to happen, there will already be staff in the relevant positions who know that language.

    The notion that “the company might expand to that country and you’ll be useful” is wishful thinking too; I’m sure it’s theoretically possible in some vanishingly rare scenarios but it’s not relevant to 99+% of jobs.

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I’m in total agreement with this comment.
      LW, I teach an immersion program for an additional language that is very common in my country. One of the main reasons parents give for putting their children in the program is “getting a (better) job.” There certainly is something to that argument (and I don’t want to talk myself out of a job here), but there are two big caveats to the whole getting a job thing:
      1- This language is important for some, but not all, civil service jobs. It’s also likely to be a selling point in tourism jobs (not all well paid) or if you move to an area where the language is more widely spoken. Outside of that, you can definitely get a huge variety of jobs without knowing the language in question.
      2- If the student does grow up to get a job in one of the above, they are almost certainly going to need further training in the language than they received in my program. As others have mentioned, there are a lot of technical words and slang that aren’t covered in grade school.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        Fellow Canadian?

        Yes, some jobs here definitely require French… but they are mainly 1) Federal civil service jobs (not available everywhere, and not available in every field), 2) call centres (poorly paid and just not good jobs in general) and 3) tourism-related (again, not very well paid, and Chinese may actually be more useful in some of them) and 4) French teachers.

        This is a small percentage of all jobs (and an even smaller percentage of all good jobs). The assumption that “learning French will improve your job prospects” (which pushes parents to seek French immersion for their kids) has been over-generalized. In most “good” careers, and outside a few select geographic areas, speaking or not speaking French as L2 will not have the slightest impact on one’s candidacy. Punjabi, Hindi or Chinese will actually be useful in more jobs.

    2. Kevin Sours*

      It’s a little tough to predict which jobs they might be though. You might think that a graphic design job in the US wouldn’t require a foreign language until somebody wants to hire a for a project with a Japanese or German company that’s going to involve interacting with stakeholders that don’t necessarily speak English.

  55. I Have RBF*

    LW #5, do not, repeat Do Not, use your work address for personal stuff, ever.

    I made that mistake once, decades ago, when my personal email was screwed up, and lost my job over it because someone twisted what I said and then complained to my employer (from a list that was supposed to stay private and on list. It didn’t.)

    People will cheerfully twist what you write/say, assume you meant something you didn’t, and use their words that they put in your mouth to abuse you with. This is a risk especially if you are neurodivergent, socially awkward, or not a native language speaker. Do not let personal stuff, especially creative works or social observations, touch your work email. Even simple observations or creative endeavors, like poetry, can be twisted by the nattering nabobs of negativity and the “gotcha” club to mean utterly horrible things.

    The quote attributed to Cardinal Richelieu “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” applies here.

    Keep your work email strictly minimalist and professional. Your workplace might have a Richelieu clone.

  56. raktajino*

    Another “don’t do personal things on your work account”: My former coworker used his work email for everything. Contact info for his kids’ schools, Amazon purchases, and political mailing lists. When he retired, his entire inbox redirected to our team lead. She now gets all of that, even years later. Spam filters have helped, but clicking unsubscribe on the political mailing lists is like holding back the tide because everyone sells those lists around. She thinks her own work email has somehow ended up on the mailing lists too, somehow. It’s an inbox nightmare and IT hasn’t been able to help much.

  57. Underemployed Erin*

    LW4, listen to the people who are telling you to focus on your portfolio.

    There are areas where your multilingualism may help. In very large applications, there are all sorts of internationalization issues that influence design. For example, is the text that someone wants to put on a button going to be super long in German? Do your buttons have enough height to deal with the fact that the letters are just taller in Lao?

  58. Practical Reasons*

    Designer here. Listing 1 or 2 languages is impressive. But ones that are more common and only if they are relevant to the job. But do not list al l8, as its irrelevant and sounds braggy. Better to list all the design softwares you know even a little.

    Otherwise, just list 1 – Spanish. (Alternatively, French.) And only if you are conversationally fluent.

  59. Molly Millions*

    There are probably situations where knowing different languages would be relevant to graphic design (e.g. less likely to make errors when dealing with translated material, accented letters, etc.) – but that might not occur to someone just skimming a resume.

    I’m wondering if LW4 would have better luck if they phrased that resume item as “experience working with foreign language copy and formatting non-Latin alphabets,” or something like that, to link their language skills more clearly to the job descriptions.

    Or research which languages are more commonly spoken in the market and focus on those, instead of listing all 8.

  60. Bruce*

    LW2: I agree that the CEO was probably not joking, they got VERY negative feedback and are doing damage control. Not a good sign…

  61. Moonstone*

    I immediately assumed LW2’s boss actually meant what she said about only those that attended the party could have the extra day off and then either someone intervened or she overheard enough people complaining to then send the follow up email pretending it was all a joke.

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