I don’t want to stock the kitchen anymore, asking why the friend I recommended wasn’t hired, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I don’t want to be the one ordering lunch and stocking the kitchen anymore

I’m a woman in my mid 30s and have been working at least part-time since middle school and full-time since earning my graduate degree a decade ago. Between the recession and Covid, I’ve had to change careers a couple times, but I’ve always received good feedback on my work and often comments from supervisors that I should be promoted in some way. The promotions have never really materialized for one reason or another, but not because of my performance.

In my current role I have some important responsibilities (like payroll and benefits administration), but I also still do things like order lunches for management, get the office birthday cake, stock the kitchen with coffee, etc. I’ve been in this role nearly three years and I’m really starting to resent those kinds of tasks. They’re things I did when I interned in my late teens and during first jobs in my early 20s. While I know somebody has to do them and they’re wrapped up in part of my job description, it makes me feel like I’ll forever be viewed as “early career” even though I’m definitely not anymore. Am I selfish for feeling like I’ve outgrown these tasks or am I limiting myself by accepting that my job includes these kinds of things?

I don’t want to fall into the trap of defining people by their perceived job status, but I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels for a decade and not going anywhere.

It’s not so much that they’re inherently “junior level” tasks; it’s that they’re office-admin type tasks. At small organizations, it’s not uncommon to include those tasks in the job description of the person who’s also handling payroll and benefits. You’re certainly not selfish for not being interested in doing them anymore, but you might not be being realistic about whether it’s possible to unload them in your current job, at least not without a formal change to your job description and a logical person to offload them to.

If that doesn’t look likely in your current organization, you’d probably have better luck looking at jobs in larger organizations, where there can be much less of an expectation that you’ll wear multiple hats (although even then, you’d want to look critically at the job description; if it’s a sort of catch-all assistant role, those tasks could pop up again).

2. Can I ask why the friend I recommended wasn’t hired?

I work in software development for a financial company, and my friend works in finance. Her current job stopped offering health care (it’s now all through a “health savings account”), and since my friend has a chronic medical condition and a partner undergoing cancer treatment, she’s looking at other options. I suggested she apply to my company, since there was an opening in one of the financial departments I serve and I knew they were short-handed. We would not be direct coworkers in the same department. I helped my friend update her resume and write a cover letter, sat with her while she filled out the application, and gave her the name of the hiring manager. When I got back to work, I wrote a letter of recommendation for my friend and talked to the hiring manager, and the company called my friend within two hours! We were both really hopeful. However, despite the first few interviews going really well, the week after her interviews she got the message that they had decided to move forward with other candidates. When she asked if there was anything that she could have done differently, or qualifications that could have improved her chances, there was radio silence. Additionally, the job is still open almost two months later.

Obviously, my friend is not entitled to a job, and she’s also not entitled to an answer from them. I know from reading your blog that this is not unusual during the job search process and recruiters and hiring managers are not obligated to answer questions after they’ve decided not to hire you. However, these are people that I work with. I have a weekly, standing meeting with several members of the department my friend applied to, including the hiring manager. Would it be unusual or impolite to ask them the same question she did?

Also, I’ve never recommended anyone for a job before. Was there something that I should have done differently that could have improved her chances? I didn’t want to be pushy, because I thought if I looked too eager it would hurt my friend’s chances. So, I wrote her a job recommendation, sent a note to the hiring manager with the recommendation attached, and filled out my company’s referral form. I didn’t mention it to them afterwards. I feel very guilty because the day that my friend had an interview with the hiring manager’s boss, I had a meeting with that same boss, and I didn’t mention it to the boss because I wasn’t sure if it would be impolite or gauche. In the future, should I do something differently? How much leverage do I have?

It’s okay to ask for feedback about a friend you referred if it’s clear you’re asking so you can make better recommendations in the future. But if it comes across like you’re asking just so you can relay the info to your friend, that’s an overstep. If the hiring manager wanted to relay that info to your friend, they would have already done it when she asked (and you could inadvertently cause problems if you relay it without their okay, particularly if something is inartfully worded because they think they’re talking casually to a coworker rather than formally to a candidate).

It’s fine to say, “Anything you can tell me about how to better refine recommendations I’m sending you?” Some hiring managers will understand you’re curious about what happened with your friend and will tell you; others will figure it’s not really your business and/or they don’t want you passing their unfiltered thoughts back to a candidate and so they’ll give you a vague answer. But it’s usually pretty clear when someone is asking because they want insider info about their friend and not because they want to refine their future recommendations, so in your case I’d recommend leaving it alone.

Lots and lots of people who meet the basic qualifications for a job end up not being hired because of nuanced reasons that you wouldn’t be able to predict from the outside; for example, their skills with X are good but not good enough, or their knowledge of Y isn’t deep enough, or they seemed resistant to taking on Z, or the hiring manager could see they wouldn’t work well with them/the team, or on and on and on. Keep in mind, too, that you’ve never worked with your friend; you don’t know what her “work persona” is like or how strongly suited her skills really were for the role.

I think you’re feeling like you somehow should have been able to clinch the job for her, but that’s not how hiring works. It’s great to make the connection, as you did, but you should go into it knowing that from there it’s out of your hands.

3. Bathroom sign

I work at a small nonprofit that occupies space in a government building. We share a bathroom with municipal staff. The toilets are on the old side and occasionally leave small streaks in the toilet bowl. Two of the women who work in the building (one of my direct reports and one of the municipal employees) have been VERY bothered by this. They made a sign and laminated it, saying “be nice, flush twice.”

Am I overreacting in thinking the sign is too far? It makes me extremely self-conscious about my own bathroom use, and I feel like it’s not their responsibility to address. Should I say something, or should I just let it go?

Let it go. That kind of sign isn’t that unusual in communal bathrooms, and it would be an odd thing to tell them was a step too far. If you see other indicators that they’re obsessing over this — if they start harassing people about their bathroom usage or something like that — that’s something you’d need to address with the person who works for you, but otherwise this is not something you need to intervene on.

4. Should I explain I’m withdrawing from a hiring process because of the low salary?

I recently applied for a leadership position because it seemed like a good next step for me, career-wise. The position did not have a salary listed, but there was an estimate on LinkedIn on the posting. I was really excited when I got offered an interview, but I learned in the invitation that the salary was significantly lower than the estimated range on the job board. Because of this, I plan to decline the interview, as I am making more in my current position as a mid-level manager. Do you have any advice about if it is worth letting the hiring manager know that salary is the reason I am withdrawing?

Yes, please do! Losing good candidates over salary is part of the way employers get the message that the salary they’re offering is out of sync with the market.

Obviously, if only one person says that and they’re able to hire someone they’re excited about, it might not have an impact. But if they’re losing multiple candidates they were interested in, it’s likely to be seen as useful data. It could even help the hiring manager make the case for a higher budget for the role.

5. Interviewer keeps contacting me to “keep in touch”

Several months ago, I made it to the second round of interviews for a state agency. I did not get the job, but I later accepted an offer from a different state agency.

Soon afterward, one of the interviewers from the first agency reached out about a new job opening, and I let him know I had accepted another offer. He congratulated me and wished me luck. Since then, he has reached out a couple of times asking to meet up and checking to see how my new job was going.

I was unable to meet up with him the first time he asked, but he has continued checking in. This most recent time he mentioned that his agency might have an opening soon. I told him I appreciated him thinking of me, but that I’m happy in my current role and plan to stay here for the foreseeable future. Each time he reaches out, he tells me to “keep in touch,” and he said that again this time. Why would I keep in touch with him? I can see reaching out if I decide on a career change, but keeping in touch seems weird.

I’m wondering what the proper response would be from me. Is it normal for an interviewer to keep reaching out even after a candidate has accepted another job?

It’s possible he genuinely thought you were great and wants to keep you in his pipeline of potential candidates for the future, or you’re just someone he wants in his professional network. It’s also possible his interest isn’t professional at all and he’s angling for a date or similar.

Either way, your response the last time — that you’re in happy in your current role and plan to stay there for the foreseeable future — was perfect. If he continues to contact you, you’re free to ignore him if you want to!

{ 252 comments… read them below }

  1. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – there’s nothing odd about withdrawing from a hiring process when you find out that the compensation isn’t attractive. Just make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples – ie. while the base salary might be lateral, does the company offer significantly better bonuses, long term incentives, or have other factors that would be compelling to you? You might want to have a conversation with the recruiter / HR person to see if there is any flexibility in the compensation plan, before turning down the interview.

    From a recruiter perspective – it’s better that you withdraw before the hiring manager meets you – there’s nothing quite as frustrating as having a great candidate who the hiring manager thinks is “the one” and then can’t afford to hire them. But sometimes, I will urge a candidate to have an interview, because I know that the compensation is below market, and the hiring manager has to see what “Great” looks like, in order to realize that they need to increase the salary. So, do listen to what the recruiter says about the compensation, before you bow out.

    1. Just Thinkin' Here*

      I would agree in general with this. In years past when salary ranges weren’t published, I always felt it was a waste of my time to be interviewing – taking time off, traveling – to find out in the discussion that the salary was a huge step down. While you can add benefits, etc, there’s only so much dollars benefits can make-up for.

      1. MassMatt*

        Benefits are often not discussed until well into the application process, and are also invariably described as “great” or “competitive” even when they very much are not. They can also change for the worse very quickly.

        I’m sure there are some exceptions, but IME when a company has terrible pay it’s rare that they make up for it with great benefits, it’s more likely they have both terrible pay and terrible benefits.

        Over the years I have heard one (!) week of vacation after your first year on the job as “great vacation time”, and a “pension plan” which consisted of not a pension but a 401k plan with zero company contribution. The latter was a finance company which definitely knew or should have known the difference.

        I would want to know where the salary range on the job posting came from, was it purely from the job board or was it mentioned by the company? In either case it was very misleading.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          The point about “great” benefits is so true. I remember interviewing for a job downtown where they were really excited to tell me employee parking was only $10/month. Which I admit is inexpensive for downtown parking, but it was the first job I’d ever interviewed for (including downtown) where they *didn’t* offer free parking.

          1. Bast*

            Most jobs in the city where I work also offer parking, or have their own lot. Parking around here can range from $200-$300 ish a month. It would absolutely be a deal breaker for me to have to pay for my own parking in most cases. $10/month I MIGHT bite if there was something about the job that made it a dream job — either a salary way higher than what I am making now, or perhaps an unusually high amount of PTO. For a run of the mill job, for every 1 place that doesn’t offer parking, 10 do — so I’d be out unless they offered something I couldn’t get elsewhere.

    2. I Have RBF*

      I would not count on “bonuses” or “long term incentives” to pay the bills. Cash is king, and I’ve made the mistake before of taking a lower salary because they had “bonuses”. The bonuses never, in five years, materialized.

      1. Bast*

        Bonus programs can also get snatched away with little to no warning. Old Job did that and then made promises constantly to bring the “new revised” bonus program back, and did not understand why people got angry when 3 months later, 6 months later, 9 months later, we were still waiting for the new bonus program to be unveiled. It was one of those nice while it lasts things, but completely unreliable.

  2. DJ*

    The problem with LW#1’s position is that companies are doing away with the roles that incorporate these duties. Yet the work still remains and rather than sharing it out colleagues latch onto someone and dump the work onto them. Then the poor employee doesn’t get the necessary experience to get promoted. So they are forced to take a similar role elsewhere in the hope it leads somewhere. It’s a real issue, it’s usually women who are in this situation and may even lose their jobs in restructures often leaving them to have to pull out of the workforce to undertake further training!
    So sorry you are in this situation!

    1. Brain the Brian*

      I certainly don’t think LW1 is being selfish for no longer wanting to do those tasks. Some people love that kind of work and excel at it, and if she doesn’t, she needs to tell her boss. If management values the rest of her work enough, they can help find a way to redistribute the office admin tasks; otherwise, I think this is a classic case of someone whose job is becoming a fundamental mismatch for them and needs to look elsewhere.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Labour costs are rising, and that’s a good thing overall, but unfortunately it’s therefore a big trade-off in terms of how many staff can be on board and how much the existing staff have to take on. If you’re going to make each individual employee’s compensation halfway decent (and all of us would definitely agree on that) and not just print money to do that (hyperinflation is bad, m’kay?), then something else has to give.

      It’s also a reasonable part of an admin job. As a career admin who’s happy in it, it doesn’t sound out of line for a small organisation for it to be OP’s job in these circumstances.

      If she’s worried about being pigeonholed then the answer is to try and build up other skills both in work and outside. It’s tough — I tried it myself and completed half of a couple of tasks while in a job that had a difficult commute, and even now I’ve slashed that commute drastically it’s still rather tiring to think about stuff related to work after hours or while I’m on PTO. But it’s something that OP really needs to get under her belt if she’s worried about stagnating into an admin role. (As I said, I’m kind of de facto career admin and I actually don’t mind routine clerical work, since it’s valued a lot by people who are freed up to do other work and the resulting deliverables, such as minutes, are of better quality because there’s someone dedicated to writing them properly. But I can see why OP wants to move away from it — I’m not exactly the sort of person who enjoys the stuff like washing up or cleaning the fridge and on reception at least I didn’t have to do it. However, if it is in OP’s JD, she needs to do it. Her career progression is her own responsibility, not the employer who needs something done but isn’t necessarily big enough to afford to pay a separate person to do it.)

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        All of this. I am the office manager at a small manufacturing company and it falls on me to keep tabs of supplies and plan parties and put up flyers, etc. I’m not thrilled to do some of it (hi, hours of set up and breakdown of parties) but I do enjoy some of the other things (making flyers, however haphazard, are a creative expression I don’t get in my other work) but I understand that in my position, in my organization, it comes with the job.

        If the OP is unhappy about doing those things, that are A LOT of admin jobs that don’t involve that sort of thing at all and they should view it as either part of the package of that particular job or they should start looking at new jobs that don’t have that as part of the job. But don’t view it as “women’s work” and buy into the stereotype because that hurts all of us. Just view it as functions of the job you don’t want and aim to get a job (either internally or externally) that doesn’t have that as a function. Consider it on par with any type of function you found out you don’t like and want to change- being heavily on the phone; too much data entry; the long commute; etc.

        1. Smithy*

          Yes to this. There certainly are cases where weaponized incompetence or stereotypes about women’s work does include things like party planning or ordering lunch. But that’s when among a team the woman (esp young woman) is highlighted as just being better than her male colleagues.

          However building that work into the formal job description offers pathways for ownership, strategy and professionalization of tasks even like ordering lunch. An admin can establish relationships with select places for discounts and position preferred lunch spots. They can develop processes to streamline orders from delivery apps or catering companies. For another kind of person, doing all that can be highlighted on a resume for a more senior admin role where they manage a team/implement policies/etc.

          If the specific scope of work the OP wants to focus on is payroll or something else, then a larger employer likely has that specialization. But it doesn’t demean someone else looking to progress in other scopes of work.

          1. Harried HR*

            If the OP wants to specialize in Payroll or HR it might be worth looking into getting certified with either Payroll Org or SHRM. There are local groups within the specialties that she could leverage to get a better job

      2. Claire*

        Corporate profits are up even as wages are up. Better wages are not hurting the bottom line. Wanting to keep the extra profit is not the same as not having money to hire folks.

        1. yeah*

          Agreed. The leap from “labour costs are up” to “companies have to hire fewer people or we’ll end up with hyperinflation” (which is bad, m’kay?) is a silly argument delivered condescendingly.

          1. MassMatt*

            We have experienced decades of skyrocketing executive pay, even for failing companies. Strangely, this “inflation is bad” discussion never comes up in this context. But yeah, I’m sure it’s all due to the pay of office admins.

        2. MissElizaTudor*

          Not to mention, printing money wouldn’t be the response of a company, since they can’t do that.

          They would increase prices, which does cause inflation when it happens across the economy, but we’re nowhere near hyperinflation. Wages usually go up more than prices in those situations, so inflation isn’t even a net negative, especially if wages go up more for people who are lower income.

          I’m unconvinced by the argument that, in the long run, companies can’t pay people more unless they have fewer workers. That essentially results in paying about the same for the same amount of work, or if there’s benefits, paying less for the same amount of work. There’s a disconnect there, and it might be the case for a while, as a company grows but hasn’t hired more people, but it doesn’t seem like a long term thing. Big companies don’t usually pay less than small companies.

        3. Fishsticks*

          Yep. The suggestion that if we just paid the peasants less, that would even remotely or partly solve a problem is always false. Profits and productivity go up while wages stagnate. Workers needing to be paid an amount they can live on or thrive on is not even a little responsible for inflation in our current system.

          Could wages rising be responsible for inflation? Hypothetically in some circumstances, partially. But that’s not our circumstances. Not at all. Not even a little.

        4. Cake or Death*

          Not everyone works at a giant corporation. Every business owner is not Jeff Bezos and not every business is Amazon; there are plenty of businesses that don’t rake in massive profits at the expense of employees.

    3. Beth Jacobs*

      I’m not sure whether there was an ever a time when ordering lunch and restocking the kitchen was a full time position.

      1. uncivil servant*

        My guess is that it used to be grouped with the “lower level” admin activities that have largely been done away with. Booking meetings, reception, even typing way back in the day, the things that everyone but the highest executives are now expected to do themselves. So now more specialized admin professionals are expected to absorb those tasks.

      2. LCH*

        it’s usually lumped in with reception/general admin. but it sounds like this place has reception/general admin/HR/finance (payroll) all being done by one person.

          1. Freya*

            Add in accounts payable and receivable and that was the job I was doing for a small consulting business nearly 20 years ago! I didn’t have full bank account access – authorising payments HAS to be separate to creating and accounting for those payments, if possible; separation of duties for finance stuff means internal controls are in place for reducing errors, so that was the boss’ responsibility – but everything else fell under my purview, because the business was not big enough to hire two people to do it.

      3. Princess Sparklepony*

        I interviewed for such a job long ago. It was the 90s in an investment banking company I think. I did not get the job.

        It was back when companies were doing everything to keep their employees at their desks.

    4. JM60*

      In this case, it sounds like kitchen work was part of the job the OP signedup for from the start. At least that’s how I interpret, “They’re wrapped up in part of my job description.”

      1. Ex-prof*

        It seems like her real problem is that she’s been vaguely promised a future promotion many times and it’s somehow never moved forward.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          That’s my impression, too. Is the issue that LW doesn’t like restocking the kitchen (understandable), or that they’re frustrated with their entire career progression and these kinds of menial tasks represent that (also perfectly understandable!).

          LW, if you never had to order lunch/restock/etc again, would that be enough to make you happy with your current job?

    5. Earlk*

      I’m really confused by the framing of these duties being early career or not good work experience. Whenever I’ve worked somewhere big enough to have an office manager they’ve been fairly far on in their career and these are tasks that would fall to them because how many admin assistants have the experience to stock an office and manage the social side of things like colleagues birthdays.

      1. MK*

        I think that’s where OP and her company have mismatched expectations. These tasks are a normal part of admin work, but in companies where there is no admin staff, it’s not uncommon that they fall to the more junior team members, regardless of role. Sounds like the company is coming tat this from “we have an admin who does payroll, benefits and any other admin tasks as needed”, while OP is thinking “my job is payroll and benefits, and I took on other admin tasks as the most junior team member, but now that I have some tenure I shouldn’t have to do them anymore”, and is frustrated that the last part isn’t happening.

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

          Also, The OP has a graduate degree. She doesn’t say what it’s in, but if its in business or HR type of duties I could see why she feels like she has grown out of these duties.

    6. Its Your Job*

      It sounds like these tasks are part of her job description, and have been since she took the job. If OP thinks she’s ‘outgrown’ those tasks she needs to either move up in the company or get another job.

      There are things in my job description that I don’t like to do either, but they’re part of my job; I just don’t get to stop because I’ve decided they’re beneath me. Instead I had the discussion with my boss and my boss’ boss about the pathway to promotion, which we outlined and set milestones leading to mid-year promotion in June.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        It’s even fair for OP to say to her boss “I like the X and Y parts of my job, but I don’t love the office stocking up/ordering lunch. Is there a way I could move up and transition out of these duties?” and have that discussion for a promotion path. But it does sound like these duties are absolutely part of the job OP currently has, so she can’t just ask to drop them, as there won’t be anyone else to pick it up.
        As you say, she either has the ‘how to move up’ discussion and makes a plan, or she gets out and finds a job that doesn’t involve these tasks, but currently, it’s your job and you’ve gotta do it!

        1. Emmy Rae*

          It’s still reasonable to consider how doing that works affects how people view this person in the workplace. In my experience it is always assigned to a woman (I’m sure there are exceptions out there) – there is a reason housekeeping is tacked on to presumed female roles and not, say, IT support.

          I found doing this work to have a huge impact on how people viewed me and what I am capable of.

          1. FricketyFrack*

            That’s my biggest issue with tasks like that. I’ve worked in “administrative” jobs (though a lot of them were just called that because that’s the pay band they were in) for my entire career and I have not once seen a man who does tasks like that. It’s *always* a woman. It’s not that I mind arranging for catering and ordering office supplies, it’s that it pigeonholes you and it’s very hard to have other skills recognized and get promoted once people see you as that person.

            1. Friendo*

              That seems like a good argument for it being a defined part of a job description though.

            2. Fanny Price*

              In the office where I work, a man is in charge of all of these duties (in addition to accounts payable and keeping an eye on the weight room).

    7. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      My company is not huge, but the it’s big enough that the HR, payroll, and benefits specialists have an admin who does all this plus handle calendars. I think the LW probably needs to look for a new job and ONLY highlight the payroll/benefits stuff. And ASK if there are admin expectations like these in the interview. If they say yes, tell them you’re not looking for that kind of role, period. Because as you are experiencing, it is a dead end.

    8. Dust Bunny*

      Sometimes that’s just how the busywork has to be distributed.

      We’re a department of four and everyone has their non-core responsibilities: My coworker is in charge of ordering supplies, mine is to be the contact for building repair and maintenance vendors, even though that has nothing at all to do with my regular job, two more people are in charge of things that might cost extra money, which I don’t have the authority to handle. But we’re in a rented space where that work isn’t covered by our main building’s facilities management, and since everyone else also has their extra jobs it’s neither realistic nor fair of me to refuse to do it. None of us love it but it all has to be done and there isn’t enough of it to create a whole other position to handle it. (We’re three women and a man, for the record.)

      1. Earlk*

        But it’s not busy work, it’s work that needs to be done that requires particular skills.

    9. Numbers*

      I found myself stuck in a loop of jobs like this too. The underlying problem is twofold: working for companies too small to have a dedicated person for the admin roles and companies having no interest in finding someone else to take over those duties when you are handling it competently. Even if you are promoted and the duties you don’t like are taken away from you, the office is still so small that you are the one with the institutional knowledge and will be the go to person.

      The best advice is to find a more specialized job at a bigger company that is only focused on the areas you enjoy. You have to rule out the small companies. They aren’t going to be the right fit for the the kind of career progression you are seeking. They will love your resume because they are looking for a catch all person, but you have to remind yourself that you want to be specialized, not do a little bit of everything.

      It’s possible. I was able to move into a job that job rid of the admin tasks. I am more than happy to help out with unloading the dishwasher or restocking the fridge on a day when our admin is out, but it feels good to know that that isn’t my job. And I’m far from the only one pitching in. It’s not that it’s beneath me. It’s just not what I wanted to do for a career and I feel like I’m finally on the path I want to be on.

      1. Freya*

        I will happily clean the sink while I’m waiting for the kettle to boil (it bugs me and cleaning it to my admittedly picky standards keeps me from wandering off and forgetting about my coffee). I am not happy if that becomes a part of my job description, and a regular task (without a pay rise commensurate with my internal perceptions of the annoyance). I am livid if it becomes a regular expectation with other people being allowed to assume that I will pick up their slack (even with a pay rise equal to the annoyance factor).

  3. Pink Sprite*

    For OP 3: If a toilet needs to flushed more than once for it to be cleaned, then flush it twice (or more). I don’t understand why this is a problem. Yes, people should know, but as we’ve long read here in AaM, some don’t.
    So, if a sign is up and gets people to do the right thing – good!

    1. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

      Agreed. I don’t quite understand why this upsets the OP … please, by all means, encourage people to keep flushing until the toilet is in a better condition for the next user!

      1. Consonance*

        I mean, there are some marks that are left that don’t just disappear because you run a little more water over them, especially if the toilet is under powered. I get why you’d feel self conscious because there’s nothing you can really do to get it to meet anyone’s exacting standards. My guess, though, is that sometimes the toilets do an honestly insufficient job. I’ve definitely been in old buildings where there’s still stuff kind of floating around. That’s a different deal, and it may have nothing to do with the letter writer. that’s a real “flush again” situation. Although full disclosure, I had this happen at a conference a couple days ago. I flushed literally five times and things just kind of danced around the bottom. ugh, I tried.

        1. Heidi*

          Our office toilet has to be flushed twice, but you need to time the second flush just right to get the contents to go through the pipe instead of circling. A sign would actually be helpful if anyone could figure out how to explain it in words.

          1. ThatOtherClare*

            | TOiLeT’S HAunTeD |

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I’m guessing it’s the cutesy phrasing that annoys them. “Be nice, flush twice,” both sounds a little like something one would say to a small child and also, while I am sure this is not the intention, could be taken as suggesting that those who don’t flush twice are being inconsiderate rather than simply unaware of the problem with the toilet and most likely just not noticing because they have gone to wash their hands before it finishes flushing.

        I’d imagine if the sign said something like “as these toilets are old, please flush twice,” the LW wouldn’t think twice about it.

        That said, I agree that it isn’t something one should bother about. It’s unlikely whoever wrote the sign was thinking anything other than that it makes a nice rhyme and is a slightly amusing way of saying it and perhaps that it avoids explicitly mentioning poop. It’s unlikely to be intended to be passive-aggressive (implying that only inconsiderate people would only flush once) or bossy.

        I also wonder if the LW is a little irritated by the fact that one of the women involved is her direct report. It might feel a little presumptuous to have a report posting signs like that.

            1. J*

              Rest of my comment was eaten ! Similar situation of late here , and signs appreciated by staff for addressing it .

        1. Dataqueen*

          I can understand being annoyed by the cutesy wording. Where I work there’s one bathroom with signs in each stall that say “If you sprinkle when you tinkle, but a sweetie and wipe the seatie” and it inexplicably fills me with rage every time I see it.

          1. BethRA*

            I hate cutesy stuff too – but I’d rather an annoying sign on the wall than pee on the toilet seat, so what puts me in touch with my inner crabcake is that the sign is necessary in the first place.

        2. TootsNYC*

          speaking of the wording, and its rhyme:
          I used to spend a lot of time on wedding websites, and people were always asking about a poem to tell their son-in-law-to-be how much they like and admire him.

          There are people who think it has to be poetry.
          I was always sticking up for prose! “Why don’t you just sit down and write him a letter? Then you can use the words you really mean instead of the ones that rhyme, or that have the correct number of syllables for the meter. Just say it. Don’t torture the language.”

    2. Tiger Snake*

      That sounds very wasteful of water to be the norm. I’d rather businesses get their toilets fixed properly.

      1. amoeba*

        Well, I mean, you only flush twice when necessary, which is probably not every time you use the toilet?

      2. Dinwar*

        I’m currently watching another firm at my jobsite do this. The estimated price tag is $1 million. No, that’s not a joke.

        The issue is, a lot of fixtures and utilities can endure long past the point where building codes have changed and be fine–building codes don’t expect everyone to update their entire building every time some politician decides the plumbing industry needs a boost. But contractors are required to install new fixtures to match existing code. This means that when you try to replace an old toilet with a new one, you’re often not replacing just the toilet. You’re replacing half the pipes in the building, plus the electrical system (exhaust fans and light fixtures), plus insulation and subflooring (since you’ve ripped up the floor to get to the pipes anyway), plus…. The $1 million toilet is a bit extreme–they’re redoing a chunk of the sewer system–but these sorts of repairs can EASILY run tens of thousands of dollars.

        And bear in mind, it still may not work. The toilet is only one part of the equation; the people are another. Their diet, lifestyle, gut flora, and other factors play a huge role in this. You can get the best toilet in the world and still have someone who can’t get the flushing to work.

        It’s very, very likely that simply flushing twice is going to be far more cost-effective and less resource-intensive (assuming the building is on city water and city sewer, which recycle water) than remodeling the bathroom.

      3. Lacey*

        Yeah, I immediately thought, “Oh, I thought we were all trying to use LESS water, not more” and especially not over something so insignificant as *streaks* rather than you know… stuff getting left behind.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          Right?? “Be nice, flush twice,” with the world in the state it’s in? No, I wouldn’t make them take the sign down, but NO WAY am I flushing twice. Over a gallon of drinking water down the toilet for a second time, to get rid of a little streak? If you’re that bothered, keep a toilet brush by the toilet and use that, it works better anyway.

          1. Winstonian*

            Same. Personally I don’t get why streaks in a bowl are such an issue, so no, I’m not flushing twice. I would think that if it is an issue for someone, the onus is on them to do the extra flush. It’s not like the streak is going to migrate up to the seat.

            1. lilsheba*

              Cause that’s nasty. Minimum of flushing should be at least twice, a courtesy flush is essential!!!

              1. Lydia*

                I hope you don’t live in an area where drought has been a very real, very persistent, issue. Flushing more than once because other people might know people poop in a toilet is kind of tone deaf.

              2. Tiger Snake*

                We live in a world where we can call countries “First World Countries” and yet have significant parts of the population struggle to get clean water to drink. To say nothing of the other countries who we take water from in order to supplement our gap, and the impacts to the farming communities in both countries.

                Flush twice isn’t a courtesy. Its thoughtless and crass.

                1. allathian*

                  Agree. I’m in an area where droughts are very rarely an issue, and we have plenty of good water. But our building codes require water-saving toilets with a big flush and a small flush. The idea is to use the latter when you pee. Our building codes also require bidet showers in single-stall bathrooms. If the hose’s long enough, it’s very easy to get rid of any streaks with that, and it uses far less water than a flushing toilet.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Formerly worked in a building built at the turn of the century – and is actually on the historic register for the state – and we all joked the plumbing was similarly ancient (it wasn’t – but the spaces in the walls for things like plumbing was thinner than in modern buildings). We had signs in the bathrooms:

      Old Pipes – Please flush twice!

    4. Nebula*

      Before we got to what the sign said, I thought it was going to be something way over the top. I’ve certainly seen signs a lot less polite than that in office bathrooms (and kitchens, and any other communal areas), so this really would not register with me.

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, yes. Those signs are basically ubiquitous where I live, often in poem form, sometimes including cartoons, always extremely cringeworthy…

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      When I read the five letters, I knew that #3 would arouse the most passion and greatest number of comments.

    6. TootsNYC*

      if stuff sticks to the toilet, it may not come off with just another flush.
      Better would be to park a toilet brush in there.
      But sometimes the flush isn’t as powerful, and sometimes a second flush can work, or can at least reduce the size of the smear.

      But I don’t see why the sign should make anyone annoyed. It’s not a personal insult. And if someone can flush something away, even better.

    7. Momma Bear*

      Someone put up signs in our bathroom to make sure you flush if the autoflusher doesn’t work. I’m not particularly bothered by them. It’s a fair reminder and apparently someone was annoyed enough to make the signs (and laminate them, even). I’d let it go.

    8. EC*

      Unless LW is one of the people leaving waste behind, I don’t get why they would feel self conscious. If there’s still stuff in the toilet after one flush, flush it again.

  4. lyonite*

    OP5: In the absence of other evidence, I’d say the interviewer has gotten some of the “build your network” advice that’s always going around, and you’re on the list of people he has to contact. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but there’s no obligation for you to engage any more than you have.

    1. Reality.Bites*

      Could be, but they’re referred to as an interviewer for the state agency, not an outside recruiter. And wanting to meet informally outside of work is creepy AF.

      1. nnn*

        It’s not at all creepy AF in a lot of networking-heavy industries where meeting for coffee or drinks is par for the course.

      2. Nebula*

        Firstly, the letter does not actually say that he’s asked to meet informally outside of work, just that he’s asked to meet up. Secondly, the fact he’s spoken about other opportunities means it still sounds pretty work-focused. This definitely sounds like networking.

        1. Seashell*

          To me, meet up without any further details would likely mean meet up outside the office. Also, he’s asked to meet up multiple times and she hasn’t tried to move it forward, so he seems to be lacking the ability to take a hint.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Please don’t make this “Don’t network with women; you’ll be perceived as creepy.”

      4. MK*

        No, it isn’t. Networking is something you usually do on your own time, not during work hours, and while it would be better if it happened at more organized events, there is nothing creepy about asking someone who works in the same field (and in this case, someone who works for a different agency of government than you, a coworker in a broad sense) to lunch or coffee. If he was trying to arrange dinner or drinks or was insisting after being told no, sure, that’s inappropriate.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          He’s trying to recruit this person for a job at his agency. Why would he do that after hours?

          1. Peanut Hamper*

            A lot of recruitment/networking happens outside of working hours, because the understanding is that you are supposed to be working during working hours.

            As a result, recruiters can have long hours because they are working outside of your normal working hours as a potential recruitee. This is not unusual by any means.

      5. Ginger Baker*

        What. No. It’s not creepy to meet informally for lunch or coffee or even drinks or dinner for networking purposes. That’s a HUGE portion of recruiting for higher-level roles. Creepy people can make anything creepy, but we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bath water and/or suddenly act like All Networking Is Creepy ffs.

    2. EngineeringFun*

      Yep I’ve had a great HR interview at company A but it wasn’t a good fit. A few months later then HR moved to company B. She contacted me again and I interviewed at company B. Again wasn’t a good fit but that’s their job to have good candidates on call.

  5. RLC*

    LW3: that bathroom sign is the most politely worded one I’ve ever seen or heard of to address that concern. I’m with Alison, as long as it’s just a sign, let it go.

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      Here’s a different way to think about it: now that they’ve politely let you know that it bothers them, surely it’s not a big imposition on you to double check the toilet so as to avoid adding a little moment of disgust and disappointment to someone’s day?

      A similar example: I keep my communal chai in a sealed container so the smells don’t stink out our tea and coffee supply cupboard. Do I have to? No. Nobody asked me to. But the fresh spices have very strong smells and I don’t want anyone to be disappointed by a weird tasting cup of regular tea. I go to the extra step of opening and re-sealing a container each time, which is about the same level of effort as flushing a toilet. It hasn’t reduced my productivity yet. I’m doing you the respect of believing double-checking won’t impact you much either.

      1. Miss Pickles the cat*

        Thank you for that. I am allergic to cinnamon (including the scent), so if the cupboard smelled like cinnamon, I wouldn’t use any of it. No need for my co-workers to see me break out in hives…..

    2. Lady Blerd*

      At work we have a sign asking people to make sure that the toilet actually flused, with a drawing of an anthropomorphised toilet hodling it’s nose. More funny than rude.

    3. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Because someone had to:

      Let it go
      Let it go
      Don’t hold it back anymore
      Let it go
      Let it go
      Flush the toilet more than once
      Don’t worry what the sign will say
      Push the handle down
      The flush never bothered me anyway!

  6. Msd*

    Being somewhat cynical I would suspect that somehow the LW’s friend’s chronic medical condition and/or partners cancer treatment came up during an interview. The company saw potential for lots of work absences and high health benefit utilization (especially if self insured).

    1. MK*

      Possible. It’s equally possible that the friend doesn’t have a qualification they want or didn’t interview well or any other work related reason.

      1. Msd*

        I don’t know. In my experience recommendations often result in hiring even if someone doesn’t interview well. It’s also odd that nothing was said to the LW. It could have been skill based but I think they didn’t want the medical issues.

        1. MK*

          If this company doesn’t favour not-great candidates who have a recommendation, that’s hardly a point against them. And not all recommendations are created equal; frankly, I wouldn’t put much stock in the recommendation of a friend who hasn’t worked with the candidate and isn’t even in the same role.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Exactly. This is why I haul out a very large grain of salt when a co-worker ‘highly recommends’ one of their friends to me for a specific role at our company.

            A lot of people are solidly behind their referral, for valid reasons. Sally’s got a great attitude, John’s helpful and supportive, great qualities that matter in the workplace. However, in my experience, they haven’t actually worked with their referral, or they have but not in the same function or department, and they can’t be a good judge on how well their referral performs their actual job.

            Lack of solid or relevant skills and expertise is typically why my company doesn’t move forward with referrals. Great attitude notwithstanding, the review team felt the referral just didn’t meet the minimum qualifications.

            Every so often the skills and expertise are spot on, but the referral’s soft skills are everything from iffy to offputting.

            1. Not that other person you didn't like*

              This is why I will never (again) recommend a friend or anyone I haven’t worked directly with.

        2. Roland*

          I don’t think that’s the case for a real recommendation. But even if it were, OP isn’t even in the same field as the candidate. It’s pretty much a character reference from a friend.

        3. Lilo*

          I’ve done interviews where we often get recommendations from colleagues (and in the same field, which we don’t have here). We don’t say anything to the recommenders, other than to acknowledge receipt of the recommendation, as a matter of policy. Hiring information is kept private.

          How much weight a recommendation has is very, very fact specific. In my experience, no recommendation will ever save a bad candidate. It might tip the balance on someone who’s very close to the edge, but it would have to be from someone who had direct knowledge of their work.

        4. I should really pick a name*

          Like most things, it depends on the company.

          Most places I’ve worked, a recommendation gets you an interview, not a job.

          1. Annony*

            Me too. I would argue that is how it should work in a good company. You show your employee that you value their recommendation enough to give the candidate a close evaluation. But you don’t move forward if they don’t pass that evaluation and you don’t owe the employee an explanation on why they didn’t pass.

        5. Ellis Bell*

          Really? I have never worked anywhere where a word from an insider was an automatic hire – staff must be very highly in demand in your field. Also, I doubt that OP or their friend mentioned any of the medical issues during the interviewing process. It’s extremely typical to not share that stuff.

        6. Also-ADHD*

          Interesting. In my experience, recommendations lead to interviews usually but anything from there, it’s only a tie breaker on two great candidates etc. If this job is still open, they’ve not found what they want yet (so no tie breaker situation).

        7. Pretty as a Princess*

          I don’t think it’s odd at all that nothing was said to the LW – in fact, it is my expectation that nothing would be said to them. Candidates are entitled to confidentiality regarding their candidacy and the hiring manager is under absolutely no obligation to “report out” to an internal referring employee.

          I also do not think “recommendations often result in hiring even if someone doesn’t interview well” is really a thing? Unless you are in a situation where there is a severe shortage of people with relatively commoditized skills. I don’t weight recommendations higher than *the confidence the candidate gives me and my team that they can do the job well*. A character reference from someone in another department is not going to be a substitute for my professional judgment about capability, skill, and attitude.

          I think the medical situation is a bad assumption – especially since if the candidate has any sense they would not be sharing that information at all.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            I agree with the others up-thread that recommendations can help get an interview much of the time, but not more than that. And I have personally had experience of being recommended for a position that I didn’t get invited to interview for. This stuff just is what it is and I agree that there doesn’t necessarily need to be something discriminatory happening for this not have turned into a job offer for the person recommended in this case.

          2. Annony*

            It might happen when the recommender is very high up and/or the position is low or temporary. My only personal experience was being forced to supervise a terrible summer intern my boss had to hire because she was related to a director at the company and the director had personally asked my boss to hire her. It wasn’t worth spending the political capital to say no and explain why the director’s darling niece was not qualified. We just dealt with it for the summer.

      2. ThatOtherClare*

        There could be many reasons, as you say, but I specifically doubt it’s a missing qualification – only because it’s so easy to let someone down gently with “Your friend was great, if only she had a forklift licence she would have been a contender.”

        1. MsM*

          But then you potentially open the door to debates about whether they can restructure the role or she can do the training on the job.

      3. Tau*

        Or that Ms Absolutely Perfect walked in the door and your friend just couldn’t compete with their absolutely incredible CV, on-the-nose applicable experience including all the “we can’t reasonably expect this of candidates but wouldn’t be cool if…” and stellar interview.

        …I may occasionally pretend this person got the job instead of me in order to keep my confidence up while job-searching.

        1. Banyan Style*

          Except the job is still open two months later – Ms AP doesn’t seem to have materialised!

          1. Meat Oatmeal*

            Ms. AP may have applied and then turned down the job, leaving the hiring manager to hope a clone of Ms. AP applies someday. Or Ms. AP could be a figment of the hiring manager’s imagination but the hiring manager won’t settle for a less perfect applicant. That’s not a particularly functional way to approach hiring, but I’ve seen it happen. Keep that confidence high, Tau!

          2. GythaOgden*

            Yeah, but that doesn’t say anything about the chances of any one particular applicant, recommendation or no.

    2. Mr. Roger’s neighbor*

      Nah. There can be a million reasons: we wanted more experience with Specific Skill; we are really looking for more like 10 years of experience even though we said “minimum 5”; we really want someone with a Master’s degree even though we say it’s optional…etc etc. At least in my field, there have been layoffs everywhere so it’s an employer’s market. I guarantee you that it’s less about shadiness/subterfuge and much more about “eh, the candidate isn’t perfect and we want to hold out for perfect”

      1. Msd*

        I’ll give it a rest after this but…… people really don’t think that employers avoid hiring people with chronic medical issues?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Of course they do. But since there are a zillion other reasons someone might not get hired, assuming it’s definitely X or definitely Y doesn’t make sense.

          1. Msd*

            True. I guess, however, I would caution my friend when interviewing in the future to not mention their health issues or wanting to leave their current company because they need better health benefits. Now I will really give it a rest. :-)

            1. Rosie*

              Why do you assume the friend mentioned her health issues/need for insurance? At no point does the LW indicate that was the case.

            2. Claire*

              We have no evidence the friend DID mention those things, so this speculation doesn’t make much sense.

          2. ceiswyn*

            Which unfortunately is how such illegal hiring practices continue. You can never prove any individual decision was biased; you can only see the pattern of people with disabilities repeatedly not being hired.

            (No, I don’t have a solution, and I wish I did)

            If that’s OP’s motivation, there’s probably still no value in pursuing the question, as I doubt the interviewers are going to tell her if they discriminate.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      “So, why are you looking to leave your current position?”
      And she told them specifically, the medical benefits changed. The interviewer connected some dots.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        It’s totally possible that that happened.
        It’s also totally possible that it didn’t.
        We don’t know.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        “The benefits were dialed way back” is a very normal thing to interpret as “so I figured I would get off this sinking ship.”

        If people take a job because they were offered decent health insurance, good dental, work from home, and a ferret-friendly office, it’s normal for them to look elsewhere when those things are taken away.

      3. doreen*

        It’s of course possible that the interviewer connected some dots, but plenty of people without chronic health conditions would leave a job that eliminated health insurance. If my job had eliminated health insurance it would have been the equivalent of at least a $20K pay cut.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Yep. If my job suddenly said “okay, no more health insurance!!” you better believe I’d mention it in interviews as I looked to get out! That’s a huge thing to take away (especially since the majority of US jobs offer it, because that’s the easiest way we get insurance) and I’d bet the most interviewers would think about it would be to say to themselves “that sucks, and I wonder how many applicants we’ll get from Company because of it”.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Even people without chronic expensive health conditions would see “we no longer offer health insurance” as a reason to flee. You want it not only if you already need it, but in case you do later.

    4. LW #2*

      The thing that *really* scares me is that she is a transgender woman and they decided not to hire her because of that. I don’t want to work for a company that would reject someone on those grounds. But I don’t work closely enough with the team to explore that in casual conversation. I didn’t include it in the letter because I wasn’t sure it was relevant to the actual question (Can I ask and what can I do better in the future), but now I’m wondering.

      1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Yeeeeeaah…. If we’re looking at possible Discrimination Bingo, I’d put money on that, instead, particularly since we don’t know if the medical stuff came up at all. (And possibly not even discrimination as a deliberate and conscious choice, but just the “candidate isn’t exactly like the people currently on my team, thus candidate strike me as Slightly Off, so when I’m not 100% sure about her I decide no” that can hit a lot of underrepresented folks. And either way it’s not something you have a good way to ask about.)

      2. Gyne*

        Is that consistent with the way you’ve seen people at the company behave already? My guess is you already know on some level what kind of place you work in.

      3. I should really pick a name*

        That’s not something you can reasonably expect to find out.

        Even if they provided feedback to her, it really wouldn’t be appropriate for them to share that feedback with you.

        And if their reasoning for rejecting her WAS because she’s trans, if they have any sense at all, they would never admit that to you.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        Does your company have any DEI initiatives? Any training on how to respect gender diversity? If so, how well has that been received. Do people complete the training, ask thoughtful questions, and invite productive discussion or do they start the discussion the way one person did where I work and say things like “everything is transphobic these days, you can’t say anything anymore!!” Do you work with any out trans employees? Does your company support them? Are people expected to respect pronouns? Do cis people readily share theirs in email signatures, Zoom names, or other written communications? Are people given a hard time about changing their email addresses or other HR or IT related identifiers if they change their name? Do the trans issues that come up in the news, at least here in America where politicians are trying to restrict trans rights, come up in discussion in the workplace? Does anyone make rude or dismissive remarks about those issues or are they discussed in a respectful way that doesn’t misgender people? Do people address popular trans celebrities with their chosen names and pronouns or do they deadname them? Etc.

        I am nonbinary trans and there can be ways to investigate this suspicion without trying to get an honest answer to “hey, are you guys transphobic?”

  7. Workaholic*

    #2 – I don’t think this is the case since she got a response they were going with somebody else. but I had somebody that applied to a number of jobs, I sent a referral form and email to HR. They acknowledged receipt, but then crickets. 3 months later I brought it up to my boss and was informed HR had a major overhaul (like 75% of the dept was let go and replaced?) 5 months later somebody finally reached out to my friend to see if she was still interested. While I love my job, I’m not too keen on referring anybody again. By the time they got back to her she’d already changed her life direction and started her own small business.

  8. Unpromoted*

    a lot of these tasks tend to get shifted to women AND are non-promotable tasks. i used to plan parties and get some credit for keeping morale up but it ultimately was more work for me and never contributed towards the promotions i was considered for.

    1. GythaOgden*

      This is a bit different however as it’s in OP’s job description. The issue with gender here is the generally-female nature of admin roles in general, not the specifics of OP being assigned these tasks outside of her actual JD.

      Kinda like the situation at my old office. The admins for our tenant org were mostly (but not all) women. It was in their job description; to what extent each individual took on that actual work in practice differed enormously (and I know those who did were extremely upset with the prima donnas that didn’t, as were we at reception who bore the brunt of the complaints when it wasn’t our job). It was in my facilities admin’s JD to fill the coffee machines. So she did. And we did it when she was off and didn’t complain because it had been established as facilities’ job to do it.

      There’s also quite a number of male cleaners about as well IME. My husband’s friend works for one of the major contractors we work with in the NHS.

      So this isn’t like a ‘minister for fun’ role outside of OP’s normal work. It’s actually part of her JD and if she wants to stop having to do it she needs to work towards getting a new job elsewhere. Fixing the gender stereotypes will take longer (and also depend on getting men to do the work involved rather than women rejecting it as their responsibility).

      1. WeirdChemist*

        I do think you’re right about these things being more directly a part of the LWs job, and about the gender divide in admin-type roles.

        However, in the absence of admins or when there’s multiple people with the same job description who could potentially do these tasks, more often than not they are pushed onto women, and it’s work that is never really “credited” towards achievements/career advancement/etc

      2. Snow Globe*

        My first thought on reading this was that if the person who runs payroll was usually a man, then this task would never end up in their job description. Because it is usually a woman (because most admin jobs continue to be held by women), it seemed like a good fit..

        1. MK*

          Maybe, but “runs payroll” can mean anything. In my first job, in a small firm with less than 10 employees, the person who handled paying the staff and making the payments to the tax authorities and the social insurance agency was the office manager who also did the shopping, paid the bills and did a bit of light cleaning. And he was a man.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yep, we had that at my old job when it was very small. Later lots more people got hired so they had to break out payroll from tax from office managing to reception, etc. But in the beginning it certainly was the office manager’s job to both run payroll and also get food for the monthly BD celebrations/board meetings/what have you (they didn’t have to clean or stock coffee but we were in a shared space at that time where the building management took care of that).

          2. Margaret Cavendish*

            Sure, but that’s just one data point. The fact that these jobs are *sometimes* held by men doesn’t change the fact that they’re *usually* held by women, and there are all sorts of gendered assumptions wrapped up in them.

            1. Ann O'Nemity*

              Yep. Over 80% of payroll jobs are held by women, according to a quick internet search. It’s very possible that “housekeeping” and “caretaking” duties have been added to this particular position because it’s usually held by women.

              I’ve also seen these duties performed by men, for the record, but it’s anecdotal.

              1. ThatOtherClare*

                Funny how “everyone knows” women totally suck at maths, yet 80% of the people trusted with payroll are women.

                Tell your sons stats like this, folks. They’re the ones telling the young girls in their class that they’re slow when they’re actually double checking, that they’re dumb at maths when they make the same number of mistakes as the boys, and that girls can’t be scientists when they express their career aspirations. Teach your sons about Ada Lovlace and Henrietta Leavitt at the same time as your daughters. The only thing it will do is make them more popular and successful because they’ll be politer towards girls and women, so there’s literally no downside.

    2. WeirdChemist*

      When I was in grad school, the professor I worked for would definitely always try to push these tasks onto women in the lab. And he was so non-confrontational and passive aggressive about it (and, well everything really) that when I was the only woman left in the lab I was able to completely side-step it by playing dumb. “Oh, I’m just so bad at these sorts of things, have you tried asking Bob or Steve? Oh, you haven’t? Why not? Why do you think I would be good at it but not them?” While he floundered because he realized he couldn’t say why he had actually decided to ask me out loud lol.

      But on the other hand, in my current office all of the party planning, etc is handled by two male admins. And the one person who handles a lot of the potluck planning on a purely volunteer basis is our male head of IT. Overall, I don’t think you’re wrong about these tasks primarily falling onto women though! Just offering up how unusual my current office is haha

      1. Ginger Baker*

        I ended up rather randomly discussing the year-end collection of a gift (money is collected from the supported-by group and then split among the support folks) with the woman who, along with another woman, coordinated this past year. I asked and yes, the past few years had all somehow been women who took on this job, shockingly. I suggested that she take the initiative to Volunteer two men in the next year’s cohort to handle for the upcoming year! Fingers crossed, we will see how it goes…

        1. WeirdChemist*

          I’ll also add that he tried to ask me to do this like a week after he gave me a giant lecture on how I was too disorganized and not productive enough at work. Like yes, please do try and spell out for me why exactly you think *I* should be the one to take on these extra tasks that will cut into my productivity and require lots of organization… hmmm you can’t? Well golly gee maybe you should ask someone else then??

          1. MassMatt*

            This. These jobs tend to be passed off to the lower people on the totem pole because they are ancillary to the main mission—sales, # patients seen per day, amount of code written, etc. Getting a lot of this passed on to you tends to put YOU into an ancillary position as it cuts into your sales numbers or other productivity. It can be a downward spiral.

          2. ThatOtherClare*

            Clearly too disorganised = not organising the office birthday cards, and not productive enough = not able to do all your work and keep the kitchen tidy, duh. For goodness’ sakes woman, don’t you understand plain English, either‽

            (For the record, the above is heavy sarcasm.)

    3. Friendo*

      This is a pretty good reason for LW1’s office to handle it the way they are. The job is built into the job description, which prevents it from being shifted to employees, generally women, who do not get any actual compensation or benefit for doing it. At the very least, LW is being directly compensated for it and agreed to do it as part of accepting the job.

      1. basically functional*

        Yes, but it’s built into a job description for a job that is overwhelmingly held by women.

  9. Brain the Brian*

    I worked at an outdoor activities center during college. Our employee bathroom had a sign with the infamous “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” sign above the toilet. Really great for morale to have the entire break area smell like urine, let me tell you.

  10. Lilo*

    The reality is a recommendation from someone in a different field, unless you previously worked with them in their specific capacity, is really never going to have any professional weight. If you didn’t work with them in their field, you’re really not in a position to assess someone’s skill level. You’re really just assessing them as a friend.

    I don’t think you did anything to hurt your friends chances but the reality is I doubt they gave your recommendation much weight either.

    I wouldn’t really push back because the reality of my organization, and, I suspect many others, is when we hire, we keep our assessments of a candidate private and wouldn’t be comfortable sharing that info with someone’s friend. Hiring feedback directly to the candidate is also tricky because people often use feedback to try to appeal the hiring decision or the reality can be difficult or uncomfortable to convey.

    1. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

      Yeah, someone in my org recommends friends all the time. I don’t put any weight on the recommendations. If a candidate is a strong fit, they’ll demonstrate that themselves through the hiring process. I have tons of ways to assess candidates early in the process, input from someone who already has a bias toward them is just not useful.

      It’s hard to give feedback in these cases, because the feedback I could give would not actually be useful unless I take a LOT of time to figure out exactly how to word it to the recommender, while assuming it will get back to the candidate, without raising alarm bells on my HR team. (And I err on the side of giving feedback where I can…it’s just a hard thing to do when the decision is based on subtleties AND I suspect it’ll go through a game of telephone before it reaches the candidate.)

    2. Awkwardness*

      I don’t think you did anything to hurt your friends chances but the reality is I doubt they gave your recommendation much weight either.

      OP might not even be in a position to assess the qualification of her friend properly, as this is a different field of work. They can make the introduction, but the rest is really up to the friend.

      As OP does not know the work persona of her friend, I would be wary of pushing too much. Not because it might be impolite, but because they do not want to risk being the person who went to bat for a slacker or a drama person.

    3. JustaTech*

      I’ve asked for referrals from friends I haven’t worked with, just to get the link that means that maybe a human will glance at it before my application is rejected. I would never ask my friend to mis-reperesent their knowledge of my work, or to even imply that they had worked with me before.
      Really all I want is a rejection email instead of radio silence. That’s all I think an internal referral will get me (but if I did get the job I would absolutely want them to get that bonus!).

  11. bamcheeks*

    It’s okay to ask for feedback about a friend you referred if it’s clear you’re asking so you can make better recommendations in the future

    I actually of think this would come off as out of touch if the friend had several interviews before being rejected. “How can I make better recommendations?” is a good question to ask if your recommendation has one interview with HR and then gets rejected, although even then the answer might be, “You were fine, you couldn’t have known that we’re really looking for someone with more llama diet experience because it wasn’t obvious on the job description.”

    If someone’s had 3-4 interviews, then they have presumably met most of the basic criteria and are a plausible hire– it’s just that something has come up which made the hiring manager go in a different direction, whether it’s a better candidate or something disqualifying that wasn’t obvious in the first four interviews. You can’t possibly make better recommendations than that! Anyone who gets that far in the process is a good recommendation.

    Though I do think I’d be less motivated to give recommendations in the future if my friend didn’t really get any feedback about why she was being removed from the process, even if it was just a bland line about “more experience in X”. That is a bit of a crappy place to leave both you and your friend.

    1. Lilo*

      Alison has gone into it before but it’s really not uncommon for employers to not give feedback because it can be met with hostility or it’s company policy to not comment on the hiring process based on privacy or litigation concerns.

    2. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

      “If someone’s had 3-4 interviews, then they have presumably met most of the basic criteria and are a plausible hire”

      I strongly disagree. I once applied for a secretarial job at an accounting firm. Their help wanted ad in the newspaper said that we should mail them our resume, but we shouldn’t call them – they would call us if they were interested in us. I was called in for three interviews. Then I received a letter from stating that I wasn’t getting the job because I didn’t have experience working at an accounting firm. Their ad said nothing about such experience being necessary. Nothing about such experience was said during my first interview. Nothing about such experience was said during my second interview. Nothing about such experience was said during my third interview. Since my resume didn’t give them the impression that I had ever worked at an accounting firm, and such experience was so important to them, I have no idea why they called me in for one interview, let alone three.

      Years later, I was hired by a CPA firm that didn’t give two hoots that I didn’t have such experience.

      1. NapkinThief*

        Or, perhaps more likely, it wasn’t necessary, but a nice-to-have – and someone else was in the running who had that experience. If that was the only distinguishing factor between you and the successful candidate, I can understand them thinking that they wanted to clarify it was that and not some deficiency of yours that edged you out.

        1. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

          I don’t know about that. I would have preferred to have been ghosted, instead of their going to the trouble of sending me a letter telling me explicitly that I didn’t have something that they considered to be so very very important, and they knew it all along, yet they kept calling me back for yet another pointless interview. They should have just told me that they decided to hire someone else, and not make a big deal about my lack of relevant experience (which they knew about from the very beginning).

  12. Still*

    I really want one of those magical American toilets that are completely clean after one flush and without need for a brush.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      The old toilet in my upstairs bathroom meets this standard; the new toilet in the downstairs bathroom does not.

      We’re about to remodel and I think I’m seriously going to be like “the toilet can stay, just change out the floor, tile, sink, and tub around it.”

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I have one. Unfortunately it’s circa 1980 and uses 5 gallons per flush, which is hard on my water bill and my state’s ongoing drought. :/

  13. Fellow Canadian*

    I feel the need to put this out there because I’ve seen a few comments saying that LW5’s interviewer is most likely trying to build his professional network:

    If the events that LW5 described happened to me, my gut reaction would be that the interviewer’s interest was more personal than professional. For me to feel certain that the interaction was really professional, any invitations to “meet up” would have to be for a specific reason. For example “to discuss this other job that I’ve gotten approval to post that I’d be thrilled if you applied for” or “to discuss what you’re interested in so I can keep an eye out at our agency” or “to hear more about this experience you mentioned in your interview because we have a similar project coming up and I’d like to pick your brain”. Alternatively, the invitation would have to come from someone I have known for longer, not just someone I met during a job interview once. If someone I’ve just met (once, as an unsuccessful job candidate) repeatedly asked me if I wanted to meet up, I’d also struggle to understand what we’d talk about, or why they want to meet.

    In either case, Alison’s advice is spot on. Regardless of the interviewer’s motivation, LW has replied perfectly and doesn’t owe the interviewer more if they don’t want to continue “keeping in touch”, or would like to keep the interviewer as a contact, but don’t think they have anything to discuss now given their current career path.

  14. KSack*

    I wanted to comment on a peripheral topic from OP#1: I hope your friend looked carefully into the health savings account (HSA) option her current employee is offering. Offering an HSA is NOT the company ceasing to offer health insurance: there is still a high-deductible health insurance plan associated with the HSA. These plans can be great for some people, as they allow for pre-tax savings for future medical care (which can be used far into the future, unlike a flexible savings account which can only be used in the current year). I’m not sure if this plan is good for the OP’s friend with a chronic condition, but the company may be contributing some amount to the HSA, and she can contribute pre-tax, and those funds can be used for the deductible. Once she maxes out (which she likely will with a chronic condition), everything should be covered.

    1. OP #1*

      My understanding is that there is NOT a health plan associated with the HSA, which is why it’s so frustrating.

      1. infopubs*

        I don’t think that’s legal. It can’t be classified as an HSA without an underlying health plan.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Unless the problem is that friend works for a tiny company that doesn’t have to offer health insurance.

          But it sounds like she may not understand how the new plan should work, and there is insurance. Though it may be that the company is trying like heck to make sure the new system is too confusing for anyone to actually use.

          (I did cancer treatment with a high deductible plan and HSA, and it worked out well–I believe largely since we then had Blue Cross aka “real insurance”–and had opted for the “if something really goes wrong we want to be covered” standard when choosing plans.)

          1. ABC*

            Unless the problem is that friend works for a tiny company that doesn’t have to offer health insurance.

            But then they wouldn’t be offering a health savings account, which needs to be connected to a high-deductible health plan. Even in the private market, you need to be enrolled in an HDHP in order to create an HSA.

      2. Magpie*

        It sounds like your friend has some wires crossed. You’re only allowed to contribute to an HSA if you’re currently enrolled in a high deductible insurance plan. So either she is covered by a plan and doesn’t realize, or it’s a different kind of savings account which seems highly unusual to me.

        1. KSack*

          Yeah — I don’t think it would be called an HSA if it were anything other than what you’ve described, associated with a high deductible insurance plan. OP, just good to check with your friend to make sure she fully understands her situation and how the high-deductible plan/HSA system works (which is beneficial for a lot of people because it is triple-tax-advantaged). My family chooses this plan over non-HSA options, and we max out our deductible every year. If she otherwise likes her job, you wouldn’t want her to go to the trouble of switching because she thinks there isn’t actually a health insurance plan associated with it.

          1. LW #2*

            It *is* a smaller company, but I’ll check in with her on the HSA. There’s a good chance that I just misinterpreted what she was saying. There are other reasons she’s looking to leave, including the fact that the only way to get a raise is to leave, and the fact that her salary is over $15k less than industry standard. I’m doing my damndest to convince her that if she *does* leave this company she shouldn’t go back no matter how much the company offers her, because they clearly don’t respect or value her.

            1. Annony*

              Most likely the plan has such a high deductible that she considers it functionally equivalent to no insurance. We are splitting hairs. Crappy insurance vs no insurance can feel the same at the end of the day.

            2. Just Thinkin' Here*

              It’s also possible that the HSA has no funding from the company. Just because a company provides an HSA doesn’t mean they put any money into it. If the employee is expected to pay the deductible AND fund their own HSA, then they essentially have no insurance for the first 5K or 10K of medical costs each year. Ouch.

      3. A Cat named Brian*

        The HSA comes with a high deductible health care plan. I have a chronic condition, I have funds taken out of my check pre tax and use my HSA card to pay co-pays etc. Once I meet my deductible, plan covers 100% or 80/20 depending on doctor, facility… she just needs to research options more. I actually like my HSA plan. I have way more flexibility with my choice of doctors and tests than a HMO.

        1. Pretty as a Princess*

          Same. My child and I both have conditions that require maintenance medications and regular appointments. When my employer began offering an HDHP w/HSA I did the math. In every scenario I ran, the HDHP with HSA was a far better financial option for us. Annual premiums alone under my employer’s other plan were several thousand dollars more than premiums + max HSA, and my OOP max under the HDHP is less than the amount of a maxed HSA. That means in my worst case scenario, with maxed out health expenses, it’s still cheaper for me than my other options.

          Now, does it suck to cough up $800/mo for the first 3 months of the year for maintenance meds & appointments? The bite at the pharmacy counter is real. But, the funds we have in the HSA will pay for it all. (The only catch is that HSA dollars can’t be used until they are contributed and I don’t have quite the cash flow needed to just max the HSA in like 3 months.)

          There are some crap HDHP plans out there, sure, but “having an HSA” does not automatically mean they are pulling back on benefits and that the health plan now sucks. A lot of people do not understand how HDHPs work.

          1. M2RB*

            Derailing from the LW’s question a bit but wanted to comment in case you weren’t aware (it wasn’t quite clear when I read this comment), or in case anyone else needs this info. You can reimburse yourself out of the HSA for those expenses incurred in the first few months of the year.

            So. If at the beginning of the 2024, you have $1,000 in your HSA from contributions made in 2023 or prior, but you haven’t contributed any money to the HSA in 2024 yet, you can a) use that money to pay for the qualifying expenses in the beginning of the 2024 or b) pay out of pocket for qualifying expenses and then reimburse yourself.

            However, like you say, if you are just beginning the HDHP and the associated HSA at the beginning of 2024 and don’t have ANY money in the HSA…. yeah, that’s a pain point where you have to pay out of pocket, and wait to reimburse yourself after the contribution to the HSA has been made.

            The strategy I use personally has been to fund my HSA to the max allowed limit every year I’ve been eligible, and NOT use the money. I am in the very fortunate position that I can cover my deductibles/out of pocket expenses myself without using the HSA. Then, in a year like 2023, when I needed an MRI that my insurance wouldn’t cover (which involved lots of internal swearing and then deep breathing so I wasn’t rude to the MRI center employee), I had the $800 readily available in the HSA to pay for the scan.

            Again, YMMV, definitely talk to a local CPA if you have questions, I am a CPA but I have been out of tax prep for 10+ years and may be a bit behind in the latest best strategies for utilizing an HSA.

        2. atalanta0jess*

          Thanks for sharing this! My work does the same, HDHP and an HSA that they partially fund. I’ve really liked it, BUT I don’t have a ton of medical needs, so I’ve been curious how it was working out for folks who do. I’m glad it’s not a pooburger.

    2. Marshmallows*

      Yes, I was also wondering that. Our company offers an HSA option (which I don’t use – I use the one that’s closer to a traditional PPO) and while I’ve heard it’s not as good for people with heavy medical expenses, I’ve also heard it’s not that different cost-wise and has the benefits you mention of pre-tax monies and company contributions. But there’s still an out of pocket max and such like a regular plan. So I second encouraging friend to make sure they understand the plan. I get though that people with these types of issues are likely very well versed in their systems, but it’s worth mentioning. I’m also not sure what the rules are for “pre-existing conditions” these days so it might be good to do a check on those rules and what a new company might be able to deny even if their plan is better on the surface (I feel like maybe some legislation came out about those, but I admit I’m not up-to-date on it… so I throw the caution out there, but it might not be valid anymore).

      1. Tea Monk*

        if she has a plan that doesn’t pay unless she pays say, half her yearly salary in expenses, it’s more like she doesn’t’t have insurance at all. If you only go to the doctor twice a year that doesn’t matter, but if you have expenses…

        1. KSack*

          Agreed, but that’s not what the OP said. Maybe a misunderstanding and the friend really does understand it and it doesn’t work for her, but good to check.

      2. ABC*

        I’ve heard it’s not as good for people with heavy medical expenses

        The way I’ve heard HDHPs and HSAs described is that they’re good for people who believe they will have either very low or very high medical costs. The very low part means you only pay the low premiums, and for people with very high costs, if you’re going to hit the deductible no matter what, then you may as well get the plan with low premiums.

        Preventative care plus maybe a few specialists here and there? Avoid an HDHP.

        1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          My calculations came out the same. HDHP+HSA came out way ahead with a little or a lot of expenses. For instance, Most HDHP insurance doesn’t have copays, so the out of pocket max is really the max.

        2. Pretty as a Princess*

          Not necessarily. You have to do the math on a couple scenarios.

          My HDHP costs my family $400/mo and our deductible is $3.2K with a $6.4K OOP max. My worst, catastrophic year, would be about 11K.

          PPO style plan? $1100/mo. That’s 13K+ just in premiums before I hit any copays for specialists.

          There’s no scenario in which the PPO plan wins. If I only had preventive care and a few specialists, I’d have THOUSANDS left in my HSA. (whose contributions I can adjust at any time)

          1. M2RB*

            Additionally, an employee’s contributions to their HSA account should be coming out as a pre-tax deduction, which reduces taxable income & therefore reduces income tax liability.

            A person earning $50,000 who contributes $2,500 to their HSA would be taxed on $47,500 of taxable income, even though they still have that $2,500 – it’s just sitting in a savings account, earmarked for qualifying medical expenses.

      3. Pretty as a Princess*

        The ACA eliminated pre-existing condition exclusions. Thanks, Obama! :)

    3. kiki*

      Every employer is different with HSAs, but in my experience at multiple jobs who offered and HSA option there *is* a corresponding health insurance plan but it is so, so limited it’s really only useful for yearly checkups and in the event of a catastrophe. I could see LW’s friend summarize that as basically not having health insurance because it would fail to cover the chronic health issues and cancer treatment they had covered on their old plan.

  15. Just Here For This*

    #3 – There is a Be Nice, Flush Twice sign in the stalls in the newish office tower where I work. The problem is our low flush toilets that are designed to save water. They have to be flushed twice to handle solids, but nobody wants to admit that it doesn’t save water. I don’t flush twice when I pee, since it isn’t necessary.

    1. Seashell*

      I guess it saves water if it doesn’t have to be flushed twice the majority of the time. Unless people are flushing twice out of fear of being scolded by their coworkers by not doing so.

    2. Have you had enough water today?*

      I will never understand why the US doesn’t have dual flush systems like we do here. Full flush for poo, half flush for pee.

  16. English Rose*

    OP#1, I think I’d be focusing on the part of your letter which reads “The promotions have never really materialized for one reason or another, but not because of my performance.”
    Is it possible to dig down into this some more and think of exactly what sort of promotion you want and how to get it? Could you talk to your manager and explain you’re keen to move up and what sort of opportunities might there be for you to learn and grow?
    This might mean doing some additional tasks while you learn and not yet giving up the kitchen tasks but it would put you on a better track, at your current job or elsewhere.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. The mention of “promotions never materializing” in addition to doing tasks that you don’t want to do going forward is a sign that you want more out of your career but aren’t getting it. You might need to actively look for another job or you can go to your boss and talk about opportunities for advancement. I’d guess that an office where the payroll person is ordering lunches is likely very small, and there likely few, if any opportunities for the payroll person to move up. You may need to move to a larger company. You may also need to be more proactive in your career. Many places don’t promote people as a matter of course. Sometimes you have to express interest in advancing your career.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      And please remember, OP, that it may not be possible (depending on the size of the company and their needs) to promote you out of this particular job. Maybe they don’t have the budget for splitting it into two positions at this time. Maybe they don’t have the work to make it two FT positions. But you should ask about and discuss opportunities you may have that aren’t just a promotion, and you should be prepared to look for a different job if this one won’t be able to give you what you want.

    3. Just Thinkin' Here*

      And the question is – what is there to be promoted into? If this is a small company, it’s probably not going to be payroll related as they probably only need one person. Are you being cross-trained in anything else? If not, then you need to work on getting out of that department into something more related to the core business line.

  17. Lilo*

    I think the reality of LW1’s situation is if you want to get away from those tasks and get a promotion, you’re going to need to job hunt. Vague comments about a promotion aren’t going to go anywhere if there isn’t a concrete path to promotion and this sounds like a smaller operation if LW is doing that specific combination of tasks. So I think this is your sign to go see what else is out there.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      I agree. The job search can focus on the tasks LW1 wants to be able to do, and those that would make them more promotable elsewhere.

  18. Username Lost to Time*

    For OP#1 – That’s great that being responsible for ordering birthday cakes and restocking the coffee pings something in you about not being where you want to in your career status. Please don’t focus on getting away from those tasks. It sounds like there are other things about your career aspirations and how to pursue them that are worth really digging into. There seems to be something off and unfulfilling about the job itself (pay, promotion opportunities, etc.) that would not go away if you found a position identical in every way except for restocking coffee and party planning.

    1. AnonORama*

      Eh, it might change enough that she’d want to stay. Maybe taking the kitchen tasks away would give her more time to shine at the work she prefers, or request additional tasks that are a step up, or access trainings, join a professional association (etc.). It’s surprising how these tasks can just take over!

      OP, I feel you. I had an admin job where the kitchen stuff was not in the JD or mentioned in interviews, but turned out to be 25-50% of my time. (Very similar to what OP describes — break room stocking, birthday cards/cakes, lunch ordering. My “other duties as assigned” included cleaning rooms after lunch meetings — for high-level academics who nonetheless apparently had food fights. Really, how did that roasted pepper get on the ceiling?)

      I was straight out of college and saving for grad school, so I wasn’t hoping for advancement. But it was disheartening to come to a job they billed as supporting NIH applications and assisting at conferences, along with some filing and scheduling-type duties, only to be asked (on my first day!) to get down on the floor and crawl around cleaning up bits of food.

      1. Username Lost to Time*

        This makes sense. I was assuming that it was a small office so restocking the breakroom and what not took less than 20% of OP’s time.

        1. AnonORama*

          It may well be that it’s not as much; I was in a large academic department and all the long-time admins found ways to put this stuff on me (I’m guessing there was often a new 23-year-old in this position who wasn’t expected to stay a super-long time so they just used the position as their dumping ground).

  19. Rachel*

    1: if you want a promotion at this stage of your career, it’s time to consider refreshing your education and formal training.

    I don’t mean an entirely different graduate program, but something to give your resume and skills a boost. It’s hard to feel stagnant. But it’s unrealistic to think other people (ESPECIALLY an employer) is going to break you out of that feeling. This is something you have to do yourself.

  20. Peanut Hamper*

    #3: One thing I have learned is that the question I need to ask is often not “Is this thing annoying (or whatever)?” but “How annoying (or whatever) is this thing?”

    Is this sign annoying? Yeah, kind of.

    Better question: Is this annoying enough to get bothered by it? No, not really.

    Life is much better when I think about things in this way. My brain has acknowledged that it bugs me, and now I can just walk on by without being bugged by it.

  21. Juicebox Hero*

    When I was in college, in one of the buildings, there was a sign above the toilet paper holder in every stall in every women’s restroom: “If you do not intend to sit, please wipe the seat so the rest of us do not have to sit in your urine!!!” Typed in bold on an electric typewriter and neatly stuck to the wall with packing tape, so someone really went to some trouble over it.

    Obviously, some female staffer or professor had sat in a puddle once too often.

    However, I never saw a tinkle sprinkle anywhere in that building during my four years so it worked.

      1. AnonORama*

        We had “if you piss and you miss, please be neat and wipe the seat” on the wall in my summer camp!

    1. kiki*

      The whole hover thing in women’s restrooms personally irks me because if everyone were to just sit down, the toilet seat really wouldn’t be that dirty. Compared to other surfaces around the office and home, toilet seats tend to be pretty clean. But because people hover and contort in ways trying to avoid touching the seat, a lot more bodily fluids end up on the seat than would be otherwise and it creates a vicious cycle.

  22. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Ah, shared public bathroom sharing issues…probably what I miss least about working in-person (& not getting exposed to Covid). At my last job someone had made a sign & hung it in stalls in the women’s bathroom saying “We’re tired of seeing your leftover blood & pee on the seat. Stop hovering, stop being gross & clean up after yourself!!” I actually really appreciated the signs because they were right, it was gross & it became a biohazard sometimes just wanting to use the restroom, because so many wouldn’t clean up the seat after being in there. Public health education signs can be a good thing.

    1. WriterDrone*

      Being straightforward is so much better than cutesy rhyming and a gross seat is a much bigger problem than a few streaks because the toilet doesn’t flush with enough water and pressure to make everything go down with one flush.

    2. Random Bystander*

      Yeah, that’s where I’m falling, too. I don’t care about what’s in the bowl (as long as it isn’t completely unflushed) but stuff on the seat/floor around the toilet/walls (how? I don’t actually want to know, but I do wonder), that’s disgusting and should be cleaned by the person who was responsible. I initially thought the streaks in question were on the seat–yes, I’ve seen that–and was a little befuddled as to how flushing would make a difference.

  23. Immortal for a limited time*

    LW #1 – I sympathize with you; doing what feels like thankless tasks that differ widely from your primary duties can feel stifling. But Alison’s response is right on; it’s just how it works in a small office, if that’s the environment you’re in. In fact, literally as I was reading her answer, I saw my executive director walking down the hall with a 5-gallon water jug in one hand. We have a verrrry long hallway and he hauled it all the way down to fill the water cooler at that end just because it was empty. He also participates in our rotating kitchen-cleaning schedule. Nobody thinks it’s weird, and I truly admire his lack of ego about his position. Not that you have too much ego; just that in a small office, everyone gets stuck doing a lot of things to keep the office running smoothly and to keep employees happy, and those things are more important than they might seem.

    1. Username Lost to Time*

      I was thinking that too. The supervisors in our office are responsible for passing around birthday cards and sending reminders for special/personal occasions. They also organize the storage closets and stuff packages for massive events right alongside non-supervisory staff.

      OP #1 may be trying to articulate that the types of positions where “refill the water cooler” are explicitly stated as job duties are also almost always coded as junior-level, lower pay, stepping stone positions. That definitely checks out.

    2. Hedgehog O'Brien*

      That’s what I was thinking too – this is just how things work in a very small office. A few years ago, I moved from a mid-size nonprofit to a small one (11 full-time employees) and the level of work I was responsible for expanded in both directions. For example, now I’m posting on social media and drafting newsletters, which are technically more “junior” tasks and at my old org I had employees on my team who did that. But now I do them, because…there’s no one else to do them? But I also oversee more functional areas now, and I frequently report to the board and external partners, which used to be my boss (VP)’s job at my old org. Do I particularly enjoy writing social media posts and sending newsletters? Nope, but they’re part of my job and I knew that when I took it. I know that if I stay here, those things will always be part of my role, but there’s enough I love about working here that I can just kind of accept it and take the good with the bad.

  24. Immortal for a limited time*

    LW #2 – also, it sounds like you and/or your friend don’t know how health savings accounts work. They are not “taking away healthcare” — in fact, it’s impossible to have an HSA without a qualifying health insurance plan attached to it. That plan will have a high deductible, because that’s how they work, but once the HSA has built up enough funds (tax-free) the account is used to cover those deductibles and other out-of-pocket expenses (also tax-free). Will it cover every dime? Well, that depends on how expensive the care is and provider networks and so forth, as with any health plan. But if your friend had funds in the HSA and left employment, those dollars would still belong to her and can still be used for her health-related expenses. (Now, if the employer actually is funding a “health reimbursement arrangement” rather than an HSA, then the funds don’t belong to the employee, but there still should be a lower-cost health plan associated with it.)

  25. H.Regalis*

    LW3 – Let it go.

    Otherwise in a couple of weeks we’re gonna see a letter like, “The toilets at my job have an incredibly weak flush, so I put up a sign asking people to flush twice. My boss made me take down because they felt that it was a personal attack against them. What gives?”

  26. Nathan*

    LW5: I too have had my share of experiences with pushy recruiters. There seems to be a school of thought which is that if you keep candidates “warm” by continually reaching out then when they’re ready for a change, you’re in the front of their mind.

    I had a bit of a confrontation with a recruiter who had this mindset. I tried politely suggesting that I would reach out if I needed. I got pushback. I tried more bluntly saying that I wasn’t interested in repeated “check-ins”. That was ineffective. I eventually told the recruiter that they were being pushy and rude and my interest in ever working for their company was negatively affected by their behavior. The recruiter got a bit snappy and I think possibly blacklisted me because I never got reached out to by that company again (and they’re notorious in the industry for their aggressive recruiting).

    In short, it’s possible to stop this behavior, but you may burn a bridge by doing so. In my case I don’t care because I’m unlikely to ever want to work for that company anyway. If in your case you do care, I think Alison’s advice is spot on.

  27. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    In regard to letter 3, I have never understood why some people need a spotless bowl to do their business in a communal bathroom. To be clear, the writer said there were streaks, not remnants (I understand the concern about clogs and overflow). It’s a waste of water. Other than being unsightly, streaks aren’t going to affect the toilet user in any way.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s an emotional/psychological response, I think. You’re absolutely right, of course, but the human brain is a weird beast.

    2. kiki*

      I think streaks aren’t nice to see and have a certain ick factor, so there’s that. On top of that, I think there is a build-up issue. One person flushes just once and there are streaks– that’s not a huge deal. But when a lot of people use the toilet throughout the day and only flush once, you might wind up with some pretty gnarly toilets by the evening. Preventing that is worthwhile, imo.

      1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

        Yeahh, I could see that if the next person’s flushes aren’t clearing up the original problem.

        1. Anne Shirley Blythe*

          Make that “the next person’s flush isn’t”. I’m contradicting myself lol

      2. Bast*

        There’s an “ick” factor to bathrooms in general, including that sometimes you can hear bathroom noises if you happen to be in a bathroom with stalls or walk by the shared bathroom at the wrong time. While leaving visible blood and urine on the seat is where I draw the line, and where it most definitely should be cleaned off, sometimes streaks are inevitable, and in the cases of a particularly weak toilet or larger BM, streaks may persist even after two flushes. It’s just part of the bathroom experience. My only two suggestions would be toilet brushes or having a cleaner come in multiple times a week to clean the toilets, which likely is not practical.

    3. Have you had enough water today?*

      I don’t think people want confirmation that other people use the communal loo to poo. I think it is absolutely vital that people clean up after themselves when using a communal loo so everyone’s experience is as good as it can be when sharing a toilet.

    4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      It’s just gross. No one wants to see other people’s poo remains, especially coworkers!

      It’s not a waste of water. Keeping shared facilities clean is a good use of water.

      If there isn’t a toilet brush in there, get a cheap one and put it in there.

  28. Just Thinkin' Here*


    “full-time since earning my graduate degree a decade ago. …The promotions have never really materialized for one reason or another, but not because of my performance.”

    A job in payroll and benefits administration is not typically a job that requires a graduate degree. Unless you are managing the division of a larger corporation. I’m not sure what your graduate degree is in, but it doesn’t sound like you are exercising it to its fullest potential. Are you under consideration for a managerial role in HR? If not, start applying to jobs that are more senior or managerial in nature. Promotions don’t materialize unless there is an opening – or you are deemed essential and a key dependency. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case given that a portion of your tasks are highly admin related.

    Start looking elsewhere and tell your manager you are jettisoning those tasks to a more junior personnel. If you are the junior personnel, you have your answer on why things aren’t working out.

  29. Student*

    For LW #1, I want to push back hard on the idea that someone “must” do the tasks you’ve listed: order lunches for management, get the office birthday cake, stock the kitchen with coffee.

    Nobody does any of those at any professional job I have ever had in my entire career. These are not critical business tasks. Some industries don’t do this. The office birthday cake and coffee are a perk for employees. Those might not be worth your time any longer as your responsibilities have increased. There might be an easier way to handle them than whatever your office does now. Maybe they get handed off, dealt with on a rotation, or dropped as no longer worth the cost.

    Even “order lunches for management” is… not necessarily a normal office thing. In some offices, at some management levels, it is normal, and it may be worth the cost to the business to cover them. But if these ARE managers that are important enough that they can’t possibly get their own lunches, then they probably have admin assistants or executive assistants that ought to be handling the lunch orders for them. If this is just a perk and the managers are not actually all that critical to have at their desks at all times, then maybe they should start figuring out their own lunch, like countless managers in other organizations.

    1. Shan*

      Sure, but they’re included in LW #1’s job description, and if her office is anything like ones I’ve worked it, it’s not up to her to decide if those tasks are worth her time or not. Or rather, I should say, it’s up to her to decide in terms of “it’s time I look for another job,” but not to say “hey, manager, I don’t think you’re important enough to have someone else order your lunch.”

  30. BellyButton*

    #4 Yes! Let them know. I have been incredibly blunt through the years when recruiters or hiring managers tell me a range that is well below what it should be. I actually LOL’d one time when someone told me a range that was less than half of what I was making and well below what the average was for the role. The company was moving their headquarters to the city I lived in, and they had obviously not done their research on what that position paid there.

    1. I Have RBF*

      Yeah, I literally laughed when they tried to make me the offer to come permanent at one job, and the amount was only 2/3 of what I was getting as a contractor, and far less than the position paid in any other company. They tried to tell me it was “competitive” and “benchmarked”, blah, blah, and I called BS. They wanted to offer me an entry level salary for over 20 years of experience.

  31. Aaron*

    A different take I’d offer LW#1 is to flip the question. If you were not doing these tasks, what would you be doing instead? What mid or later career signaling tasks are available for you to perform that can drive additional value? It’ll take more work to clearly identify them and take ownership than it will be to fit them in around a cake run or pantry restock so if you’re committed, you’ll be successful. Finally, when delivering more value in another area, it becomes a no-brainer to simply use cash to automate some of the tasks you’re doing that you’d rather not such as a recurring Instacart delivery for kitchen/coffee restocking.

    One thing to keep an eye out for is that these might not exist in your current company or they might not be tasks you reasonably would or would want to take on (e.g. IT). That could also be why promotions haven’t materialized, there’s simply no role for it.

  32. kiki*

    Letter 3: This is an instance where I think a sign is actually useful and not purely a passive aggressive scream to the void. A lot of people don’t wait for a flush to complete, inspect the toilet, then leave in a public restroom. Also, if the seat has a lid, some people close it to prevent toilet plumes meaning they won’t see if the flush is as effective as it should have been. Seeing a sign like this tells me to do something I may not have known to do if not for the sign. Is the rhyming my personal favorite? No. But I don’t think any sign about toilets is going to be my favorite.

  33. Not LW#5*

    In the same vein as LW#5, I recently had what (to me) was an intensive interview process (four hours, four different interviewers, two screens, etc) for an admin job they really wanted to discuss how “I’d be bored” about. Which, I wouldn’t! And I was recommended by a former boss who works there, and prepped alot, and wanted the job, and, of course, did not get it.

    However, what got to me was the email from the Hiring Manager/C-Suite person, which while kind, mostly closed down feedback via the “this was an incredibly competitive process and you should not take this as a detraction of your skills experience.” The hiring manager was great and I did enjoy talking to her, but she spent quite a few sentences telling me to stay in touch and asking her to help out with “my career” to which I wanted to say, the help I need is for you to hire me?

    I honestly didn’t know how to respond nor would have any idea how to “stay in touch” or “follow up”. I don’t think she’ll follow up like LW#5, but honestly, I just responded with, essentially, “Thanks for your kind words, and I wish you the best with your firm’s growth!”

    Is there something else I should take from this? Honestly, I found it a little frustrating, which is my own baggage, but what I need is a stable job that I’d kick ass at, and I’m not sure how else to phrase it.

    1. JustaTech*

      Maybe she meant it in a “if you see another position here you’d like to apply for, email me as well, I think you’d be good to work with” rather than “I will help you get a job somewhere else”.
      I don’t know how else you would “keep in touch” but if someone else knows what this means in a professional context I’d be fascinated to learn!

  34. Petty_Boop*

    For LW3: That is perfectly normal in older buildings with wonky plumbing. I have to worn guests that sometimes our guest bath leaves a wad of toilet paper or … stuff floating behind so they may have to flush twice, and nobody has ever said, “How dare you police my pottying!” You’re overthinking this. You yourself said that sometimes …residue is left behind, so honestly, you should have thought of flushing twice w/o having to be told to!

  35. Supes*

    LW #3 Would you feel the same if you did’t feel the sign applied to your habits? Like a sign about parking issues or keeping a clean office kitchen would be a problem as well? Or are you just against shared space signs in general?

  36. Have you had enough water today?*

    I really hate jobs that don’t list the salary range. Here:


    If it is on seek or similar, put the URL into this site & it will tell you what range the employer posted in the background when they raised the advert. In order to place an ad on seek & others, you must enter a salary range, but you can choose to hide it in the live listing. This site retrieves it for you. Keep in mind that if the salary is $85k then seek will auto select the $80 to $100k range so if you are looking for the high end of that it is not much help but it does give you an idea if they are well below the market range.

  37. OP1*

    Thanks for all your comments everyone. I have job searched a little here and there, particularly more senior HR/Payroll/Benefits positions since that’s what takes up most of my time. It is hard to leave this company though because the benefits are amazing, they’re very family friendly, very flexible, and it’s close to my child’s school and our home. If I could find something remote that ticks all these boxes, I’d do it, but nothing has materialized so far.

    A little more background: When I started at this company, the JD didn’t really exist because I was replacing someone who wore too many hats and her job was now being broken up amongst several people and leadership wasn’t quite sure where everything needed to live yet. They were up front about that and I was fine with that to start since I have had a lot of different career experiences. What was in most disarray that I could immediately help with was HR and small admin tasks (most of the remaining outgoing person’s tasks were covered by the new accounting department). At first this was more admin than HR, but I was quickly doing more and more HR since there was a real gap. Not just payroll and benefits, but policy review and enforcement, hiring, onboarding, offboarding, orientation, on top of other things like facilities and some IT help.

    About six months in, the board said to hire an HR manager. I asked my then boss why couldn’t I do it since I was already doing most of it anyway (to good reviews)? And I voiced that I was concerned if we hired someone specifically “HR” I would have no longer have a career path forward at the company. But the board wanted someone with HR stamped on their resume and unfortunately my concern has come to pass.

    Since then I’ve held onto the majority of my tasks, including the lower stakes admin tasks, gained some more responsibility around other HR tasks, cross trained more in accounting and IT, and I’ve watched the person they hired over me do less than that while earning twice as much. They took over some of the strategic duties I was growing into, so now I can’t grow into them. That’s maybe where my real frustration is.

    The company knows I’m frustrated and has included me on leadership trainings and has told me they know I’m “overpowered” for my role, but there’s also nowhere to put me as it is a smaller company (though growing) as many guessed.

    Other various items people have questions on: I have received a decent raise over the last few years, but it’s still way less than the HR manager position started at. My degree(s) are not in HR or Business Administration, but my past experience and job duties overlap a lot with those fields.

    1. Username Lost to Time*

      Thank you for sharing these details OP! I think many people can relate to your story and folks who haven’t yet encountered these pieces will gain some insight. I just introduced a younger family member to Ask a Manager.

      First, when the HR Manager is on leave, are you taking over for them? This seems like a straightforward succession planning piece since presumably the HR Manager could quit and your employer would want a backfill ready to go. What certificates or skills are you missing that would help you be a more attractive replacement?

      Also, what about accounting and IT? Your current organization sounds awesome for work-life, but would you be willing to be the higher paid HR, Accounting, IT Operations Manager/person elsewhere? There must be a need for that kind of combined role at many smaller organizations.

      Finally, folks also recommended going for a straight HR role (potentially entry-level) at a larger organization with more opportunities for advancement. It may be a lateral move in terms of pay and a downgrade in terms of work-life fit, but it’s for the sake of your advancement (if you’re tied to HR).

  38. fhqwhgads*

    #5 or he could be using “keep in touch” as a generic sign off. If you ever do want to potentially work for his agency, then presumably you might reach out. That could be in a year, or 10 or never. But he’s basically saying “if you do, that’d be welcome/not weird”. I don’t think he’s expecting you to actually keep in touch in the meantime if/when you’ve got nothing to discuss (unless he’s being a creep, which is unfortunately always possible).

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