coworker constantly changes her schedule, interviewer refused to let me meet the job’s manager, and more

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

1. My coworker constantly changes her schedule

I am member of a small team with four core staff, including my manager and me. One of my core colleagues is part-time, three days a week. My manager gives her flexibility on this, so she changes her hours to suit her needs every week, to the point where I feel it is negatively affecting all of our work.

Last week, we needed all hands on deck for a major event Wednesday/Thursday/Friday, but she decided to come in on Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday, leaving us extremely short staffed for Thursday/Friday (which were communicated to her as core days three weeks before). This week, we had to cancel a staff photoshoot the day before, as she had previously told us she would be in and available for it in our weekly team meeting. She changed her hours the afternoon before the shoot and we had to cancel the photographer.

Her job is working one-on-one with clients, and oftentimes they will come in looking for her/calling for her, and she will not be in when she told them she would be. My manager does not relay her weekly schedule to us, so I am left scrambling to help her urgent clients or telling them to come back another day she is in (which I never know! because her schedule is so irregular!). She refuses to set an autoreply stating when she is in office and when she is out (even for vacation), leaving clients to complain to us that she is ignoring their emails. None of these are one-off events — these happen regularly.

My manager is very insulated from the problems. Oftentimes he is off-site at meetings, and is overall passive and laissez-faire. However, he had did address this issue a year ago and she committed to fixed shifts for a few months, but since then she has reverted to changing her schedule throughout the week.

I am not her manager but some work projects she has negatively affected (such as the major event she missed/thephotoshoot) are ones that I am in charge of. How can I bring up my concerns to my manager, without it coming off catty?

It’s not catty to point out a work problem that’s interfering with your own work and causing chaos with clients. That’s a very normal thing to do — always, but especially if your manager isn’t around to see the issues himself. I suspect you’re worried about it being catty because you’re so frustrated with your coworker that your aggravation is at a level that feels catty in your head, but this really is normal to raise.

So talk to your manager! He may be assuming his conversation with her last year mostly solved the issues and doesn’t realize the problems have returned in full force. When you talk to him, stick to the facts and the impact on work. For example: “When Jane changes her schedule at the last minute or doesn’t let us know in advance when she’ll be working, it causes a lot of problems, like XYZ. We also often get clients looking for her because she’s not in when she told them she would be, and clients complain to us that she’s ignoring their emails. Could you ask her to stick to fixed, scheduled shifts?”

2. Is it a red flag if your interviewer refuses to let you meet the person who would be managing you?

My son recently was offered a job after interviewing with a group of HR people, but without talking to the person who would be his boss or any of his coworkers. After he was offered the job, he asked if he could set up a Zoom with his would-be supervisor so that he could at least meet him. HR said no, they did not want him to meet with the person who would be supervising him.

This seemed weird and a big red flag to both of us, and with my encouragement, he turned the job down (the job was also nothing special and located in a not-terribly-desirable place to live). It seems strange enough for the department head to play no role in hiring someone who will report to him, but then prohibiting them from meeting even on Zoom for a few minutes just seemed odd. It makes me wonder if they’re trying to hide something. Were we right in thinking this is weird and a red flag, and that it’s better to wait until something else comes along? Or is this more normal than I realize and I gave my son bad advice? I might add that my son just graduated from college last spring and this was his first job offer, and it was with a small public college.

Did they literally say they didn’t want him to meet with the manager? Or could that have been a misunderstanding — like could they have meant the manager was on vacation and the hiring needed to be finalized before he was back, or something along those lines? If so, that’s not ideal but would make more sense. In that case, your son could have asked to speak with someone else on the team instead.

But if they literally said they didn’t want him to meet with the manager, that’s extremely weird and a huge red flag.

There’s also an option in between those — something more like, “Cecil’s schedule is packed and he’s not involved in the hiring for this role.” That’s still a red flag, because asking to meet the person will be managing you is such a reasonable request that generally employers find a way to make that happen, even if it wasn’t originally planned. (Assuming, of course, that there’s not some reason for it, like that the manager is hospitalized or otherwise truly unavailable.)

3. I scream when I’m startled at work

I get easily startled at my desk, and I want to know how to stop. It only happens at my computer when I’m laser-focused on my work and don’t hear someone coming up behind me. A coworker will walk up behind me for something, and I scream. Yes, scream. Not Psycho-shower-scene screeching, but the type of sudden shriek that startles everyone around me, and then we all have a good laugh about it afterwards.

Two people (in this job and my last job) have told me that me being startled has startled them in turn. I don’t want my coworkers to walk on eggshells around me. They’ve kind of already accepted this as a “quirk” I have and do their best not to scare me (which has helped, and I let them know that I appreciate it), but I want to know what I can do to alleviate this. The good news is that my cubicle is set up on a machine shop floor instead of a quiet office area, so my occasional screams go out into a void of equipment noise instead of disrupting a quiet office. Nonetheless, I don’t want to jumpscare any nearby coworkers!

I already have a little mirror at my desk that shows the opening behind me (although I wish I could install one of those fisheye shoplifter mirrors you find at pharmacies). If I want to listen to something while I work, I only put one earbud in. My friends outside of work suggested that I should ask for a desk that doesn’t have my back towards an opening, which I think would help a lot. However, I’m a junior employee who doesn’t feel like I’m in a position to ask for much, and I know that the reason the cubicles are set up the way they are so that everyone can see your computer screen.

I was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder and Level 1 autism two years ago. I also have childhood trauma from an abusive parent. I have never told anyone in my professional life or sought any sort of accommodations for these because I otherwise can perform my duties just fine. I see my conditions as my responsibility to cope with, and I just want to excel in my job without others feeling like they have to give me special privileges. If nobody knows about my conditions, then they can only address my behavior and performance. I also just wouldn’t know how to navigate that conversation because aside from maybe the desk positioning, I wouldn’t really know what to ask *for.*

I’ll actually be moving to a different location next month to work in a project I’ve been asking to be involved in, so I want to see what I can do differently.

Talk to your manager and ask if you can change the way your desk is positioned. You’re not saying “I want to move my desk so no one can see what’s on my screen.” You’ll be saying, “With the way my desk is positioned, I’ve been getting startled when people come up behind me — and I have such a strong startle reflex that it’s been making me involuntarily scream. I’m embarrassed when it happens, and it’s disruptive to people around me. I’ve tried putting up a mirror but it hasn’t solved it. I’d like to angle my desk differently so this stops happening. Is that okay?”

Maybe they’ll say no, all the desks need to stay exactly where they are. But it’s reasonable to ask. If the answer is no, at that point you can decide if you want to go the formal accommodation route — but a conversation might take care of it.

Also, in advance of your move next month, say a version of this to whoever’s in charge of where you’ll be sitting before the move, and ask for your desk to face outward. Again, this is reasonable.

4. My boss showed up at my house and banged on the door

I work for a golf course, which is supposed to be relaxing job. Although I have never been late to work, I was supposed to meet my boss at the bank one day out of work and overslept. He has had been dead against me since then.

Then, early one morning, I was about 20 minutes late for work (I had just done a closing shift the night before and was sick and had a fever) when my husband hears banging on the door so loud that it wakes him up out of a dead sleep on the second story of our home. (You normally can’t even hear the front door from upstairs.) I come running downstairs to see the owner of the golf course standing there with his arms folded. When I opened the door, I told him, “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry, I’ll be right into work.” When I got into work, he proceeded to try to call someone else to have my shift covered even though he had already banged on my house door. My question is, is it against the law for managers to show up at your private residence and bang on your door, demanding you come into work, and then once you get into work have somebody come in to replace you?

It is legal for your boss to show up at your house and bang on the door (because it’s legal for anyone to show up at your house and bang on your door, at least unless circumstances occur that would make it trespassing or harassment, like if they refuse to leave when told to). It’s also legal for him to get someone else to cover your shift, even after demanding you show up. Some states do have laws requiring employers to pay you a minimum number of hours simply for showing up. But in states without those laws, you’d only need to be paid for whatever amount of time you were there after clocking in.

Separately from the law, there’s also the question of whether your boss is a jerk, and the answer to that is yes.

5. Listing a target position on LinkedIn that you don’t actually have

I am job hunting after being laid off. I recently took a LinkedIn workshop and the instructor told us to put in a placeholder position if we weren’t actively employed, on the grounds that we won’t come up in searches by recruiters without an active job title. This placeholder would basically be full of SEO. Roughly, the idea would be:

  • job title: number one preferred job title
  • company field: target industries
  • description field: “seeking” other relevant job titles and whatever other search terms that might apply

This obviously wouldn’t look like an actual position to any human reading it, so it’s not quite the same as lying about one’s job history. It still seems dodgy to me, and like the sort of thing a recruiter might reject immediately. Am I just behind the times? Is this an accepted practice now?

No, this is crap advice. Ignore it.

Humans will look at your LinkedIn profile and this will be a weird thing to have there.

{ 404 comments… read them below }

  1. Pennyworth*

    Startle screamer – have you ever tried bone conduction headphones? They sit just in front of your ear so you can still hear background stuff like someone approaching, or traffic (I use mine when driving, for safety, so I can hear what is going on).

    1. Brain the Brian*

      What about a sign that says something like “Please knock! I startle easily if you enter and I don’t hear you”?

      1. Highland Lass*

        OP is in a cubicle and it’s people walking up behind them that is startling them – by the time someone is close enough to knock to alert them, it’s going to be too late. This isn’t someone walking into an office without knocking, this is a cubicle on a machine shop floor. There are going to be people walking around who aren’t there to see the OP, just passing through, but coming close enough that it startles OP.

        1. Dread Pirate Roberts*

          Yes I had a similar issue though I didn’t scream, just had an overactive startle response. My boss at the time mostly jokingly got me a rearview mirror to hang in my cubicle which didn’t help at all, and nor would a sign, because the “problem” is being focused on what I’m doing and any interruption would startle me. The real problem was an open plan office where all desks were in pods so that you had to approach them from the rear – there was no option to move desks. For me it wasn’t a significant issue but I did get teased a lot!

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            Yeah, I definitely think OP should at least ask about getting a desk that faces the opening when they move spaces–but I also think it’s possible that won’t fully solve the issue because it sounds like the deep focus is the ultimate driver and she might still feel startled by suddenly realizing someone is there with the new setup as well.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yes, I have this same problem, where I’ll get very deep into data analysis and shriek when someone startles me. (And if it was my old boss then he’d shriek because he would be startled, and then all our coworkers would laugh.)

              And, OP, this happens to a lot of people, so don’t feel like you have to disclose anything you don’t want to about your personal history or brain stuff! Like, I’m sure my ADHD makes the hyper-focus worse, but the startle-shriek is just me.

              Things that helped me – warning my coworkers, a fully open desk (weirdly – it means I see the motion of someone approaching from farther away in my peripheral vision), and doing less hyper-focus in the office (obviously of limited use to most people).

              The OP might also try big headphones without anything playing, as a visual cue to others to be more obvious in their approach – ie, come around into your field of vision before just talking.

              1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                I also hyper-focus and startle easily. I warned my coworkers, got a fisheye mirror of the sort that’s sold to glue to car side mirrors, and eventually got an actual wireless doorbell that had an LED on the speaker box. (I unplugged the speaker circuit so it wasn’t going to make a great big ding-dong in the middle of a quiet cube farm.) The button went at the entrance to my cube and the “speaker” went right below my monitor so the blinking light would alert me to a visitor. That finally worked, but it did take a while to get my co-workers to use it.

          2. Cmdrshprd*

            I have a slightly related issue. I have a similar cube setup that people often walk up behind me.

            I work as support staff and I think partly due toy previous retail training I have a bit of a “snap to attention” reflex when someone comes up behind me or asks something. I am not startled, but several people have interpreted my quick snap/turn as being startled.

            I am trying to work on turning/responding more casually but it has been hard.

            1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

              It might be interesting to relax (when you’re by yourself) and let your mind wander a bit, and then imagine idly what would happen if someone walked up to you like that. What do you feel in your body? Like do your muscles want to snap to? And then if you imagine NOT doing that, but rather turning slower (or imagine however it is you do what to react), what do you notice? Is there a worry that something bad will happen? An image of someone criticizing you for not snapping to?

              And whatever you find, stay with your attention gently on it. And ask if it’s ok to try and experiment – the experiment being not snapping to but turning slowly (or whatever) instead. Just try it a couple times in your imagination till it feels easier to do. Then add additional practice, like acting it out alone. Then with a friend, so you’re reacting to a person but you’re not doing it in real time yet. Then imagine doing while you’re at your work area, when you’re by yourself, and then practice on a person.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          I also work in a cubicle with my back to the “entrance.” Our whole office is set up that way, and we all knock on the cubicle partitions to avoid startling each other. Seems that should be possible for this LW’s situation, too, if it’s not possible to turn the desk around (ours are attached to the cube partitions, for instance).

          1. business pigeon*

            One of my previous coworkers had this issue (not to the extent he was screaming, but he still had a very obvious, oversized startle response), and he would ALSO jump and get a bit freaked out when people knocked on his cubicle/the edge of his desk. I usually tried to wave my hand in his field of vision to get his attention but the problem with that was that he was usually so focused that he wouldn’t even notice the movement.

            1. La Triviata*

              I also startle easily, but I have peripheral vision for people approaching from my desk. Could you set up a read-view mirror arrangement; motion in the mirror should give you some advance warning of people approaching.

      2. Mrs. Jameson*

        What about including a line at the bottom of their email signature asking people to announce themselves from a bit further away?

        I have an extreme startle reflex and also put up a fisheye mirror- they can be bought with a big clip to affix in your cubicle. I am lucky in that my office is few enough people and friendly enough that my boss started calling to me from a few cubicles away as a heads up. Not sure if the culture of the office could make that happen.

        1. H3llifIknow*

          An email signature that could potentially go out to clients, customers, non-employees who’d never have a reason to enter the OP’s cube? If I read that on an email signature I’d be like “WTAF”?

          I’m easily startled too. I get focused and tunnel vision, doing something as simple as washing the dishes and I’ve almost fileted my hubby when he started me with a butcher knife in my head and I spun and jumped, but putting “Announce yourself from at least 20 feet away” or something in an email signature is … weird.

          1. Oh vey*

            You…. you… are aware that email signatures can be set to go out only to people internal to the workplace? What’s weird is your reaction to a perfectly valid suggestion.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          I think this would be weird, honestly. People aren’t likely to remember an email signature if they’re coming to see you in person.

    2. ThatOTLife*

      These gave me unbelievably awful headaches, which really sucked after spending $100 on them

      1. Observer*

        These gave me unbelievably awful headaches

        Fortunately that’s not a universal experience, so it’s probably worth the LW’s while to try. There are also some decent units that are not so expensive, which would lower the risk for them.

      2. Pounce de Lion*

        ooh me too. I was glad that I had borrowed someone’s before spending money on my own

      1. PineappleColada*

        Why aren’t none conductor headphones okay while driving? It’s similar to having the radio on, no?

        I’m genuinely curious. I know a lot of people who use them for driving, for example if the driver wants to listen to music that the passengers don’t want to listen to.

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          It’s hard to articulate why, but it does feel different than the radio speakers

          1. Aqua*

            I mean if you think it’s a safety thing then you’re going to need to articulate why. I’m not making road safety decisions based on vibes

            1. Aqua*

              I’ll also point out that in the UK at least, D/deaf people are allowed to drive and don’t even have to notify the DVLA. You are supposed to notify the DVLA about autism and ADHD

            2. BikeWalkBarb*

              I work in transportation policy and it’s more than vibes.

              Driving with headphones is illegal in some states, illegal under certain circumstances in other states (for example, school bus drivers can’t wear them, others can wear one ear bud but not both), wide open in still other states.

              The road safety rationale is that you may not hear sounds that give you important information as the driver, such as sirens behind you, the oncoming train, your passenger telling you to look out for that deer bounding toward the road. If you’re not doing the visual scanning that I assume a deaf driver does to get that same kind of input, you’re distracted and not driving as attentively as you should for your safety and that of others.

              If your headphones are for a phone call your brain is processing that auditory input differently than for a conversation with a passenger in your car due to the time lags. That also serves as a distraction and takes attention away from the driving task.

              If I need to hear directions from my phone while driving I wear bone induction headphones so I’m not missing any audio from the world around me. I don’t take phone calls.

              Operating a steel box that weighs two tons or more and can crush people is a responsibility I take very seriously now that I work in transportation. I receive a weekly report on the number of people killed in my state by someone operating a motor vehicle. That focuses my attention when I drive.

              1. Aqua*

                Please consider “visually scanning” as something all drivers should do, not just deaf ones :/
                I check my mirrors very frequently to keep track of silent hazards I don’t want to hit, such as cyclists and children.

                1. Aqua*

                  Half the reason I use headphones is so I can use the physical pause/play button without taking my eyes off the road.

                2. Owlette*

                  @ Aqua – you can use physical pause/play buttons without taking your eyes off the road without headphones though? Don’t most cars have pause/play buttons right on the steering wheel?

              2. Ginger Cat Lady*

                You say it’s more than just vibes, and you think people are right to advise against it, yet you ALSO say that you do it yourself! You admit you do exactly what was recommended – wear bone conducting headphones while driving.
                If it isn’t safe, why do YOU do it?

              3. Observer*

                The road safety rationale is that you may not hear sounds that give you important information as the driver

                Well, that’s the point of bone conduction headphones – they DO allow you to hear things that are going on around you.

        2. Lightbourne Elite*

          Headphones tend to block sound as well as provide sound. If you are a hearing person, you need to be able to use that sense when driving. I would also say the same if someone was blasting music so loud they couldn’t properly hear horns or another car skidding.

          1. Aqua*

            Mine don’t. They’re in my ears at the moment and I can hear a siren that went past on the main road 200 metres away.

          2. Observer*

            Headphones tend to block sound as well as provide sound

            Which does not answer the actual question, which is “What is wrong with bone conduction headphones?” Those are being recommended because the *do* allow you to hear ambient sound.

        3. Lenora Rose*

          It’s not the same as having the speakers on. I say that as a user.

          Bone conductor headphones don’t block out sound, but because they are putting the music *directly* into your body, they do have a stronger impact than a sound source from a few feet away. Basically, the brain filters ambient sounds to decide which is important – in a car that might be music, engine, the odd rattle from the left side I still haven’t figured out what it is, the rumble of other cars or a motorcycle nearby – and prioritizes based on which one is significant. So it might go “Music A, odd rattle B, motorcycle beside me C”. If something came up, the brain would instantly reprioritize all the sounds. “Motorcycle moves ahead of me A, person honking at the motorcycle B, music C – oops is that a siren? And the motorcycle made its lane change safely, so siren A, music B, damn rattle C, motorcycle D.”

          Bone conducting headphones don’t make any of those sounds go away, but they automatically flag the music/podcast/whatever as one of the top priority slots, and make it harder to prioritize the other sounds.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        This x10000. I thought it was illegal in most states to use headphones while driving.

        1. Ess Ess*

          That is correct. It is illegal in my state to wear any headphones while driving. On the other hand, in Iowa for example, it is legal. So it does vary by state.

      3. RadioactiveCats*

        Open ear headphones are specifically created SO THAT you can wear them while driving. It’s no different than the music from your car’s stereo. You even need earplugs to be able to HEAR the sound in those headphones when in noisy places like airplanes or crowded bars. They do not block ambient sound. That’s the deal.

        I bought them 7 years ago for a job similar to the LW. While I am easily startled, the actual need to have open ears was that I needed to listen to music to focus on tedious work, but still have people be able to ask me things when needed as a team lead.

    3. ecnaseener*

      LW already said that at most they put only one earbud in and that only sometimes, so that’s not the problem. It’s a noisy machine shop, footsteps might just not be audible sometimes.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        And if, like me, the OP is super focused on what’s on the screen, it may not matter if the approacher makes noise to alert her. I can be so focused I don’t really hear anything and then someone will touch my shoulder or get right down by my ear before I hear/notice and I’ll jump out of my skin cuz suddenly they’re RIGHT THERE and they’ll say, “I called your name 3 x” etc…

    4. Anon but sympathetic*

      We could be twins. My startle response is so bad my husband has to announce he is entering a room so I don’t freak out. A friend once approached me from behind when I was out walking at lunchtime and touched my shoulder — luckily for them I’m not a black belt or I would have decked them. Like you I have anxiety disorder and long-standing trauma (and diagnosed PTSD because of it). Not diagnosing you, just relating my similar experience. The thing that has helped me is EMDR therapy. Hope this is not giving medical advice — I’m just saying what is working for me. Sorry if this breaks any rules.

      1. Kaboobie*

        When entering a new workplace, I casually let people know that I focus intensely and have an exaggerated startle response, but it doesn’t cause me any actual distress and I’d prefer if they just don’t mention it. Of course, YMMV if it does actually cause distress. My response is due to being on the autism spectrum and not anxiety or PTSD.

        I don’t scream, or make any noise, and didn’t realize my startle response was an issue until certain co-workers reacted strongly in return. One especially kind co-worker took to announcing his presence as he approached, without being asked, and I let him know how much I appreciated it.

      2. Ultimate Facepalm*

        Same – I could have written this myself. Other than moving your desk and the mirror, the other thing that helps me:
        1. when coworkers eithr chat me to tell me they are coming to my desk, or to walk up saying quietly ‘Hey – I am here’ or whatever to announce themselves.
        2. I am at the end of a row so I am open on 2 sides, and if people come over so that I am facing them when they are walking up versus behind me, that helps a lot too.
        3. increased / additional anti-anxiety meds. This isn’t the primary reason that I increased my meds, it’s just a nice perk.

    5. CatLady*

      I have a high startle reflex too and it also became a running joke (I yipped, not screamed, but still). At one company I solved it by moving my setup to the long side of U shaped desk (instead of at the bottom of the U) so that the opening of the cube was on my side and my back was to the outside wall so most people were coming to my “door” face on instead of from the back. You could still see my monitor but the “door” was in my peripheral and that slight movement before the knock mostly kept me from being startled. The yips still happened on occasion but went waaaay down.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      there’s no reason for anything complicated. Asking to turn the desk so it faces the door is such a simple ask that an explanation isn’t even needed. Just a hey can I turn my desk so my back isn’t to the opening would not even register with most people. If its a cubicle, then other people probably have different set ups.

      I think OP is stuck on I need this so I don’t scream so its an accomodation and I have never asked for that. But its not really, its just a different desk set up. If someone came to me even as a personal preference I would be, well let’s get it set up with IT to get all the plugs right. Its just not a big deal unless they want to block the entrance with their desk to keep anyone from entering. Or like the desk is bolted to the floor.

      1. ruthling*

        unfortunately, the way most cubicles are set up is that the desk is attached to the divider. moving it is not easy.

        1. Bananapants Circus with Dysfunctional Monkeys*

          Would sideways on work in that case? It’s not perfect, but it definitely gives OP SOME line of sight while working. It also means the screen is still visible.

      2. But what to call me?*

        If they have a reason for how their desks are arranged, like the one OP mentioned where they want to be able to see people’s screens, it’s possible they’ll need an explanation. The startle reflex version is a pretty straightforward one to explain, though.

        OP, a desk-related accommodation is the only accommodation I’ve ever asked for, because like you I can deal with the rest on my own. I was worried about both the distracting sounds of working in an open plan office and never being able to focus while people could walk behind me or be watching me from behind, so I asked for the cubicle in the back corner where the air conditioner blocked out some of the regular office noises and no one would be walking behind me to get to their cubicles. It turned out to be no problem at all, because the other people on the team liked being out in the open with each other and found the air conditioner annoying, so for them that was the least desirable cubicle. You might find that what you’re asking for is much easier to accommodate (with or without formal accommodations) than you think. There’s a difference between not causing extra trouble for people and putting up with something just because you assume that it will cause them a lot more trouble than it actually will. And it’s okay that you don’t know what other accommodations to ask for! It may literally just be this. A small change in desk positioning so that you’re no longer screaming at work is worthwhile all on its own.

        I don’t know if this applies to you, but I know that I learned to never advocate for my needs before my autism diagnosis because I was always making a big deal out of nothing and whatever I needed was always unreasonable to ask of people. As it turns out, as an adult interacting with reasonable people who are happy to do reasonable things to make each other’s lives better, a lot of the problems I assume I just have to deal with turn out to be much easier to solve than expected. Not all of them, by any means, but I’m learning to question myself when I automatically assume that of course I can’t ask for that.

        1. not nice, don't care*

          I’m amazed at how much sympathy I get from coworkers about my ‘isolation’ in an office in a back corner, but I could never work productively with bustle and conversation in an open area.

      3. mlem*

        As ruthling says, not all open-office desk setups easily accommodate that. (Then again, I worked in an office where you weren’t even allowed to *swap chairs* because it would throw off the color scheme!)

      4. What_the_What*

        I wouldn’t even ask, TBH. As soon as I was assigned a cubicle, back in my cubicle (preWFH) days, I’d start arranging things to suit me. I’d hate to work where I had to say “Mother may I” for something as simple as shifting my laptop to another work space, or whatever. Now, *IF* the change requires getting IT or facilities involved (to change out cables/wiring, maybe I’d ask, but honestly I can do all that stuff myself anyway.

      5. Observer*

        Asking to turn the desk so it faces the door is such a simple ask that an explanation isn’t even needed.

        Except that they note that the desks are apparently set up that way for a specific reason, so it is a slightly bigger deal, and does need some explanation. Especially since the reason is essentially transparency, and the OP’s change would probably make that harder.

    7. Lenora Rose*

      I love my bone conductor headphones, although I do wish the headband were a wee bit smaller (It sits a bit behind my head; doesn’t seem to effect where the actual speakers sit unless knocked, but has a disadvantage if wanting to use them and wear a toque for winter).

      And I wouldn’t wear them while driving; yikes!

      1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

        I have bone conducting swimming headphones, and I had a similar problem: I couldn’t wear them inside my swim cap. I eventually figured out that if I put my ponytail higher, I could angle the headphones and rest them on top of the ponytail and they would be against my head. And then I could wear my cap.

        Depending on the specifics of your winterwear and your hairstyle, that might not be possible, but perhaps something like angling the headphones and attaching them to your hair using a barrette or something?

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I can usually pull the toque over it and it works. I’ve also done variants of the ponytail trick. My usual solution though is to just wrap a scarf around my head instead. it might not be quite as warm but for most weather it will do.

    8. Meep*

      As someone with PSTD which causes me to be startled easily when someone approaches me from behind, it usually doesn’t work. It is usually the sudden appearance that causes it. Not the sudden sound.

    9. not nice, don't care*

      I have hypervigilance issues from a variety of traumatic events. There are certain jobs/working conditions that I self-select out of. Working in a busy cube or open floor plan is a hard nope, and it has affected my career trajectory over the years.
      I’m in a great situation now, with an office and a desk the points the way I need it to so I can see folks coming. I’ve avoided needing a formal accommodation, but sounds like OP may need to look into that.

    10. Tree*

      late to the party, but I had the same issue. luckily I can work without any earbuds. I got 2 little partial fisheye mirrors I guess? convex mirrors that stuck on my monitor. it helped a bit.

      I set up my desk so that people were more likely to come to my side than straight behind me (where I had my visitor chair, where I had my pile of broken parts and notebook etc).

      and eventually all my coworkers had made me jump often enough we just laughed about it.

  2. Daria grace*

    #5, unless you have a very rare, in demand skill set I am very skeptical you’re going to get a job by a recruiter searching for you on LinkedIn no matter how you try optimise your profile.

      1. nonee*

        Yeah, this isn’t rare. I get approached by recruiters quite a lot based on my LinkedIn profile. Maybe my skillset is rare but *lots* of skillset are rare, so it’s not uncommon for recruiters to target people this way.

        1. Johanna Cabal*

          I get “approached” (more like spammed) but the roles generally aren’t what I’m looking for and not really my skillset.

          1. Minimum wage IT*

            Same here. Best ones are the recruiters who send me a job description that sounds like they need an entire department to fill the role then tell me it’s half my current pay and a contractor role so no benefits.

            “This is a great opportunity!”

            “ you mean leave my job with full benefits to work retail wages while doing the work of 6 people? No thanks

            1. I Have RBF*

              I get those a lot. They are usually on the opposite coast, in person role, where they want a ninja rockstar unicorn with full stack skills and sales engineer experience, for $35/hour on a six month contract, must be a US citizen and pass a clearance.

              If they don’t take no for an answer I block them.

          2. Dell*

            Yep – I get lots of these, but they are almost never actually useful. A lot of them are not actually in line with my experience at all — think human medicine instead of veterinary medicine — in ways that are not at all transferrable. This usually tells me the recruiter has no idea what they are talking about. I think in the last ten years I have had exactly one useful recruiter message on LinkedIn.

      2. Sneaky Squirrel*

        My job is middle management at best; not a common field but certainly not rare or with a hard to acquire skillset. I get multiple recruiters reaching out to me every week with job opportunities.

    1. Roland*

      Disagree. Many companies have recruiting departments that are tasked with sourcing candidates, not just going through submitted apps, and LinkedIn is a big place for that.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        That still doesn’t mean you should list a fake position on your LinkedIn. I would think that anyone who follows the instructor’s advice in #5 is a liar, frankly. If you are looking for a specific type of position, just write a feed post outlining that — don’t make up a “job” out of wholecloth.

      2. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

        Yeah, I still wouldn’t do what’s been suggested above, but I get plenty of contacts from recruiters (and sometimes potential hiring managers) based on my slightly niche but not rare experience base. Many of them are scammy/spammy/otherwise utter crap, but some have been legit.

    2. Testing*

      This really, really depends on the sector you’re in. I’ve never had a recruiter contact me, but programmers I know are inundated with messages.

      I can see how having “a current” post in the list could make a difference when applying for jobs listed on LinkedIn, though (which I have done in the past), if there is a (stupid) algorithm to screen out currently out-of-job candidates.

      1. HRAnonForThisOne*

        I’ve literally never seen an algorithm that screens out candidates who don’t have a current employer.

        I suppose they exist but I’ve been in recruiting adjacent roles, and was the main recruiting partner for technical roles at my last job for 10+ years and it’s not something I’ve ever used or even seen as an option in a HRIS system. You can screen out for a lot, but I’ve never seen that one.

        One of the main reasons is those algorithms are far from perfect and even the ones that parse resumes aren’t always perfect and could show someone as not working when they are.

        1. MassMatt*

          It would probably be counterproductive to screen out via a Linked In algorithm since so many people don’t keep their profiles updated, but it’s true that many places won’t consider hiring people that aren’t currently employed. This was true even during the 2008 recession and the height of the pandemic. It’s dumb but it’s a thing.

          I agree with Alison, though, don’t put a fake job on Linked In.

          1. I Have RBF*

            I often don’t update my LinkedIn until I’ve been in a job for well over a year. I’ve been at my current job for almost two (contract->perm), and haven’t updated it yet.

      2. 2 Cents*

        As someone who didn’t have a current job until recently, I can assure you that the algorithm does not eliminate those without current positions. I’ve been hired twice in the past six months without a current position listed and inundated by messages from recruiters on LinkedIn. What does seem to help is keeping your profile active. I’d go in and make tiny edits every few days to bump myself up from “stale” to “fresh.”

      3. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, my brother got a programming job being approached on LinkedIn.

        I have a ton of recruiting posts in my LinkedIn inbox as well but in my field I think they are less seriously interested offers and more of the contact-every-remotely-related person spammy type of recruiters.

      4. Ella*

        I think this comment might be you severly over-extrapolating the advice “it’s easiest to get a job when you already have one,” which is mostly just that it’s easiest to get a job when you haven’t been out of the workforce for several years.

    3. Stoli*

      I got recruitment offers day one. I’m in a sought after profession. All I did was post a profile and they came calling.

    4. Adam*

      I’m currently looking for a job and almost all my best options have come from recruiters contacting me on LinkedIn. (Also most of my worst options.) It’s very common in software.

      1. 2 Cents*

        lol I hear you on best and worst options. I have my resume listed on Dice, Indeed and ZipRecruiter too, which has helped (ymmv). Good luck!

    5. learnedthehardway*

      Disagreeing – I use LinkedIn all the time to find people for the roles I work on. Sometimes the roles are highly specialized, but often it’s just a generic “HR” or “Finance” role.

      However, I agree with Allison that creating a fake job to get interest is going to be VERY counter-productive. For one thing, how long are you going to say you worked at this made-up job? 2 years? 3? That’s going to look a lot like you are trying to fake your experience, not just call attention to your desired career path. And if you put less than 1 year – well, LinkedIn Recruiter gives recruiters the option to exclude potential candidates who have less than 1 year in their current role.

      Instead, build up the introduction part of your profile with an explanation of your skills and what you want to achieve. Also, build the “Skills” section of your profile to say what you want to highlight. That way, your profile will show up if a recruiter uses one of the keywords.

      You can also list your credentials in the area you want to work in – eg. designations, certifications, training courses, etc. One of the roles I’m doing now requires one of a few possible designations, and I use all those acronyms in my keyword searches.

      You might get knocked out contention if the recruiter is looking for someone with 3+ years of experience in whatever discipline you’re trying to enter, but you were going to get knocked out of those roles, regardless, unless the company is willing to hire someone who would be learning on the job. Better to present your experience in a way that can’t be misconstrued as fabricated. That way, if someone IS willing to train or to hire a person inexperienced in the field, they will at least not think you’re lying about your experience.

    6. TheBunny*

      Ummm…in literally every job I’ve recruited for I’ve done LinkedIn searches for passive candidates (candidateswho haven’t applied). In my last role I was handling 12 openings, all of them paying at least 75k.

      People who recruit full time use passive searches all the time.

      This is an oddly bonkers take on it.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I don’t think it’s bonkers so much as *wildly* different depending on sector and type of work. I mostly work in a role and sector where pro-active candidate searches are absolutely not a thing. If it wasn’t part of my job to know how recruiters work in other sectors, I would definitely believe it was a myth, or a very rare and specific occurrence.

        If you are say, an academic librarian searching for jobs in that sector, then “make your LinkedIn profile look like this so recruiters will find you” is absolutely bananapants and irrelevant advice because that is simply not how recruitment works in that field unless you’re at the “director of library services for one of the top ten research universities in the country” level. If you’re a programmer with a recognised-name alma mater or a brand-name company and a 3+ years’ experience under your belt, you are going to get approached.

        But recruitment advice is *very* often presented to jobseekers as if it is relevant to everyone, when it’s really a massive “know your sector” thing.

        1. Antilles*

          As far as I can tell, it’s *incredibly* specific. I’m an engineer and basically get recruiters pinging me on LinkedIn constantly. Meanwhile, my wife is also an engineer but in a different field of engineering and tells me she’s never met a single person in her field who’s gotten a job via LinkedIn recruiting.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Yeah, in STEM it seems like recruiters are mostly looking at how long you’ve been working and maybe looking at your skills, which is a terrible way to go about it. Every LinkedIn recruiter I’ve had contact me is hiring for jobs I am not qualified for in both level and specialty. Pretty sure I’d flame out spectacularly within a month (depending on how long onboarding takes!) if you made me director of immunology!

        2. Learn ALL the things?*

          Right. I’ve worked in local government my entire career, and your average city or county government HR office is not going to be well staffed enough to have someone on LinkedIn searching for people to recruit. For the most part, they’re going to post the job on the county job opening website and call it a day.

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, I work in book publishing in the UK and I’ve never heard of anyone getting a job via LinkedIn (I mean, unless it’s via an ‘apply here’ button on a LinkedIn job ad). It just doesn’t work like that – there are a couple of recruitment agencies that deal with publishing, but I’ve never been contacted by one of them on LinkedIn and have in fact never been contacted about a job at all via LinkedIn. I wouldn’t have had a clue that there are apparently passive candidate searches going on – I barely even look at my LinkedIn profile. Applications in my industry are all done either via the company itself or if it’s advertised through an agency then you apply to the agency who decide whether to put you forward. You can also apply to be on the agency’s books so they’ll alert you of any suitable vacancies that come to them, but LinkedIn recruitment really isn’t a thing that generally happens.

        1. bibliotecaria*

          Coming in with the anecdata here: I also worked in book publishing in the UK, and was approached more than once on LinkedIn by recruiters. I think this was probably particular to my role (field sales). I left the industry about five years ago, so can’t speak to whether it’s still a thing that happens, but can confirm it happened to me!

        2. Who Moved My Bees?*

          And more anecdata: I work in book publishing in the US and got my last two jobs by being cold-recruited on LinkedIn, where I was otherwise completely inactive and did little more than merely exist there. I also search LinkedIn for possible candidates when I’m hiring and have made some great finds that way! The HR departments at the companies I’ve worked for have routinely done the same for at least the last 10-15 years — it’s even written into their recruitment process docs.

        3. NancyDrew*

          I work in book publishing in the US and absolutely get recruited for other publishing houses on the reg.

    7. Another person*

      I’m experienced, but not rare; there are lots of business analysts in the US looking for work after the software company layoffs. I am approached by recruiters on LinkedIn regularly.

      Also, I was hired this year into a fully remote six figure job after being found by a recruiter searching on LinkedIn. My previous job end date was four months before that. No gimmicks needed, just the truth.

    8. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      There are plenty of fields where recruiters stalk LinkedIn all the time. I direct any emails from LinkedIn to a folder I never look at unless I’m job hunting. And I don’t even USE LinkedIn actively.

    9. Amy*

      My spouse is a recruiter for finance and legal positions. He gets 70% of his candidates from LinkedIn, about 30% from existing relationships.

    10. Nancy*

      I get recruiters contacting me all the time, and I am not even looking, nor are any of my skills very rare. Since LW doesn’t mention their industry, there is no reason to think it won’t work as an option.

    11. no one you know*

      That is not true. I found my current job because a recruiter on LinkedIn searched for my skill set from my field, I turned out to be someone that they needed.

    12. Ess Ess*

      It may depend on your industry. I’m in IT and many of my job interviews came from recruiters reaching out to me through LinkedIn.

    13. Overthinking it*

      Regarding not allowing you to meet the person you would report to: wonder if they were perhaps in the process of hiring for that role too? But if so, why not just say so? And offer let let you speak to whoever you would report to in the interim. Possibly a reorg going on, and no one knows yet who that person will be? Or worse, perhaps current supervisor is GOING to be fired, but hasn’t been told yet (at the end of a problematic PIP, say)? Even if the person just isunavailable due to travel, family leave, illness, if they won’t share that information the place is a disorganized mess. Bullet bullet dodged!

    14. Megan*

      I disagree. It is a pretty well-known fact that the default setting in LinkedIn that many recruiters use auto-filters out those without current positions. What the candidate is describing is a pretty common practice or why you see some folks leave their prior employer on their profile as current. This is a standard practice as long as the person is not entering false information. For reference, I work in the AEC field and recruiting is part of my job.

    15. ScheuylerSeestra*

      I’m a recruiter, and LinkedIn is my top source for finding candidates. Both with posting jobs and searching profiles.

      I’ve found pretty much all my own jobs on LinkedIn, including my current position.

    16. marketing lady*

      Every job I’ve been hired for since 2011 has been from LinkedIn outreaches (a total of three.)

    17. Meep*

      I get recruiters up in my DMs all the time on LinkedIn looking for a job. Though, I suppose I do have a very rate, in-demand skill set. But it really isn’t unusual.

    18. Laura LL*

      I’m in a field where recruiters and headhunters aren’t that common and I’ve been contacted be recruiters on LinkedIn for legitimate jobs. And people i know who are in more in-demand fields absolutely get jobs this way.

  3. Workaholic*

    #1 I would think the changes to her schedule is choosing money. canceling a photoshoot last minute surely cost $, plus bad press by disgruntled clients, and clients leaving.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Agree. Tell manager the hard facts: client complaints, unable to reschedule photographer because coworker can’t commit.

      1. ferrina*

        The client complaints feel like a big deal, and that’s probably the angle I’d tackle it from. But it also depends on the boss- if this person has previously brushed off client complaints it likely won’t be as effective.

        But there’s always the power of the CCed email. Email this coworker and CC the boss, saying something like:
        “As you know, we’ve had clients who were looking for you after their appointment got canceled on short notice. What would you like us to communicate to your clients? How should they expect to reschedule, and how will you be in contact if you need to cancel their appointment?”
        Knowing that you’ve CCed the boss might be enough to spur her into action (since the boss seems a bit passive on this. or maybe he is just clueless)

        1. Paulina*

          Yes. And going forward, send them both a log of all the occasions. These are her clients, after all, and meetings that she set up with them. Informing her what happened when the client showed up makes sense, even just in terms of continuity with the client, and the manager also needs to be informed. Making appointments with clients and then deciding not to show up should be a firing situation.

        2. Colette*

          I wouldn’t. If the OP wants to raise it to her coworker, she should do it about the individual situation – i.e. “Sally Henderson stopped by, she said she had an appointment. I told her you’d get in touch with her”.

          1. Statler von Waldorf*

            The point of doing this is not to raise it with the co-worker. Raising the issue is a reasonable approach that will only work with reasonable people.

            The point of doing this is to put the co-worker on notice that you are not going to ignore the issue and cover for them and that you will continue to point out the issue to management. Some people will only change if there are consequences for them if they don’t, and a pointed email CC’d to management can do that.

            I agree that this will probably damage the relationship between OP and their co-worker. Given the situation the LW describes, that doesn’t seem like a huge loss.

            1. Colette*

              But it’s asking the colleague to do something the OP doesn’t have the authority to ask her to do. Finding coverage for the colleague (and making sure she rescheduled clients) is the manager’s responsibility.

              1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                I disagree. Ferrina didn’t say anything about finding coverage. She suggested that LW ask the coworker “what should we tell your customer when they call?”

      2. Really?*

        Or possibly make it manager’s problem by referring unfamiliar clients to him. Add a note: Since I don’t know Ethelberta’s schedule and am unfamiliar with this client, I thought it was best to refer them to you, since you’ll be able to tell them when she’ll be back or be better able to answer their question.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          +1 Send the pain up. Either the manager will wake up and start holding co accountable, or they’ll resolve it themselves. Either way, you’ve done your due diligence.

    2. Colette*

      I’m kind of surprised they rescheduled the photoshoot instead of going ahead. I assume the manager knows that that happened.

      But it’s possible the manager knows more than the OP does about what is going on. (For example, maybe the colleague reschedules at the last minute because she or someone she cares for has frequent medical issues, or that she’s working two jobs and has to work this job in around her other one.) I think the OP should talk with her manager, but what she should be focused on is how to minimize the impact of her colleague’s unpredicatble schedule on her and their clients.

      1. Maybe*

        I wonder if there were supposed to be team photos too and it was easier/cheaper to cancel than to have to schedule a second session because the coworker skipped out?

        Even though with the way this coworker just randomly shows up or doesn’t show up, how do you schedule anything at all for the group?

        1. Colette*

          Unless it’s a very small team, it’s likely that someone will be out and miss the picture. I can’t think of a situation where that would be a big deal – you just use the picture as is.

        2. Paulina*

          Why have the coworker in the team picture if she’s not going to be in the workplace when she’s supposed to be?

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That stood out to me too. Even photoshopping someone in later – hell even if you have to hire someone who’s good at photoshop to do that – is probably cheaper than rebooking the photographer, assuming they have a cancellation/rebooking fee which most do.

      3. Tio*

        It’s possible they needed some materials that she had that they couldn’t access, either physical product or something else. It’s also possible that because it’s her initiative they didn’t have all the directions, so they didn’t know what needed to be photographed and how. Or, since she’s working with clients, they needed her there for reasons, like it’s a small clinic and she’s the only gastroenterologist specialist and not having her there means it looks like they don’t have one.

    3. Meep*

      I am kind of on the fence on this one (the photoshoot). I mean was it really necessary to cancel a photoshoot for ONE, part-time person? I wouldn’t have thought I needed to be there unless explicitly told I need to be there. (Then again, if I was part-time I would also choose not to show up on that day. I don’t need my photo on the company website for everyone to see.)

      The disgruntled clients one is a bigger issue, though.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Not being available when you’ve committed to being available is a big deal, regardless of anything else. It does not appear that there was any unexpected circumstance (at least it wasn’t communicated) and is part of a concerning pattern. Flexible hours come with the responsibility to communicate availability and ensure that you manage to be present when required. It’s not just working when you feel like it.

    4. tw1968*

      And just dump all this on the manager! Customer comes in looking for Flexcoworker and she’s not there? Have someone escort her to mgr’s office so he can deal with it. Same with phone calls, xfr them to him every time. Once it’s his problem to solve, it’ll get solved.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Yes! “Manager, I have Client Y here for Flexworker, they made an appointment at 2 with Flexworker, but Flexworker isn’t here. Can you please help Client with rescheduling?”. Make it the managers problem every single time, and you’ll see some changes. And if she backslides again? Right back to the manager.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I agree. Ghosting clients is bad enough but failing to show up when the schedule has been arranged to fit hers and costing the company time, money, and frankly reputation, is also very bad. If I were a freelance photographer I’d be peeved about the last minute cancellation. This isn’t just about Jane, this is about how Jane’s inability to stick to a schedule/be there for important events is impacting everything else.

      If you do a Lessons Learned after the event, 1000% include that Jane was supposed to be scheduled for Th/Fri and did not show, did not convey this to coworkers, and the impact it had. Nothing in this letter indicates that Jane is using intermittent FMLA or health problems or has any other reason to be all over the place other than it’s what is most convenient to her. Is there a pattern? The same days or clients? I have a hybrid schedule and what that means is if there’s a Very Important Thing I need to be in the office, even on my WFH days. That’s part of how I prove I can handle my work. Speaking of…does her missing a client meeting mean that she essentially gets out of that part of the workload while making yours worse? Is she really doing her job at all?

      OP, please clue the boss in on this immediately. This is how flexibility gets ruined for everyone else.

  4. Waving not Drowning*

    OP3 – I have the same issue, I get engrossed in work, and don’t hear people coming up behind me, and I yelp and jump when they talk to me. Its embarrassing! At my worst, I had my back to the door in a shared workspace. Luckily a desk became available that faced the door, and I was able to move to that spot. Ever since, I’ve tried to ensure my workspace is positioned so people can’t walk behind me.

    It may be a problem in the next few years if I’m still at my current workplace – we’re looking at moving into a new workspace in 2027, and it will be open plan – not even cubicles. I’ll cross that bridge when it happens.

    1. I didn't say banana*

      I do the same thing, and even my desk facing the door didn’t help me. I needed noise before people got to the door, and was able to stick some contact paper to the floor outside that crinkled quietly when people approached. There are kid toys (“spy gadgets”) that allow you to put a little laser path across the door and you get a beep on a little remote device if something interrupts the laser. That or a motion activated light/sound might also help?

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t have this problem at work, but a couple of times when I’ve been working from home I’ve been on a call and had a blurred or fake-background on, and my daughter has come into my office silently and stood behind me until Teams suddenly identifies her as a person and she flickers into existence like a spooky Victorian child. The SCREAM I let out.

      1. Lab Snep*

        I’m imagining this complete with the child having that silent kid face happening and she comes into view and I am dying with laughter.

        1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

          Bonus points if she stands there with her hair over her face like the creepy little girl in the Ring. I totally would’ve done this if my parents had been on Zoom calls when I was a kid, but I grew up pre-Zoom.

    3. Lady Lessa*

      I still startle easily at work, (and at home the cat can easily do it as well.) I don’t necessarily scream, but will noticeably jump. My coworkers have come to accept it and we tease about it.

      Good luck to all with the same issue when trying to manage it.

    4. Casual Librarian*

      A coworker of mine just purchased a doorbell light so that when we need his attention, we push the button (like a doorbell), and he has the light set up by his computer screen so it alerts him that someone needs to talk to him. It has worked extremely well.

      Good luck!

    5. Beth*

      I recently noticed an interesting thing in my office, where we can choose how our desks are arranged: every single man has his desk set with his back or side to the door, and every single woman has her desk set facing the door, so that she can’t be approached from behind.

      We recently shifted one of the women into an office that had last been occupied by a man. She asked me — rather hesitantly — if it would be all right to shift the desk so she was facing the door with the wall at her back. I told her that of course it was, and I would go to the wall for her right to feel secure in her office.

      1. Big BaDaBoom*

        That’s really interesting actually.

        I do find in restaurants I need to choose the table (or seat at a table) with the least chance of anything happening behind my back. Back to a wall is my ideal.

        1. Morrigan Crow*

          We moved into offices that had previously had lawyers and all of us programmers (male & female) changed the desks so we were facing the window, not the door. (I also startle easily, but really liked looking at the view, and people were good about knocking on the door frame).

        2. Goldenrod*

          “Back to a wall is my ideal.”

          My husband always has to sit with his back to the wall. He calls it the James Bond strategy – so that he can see who is approaching and avoid getting shot from behind. ;D

    6. Jumpy*

      I’ve also had the same issue! I *may* have reflexively hit a coworker once (in my defense he thought it would be funny to come up behind me and grab my ear. It wasn’t.), and in another job I jumped so badly that I nearly knocked a priest over. (It was a job at a Catholic school and he was the one who had startled me, this wasn’t just a random wandering priest.)

      The best advice I have for you, if you’re not able to move your desk or get others to change their behavior in some way, is just be prepared to laugh it off. At every in-office job I’ve had, after a startle or two people have just sort of learned to laugh about it. No one has ever been too bothered. (Fortunately I now work from home, and there are no spooky Victorian child ghosts in my house, so my startle response has decreased a lot.)

    7. I Have RBF*

      I loathe open plan. I have a strong startle reflex, and half the time can’t concentrate with everyone talking and moving around me. I need walls, and limits on how many ways a person can approach me. Even in cubes I hate having my back to the entry.

      IMO, if management wants to cheap out by doing open plan, they should just let people work remotely. It saves the most on real estate spend, which is 90% of what open plan does for them (the other 10% is cargo-culting to try for “success” on the Facebook model.) I consider open plan to be abusive.

  5. Observer*

    #1- Coworker’s schedule.

    The real problem is not that she’s changing her schedule. There are actually 4 problems that seem like they are caused by the amount of flexibility that she has. But really, she could have almost this level of flexibility with little or no real problem for you.

    1. She does not show up when she says she will. She even fails to show up for appointments with *clients*.

    2. She makes changes to her commitments with truly inadequate notice. eg She did let you know that she’s not going to be able to make it to the photo shoot that *she committed to*, but so close to the event that all you could do is cancel it.

    3. She sometimes ignores the actual needs of the job – and apparently makes these decisions last minute.

    4. She doesn’t communicate about her schedule, which affects her clients and you ability to get your work done.

    I’ve met people like this who did not have the official flexibility she has, and I’ve worked with people who had an enormous amount of flexibility, but you *always* knew that if CW set up an appointment, they would be there. And if they were told that “we have an all hands event in two weeks, and you need to work your schedule around it” they would either let you know it’s a problem right away or, more likely, make it work.

    The bottom line is that she’s being inconsiderate and inconsistent. I would not ask for her to stick to fixed schedules (even though it’s probably what would work best), but for a solution to these problems. “Could you make it clear to her that she needs to keep her appointments, and mark her calendar so we know when she’s going to be in? If that’s a problem, maybe she could stick to a fixed schedule.”

    You want to avoid the possibility of a derail on whether you just don’t like that she has something you don’t have, and to make it clear that you have a significant work issue that you need a solution to. A fixed schedule would be one way to fix the problem, but that’s not the thing you*really* care about.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I wonder if the role should be part time if OP and their coworkers are having trouble completing their work without her input. And needing her for an all-hands project – does she work full days regularly but not 5 days a week? Does she work half hours? Would working on this big project require full days when she doesn’t normally work full days?

      Also, it seems like the issue is less “she works different hours every week” and more “we don’t know what hours she’s working from one week to the next,” which is a problem. If they’d known in advance that she wasn’t going to be there the day of the photo shoot then they could have planned around her schedule. But it sounds like they make assumptions about when she’ll be there because they don’t know, and then have to scramble when they’re wrong. The boss or the part time coworker need to communicate her schedule to everyone else so they can plan, whether that means same days and hours every day or changing.

      1. RW*

        yeah I feel like a solution could be more like “she needs to commit to her hours for a particular week two weeks in advance, after which they cannot change without a true emergency which she has to run past someone else” which would solve most of the problem, along with the manager making it clear that all hands on deck days are in fact all hands on deck and she can’t skip out of them like this

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Bingo. This, exactly. Her hours don’t need to be exactly the same every week — but she needs to commit and stick to each week’s schedule in advance so people can plan accordingly.

        2. Shared calendars!*

          A shared calendar would solve the problem as long as flaky coworker would commit to keeping it updated. I worked a second, part time temporary job that had flexible hours. I set up a separate calendar for job 2 and blocked off the hours for job 1. (Outlook has a setting for off-site.) Coworkers at job 2 scheduled meetings within my available hours. Both jobs needed last minute adjustments for client appointments, but it was easy to work those in. I checked with job 2 coworkers ahead of time before finalizing changes because we needed office coverage during open hours. Bosses at jobs 1 and 2 knew I had two part-time jobs and that sometimes I might need to get a sub to cover responsibilities if something urgent came up last minute, which was rare.

          Honestly, having a synched, shared calendar was the only way to keep track of my schedule!! I didn’t have to search email for meeting requests and update my calendar myself.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            +1. If the biggest frustration is trying to divine when she appearing at work, she needs to start creating / sharing / USING the office calendar – with the MANAGER enforcing that it be kept up to date.

        3. Venus*

          She can even commit to the exact hours last-minute provided that she’s communicating it well to the clients and attends scheduled meetings. For example if she agrees to meet with Client A on Monday at 11am, and Client B Wednesday at 2pm, and the photographer is visiting Wednesday at 10am then who cares what other hours she works during the week provided she’s there for those meetings.
          Of course if clients are encouraged to drop by randomly for visits then it becomes much more important to set a schedule further in advance! In my example I’m assuming that clients are dropping by in the hope of finding her there because she isn’t showing up to planned meetings.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        They did plan around her schedule. She said she’d be there and then changed her mind after it was scheduled. Communication is part of the problem but sticking to commitments is also a problem.

    2. WS*

      My workplace has a large number of part time employees – some with fixed days, some not, and in some cases for disability reasons. Regardless, everyone is clear about when they will or won’t be in, except in unusual circumstances that can happen to anyone regardless of how many days they work. It can absolutely be done, and it’s not difficult…except apparently for your co-worker and her manager!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right. I’ve worked in jobs with extremely flexible schedules – but I understood that I needed to keep commitments and communicate with my team. That’s true in pretty much every job, whether you have a fixed schedule or not (and even with a fixed schedule…conflicts can arise and you have to manage your commitments)

    3. Jess*

      The shift changing isn’t really a coworker problem, it’s a manager problem. It’s odd the manager is so hands off she doesn’t notice the impact on the team. It’s not OPs job to manage their colleague, but if the manager doesn’t have important info they need to be told.

      1. Myrin*

        And OP says her manager “does not relay [coworker’s] weekly schedule to us” which sounds like he could but for some reason doesn’t – why is that?
        (That doesn’t help with her last minute changes, of course, but it would probably help a ton by itself.)

        1. bamcheeks*

          It might be something as simple as the manager assumes Co-worker puts it in her shared calendar and doesn’t know she isn’t doing that. I mean, it’s such a normal thing to do that I would probably assume my team member was doing that and be a bit mind-blown if someone informed me that wasn’t happening and it was causing all these problems!

    4. GythaOgden*

      I think mandating fixed schedules are pretty much necessary in these circumstances until she gets the message. She’s proved she can’t be trusted to be flexible and still do the job properly; like taking away WFH from an unproductive employee, it’s not necessarily going to be a punishment but a way of getting her refocused on the work she’s been employed to do. That at least sets boundaries for her and gives her a firm baseline of what the company expects, and reduces the need to micromanage her adherence to the rest of her work until they see whether fixing her schedule helps.

      It may be that I’m used to very limited flexibility in the roles I’ve been in (and am shocked that this is happening in the first place) but it’s probably less time-consuming for her manager (who doubtless has other work as well as other direct reports to supervise and assist in other more productive ways) to fix her schedule as part of a PIP and lay down the law. Otherwise you spend so much time on policing one person that other things get neglected.

      Setting boundaries needn’t be punitive, in other words, but in this case, the ultra-flexible schedule is part of the problem and you can’t work on other things until you’ve at least tried demanding she be in the office at set times.

      1. Observer*

        I think mandating fixed schedules are pretty much necessary in these circumstances until she gets the message.

        I disagree – this is not the issue.

        Even if that were the way to go, it’s not the LW’s place to ask for that. They don’t manage this person and they don’t have standing. What they DO have standing to insist on (assuming their manager is reasonable) is that the CW communicate her schedule in a timely fashion and keep to it.

    5. Ganymede*

      Yes, all this. I’m beginning to wonder if the coworker has another job which is less flexible.

      But tbh causing a *photoshoot* to be cancelled is pretty outrageous – I used to organise these occasionally and the fallout would be expensive and incredibly disruptive if someone just decided not to turn up with essentially no notice, not to mention the damage being done to client relationships. Sackable offence in my view.

    6. Hyaline*

      What is this manager even doing? It seems like LW laid out multiple issues that should have gotten his attention and required his involvement—but he’s just absent, literally or figuratively? Maybe LW and coworkers are trying (understandably!) to mitigate this problem and they need to just start dropping the problems on the manager like cats leaving mice on his doormat. Clients complain? Why, here’s the managers phone number. Project not completed because Flakester no-showed? Shrug, we’re not working late. Photo shoot canceled? Ok manager, you can schedule the next one.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, I wondered as I read this letter whether the LW and her colleagues had been covering so much for their part-time co-worker that the manager didn’t hear about what was going on. Pass the pain up the chain. (Although I really like your version of cats leaving mice on his doormat.)

    7. Sara without an H*

      You want to avoid the possibility of a derail on whether you just don’t like that she has something you don’t have, and to make it clear that you have a significant work issue that you need a solution to.

      This. Very much this. LW, when you talk with your manager, take care not to let your irritation with this coworker show up in your language and tone. You are pointing out a work-related issue that you want your manager to solve, but you have nothing at all against Flaky Coworker.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        As to previous discussion, you are ‘concerned about the impact on clients who arrive for their appointments but Flexworker isn’t there’, you’re not angry at Flexworker for not being in the office.

    8. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes I agree what OP really needs is to know when the coworker will be working, and for the coworker to work when she says she will. A fixed schedule might be the easiest way to address that but it sounds like they have already tried that once and it fell apart quickly.

      Hopefully the fact that the manager has felt this was worth addressing once before will make it easier to get him to see it as a real problem, even if he is usually more hands-off.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        I think it fell apart because Flexworker stopped having management oversight once she stuck to the schedule for a while. Then she was like “sweet, done, can go back to doing what I want”. Management needs to be way more involved, so LW and others need to continually make things his problem. Flexworker not there and client shows up for appt? Bring them to manager (or have them contact manager if he’s not there). Flexworker doesn’t do X so that Y report can’t be completed? Send what you have and say “Flexworker didn’t give us X so document is incomplete”. And so on until he maybe really starts to get it. If they comply and oversight goes away and they slip back? Right back to being manager’s problem.

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          That was my read, too. Co showed manager compliance, manager checked back out, co stopped complying.

    9. MassMatt*

      I agree with all these points, but IMO it’s missing the fact that the root of the issue is not a coworker problem, it’s a MANAGER problem. Manager is rarely there, has a laid back attitude—AKA s/he doesn’t manage. And LW has been dealing with all these headaches on their own so why should manager care?

      LW needs to make this a manager problem. Let manager know when projects are incomplete because coworker is around, forward all complaints about customers looking for MIA coworker to the manager, etc. If that doesn’t work (and it’d be pretty surprising for even a bad manager to let missing meetings with clients just slide) then maybe go to grandboss.

      This problem could be very simply solved by the manager setting a schedule for the coworker. Clearly giving coworker this much flexibility was a huge mistake.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        This. Coworker was given great flexibility, possibly as a perk, she abused the perk so now she loses it. Manager needs to say your hours are now MWF from 9-3. Any changes to that schedule must be approved by me in advance except in an emergency.

        If it is not a perk but an accomodation, manager can still make it clear that coworker is expected to handle her work and at least let clients know if she has to reschedule.

      2. Observer*

        fact that the root of the issue is not a coworker problem, it’s a MANAGER problem.


        The question for the LW is what can they do about it, though. And there is not really anything they can do to change their manager. And even if there were a theoretical path to kick it upstairs, if they don’t first being it to their manager, that won’t make a difference either.

        LW needs to make this a manager problem.

        I agree. Lay out the work problems. Then keep the manager looped in every time something happens – eg when CW decides to not come in for something all of the emails to cancel meetings, etc. should be cc’s to the manager. When a client shows up and no one knows where CW is, they should email CW and cc the manager. etc.

        And then they should also let some balls drop.

        And if that doesn’t work, THEN they can kick it up to GrandBoss / HR if they have reasonably competent HR.

    10. Polly Hedron*

      I think that Jane may be communicating all her schedules in plenty of time and the manager may not be passing on the messages, and that OP1’s problem is more with the manager than with Jane:

      My manager does not relay her weekly schedule to us …. My manager is very insulated from the problems. Oftentimes he is off-site at meetings, and is overall passive and laissez-faire.

      • Jane tells her manager what hours Jane plans to work
      • Jane tells her manager when she plans to change the hours
      • the manager doesn’t bother to tell the rest of you
      • the manager won’t force Jane to stick to a schedule
      • the manager lets Jane think this is all okay
      If talking to the manager, doesn’t work, then
      • tell Jane the manager isn’t passing on her out-of-office messages
      • designate another person to get out-of-office messages
      • tell Jane she should cc that person

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Probably not, because then at the least clients should be rescheduled by Jane. Instead they’re showing up looking for her and she isn’t there. If Jane were a good worker, she’d be rescheduling clients if she has to change her hours, and making sure the team knows she’ll have the Y report to them by Wed morning instead of Tuesday afternoon.

        That said, it’s still a manager problem, so you have to kick every issue to him until he figures it out.

    11. Petty Betty*

      This. Her flex schedule isn’t the problem. Her inconsistency and lack of communication IS.

      Unfortunately, the manager is the one who should be ensuring that this co-irker is communicating her schedule and sticking to it, but seems so hands off in their management style that there’s really no managing being done.

      LW1 needs to start dropping the problem(s) squarely back onto the manager. Every client missed – email to the manager (whether directly or cc’d). Missed appointments – email to the manager. Rescheduled meetings due to non-attendance – email to the manager. Ask for strict use of a shared calendar so the office is aware of co-irker’s expected hours. Hold the manager and the co-irker to some semblance of expectations “for the sake of the clientele”.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        Jane does not seem to be a good worker, but Jane may think she is communicating via her manager, depending on the manager to reschedule the clients.
        I agree that LW2 should email the problems to the manager, but LW2 should also try asking Jane to start communicating directly with the rest of the staff.

    12. Emikyu*

      Agreed with all of this. I have the same level of flexibility in my job that OP#1’s coworker does, and it has never caused these problems. I make appointments and keep them. If I have to be in the office on a specific day, then I’m there that day (and on the flip side, I’m given enough notice to make that feasible). I also use out-of-office messages to communicate when I’m unavailable, when I will be available, and who to contact in my absence.

      None of this is hard. It’s possible to have a flexible schedule and still be reliable – although I don’t have much faith that this particular person can/will do it.

  6. Aggretsuko*

    During my job hunting I had a few jobs where I couldn’t meet the manager/supervisor. One was on paternity leave (I asked how he’d feel about hiring someone he had NO input into and got “he’s fine with that.”), another one was a Big Deal Professor who was out of the country AND the supervisor in the middle between the two was leaving. I guess it happens these days.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      I once interviewed with a guy I assumed would be my boss but the was actually my boss’s boss. The best part was he didn’t tell my boss he was interviewing me. Boss wanted a person under him , was entitled to a direct report, budget was approved, and then his boss hired me. He told him on the Friday before I started , at about 4:30. And my boss already planned to be away the following Wednesday to Friday.

      It ended up working out and I did really well at the job but boss later told me that he probably wouldn’t have hired me. Interview with Grandboss was somewhat informal, we kind of just chatted about the industry and he didn’t really ask any hard hitting questions and I didn’t have the experience that Boss would have been looking for (which I didn’t really need, so maybe he was wrong, but might have helped) and at the end of the interview I went home and the recruiter called that day to offer me the job.

      1. LW*

        Letter Writer here. Thanks for your comments. I might note that the position was for a tech job that required a fair amount of expertise, and he would have been the only person doing it. As such he would have been a staff member and would have not reported to faculty in any way. It was a straight staff job.

    2. Stoli*

      Recent grad could have tried job out. He doesn’t like it, he leaves it off his resume.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        The dad mentioned there job being in a different location. Not sure if it is a different city or state, but it would require a move.

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Nah. Why take a job that is so weird about meeting the person who will actually be supervising you? That’s how you wind up in jobs where you are miserable but feel you have to stick it out to not seem like a job hopper. Better to not even start to begin with.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, when I was young and desperate I would have taken the job, but now that I have the luxury of experience and security, I don’t need that kind of drama.

          It’s one thing if the person is unreachable and HR explains that (like they are out on parental leave), but just “no, you can’t meet your supervisor”? Way too much potential for things to go weird.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Depending on the level of the role and the size of the company, it could be absolutely strange or completely normal for a manager to not meet their direct reports.

      Eg. many warehouse, distribution, customer services, mass retail, and similar roles are hired in groups and people are assigned to managers only after onboarding. HR does all the hiring and role assignments.

      Conversely, a specialized skill type role – that would be really odd to only meet with HR about. Same with experienced roles or management positions.

      1. bamcheeks*

        That’s what I was thinking. If it’s the kind of organisational structure where you have a lot of people in X role, you might ave team leaders who are assigned fairly fluidly, or even a shift supervisor / team lead as your day-to-day direct contact and an actual line manager who you rarely see cos they’re at a different site or work on a different schedule to you. In those situations, “can I meet my line manager” would be an odd request and it would be quite reasonable for the company to turn it down.

    4. Hyaline*

      All the peculiarities of academia make it very plausible IMO. The org structure just plain is not the same as in most private industry and it’s not at all weird for academics to be unavailable for very normal reasons, so “meet the boss” might mean “this very specific person who isn’t back from six weeks on a mountain in Peru” or whatever.

      Applicant should have been offered meetings with someone/s he’d be working with imo, to get a sense of the job—but since small colleges usually don’t have “bunches” or HR people he might have actually met members of the department and brushed that off in explaining the situation to his parents.

      1. LaurCha*

        Came here to say this about college jobs. If his nominal manager was a dean or department chair, those people are hard to pin down for even 15 minutes, and are very unavailable over winter and summer breaks.

        I also think the parent writing in needs to mind their own business and let their son manage his own job search.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          The person writing in was wanting to make sure the advice they gave was good. They were not interfering with the son’s job search. Son was wondering, asked parent for advice. Now parent is asking if the advice was correct or if they need to adjust.

        2. Venus*

          It does sound like the son is managing his own job search, and asked one specific question of the parent.

        3. mlem*

          The LW gave advice that the son used *with other data* (such as location) to make a decision, and the LW is wise enough to double-check their advice here. No need to beat them up for that.

    5. Momma Bear*

      I wonder how it was phrased and if it was more like “the manager isn’t available” vs “you absolutely cannot meet them in advance.” I thought back to my current role and I did not interview with my direct supervisor, in part because they hadn’t decided which department I would report to. But I got enough of the vibe to know that I’d fit with the company culture so I didn’t worry about it.

      The flag I might see with not meeting a manager is if they are routinely offsite or hands off and that becomes a problem. If everything else is good with the role and offer, I wouldn’t consider not meeting the manager a dealbreaker.

      1. JustaTech*

        There are some places like Big Tech where you might not interview with anyone you end up working with for your initial hire, but you absolutely meet with the person who will be your boss before you start working for them.

  7. Another Use of the Identify Spell*

    LW4, there is no doubt boss is a complete jerk. He didn’t even try to call or text, just showed up? Presuming you don’t live across the street from work, he must have left soon after your regular start time and might have even passed you on the way if you’d been a little less late. I also suspect he isn’t the brightest and/or is so fixated on hating you that he can’t think straight.

    That said, ideally you would have already called in sick due to the active fever. Barring that, you should have called when you saw you were going to be late to let them know you’re on the way. (Yes it takes time and makes you even later. Do it anyway because That’s The Way It’s Done.) If you were 20 minutes late total, including the confrontation and trip there, this person is entirely unhinged to have done that. Regardless, I hope you’re well on the way to finding another job where they are clear about procedures for call-ins and would rather call to ask if you’re OK instead of hunting you down to glower at you.

    1. Joron Twiner*

      Yeah that’s not how you deal with no-shows. LW should ideally avoid doing a no-call no-show, but people oversleep or get sick and it happens… the solution is to call another worker to arrange coverage, not go seek out the employee at their house. Especially if it’s still the morning of.

    2. Green great dragon*

      Agreed. I do wonder whether boss called in a replacement because LW was sick, in which case that probably was the right thing to do (but did he not realise when he went to LW’s house they were sick? It’s not clear). But everything else he did was not right.

    3. JustAl*

      I agree, You need to quit LW4.
      A boss that hammered on your door when you were only 20 minutes late – he wanted to do that, he wanted to make you feel humiliated, as Identify says he must have been watching and waiting for you to be late. He probably knew you weren’t feeling well from the previous shift and then planned this. You need to leave, what elese is this person prepared to do to you?

      1. Seashell*

        I had the impression that the boss had no idea LW going to call out sick. If LW and husband were both sound asleep, there may have been no attempt to get up for work or call in sick. The boss may have called or texted LW multiple times, and they didn’t see it. It’s still odd that he showed up, but a little more understandable.

        Boss is probably a jerk, but LW’s attitude about the job may be a little lax. It’s not clear if there were two no-shows or just one or how long a time period this was, but I can see the boss being annoyed if this happened twice in, say, a month or two. They expect you to show up even if it’s a golf course.

        1. Hyaline*

          A key question IMO—were these two incidents weeks, months, years apart? The boss isn’t handling it well but it changes my perception on whether LW has reasonable expectations of their responsibilities.

        2. DJ Abbott*

          They expect you to show up, but it is still very inappropriate and concerning for the boss to hate her always from showing up late once, and to come pounding on her door early in the morning. There are more appropriate ways for him to express his exasperation – like waiting till she’s at work and not sick and then telling her he’s unhappy with her.
          This boss has no respect for people or boundaries. He’s not going to get better, he’s going to get worse. The best thing LW can do is get a better job.

          1. Seashell*

            I’m not sure if “dead against me” equals hating, and it’s also the LW’s interpretation. The boss may just be annoyed that he hired someone who is not as serious about the job as he would like.

            Showing up late can be viewed differently by a boss if the employee is apologetic or not if they tried to inform the boss of the lateness as soon as possible. If someone acted like wasting my time was no big deal and made no attempt to tell me they were on their way, I wouldn’t be thrilled with them.

            1. Seashell*

              I meant “Showing up late can be viewed differently by a boss if the employee is apologetic or not *or* if they tried to inform the boss of the lateness as soon as possible.”

              Anyway, all that doesn’t excuse showing up at the home, but the boss may have legit reason to not be thrilled with LW’s behavior.

              1. DJ Abbott*

                “Dead against me” sounds like he’s been hostile towards her since her first offense. I’ve known people like this, and it’s very unreasonable. If they’re determined to be hostile no matter what, there’s nothing the other person can do. And of course, pounding on her door was completely unreasonable.
                A reasonable boss would handle this and himself much better. This man will continue to behave like this, and probably get worse.

        3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          The no show was for going to bank (why not clear?) on a day off. So its not like the person no showed twice to the actual work. If you have something with work on your regular day off, missing it might happen just because its outside the routine.

          OP was sick the second time so might have intended to call out but just kept sleeping because …. sick.

          Boss has decided that being human in this job is wrong and OP must be punished for being human.

          OP job hunt. Not softely, seriously and with dedication.

        4. Happy meal with extra happy*

          “probably” a jerk??? Wow, I wouldn’t want to work for you if you think there’s a scenario where the boss wouldn’t be a jerk by showing up unannounced at OP’s house and bangs on their front door.

          1. Seashell*

            Really, you can’t think of any scenario? If they thought their employee might be dead or seriously injured? If they’re friends outside of work and the boss was trying to help their friend get to work without being terribly late?

            You don’t have to worry about working for me, because I’m not anyone’s boss. Sorry for not insisting that someone is definitely a jerk when I’ve only got one side of the story.

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              Oh yeah, all of those possible scenarios could apply here. /s I’ve never read more implausible fanfic. We’re not talking about any possible scenario – we’re talking about this letter and facts as presented by OP, and we’re supposed to take letter writers at their word, so if you don’t feel comfortable saying here that what he did was act like a complete ass, why comment at all because you clearly don’t believe OP.

            2. Rincewind*

              There are VERY FEW situations where a boss belongs knocking on someone’s door. You’re close friends outside of work? That’s…not a great place to be, as a manager – that’s been covered in lots of letters. You’re worried about their health or safety? You call their emergency contact. If the emergency contact (rightly) goes “I have no idea, they’re 20 minutes late, maybe they overslept?” that’s as far as your responsibility as a manager goes. You do not go BANG ON THEIR DOOR.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      My thought on this was: it can’t have been that important that OP wasn’t at work that morning if the boss was also able to not be at work while he drove to OP’s house and glowered at OP for being late. From the letter it sounds like their work is customer facing (OP said they worked a closing shift sometimes), so who was covering things while boss was out glowering and why was it ok that the golf course was down two staff members during that time? Boss is not only a jerk but really tripping on his power to the point of not actually making sure work is getting done.

      Has he not heard of this newfangled device called a telephone? It allows you to communicate with someone in another location while you stay in your location, thus remaining at your post.

      OP, I too hope you are on your way to finding a new job with a decent boss, not this awful loony tune.

      1. RVA Cat*

        I have to wonder if next step for loony golf boss is to show up armed with a set of clubs and start smashing up their car….

      2. ferrina*

        This got me. When I have had staff no show, I have never thought the best action was to go to their house. My mind is on “how do I get the job done with one less person than was planned for?” After that, I deal with the discipline issue (what will I say to the person, is this something that needs additional action, etc). I’ve never been tempted to waste my time driving to their house so I can make a fool of myself to their neighbors. If the person is a good worker, they probably have a good reason why they no showed. If they aren’t a good worker, I don’t need to waste my time chasing them down- I’d rather spend that time finding staff that are good workers.

        The “go to their house after less than 20 minutes” mentality is someone who either 1) believes in punishment and humiliation as the most valid form of communication, or 2) someone who prioritizes drama above the work. Neither of these people are someone you want to work for.

    5. Pro-Shop Nonsense*

      It is likely that LW4’s job is to work the pro shop desk where golfers are checked in and charged for their games and carts. Her boss is likely the golf pro and his duties could very well not make him available to “cover” LW4’s job himself. If it is a popular course, mornings will be extremely busy, with start times for groups of players every 4-6 minutes. Generally at least two people are scheduled and her no-show would have left co-worker in the lurch. It is not an unskilled job and is customer-focused, and if LW4 happens to no-show, it could easily cause havoc. We don’t know the timeline though of when LW was supposed to show and when the boss came by her house. She sounds self-justified and should quit because undependable co-workers are the worst.

      All that said, her boss is out of line. I would bet they know each other socially.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        She sounds self-justified and should quit because undependable co-workers are the worst.

        All that said, her boss is out of line. I would bet they know each other socially.

        Are you saying she should quit because OP is an undependable coworker and is thus the worst? That’s not very charitable of you. And I’m not sure where you’re getting that her boss knows her socially, nor why that would be relevant. In any case, even if the boss wouldn’t normally cover OP’s job, it certainly seems like he would if the other CW were left in the lurch. Whatever other duties he performs can’t be so important that he could leave them to berate OP but not leave them to do actual necessary work.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I don’t think being late to work one time ever merits being labeled an undependable co-worker.

        1. Venus*

          OP was late twice, and it really depends on how often this happened (has the person been working there only a month or years?)
          Despite the bank meeting being on a day off, it’s still a meeting that presumably was meant to help OP, otherwise why would the boss care about them not showing up.

          1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

            What a leap! You don’t know why they met at the bank, but you’ve already invented that it was to “help OP”, whatever that means, and that therefore boss is justified in caring.

            It does not matter at all what the OP did or did not do. The BOSS is in the wrong here. His actions are totally OTT and frankly a bit scary. Stop making excuses for him.

        2. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Especially when the error occurs due to illness. It’s not like OP was having a wild night out and then was too hungover to call in.

      3. Ultimate Facepalm*

        I am really surprised at all the people who don’t think it’s a big deal to no-call / no-show multiple times. Boss is a jerk, but you call out beforehand when you are sick. Oversleeping – that happens sometimes. One time is a mistake but twice is a pattern. OP could have mitigated this a whole lot better.
        Probably time to job hunt because the relationship is damaged, the reputation is damaged, and the boss is out of line.

        1. Emma*

          I know. Of course a boss would never show up to my house, but I’m a provider in healthcare. I have patients to take care of and I need to get handoff so the night attending can go home. I can’t just not show up and not let anyone know. Obviously a golf course is not as high stakes, but in a coverage based job you can’t just not show up. I have never just casually forgotten to set my alarm or call off work if I’m sick.

      4. toolegittoresign*

        It’s a bit of a red flag for me for LW to say that working at a golf course is “supposed to be relaxing.”

        Working in any sort of customer service or hospitality is never going to be relaxing. It’s just not.

        Agreed that the boss is out of line and LW should look for other work, but also maybe consider if their expectations about work are a little unrealistic in the opposite direction.

      5. AngryOctopus*

        Wow. So your take is “Person doesn’t show up at busy time so coworkers are overwhelmed. Clearly the best solution is for the boss to go to the person’s house, pound on their door, and then berate them for being late.” That’s quite something.
        Normal people, in this situation, would 1-call the person. If they found the person was sick, they would find coverage 2-if the person didn’t answer, and didn’t show, they’d likely call them later, and think of what disciplinary action was warranted in this situation (overslept vs. sick vs. decided they didn’t feel like working that day). Said action would be discussed the next time the worker was on the schedule. At no point is it justifiable to show up at someone’s house. Especially not if they’re only 20′ late (which LW did state, so we do know basic timelines). How long did boss take to go to the house? Why was it justifiable to be ANOTHER person down at a busy time?

    6. Beth*

      I did notice that the LW states “I have never been late to work”, and then describes two work instances when they were late.

      “I was supposed to meet my boss at the bank one day out of work and overslept.” — might not have been at the office, but was still work.

      “Then, early one morning, I was about 20 minutes late for work” — was apparently still in bed 20 minutes after their shift started.

      Boss is a rectal opening, but the LW is weakening their case with the inconsistencies.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        Nope. The first time was an outside of work meeting, so it’s not inconsistent. And, while it could be poorly worded, I think it’s clear that OP means “I have never been late to work until this particular incident.”

        This is one of the letters where OP is damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If they don’t provide enough background, we get comments like “well, maybe this is a pattern for OP. Maybe OP is a no-call/no-show three times a month. Maybe OP has only shown up for work on time two times in their life.” But, because they do provide background (essentially, being late is not a pattern for them; prior to the incident in question, there was one outside of work time they missed, ever), commenters now feel the need to dissect and litigate.

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          If I miss a meeting with my boss outside of my usual work schedule, it’s still a pretty big deal! If it was at a bank and OP needed to be there, I’m guessing she needed to give a signature or something like that and her flaking meant it was a wasted appointment that needed to be rescheduled for the boss. He’s not a good guy, but she legitimately inconvenienced him, so his annoyance at her is justified to some small degree.

          I’m taking OP at her word that she was never late before this incident and has been late only this other time afterward. And it does depend how close these incidents are in time to gauge how much of an AH the boss truly is. But flaking once plus a no-call, no-show isn’t some small thing. And then the OP jumping to whether a person is acting illegally when they come to her door is quite an ask for Alison!

          The manager was out of line and inappropriate, full stop. But OP’s attitude and flippancy about her job isn’t a great look, IMO.

          1. Pescadero*

            If I miss a meeting with my boss outside of my usual work schedule, it’s still a pretty big deal – because it would amount to my boss asking me to do illegal work off the clock.

            Anytime there is a meeting – it IS work, and it needs to be paid, otherwise the employee SHOULDN’T be showing up.

            1. Butterfly Counter*

              Has OP said it’s unpaid? I haven’t seen, if so. But flaking because of oversleeping, which is what OP said happened in her post is not at all the same as telling your manager you cannot meet outside of paid hours. Or just not showing up, if that’s what happened.

              For me, I’m salary, so meeting outside of normal hours is not completely unheard of.

              Again, I have said that I think the manager is completely out of line. I can think that and also think that OP seems to be treating her job cavalierly and I would understand a manager who would be annoyed. Again, not to the point of banging on a door for being a no-show, but I generally understand the other behavior.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        Did you miss the bit about in bed with a fever? Sick people don’t always behave like they normally would, including in capacity to wake up to their alarm.

    7. Anne Shirley Blythe*

      Right. I wasn’t entirely clear on the situation and read the letter twice. If the LW still felt sick that morning, she shouldn’t have been planning to go to work in the first place. Especially if she was running a fever! Maybe there is no sick leave (wouldn’t surprise me), but her health is more important.

  8. Hannah*

    If you want to optimise your LinkedIn, list skills in the skills section where the algorithm can read them but it won’t look weird to people.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It sounds a little like the “objective” section we used to include on a resume.

      Alison’s posts have convinced this Elder GenX to take it out as old-fashioned, but I’d rather old-fashioned than easily misread.

      (“…Profiles or highlight sections have replaced objectives at the top of modern-day resumes.” -AAM)

  9. Stoli*

    Your job is a jerk. Be on time or call before your shift starts if you are late. Set two alarms.

    1. Lenora Rose*

      The OP was in bed with a fever. They should have called in, yes, but they also should not have gone to work at all. I’d even argue the boss calling to schedule someone else might have been a good thing if it was the horrified realization “my employee was not being unreliable, she’s physically suffering and I should have let her rest” instead of a punitive gesture.

  10. EA*

    OP1, even if she can’t/won’t stick to fixed shifts every week, there’s no reason you can’t have more visibility to her schedule and request it be set and shared farther in advance. For example, at a part-time job I had, we used a shared Google Calendar to schedule our shifts at least a month in advance. That way we knew when each person would be in, since many were students and had weird schedules. It worked fine for us for scheduling meetings or telling clients when each person would be working.

  11. An Honest Nudibranch*

    Out of curiosity: what *should* people put in their LinkedIn headlines when unemployed? (I assume OP5 was referring to adding a placeholder in LinkedIn’s employment section, which I agree would be weird. But at least with headlines, LinkedIn requires people to put something, and listing either a previous title or a goal title feels weirdly like lying).

    1. Adam*

      Unless you’re planning on dramatically changing your role, I would put your previous title. The way we talk about jobs, you’re still a software engineer or paralegal or primary school teacher or senior teapot optimizer even when you are currently employed in a job with that title.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Most people I know just leave their previous position “current” until they get a new job. You can always claim that you forgot to update the end date after you got laid off should someone question you about it, but it stretches credulity a lot more if you make up an entire position out of thin air.

      1. HRAnonForThisOne*

        This. This. This.

        Or if you are OK with updating your heading, just take out the company and tweak so it still makes sense.

        For Example:
        “Teapot Developer @ Llama Teapots, 10+ Years Experience in market research, teapots and tea” can easily have the Llama Teapots company name removed and no one will notice.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, submitting an actual resume with your previous position listed as current would be a lie. But there is no obligation to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and if it still has your last position listed as current then ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    3. bamcheeks*

      The current trend on LinkedIn headlines is to put something about what you do / your approach rather than job titles. So things like “Connecting businesses in the Northwest region” or “Making Communities Safer | Supporting Children to Grow” “Developing People to Create Tech Solutions”. I feel a little too cringe doing that, but I see them a lot and I do think they’re pretty effective. You could definitely have something that describes the kind of stuff you do even if you’re not actively in a role at the moment.

    4. Lily Potter*

      I’ve used a generic headline title when between jobs (“Teapot Design Professional”).

      I’ve seen others do gimmicky generic headlines (“Proven leader passionate about saving the world through teapot design in third world emerging democracies!!!!!!”). Please don’t be that person.

    5. Ella*

      Options include:
      The job title you just had
      The problem you solve (in areas where job titles are esoteric or vary a lot, like “I streamline blah blahs”)
      “Message me about xyz”

    6. Project Maniac-ger*

      If I took out my company, my headline would still make sense :

      She/her | Project Manager | University of Gotham, Batman School of Business MBA

      And swap out university for current area or leave it off if you’re not obnoxiously proud of your hard and expensive MBA like I am

  12. teapot community*

    LW3 – Like you I have ADHD and childhood trauma. I had a desk with a path of traffic behind in my late 30s and was assessed by an ergonomics specialist, and she said that the cause of my back pain was turning my neck every time someone walked behind me. So I just wanted you to know that this can have deleterious effects on your physical health over time, and you may not yet feel that because I suspect from your letter you are younger than I was, but it’s important to work out.

  13. Let's not taco about it*

    #2. I once accepted a role where I did not meet my immediate boss during the interview process. I was heavily recruited by a friend of a friend (not quite but gets the point across) who would end up being my grand boss. My soon to be manager was out on medical leave, however when she came back during my training (at another location) I requested a one on one before getting started. Just to get a feel for her expectations and what she was looking for in my new role. She said we could meet on my first day with her and during the meeting it was clear that she was upset I was hired without her input. It was downhill from there and I lasted a mere six months. There was a disconnect between what she envisioned and what her boss envisioned. I’d consider it a bullet well dodged by your son

    1. Awkwardness*

      Same with me. I was greeted the first morning with “I did not ask for an additional person to be on my team. Grandboss does have no idea about our daily business.”

      I cannot imagine to take a job where I did not meet the manager. If the manager is not ok with you being hired and at least neutral on a first impression, it can make your working life really complicated.

    2. Spacewoman Spiff*

      Yeah, agree that this was a good escape for LW’s son. I had one job where I didn’t meet my boss—his role was also being hired for while I interviewed, so I just met one teammate, who had just been hired. Our eventual boss was clearly never happy with either of the team members who’d been chosen for him, and laid us off a few years later so he could rehire our roles with slightly different titles. Never again!

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      I showed up on my first day to discover that no one, including the boss and grandboss, knew they were getting an additional person. The outgoing grandboss had requested an increase in head count before he quit, and HR just made the decision. One senior staff member was wonderful, saying “We really do need another person” but everyone else was (understandably) annoyed. The senior staff guy moved furniture around to make room for a folding table, and he got me set up and started training me, eventhough the boss and grandboss stormed out to HR to have them “undo the new hire.”

      The staff accepted me pretty quickly, mostly because the senior staff guy redistributed the work to lighten everyone’s load. Management, however, never got over someone being hired without their input. I started looking for a new job at the six month mark, and was able to leave at the nine month mark. I never did get an actual desk or a phone.

      1. Observer*

        That sounds like an incredibly dysfunctional workplace.

        How does HR hire someone into a role with absolutely zero input from *anyone* who has to deal with the position, including the person who would manage them?

        I’m so glad you were able to get out of there quickly.

      2. Industry Behemoth*

        Variation on no desk or phone: I was the last of four overflow workers hired in a department that had only three spare desks. Guess how Worker #3 found out the firm expected us to share.

        That person stayed only 3 months. I was covering absences most of that time, so practically it didn’t become much of a problem. I was more annoyed that while I had a phone extension, it was on the same physical phone as Worker 3’s. Because of that setup, I couldn’t even forward my extension to wherever I was physically sitting each day.

  14. Aardvark*

    #3 I also startle easily (though fortunately don’t scream, just visibly jump)

    Where possible I have moved my position so that my back is not to an entry way. Even side on helps. If your desk is not fixed to the cubicle walls this is easy. If it is fixed but an L-shape, try moving your computer to the side arm rather than be at the corner. It it is fixed and straight, then asking for a change may required. Also consider if the entry way could be restricted so people are always coming from one direction rather than either side behind you.

    (As an aside, the only time I have had a stand up argument with a boss was when I came in after a scheduled day off to find they’d changed the cubicle wall arrangement so that instead of having the main walkway go past my on the side, I was at a dead end where everyone would come up behind me to apprace me or my two colleagues. It was deliberate on my bosses part to do it on the one day I was out of the office as he didn’t like me. Fortunately, there were several other reasons why the new arrangement was worse that he couldn’t justify so managed to have it arranged back by lunch time.)
    Also, while I am sure some companies like cubicles because they can see your computer it isn’t the design intent. Having all the desk towards and inside spine or hub makes it easier and safer for routing the electrical and data cables. If you work from that expectation it might be easier to justify rearranging yourself without having to get formal permission.

    1. Massive Dynamic*

      There’s such a weird hierarchy in so many offices on who gets screen privacy and who doesn’t.

  15. r.*


    hiring well is one of the most important tasks a manager could have; not willing to meet with a new hire would therefore be a huge red flag in most circumstances.

    There are a number of exceptions to this, where meeting with the new hire really would not be reasonable, like when they’re on vacation or sick leave. But in those circumstances a well-run organization will have a second in command, and meeting with them instead would be an entirely reasonable second-best option.

    So yes, unless there’s a communication issue: Red flag.

  16. AnonHRForThisOne*


    Listen to Alison. I’ve done hiring for entry level all the way to C Suite and this on your LinkedIn profile would potentially generate “OMG this is a new one are you kidding” conversations (I’ve never actually seen this on any profile) but I can guarantee there wouldn’t be an opportunity for you to explain it to me. Your info wouldn’t be short listed for anyone to review.

  17. Sally*

    To LW2 – Can you try using a small mirror on your desk? I have seen many people do this at my workplace and it seems to help them.

  18. Juniper*

    Is your boss out of line? Well, yes. Are you also out of line? Also yes. There’s a bit of a lack of self-awareness running through your letter. A golf course job is still a job, despite how relaxing it might seem. The fact that your boss is also the owner tells me that he is particulary invested in you being a reliable employee, golf course or no.

    You also weren’t 20 minutes late to work — you were still sleeping at that point. Your boss shouldn’t have been banging down your door, but downplaying your lateness and how it affects him, both materially and personally, is not ok. My guess is also that he didn’t wait for you to show up to start calling for back-up coverage — he likely started that process when he realized you had been sleeping and/or sick and couldn’t reliably count on you showing up.

    1. Helvetica*

      Yeah, I think the boss was out of line in his behaviour but you starting with “Although I have never been late to work” and then providing examples when you were late, is a bit lacking in self-awareness. Since you were working late and sick, it would have been reasonable to ask the boss to come in later the next day.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I took that to mean they had never been late going into work prior to this occasion. Although I am deeply puzzled that the first oversleeping example has been dismissed as not counting because it was “out of work”. What kind of social occasion involves meeting your boss at the bank? If it was an off site appointment for a work purpose, OP was late to work. I still think it’s beyond unacceptable to go pound on the door at someone’s home, but yeah OP might reflect a bit on this ‘never late’ thing if they are oversleeping and no-showing.

      1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        I took that to mean they had been late to an unpaid work thing on their day off (because they’re “just” going to the bank). I may be applying my own biases here, though.
        Late is still late, but on balance I’d be Team LW in that scenario. If you’re not paying me and it’s on my time, I’ll get there when I get there.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I do think the question of whether it was paid time or just “by the way, I am hijacking your time off for a work task” is significant.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                I do agree. But I take “This is unpaid time I am demanding of you, and you’re only late” a lot less seriously than I would “You didn’t show up for paid time at all.”

          2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            Right, but was she paid for that time? I’ve certainly had bosses in the past who felt that scheduled work time was only for my primary duties, and that other work tasks could be done unpaid during my time off. It’s illegal, but it’s a common attitude, and in my younger years I tried to accommodate it sometimes.

        1. Liv*

          “If you’re not paying me and it’s on my time, I’ll get there when I get there.”

          That’s your prerogative I guess, but when you’re dealing with your boss it’s a great way to get yourself branded as obstreperous and unreliable.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I mentally flagged that as “something that the boss required them to do on a day they were otherwise not at work” and wondered if the LW was paid for that time or not.

    3. Michigander*

      Agreed! The boss is a jerk, but maybe you aren’t the world’s best employee? A job is a job and I’m not sure why working at a golf course should mean that you can be relaxed about things like showing up on time (even if you closed the night before). It’s probably time to find a new job, both because your boss shows up and bangs on your door when you’ve overslept and because this job clearly isn’t as relaxed as you’d like it to be.

    4. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I find it wild that because OP messed up by being late to work, people are justifying a boss going to that person’s house and banging on their door. That is terrifying! Some people would call the cops over that! And the fact that it happened 20 minutes after OP’s start time, that means that depending on how far OP loves from work, boss could have left after they were only ten minutes late.

      People are late to work. It’s not good, and if it’s often and affects things, there should be consequences. But, those consequences should never be a boss banging on your front door.

      1. I can read anything except the room*

        Maybe they’ve been removed, but I don’t see any comments justifying the boss’s behavior. The one you’re replying to starts with, “Is your boss out of line? Well, yes.” And later says again, “Your boss shouldn’t have been banging down your door.”

        The commentator is saying there’s room for both people to be in the wrong here. The boss is obviously way more wrong and the LW way less so, but less wrong is still wrong. That doesn’t mean anyone is justifying how the boss reacted.

        People are saying even with a good boss who doesn’t flip out, this would have likely been an issue, so don’t let the fact that this particular boss is such a jerk cause you to assume it would have been okay to be late without calling ahead if only the boss was more reasonable.

        1. Happy meal with extra happy*

          Nah, when the focus of so many comments are on “how the OP missed work” instead of how bonkers wild it is for a boss to show up banging on their front door, some justification of the boss is happening. OP never says or indicates that they don’t think they were in the wrong, but these comments act like OP thinks it’s perfectly fine to miss work on the regular.

          1. Boof*

            I think this exaggerates the normal flow of comment threads; no one said what the boss did was ok, but the particular comment nidus was that lw did seem to be underplaying no call no showing /late showing for at least two things too. So of course the comments focus on that until the inevitable “but how you say their boss’s bonkers behavior is justified??!” When no, it’s not and i’m pretty sure the prior commenters are taking that as a given unless otherwise stated (which it hasn’t been). Lw boss is aggressive and lw should get out; but if they do these things more than once a year or so they will probably keep getting in trouble at other jobs too, just hopefully more profession reactions

            1. Happy meal with extra happy*

              I’m literally in another comment thread now about how it’s possible that the boss was not a jerk and was justified. I realize that wasn’t fully up when you posted this, but the tone of multiple comments here are that OP’s a crap employee, and they brought this on themselves by no-showing at work once. (Someone else says that OP should quit because they’re an awful coworker.)

              All of these comments trying oh so helpfully to explain to OP why they suck for being late are completely missing the point of OP’s question which is, whether or not they were late, was the boss justified in what he did (“no”).

          2. Cookie Monster*

            This is a bizarre interpretation of these comments. I find these comments to be saying to truths at once: boss sucks but also maybe you’re viewing your own actions incorrectly. No one is justifying the boss’ behavior, not even implicitly. And plenty of these comments are in fact saying it’s NOT okay to miss work like this, whether or not your boss is a jerk.

          3. Peach Parfaits Pls*

            It’s because the boss being extremely wrong is both universally agreed with and not a rich discussion point because it’s not the boss who wrote in. People are discussing OP’s part because that’s who wrote in. No one here had given any indication that they think the boss was right or not a wild jerk.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        I don’t see anyone justifying the boss’s actions? I see some folks mentioning that the LW doesn’t sound like a model employee. The boss is still 100% a jerk, but it’s to the LW’s benefit for them to recognize issues so they can improve at their (hopefully soon to come!) next job.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Absolutely on it being helpful; I don’t think it’s mean to ask someone to think about their punctuality, but as an ADHD person it is ALL I think about sometimes! when you work for a jerk you don’t get stellar or believable feedback about the little stuff, but the little stuff will still matter once they’re away from the jerk. If something that may/may not be work/paid for and getting their door pounded down, that’s going to mess with their professional norms, even if they aren’t going to be a raging jerk themselves.

      3. Saturday*

        People aren’t justifying it – either because OP was late or for any other reason. I don’t understand why any comment that expresses any thoughts in addition to “boss is terrible” is taken as supporting the boss.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        One case was on a non-work day, and we don’t know if it was even paid time. The second time, the LW had a fever. We also don’t know if the two incidents were a few days or weeks or months apart. I would argue that if they happened within 2 weeks of one another, or there’s laxity at work because of the “this is a relaxing job” attitude, that’s a problem. If the LW works well when present and these were the only incidents for over 2 months of full time work, that’s not chronic or an issue.

        And either way, boss was indeed a jerk.

  19. Elle by the sea*

    #5 Terrible advice. Please don’t do it.

    I wonder how widespread this advice is because I have seen quite a few people do it. Things like company: Ever curious mind title: searching for my dream role as a chocolate teapot maker, or something along those lines. I cringe whenever I see it. Now I’m not a recruiter or a hiring manager, but I’m sure the vast majority of them would be put off by this gimmick.

    1. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

      I would question someone’s judgment if I were hiring for a position and this is what their LinkedIn says.

    2. RadioactiveCats*

      I *AM* a hiring manager and I agree with you. Lower tier recruiters may be influenced by this method, but my feeling is anyone lazy enough to go straight to the candidate’s “real” experience after the SEO chunk just because you were in that search result (and not immediately reject them as a weirdo)… isn’t working for a company I want to work for.

    3. Procedure Publisher*

      I’ve seen something similar. It is more like a placeholder for someone who is going back to school.

  20. ckee*

    I have a very strong startle reflex and it wasn’t until well into my adulthood that I accepted that it was (a) truly a reflex, and not my fault; (b) something for which I had the right to request reasonable consideration. The thing with a startle reflex is that people often act as if you are being DRAMATIC or ATTENTION-SEEKING (I’m sure there’s some misogyny inherent in that belief), when it’s actually enormously unpleasant and confers no benefit. In my case it may be related to ADHD, but it doesn’t seem to be helped by my ADHD meds, so identifying that factor hasn’t been terribly helpful.
    All of which is to say: please do ask for whatever accommodation you need, LW. It can only help you and will have the corollary benefit of creating smoother interactions with those around you.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I agree! Asking for accommodations is not asking for something extra special that no one else gets to have, it’s asking for you to get equipment that you need to do your job (or, in this case, exist in the workplace comfortably). Think of it like this: if your cubicle were in an very dark corner of the office, would you request a desk lamp so you could see what you’re doing or would you just continue squinting when trying to locate something in your desk drawers? No one* would think twice about you getting a desk lamp when they didn’t have one, especially if their desks were in a brighter location than yours.

      AAM suggests talking to your current manager and also whoever is in charge of the setup at your new location, and I second this! You don’t have to tell them anything your conditions that you think are the reason why you startle so much (all valid reasons, btw), you can just say, “I would love it if I could have my desk positioned in a way that I can see people as their approaching me so that I don’t get startled.” Any reasonable manager would be happy to help you figure out a good setup so you can work to your best ability AND not disturb your coworkers by your startle reflex. I get that having this conversation might seem like a difficult one for you but I’d bet that your manager won’t think twice about your request.

      Good luck, OP!

      * No good person, anyway; as an avid AAM reader of course I know that some terrible person could complain about it, but those people don’t get to rule the rest of us.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I meant to also say that it’s usually recommended that desks be situated so that you have your back to the wall and are looking at the entryway to their office/cubicle, for exactly the reason that you don’t want to be startled all the time. Even those of us with a less strong startle reflex as yours, OP, find this a better setup, so it’s not even that extra special of an accommodation, more of a common sense kind of thing.

    2. I can read anything except the room*

      Yes, it’s so frustrating the way we treat something like this as if it’s a deliberate choice! Like do some people really think other people are out here just getting their jollies by pretending to be startled?

      It really seems to belie a lack of empathy, to be unable to fathom that just because (the generic) “you” don’t get startled by cubicle visitors that nobody else could be.

  21. Justin*

    Desk positioning is key, it’s one thing I learned with my own neurodivergence, I don’t scream but I’ll lose focus worrying about when people are coming by.

  22. Kat*

    I’m similar to LW3.

    I’m easily startled, and when I get laser focused I get super laser focused. my back is to an aisle and when people come to talk to me they startle me out of my focus and I yell. unfortunately my instant reaction is to yell some swears. Thankfully everyone in my office is amazing and just laughs. I’ve sworn at our owner, our president, a couple of directors.. and thankfully they all laugh and don’t get upset. I’ve been better lately where I’ve been getting startled and not cursing but my gut instant reaction is to drop some not professional words.

  23. ecnaseener*

    #2: Ultimately the reason he wasn’t able to meet the manager doesn’t really matter (unless he might apply to other jobs at this institution in the future) — it’s very, very fair not to be willing to accept a job without any idea of what the manager’s like. Even if there was a totally valid, non-red-flaggy reason, he’d still be walking in blind on a major factor in job satisfaction. I wouldn’t sign up for that if I wasn’t desperate!

    1. takeachip*

      Agreed, especially since it sounds like the job would’ve required a relocation. The hiring process works both ways and a candidate not meeting a manager is a little like an employer hiring someone based solely on their application. There’s no way to know what your working life would really be like if you don’t interact with the person who would have the most direct impact over your working life.

  24. Workerbee*

    #1 If it helps, OP, think along these lines: How well the manipulative people have us trained, that we fear being called kindergarten names (catty, tattletale) over speaking up against unjust treatment, egregious behavior, detrimental treatment toward ourselves and external customers, and all the escalating etceteras they CHOOSE to enact and perform.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Well. And the misogyny. I can’t imagine OP would be using the word catty if the coworker were a man. It’s that “oh, you girls need to stop fighting over petty girl things that aren’t actually problems”.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Tacking on to this: The manager is male, and has a hands-off management style. It is possible that the ‘catty’ framing OP finds herself thinking in has rubbed off from him. As in, “This is just two females being catty–work it out amongst yourselves and stop bothering me with these petty details.”

  25. IT Manager*

    OP1 – adding to Alison’s current advice with additional advice from her prior columns …. After that initial conversation, make each instance of a problem into YOIR MANAGER’s problem.

    “Manager, do you know if Jane is in today, her client X is looking for her”

    “Manager, FYI I had to cover meeting Y because Jane didn’t come in, what should I do about task X that I had scheduled today?”

    “Manager, we are going to be short staffed at this event today because jane changed her schedule just now, how should we cover this?”

  26. Hyaline*

    #2–if this was at a public college, a couple things:

    They may have to keep the interview process the same for everyone for the sake of fairness and equity. If Boss couldn’t meet with all candidates, he’d have to meet with zero. This should change once there’s an offer made, but it’s possible that got lost in translation.

    Boss may truly have been unavailable. He could be on sabbatical, the department chair could be changing and hasn’t yet been confirmed, if it’s summer he could be managing a program abroad or doing research in the field…without more info, it’s potentially very reasonable that meeting the boss might not happen before hiring needs to be complete.

    The best advice may have been not “red flag run” but “ask why it’s not possible and who else in your working group/chain of command/department you could meet with.”

    1. r.*

      In any reasonably competently run company or organization every manager has a backup, and the transition of duties from manager to backup is such a standard process that it should be like second nature to people senior enough to conduct hiring.

      If you need prompting for this from a candidate, and can’t come up with “X, who would be your manager, is currently unavailable before your starting date, but we can set up a meeting with Y instead who is their backup when they’re gone” on your own you haven’t done your homework.

      If you’re involved in hiring, and you don’t have that info because there’s not enough information on your org structure, then someone else didn’t do their homework. I’d also be really curious on how you do onboarding then; isn’t providing the relevant reporting structure, which by necessity also includes stand-in arrangements for the competent manager, part of your standard onboarding package?

      The same goes for interrim or not-yet-confirmed management; if you need to run a disclipinary while the competent manager isn’t yet confirmed, would it be a problem to solve this issue? If it is no problem, then you can also easily make someone available to meet before; if no, then you got other problems.

      Likewise, the equity angle sounds like a company-problem, not a employee problem. A potential hiree using this as a proxy for whether you tend to try and push company-problems into employee-problems isn’t an entirely unknown interview strategy, even if the LW’s son in this case likely lacks the experience to employ it by themselves.

      The only way this isn’t at least a warning sign — but not necessarily one big enough for a red flag — is if the miscommunication was entirely on the hiree’s side; ie they communicated in a way that the other side interpreted it as wanting to meet the exact person and accepting no substitute.

      1. Hyaline*

        So I take it you’ve never worked in academia then? Seriously half of the blanket statements you made are not normal in academic departments.

        1. Pescadero*

          I work in Academia.

          It largely is not a “competently run company or organization”…and many of the issues with interviewing in academia ARE examples of organization problems being pushed on employee/interviewees.

          I agree with you that it’s the norm in academia. The norm is dysfunctional and unacceptable.

        2. Sara without an H*

          Yes, Academia is a completely different world. Some colleges & universities are, actually, quite competently run, but not like any for-profit organization, and not like most non-profits, either. Many hard-charging business executives have taken positions as university presidents and promptly gone SPLAT! because they did not understand this.

        3. r.*

          I have both worked in academia, and have consulted for some of the largest academic institutions (more than 5000 employees, more than 25000 students) in my country; some of the topics I consulted on, like business continuity planning, are directly relevant to the statements I made above.

          Curiously enough those run in a competent fashion would have been able to, overally, do all of the above. There are of course exceptions: I recall one instance where, at an otherwise decently run enough university, the recently hired head for a newly created research group was suddenly and without warning hospitalized, fell into a coma, and died, over a weekend; of course that one left a lot of balls and unanswered questions in the air.

          I also observe that some clients who did fail in some of those statements with regard to employee relations had no issue in meeting those standards where investor relations were concerned.

          There is nothing inherent in academia that’d preclude them to meet the required level of professionalism. The difference between academia and private sector are within how their power structures and processes work, not what capability they can or cannot exhibit.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            Yeah, especially as the job he was applying for was in-house tech stuff. Not working around the academics at all.

            I get why professors and deans can have . . . problematic work relationships and dynamics. Tenure is important on an academic integrity level, but creates problems in other areas of employment. I don’t get why non-academic staff at colleges and universities are allowed to engaged in this kind of nonsense.

      2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

        Would meeting with Y be at all helpful for a prospective hire? In my org, there’s backup for a manager if they’re out, but the extent of that is pretty limited (ie, they sign off on time cards). They’re not the person you’re going to be working with regularly, so you couldn’t check if there’s a personality conflict. And while they might be able to speak generally about the job, at least in my org they’d have no information about the day-to-day and only a little about the broader goals for the team.

        1. r.*

          That, too, is a signal you’re sending to a new employee.

          For example it calls into doubt the amount of cross-training you have, both at a managerial and at a individual contributor role level. Many organizations with a lack of cross-training at the managerial level also lack this at an IC level, so I’d not be surprised to lack that my work would be relatively siloed, and/or that professional development opportunities might be more limited than I’d have hoped.

          To some people it might also suggest that should they be able to work themselves into a critical role they’d arrive at a position with more effective bargaining power than they’d have expected. To other people it would suggest that they should avoid certain roles due to not accidentally getting their career stuck in a “too valuable to promote” position.

          LW’s son may not yet be sophisticated enough to understand everything what it might imply with what level of certainity, but yes, if I were your new hire that circumstance would provide useful insights to me.

      3. Nancy*

        The job was in academia, and at a small college. Completely different from for-profit company.

      4. LW*

        Letter WRiter here. Thanks for your comments. I’ve worked in higher ed myself for the better part of 30 years so I’ve seen all the weirdness and bureaucracy that you’re talking about, but I’ve never seen a situation where the supervisor was not a part of the job search and not able to meet the person the job was offered to. My son also asked if he could talk to other people who would be on his team, but they said no to that, too. It seems like even if it’s a common thing to do at this institution, that’s a sign that maybe it would be a frustrating place to work.

        1. Hyaline*

          Refusing to let him meet with anybody is just bizarre. I have seen searches where (because academic org charts and schedules are so weird) the boss wasn’t involved but plenty of other people the new hire would work with were.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Bizarre is the word for it.

            I have worked both in academia and out, and (with one exception – ore on that in a moment) was never part of a hiring process where the manager wasn’t one of the people who conducted the interview sometimes the only one). Depending on the job, I also had the opportunity to meet some coworkers.

            I would never advise anyone to take a job without meeting the person who will be managing them. How else can you find out if you have right chemistry with that person? Even in cases where you don’t work extremely closely with the manager on a day to day basis, that person’s personality and management style set the tone for the workplace in many ways. I’ve worked in a few places that were pretty toxic, and in every case where the workplace was toxic, the source was a toxic boss (or a toxic grandboss and a checked out boss).

            The one time in my life where I accepted a job without meeting my immediate manager turned out to be a disaster. In this case, Fergus, the hiring manager, woke up that morning with stomach flu, and coming to work was just not in the cards. I had flown in from another state for the interview, expenses paid by the organization I was interviewing with, and rescheduling would have meant flying me back out at a later date and paying my expenses a second time. Because of that, he deputized another person, Phoebe, to conduct the interview and made the final hiring decision with that person’s input.

            I must have made a good impression, because Phoebe recommended hiring me, and Fergus took her advice and offered me the job. I was not 100% comfortable accepting the job under those circumstances, but I was desperate at the time, so I said yes. Without going into all the gory details, my personality and work style did not mesh with Fergus’ personality and management style AT ALL. I was never really happy there, and he was a BIG part of why I wasn’t.

            Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, Phoebegave me a very different feeling about what it was going to be like to work there than what the reality turned out to be. Everything I learned about the workplace and the actual job was filtered through a person I was not going to work under, and that meant (again, through no fault of hers) that I ended up getting a very different and much more appealing view of the role than I would have gotten from Fergus.

            Would I have taken the job if I’d interviewed with Fergus? Possibly. I was pretty desperate at the time. I’m not sure he would have offered it to me, though. His impression of me might have been very different from Phoebe’s, and it’s quite possible that one or both of us would have sensed our incompatibility.

            Long story short, I would never again take a job without meeting my prospective boss first. It’s just too risky. As Alison always says, an interview isn’t just an opportunity for the interviewer to evaluate a candidate for the job; the candidate should also be evaluating whether the job is right for them. To me, the boss I will be reporting to is a very big part of that equation, too big a part to leave to chance.

        2. I Have RBF*

          Yeah, I’ve worked in both industry and academia, and not being allowed to meet anyone on the team you are being hired for would be a big red flag to me. As in “what kind of a shit show would I be walking into?” red flag if they refused to let me meet my boss and/or coworkers before I started.

          The only exception is when I was temping, and would be in for a day, a week, or something else really short term because they needed coverage. Then I was just a warm body with skills.

        3. Sara without an H*

          Letter Writer, my experience in higher ed has been similar to yours. In fact, during my own academic job interviews, I found myself talking, not just to team members, but to a lot of people the job wouldn’t necessarily interact with much. The pattern was always to over-interview, which is what I find so puzzling about your son’s experience.

          But you gave him the right advice — this would probably be a frustrating place to work.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah, I think the overall takeaway is if they’re saying “no you can’t talk to anyone you’ll actually work with” and not giving any kind of explanation why or refusing to give any kind of explanation, that’s a red flag. Them not offering isn’t necessarily. If you ask and they say it’s not possible there may well be a reasonable reason, and they should be reasonable enough to explain briefly. If they act horrified you even asked, that’s a yellow flag for sure.
      But also sounds like there was enough undesirable about this specific job that the person in the letter probably wanted to decline anyway. But for future situations, it’s a lot about context.

  27. Comma Queen*

    For LW2, is it possible the hiring manager was an open job that hasn’t been selected or finalized yet? If HR needed to get all open spots filled by a certain date to align with the school schedule, I could see doing the hiring for both in parallel, especially for an entry level position.

    1. Hyaline*

      And since academic leadership positions (department chairs etc) are frequently appointed rather than hired and can be revolving doors, it’s very possible the position is in flux parallel to this hiring process. Super normal to make those transitions over summer but also everything takes longer over summer in academia!

    2. YetAnotherAnalyst*

      Yeah, this is the scenario that came to mind for me. One of my coworkers was interviewed by my former boss but by the time the offer was made my boss had given notice; new coworker started the day after old boss had left, and we just didn’t have a manager at all for his first few weeks. And then we completely reorganized the team by the end of that month, so it was kind of a wild ride!

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      It would be very odd if they didn’t tell the applicant that though! Not only because they directly asked to meet their manager, but also because just in general I would want to know if my manager was also going to be new and therefore would not be able to show me the ropes and help me get settled in.

  28. Bond, Municipal Bond*

    #2- OP mentioned “a group of HR people”. That makes me think this was a cattle call. Places hiring for a surge period- especially in manufacturing or logistics will do this and, no, you’re not going to meet anyone. Big internet retailer with the smile/arrow logo is a typical example. You’ll participate in a cattle call and either be offered a job or not. You have zero leverage, your questions won’t really be answered, and you definitely will not meet any coworkers or leadership. You are there to effectively be a cog in a wheel. Nobody cares about your thoughts or feelings; you decide then and there to either work or walk. If you accept, at some point after training you’ll be put on a sort or pack line and be told: “see that lady with the walkie talkie? She’s the Area Manager. See that dude with the clipboard? He’s her Tier 3 (second-in-command). Do what they say and try not to draw their attention.”.

    1. Hyaline*

      I’m having a hard time figuring out what surge hiring a small college has, though. Typically low tier seasonal positions are held by students (orientation leaders, tour guides, etc) so while your point is a good one, it might not explain this guy’s situation.

      I’m also not sure how accurate his “bunch of HR people” is since a small college won’t have a “bunch” of them to begin with!

  29. mreasy*

    OP 3, I extremely relate to this. I have a major startle response and shriek whenever I am startled. It is absolutely fine to ask for a desk location without anyone to your back – or maybe at least with a wall on one side so you can’t be “hit from all angles” with startle stimuli. When I was reading your letter I was wondering if you have diagnosed anxiety and trauma, and there it is – our nervous systems learn to be hyper vigilant in those situations and it can take years / decades to loosen those responses. IANAL etc but from my own history I think I remember GAD being an ADA condition. You may not want to invoke your legal rights under ADA here being new (I think you should but I understand being anxious about it!) but a desk move seems like it would be a quite reasonable/easy accommodation. Good luck out there!

  30. Rosacolleti*

    #2 MASSIVE red flag, who wouldn’t want final say on a recruit for their team?
    We conducted a 3rd interview today for a senior role. They had time with all their prospective direct reports, all their equal numbers and of course who they report to, who they’d met with twice before. Admittedly she commented that she’d never had an experience like this for any role she’s gone for (hope she says yes!) but I honestly can’t imagine doing it any other way.

    1. Jackalope*

      As was mentioned above it depends a lot on the job. I’ve had at least one job where the supervisor and unit weren’t assigned until after training, which was a few months in (we did have a meet and greet with several managers not long after we started). It was an entry-level position for a very large employer and so they had a lot of new people. This doesn’t sound like the son’s situation if he was applying at a small community college, but it was perfectly reasonable in the job I described.

  31. I should really pick a name*

    Two things:
    You mention that your manager is insulated from the problems caused by your coworker’s inconsistent schedule.
    Stop insulating him.
    If your coworker showed up on Monday when she was needed Wed/Thu/Fri, contact your boss and ask if you’ll getting support because your coworker won’t be in.
    If clients are looking for her, direct them to your boss.

    Also, don’t accommodate her.
    If she’s not there the day of a photoshoot, don’t cancel it. She’s just not part of it.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Exactly. If she complains that she wasn’t in the photo, remind her that this was scheduled ages ago and she is the one who changed up her schedule at the last minute.

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes, I would have one conversation with the boss about the problems that are caused by the coworker’s schedule (less the fact that it isn’t fixed and more the fact that it isn’t shared and is often changed last-minute), but also make sure to direct future issues to him to deal with as much as possible. At a minimum send him an email every time something happens, as it sounds like he is frequently not there to deal with it in person.

  32. Productivity Pigeon*


    I’m also super easily startled! I don’t scream but I jump about 3 feet whenever someone startles me.

    I work in a hot desk environment so I generally try to choose a desk where I can have my back against the wall.

    I have ADHD but not any trauma or anything, so there isn’t really any pathology behind my startle reflex. It just is.

    So please don’t feel bad about asking to move your desk without giving a long explanation. Some people just startle easily so you don’t need to justify yourself.

    I hope it’s “just” your anxiety speaking but it makes me sad to think your boss might not be receptive to such a simple request.

    I’ve been lucky to work at places where that’s not even an issue. I wouldn’t have to ask, I’d just move the desk. I’m having a hard time thinking of a business reason to need to have the desk facing away.

  33. El l*

    OP5: Until we have fully automated the hiring process…I would be more worried about impressing humans rather than the algorithm. Cause you can’t impress both here. ignore.

  34. tired anon*

    I really feel for you, #3!

    I also have a huge startle reflex, and not just at work. I let out a very audible yelp and *jump*, if I’m holding anything I usually drop it, my heart races, and it’s generally very ridiculous. (No trauma or anything caused this, it’s just how I’m wired.)

    It was enough that at a job a few years back coworkers realized and would always message me before walking over to my cube so I wouldn’t get startled. When we moved offices I was put into a shared room with a few coworkers my desk was originally positioned opposite the door, so anyone who entered would be coming in directly behind me. When I asked my manager if I could please move to literally any other workstation in the room to avoid that, he laughed (nicely) and said he’d forgotten about that reflex, and yes of course I could, it made everyone’s life much easier if I wasn’t constantly shrieking.

  35. LuluMSW*

    LW2: An exaggerated startle reflex is a common effect of trauma. It’s part of your neurobiological wiring and (as you know) involuntary. It can also just be part of your unique biology — some babies are chill and some startle easier, from day one. I also have this sometimes amusing, sometimes distressing quirk. I encourage you to think of this as part of the normal human variation, and most of all, to ask for what you need. You deserve it.

    1. Productivity Pigeon*

      My mom used to say that she knocked on the incubator I was in (preemie born at 31 weeks) and I startled and since then, I’m super easily startled, haha!

  36. Anon but sympathetic*

    #3 Startle screamer — had a nesting fail so trying again.

    We could be twins. My startle response is so bad my husband has to announce he is entering a room so I don’t freak out. A friend once approached me from behind when I was out walking at lunchtime and touched my shoulder — luckily for them I’m not a black belt or I would have decked them. Like you I have anxiety disorder and long-standing trauma (and diagnosed PTSD because of it). Not diagnosing you, just relating my similar experience. The thing that has helped me is EMDR therapy (not ASMR or whatever they’re pushing on TikTok these days). Hope this is not giving medical advice — I’m just saying what is working for me. Sorry if this breaks any rules.

  37. Delta Delta*

    OP 1 – Perhaps clients could be directed to contact the manager when the coworker doesn’t show up and/or blows off appointments. If the manager is insulated from the issues, it’s time to un-insulate him and hear directly from outside voices about how this is a problem. I once worked with someone who frequently did this, and the boss got sort of deaf to internal complaints. but when an outside client with lots of money complained and took their business elsewhere, suddenly the boss cared.

  38. Carlie*

    #3, I feel you as well. I don’t startle too often, but when I do it’s a big one, with a scream and a jump and all. If the pushback from turning your desk around is your boss needing to see your screen when they walk by, do you think they might accept it if you get a mirror for the back of your cubicle that reflects it to the front? So what you have now, but in reverse. Sure, the text would be all backwards, but it would still be easy to tell if you are in a work page vs. amazon or whatever.

  39. Juicebox Hero*

    The word “catty” makes me think that LW 1 and problem coworker are women, because I’ve never heard a man called “catty” in my life. I’ll bet you a nickel that the male boss used it at some point because he doesn’t want to get involved with tedious GIRL stuff, even though it’s really a major problem that’s affecting his other employees and especially their clients.

    1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      Catty kind of describes a male co-worker I’m dealing with right now. But you’re right, it is rarely used for men.

    2. Gullible Vengeance Umpires*

      I honestly started to wonder if the LW worked at my last job. I managed the office staff except for one other person who caused problems/didn’t do their job and our shared boss would never get involved when we needed him to because he was a) conflict avoidant and b) wrote everything off as “girl problems” (since the rest of us were all women). No, sir, what you have is an underperforming employee.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      I’ve heard ‘catty’ applied to gay men. It’s often a cover for misogyny–just as most homophobia is a cover for misogyny.

  40. Generic Name*

    #3- I was in an abusive relationship and I had cptsd and anxiety as a result. I also used to have a big startle reflex. I spent a few years in therapy and am on anti-anxiety meds, and one thing I noticed as I healed is that my startle reflex is much reduced. I used to really jump when coworkers came up behind me at my desk, but I don’t anymore. I found a trauma-informed therapist on Karyl McBride’s website. She is a therapist and author who wrote a book about healing from abusive relationships. I also agree that asking to move your desk is a good idea.

  41. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    LW2: At the job I left recently, I was led to believe one of the two wonderful people I met during the interview process would be my day to day Manager, and a third nice enough person was going to be my overall “real” Manager. Much to my surprise, I found out on my second day in the position that my day to day Manager was going to be this random person I had never spoken with, and who was not part of the interview process! (Major red flag) By the end of my second week there, I knew this was not going to be workable in the long term, as this random third person was a nepotism hire, and an extremely poor fit for the position. I stuck it out four months before they did something which was so detrimental to the program, I could not ethically or in clear conscious remain employed with the company.

    Karma is sweet sometimes though. On my next to last day with the company, on a Zoom call with all the program participants (about 250 people, including day to day Manager), my “real” Boss (the head of the program for the company), passed on kudos for me on the great job I was doing from the CEO of the company, who had received them from the National Head of the Program! I wonder how they explained my leaving the company two days later – probably made up some BS about personal issues.

  42. MCMonkeybean*

    For LW1 I feel like the issue of not having fixed shifts is a separate issue from deciding last-minute she can just not show up to work things she has been told she needs to be there for like a photoshoot or major all-hands-on-deck event! That is wild to me! I assume your boss was at least aware of those two things if they were things they were also there for, and I am struggling to see how any manager could not think that was a huge issue!

    Though not having fixed shifts in a customer-serving role also sounds like an inherent problem for sure.

  43. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    I would like to gently suggest to LW3 that she has internalized some negative beliefs about her condition(s). Other people have work setups that allow them to get their work done without disruption, so it’s not “special privileges” for the LW to be able to do that also, especially not where the reason for having the setup they have is so that people can see what’s on her screen (like, why? is this a mistrusting your employees thing?) That’s such a nothing consideration versus her ability to do her job. Just because some of us don’t work well the same way the majority of people do doesn’t make us wrong. It’s ok to have what you need to work.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Yeah, I got a vibe of needing to prove how totally like everybody else they are, don’t need anything “special” here. LW3, you’re allowed to need things.

      I also wondered if the screen thing is just an assumption rather than something the boss has said. I don’t think that’s the reason cubes were designed that way, it’s more likely that the desk is easiest to attach to the cube wall and only after the fact did everyone realize they can see your computer screen. And micro managers love that.

      Also OP3, I wonder if the machine shop noise is actually part of the problem. Like because it’s so loud, you are already screening out all the noise to focus, so even if you hear someone coming up behind you, your brain is blocking it out. I wonder if you will find it different at your new desk.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      The way I explain this to my students is that it’s not special privileges to need something. I usually use my glasses as an example; I’m not getting an advantage over people with better eyesight by being allowed to use them, and they would be useless to people who don’t need them. Ask for what you need! You aren’t taking something away from someone else and you’ll be able to contribute more.

  44. RagingADHD*

    LW5: this is what your profile information is for. Your profile title should contain the target jobs, and your About section should contain your target industries, along with some narrative connecting your work or education history to those target jobs / industries and describe your skills (very much like a cover letter).

    Presumably, you will be actively applying for jobs, yes? You aren’t passively waiting to come up in recruiter searches. That would be silly. You’d only be passively waiting for searches if you are are already employed anyway.

    I recommend checking out Jessica Hernandez on Linkedin. She has a lot of posts and videos that are very helpful about using all the features and profile sections to best advantage. (She’s also selling a course, but her free information is very substantive and useful).

  45. nerdgal*

    My first job out of school was with a large corporation that hired many recent grades. They didn’t know who would be supervising whom until they got the specific acceptances and start dates. That said, they also had many workgroups and I met several supervisors during my interviews.

  46. Jo*

    #3 If you can’t change your desk position, what about adding a wireless motion chime so it alerts you when someone comes close? You can find them for $25 on Amazon or other places.

  47. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    I think LW1’s clients etc. all need an extra follow up email … a quick summary of the fact that they showed up, their appointment couldn’t be held because the worker wasn’t there, and then the process for rescheduling. With an acknowledgement that any normal consequence of missing that appointment will not be held against them, and a sincere apology about wasting their time. And a cc: to your coworker and to the manager.

  48. MTP*

    Re: #2 – Nobody is going to hold my organization (local government) up as a shining beacon of how to hire, because a lot of our practices are downright ridiculous, but it’s very common here for most of our public-facing positions to not meet your supervisor before you accept the position. There’s an interview panel that is generally interviewing for several positions for different locations, and they don’t determine who is going to be going to which location until after they’ve decided who to make offers to. The first contact most people have with their supervisor is often when they get an email discussing schedule. Like I said, I would never suggest that anyone adopt our practices, just wanted to say that it isn’t necessarily sinister, it could just be bureaucracy. Which could be a clue in and of itself.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Right, but would you explain that? Or would you just blow the new hire off and say “not gonna happen”?

  49. CC*

    #LW5: I’m a recruiter, you can just put your target position in your summary section and it’ll get caught by searches and look completely normal. Something like “Developer with 10 years of experiencing seeking a role as a senior software engineer” or whatever, and you can expand that out with some of your skills. I suspect what the instructor was talking about was if you run a “job title” search, where you are looking for candidates that specifically have or have had a job title in the past. The advice about the placeholder title wouldn’t help there, however, since (at least in my industry), if you’re running a job title search you need some very specific criteria and it’s unlikely that somebody without that past experience would qualify.

    Also, fwiw, I think folks tend to sweat LinkedIn stuff a bit more than it’s called for, LinkedIn is still kind of an area where folks vary wildly in how they use it/how much information they put on it, so I tend to not really blink an eye when something is odd, folks get bad advice pretty frequently. Just treat it as a resume you can be a bit longer on if you want and you’re fine, you’ll come up in searches.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      I felt bad for them that they paid someone for a LI workshop! Predators are everywhere. Glad they had the sense to check with Alison.

  50. LunaMurphy*

    #3 – I have a very similar startle reflex, to the point where some of my coworkers were afraid to approach me at all. When my back was to my cubicle opening, I had a small fisheye mirror, but it didn’t help much, because when my attention was focused on my computer screen, I wasn’t noticing the mirror either. I now have my desk perpendicular to my cubicle opening. My coworkers can still see my screen, so it’s clear I’m not trying to hide anything. I still get startled sometimes, but not nearly as frequently. Most of the time, I notice movement out of my peripheral vision. So if they aren’t willing to let your desk face outward, try asking for sideways placement.

  51. Caramel & Cheddar*

    LW 3: you said you’ve tried a (presumably flat) mirror but wish you had one of those fish-eye mirrors they have in pharmacies. I have the same problem you do with being startled and have a small fish-eye mirror meant for bicycles. It’s only about 3″ in diameter but the mirror part swivels in addition to being convex and it gives me a much bigger field of view than any regular mirror would.

    It helps but doesn’t totally solve being snuck up on, but I think as a fellow startled person you’re probably never going to find a solution to this. I’ve had desks positioned in a way where someone shouldn’t be able to sneak up on me, but I get so engrossed in my work that they could be standing in front of my face and I still wouldn’t notice.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      My neighbor came out onto the porch the other day while I was sitting there engaged in conversation with another friend, we both greeted her by name, and about 10 seconds later she startled because she didn’t know we were there.
      I know it’s her wiring, but basically I just have to wait for the startle every time I see her.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      10+ years ago I had a colleague with a fish-eye mirror on her cubicle, not as big as the kind at the bank but probably 6″? Nobody blinked at it. Some people when they saw it for the first time remarked outloud “oh cool, good idea” and then moved on. Unless there’s reason to suspect this wouldn’t fly in OP’s office, they could also just…do it if they think it’ll help.
      I don’t disagree with the advice about repositioning the desk, but when they mentioned wanting one of those my knee-jerk response is: get one!

    3. JustaTech*

      This is my experience as a serious startle shriek-er, but moving to a non-cube open office actually helped with the “people accidentally sneaking up on me” thing. Mostly it’s because without the cube walls I would notice (consciously or sub-consciously) people coming down the room when they were farther away, so that by the time they got to my desk I was aware of their presence. Which really helped with the startling.

      The down side, of course, is that I was aware of everyone who walked past, to the detriment of my concentration. (Except that we’ve lost so many people that there aren’t that many people walking by anymore anyway.)

      (I will also startle shriek at loud noises, even ones I know are coming, like when we had to do some drop testing. My coworkers thought this was hilarious and one recorded it for posterity and sent me a copy. And it is funny! *bang* *shriek* “Right, that was 63cm, let’s reset to 67cm.” *bang* *shriek*)

  52. Czhorat*

    The advice to LW5 is somethign we see SO much of around here – “clever” shortcuts to get some real or perceived advantage in the difficult and often opaque process or seeking a job.

    The bottom line at the end of the day is that there are no shortcuts, there are no cheat codes, there is no “one weird trick”. You need to follow application process like everyone else does, you need to honestly record your work and education history. Research the field you’re seeking, research average pay, make reasonable requests.

    Don’t try to be “clever” or outsmart the system; you’ll at best waste your effort and at best make yourself look either dishonest, unfamiliar with professional norms, or just odd.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      100% this.

      There are too many people out there trying to be influencers and sell “this one clever trick” and use FOMO to make people think that if they don’t use this, they will be left in the dust. But very few of them are actually trying to teach you how to be a great employee and do a good job. They only want your eyeballs because those equal ad revenue. This is a feature, not a bug, of capitalism. It doesn’t matter what you are selling, as long as you make a hefty profit from it.

    2. bamcheeks*

      This sounds Common Sense, but the thing is that for many people dealing with an opaque system, many things are NOT common sense, and things like “follow the application process, research the field you’re seeking, make reasonable requests” ARE mysterious cheat codes. Not everyone knows that! It’s a revelation to some people to hear that you can tailor the Profile section or Skills section of your CV so it matches up with the Person Specification or job ad say they are looking for. I have met plenty of people who believe that the point of a job search is to perfect your CV layout and then never change it again.

      Similarly, if you’re in the kind of sector where recruiters contact you on LinkedIn (and you want that to happen), you are at the mercy of an algorithm. Yes, once the recruiter looks at your page, it’s got to look good to a human. But for the recruiter to see your page, it helps to come reasonably high in their search results, and that means that a certain amount of algorithm-friendliness is necessary. Updating, commenting and posting on LinkedIn all help your search results, as does filling in the Skills sections and getting Recommendations. That’s not “trying to outsmart the system”, it’s recognising how LinkedIn works.

      1. Czhorat*

        It absolutely is.

        But things like setting up decoy jobs, getting the phone numbers of random people in the company, or other clever tricks are ways to circumvent the process and aren’t likely to actually help.

        “Fill in your LinkedIn completely with relevant skills and positions” is solid advice; “make up imaginary stuff to add to your LinkedIn to fool the algorithm” is not.

    3. Pescadero*

      The bottom line at the end of the day is that there are no shortcuts, there are no cheat codes, there is no “one weird trick” for normal people.

      Related to the CEO? Famous? Etc? Then there are shortcuts, cheat codes, etc.

  53. jaques*

    LW3 – This is a minor part of your letter, but I wanted to note that accommodations are not “special privileges”. I work in this area and lots of people feel stigma and shame around needing accommodations and feeling like people will think that they’re gaming the system by requesting some. That’s not true! Accommodations are meant to give you equal access to your peers. Your peers are not getting startled to the point of screaming at work, and you should not have to be experiencing that either! As Allison said, this is such a small request that I doubt you will need to explore the accommodations process, but I would like to continue working toward destigmatization of needing to request an accommodation. Best of luck to you!

  54. Littorally*

    #4 – There are quite a lot of crappy things people can do that aren’t — and should not be! — illegal, because the law is a hammer, not a scalpel.

    Your manager needs to calm the hell down. Showing up and pounding down your door is a huge overreaction. However, unless you have a restraining order against your manager, knocking on your door is not a crime, even if it’s loud and scary. Demanding you come into work is also rude, but short of it running into some kind of existing issue (such as FMLA or other legally-protected leave) it’s also not illegal. And trying to call someone to cover your shift after you’ve already shown up is just weird, but I can’t see how it would possibly be in contravention of a law. Was your manager trying to send you home? If you were sick, why wouldn’t you go home and just let him bring in someone to cover?

    It’s also worth noting that you demonstrated two instances of unreliability in a short time, and the way you talk about your job really doesn’t come across like you take it all that seriously. Jobs can be low-stress, but “relaxing” isn’t generally high on the priority ladder for working conditions.

    Overall? From the sound of it, your boss needs to take several chill pills and you need to tighten up your reliability.

  55. MarissaW*

    Haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if this has already been said, but for LW 3 if there is a company policy stating that desks need to be the way they are so that your computer screens are visible I would ask to turn my desk but offer to have my mirror (or a larger one if needed) placed behind the desk so that the computer screen is still visible.

  56. Circuses are Coordinated*

    LW #5 – I would not list an ideal position and company as your ‘current’ role but there is an option on LinkedIn to assign your current company as ‘Seeking New Opportunities at (name) industry.’ Then you can give a brief summation of roles you are looking for. You can find this by searching industry names. These ‘Seeking Opportunities’ companies are listed on LinkedIn.

    This may be very industry specific but I am working with a consultant to pivot my career after relocating with a spouse and being out of the workforce a few months. (And it’s obvious I’m not with my former company anymore.) This listing yourself at ‘Seeking’ was the first step recommended. The reason given is that when recruiters / hiring teams are searching for people they look for those with current roles as otherwise there are many retired people caught in the search and they don’t want to wade through them. I will say I have had twice the amount of recruiters reaching out since doing this then before.

  57. Big BaDaBoom*

    So sympathetic to the startle response person. I am like that at home, constantly screaming when I encounter my husband just existing in a part of the house I didn’t think he was in. It’s a running gag in our friend group how screamy I am. But I have yet to do it at work and I am super grateful for that.

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      Same! I completely zone out when I’m in a groove on something and my partner is not a noisy walker. I jump and make a yelp every time they appear in a spot I’m not expecting them to be.

      1. JustaTech*

        I have shrieked at:
        My husband intentionally sneaking up on me (we had a chat about that)
        My husband intentionally *not* sneaking up on me
        The cat
        The baby
        My dress form
        A dress I had just hung up on the dresser 15 seconds before.

  58. Anne Shirley Blythe*

    LW3, do you have a desk phone or a work cell phone? Can you ask your coworkers to call or text you before they come over?

  59. Cat Woman*

    LW3 – My Exaggerated Startle Reflex manifests itself in a gasp, a huge physical jump, and the extra added attraction of bursting into tears. Usually after witnessing this, most people go out of their way to avoid causing a second startle. Don’t be embarrassed over something you physically cannot control. My best suggestion is to just talk to your manager and explain the situation.

  60. Echo*

    Have any consulting firms gotten around the problem in #2? When someone applies to be a junior analyst at my company (not one of the Big Three or Deloitte), they get interviewed by HR and at least one consultant, but they don’t get matched to a consultant until after we onboard them and assess their skills and interests against the needs of newly launching projects. There’s no relationship between whether I interview a junior analyst candidate and whether they end up reporting to me on a project. It’s frustrating for me, since I want to play more of a role in shaping my team, and for the analysts, who want to know if they’re going to work well with the person who is effectively their boss. I feel like there are so many firms with this model that surely someone’s figured it out…right?

    1. Pescadero*


      Consulting as a whole is maybe the most dysfunctional, weird business I’ve ever been exposed to. It makes academia look logical.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Same issues as when you’re hiring people right out of college in bulk, which is a similar (sometimes overlapping) situation.

      There’s a long lead time, there’s a cohort of people all starting around the same time. If you just explain that to candidates/finalists they will probably get it.

    3. JustaTech*

      I know that Facebook used to hire this way for most positions – you’d interview with an array of people for your type of position, but you’d be hired to a pool where you’d essentially do rotations to pick your specific team.
      Very senior people and people with *extremely* specific skills might get sent to one team right away, rather than doing the pool thing.

      So you wouldn’t interview with your team before you started at the company, but you would interview with a team (and manager) before you started working with them specifically.

  61. Lizzo*

    LW4: If your work environment is such that you feel you have to go to work when you have a fever…!!!!

    Time to find a new job!

  62. Melon Merengue*

    #3: I’m a startle screamer too. Thanks anxiety! Is it an option to tape a sign to the back of your chair that instructs people to call your name or something else that wouldn’t be so abrupt? I often do this when I’m in zoom meetings because people will come up behind me trying to talk, not realizing I’m in a meeting.

  63. Zarniwoop*

    “I already have a little mirror at my desk that shows the opening behind me (although I wish I could install one of those fisheye shoplifter mirrors you find at pharmacies).”
    Any reason you couldn’t? Doesn’t have to be full size, I’ve seen little ones attached to car mirrors.

  64. Kaitydid*

    For the easily startled writer – moving your desk if possible is a great idea. I have a deaf ear and having people approach from that side constantly because that’s where the cubicle “door” was made me so jumpy. In my case I needed my good ear pointed toward the door, but maybe being able to see it would be helpful?

  65. Jess*

    LW1- I feel like your org must be where my old supervisor landed up.

    The first couple of weeks I worked under her, I covered for her missed appointments as a way to be a good team member. That didn’t last long. She literally didn’t care about anyone else’s time or her commitments, and that was the culture from the ED on down in that dept.

    i noped out with the quickness.

  66. KWu*

    LW3: I think someone else also made this comment, but any chance your coworkers could call, text, or Slack/email you before they come over needing something?

  67. blood orange*

    OP #3 – I also startle easily, especially at work. For me it’s partly that I am easily startled generally, but at work it’s also because I laser focus on what I’m doing. It’s not intentional, and I don’t realize it until my focus is broken.

    I’ve found it’s helpful if coworkers message me before they come over, and wait for a reply if possible. Not always possible, of course, but it usually is, and this helps both with the startling issue and with productivity (I’m often bugged while in the middle of a task that requires focus).

  68. Sometimes Commenter*

    #3. A lot of people don’t like having their backs to their entryway, so don’t feel bad about it. But a former coworker of mine had a set of small chimes hanging outside her office and asked folks to ring the chime before entering so as to not startle her. Maybe you can do something like that.

  69. sometimessure-footed*

    LW3, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you can request to have a desk positioned so that your back faces the wall. This type of reasonable accommodation is pretty common among folks with PTSD or GAD. I myself had this request put in place for similar reasons. I encourage you to explore suggestions for accommodations from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

    1. Productivity Pigeon*

      To me, it sounds bonkers that you’d need a special accommodation for something as simple as turning your desk around. It makes me sad.

      1. sometimessure-footed*

        Totally! Believe it or not, I had a manager (in a department at a university) who refused to honor my reasonable accommodation request, even when the university’s ADA accommodation office was formally involved. One of his reasons was, “I like to turn around and see your screen, but I’m not a nosy person.” He delayed completing the accommodation for months until the pandemic started. Basically, he was a very controlling person. I eventually left that job for a better-paying one about two years later and I’ve had a private office ever since.

        1. Productivity Pigeon*

          I really hope she doesn’t!

          I startle very easily too (though not from trauma, I was just born that way) so I totally understand the problem and I hope things work out for her. I hope we get an update.

  70. Donn*

    LW 2: I work in legal, and have heard of instances where legal assistant interviewees weren’t allowed to meet their (usually multiple) bosses. Because the attorneys were monsters..

    I also heard a recruiter say a few years ago that she had trouble finding candidates. People were convinced that if a vacancy wasn’t due to a life change like retirement or family caregiving, then the attorneys must be monsters.

  71. Ladycrim*

    I’m struck by the fact that LW4 was sick with a fever and there still seemed to be no question that they had to go to work. What’s calling in sick like with this jerk in charge?

  72. Romance Peddler*

    Re: the startled screamer, I have a similar situation and condition. My cube is the last but around a corner, so I never see or even sometimes hear anyone coming. After screeching a few times, I put up a cute sign that said “Easily startled Romance Peddler – Please announce your arrival” with a picture of my cat looking vaguely terrified. People laugh and I haven’t screamed since.

    1. Thinking*

      Personal experience, not diagnosing. My startle reflex is always large. I have weak adrenal glands.
      Not I need meds weak, but I must do the things that strengthen my adrenals, in my case supplements and enough sleep. When my startle reflex becomes huge, I know I’ve been neglecting these. I’ve known several other people with an outsize startle reflex and they also have weak adrenals.
      People like Ellen Degeneres, who love “scaring” people who startle easily have no idea that they may be harming those people. Grr.

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