telling a coworker “that’s none of your business,” my team is mocking a coworker’s virginity, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. My coworker asks questions that are none of her business

I have a coworker who frequently asks me questions that aren’t a big deal but aren’t any of her business either. We’re on the same team, have equal responsibilities, and report to the same manager, but I get the sense from the questions she’s trying to position herself as higher up than me. Most recent example: I sent out an email informing the team of a change to my hours and she chatted me to ask, “Did [Boss] approve your schedule change?” I’ve started to reply “Why do you ask?” to these requests but almost always get a “just checking” or similar non-response.

It feels aggressive to answer such a simple question with, like, “Unless it affects you, I’d prefer to keep conversations about my schedule between me and Boss” when I could easily say “Yup, Boss approved” but it’s starting to really grate on me when she does this, especially since it happens multiple times a day. Is there a polite way to say, “Actually it’s not your responsibility to worry about that!” or should I just deal with my annoyance and answer her questions?

“Why do you ask?” is a good response — and when she responds with “just checking,” you can reply with, “I’ve got it covered.” Or skip the “why do you ask?” and go straight to “I’ve got it covered” or “Oh, I don’t need any help with that” or “I’m handling that with Boss” or anything else that declines to offer up info she’s not entitled to.

At some point it might also make sense to address the pattern by saying something like, “You’ve been asking me a lot of questions lately that I only expect from Boss — things like X and Y. Those aren’t things I’d normally report to a peer on, so I wondered why you’ve been asking.” And then if she says she’s “just checking,” you could say, “Yes, but why are you checking on those things when we are peers?”

2. My team is mocking a coworker’s virginity

A few months ago, one of my coworkers somehow found a video of another coworker (Bill) giving a religious testimonial for his church. In the video he speaks about why he is saving himself for marriage and why the church is against premarital sex. Bill never brings up his church or religion at work and I didn’t even know he was religious.

My coworkers have been relentlessly mocking Bill over the video. No one has done it directly in front of him that I know of but it’s prevalent enough that he is aware of the mocking and laughter going on. He hasn’t said anything but I can tell he is crushed. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, but ever since this started he is not his usual happy-go-lucky self. I tell people to stop if they do it in front of me, but then I get told it’s just some fun or to lighten up. Is there anything I can do to get people to stop? I feel awful about this.

Are your coworkers children? This is ridiculous — mean-spirited, immature, and generally horrible. Bill’s sexual choices are none of their business.

It also qualifies as religious harassment, which your employer has a legal obligation to put a stop to. So the most effective step would be to report to your company that your coworkers are creating a hostile workplace toward Bill because of his religious beliefs. You have the standing to do that yourself since you’re being exposed to it as well; the complaint doesn’t need to come from Bill. (Although even if you weren’t being exposed to it and just heard about it secondhand, you’d still have standing to report it, simply as someone who doesn’t want religious harassment occurring in your workplace and who assumes your company would want to be aware, since they’ll have legal liability if they don’t intervene.)

Your coworkers suck.

3. Can I apply for another job in the company a few weeks after being hired?

I started a new position last month at a large organization. I took the position as a foot in the door, as it’s extremely difficult to get an offer as an external candidate. I know this position isn’t long-term for me. This week, the organization posted *the perfect* position for me. If it weren’t for my integrity, the sick feeling in my stomach that I’m letting someone down, and my fear of establishing a reputation as a job-hopper, I’d apply in a heartbeat. There is a culture in this organization for gaining education and experience and moving into other positions, though. How inappropriate is it to inquire, apply, and/or accept a different position when you’ve only been with the organization for a few weeks?

This is the problem with taking a job just to get your foot in the door: you really need to stay in it for a while before you can try to move out of it. Not necessarily years, but in most cases an absolute minimum of six months (and in a lot organizations, closer to a year). Applying for a different job a few weeks after starting is highly likely to alarm your manager — they’ll have cut loose their other candidates and invested time and energy in training you, and you’ll come across as oblivious to that, as well as not particularly interested in staying. (To be clear, there’s always a risk someone could leave for a different job soon after starting — but by applying internally, you’re signaling that you think the company wouldn’t care and they generally will.)

Some organizations have formal policies about how long you need to be in a job before you can apply for a different position there, but either way it’s likely to go over really poorly with your manager.

There are some exceptions to this, like if your skills happen to perfectly meet a need they have and which they won’t be able to easily meet otherwise — in other words, if there would be a significant benefit to them, not just to you — but that’s the exception to the rule.

4. What’s with candidates not bringing anything to take notes on?

I’ve been interviewing new grad and intern candidates for my team for the past several years. During the height of the pandemic we transitioned to virtual interviews and it worked well. As we’ve returned to in-person interviews, I’ve seen more and more early career candidates than before the pandemic show up with nothing but the clothes on their back and a smile.

Nothing to write on or with, no copies of their resume. I am someone who hasn’t touched a piece of paper in years (I take all my notes electronically on a laptop or tablet) and so it’s not the pen/paper aspect that’s so weird to me, it’s the empty-handedness.

To be clear, it’s only happened a handful of times, it’s not a deal-breaker, and I don’t want to generalize about a generation that is a) younger and still learning professional norms and b) significantly impacted as a whole by the pandemic in professional growth opportunities and availability of mentorship.

I was reflecting on why it bothered me so much and I realized that so long as they bring something, I don’t really notice or care if they take their own notes. I always have a PDF of their resume and so I don’t even need them to bring that. I wonder if I’m overreacting or adhering to professional norms for tradition’s sake, which is not how I want to operate. Is there a good, logical reason for this expectation that I’m not thinking of? Should I care about this at all?

If so, is it appropriate to give that feedback to candidates that we end up passing on for other reasons? Obviously if we end up hiring them, we teach them to be ready to take notes in all meetings as it’s an expectation in our firm/industry.

It’s mostly inexperience — but I see some experienced candidates do this too, not just younger ones, so it’s not entirely inexperience. (For the older ones, I suspect it’s just that no one has ever told them to do it differently. Not everyone is exposed to the same job-search advice, and if you haven’t been on the interviewer side of the table and haven’t delved much into interviewing advice, you wouldn’t necessarily think of it. Yes, at some point in your career you’d think you’d pick up this kind of preparation for any business meeting, but clearly some people don’t.) I think you’re probably reading more into it than is really there.

I wouldn’t include it as feedback to candidates you reject; if you do, it’s going to make people think it was part of your reason for rejecting them, even though you’d intend it as a separate tip.

5. Using complete sentences on a resume

I recently completely rewrote my CV. I showed it to a few people and they are divided. I write mine in complete sentences, so the word “I” appears a lot (as the CV is indeed about me). For example: “I led a cross-functional project to identify, cluster, and describe visitors to Lucious Llamas Ltd. The resulting campaign delivered a 41% reduction in cost per llama groomed.”

My daughter (who works in HR in Australia — I live in the UK) HATES the use of the pronoun, and thinks it should read “led a cross-functional project…” but I can’t bear that — it feels like an incomplete sentence to me.

I realize that styles will differ between countries. I also realize that it is unlikely someone would read that CV and think “how dare she use ‘I’ throughout — I shall discard this resume at once.” But still, I’m curious to know what your feelings are.

I can’t speak to UK or Australian resume conventions at all — for all I know you print them on purple paper in 16 point font and everyone loves it — but in the U.S., your daughter’s advice is the correct way. And by “correct,” I just mean the standard convention.

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