should I correct a service person’s grammar, flower arranging as staff appreciation, and more — Ask a Manager

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

1. Should I correct a service person’s grammar?

Our family held a special event, and the staff at the venue were excellent, all very helpful and competent, they know their jobs well and I have nothing but good to say about the event. However, during the process of making arrangements via email, the young lady who was my contact person needed my credit card for a deposit and for a couple of payments. Each time, she sent me an email saying, “I have ran your credit card.” In the same way that a woman would subtly tell another woman that she has lipstick on her teeth, I would like to gently tell her that “have” and “ran” do not go together. I want to see this event planner be her best. Is there a best way to do that? Or do I let it go?

Let it go! It’s not your job to correct other people’s grammar; you’re not her teacher or her parent (and she’s not a child). I appreciate that you’re coming from “I want to help her fix something she would want to fix if she knew” but it’s an overstep. It doesn’t rise to the level of requiring correction from a stranger.

2. Flower-arranging as a staff appreciation event

This week the company I work for hosted a flower-arranging workshop as part of staff appreciation week (all our support staff is female). This was held in-person, and remote workers had the opportunity to participate virtually (the firm would arrange to have the flowers delivered to your home).

It all sounds nice, right? But why does this feel icky to me? It just seems so gender-specific. Am I too sensitive, or is this problematic. (For the record, I work remotely and declined to participate — this is just not something I’d enjoy, period.)

I think you’re reacting to the fact that flower-arranging feels gender-coded and your group is mostly women. Would you really see a flower-arranging workshop offered to a group of men? Plus it plays into “women’s job is to decorate and make the world more beautiful” tropes.

If a lot of people on your team were enthusiastic about it, I don’t feel super strongly about it . But if most people’s response was “this feels random and out of the blue, and none of us care about arranging flowers,” it comes across as your company just seeing you as Ladies and not as People.

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3. Who are big corporate meetings really for?

I work for a large international company and it’s my first office job outside of college. I mostly like it. The pay isn’t amazing but there are other benefits, a decent culture, and work that actually interests me. The one thing I don’t like is a two-hour mandatory staff general meeting where several thousand of us sit on uncomfortable chairs and are told how great a place to work this is.

Does anyone actually like these? I’m happy to know about the company’s successes, and even things that need to be improved on. I’m happy to learn about long-term strategy, and what projects are coming down the pipeline. But I’d much rather read a summary than sit in a crowd in an uncomfortable chair, all the while thinking about how much work I have to catch up on. It doesn’t help that for two areas in the business, mine being one of them, we’re in a particularly stressful period of trying to deliver a huge project on a constrained time frame. So losing two hours to what feels like an exercise in corporate fluff is a bit of a tough pill to swallow.

I struggle with the forced fun of it all, and I imagine most people do too. Everything is talking about how we need to get involved, join the fun, etc. They even hired a regionally relevent somewhat well known comedian for it. I just don’t know who this is for — is it exclusively for the high level CEOs? Do they just want to stand on a stage with a celebrity?

Some people like these. Most people don’t. They typically happen because high-level execs and the people who plan these meetings have lost touch with what actually resonates with and will feel relevant to the people working for them. It makes them feel good about themselves and the company they’re leading when they imagine running down the aisle to AC/DC and getting people all pumped up. Plus, they’ve seen other companies do them and so now it is The Way We Do Things.Plus, they’ve seen other companies do them and so now it is The Way We Do Things.

But the reason they don’t email out a summary instead is that tons of people won’t read written materials. If you want to make sure everyone actually hears something, sometimes the only way to do it is a meeting. A long, boring meeting that could have been an email — but it would have been an email half the recipients didn’t read.

4. Should I not bring up with interviewers why I left my last job?

Last fall, I resigned from my job without another position lined up. I’d completed a major project and felt good about closing this chapter, but also wasn’t really happy with the way my role was shaping up after many re-orgs, didn’t feel like I fit in with the broader culture of the office, had concerns about my supervisor’s integrity, and (the final straw) had some family medical issues come up. This wasn’t a role I wanted to return to after time off, so I’ve used the break to spend time with family and recalibrate what I want in my next position. I left the office on good terms and am still in touch with people from the office.

Now that I’m interviewing, either as part of “tell me about yourself” or elsewhere in responding to questions, I’ve raised this work gap myself. I typically say something like, “I made the decision to leave Organization due to timing: I’d finished setting the groundwork for Project, and some family medical issues arose. I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to spend some time thinking about what I’d like in my next position,” and then explain how this role meets those needs. At least once the interviewer appeared surprised when I said this.

However, now I’m wondering: Should I not bring up that I left my last job? Should I wait for them to ask about it? It’s very clear on my resume that the job ended in November 2023. Part of me feels like I’m being proactive so the interviewer can’t assume I was fired or let go if I own the story myself. Am I hurting myself?

I don’t see why that would be hurting you; that’s a pretty unremarkable thing to bring up. That said, I think the responses you’ve seen might be that you’re offering more information than they’re looking for. They don’t need to hear about family medical issues unless it’s directly relevant (like in response to “why did you leave your last job?”). Combining it with “I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to spend some time thinking about what I’d like in my next position” might sound … not defensive, exactly, but like you’re anticipating a concern and trying to address it before they’ve even brought it up. Which you are! And that’s fine, and potentially even smart to do, but if you notice people reacting to it, that’s probably why. I also wonder if it sounds slightly overly polished/rehearsed, which will make people wonder if there’s something underneath it that you’re uneasy about.

However, did this happen with only one interviewer or multiple interviewers? If it was only once, I wouldn’t read much into it at all. In that case, you could try experimenting with not raising any of that on your own (but still using it if you need to in response to a direct question) and see if the conversation goes more smoothly, but I wouldn’t worry much about it at all.

5. Inconvenient internal interview location

I was just offered an internal interview for a job I know I want due to the exposure to the business and the executives. Multiple reliable people have told me I’m a great fit for it and it would be a good move for my career. I preface with that because it’s the only reason I didn’t bail on the interview, given the red flags I’m seeing.

The hiring manager asked to meet in person at an office that is two hours away from the local office where this position will report. No one interviewing for this position will live far from the local office because of the nature of the work (it is a requirement that we be able to commute within X time), so they should know what they’re asking. It would be perfectly reasonable for a candidate to be three hours from the office they are suggesting plus tolls and heavy traffic. The nature of the position means I would rarely be expected to visit other offices. The hiring manager is regularly in the local office for meetings.

I wrote back and asked to meet at the main office, which is about an hour for each of us, or on another day where my business takes me closer.

I confirmed with people who know the hiring manager that this is not thoughtlessness. It’s at best laziness, as that is the office closest to his home. At worst, it’s test to see if I’ll do what I’m asked.

I’m at the point in my career where interviews are as much about me interviewing my potential manager as it is for them to interview me. However, I’d like your opinion on the pushback I gave. Is it alright, especially internally, to negotiate the interview location, especially given how ridiculous of an ask they were making? Would your advice change based on the level of seniority of the interviewee? I would say the hiring manager is technically one rung above me in company hierarchy. If they were a VP I would not likely have pushed back, which is why I ask.

Obviously, red flags are everywhere (they have gone through three people in the last six months in this position) so I am approaching this very cautiously. However, I’m not looking for advice on if I should take the job itself.

Nope, you’re fine. The answer might be no, it needs to be at the local office, but it’s not unreasonable to ask and see what they say.

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