I don’t want to talk about my cool job, boss’s bachelorette weekend, and more — Ask a Manager


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

1. I don’t want to talk about my “cool” job

I have a regular, albeit senior level, role with a really “cool”/very well known company. Think head of IT for Manchester United, controller at Nickelodeon, or head of facilities at NASCAR.

I frequently encounter social situations where sharing details of ones job is expected. I hate talking about my job because it draws a lot of attention from people who would otherwise not be interested in me or my work (if not for my “cool” workplace).

Being vague has not worked. I’ll say, “I work in IT” and they’ll ask, “where do you work?” or “what do you do in IT?” Sometimes I’ll throw in the city, as in, “I work in IT in City.” That tends not to work either. It feels awkward to give more than one vague answer because once people pick up on the fact that you’re being vague, their interest is piqued even more. I’ve been in situations where someone will leave me alone and then come back to ask again. When people learn where I work, then they want to know specifically what I do (how senior I am), which again, I don’t really want to talk about.

Any tips on sidestepping discussions of work when people are expecting you to talk about it? Saying that I don’t want to talk about it only leads to more attention and speculation.

I should mention that my social circle, somewhat unwillingly, has changed, and I think that’s why I’m encountering this more often. I get the sense that there is some “sizing up” or competitiveness afoot (most of the people have great jobs and are happy to talk/brag about them). But, even when it isn’t that, I hate talking about work because I talk about it enough at work (and there is a lot I can’t talk about but everyone wants to ask about those things).

I’m surprised people are being so persistent! Even here in D.C. where “what do you do?” is pretty much the first question everyone asks, people generally accept something like “I work in IT” without mounting an inquisition about the details. (Side note: I thought D.C.’s fixation on this was normal until I moved to the Pacific Northwest for a while, where you can go months without knowing what a friend does.)

You could try “I have a job in IT that would make your eyes glaze over” followed by an immediate question about the other person. If you can keep the focus on them, a lot of people will be so pleased to talk about themselves that they won’t realize they’re learning nothing about you.

But it sounds like your circle is so focused on this that you might just need to explain what you do and follow it with, “But I am so talked out about about my job right now and am enjoying not having to think about it in my off hours! Tell me about X instead — that sounds really interesting.”

2. A bachelorette weekend for the boss

My girlfriend has been invited to a bachelorette weekend for a coworker (different department) and recently told me she was thinking of not going since no one else from the office will be able to attend. Except for her, all other coworkers were invited from the same department as the bride to be. The complicating factor is that, in the time since invites to the bachelorette weekend have gone out and the save the dates for the wedding itself, Bride has gone from coworker to manager for the other people in the department thanks to an internal promotion to team lead. The invitees are now feeling like they cannot attend since Bride is now their manager, but it leaves everyone in a bit of a pickle. I was wondering what you’d suggest for handling this? It seems like a weird clash of various etiquette rules but I know no one wants the bachelorette weekend to be sparsely attended just because half the invitees are now reporting up to Bride.

It’s very reasonable that people reporting to the bride don’t want to attend her bachelorette weekend now that she’s their boss.

Is the weekend mainly coworkers? If so, someone needs to point out that the plan needs to change now that she’s managing nearly everyone who would be there — and maybe suggest a lunch at work or something much more low-key. If she’s invited out-of-work friends, though, then her employees can back out without ruining the event.

3. What should we do with employees’ email accounts after they leave?

I’m in HR, and our company usually leaves departing employees’ email accounts open when they leave the company. Sometimes there is an out-of-office message put on, and sometimes not. Generally the person’s manager or an assistant “manages” the in-box following departure.

Employees often ask me what will happen with their emails, who’s going to be monitoring their in-box, etc. I understand their concern. Clients and outside contacts who do not receive responses/prompt responses to their emails (which may happen depending on who is “managing” the in-box) may view that as a lack of professionalism on the part of the employee leaving, if they don’t know they’ve left.

Sometimes it’s not up to an employee whether or not they have time to transition out and notify their contacts, and so this is a concern (sales people, people who are fired, etc). Additionally, you may forget to notify some contacts.

HR managers in my department have become frustrated when I share employee concerns about this. They often state that it’s not the employee’s email account and so it’s not up to them/their business what happens to it after they leave. While I understand that all communications on company email are the company’s property, I can’t help but wonder if we are hurting departing employees’ reputations by not shutting off their email accounts or always ensuring there is an out-of-office message. What is your opinion on this? I can’t help but think that just shutting off the account so a sender gets a bounce back would be the best option.

You should turn off the accounts (with a bounce message) or set up an out-of-office reply explaining the person no longer works there. Which of those to do depends on the circumstances and type of job, but you should consistently do one or the other. Otherwise, as you note, people may not realize the person has left and will wonder why they’re not hearing back — which is bad for the employee’s reputation, but it’s also bad for your company’s reputation. Try pointing out the latter to your colleagues.

4. Sharing awful family news at work

I am a teacher at a moderately sized, extremely friendly independent school. I have been teaching there for a year and have made some friends, although my closest one left for another opportunity. I lost my mother very suddenly to illness in July, and I am still struggling with it. As we come back together for the opening school days, naturally people talk a great deal about their summers. What should I say? I can’t answer, “my mother died” to a casual question about what I did over the summer, but caring for her and my father is what I did over the summer.

I’m sorry about your mom! If you’re comfortable with it, it’s perfectly okay to say, “I had a tough summer — we lost my mom.” But if you don’t feel like getting into it every time, it’s also okay to just say something like, “Eh, not the best summer I’ve had — what about you?” or “Spent a lot of time with family. How about you?”

5. I accepted a job but didn’t send thank-you notes

Almost a month ago, I had a job interview. A few days after the interview I received an offer, which I accepted in short order. The problem: I didn’t send thank-you emails and it is bugging me more and more the closer I get to my start date (which is still a month away!).

I interviewed with several people at the company, some of whom I will work with directly. Are my future coworkers likely to remember and think poorly of me for not having emailed after the interview? I got the job, so presumably I should just let this go…?

Let it go. They’re not going to remember and think poorly of you. Post-interview thank-you notes are a good thing but they’re not a requirement (if they were, they’d lose all their power), and your new coworkers almost certainly don’t care. The only person who might care is the hiring manager, and she clearly decided to hire you anyway.

It would be weird to send the notes now. At most you could send notes saying you’re excited to be working with them (not thank-you notes) — but unless you do that really skillfully, it’s likely to be overkill.

You got the job. It’s fine. Move on!



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