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‘The New Hires at Work Are Driving Me Up a Wall’

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Dear Boss,

After years with very little turnover, my team has been going through a lot of changes over the past couple of months. The changes are not necessarily bad. The company has been giving lots of promotions out, although a couple of people have left for better opportunities. They certainly have shaken up the team, though. I’m 29, and after two years I have recently become the longest-tenured member of the team (aside from my boss and the managers we work with) since a few people who had been here five-plus years all got well-deserved and rare promotions within a week of each other. We also work hybrid — about half our days are in-office and half are at home, and this team in particular is fairly isolated from the rest of the company for bureaucratic reasons I won’t go into.

So we’re filling those empty positions, and the new hires are recent college grads, all under the age of 24. Many of them have little to no experience working in an office or professional environment, and it shows. Some will take advantage of hotdesking and hop from desk to desk three or four times a day. Some will stand in huddles and chitchat for half an hour or more. Half of them didn’t think to take notes during the fairly easy two-day training and many months into their employment are still asking questions they should know the answers to. Sometimes they’ll take unapproved work-from-home days for reasons like “not feeling the office today.”

I came into this position with several years of experience under my belt. It’s an entry-level job that I took mid-pandemic due to desperation for employment, and I’ve stayed because I like the company culture, the work-life balance is unbeatable, and the health insurance is fantastic. But sometimes it feels like I’m spending time having to herd a bunch of kindergartners. Whether it’s telling them that they cannot yell to each other across the office or explaining that ripped jeans are not “business casual” and pointing to the email from corporate outlining that exact policy, it feels like I’m teaching them things that they should just … know.

Due to the hybrid work schedule, our boss is only in the office at the same time as us about once or twice a week. He’s seen some things and knows who the worst culprits are, but I don’t think he understands how distracting all of this is for everyone else. A couple of other members of my team are as frustrated as I am, but as I am now the “senior member,” I feel like it’s on me to communicate all of this. Is this a reason to polish up my résumé? Or do I just need better communication with my boss to let him handle it?

You need to communicate better with your boss so he can handle it, but you also need to draw a clearer distinction in your mind between things you need to care about and things you don’t.

Things like co-workers yelling in the office or repeatedly asking you questions they should already know the answers to are legitimately disruptive, and it’s reasonable for you to speak to your co-workers and/or your boss about those. But some of the things you listed as problems you’re having to manage aren’t things you need to respond to at all.

If your junior co-workers show up in ripped jeans or take unapproved work-from-home days, that’s something their manager can address if he wants to, but it’s not on you to handle. If they move from desk to desk all day, I can see why it might be mildly annoying, but, again, it’s not something you need to deal with. Let them move! Those things might be aggravating to see, and you’re likely right that your colleagues would benefit from additional guidance, but those aren’t issues you’re responsible for addressing because you’re not their manager (nor, from what it sounds like, are you in the sort of leadership position where you might be expected to intervene regardless of whether you had formal authority).

If something affects your work or prevents you from being able to focus, that’s squarely in the realm of things you have standing to address, and in many cases would need to address. Otherwise, it’s not your job to enforce the policies of your manager/team/organization on co-workers who you don’t have any authority over. And your life will probably get significantly easier if you decide not to care because it’s not your problem.

I suspect you’re feeling a kind of obligation to your younger co-workers themselves, like you would be doing them a service by teaching them about professionalism. And you certainly would be, if they were receptive to hearing it. But if they’re forcing you to point out the email from corporate explicitly saying they can’t wear ripped jeans, these don’t sound like colleagues who are particularly eager for your feedback. That’s not the savviest move on their part — people new to the work world should seek out mentorship, not actively push back on it — but if they’re not interested, it doesn’t make sense for you to continue trying to educate them. Let that stuff go. Your boss can address it if he wants to (and the fact that he hasn’t done that so far might indicate that he doesn’t particularly care, which is his call to make).

But it does make sense to speak to your boss about things that more directly impact you, like the yelling and the constant chatting — especially since it sounds like you’ve tried to address it with your co-workers directly and gotten nowhere, and because your boss isn’t there much of the time to see it himself. It would be reasonable to explain that your co-workers are loud and distracting and have resisted your efforts to rein them in and to ask if he can intervene.

If after you bring it to his attention he still refuses to manage the situation, at that point you can decide whether the distractions and general atmosphere in your office bother you enough that you would consider leaving. But there’s a good chance that clarifying for yourself what you do and don’t need to act on will make the situation more bearable. Your younger co-workers will figure out how to navigate the work world soon enough (or who knows, maybe they won’t), but you’re not the one responsible for nudging them down that path.

Find even more career advice from Alison Green on her website, Ask a Manager. Got a question for her? Email Her advice column appears here every other Tuesday.

‘The New Hires at Work Are Driving Me Up a Wall’