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

1. My coworkers’ kids are making it hard for me to focus

I am a little over a month in at a new job that I really like. Most of the staff is working out of the office most days (we are in the health field). Two colleagues regularly bring their kids to work. I am assuming this is because schools/camps/daycares are still closed in our area, and I am extremely sympathetic to working parents who are trying to juggle it all!

The problem for me is, two of these kids are usually set up in the empty cubicle next to mine. They usually play games together on a computer or tablet and often get loud and animated, as kids do. I have tried to wear headphones and tune out the noise, but I find it pretty distracting, especially as the noise isn’t typical office background noise.

Any advice? I feel if I had worked here longer, I would have more standing to bring this up, but I know I am still new and don’t want to rock the boat with coworkers. Should I just try to ignore it?

It’s not okay for people to bring their kids into work if they’re not going to take responsibility for ensuring they don’t disrupt others. But you’re right that this would be easier to bring up if you’d been there longer. As a new hire, you don’t necessarily know all the politics that might be involved in this.

In your shoes — having been there only a month — I’d ask your boss if there’s somewhere else you could work because the kids are sometimes loud. That would bring it to your boss’s attention without you complaining about it and might spur her to intervene in some way. Or it might just get you a quieter work area, which would be a good outcome too.

2. Should I talk about my SAT scores in my cover letter and interview?

I am currently in the process of switching careers. The career I would like to move towards is much more technical and mathematical than what I’ve previously been doing (I’m going from a manager-level job in entertainment marketing to something in data science/data analysis). I’ve been studying programming languages and I have reason to believe I would be very good at what I’m trying to do, but this new career path is not anywhere close to what I studied in college and it’s only a small part of my job currently.

My parents have repeatedly encouraged me to bring up my SAT score in cover letters and interviews. While my score was very high, it feels weird to me to bring up a test score from nearly a decade ago in an interview. But on the other hand, it is something impressive from my past that objectively shows I am good at logic and math, which might be helpful going into a new career path where that’s important. I did add it to my LinkedIn, not prominently, just under the “test scores” section. Are my parents right? Should I bring it up? Or will it make me seem young, immature, and out of touch?

Noooo, do not bring it up, and take it off of your LinkedIn! Test scores from high school don’t belong in job application materials, especially when you’re 10 years out.

The exception to this is if you’re applying in a very small number of fields that actually consider them still relevant (some segments of finance and consulting, but even then generally only if you’re a student or a recent grad). To everyone else it will look strange.

3. I share a name with someone with a weird reputation on the internet

I graduated with my bachelor’s last May and am still job searching. When googling my name, I’ve learned that I share it with a YouTuber who has reached minor fame. He seems to be very well-known in his niche hobby and Internet community, but I imagine that the average person would be unaware of him. But he seems to be a rather contentious figure with as many critics as fans. The majority of criticism is focused on continuous unprofessional behavior on his part, with a deluge of screenshots and video evidence (things like making inflammatory statements in his videos, getting defensive in response to negative feedback, and writing divisive political posts when politics is not the focus of his community).

I have a LinkedIn profile, but when I google my name, almost all the links on the first page are about him. I like the advice you gave to previous letter-writers to use my middle initial and to make my LinkedIn picture look as distinct as possible from his online pictures, but his sheer online presence dwarfs mine. Since I’m fresh out of school, I feel like it’s too early in my career to get my own domain or write articles like you suggested to the previous letter-writers. I also don’t use Facebook or any other social media with my real name, nor do I post photos online aside from my LinkedIn photo.

The people I networked with from previous positions know who I am, but what about recruiters who google me? My LinkedIn link is on my resume, but I’ve also heard advice from a close friend of mine that I might not get a position if a company feels they should not risk any mistaken association by hiring me. Is this true? (Even though my namesake has, from what I’ve read, never gone to college or been employed?) How do I build a solid Internet presence when this person has not only seven years’ worth of his own content online but also seven years’ worth of critics talking about him, all across different social media platforms?

Would you be open to including your full middle name rather than just an initial — so you’d be, for example, Xavier Falcon Mulberry rather than just Xavier F. Mulberry? The middle initial is good, but the full name would differentiate you even more.

It’s not too early to get your own domain (anyone can get their own domain!), but it also isn’t likely to solve the problem unless you post prodigiously there, which likely doesn’t make sense. But I might consider having more of a social media presence with photos if you’re up for it — just to create more of an “obviously not the other guy” trail.

I don’t think many companies will not hire you out of fear someone could associate you with the other person; the concern is really just about employers thinking you are him. The middle name should help with that.

4. Job listings that say “remote” when they’re not

I’m looking at remote positions and have noticed a glut of job listings that will say they’re remote only, but then find out that they’re only temporarily remote due to COVID. Should companies really be listing these jobs as remote? It’s driving me batty to see what looks to be a promising job listed as remote only to click on the listing and find that it’s not a permanent situation. Is this common practice right now? And if it is, can we all collectively will it to stop?

We can and should try collectively willing it to stop because you’re right — if these positions are only temporarily remote, it makes no sense to advertise them as remote to someone across the country. Those aren’t remote jobs. They’re on-site jobs, temporarily being done from home.

5. Paying taxes on gifts from employers

Last night, my mother-in-law was talking about her job. She’s a nurse at a local hospital that has numerous locations in multiple cities. She told us that gifts from the hospital are added to their salary and they have to pay taxes on them! What? She has had to pay taxes on gift cards and cheap mugs that have the company’s name on them. Is this normal practice? Taxes on gifts seems to defeat the purpose of a gift.

IRS rules do indeed say that most gifts from employers are considered taxable income because they’re a form of compensation. The only exceptions are gifts that qualify as “de minimis fringe benefits,” defined as goods or services where the value is so small that accounting for it would be unreasonably or administratively impracticable. Exceptions include “traditional birthday and holiday gifts of property (not cash) with a low fair market value,” “occasional cocktail parties, group meals, or picnics for employees and their guests,” “coffee, doughnuts, and soft drinks,” and “flowers, fruit, books or similar property provided to employees under special circumstances (for example, on account of illness, outstanding performance, or family crisis).

Typically companies use $25 as a cut-off (so I’m somewhat surprised by the mugs), but cash and gift cards are always taxable, no matter their amounts.

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coworkers’ kids are noisy at work, SAT scores in a cover letter, and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

Read more about this at: askamanager.org