Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.
By Alison Green / Ask a Manager
July 13, 2016

Q: Is it normal to criticize colleagues the second they leave the room?

I wanted to ask about office norms when it comes to expressing irritation about colleagues. One of the things that really bothers me about my office is the amount of complaining about people behind their backs that goes on – I understand venting, but a lot of this has a really catty, high school vibe to me.

The room I work in is shared by around a dozen people, depending on the day, and often when someone leaves the room people will start criticizing them, regardless of how senior they are. The worst I’ve heard so far was someone leaving the room and someone else immediately saying “bitch.” Other comments can be things like complaining about someone’s negativity or the way they handle their boss’s requests or, it seems, everything under the sun.

A lot of this stuff I’d consider unpleasant but more acceptable if people did it somewhere else, over their lunch break, or if they were discussing a way to address a problem, but saying these kind of things in someone’s own office just seems kind of mean. I feel like I can’t be the only one worrying that they’re being talked about every time they go to the bathroom.

Read More: My unhappy coworker won’t stop complaining about our office

A: No, it’s not normal. There are certainly places where it happens, but it’s the sign of a really dysfunctional workplace. It’s a little more common to see private negativity, like one person privately complaining to a coworker about another, but it’s usually deliberately kept discreet, and that’s usually because people recognize that it isn’t okay be open about it. The type of group nastiness that you describe, where people are insulted after leaving a room? Very much not normal, and it sounds like a miserable atmosphere to work in. (And not just miserable in the “these people are jerks” sense — although that too — but constant complaining tends to make the complainers themselves significantly less happy too. )

Read More: Former employee is using my title and job on LinkedIn

Q: I’ve been at my current job for a year and love it. We have goals set in place for the next year that are perfectly achievable, and I am confident that my boss is happy that I’m here and I have a good future at the company.

My boss mentioned that we’ll have a follow-up meeting soon to discuss a raise based on my review. The thing is, money isn’t that important to me. I’m very well paid for my position, and am happy with the current salary. I’d much rather receive a new title, either Senior Recruiter, Lead Recruiter, or Recruiting Manager – the person who formerly held my position was the Recruiting Manager. Would it be unrealistic to ask for a new title in lieu of a raise this year? If not, how would I phrase it?

Read More: I feel insulted by my raise — and I let my boss know it

A: Nope, that’s totally fine to do! Small companies are often delighted to save money on raises if a title bump will do instead. Obviously, you don’t want to ask for a title that’s wildly out of whack with what you do, or that would cause weird inequities elsewhere in the company structure (like a change that would make you a VP when other people doing work similar to your level are all associates), but in this case it sounds pretty reasonable — especially since there’s precedent for the title in your role. That said, any reason not to ask for both?

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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