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It’s our monthly open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about.

If you have a question you want me to answer, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers. Have at it!

{ 739 comments… read them below }

  1. zionhearme

    I got a quick question. My wife recently started working as a Insurance Agent and wishes to contact my coworkers and offer insurance plans. How best to approach my current coworkers about it? My wife insists I give her everyone’s contact number and she will call and see if they are interested. I am hesitant and want to inform my colleagues beforehand but she argues it would be esier for them to blow me off. What are your opinion on this? How would you like to be contacted if you are my coworkers?
    Thanks

    1. JT

      ” it would be esier for them to blow me off.”

      I don’t deal with companies or people that make it hard for me to “blow them off.”

      Absolutely no way should you give out contact info of coworkers to your wife so she can pitch to them.

      At most, if it’s acceptable at your workplace, you could send around an email once (and perhaps once a year or two after that) saying “My wife’s an insurance agent now, if you need insurance, you can contact her at X or let me know and I’ll have her contact you. Some info on her practice is below.” Have a clear subject line that makes it clear the message is not work-related.

      1. KayDay

        This. I would be pissed if a college set me up to be cold called, but if I needed insurance, the first thing I would do would be ask acquaintances for recommendations. Follow the same guidelines people have given for charities–a single email or note in the break-room, and don’t pressure people.

      2. Jubilance

        It may also be a violation of your company’s privacy rules if you give out your coworkers’ contact info, even if its their office number or company email address. If you do want to promote your wife’s service, you should ask interested coworkers to contact her.

      3. Lanya

        People get annoyed when coworkers ask coworkers to buy something from their kids’ fundraiser, let alone this kind of request! It will go over like a lead balloon and your reputation at work will be tarnished. If your wife wants new leads, she needs to buy a mailing list and start advertising herself. Selling insurance is not like selling tupperware to friends or coworkers.

    2. Min

      I would really resent it if a coworker gave my contact info to their spouse to cold call me. Even if I were in the market for insurance, there is no way I would deal with someone who did business in that manner.

      1. Sdhr

        + 1. The other thing to consider us that insurance is “personal business” and some people aren’t comfortable sharing their personal business with co workers. My husband is in a similar field as your wife and I am always hesitant to even recommend him to a co worker.

    3. Jen in RO

      “How would you like to be contacted if you are my coworkers?”
      Not at all. At most, a verbal mention that “by the way, my wife’s in insurance now, if you ever need insurance, let me know and I’ll put you in contact with her”.

    4. AdAgencyChick

      Please, please, PLEASE show your wife the replies to this post if she won’t back down.

      I too would be annoyed as hell if I got a call from a coworker’s spouse trying to sell me something. If I were your coworker and this happened, I might be annoyed enough to complain to your boss or to HR about improper use of my phone number. Tell your wife it’s not worth getting in trouble at YOUR job just so she can get a few leads!

      1. KellyK

        Absolutely agree. If you have my phone number because we work together, then that’s for you to contact me with work-related things, not for you to pass around so your friends and family can cold-call me. I wouldn’t be surprised if your company has rules against making that information available for non-work purposes.

    5. Liz in a Library

      Please, please, please don’t do this.

      A while back (I promise I have learned since then!), I suggested to several co-workers my brother-in-law’s financial advising practice. The one who did end up going to him ended up being my boss.

      He left the practice without giving a heads up to anyone (per company policy), and my boss’s account was randomly transferred to someone else I knew nothing about. Communication and service was terrible during that time. I was horrified.

      She was very kind about it, but it could very easily have just trashed an important work relationship. The max I would recommend is a brief mention that she’s now in insurance, if it comes up naturally in a “how are things with your wife?” kind of situation, not as a sell.

    6. Anonymous

      Please show your wife all the posts on charities/gift solicitation in the workplace!!! Giving your coworkers’ numbers to her is a terrible idea. It feels like a violation of trust, even if it’s just publically available work line. It’s personal life intruding on professional life in a bad way – someone making a sales pitch. Please do what others have suggested and let them know she is an insurance agent, and they can contact her or you on their own terms.

    7. Not So NewReader

      Zionhearme, you may want to check company policy regarding soliciting for other businesses. It could be that sending emails soliciting business violate policies. Additionally, your company may have a policy about giving out personal contact info which would preclude you from giving out lists of phone numbers for business purposes.

      On the other hand, this is your wife. The insurance biz is very competitive and very demanding. Maybe you can look around and find workable suggestions for leads to help your wife build a client list. That might be a supportive thing that would work out for you.

    8. Laura in GA

      Oh, please don’t do this! I had a coworker whose husband was an insurance agent, and she used to go around asking everyone what insurance company they were with. If someone wants to switch, they will. But don’t put people in an uncomfortable position.

    9. The Other Dawn

      I would be totally pissed if someone at work gave their spouse my contact information so she could cold call. And all her voice mails would go into the black hole, never to be heard again.

      If she’s interested in selling insurance to the employees, the person she should be speaking to is someone who handles all the insurance and employee benefits for your company. That person can then make the decision as to whether they want to offer this insurance to the employees and have her come in and pitch.

      If you give out your coworkers’ contact info, they will hate you forever. Seriously.

    10. fposte

      One employee handing out employees’ work contact info for the purpose of advancing a spouse’s business would likely be a firing offense at my workplace. It will certainly affect your future there. (Also, nobody will buy insurance from somebody who deals this way, so she’s getting all het up for nothing. Really, tell her to do her own job and stay out of yours.)

    11. Kelly O

      Count me in the “please advise her to NOT do this” category.

      First, it’s annoying. I mean, we have to deal with people wanting to sell us makeup, jewelry, kitchen wares, bags, clothes… the last thing I want is someone cold calling me to solicit insurance too.

      The other thing is that, as someone else pointed out, this may very well violate some portion of your company’s policy, and at the very least, using your knowledge of coworker’s contact information to advance your spouse’s business is not entirely a great way to win friends and influence people.

      Let your wife read these responses, so she can see how off-putting it will be to people (no matter what her training material may say – and trust me, we all know the training material has you all gung-ho with any contact you can get.)

    12. BCW

      I’m with everyone else here, don’t do it. In college I worked at a place that told you to just get all your parents friends and call them. That was awkward enough, and my mom’s friends did it to be nice. But if this happened at work, thats completely different.

      I had a buddy do the life insurance/investment thing and I met with him as a favor. However at the end, he asked for referrals and I told him I wasn’t comfortable with that.

    13. tmm

      There is probably something in your Company policy/handbook about this being against policy. Personal solitication at the office is definitely inappropriate since it has nothing to do wtih the reason people are at the workplace. That business contact info belongs to the Company, not the employee and you can get in trouble for passing it out.

    14. Natalie

      Yeah, I would be beyond annoyed – I would be furious.

      And honestly, the co-worker who did this to me would be on my shit list pretty much forever. You are going to have to bear any fallout from this – do you really want to take that chance?

    15. Josh S

      If your wife wants to use your co-workers as prospects that’s fine. But it has to be voluntary on their part. If you just hand over the company directory, people will be PISSED.

      A better approach for your wife to take might be one of those “Free Lunch” type deals. She (or her office) can foot the bill for taking people out to a decent lunch so long as they agree to listen to a pitch for her insurance services.

      Or maybe put a “fish bowl” in the office with a raffle/prize. Say on the bowl, “Jill Smith, Insurance Agent, is looking for people interested in Insurance who will enter a raffle for $Prize. Put your business card in the bowl and one person will win!”

      But you gotta be up front that it’s a marketing/sales prospecting tool. You can’t just get the information on the sly and expect people to care.

      And yeah, your co-workers ARE more likely to blow her off if they have the heads up. But the ones who would blow her off are the SAME co-workers who are Non-Prospects anyway. (No matter how well your wife pitches them, they’re going to say “no.”) Tell her that by being up front, she’s going to use her time more effectively and have a better sales rate.

      And who knows? If she’s decent at selling one or two people, she might just cause enough positive word of mouth to convince a couple of the “blow her off” people to change their minds. But she WON’T convince them to change their minds by cold calling without permission.

    16. KayDay

      Also, please ask your wife not to use “…and why aren’t you interested in saving money?” as her come-back when someone says they are not interested. In the past week, I’ve had about about 3 telemarketers use that on me, and its really aggravating me. ARGH!

      1. Sasha

        Yes! Hate that line! When my husband and I were purchasing his last car, the salesman used that on us to ask why we didn’t want their ridiculous “give us 10k right now for tires for life!” plan. He had been nice up to that point and then stared us down and said, “And can I ask, what is your judgement in making this decision?” He got the bitchface pretty bad from me. My husband handled it with poise and dignity, good thing too, before I jumped in.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          I never have the presence of mind to actually think of withering comebacks in situations like these, but WOW, that is just screaming for, “My judgment is that your high-pressure sales tactics suck. And you’re not judgmental if you’re right.”

      2. nyxalinth

        Having worked in phone sales (apologies to anyone I might have disturbed!) during job hunting downtimes, I second this.

        I know the psychology behind it–trying to get the potential new client to look at it in a different way–but it comes off as an interrogation. I tried instead to just present the features and benefits and the value of what we offer and my job as unobtrusively as possible. It often worked.

        BTW–I cannot and will not work phone sales unless I have absolute confidence in the company and the product. I’ll stand on the street corner asking for money before I work in a place that is the least bit shady. They’re all annoying, but some are far more ethical than others.

        PS: Please don’t kill me verbally!

        1. Min

          I feel your pain, my first job as a teenager was phone sales. I did not yet have your good judgement, though. I worked for about a month and then showed up to work one day to find the office completely empty. Amazingly, I did get my last check in the mail. Sadly, I have my doubts as to whether any of the customers got their magazines.

          1. nyxalinth

            I did try the magazine thing. I lasted an hour because I couldn’t stand the way it violated my sense of ethics, whether or not it’s actually legal.

        1. nyxalinth

          LOL!

          Mind, most of what I have done is warm calling for services companies already have, and offering stuff that actually would be a money saver, if not right away, then over time. Being on the other side of the phone, I also understand the other side of it.

    17. LaurenL

      Just as an aside, is your wife working for a reputable insurance company? This isn’t a typically offered sales strategy – using your spouse/partner’s office as a sales source. This approach is the Girl Scout Cookie/Gift Wrap Fundraiser method of selling and is really only appropriate (if appropriate at all – questionable) for parent/child relationships, not spousal relationships. This reminds me of the types of sales tactics suggested by door to door vacuum and Vector knife sales strategies. I would be leery of your wife’s employer here…

      1. PJ

        It’s also the tactic used by multi-level marketing companies — farm your friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Ick!

  2. Carlotta

    I would like to not be contacted. But I’d like you to tell me, when you next run into me, that if ever I need insurance, to let you know, because your wife is a really good insurance agent…

    1. Jamie

      This. Mention (if you must) and drop it.

      I would be livid if a colleagues spouse contacted me trying to sell me something…and it could rise to the level of a formal conversation.

    2. LJL

      If I were told that a colleague’s wife is an insurance agent, I’d certainly go to her first if I needed to. If I were cold-called by my colleague’s wife, I would absolutely NOT get insurance from her, even if I needed it. I think it will hurt you both if you give the numbers for her.

      1. Pax

        One thing nobody has mentioned: I’m on the Do Not Call list. If I got a call (at home) from your wife, I would report her to the FCC, and she might get into trouble.

        Second: It is VERY important that you find out about your company’s policy about giving out co-workers’ numbers. At every place I’ve worked, it has been a big no-no; not because it’s bad manners but because it’s a safety issue. Too many people have been endangered when their co-workers gave their info to a stalker. Of course, your wife is not a stalker – but with her ethic on this, she might give the info to someone who is.

  3. Meg

    So, coworker of mine has been acting a little erratically lately and I don’t know whether I should say anything (and if so, to whom). I know he suffers from migraines and has been taking pain medication for them. Here are some examples:

    He drops or spills his food at least twice a week – often without realising (our boss last week, genuinely puzzled at what was lying in the middle of the hallway: “Is this a carrot?”). He laughs it off and doesn’t seem bothered, and I totally empathise with clumsiness, but I am a bit worried about how he doesn’t even notice he’s shedding food until it’s pointed out.

    Last week he sent me an email about me that was clearly not intended for me – it was complaining about the maximum spend I’d suggested for office secret santa (which I had tried to stress very hard was opt-in, for the record!). He apologised and we had a little laugh about holiday budgets, but again didn’t seem to notice he’d sent it to the wrong recipient until I said something.

    When I’ve looked over his work (I’ve started working on a project he’s been contributing to) the quality hasn’t been very good. (I don’t know if this is new, as I haven’t looked at his work before.)

    And yesterday when I was working a little late (30 minutes after usual leaving time) I found him slumped on his desk; I touched his shoulder and asked if he was all right. It took him a few seconds to answer (while I tried to figure out how long I should count to before calling 911), but he said he was just taking a nap.

    I don’t want to be nosy but I have felt genuinely worried for him in each of these cases – I’m wondering if the pain meds he’s on are affecting him more than he realises. Or is this just normal, if a little kooky, office behavior?

    1. KayDay

      (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor.) If this behavior is really uncharacteristic of him, you might very politely say something to him, in private. Along the lines of “Hey Bob, I’ve noticed that you’ve been making more mistakes than usual–all of them are minor, but I was concern because this is really unlike you. Perhaps you should mention it to a doctor.” Don’t ask for an explanation, and then drop it after that (unless it becomes a big deal).

      None of the things you mentioned jumped out at me as particularly the concerning on their own, (I’ve dropped plenty of roll-y items before, and startle easily) but anytime someone’s behavior changes dramatically that is a concern. If he’s on pain meds, I would imagine that could be the problem, but I’m not sure.

      1. Jamie

        None of this seems strange to me either. I mean, you wouldnt notice you sent en email to the wrong recipient most times, and people laugh nervously when they clumsily drop stuff all the time.

        And you’ve never worked with him before, so as you’ve said you have no idea if that would is ooc or not.

        I don’t know what you could say.

      2. Meg

        Yeah, I think for me it’s a cumulative effect of – not just the fact that he’s dropping things, etc but that he doesn’t notice until someone points it out? Like, it’s not:

        [Bob drops something]
        Bob: Ha, whoops! Clumsy me!

        but

        [Bob drops something – often something large, like full-carrot-sized, and very visible or audible]
        [Bob keeps doing whatever he was doing]
        Someone else: Oh hey, Bob, looks like you dropped your carrot there!
        Bob: Huh? Oh…is that mine? Oh, so I did! Ha, whoops! Clumsy me!

        1. fposte

          Most of this seems to be overreading to me, probably influenced by the fact that you’ve recently seen his work for the first time and are working with him more closely than before. Dropping stuff and not noticing and sending emails to the wrong people? Hey, that’s my day. If it weren’t for the nap thing, I’d dismiss it completely (and even there, plenty of healthy people are really tough to wake up). If his manager’s decent and I know her, I might say that the nap thing made you worry a little about him–has he always done that?

    2. The IT Manager

      (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor.) I had this happen, sort of, to a co-worker of mine. It started with bad migraines. His work performance was impacted, but he noticed. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and did not survive. He was in his early 30s with two young children at the time.

      In this case, all you can do is encourage your co-worker to get checked out probably once or twice max. With an actual friend you could push harder, but that’s a different relationship. It also possible he completely understands what’s going on like he knows he’s not getting enough sleep because of a second job or something else that he doesn’t want to share. Mention once or twice and back off.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I think the most you can do is ask Bob if he is okay. To draw attention to his mistakes, his “stumbles”, etc is only going to make that whole thing worse. He could become self-conscious/intimidated.

      From what you have written here, it does sound like his new med is zoning him out. But we are not doctors. Apparently, you speak with him often enough to know he is on a new med. I tend to like open ended questions. If he indicated he was having difficulty, ask him what he thinks he would like to do about that. This is an empowering question and it places the onus on him, NOT you, to take care of himself.

      Other than that, I would say the rest is up to your boss. I had situations where I wondered about calling 911 myself. It’s pretty scary. I think that you need to let the boss know- that you almost called 911. It could be that other employees have already made similar complaints and the boss is aware.

      Anyone here have first aid training? I cannot remember this… How long are you supposed to wait for a non-responsive person to respond to you before calling 911? It seems to me there was a rule of thumb about that.

      1. Meg

        To clarify – I don’t really speak with him that much outside of our job description, but he’s been talking loudly about his headaches and pain meds so I couldn’t help but overhear. I try not to gossip too much, which is why I feel very conflicted about this.

        1. fposte

          Oh, I forgot about the pain meds. That’ll be the napping right there, I bet. I guess I’m not really getting the problem–the stuff that you’re describing isn’t red-flaggy to me of something bigger, and it’s not a huge interoffice issue that you need a drastic explanation to justify. Is the real issue that his work is not very good, and you’re hoping that the pain meds are the reason rather than he’s not very good at the job?

      2. khilde

        I’m a First Aid/CPR instructor and what’s funny is that now that you ask the question about “how long should you wait,” I honestly can say that I have never been told the answer. I think what’s more important is to determine if the person’s breathing. Ask you’re sort of tapping or gently shaking the person to watch their chest or listen for breathing. If the person’s not breathing, then as soon as you can detect that call 911. Do not pass go. Just do it. But if a person’s non-responsive AND breathing, you probably have more time to assess the situation. Check the vicinity for anything that might be dangerous or causing non-response. Check the person for bleeding, etc. Personally, I’d say if the person doesn’t rouse after a few gentle shakes and calling their name, then it’s time to call. You just can’t really risk it.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Really clear, helpful answer, khilde. Thanks! My certification has long ago expired. I never did clearly understand where the line was on that question.

    4. Anonymous

      Also not a doctor.
      A close family member of mine became addicted to pain killers and these same exact things happened at first. She was always a little off, but nothing too crazy, just weird things…like talking to inanimate objects, falling asleep at inappropriate times, always seeming confused. And it was always “Oh, I’m just really tired/I took a benedryll/ I’ve been stressed at work.”
      Finally, she drove her car around, crashed, and came home. The police showed up because someone reported her, she didn’t remember any of this happenning. They called an ambulance because she was completely out of it and brought her to the hospital. It was determined that due to a recent surgery, the meds she was prescribed interacted with each other negatively, but we all knew the truth.
      I think you should say something because what if he drives around and this happens, but someone died? Mention it to him. If it continues to be concerning and interfer with work, mention it to the boss.

    5. Erika

      I had a coworker who was exhibiting much of the same behavior. It turned out he had undiagnosed kidney disease and was suffering from strokes. He didn’t realize it and because he lived alone, no one else noticed either. His condition got pretty bad before anyone said something to him.

      I would bring it up and ask him to see a doctor. If your relationship isn’t good enough for that, take it to HR. I would absolutely not let this go without saying something.

    6. nyxalinth

      I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV. My first thought was “aneurysm”. they don’t all just blow up suddenly, but they do swell and put pressure on areas of the brain. My mom had an inoperable one, which is why I thought of this.

    7. Mishsmom

      does he have a wife? just yesterday or the other day on Dear Abby a wife wrote about her husband having Alzheimer’s and noting that his co-workers saw the symptoms long before the family did and wished someone would have said something – awkward as that is – so they could have maybe gotten him help earlier… just my 2 cents.

    8. A somewhat new reader

      Does your co-worker get migraines while at work? I get migraines (with aura) quite often and they can make you seem a little weird to others who don’t understand your symptoms. They can affect your mood, ability to see, ability to speak clearly…all of which could be misinterpreted by others. In each of my jobs I have warned my co-workers up front so that they wouldn’t be surprised if I was showing symptoms while at work, but perhaps your co-worker doesn’t feel comfortable doing this.

      To be clear, not all migraine sufferers get the intense blinding headache you typically associate with migraines. My headaches are usually quite manageable, but as I said before, the onset of my migraines can make me seem a little “off” to others who truly don’t understand my condition. I should also add, that many of the prescription migraine medications can make you seem a little loopy as well. If your co-worker doesn’t feel comfortable discussing his medical condition with you, then you should probably respect his privacy and stop reading into his behavior.

  4. Julie

    There has been lots of talk of whether or not to attend a holiday party. What if not attending were not even an option?

    I have recently moved to a closed remote work environment. (To leave, means a four hour plane ride) As a result, your friends are your coworkers. Any socializing involves coworkers.

    Has anyone else worked in this kind of environment?

        1. Anonymous

          Not the poster above, but I’m familiar with some similar situations. My field-researcher colleagues (I’m more of a theorist) routinely take atmospheric samples from research vessels over the open ocean. Those sorts of trips last anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months, depending on the needs of everyone involved, and participants become very close by necessity. Another woman I worked with spent winters (Southern Hemisphere summers) in Antarctica for research, so it does happen. :)

          Based on hearing many, many stories about these situations, I would recommend that you go to the party, but your colleagues will probably be understanding if you duck out early. If applicable in your field, work tends to be a universal excuse for leaving early or taking breaks from the social scene. Just run an experiment that must be done right then and monitored to make sure that the chronically malfunctioning Expensive Doohickey–which can’t be replaced due to distance/time constraints–doesn’t implode.

    1. moss

      I have when I worked with a circus that travelled a lot. I found it to be really fun and nice to have that sort of closed community. There were drawbacks (gossip) but mostly it was a blast.

      1. De Minimis

        That sounds like a really interesting job, I would like to hear more about your time with a circus!

    2. JLL

      I worked at the airport, but we were isolated more by schedule than distance. (Seriously, who else is going to work from 4:30 in the morning until 1:30pm?) So the people you wound up seeing all the time were the only other people who were up or off at such odd hours.

    3. KayDay

      A distance acquaintance had a research assignment in Antarctica! I never talk to her personally, but she had an interesting blog that I read. I think you just have to make the best of the situation and socialize with your co-workers (And penguins! There were penguins!!!!!!!) Remember they are your coworkers and you don’t want to do anything too stupid, but in that case it’s probably best to develop a more personal relationship so you don’t go crazy.

    4. dangitmegan

      I tour with a performance company. We are usually on the road for sixish weeks at a time domestically or internationally. So I work and live with my coworkers. We are luckily all pretty friendly with each other, and though I’m only really close to four of them it wouldn’t be unusual for me to have a meal with any of them. I’m an introvert so being “on” for so much of the day can get to me sometimes, but luckily we have our own hotel rooms and I can find time to recharge.

  5. Treece

    I’m pretty sure I’m going to be fired today. My boss was filling out a form which goes to IT when they need to change an employee’s access to networks and such. I’ve used the form myself when we have hired or terminated employees in the field. All that is on it is hire, fire and promotion/demotion. I was talking to her, looked up at her computer and there is the form with my name on it. She then scrolled it so I couldn’t see the name.
    Coworkers told me she likes to fire people. The person before me was there 5 weeks and left, I’m told, because she would question the boss’s decisions. It is an admin assistant type job and she likes to micromanage. I thought I had stayed on her good side and she even complemented me this week on doing a good job helping her. I’ve been pretty unhappy with the micromanaging (I’m a professional with 20 years of experience) and I’ve been looking for another job but I don’t get pass the phone interview which I think is because I’ve only been at this company a short time.
    Now today I have to walk in and wait for the meeting. This must be the hardest thing I’ve ever done, going in and waiting knowing that something is about to happen. I’ve been there 6 months and my vacation is set to start on the 15th. This way they don’t have to pay me for that. And right before the holidays too.

      1. KayDay

        I think only California requires employers to pay out accrued leave time/PTO, but it’s very common for employers to do so. They do not, however, need to pay you for any holidays after the termination day.

        @ Treece: I would check your employee handbook and find out about the vacation policy. Make sure you don’t have anything personal on your computer or in your desk. I’m sorry to hear that you have to deal with this, I’m sure it’s an awful feeling. However, keep in mind that you are not definitely getting fired until she tells you and keep doing good work.

        1. Hugo

          Unless somebody did something malicious or intentional which caused them to be fired, I’ve always paid people their unused time off.

        2. LJL

          Other states pay accrued vacation time but not sick. I’m so, so sorry to hear about this. Good luck, and hang in there.

    1. Jamie

      I really hope there is another explanation for the form…this has to be so nerve wracking. Good luck.

    2. LK

      That’s really terrible. It sounds like it’s not you, it’s the fact that your boss is a crazy lady. (Who likes firing people?) Fingers crossed for you – hopefully it’s better news than you’re expecting.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Waiting for the shoe to drop is almost worse than hearing the shoe drop. I pray this is not what it looks like. Let us know how it goes.

    4. Natalie

      Well, that sucks. Seriously. It does sound like the problem is that your boss is a crazy person, though, which is definitely better than you being the problem. (Cold comfort, I know.)

      If the worst happens, take care of yourself this weekend. Try your hardest not to worry or panic too much and do fun, relaxing things that recharge you (whatever that is). You’ll be fresh on Monday and ready to deal with all of the things you have to deal with.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Treece, it’s been over 12 hours since you posted- how are you doing? I hope you let us know.

    6. Steve G

      What happened???? Let us know.

      I got laid off once for “long term fit” and it felt like a kick in the stomach. I would have been much more brazen while there if I knew my boot-kissing was in vain.

      I moved to NYC after that and had exactly 1 month savings to find a new job, and ran out of cash the day I got my first check in NY. I had EXACTLY enough money to get to NY and get a job, then an roommate, etc., that it felt like God was watching out for me and testing if I could trust in him that I would always have what I needed to live.

      So in the end I felt a tiny tiny bit like Job in the Bible, that trusted in God when things were crappy, and got rewarded by getting rewarded 1000X in the end.

      If you were indeed terminated today hopefully this happens for you.

      1. Katie

        This is kind of how I ended up in my current job. I was in graduate school and was so miserable and chronically depressed and having anxiety attacks, I just couldn’t see myself going on there. It was a toxic environment.

        I finally decided to leave, and I just up and quit. I had no plan, I just knew it was toxic to stay. And I wasn’t even worried – even the worst unknown was better than staying in that program.

        And then lo and behold, two days after I quit I got a call out of the blue offering me a job, that I’d applied for on a whim about 8 months ago. Because it was government it took forever to process and I forgot all about it. And it was the ONLY job I’d applied for, because I hadn’t seriously been looking.

        None of this is meant to blow sunshine up Treece’s ass, but sometimes the best thing you can do in a toxic environment is just get the hell out, and things will come along.

        Good luck Treece – we’re all thinking about you. And you’ve got a team of people here ready to help you as much as possible in getting a new job if you lost yours today.

        1. Renee

          Wow, I read this on the way to work this morning and have been thinking about you all day, hoping you’re doing ok. Then as 4pm today my manager puts a “quick sync” on my calendar and on the calendar of the only other person on my small training team (we’re a smaller team within the customer service department). He showed up with a member of the HR team and we were both laid off together. The reason? “We don’t see a need for a Training and Quality Team in 2013.” Also, our big,, lavish holiday party that we’ve been getting emails about all week is tomorrow night. We were told not to attend. I hope you’re doing ok Treece. Hang in there.

          1. Katie

            Oh shit! I’m so sorry that happened to you :(

            It sounds so callous too the way it was done. I’m really sorry.

          2. Jamie

            I am so sorry – that sucks.

            And in the midst of your own problems you were thinking about someone else. Pretty awesome.

            I wish you the best in finding something even better.

            1. Renee

              Thank you Treece :) It’s been a hard day, but I’m really happy to hear that you still have your job. And at least I wasn’t expecting it – it was a surprise (been with the company 2 years, just got a solid performance review last Friday) but I know that feeling of walking around all day feeling sick to your stomach just waiting for it to happen. At least I didn’t have to go through that, and I’m sorry you felt that way all day.

              1. Katie (one of many, apparently!)

                I’m so sorry this happened to you, Renee. I hope you are taking care of yourself.

                I can’t count how many times I have heard this scenario repeated – solid work history, good performance evaluation, and then *poof*, no more job. We all know we are at-will, that we can be fired at a moment’s notice at any reason. But my question is: what do you all do to feel safe/stay sane? I find I’m constantly anxious that I’m not doing well enough, even when I get positive feedback on my work. I second guess vacations and sick time, worrying about whether or not I’ve really earned it. I take on extra freelance work that leaves me totally frazzled. Does anyone else get as nervous as I do? Any recommendations on how to combat it?

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Honestly, the very best thing you can do is to have savings and have options. It doesn’t matter how good your work is — your job could always be eliminated for reasons that have nothing to do with you. Savings give you a safety net, and being an awesome worker with a great reputation can help give you options when you need them.

              2. Treece

                I wish I could do something for you. The holidays are such a bad time to have this happen. AAM has some great advice on what to do after you have been let go. I was let go a while ago in a mass layoff. I remember the feeling. And I remember taking a few days to lick my wounds and then getting right back out there even though it was very hard. I do suggest making contact with anyone that you will want to use as a reference. I’m hoping the best for you. Let us know how you are doing.

          3. Not So NewReader

            Wow. Renee. That sucks. I am sorry to hear this and right before the holidays also– ugh!
            Frankly, I think I would tell them to “keep” their holiday party. (Am picturing your coworkers noticing you are not there- your absence will definitely put a damper on things.)
            Do you have a plan for next steps?

          4. Job seeker

            I am sorry you had this happened to you without any warning at all. You seem like such a nice person to be caring about the other poster that was afraid of losing their job. Sometimes, I think if managers would walk a mile in others shoes they would know how it feels. I hope you find a job that is even better. I hope you are doing ok.

        2. Treece

          I still have a job. And probably an ulcer. I confided in the lady in my department who has been with the company for over 30 years. According to her it has happened before. One time she left termination papers out next to someone’s employment file with the name in plain view. That person was eventually fired a few months later.

          So my stomach hurt all day as I waited for the other shoe to drop and nothing happened. Except I came home and ate a pint of ice cream. And I still feel like crying.

          So I am lucky that I still have a job and I can double my effort to find a new job. And I had an interview just this week and one set up for next week. So even though today sucked and my stomach and head hurts from the stress, I feel blessed.

          1. Katie

            Well, I’m glad you weren’t sacked today. But your manager is awful and I really hope you find something else soon.

          2. Jamie

            She has no business being in management. Whether its a mind game or just sloppy to leave that paperwork laying around is inexcusable. And twice? Ugh.

            I really hope you find something great soon.

          3. Rana

            Oh, how awful, even though the news is “good.” I think you’ve earned a good cry… and that ice cream. And a better job.

          4. Not So NewReader

            This is a company that is more focused on tormenting the employees than it is focused on business. It never ceases to amaze me- what happens inside companies that causes that shift?

            Treece, I hope you found a bottle of Pepto or something to protect your stomach lining. I have similar issues where my stomach will get all knotted up, etc. Don’t let a situation allow holes to form in your stomach- the boss will not care that you are sick with worry. Take care of you.
            I hope we hear back from you, shortly, that you have a new job with a NICE raise. Meanwhile, karma will meet your boss.
            Thanks for coming back and telling us. That is not easy, either.

            1. Treece

              It hasn’t been a good work experience from the beginning. My boss hired her “good friend” around the same time I was hired. And her “good friend” does not like me. A couple months ago when the boss was on vacation the “good friend” got mad at me for not handing her my project (I had one project and she had multiple projects to work on) because she was bored with hers. I was assertive (not usual for me) in telling her no, I had a handle on it. She then started yelling at me, called me missy (as in ‘listen missy’) and literally told me to “shut up”. This is a typical office with typical cubes with no privacy. I even asked her to go into a meeting room so she wouldn’t embarrass herself any further. And multiple people (some in management) told my boss what happened and how this employee was way out of line. And what happens? My coworker and I get called into a meeting where I am reprimanded for my communication skills. Because if I just would have communicated better with my coworker this never would have happened.
              I’ve been looking for another job ever since but I am having trouble because I have only been with this company for 6 months. It doesn’t look good to jump ship so quickly. I do get calls for interviews if I leave this job off my resume, but then I cannot lie when they ask me what I have been doing lately and I tell them about the current job. And then that is the end of communication with them. Sigh….. But I do have a job and I am trying very hard to keep in mind that being employed makes me lucky. Of course now I will go on from here thinking that at any time I am going to get fired. So I am following AAM’s advice for those who think they may get fired. Thank you AAM. This place keeps me sane some days.

              1. Not So NewReader

                Yikes. That is awful. I am sorry.
                If the stumbling block seems to be the current job- perhaps find a different way of presenting your info about the current job? I see you have two job interviews coming up. YAH! I hope one of these is the answer for you. If no, definitely ask for feedback on these two if you can. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

              2. Job seeker

                I am sorry you had this happen to you. I don’t understand a whole lot about the business world, but this place sounds awful. I think my stomach would be in knots everyday. I don’t understand how people that treat others this way can sleep. It seems sometimes those that try to do the right thing and work the hardest get walked on. I hope you find something great very soon.

  6. Heather

    So, I have the chance to do a cover letter for a great field placement for next school year.
    A huge reason why I’m going down the path I am is a negative experience with the place when I was an undergrad intern elsewhere– there’s no way I can work it in, is there?

    1. Not So NewReader

      Can you wrap it up under the heading of a learning experience. “I thought that X was just the thing for me. But after doing X, that is when I grew to understand I am truly excited about doing/have a natural ability for Y. I can see myself blooming and growing in the Y arena.

    2. littlemoose

      I think moss is right. Maybe the best you could do would be to diplomatically say something like, “While I have experience in X from an undergraduate program, I have realized that I am much more interested in Y, because (fill in the blank with reasons other than X sucked).” But yeah, you want to keep your cover letter positive. You can always practice more in-depth (but still diplomatic) answers for an interview.

  7. Sdhr

    A business contact who has become a friend has asked me to write him a letter of reference to take to informational interviews. ( he is unemployed and looking to make a slight career change). I don’t really believe in this. I am happy to be a reference for him when the appropriate time comes, but to me it looks a little sad to bring a reference letter on an informational interview. In addition, I don’t like the idea of having this letter out there, floating around in perpetuity. I have told him I’m not comfortable with the letter approach, but my husband disagrees with me. What do you think?

    1. Jamie

      I think the letter is a bad idea – excepting law and academia as I’ve learned here, it’s just not done. And I can’t imagine it ever being appropriate for an informational interview.

      Your instincts are right on this one.

    2. AdAgencyChick

      That you’re right. First of all, when I give an informational interview, I get very annoyed if the interviewee does anything that makes it clear that s/he asked for a purely informational interview but was really trying to just come in and ask for a job. A polite “this sounds really interesting, and if there are any entry-level opportunities that come up, I would love to hear about them,” at the end of the interview is fine, but I think bringing a letter of recommendation would cross the line into “please give me a job.”

      And, what Alison has said about recommendation letters in the past holds 100% true. If, after the interview, I thought this might be someone worth hiring, I would take the contents of the letter with a giant grain of salt, because the candidate wouldn’t be handing it to me if s/he hadn’t read it and liked what was in it. I’d rather call the reference and see what I hear when the candidate doesn’t get to filter the commentary (not to mention ask specific questions that probably wouldn’t have been addressed in the recommendation letter, which by definition has to be generic).

    3. SC in SC

      I’m with you on this. Informational interviews should not be used as a back-door approach to an interview. By bringing a letter of recommendation your friend is openly admitting that the real reason for the interview is to seek employment. If I was the person being “interviewed” I would not only be annoyed about being mislead about the purpose of the interview but I would likely end the conversation and strike your friend from any future consideration. Do your friend a favor a recommend that they focus their interview on getting information and establishing networking connections. If that leads to an interview then you could always provide a reference at that time. However, even then I find most of them to be useless except in certain fields and generic ones that don’t address the needs of the position I’m trying to fill mean nothing.

    4. LK

      I think there’s 2 problems here – he is treating an informational interview as an actual interview, and he’s insisting on letters of rec. He’s risking burning bridges if he’s asking people for an informational interview but he plans on treating it like a real interview.

      As far as the letter of rec, I think your instinct is right. I work in academia, where they are expected, and still no one gives them more than a cursory look. I think they’re silly – a conversation with a reference is so much more valuable.

      1. fposte

        Yes, absolutely. Save yourself the trouble and save him at least one extra layer of inappropriateness. If he’s selling himself, it’s not an informational interview.

  8. Anonymous

    Allison, I was just wondering if, looking back at your earlier advice, you ever find yourself now disagreeing with what you wrote or if you would answer differently if the question came now.

    Basically, have any of your opinions evolved or changed since you’ve started this blog?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Ooooh, great question! And the answer is yes! The first one that comes to mind is that I used to say it was fine to follow up on an application once, as long as it was in an email and not a phone call, but now I discourage people from even doing that because it just so rarely results in anything (and instead just keeps people anxious and fretting over that job rather than moving on mentally like they should). And I know there must be others too — I will think about this and probably make it its own post. (If anyone has spotted any, let me know!)

    2. Meg Murry

      I know she did revise her “use a landline, not a cellphone” advice to “use a reliable connection” since so many people don’t have landlines anymore. I’d be curious about advice to specific posters as well, if she has ever changed her mind in hindsight.

  9. Anonymous

    This is a rather trivial situation, but I’m going to throw it out there anyway. My department has a shared calendar in which we write our days off or times we can’t work, etc. We work in shifts rather than a typical 9-5 job. Anyway, one of my coworkers thinks it has become her personal calendar. She writes all of her and her children’s doctor appointments, including some personal ones such as her mammogram appointment! Generally, she makes these appointments outside of her shift, but just in case, we usually just write “can’t work past 3pm” on a certain day. But why does she have to tell us these details? I pointed it out to the manager already. I tried to make it sound funny, “Oh Mary’s getting kind of personal with her information on the calendar!” He agreed, but knowing him, he didn’t say anything to her to stop or just write “can’t work after 3pm.” The tiniest mean bone in my body would love to change the appointment types just to prove a point, but they could tell by the handwriting who had done it. Does anyone else work with someone who abuses the communal calendar?

    1. Jamie

      I can see where it would be irritating, but I did laugh at such formal oversharing. I’d be so tempted to act as if this meant it was a group activity and ask how many cars you were all going to need to drive to her mammogram.

      My problem is hounding people to use the calendar – so its the opposite of oversharing. It only really affects me because I can hear the receptionist sigh all day long and mutter loudly about how no one tells her anything when they schedule meetings.

      1. Anonymous

        I agree. I sub for the receptionist at my job at times and it can really be difficult when callers ask to speak with someone and you have no clue where they are or when they will be in. But I definitely agree that coworkers is over sharing. She should have a personal desk calendar to write the nature of her appointments on.

        1. Kristen

          I am a receptionist. Sometimes I wish I could put GPS trackers on people in our office so people will calling the front desk again if I transfer their call and it goes to voicemail and get mad at me if I don’t know where they are.

          Also, who are these people on the other end getting angry at me? Seriously, I would never call a professional office and expect the receptionist to know if an individual was in the bathroom for five minutes or in a meeting for two hours.

          1. Elizabeth West

            OH GOD I can so relate to this. I got so sick of calls bouncing back and being yelled at because sales reps would fail to return calls. All I could do was transfer it; I couldn’t MAKE them pick up their phones.

            1. Ryan

              I worked at a bank where the receptionist in another department was a total PEST. But she NEEDED to be and she was good at her job. Those people she was fielding phone calls for needed someone to ride them like a nagging mother to return phone calls and she did it.

      2. Kelly O

        She has my sympathies. I cannot tell you how many times I used to get blindsided with “I have a meeting with John Smith at 11.”

        I would have no clue and wonder if it was a cold-call, and then find out yes, it’s been on his calendar for weeks. Then it’s a scramble to find a place to meet because Mr. Smith also forgot to tell me he doesn’t want to meet with Ms. Doe in his office.

    2. Nikki

      Are you just annoyed or are her appointments taking up valuable space?

      If she over shares and it doesn’t affect anything, you might have to let it go. I’ve experienced my own personal soap opera for two years because I can hear my coworker through my office wall. I roll my eyes and try to ignore it.

      If she’s taking up too much space, is there any way someone can order her a personal calendar to hang in her area? Or you could approach it that way with her or your boss…..

      1. Sasha

        Agreed, I think if her appointments are taking up space and cluttering things, then you have something to talk to the boss about, but otherwise, it’s just annoying.

        Ah, calendar woes…my gripe is that my whole office switched to using Outlook for our calendars (which I enjoy), from a random online calendar that was really crappy and only one admin asst could alter, so if you wanted to add anything to it, like vacation or something, you had to go through her. She threw a fit (because she’s very territorial) and continues to use that calendar.

      2. Anonymous

        It’s annoying for the most part. We all write down “So and so needs off” when we need it. We may just voice the reason to the boss – doctor’s appointment or some other commitment. But she writes the reason down; it can be interpreted that she has a real good reason why she can’t be there so don’t bug her in changing something (we usually respect each other’s inquiries for days off). And she does have a personal calendar which she carries in her purse.

    3. KellyK

      Could you point it out to her? Just mention to her that you feel slightly awkward getting so much personal information, and that all that matters from the office’s point of view is when she can work and when she can’t.

      (We have a whiteboard calendar, and I keep my notes on it as generic as possible. If I say “Appointment” and check that I’ll be back by 2, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else whether it’s an appointment with a dentist, the cable repair guy, a gynecologist, my dog’s vet, a psychiatrist, my dog’s psychiatrist, a hairstylist, or a palm reader.)

      1. Jamie

        dentist, the cable repair guy, a gynecologist, my dog’s vet, a psychiatrist, my dog’s psychiatrist, a hairstylist, or a palm reader

        What – your dog doesn’t have a palm reader also? What kind of doggy mommy are you? :)

        1. Sasha

          You joke about the pet psychic, but my sister actually took her cat to one. No joke. That woman suckered $200 out of her, and all my sister got was that the cat “internalizes his stress, so you won’t be able to tell if he stresses or not.” Yeeaaahhhh.

        2. LJL

          Note that she didn’t mention whether the palm reader was for the dog or for her…but then again, wouldn’t that be a paw reader for the dog?

      2. Agile Phalanges

        I often allude to the generic nature of my “personal” appointments in Outlook, so my boss or teammates know whether they can contact me while I’m out, or what method might be best (kid’s ortho appointment–text or e-mail, shoot even call and I can step outside; if it says “Dr. Appt” that means don’t try to bug me; if it says it’s on the other side of town, and you need to reach me RIGHT after I’ve left, give me a call and I can answer while driving or at least call back when I reach my destination if I’m five minutes early). Of course, our team respects each others’ time and would only call if absolutely necessary, so I don’t mind doing it. In another team, just putting “Appointment” and turning the phone off might be required. :-) I would never actually specify whether the “Dr. Appt” is actually for the annual chassis inspection (as someone I know refers to her gynecologist appointments) or dematologist, but I do sometimes specify if it’s an eye appointment (might come back dilated and be worthless at small type) or dentist appointment (might come back numb and be worthless for presenting in a meeting) so they can take that into consideration when scheduling meetings or whatever for AFTER the appointment, though.

    4. Elizabeth

      Are you sure she’s doing it on purpose? I was adding appointments on my iPhone (to my personal calendar, I thought) and only realized weeks later that they’d synced to both my work and personal calendar. I was mortified!

    5. Anonymous

      A coworker once wrote EMERGENCY PROCTOLOGIST APPOINTMENT on his shared work calendar then kept mentioning to people that he was going to be out in the afternoon, no one knew what to say…he was kind of a wet blanket so we all thought he might actually be serious but in the end we figured out he was trying to make a point about improper calendar usage (which is hilarious).

      1. Twentymilehike

        Oh THIS!!!! Start going into fantastic (made up?) detail on all of your dates, and if you coworkers have a sense of humor they may do the same. I would love to see this calendar.

        You could also ask her how her mammogram went the next day, and how it felt and lots of details! I wouldn’t get mad, but if she wants to share, might as well let her know you’re paying attention :)

    6. Steve G

      Some people are very proud to have kids and it shaped their lives so I get it, though I totally get your annoyance.

      When someone has to wait to have kids due to money or tries hard for health or other reasons (like not having a man), once they do have a kid, they dote on and celebrate every little thing. Outsiders don’t always get what is going on. This may be a manifestation of that.

    7. PJ

      (takes of HR hat and dons Snark horns)

      Shout across the office, “Hey, Mary, how was your pap smear yesterday?”

      No, don’t do this. But wouldn’tcha just love to?

  10. Annoyed

    Sorry to be off-topic, but there are so many folks here with such a great range of experiences. My husband’s best friend (to be called Joe) is going through a nasty divorce. I was subpoenaed twice this year, and my husband three times to appear in court for the proceedings. It was a huge hassle to arrange early child care and drive a long way, but worth it to support Joe. The problem is, although I had to sit in the courthouse from 8am to 4:30pm each day (and we were not allowed to leave to get food, only to use the vending machine in the courthouse), I was never called to testify. My husband was called once for 5 minutes on the second day and it was determined he had nothing to offer, but he was still subpoenaed for the third day. Each of these days have been months apart. Joe had also subpoenaed other friends from very far away (full day’s drive) who were never called to testify and just sat there all day. Is this normal? I am getting kinda angry about this, particularly as there has been no follow up e-mail or phone call with a thank you. Joe is not too busy as he has plenty of time to party with new girlfriend. A lawyer friend suggested that Joe’s lawyer should have phoned us first to see if we had anything to offer, which we didn’t since we haven’t spent much time with Joe and his children to see them interact. Lawyers and those who have gone through divorces- is this normal?

    1. Maria

      I’ve worked on a lot of family law and matrimonial cases…this is both normal and not. What is normal is these cases do tend to have dates scheduled far apart (they’re not “urgent” and the court plugs them into holes in their schedules), as is the waiting around (although not to let you get food is ridiculous). What is not normal is for there to have been many friends subpoenaed with ostensibly little information to offer. It sounds like the attorney is either unorganized or trying to be overprepared. Usually only very important witnesses like doctors end up being on call to testify for multiple dates. I would discuss with the attorney that subpoenaed you both how little you think you have to offer and explain that it’s difficult with your schedule to continue to show up, sit around, and not testify. He should be able to give you an idea of why you’ve been subpoenaed, at least.

    2. Lisa

      Ok, AAM – How would you tell an employer this? You are required by law to show up to this crap and most likely not allowed to work from the courthouse. I would be seriously pissed off if I was required to take vacation days to sit around cause num-nuts Joe doesn’t have a good lawyer to ask me if I even spent any time with him and his kids alone After they separated.

      1. Elizabeth

        When our house got broken into, my husband & I were subpoenaed to testify at the arraignment. I called our HR department, because as a health system, a good number of our employees get called to testify regularly as a part of of their professional duties. Since it was a personal matter, not related to my employment, I would have to take vacation.

        As it turned out, the prosecutor worked out a plea agreement on the whole thing (including unrelated federal charges), so we didn’t have to testify. Checking the calendar, he should be getting out of prison in 13 months.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.

        My understanding – and I’m not a lawyer – is that an employer must allow you to appear if summoned (jury duty, subpoena, whatever) and give you time off to do so, but that that time is unpaid (and that, like jury duty, the employer does have the option of either requiring you to use PTO or take it all unpaid). Which makes sense to me… why should an employer have to pay you for appearing in court?

        1. fposte

          Jury duty seems to be treated very differently than subpoena (presumably because jury duty is basic civic duty irrelevant to your personal involvement). According to nolo.com, only two states include job protections for time lost to a subpoena, Georgia and North Dakota.

    3. Josh S

      A) A subpoena compels you to be at court for a specific day/time. As far as I’m aware, they’re typically only used when witnesses are reluctant. If you’re there to support Joe, all that needs to happen is for Joe’s Lawyer to ASK you to be there–no subpoena is necessary.

      B) If Joe’s Lawyer is compelling you to be there, he damn well better have relevant testimony to ask of you, or else he’s just wasting your time.

      You should really REALLY call Joe’s lawyer and say, “Hey, I’m completely willing to talk to you in advance and let you know everything I know about Joe and his relationship with Soon-to-be-Ex. But it’s really difficult to get time off work to just sit in a court room all day without being of any use. If you want to use me, please just ask–no need to compel me with a subpoena, just let me know the court date. But if I show up, you better darn well have me testify.”

      Are you sure it’s Joe’s Lawyer issuing the subpoena and not the Ex’s lawyer?

      1. Josh S

        PS. I am not a lawyer. This is not legal advice. Please assume that everything I know about law I learned from TV. Your mileage may vary.

  11. Katie

    OK, I need a pep talk and some advice please.

    I’m a new manager in the federal government (excepted service).

    I have one employee who is continually tardy and whose timesheet often doesn’t reflect the hours I see him at work. I pulled his badge swipes with security and the discrepancy with his timesheets was so bad that it met the threshold for an Inspector General investigation, so I’ve referred it to them.

    As far as his tardiness, I issued him a written counseling statement yesterday. It didn’t go too well – he wants a lawyer to review it, which is fine with me. He was angry and also lied to me saying that this has never been an issue before, when I know full well his previous manager talked to him repeatedly about the same issue.

    Anyway, I told him that from now on he needs to email me when he arrives and departs each day so I can be sure when I sign his timesheet that his hours are accurate.

    I guess I really just need a pep talk that I’m handling this the right way. He’s really angry with me and I don’t trust him anymore. I don’t know how to trust him again – I am probably taking it way too personally, but I can’t help it. I expect the best of my people.

    Thoughts?

    1. FormerManager

      Been there, done that, got the T-shirt!

      I managed a similar employee–constantly late, entering inaccurate data on the time sheet–the whole nine yards. Deep inside, however, I wanted the individual to succeed but in the end the person had to be let go and it wasn’t pretty.

      What helped me was realizing that he was the person making the bad choices. I went to a seminar once where a speaker said that most people choose to get fired, often by sabotaging themselves. Now, I don’t think this is always the case but I think it applies here.

      So, just remind yourself that he’s the one who is choosing to be tardy and falsify his timesheet. Also, documentation is your friend. Save all the emails he sends and write dated summaries of all your interactions with him. And make sure you keep your senior managers and HR in the loop.

      1. Katie

        Thank you. I’m trying to tell myself my concern is for my entire team, not this guy, and him showing up constantly late and not working a full day is terrible for team morale.

        It bothers me so much that someone would do this. I can’t fathom doing this stuff, especially once I knew my manager was watching.

        I am documenting carefully and having witnesses in the room when we talk about these things, because he tries to twist words.

        Sigh.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Remember, too, that this isn’t a question of skill — it’s not a situation where he’s trying but not cutting it. This is a guy willfully ignoring easy rules and then lying about it — should be easier to handle.

        2. Joey

          Katie,
          It’s actually good for team morale if they see there are some consequences for being an ass. And really don’t take it home with you- this guy is choosing to be a dumb ass. I never feel sorry for people who repeatedly make the wrong choices and know better. Since you’re in govt you really have to make sure you’re coordinating all of your actions with your boss and HR.

          The most important thing to remember is that there is a bureaucratic process you have to follow to the tee so be patient. This guy is going to look for any undotted I and any uncrossed T so you’ve got to be diligent. But also you have to be confident that you’re doing the right thing, both out of fairness to him and for your business. And I can’t stress how important confidence and patience is. It’s going to help you when he tries twisting your words, when he tries to push your buttons, and when you realize it may take a little while to get through what’s typically a long bureaucratic process.

          1. AdAgencyChick

            THIS!

            Also, good for you for having witnesses in the room and doing your documentation. A former boss of mine was great for this when I had to give warnings to an underperforming employee (whom we eventually fired). During the warning meeting, when I listed the areas he needed to improve on, he came right back with, “Well, YOUR performance is bad,” and started to launch into a speech. My boss cut him right off and said, “We’re here to discuss YOUR performance, not AdAgencyChick’s.” Brilliant. If changing the subject is one of his tricks, I strongly recommend this tactic.

    2. Sdhr

      Not being familiar with the rules if the federal govt employees, I have questions. Is HR involved? Coud he be fired due to this?

      I can’t imagine another way of handling it. Do you work n the same building/area as him?

      He’s mad because he was caught. And I imagine that for you to pull the badging in/out data, there must have been a reason. Sounds like you are approaching this correctly.

      1. Matthew

        Depending on the level of of discrepencies in the employee’s time sheets, he could certainly be removed. MSPB has sustained removal for fairly low levels. There are of course other disciplinary actions that could be considered, such as suspension or downgrade.

      2. Katie

        HR is definitely involved, and my bosses are aware (and appreciate what I’m doing). The timecard issue is with the Inspector General for investigation, which will take a while and the employee is not yet aware. You can get away with a lot in federal government but fraud with taxpayer money is a no go, and we will unleash holy hell on you. Once that investigation is done we’ll deal with the disciplinary aspect of that situation. So basically I can’t do much about that right now except make him email me when he comes/goes so I have a record. The tardiness I can definitely deal with now.

        As far as unions and MSPB, we’re excepted service, not civil service so we don’t deal with that stuff.

        1. Josh S

          “You can get away with a lot in federal government but fraud with taxpayer money is a no go, and we will unleash holy hell on you.”

          As a taxpayer, this is good to know.

          1. KayDay

            yep, all the people I know who work in the government know that the best way to get fired is to falsify time sheets.

        2. Mishsmom

          you know it’s funny (not in a haha kind of way) how the good ones (like you) ask themselves if they’re doing the right thing, checking themselves, evaluating what you do, but the person who really is in the wrong and should be at the very least embarrassed about their behavior probably never does a self-inventory.

    3. SC in SC

      Katie – I can relate to your situation. As a new manager I also had a similar situation with an employee who was doing essentially the same thing. And even though I’d see some improvement when he was reprimanded, he always fell back into the same bad behavior. Overall it was an extremely frustrating experience and I eventually had to terminate him. It was not a pleasant experience but it was the right thing to do. My advice to you is that you should not take this personal. It’s still going to suck but it’s the employees behavior that is wrong…not yours. Try to distance yourself emotionally from the issue. This is just another problem to solve. When dealing with the employee, address the behavior. Lastly, don’t let this drag out forever. This person’s actions have already reached the point where it may be considered criminal. They have been warned. If it looks like you will have to terminate the employee, document the situation, follow your office policies and terminate the employee. Allowing it to continue will only make extend the pain. Hopefully they’ll come around but considering what you wrote, I would not count on it. Hang in there. You’re doing the right thing.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Good point, SC. I wondered if putting in for hours not worked was some type of embezzlement/fraud and therefore punishable under federal law. I have seen independent contractors get in trouble with the Fed for lesser offenses.

        Anyway, OP, FWIW- you fit my definition of a good boss. A good boss does not let things like this go unchecked. I am sure once the dust settles you will find you have a crew that respects your strength and fairness as a leader.

        1. Josh S

          “Anyway, OP, FWIW- you fit my definition of a good boss. A good boss does not let things like this go unchecked. I am sure once the dust settles you will find you have a crew that respects your strength and fairness as a leader.”

          +1

          Enforcing the rules will only raise the morale of the rest of your team who follows those rules. Thanks for sticking to your guns and being a good boss!

    4. Sasha

      I can’t offer much advice but I can offer some encouragement. To me it seems like you are doing everything correctly. I would talk with your supervisor or HR just to confirm, but it sounds like you are taking the correct route. I’m sorry you have to deal with this, and that he is being so antagonistic. I don’t think you are taking this too personally. He is not doing his job and lying about it.

    5. Matthew

      Do you have a Labor/Employee Relations division to turn to? In my experience (HR with 2 distinct fed agencies), letters of caution are non-grievable, so your employee can waste all the money that he wants on a lawyer. Don’t let that bother you.

      You are the manager, you need to ensure that your employee is working the time that he is being compensated for. Going with IG is fine, see what happens with that. Continue to hold him to your direction, and when he refuses, pursue approrpriate disciplinary action…

    6. fposte

      80/20 rule, I’m afraid. It all sounds viable to me. What I feel like I’m hearing from you is disbelief and puzzlement that somebody is being so argumentative and contentious about something so inarguable, and it’s making you second-guess yourself. But we all find ways to convince ourselves that we’re the good guys in the situation, and he’s got himself good and convinced. Don’t let his response throw you. (If there are steps for official performance improvement plans there, make sure you’re following them, too.)

      1. Katie

        YES. That’s a perfect summary of how I’m feeling about all of this. Plus I was friendly with this person before I was his manager. We weren’t best friends or anything but I knew him somewhat socially. I’m also annoyed that his previous manager had these concerns and didn’t do anything about them, leaving them for me to handle.

        I guess I’m just frustrated, period. And disappointed.

    7. The IT Manager

      Since he has proved himself untrustworthy watch out for him trying to fake the emails. Outlook allows you to delay the sending of messages which he may try to use to fool you.

    8. Mike C.

      Don’t let this jerk gaslight you. You have the rules, the history and the evidence on your side. It’s never easy, but continue to stick to your guns.

      Also, thank you for being the kind of manager that takes care of these things. There are too many out there who refuse to do so.

    9. Wilton Businessman

      Ah, the difference between the government and private business. In business, he’d be gone.

      Considering the restrictions put on you, I think you are handling it perfectly fine.

      Note about the badge swipes: be careful that people aren’t piggy-backing onto each other. John swipes and opens the door for Jane, Jane never swipes in.

      1. Natalie

        “In business, he’d be gone.”

        Maybe, maybe not. Bureaucratic private organizations tend to work just as slowly as the government. My bosses spent months documenting performance problems of an employee. But he wasn’t fired until he was involved in an armed standoff with the police in his hometown, and one of our clients caught wind of it.

          1. Natalie

            I used to love to tell it, but events of the past year have cast it in a different, much more depressing light.

            TW for suicide.

            The police situation and firing happened in 2009, I think. Last spring the person in question committed suicide. Hindsight being what it is, I suspect the “standoff” was actually a suicide attempt.

            I do wonder what might have been if my boss had probed a bit more as to what was going on, or if the employee or his partner had felt able to tell us what was going on. I think he might have still been let go, but maybe it could have been done differently.

          1. Katie

            I actually think my agency probably won’t have an issue firing anyway, it’s that most of the managers would just rather ignore problems than deal with them. There are processes in place and it’s cumbersome but it’s possible. I just think most managers would rather not bother, because there are no real consequences to letting bad employees fester.

    10. LCL

      Is he hourly or salaried? One thing you can do, if he is paid hourly, is find out your employer’s policy regarding the time increments that leave can be taken in. So if he is half an hour late, and policy allows it, have that time be charged as vacation or sick leave instead of regular pay. This won’t completely stop this behavior, but it got it under control, in my workplace. And puts a stop to having to listen to his manufactured excuses, because you don’t care why he was late, just that he is on his own time.

    11. GOVHRO

      Please contact your HR department to find out if there is an applicable collective bargaining agreement. Government unions often include excepted service employees, including attorney and other employees you would not guess would be covered such as doctors. Government collective bargaining agreements can cover monitoring on computers, notification of monitoring requirements, to how long you can retain counseling letters or other disciplinary actions. -GovHRO

      1. Katie

        HR has been involved and reviewed the letter of instruction I issued. We’re not union employees – that much I am 100% sure of.

        1. Pax

          As a retired Federal employee, I want to reiterate what Josh said above. This guy may be angry with you – but the rest of your team will respect you. If thy are aware of his time-card shenanigans, or just that he is a slacker, and know prior management did nothing – you’re gonna look pretty darn good to them. And that means they will work harder for you.

          1. Katie

            Thank you :)

            That does mean a lot. One of the reasons I went into management is I had so many ineffective managers – I wanted to be better than that.

            1. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut

              ‘And ya are, Blanche, ya are!’ :)
              I don’t even work with you and I know you are a good manager because I work for a bad one. He’s not a bad person – he has a good heart – but man, does he need to boot one of my team members. Slacker in the extreme, the work that is done is total crap, team morale does not exist because of her and this person cheats on her time card constantly but he will not get rid of her. I no longer care – I’m on my way out the door – but this is why companies wonder why they lose great staff – managers who will not deal with bad employees.
              Please be proud of yourself for providing an example to the other managers in your office and to those who report to you of how to do the right thing in a tough situation.

    12. Lily

      I still have to fight against the feeling that I am taking things too personally. However, not trusting someone who has lied to you repeatedly is sensible!

      The idea of documentation was really difficult for me, too, because I thought of it as a betrayal of the relationship and lack of forgiveness. Now I write a summary of every meeting and major phone call I have. Performance gets documented, which is good for the good performers and bad for the poor performers. It’s great that you’ve figured out so early to document and have witnesses when talking to him.

      You knew him socially and probably thought he was a nice guy. Your former colleagues probably thought and think he was and is nice. But he is lying to you, big-time. I would be wondering if his colleagues would side with him or you. After all, he is free to tell them his side of the story and you’re not. I would also be wondering if he and they think it’s okay to lie to the boss because the boss represents the system. I hate having thoughts like this, but I try to do the right thing, anyway.

  12. LK

    This open thread comes at the perfect time! I know there’s been a lot of talk about workplace holiday celebrations and now I have a conundrum too. First, I didn’t think I was even going to be at my job for the holidays this year – I finished my master’s in a different field in May and assumed I’d have found a job by now. I don’t like my current job, and my boss hates me, so the only way I made it through the past year was telling myself “this is the last time you’ll have to ___”.

    I’m an admin assistant for a board of education. My boss is the director of the facilities department. The board of ed has a potluck holiday breakfast on the last day before winter break (which is always nice). Twice a year, my boss has a potluck lunch for the facilities department employees (once in June and once before winter break). He’s threatened to cancel the last few luncheons because of low participation, but yesterday he decided to go through with this year’s holiday luncheon anyway. So my problem is, all of the other admin assistants in the district get to leave that day once the buses are finished dropping off students (around 12:30 or 1:00). My boss’s luncheon doesn’t even START until 1:30, and usually lasts until 3:30 or 4. That means I will be getting out of work 3 hours later than every other admin assistant. My boss has a history of trying to prevent me from getting the same days off as the other admin assistants but the superintendent has always told him I get the same benefits as everyone else in the office, so I don’t know why the day before break is any different.

    (Sorry this got so long!) So my question is…how do I get out of the luncheon??

      1. LK

        I would love to do that, but I went to the superintendent about a year ago because of the ongoing conflict with my boss (I phrased my concerns in terms of my work, like “how would you recommend I handle X?”). I asked him to keep it between us (because I knew my boss would freak out) and he told my boss anyway. So there’s really no one I can ask without it blowing things up.

    1. fposte

      I think you don’t, unfortunately. This is somebody who’s likely to be contacted by your prospective employers, and now is not the time to get into fights with him when your relationship is already tricky. What you can do is come early, help set up with beaming smile, and bail fast.

      1. LK

        That’s what I’ll probably do (sigh!). Can I bail early? (All the other people attending the party are scheduled til 9pm, so they aren’t in a hurry to leave the party & get back to work). Maybe I could stay until most of the others leave?

  13. Maria

    My husband runs a small business and has a client that frequently shows up unprepared to work through projects, which end up taking hours and hours longer than anticipated. This client does get charged for the time, but since these are usually sprung at the last minute, it wrecks havoc on my husband’s schedule. I think, in part, this client likes to “hang out” at the office. Is there a tactful way to handle a difficult client like this? Husband has already tried asking before he comes over if x is completed, or “if you don’t have x done, we can’t work on this when you want to this week.” Any advice?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Could your husband set boundaries in advance? Like, “I’ll have one hour for our meeting Tuesday, so make sure that you have X, Y, and Z ready, as we’ll need to dive right in.”

      He could also talk to the client about the pattern and say, “Hey, you’re spending way more than you need to because of this and I don’t feel right about it,” and potentially add that he needs to keep a more structured schedule for himself as well.

    2. Colette

      Or just be clear about how much time he has available, and then when that time is up, wrap up the meeting. “I’m sorry, we’re out of time, can we schedule a follow-up?”

      1. Jamie

        This. Nothing wrong with telling someone a time you have available and when that’s up you “have another meeting.”

        They don’t have to know even if it’s a meeting with your couch to regroup, roll your eyes, and wonder why the hell you got into this line of work in the first place. Or maybe it’s a meeting with KellyK’s dog psychiatrist (still cracking me up!)

    3. Not So NewReader

      I am giggling. I have *friends* who have no problem saying “I can visit with you until x time, then I must leave.”

      We understand each other. Our lives are very busy.

      This could work out for your husband. “I am available until X time. At that point, I have another commitment that I must attend to. If we do not finish, we will need to regroup on a different day.”
      Here’s the key part: Stick to it. For example, if the set time is at 11 am, then at quarter of 11 your husband can say “We have 15 minutes to wrap up our next steps here and set up another time to meet.”
      He may have to do this several times before the client understand this is the way it is. Or it could be that the client does not get this at all and your husband has to say to the client “this is not a level of service my company is prepared to offer.”

    4. Wilton Businessman

      I agree with the others, set a window and stick to it. Say there is another appointment at X and you have to be wrapped up by then. But then again, the guy is paying by the hour so what’s the big deal if your husband has the time free anyway?

      1. Maria

        He makes time, thinking the situation will be as the client represented (i.e. 1 hour) and then it is really a task that ends up taking 4. Throws off the schedule. Each time the client assures he has everything in line, and it will only take x amount of time. Now that we know his M.O., we’re trying to find a diplomatic way to handle.

    5. Josh S

      Charge double (or more) for unscheduled time?

      Say, “From MM/DD on, I’m instituting a new scheduling policy. Any scheduled time will be billed at normal rates. However, any additional time that has not been scheduled at least 24/48/72 hours in advance will be billed at 2.5x the normal rate.”

      I’m guessing that either A) the client will balk at the prospect of paying SO MUCH more for being unprepared, or B) the client will pay it and your husband will enjoy the extra money. Just be sure to price the unscheduled time at a rate high enough that it makes it ‘worth it’ to your husband, even with the havoc it wreaks on his schedule. (Cuz let’s be honest, there IS a price he’s OK working the extra time–might be $1000/hour…but at some point it’s worth it.)

      1. Laura

        +1 When I was getting my first tattoo, someone came in and asked for a tribal armband off the wall flash (this was the early 90s). The price the artist quoted him was about 3x what she was charging me for the similarly-sized custom art she was putting on my leg. I asked her about this, and she said she absolutely hated doing tribal bands, but if the dude was willing to pay the exorbitant fee, she didn’t mind taking his money. I’ve always remembered that and have occasionally used it myself when pricing out stuff I’d really rather not do. It really does make me feel better to get paid a LOT of money to do it (conversely, I have a really hard time charging for things I actually enjoy doing, even when I know I need to).

      2. Wilton Businessman

        Ya know, this is the first thing I thought of! Reminds me of the old sign my mechanic had on his wall:

        Labor: $10/hr
        You Watch: $15/hr
        You Help: $20/hr

        1. Malissa

          That’s an old sign! The one on my husband’s shop wall read similar to that.
          Labor–$25 an hour
          You Watch–$35 an hour
          You Help–$50 an hour
          You tried to fix it first–$100 an hour

  14. Sasha

    This probably falls under the “just let it go” category…but here is my question.

    I have a coworker, “Angie,” who is a talker. Like she goes from office to office to talk with people, and if she hears a conversation in the hallway, she joins in. I have never recorded how much time she spends in conversations, but it seems like a few hours of each day are just talking with people – not work conversations, but just random non-work things. Our office is pretty casual and the occasional non-work conversation is fine, but it seems like she engages in this talk way too often. Sometimes she will come into my office to ask me a work question, then it goes off into non-work talk for a few min, and when I turn back to my computer to work she will just stand in my office like she’s waiting for me to keep talking to her. I have asked her if she needs anything else, and she says no, and continues to stand, then will leave after a few minutes of me ignoring her.

    As far as getting her work done, I’m not sure if she stays later in the day, but I know that she often does not take a lunch break. I work an earlier shift than she does, so I always leave a few hours before (I leave at 4, she typically leaves at 6). I am the unofficial team lead for our group – I delegate tasks and coordinate specific work, but I don’t have any authority to discipline or anything that strays into manager territory. She gets most of her work done, but some of the other team members have complained to me that there are things she should be handling in the afternoons when she is here (we provide customer service), but she does not take care of them.

    So my question is – do I say anything to Angie? Do I bring this up to our manager? I have a feeling I just need to let it go – if she’s getting all her work done, then it’s really just annoying to me. But since I’m not directly managing her or required to check all of her work, I’m not sure if she is. The only times it affects me and others is when she leaves stuff in the afternoon, but then she’ll take care of it it the next day. Any suggestions on approaches (and I probably need to be more direct) to asking her to leave my office when I am working? Or am I being too rude?

    1. fposte

      I’m not sure what “unofficial team lead” means. However, there seems to be a contradiction between “she’s getting all her work done” and “there are things she should be handling in the afternoons” but isn’t. That’s the one thing I could see mentioning to a manager–that you’ve heard concerns about coverage in the afternoon. The rest of it is not your affair unless your manager asks about it, save for the talking in your office when you need her to leave. And I think you know the answer to that one–stop silently wishing she was gone and dropping hints and just tell her directly to leave: “Angie, you have to leave my office now so I can work–please close the door behind you” (there’s something about a door-close request that makes people focus on the task and actually get out). That can be said good-naturedly. Your fear that you’re being rude is blinding you to the fact that you’re not actually informing her that she needs to leave. Tell her.

      1. Sasha

        Thanks for the comments. As for closing my door…I’m not allowed to per my manager’s rule, unless I’m having a phone conversation or something. However I will be more direct in telling her I need to get back to work.

        My designation of “unofficial team lead” is basically that I have been given some tasks to do that normally my manager handles, but my title and official rank is not above my coworkers. He will leave decisions about work delegation to me and how to handle scheduling of projects and special coverage.

        I do see the contradiction…I think it’s contradictory because I’m just not sure if she is getting all her work done or not. To me it looks like she’s leaving stuff. However I don’t know if she has been assigned additional tasks by my manager, and been told that the other stuff she is leaving is lower priority. Which is why I figure I just need to let this go.

        1. fposte

          Okay. But just to emphasize–telling her you need to get back to work is *not* being direct. Being direct is telling her she has to leave. Seriously, practice it in private a couple of times. “Angie, you have to leave my office now.” “Sorry, Angie, you gotta go now.” “This has been fun, but you have to leave now.” It needs to include the words “you” and “leave” (or a synonym).

          1. Jamie

            People who need this level of specificity fascinate and baffle me.

            We’ve all worked with chatty people, but I’ve never had to go beyond “Is there anything else you need?” at the end of a conversation to send them on their way. Maybe it’s my infamous bitchface – but I just don’t get the people who don’t pick up anvilicious clues to get going.

              1. Malissa

                I have one of these people in my office. The running joke is if someone asks if she’s in the office we all go quiet and wait for the sound of her voice. To her credit she admits to knowing that she talks entirely too much. But she also lacks what ever it is that clues her into when people want to stop talking. I have just looked directly at her and have told her that I really need to work on X now, so if she could please leave that would be great. She happily goes on her way.

            1. Ryan

              This is going to sound bad…but we had a maintenance guy who loved to talk and talk and talk. Myself and one of the girls who worked for me at the time who could see into my office had a deal that when this guy came up and started talking – if it lasted longer than 5 minutes we’d call the other on the phone and he always took that as a signal he needed to go. I should have been more direct but it was a good system and nobody got hurt. He wasn’t one of my direct reports and he was good at his job I just didn’t have all day to sit and listen to him talk.

        2. Jamie

          As for closing my door…I’m not allowed to per my manager’s rule, unless I’m having a phone conversation or something.

          Seriously, I understand availability and not being shut up all the time, but why do so many managers want to keep doors from their useful purpose.

          For us it’s a culture thing – we keep office doors open unless in closed door meetings (aptly named) or on conference calls. On the rare occasion I shut my door because I’m waging an epic battle against some bit of code people stop by and look in the window and just stare at me. And I swear I’m not imaging this, I get tons more interruptions because people will have more things they “just need a minute” about just to come in.

          I made a laminated sign indicating when I’m on a conference call or webinar and if that’s up people let me be – but otherwise? It’s like they think I’m plotting an overthrow in here and it’s their mission in life to distract me so as to thwart my plans without letting on that they are on to my machinations.

          I get that under normal circumstances an open door is more welcoming – but there are times it would really increase productivity to shut them but it’s seen as such an afront I don’t bother.

          2013 should be the year of the door!

          1. Sasha

            They just stare at you??? That’s disturbing. My office window faces the roof, so random maintenance guys will be walking out there. And sometimes they stare at me. I try to keep my blinds closed at all times.

            1. Jamie

              My blinds are closed – but office door has a window with no blinds.

              I don’t mean they form a line to stare – but walking past they slow down and crane their necks peering in. Maybe to see if I have someone in here – but it’s unnerving.

              Maybe I should do it today and play music really loud so when they peek in they’ll see me dancing around singing into my hairbrush like a microphone.

              I really need to shake things up a little.

              1. Rana

                I’m with Anonymous; I’d find something to hang over that window.

                Me, personally, I get claustrophobic in a room with no openings to the outside world, but I’ve had a lot of colleagues who dealt with the office-door window problem by taping up something pretty or interesting against the glass (like a cartoon, or wrapping paper, or pictures of their last vacation), so that was all anyone from the outside could see.

          2. Colette

            So … you’re claiming you’re not planning an overthrow?

            Oh, right, running the world would require dealing with people – even the annoying ones. Never mind.

            1. Jamie

              Ha! I’m so glad I settled in to read the whole thread tonight, as I missed this today. That was awesome. :)

          3. Not So NewReader

            I think you need a sign.

            “No staring beyond this point.”

            OR

            “XYZ anti-static aerosol spray in use. CAUTION: may be an eye irritant. Prolonged staring (> 2 seconds) could require medical attention. Exposure may cause hair and fingernails to turn pink.”

          4. Ryan

            This is the reason I used to want an office w/o windows. I worked at a job where I was involved in most aspects of the business and ran a few departments. Anytime someone would even walk toward or by my office I stopped what i was doing and looked up because so often people would walk into my office to ask me a question, how to do something, want to discuss a new project etc. It was really distracting…One year on my birthday my employees took multicolored sticky notes (that they didn’t get from the supply closet since all we used was yellow) and covered my window..I LOVED IT…I left it like that for weeks hahaah

        3. Diane

          So tell her to leave and shut the door so you can make a call, then call the universal time lady*, listen to the pleasant updates for a minute, and open your door again. It worked like a charm when we were kids and wanted to use the phone but weren’t allowed to call actual people.

          *At the tone . . . the time will be . . . 4 . . . 13 . . . pm. *ding *ding *ding

    2. Not So NewReader

      It sounds to me like you have the responsibility without the authority.
      How about redirecting the coworkers’ complaints to the boss?
      “Gee, Chatterbox Angie is out of my realm, if you think there is a major concern here, why not mention it to the boss?”

  15. Joey

    You know, I’ve seen so many comments about letters of recommendation not being worth much and I tend to agree that most of the ones I’ve seen are bland, vanilla, an come off superficial. But right now I’m hiring for a pretty high level position and some of the folks attached letters of recommendation that frankly impressed the hell out of me. The ones that really caught my eye were a couple from executives of big companies praising the candidates work on a very specific project and another from an elected official who praised some very specific work this candidate did. Now of course I still want to ask questions but it made me think about why letters of recommendation generally aren’t useful. Is it because they’re too generic, you have no clue about the credibility of the writer, or something else?

      1. Joey

        See and that’s what I’m wondering. I’ve never gotten a letter of recommendation from a supervisor that pointed out something of substance. It’s always been so and so is great, a hard worker blah, blah, blah. I’m just wondering if an unknown supervisor gave a letter of recommendation that detailed a significant (and relevant) accomplishment would it count for anything? I’m thinking for me its possible, with a lot of caveats of course.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I completely agree — it’s possible if it was unusually impressive and specific, and yes to all the caveats. I could totally see my eye being caught by omg!’s letter below, for instance — something that contains truly superlative and specific praise for someone.

          The problem is that I’ve rarely seen a letter like that! Instead, they tend to be generic and blah, and so I’m wary about telling people “it’s okay to use one if it’s truly superlative,” because people seem to have a much lower bar for defining “superlative” than they should … and then they end up not looking great.

    1. Sasha

      It’s probably because they are too generic and you don’t know the person they came from. I got an interview once because I had a recommendation from someone high-level in the company (job turned out to be TOTALLY different from the posting, so I did not get it), but I don’t think I would have even been thought of if this guy hadn’t given me the letter. I have seen a few letters in some candidates I interviewed this year, and the impressive ones came from high-level supervisors. The unimpressive ones came from peers.

    2. omg!

      I impressed my manager in my interview by giving her a recommendation letter from my previous manager that was so compelling that it caught her attention.. manager said i was the best assistant she’s ever had, that kind of thing. She did call the reference and talk to her about it, but she told me that’s what caught her eye.

      So I think they CAN help, but my situation was more of the exception than the rule.

  16. omg!

    I have one! I normally try to keep my private life out of work, but I’m getting married on Sunday (and will be out for the week next week) and I’m trying to figure out what to put on my out of office message.

    My work is project based. I have customers that have never interacted with any other member of my team (even though we all do the same things). If I have open projects with them, I’ve sent them a personal email saying why I’ll be out, how long, and who will be handling their project in my absence.

    But for my out of office message.. should I do a quick mention that I am getting married so they don’t expect me to check my email in the evenings (already set a bad precident with doing that…) or just do the generic “out of office with no access blahblahblah” ?

    Just wondering what other AAM readers would do. :)

    1. Sasha

      I’d stick with “out of office, no email access.” I see no reason to put in any personal information in a generic out of office message. Because once you set the precedent…it’s hard to go back. Like with the evening emails. :) Also, if you mention you are getting married, some people will want ALL the details and continually ask you about it, and then they ask about the honeymoon, and then they ask about the babies…etc. Better to just skip it.

        1. Sasha

          It’s happened to two of my coworkers, one got married and the other had a baby. People were even asking me for their details. Don’t go down that road! :)

    2. Jubilance

      I don’t think you should explain why you’re out. You should just saying like “I will be out of the office from (date) to (date) with no access to email or voicemail. If you require immediate assistance, please contact (coworker) or (manager).”

      Then again, I tend to keep my personal life very separate from my work life.

    3. Thomas

      Where I work, regardless of the reason you’re out of office, people just state that they will be out of office for a particular range of days, that they will not have access to voicemail or email, and then give the name and contact info of the person backing them up while they’re out.

      There was a salesperson in another office once who wrote in the out of office that she was going to be on a cruise ship and had no intention of finding out if she could access voicemail or email. That got a few laughs around here.

    4. KayDay

      I think a generic message is best, just really emphasize that you won’t be checking email:
      e.g.: “I am out of the office from December 1 – December 7. I will not have any access to email during this time. Please contact Betty-Sue at x.1234 with any urgent questions, or I will get back to you upon my return.”

      However, I also think getting married is a big enough life event that it’s okay to include, if you want to. I’ve seen it included in a not-a-big deal sort of way, and it didn’t seem weird at all.

    5. Wilton Businessman

      First of all, Congratulations!

      My message would be along the lines of:
      I am on my honeymoon on a beach in Maui. I will be returning to the office on X/Y/ZZZZ. If you need immediate assistance, please contact my Supervisor, Jane Smith.

    6. omg!

      Oh – and I might need to add that I’m changing my name when I get back. What’s the proper protocol for announcing a new last name?

      1. KayDay

        A business contact of mine did this:

        “I will be changing my name to Omg Newname following my marriage. Effective on [ date you return ] please update my email to newname @ company.com.”

    7. Elizabeth West

      I second the other posters on the generic email, especially if you don’t want to share details. Most of the places I’ve worked were small, so everyone already knew everything anyway. In that case I would say “getting married” or whatever, but if it were a bigger place, I probably would not.

    8. Katie

      So I work in government, and the best out-of-office message I ever saw was:

      “I am out of the office. If you need to reach me, please contact me at [REDACTED]”

      Hilarious.

  17. SarahP

    My father in law was just fired for looking at porn at work. It really came as a shock to all of us, and his wife is heartbroken. He worked in a field where a security clearance is required, and I’m pretty sure that this will make it impossible for him to get another one, or to ever work at higher levels of government work. He definitely knows he screwed up, and he’s angry and ashamed. I suppose my question is how should he address this while looking for new jobs? Would you hire someone if you knew that they had been fired for looking at porn at work?

    1. fposte

      My thought is that he probably needs some counseling anyway, and that the context for this behavior that may be found there might be helpful when he has to discuss this.

    2. Jamie

      Would you hire someone if you knew that they had been fired for looking at porn at work?

      I can’t imagine anyone impressive enough for me to get past this one in hiring.

      Threat to the network, boundary issues, impulse control problems, and a lawsuit waiting to happen. I agree with fposte – counseling is his best bet to deal with these issues and the counselor should have concrete tips for putting one’s life back together.

    3. The IT Manager

      No, but I don’t hire people. It’s not so much the porn per se, but the epically bad decision making process that he used to reach the idea that it might have been okay or that he could get away with it. I was in IT in the military; users know not to do this and that they are monitored. If he can’t wait until he gets home to look at porn, he seems to have some sort of self-control issue. Although someone can be caught and fired for doing it once, it also seems likely to get caught and fired it may have had to have been excessive or repeat. And knowing what I know about government content filters, he might have had to some work to sneak around the system to get to the porn.

      I honestly don’t know how to address it. Anything he says like looking at inappropriate web sites at work, pretty much gives it away. Anything less informative than that approaches lying, and that’ll only make it worse.

    4. Anonymous

      No constructive comment ahead:
      Just WHY? He couldn’t wait? He doesn’t have a cellphone if he JUST HAD TO?

      1. The IT Manager

        Field where security clearance is required might mean he worked in a building where he couldn’t bring his phone (or any other electronics) into the office, but yes. Couldn’t wait until he got home to look at legal porn? Major impulse control or porn addiction problem. Hard to explain how he’s fixed that problem without something like counseling.

        1. AdAgencyChick

          Agreed. Not only would I question how that lack of self-control would spill into other areas of the business, I’d also wonder whether this person is more likely to sexually harass coworkers. The only way I’d even consider it is if he said he’s been in counseling ever since it happened, that there have been at least several months of counseling, and what concrete things he’s learned from the counseling that will prevent him from ever doing anything like that again.

          And he’d have to say this all in a way that convinces me that he understands that he did a very, very stupid thing, NOT that he did something that should be A-OK to do and is only sorry because he got caught.

          1. Natalie

            I’m not sure looking at porn at work and sexual harassment are all that closely connected. Someone looking at porn at work has a serious impulse control issue. I think sexual harassment is more about the harassment than the sex – sex or sexuality just happen to be tools available to the harasser.

            That said, from what I understand having porn around where other employees can see it is considered a form of sexual harassment, so that’s definitely an issue.

            1. fposte

              Agreed with everything you say. And honestly, I don’t think most reservations about hiring are because of what else he might do–the possibility that he’ll look at porn at work is sufficiently offputting right there.

          2. Ryan

            Be honest now…him telling you he’d been in counseling wouldn’t make you want to hire him. You’d be looking for the nearest tape dispenser to seal that can of worms back up so you can roll it to HR and they can send out the “thanks but we don’t really wanna deal with your drama” letter.

      2. Victoria HR

        I’ve fired someone for this. We came to the conclusion that he *wanted* to get caught so he could get fired and claim unemployment or something (although that would count as gross misconduct and we fought the unemployment claim anyway). He was looking on it on his computer *and* on his cell phone. He had a little mirror set up on his monitor so that he could see where the supervisors were at all times. When I told him that he was fired and why, he just said “ok.” It was very odd.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Police see a similar behavior pattern in crime investigations. The perpetrator wants to be caught and wants to be stopped. But they are unable to stop themselves, they need intervention from other people.

    5. moss

      I don’t make final hiring decisions but if I knew someone was fired for looking at porn at work i would ABSOLUTELY recommend strongly against them.

      Besides the regular squick factor, I would see them as someone with no self control, no common sense, no respect for coworkers or company property, and boundary issues (don’t bring your marital problems into the office.)

    6. Not So NewReader

      I hope this does not sound snarky- but seriously consider jobs that do not have internet access or computer usage is not required for that position. I have no clue what that job would be.
      Perhaps in the course of counseling, this topic will be addressed? There must be other people who have found solutions.
      It’s nice of you to want to help him. But I think he needs to have his own learning experience here…. Sometimes we cannot come in between people and their learning experiences…

      1. The IT Manager

        I don’t think that sounds at all snarky. That way the FIL’s problem couldn’t repeat itself (at least not exactly).

        Only problem it would probably be very menial compared to what he used to do, but he’s put himself in such a bad spot, he’ll probably have to find something well-below his previous level anyway.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Sadly, I think if a boss knew he did not have internet access that would help him to get the job. If he has a special ability wiring, plumbing, etc he could make a decent living. Someone was just telling me about getting certified in asbestos removal. They claimed the pay is $50/ hour, once certified.
          So yes, this is a drift toward manual labor. It is what it is. He can push himself along and find a new area of expertise. Perhaps work his way up in the new field… or not.
          More of that making choices thing….

      2. Kristen

        If you are trying to think of a job that has no internet access, many blue collar jobs would fit the bill. Probably not something he wants to do, but just a suggestion. Some you may not be able to have your phone on you either or even if you can, reception is very limited in some industrial environments.

    7. Anonymous

      I see you all feeling really bad about this but its probably best to try to not make an even bigger thing out of this by showing hurt feelings to each other.
      He seems to have put some trust in you when he admitted to it and also probably learned from this, when he could have just told he was fired for wasting work time surfing the web, which is essentially the same without causing all those implications of dirty things/feeling betrayed. Wording it like this may also make it more likely for him to get another job, though I dont know if people would see that as acceptably telling the truth.

    8. A different perspective

      I gave a lot of thought to weighing in on this post, and though most people will disagree with me and have good reasons for doing so, here’s my take.

      I would consider hiring someone who was fired for looking at porn in the office. While it certainly could indicate the boundary issues and impulse control problems, it could also be a lapse in judgment. I probably don’t find pornography as offensive as many posters here, and for that reason view it on the same level as other kinds of “inappropriate use of work equipment” kind of things. And while I don’t want this to devolve into a “what is porn?” conversation, I think there is possible room for ambiguity here. What constitutes pornography changes throughout time and space, and we don’t have a good legal definition of it, really. A heavily corporate environment with more liability would probably use a very narrow interpretation, and that’s fair.

      I guess I’m more sympathetic of this offense because I’ve done it myself. Some of my friends are nude models, and I would time and again check out their work on various websites (not any hardcore stuff, but definitely porn). I was never caught, and I don’t think it affected my productivity anymore than folks who check their Facebook, email, or AAM. I’m not trying to excuse my behavior, and I did feel a lot of confusion and shame while reading the posts here (along the lines of “how on earth did I think that was okay?” and “how was I not fired?”). But I can honestly say I didn’t give it too much thought at the time. I wasn’t trying to get caught or get fired. I was just bored.

      I’m a good worker. I don’t need counseling. I certainly don’t see what I did as criminal behavior. And I guess while I know that looking at pornography in the workplace is wrong, I don’t think it’s wrong as such, and so that colors my opinion greatly. I can see this as a professional lapse and not as a personality disorder.

      1. Jamie

        I didn’t read anyone here offended by pornography itself, personally I truly don’t care what people choose to look at on their own time. I also don’t have a problem with sex, but I wouldn’t bring my husband for date night on my desk.

        Time and a place.

        I don’t think what you was criminal – consenting adults and all that – but things can be a fireable offense without being criminal.

        And just as a PSA there is a difference in the danger to the company and network. If pornography on a co-workers screen seen by someone easily creates a sexual harassment situation because no one should be inadvertently exposed to sexually explicit material at work. You don’t have the same danger with other time wasting sites. Porn sites are also teeming with viruses and malware and IT shouldn’t have to spend one moment cleaning that mess because someone didn’t respect the boundaries of the workplace.

        This isn’t about whether or not porn is persoanlly offensive – its a liability no one has the right to impose on their employer.

      2. Lucy

        I agree with @A different perspective.

        Other commenters seem to have very hard and fast (ummm, no pun intended….?) rules about this, and a complete lack of compassion. People make mistakes. I think this would have to be a case-by-case basis, rather than an immediate yes or no.

        I get the network risks, but @A different perspective brings up a very valid point: what is porn? One person’s horrifying and sinful porn is another person’s genteel ‘literary erotica’.

        1. fposte

          The guy’s not being fired because he watched porn; the guy’s being fired for watching porn at work. You don’t have to think alcohol is evil to fire somebody for getting drunk at work. I’m personally troubled by the fact that he was a job that required a security clearance, which takes time and effort to get, and still couldn’t wait until he got home. This is a mistake that came from somewhere, and unless I had reason to believe that whatever prompted him to find porn more valuable than his clearance has been dealt with, I’d presume he’ll be watching porn on my computers too. (When he’s supposed to be working, I might add.)

        2. Jamie

          Other commenters seem to have very hard and fast (ummm, no pun intended….?) rules about this, and a complete lack of compassion. People make mistakes. I think this would have to be a case-by-case basis, rather than an immediate yes or no.

          This goes to the larger issue we discuss here all the time about the employment market itself. There are so many applicants for every position that employers are increasing the criteria for hiring…because they can. It’s the same issues people are having trying to get entry level jobs – the competition is so great in our current economy.

          The tighter the competition the less likely an employer will take a chance on someone who comes with a degree of risk when there are so many others who don’t.

    9. Blinx

      I’m not so sure that future employers will know exactly why he was fired, other than “violating company policy”. Am I wrong? If his references are checked, is his former company allowed to expound on the specific reason he was fired? If it didn’t cause harm to another person, if he didn’t steal company funds or commit a felony… Although a security clearance check might be a little more scrutinizing.

      Unfortunately for him, even if he otherwise had outstanding job performance, the market is just unbelievably tough out there. This is one post that I would like an update on in 6 months or a year.

      1. Jamie

        It’s legal for a reference to say what’s factually true, but I do agree that many places probably will stay away from the specifics.

  18. Puppetgrass

    Hi all!

    Does anyone have any resources or words of advice for becoming an expat?

    I (USA) have been offered a position at our parent company (Denmark) – it’s all happening incredibly fast and I will be doing the negotiations over the next few weeks.

    I’ve been doing my research but I also thought I’d tap into this community for any experiences or advice :)

    1. Ribiko

      Semi-qualified to answer this question as a new expat (in Asia, been here for about a month):
      Do figure out how you will be taxed. I’m assuming you’re an American citizen, and if you’re making under a certain amount and being paid by a foreign company while working abroad, that income won’t be taxed (for more info, see http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/International-Taxpayers/Foreign-Earned-Income-Exclusion). However, this also affects whether you’ll be able to contribute to an IRA, other things…definitely something to think about, in addition to how Denmark will tax you.
      Do investigate the cost of living in the prospective location as you consider the offer – for instance where I live, rent is astronomically high (I pay more here than I would almost anyplace in the states) and it takes a huge chunk out of my paycheck.
      Do consider the possible impact of culture shock and the language barrier – have you lived abroad before? Are you someone who adapts easily? Regardless of how you answer these questions, do some soul-searching about whether you do really want to be an expat.
      Similar to the above, do think about your social/family situation and the impact this move would have. If you’re single and can pull up sticks easily, go for it! But be prepared for things to be lonely at first – it takes time to meet people (so I tell myself) and that can be very difficult. If you’re in a relationship, you naturally need to talk about all this stuff with them as well.
      My $0.02!

      1. Tax Nerd

        Taxes and the cost of living in Denmark are skyhigh compared to the U.S. (where I’m assuming you’re from, Puppetgrass). Here’s a list of what you should ask for:

        * Tax equalization to the U.S. (Your company reduces your salary roughly equivalent to what you’re having withheld now; in return, they pay all Danish taxes for you. An expat tax specialist sorts it out with your tax return each year.)
        * A healthy Cost of Living Allowance. Ask for one by Mercer or ORC, rather than one they make up. The State Department amounts are higher than most companies will pay, so don’t expect that high of an amount.
        * Relocation of your household goods (there and back) if you’ll be there more than a year; furnished apartment (paid by the company) if less than a year.
        * Company car or transportation allowance in Denmark
        * Relocation allowance at the beginning of your assignment, roughly equal to a month’s pay. (And at the end, if you can get it.) This is to cover random things, like needing a new hairdryer or coat that is appropriate in the other location, etc. [If you have a pet, this allowance is usually expected to cover the cost of moving them, but Denmark may have quarantine rules you’ll want to look into if you’re bringing a furry family member.]
        * Language and cultural training for you and any accompanying family members. I think the gold digger down below is right – this is the number one cause of assignment failure. Get reimbursed for Rosetta Stone at the very least.
        * That you’ll have a job equal or better in pay/rank than your current job. If none are available then, an agreed upon severance, such as 1-3 months.

        I’d suggest finding a book such as Culture Shock – Denmark. If you find more than one book on Danish culture, consider buying more than just one. One might focus on business, while another focuses more on social niceties, and another might have more on children, etc.

        Good luck and have a fantastic time!

    2. KayDay

      I’d check with your company and see if you can get the contact info for any Americans (or at least other non-EU citizens) who have made the move. Those people will be best able to tell you what things were hardest to adjust to, and other important issues you might not have thought of.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        Also there is likely to be an expatriate network (American Women’s Club, English speaking church etc.) which from experience are usually packed to the gills with people who have been through the relocation experience and can often point you in the right direction for advice. (Bank accounts, phone lines, medical treatment, which supermarket is best etc…)

    3. Cdn Dawn

      If you have no kids, do it now!! It is life-changing. It will be tough in the beginning but that is normal. They speak enough English there and are nice people so it will not be too difficult. However, try to have a plan for what you will do when you move back. Often, there is no place for you when you get back.

      1. Jamie

        If you have no kids, do it now!!

        And the next baby boom was set in motion by a comment on AAM! If the birth rate doubles in approximately 9 months we’ll blame Cdn Dawn. :)

        Just kidding – although I don’t doubt the power of AAM’s readership to repopulate the world with good little managers in training, I know that isn’t what you meant.

        And I totally agree – do these kind of things while you can. Then post a lot so those of us kind stuck in our lives (okay, me) can live vicariously through you.

      2. Natalie

        Hell, even if you have kids it might be a great experience for them, too. A few people I know went overseas with their parents and had a good experience. Plus, they learned the respective local languages at a level that’s just not available in the US.

        1. LPBB

          I second the idea of going even if you have kids. My dad was stationed in England for 3 years starting when I was 8 and my mom was adamant that we make the most out of that situation. We lived off base and my sister and I went to local schools. Obviously it was easier because there was no language barrier, but it was a fantastic experience that I’m really grateful for, even to this day.

    4. the gold digger

      We just interviewed a guy yesterday who helped start the expat division at Berlitz. As in, the group that helps expats prepare for living abroad. I also know that when my friends moved to France with his job, his employer sent them to language training (and perhaps culture training) in Austin before they moved.

      You might want to ask if your employer will pay for you (and your family – that’s the number one reason foreign assignments fail, apparently – the family can’t adjust) to attend some kind of acculturation program.

      Have fun! And eat sandwiches!

    5. Laura L

      My neighbor did this. But he is a neighbor from childhood and I never talk to him anymore, so I don’t have any real advice for you.

      It sounds awesome though. I know he’s required to learn Danish, but beyond that, I know nothing.

      And, yes, Scandinavians tend to know English. When I studied abroad in Sweden they were always surprised when I tried to speak Swedish to them. “Why would you want to learn our little old language when we all know English?”

      They also loved it, unlike people in some countries who get super annoyed at Americans who try to speak their language *cough*France*cough*.

      But anyway, I loved Scandinavia! I’m so excited for/jealous of you!

      1. Tax Nerd

        I’d suggest trying to learn a little Danish, even if most people speak English. I’ve lived in a country (Holland) where I didn’t speak the language, and I really disliked being functionally illiterate.

        I couldn’t read soup can labels and had to go by pictures, couldn’t read the newspaper or listen to the news, or understand announcements on the train telling everyone to de-board for whatever reason. Things got a little easier once I could read a bit of Dutch, though my listening comprehension was always pretty craptacular.

        1. Laura L

          I agree, for those same reasons. It wasn’t so bad in terms of reading the news because there were several sources of English-language Swedish news and if I wanted to read something, I could look up the words.

          But not understanding announcements on subways? Definitely not cool.

          1. The IT Manager

            Once in Belgium I was on the train – direct shot to the airport. Announcement. Train stopped at station. Everyone got off but me. Train didn’t start again. I realized I had to get off too and transfer trains. They must have been putting it out of service.

            I did learn to read enough French to get by in southern Belgium. The really tricky part there is they translate the place names into the local language. If you’re looking to get to Mons where I lived via the autoroute (interstate) or trains the signs in the Dutch speaking part direct you to Bergen. It’s like that for most towns, and if you are crossing langauge lines you need to know both names of the place you’re going to follow the signs.

            Mons and Bergen both translate to English as moutain or something similar.

      2. Sandrine

        For the record, some people in France actually love it when others try to speak their language ;) .

        Gimme an American or Brit trying and I swoon every.single.time. No joke.

        1. Jamie

          if you’re ever in St. Malo can you explain this to the people in this little restaurant who mocked me for trying to ask for the bathroom in 1984? :)

          Because it put me off ever speaking a French word aloud since. Years of jr. High and high school French wasted.

          How is your vacation going?

        2. Laura L

          Glad to hear it. :-)

          Admittedly, I’m mostly basing this opinion on a few days I spent in the South of France (is that what it’s called?) for a high school band trip.

          My friend was taking French in high school and he tried ordering food and other things in French and the waiters/waitresses would just respond to him in English.

        3. Natalie

          The only French I spoke when the bf and I spent a long weekend in Paris was “je ne parle pas français. Parlez vous anglais?” Worked fine, although I had a hard time not using Spanish pronunciation when saying place names.

    6. perrik

      Oh, how I used to love reading this site and wondering what it would be like to be an ex-pat. Still could happen someday, who knows? Anyway, Tales From A Small Planet is somewhat focused on US State department families but has lots of great info for anyone taking a temporary assignment out of the country. I think it was originally intended to be a reality check to the State Department’s “Post Reports” that sometimes painted too happy (or fuzzy) a picture of what it’s really like to live in Nairobi or Dublin.

      http://www.talesmag.com

      (you’ll have to register to read the Real Post Reports, but they’ve never spammed me in the many years I’ve been registered)

  19. lissa

    Hi everyone,
    I just found out I am (unexpectedly) pregnant with my first child. Unfortunately, the timing is not great, as I just started a new job in mid-October. I haven’t even been there two months or passed the 90 day probationary period yet! This job is a one year government contract position with the possibility of an extension. I am due at the end of July. I would need to take some time off to be with the baby, which would not be covered by FMLA or vacation time (I only get 2 weeks of leave). Does this mean I would have to resign? Also, I don’t know when the best time to tell them is, but I think I would want to wait until I am in the second trimester (which would also be after my 90 day review). I am really confused and could use some good advice! Thanks!!

    1. Anonymous

      Wait until you’re ready to tell (2nd trimester is typical, I told my work earlier because my morning sickness was so bad that I was missing work until being prescribed Zofran). Even if you’re not technically eligible for FMLA, they may be able to work something out. You’ll have to talk to your boss. Congratulations! Best wishes for a happy, healthy pregnancy.

      1. KayDay

        Even if you’re not technically eligible for FMLA, they may be able to work something out.

        Yes! I know someone who had a medical emergency right after starting a new job, so she wasn’t covered by FMLA. But the company treated her as if she was, and let her use her vacation time and then take unpaid leave.

    2. Janet

      Tell them when you feel comfortable with it. Usually that’s after the first trimester but if that’s a little later, I think that’s fine. I would imagine end of January would be fine for you to tell everyone.

      As for time off, I have two friends who started a job and then realized they were pregnant. One works at a university is going to be able to take 8 weeks off to be with the baby because that’s how their classes are structured. The other had a more difficult time. She took 2 weeks vacation, one week of sick time and then worked out an arrangement where she worked from home for 2 weeks and then was back in the office. So she only got 5 weeks off which wasn’t ideal but it was the most she could hope for. Neither had to resign.

      Just take a deep breath and remember you’re not the first person there to have a baby and it might not be easy but something will work out. I would recommend meeting with HR to discuss possible options. Then come up with a tentative plan of how your time off could be dealt with when you have the baby. I have found that bosses are generally happier when you bring a problem to their attention if you also come with a solution. Good luck – and congratulations!

    3. Anon

      Congrats. I would say that once you are in your 2nd tri, then tell your supervisor. Unless your health is causing you to need some accommodations on work time. Like morning sickness keeps you at the toilet for 2 hours every morning and you need to start coming in later.

      I would wait to worry until after you’ve talked with your supervisor. Who knows what options might be available but do go in with a plan of how long you’d be able to work and how long you’d plan to be out etc.

    4. fposte

      I have no clue what laws even apply to term-limited government contract workers–are they even covered by pregnancy discrimination legislation?

      At any rate, I would say that you need to start by figuring out what you’d be asking for if you could get what you want. When you say “time off with the baby,” how many weeks do you think that would be? What’s the minimal time you’d be willing to take if it meant you could get the position extended? You’re going to be the person making the case when you do let them know, so you’re going want to be ready with what it is you’re asking for and what you’re willing to settle for.

      I think you’re gambling either way on the telling time; the question is what you’re gambling. If you kick butt and the workplace approach to personal life suggests they’d keep you anyway, I’d tell them earlier for the ethical value. You’re safer for the time being, of course, if you tell them later, but they’re less likely to want to extend you as a consequence of your deliberate self-protection. So think about what you want from there, how you’re doing there, and what you think their reactions will be and decide accordingly.

      1. lissa

        Thanks everyone!! I really appreciate your insights. You gave me a lot to think about. Thank you again!

        1. Cathy

          Congratulations on your pregnancy! I agree with the advice to wait until you’re in your second trimester before telling anyone.

          Also, before you start discussing time away with your employer, you should also try to find out if you have any short-term disability coverage that’s applicable. If you are in California and you pay into the SDI fund, then you are eligible for 6 weeks post-partum coverage. The disability pay is typically a fraction of what you’d earn if you were working in a professional position, but it’s something you should know before deciding how long you’ll be away from work. If you can’t find out on your own, then your HR dept will be able to answer, but you should wait to ask until after you’ve announced your pregnancy to your manager. The main thing is you don’t want to set the expectation that you’ll be out 4 weeks and later find out that you can actually afford to be out 8 weeks, so be vague until you know for sure.

    5. Victoria HR

      Congrats!

      I was in this situation in 2007. I found out that I was pregnant a few weeks after starting a new job, so I had only been there for about 8 months when I had to take time off to have my son. I wound up using short term disability leave. You should be able to work that out.

  20. Jubilance

    My latest dilemma is not really a problem but I’d love some feedback.

    My new company has a culture that is very collaborative & focused on developing relationships. Over the past 3 months I’ve been working on developing my network, especially outside of my department. Some friends I have in other depts have sent me some names of people they think I should meet & get to know, and some of the people on the list are director or VP level. I haven’t contacted any of them yet mostly because I’m scared & I don’t know what to say! Any advice on how to word my email to them? I’m not worried about people not accepting my request to meet for 30 mins – in my company its expected & encouraged. This is just a new thing for me.

    1. Jamie

      If I were you I’d have a little informal agenda in my head of what I wanted to discuss and then email them about wanting a few minutes to discuss X.

      I don’t like to go into any meeting, much less one for 30 minutes, if I’m unclear of the agenda or at least the reason for meeting. But you’re company culture seems different than what I’m used to, so I may be way off base.

      I’d ask some of your work friends who are suggesting these people for some insider tips. For example, if this were my company and someone suggested to someone else that they try to network with me the best way would be to have something work related to ask – I’m very chatty if it grows organically from a conversation and work is where I’m most comfortable starting out with people I don’t know.

      OTOH if someone scheduled a meeting because they wanted to get to know me better that would completely weird me out. But again – different culture so YMMV.

      1. Jubilance

        In my company, a “getting to know you” meeting is common. In fact, I spent my first 3 weeks at my job just having these types of meetings & getting to know everyone on my broader team. Its time to learn about each other’s backgrounds (college, previous roles, etc), your current role/team & then also personal info you’d like to share it (family, interests, etc). I know that all I have to do is say I’d like to have a getting to know you & they’d accept, but I’m wondering if I should do a little into about myself & then ask for the getting to know you session.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I think I might drop by in person for 5 minutes, introduce yourself and explain your common connection, tell them that you would like to learn more about their role in the company, and propose a 30-minute sit-down (or coffee) in the near future.

      Just last week, I had a VP admonish me for never going to his office to talk to him (just to chat business, not like I had dropped the ball on something specific), so if someone is telling you you need to do this, do it!

    3. fposte

      I actually struggle with this myself. I find it helpful to remember that they’re not doing me a favor–that this is useful to them as well as to me. You’re an untapped resource, not a supplicant!

    4. the gold digger

      I had to do this with my new job. I scheduled a 30-minute appointment with each person, explaining I wanted to hear about what that person did and what her department did. It was very useful. Most people like to talk about their jobs.

    5. Not So NewReader

      If you run out of things to ask- then ask them about the time they were new with the company and they did the 30 minute meetings with other employees. What were some of the more helpful things they learned? (In other words, confront your fear by learning what others when they were in the same boat. Perhaps you will pick up pointers for when it becomes your turn to talk to the newbie.)

      1. Jubilance

        I did this in my previous getting to know you sessions with my team & it was a big help – I got so much great advice. Thanks, I’m going to make sure I remember to ask these questions as well.

  21. E

    On the September open thread, I posted a question about taking an unpaid internship on after I lost my job in July. I was worried that by taking on the internship, I would be unable to continue looking for paying work. Everybody on here encouraged me to do it. Well, I just want to thank you all for that because 6 weeks after I started the internship, they hired me on! I’m technically a temp worked just so long as they have projects for me, and it is far from a dream job, but it PAYS MONEY and I wouldn’t have gotten it without the internship. So thanks everyone!

    1. Anonymous

      “technically a temp worked just so long as they have projects for me”

      If it’s any consolation, most ‘permanent’ jobs are basically like that too.

  22. Jenny

    I graduated from college 6 years ago and found a full time job in legal administration. After almost 3 years, I decided that this was a very unfulfilling career and left my position to pursue something more creative (winter 2009/10). I took an unpaid marketing internship with a non-profit that I’d been volunteering with, and a contract development position with another non-profit. Both gave me invaluable experience, and both ended by summer 2010. To pay the bills, I went back into law for a year. Then, last summer, I started as a Marketing Coordinator for a small business. I chose this position because the Marketing Manager had been with the company for 10 years, and so many other employees had also “come up in the ranks.” It seemed like a great corporate culture, and I’d have a very experienced mentor to learn from.

    Fast-forward 2 months, and my Manager left to work for an agency. His direct superior was the VP of the company, and did not actually have any marketing experience whatsoever. Since then, it’s been a sort of baptism by fire, crazy, crazy ride. I was constantly reassured that a manager would eventually be hired, but it never happened. I’ve basically been running the department since last year. They hired a contract person to help me with some projects (who was deservedly hired on this past spring, and I now supervise her), and I have an amazing friend and resource in the Creative Director of our agency, but I am still the one who developed and implemented all of our campaigns this year.

    I received a promotion to Assistant Marketing Manager in July. Then our company was sold to a large corporation earlier this month and I received ANOTHER promotion, this time to Marketing Manager.

    I know I should feel blessed – all of my hard work is being noticed, appreciated, and rewarded. However, I now report directly to the Director of Marketing for this large corporation, and I feel like my education is lacking. I have great instincts in my job, I know that. Our sales are up 75% this year, and our marketing initiatives are the talk of my industry. However, I am now in charge of a brand for a nationally recognized company (think managing the Odwalla brand for Coca-Cola) and without the technical knowledge, I’m very concerned with failure. I’ve considered searching for a new job, but I’m worried I’ll look like a job-hopper based on my above-mentioned work history. I also love my company and the freedom and flexibility I have with projects, but I’m working with peers who have 15+ years of experience to my 1. They are also based in another state, so I don’t have a lot of 1-on-1 time with them. What should I do to make sure I’m not setting myself up for failure?

    1. KayDay

      If you are doing a good job and are rising, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask your company to sponsor you for more education/training/professional development. You are the type of employee that companies invest in, so don’t be shy (but do be polite and not entitled-sounding).

      You need to sit down with your boss and have a discussion about it and find out what sort of training (internal, external, academic, etc) is best and whether or not they could fund you. Be open minded about different opportunities, too; the company might just want to work with a senior colleague, or they might offer to help you out with an MBA.

      1. Jenny

        My problem currently is that sitting down with my boss isn’t an option, as he’s not based where I am, and he’s not very available at the moment due to other acquisitions and transitions that have been going on along with our own, as well as it being the busiest time of year for our industry.

        That being said, once things slow down, I think it’s feasible to have that type of discussion, so fingers crossed I can make it that long!

        1. KayDay

          Oops, I missed that he’s not in the same location. But even if your in different places, you can still schedule a phone meeting once his schedule allows. Keep doing what your doing until you have time to have a quality conversation with him, even if that conversation is over the phone.

    2. AnotherAlison

      Good grief, don’t quit. This is a fantastic opportunity. If you aren’t performing, they will let you know. Since your coworkers are out of state, you could try to schedule a couple 1-day visits at their sites to meet with them and learn what they do. I have done this with 3 counterparts in other divisions located in different states. It’s not about admitting you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s about sharing best practices and learning from each others’ experience.

      You could also join a local AMA chapter, or similar, and soak up some knowledge there. Ask for budget to go to the national conference & attend the training workshops. Read everything you can on marketing and brand management. There’s definitely no shortage of info.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Online courses? It is amazing how one or two courses can just knock that self-doubt down a couple notches. Marketing is an easy one to do online.

      1. Jenny

        That’s a great idea. I’ve been looking at blogs and white papers, but they aren’t as comprehensive as I’d like. And online course would probably be really helpful. Thanks!

        1. Anonymous

          Just be sure to do it at a reputable non-profit (public or private, but non-profit) institution. Your local (or nearby) state university (or equivalent outside the US) is probably your best bet.

  23. KayDay

    What’s the best way to be polite about a coworkers pregnancy? As a woman, I do understand why women are concerned about too many coworkers knowing about their pregnancy, and I understand the annoyance from people have a complete lack of boundaries when it comes to questions about it. I don’t want to talk about my reproductive organs at work either (unless I’m having a serious cramp and desperately need advil. Then all bets are off.)

    I have a good grasp of what I definitely should not say, but what should I say? I’ve only had two pregnant coworkers, and it felt awkward in both cases. My first pregnant coworker was there when I first started my first post-college job. She took me out for lunch one day and confirmed that she was pregnant by saying, “being pregnant makes me extra sensitive to spicy foods.” Later in the conversation, desperate to try to make polite conversation with someone I barely knew, I asked when she was due. Now I cringe at how inappropriate that must have sounded. In the second case, a co-worker down the hall (who I don’t work with directly) was pregnant. I was never told directly–but her team did have a very obvious baby shower in the conference room, and I signed for a baby gift she received at the office. I never said anything to her (since I hadn’t been told directly), but I felt like maybe I was being rude by not congratulating her at all?

    What am I supposed to do? I just want to be polite!

    1. Jamie

      There is nothing wrong with asking when someone is due if they tell you that they’re expecting. It’s when you assume they are pregnant and they aren’t that it’s awful!

      Seriously, nothing inappropriate about that at all.

      It really depends on your relationship. In cases you mentioned where you don’t know them that well take your cues from them and otherwise stick to generic stuff. Just don’t comment on weight gain or ask if the sex-drive hormones have kicked into overdrive yet and you’ll be just fine.

      I’ve also had work friends who were pregnant and over lunch we’d discuss everything from breastfeeding, weight gain, morning sickness, and the aforementioned hormones. But those were close relationships and we were personal friends and not just co-workers.

        1. Ryan

          Yeah i was just wondering myself why that’s inappropriate…it’s a perfectly common enough question when someone is either OBVIOUSLY pregnant or they’ve told you they are. I’ve never heard of any woman being irritated by this question…That said… all three of my sisters have been SUPREMELY irritated when people come up and wanted to touch their bellies.

          1. Min

            If you’re just going by the visual when you say “someone is OBVIOUSLY pregnant”, please believe that no matter how obvious it may be, you could be wrong.

            1. Ryan

              I re-read your response – and my statement about women not being irritated by the question was originally in the context where it’s been established that she is indeed pregnant but I stand by my response below.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, Ryan, wait to be told! There are enough women with stories of people thinking they were obviously pregnant when they were not that it’s just not something you want to assume, no matter how clear you think it is! Seriously, whatever desire you have to be friendly/supportive/curious about it is outweighed by the feeling you’ll cause if you comment and she’s not actually pregnant.

            1. Ryan

              I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree…i think there are times when it’s plainly obvious a woman is pregnant…(though I will concede that some people aren’t able to judge when that is and reign in the comments)

              HOWEVER

              I would wait to be told because baby’s really don’t do anything for me and your due date concerns me not at all. The question is just a polite follow-up in my opinion when the subject is raised.

              1. Anon

                Yeah, this is not the sort of thing you can “agree to disagree” on. I have personally known a woman who appeared pregnant even to an expert eye but turned out to have cancer, and have “online friends” (who I also know personally, not just stories I’ve read online) who have had their unborn babies diagnosed with a deformity that would be fatal upon birth (but the fetus was living inside her) and who had a stillborn baby and had to wait a day or two to induce labor. Both of those latter two women certainly appeared pregnant, and WERE, of course, but would not want to have discussed their pregnancy with a stranger or co-worker as small talk. Please, unless she brings it up first, don’t discuss a woman’s pregnancy with someone.

                1. Ryan

                  The first would be a pretty rare situation and even so…like I said…I wouldn’t say anything unless they brought it up. My GAF about your bodily functions, unless they’re spilling on me, is generally pretty low.

    2. fposte

      Honestly, unless you talk about her weight, what she should or shouldn’t be doing, or nothing but her pregnancy, you’re probably pretty safe from everybody but the social bean-counters (like people who count how many people said a personal congratulations).

    3. Janet

      Asking the due date is totally fine. I would say that guessing a due date is bad (“Wow, any day now, huh?” to someone who is only 6 months along is bad). Ignoring it is also weird. When I was pregnant it was strange how some people would act like that wasn’t happening at all. Like “I am not going to mention your giant growing stomach AT ALL.” but on the flip side there were some people that could only talk about my pregnancy as if I wasn’t a co-worker anymore, I was simply a baby incubator. So ask the due date and every once in a while say “How is everything going?” and leave it at that.

    4. Rana

      Personally, I’d leave it at a cheerful “Congratulations!” – if she wants to talk more about it, she will.

      I’m even reluctant to okay the due date question (which, eh, I understand why people ask) simply because I’ve known cases where giving one leads to people speculating about the circumstances of conception. (Yeah, gross, I know.)

      1. Ryan

        What? God no! People really start thinking about that just from a due date? Who are these reprobates?

        All I think of when I hear a due date (probably because of my sisters) is if it’s in a cooler month maybe it won’t be so uncomfortable and if it’s in a hotter month, “oh boy…you’re gonna wanna camp out in front of an air conditioner toward the end.”

        1. Rana

          It’s creepy, isn’t it?

          (Stupid creepy people, spoiling casual conversation for the rest of us…)

    5. Anonymous

      Neither of these are bad. I had a horrible time while pregnant because my coworkers and boss made comments like:
      -Why are they having a baby? They can’t afford it.
      -No one should get pregnant if their job is important to them.
      -She’s wasting energy running the A/C so much
      -We didn’t think you wanted a baby because you didn’t seem happy when you told (I was trying not to throw up from morning sickness)
      -She’s gone too much for doctor’s appointments.

  24. rachael

    Hello all,
    This is a general career guidance question. I have spent 2 years after college working as a research assistant in academia, got my masters in public health, and spent a year working for the government, which I hated, and am now at a small nonprofit. I am realizing that I want to be in the for profit sector, ideally in a sales position at a start-up company, but am also interested in consulting or more research. How would I go about making this transformation. All of my internships and work have been in the non-profit/ academia/government sector in more project management type stuff, but I don’t feel like I have a track record to show how my skills can translate into the private sector or sales. Any advice?

    1. Wolfe

      Honestly, it seems like an easy transition. You would apply to for-profit jobs and talk about your transferable skills (project management) and go from there.

      Just because you didn’t do that in the private sector, doesn’t mean they won’t look at you. Also, to really nail it, you can say explicitly in your cover letter how xyz skills directly translate to Company. “I noticed that you launched a new project, actually in my past roles I…” Feel free to spell it out for them.

    2. E.R

      Well, why do you want to go into the private sector or sales? From experience , a lot of sales jobs will take people with no sales experience if you have a track record of accomplishments, strong communication skills , and the ” right” personality ( which varies by company). I know you mentioned a start up environment, but have you looked at sales positions related to your previous industries ( academic publishing sales comes to mind, only because I’ve done it myself)

      I would emphasize, when applying, that you are a self-starter, goal-oriented, organized, and great at building relationships ( assuming this is true!) and use examples from your past work experience, they don’t have to be sales-specific. Also mention that you are passionate about sales , and give your reason, as managers are always trying to weed out those who really want the work, from those who are just looking for an in to a company or an industry, and are only “willing” to do the work. It can make a huge difference.

      I realize this is a bit generic as far as advice goes, but I wish you the very best!

    3. Anonymous

      I made a career change from healthcare training into a contract research organization, who were willing to take me on without industry experience, and then on to a pharma startup, which proved to be the best job I’ve yet had. (Though instability is an occupational hazard: unsuccessful startups go under, while successful ones can get taken over, with layoffs, departures, and a huge cultural shift and loss of mission. Whichever happens, for a tight-knit group it can be wrenching. Doesn’t stop people from leaping into the next startup, though.)

      So if you’re interested in pharma or biotech (or devices, to a certain extent) I can speak to that particular sector. Admittedly, I pay more attention to the clinical development side, but during a fairly short tenure on LinkedIn I have several times been contacted by recruiters looking to fill field rep positions, even though nothing about my CV would suggest any experience in sales. So there seems to be a demand out there. With a health research background, you might also look at entering the field through the clinical development side, since there is also a need for clinical research associates to monitor the data and compliance at clinical trial sites – very time and detail intensive – and for project managers to hold everything together.

      The Drug Information Association website (www.diahome.org) has an open job board of industry-specific positions. That will give you a starting list of job titles, job responsibilities, and companies for further research. Various regional life sciences and pharma networks have information on local startups that may not be listed on national sites. If you have research experience in a specific specialty or disease area, check disease information sites, since they give news about who’s developing what in that field. Also keep an eye on your local regulatory agency – the FDA if you’re in the US – for new drug approvals, since that may signal someone who will be expanding their sales force. The more you learn about how the industry operates, and the various roles and niches in it, the clearer it will be how your specific experience and knowledge can be turned to suit.

      Based on my experience, time in one or more larger organizations is useful as an foundation in the protocols, processes and regulations, before moving to a startup. Pharma is a complex, heavily regulated environment, and working in a startup may involve building the ship as it flies, fitting the processes in place as they’re needed, and there probably isn’t a budget for training – aside from that mandated by regulation. But once you know the basics, in a startup there will be few, if any, layers between yourself and the most senior people in the company, and watching them operate can be a master-class in itself.

      Good luck!

  25. Update with my mom

    I randomly asked the open thread for help in being nice to my mom. It’s touch and go but it’s been better than before, especially the last few days. I just promise myself that I’ll bring it (whatever that is irritating me) up later if it continues to bother me.

    Thanks everyone!!

      1. Another Mom

        I am glad you are trying hard with your mom. My mom is older and with me and my family right now. She has some health issues and is a widow. Honestly, I am so grateful she is here. I am so thankful I have the chance to help her and do things for her like she helped me when I was growing up. I am also a mother and I can say how much it means to have a good relationship with your children. I have a strong and good relationship with my three. I am thankful for all three of them. Keep trying honey, you will be glad you did.

        1. saro

          Thank you. You’re right. She’s a really good person. She and I know each other really well (obviously) but also have very different personalities, so we clash often. I think taking a step back and not reacting immediately to her is the key to improving our relationship. It also eases the tension for my father, brother and husband.

          1. saro

            LOL. There goes my attempt at anonymity. As a friend told me once, “Saro could never be a spy, she’d probably have to blog about it.”

  26. Emmy

    Recently, I applied to and got a phone interview with a company that a friend of mine has previously worked of. She was laid off from there about a year ago. I knew that if I had asked her about working there, she probably would give me negative feedback but I wanted to get a sense of what the company culture is like regardless. I also know other people who are still employed in that company and seem to love it (including a former boss of mine who I like very much). My question is how do I reconcile these competing views about working there? Who should I believe? How much grain of salt should I take from them?

    1. danr

      Ask anyway. The folks who are still working will know about the layoffs and should be able to give you a feeling for the mood at the company. Then you can compare their responses to her’s.

    2. Sasha

      Hm…good question. I would first examine where your friend’s negative views stem from and what kind of language she uses to describe them. Does it seem like she keeps blaming problems on other people? Does she get really emotional about stuff? Does she describe things about the job with generalizations and absolutes? Those are usually clues to me that the person’s negative view is not 100% accurate. However, if she can describe specific problems that she attempted to resolve, or talks about issues in an objective and non-emotional way, then it would carry more weight.

      Same goes for the positive views. If you can talk to those people and ask about any potential downsides to the job or issues within the company, and they are able to answer honestly and objectively, you can get a better sense of the place and put more stock in their assessment. If they just gush about it with no specifics and gloss over any bad parts, then I would be suspicious.

      1. Emmy

        I guess that’s what I’m having most trouble with is that I’m closer to the friend who got laid off than the people I know who still works there – one of them is an acquaintance of mine and one is a former boss. (I have yet to talk to my former boss because I’m not sure yet if I’m going in for the next round but if I do, I definitely will ask about working there).

        So I have heard more about the negatives of working at this company than the positive and it’s hard to be objective about it because I’ve also heard this as a friend before. So feelings and reason are totally getting confounded here. On one end, I knew how miserable she was. But on the other, I also wonder if she just wasn’t fit for the job personality-wise – it was an assistant position required a lot of organizational skills and being on top of this; my friend is a good person but can kind of be a space cadet and a bit ADD. Also, the things that she has pointed out to me that bothered her were things that I wouldn’t have cared about so much in my job – for instance, she mentioned that everyone looked very WASPy. Not an issue for me, as I don’t really care.

        It’s really confusing but I think I’ll have a better grasp of all this if I go through for an interview and actually interact with folks there myself.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Are some departments or offices better than others with in the company? Can you be doing x at y location and be fine, yet move to z location (still doing x job) and find yourself in a minefield?
      Look at the specifics of what people say? Does it make sense/resonate with you? Can you live with a work environment like they are describing?

    4. Wilton Businessman

      It’s good to go into an opportunity with all the information you can get. You take the good, you take the bad, and reconcile which is more important to you. Your friend may give you valuable information if you can sort through the negative feelings. Or, your friend may think it was a great place to work! You never know. Just go into with an open mind.

      Also realize she may still have contacts at the old company and that could go either way depending on if she wants you to succeed or not.

    5. AdAgencyChick

      Get as much detail as you can about WHAT each employee loves or hates about the company. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and vice versa — maybe a current employee says that she loves the freedom in the workplace to come up with maverick solutions, and another person says of the same workplace, “There were no rules, so it was completely disorganized and chaotic.” If you know what it was that they loved or drove them crazy, you can figure out whether the same thing would drive YOU crazy. :)

      1. Rana

        That’s a really great point. If your friend says something like, “Ugh, the people there were just so unfriendly” or “It was impossible to get anything done” or “I hated the work culture” ask for details.

        1. Rana

          Also, if your friend (or other contacts) have any sense of what your work persona is like, you can ask them whether they think you would like the work environment there, even if they hated it.

  27. NDR

    Does anyone here do translation work? It’s something I recently realized would be a great field for me (MA in Romance Languages, professional experience as a writer/editor), but I have no idea how to get started. I am more than willing to put in some education hours or do a certification exam, but I wondered if that was the best way to go/if anyone really paid attention to that. Any thoughts anyone has would be very appreciated.

    1. KayDay

      I do not do translation, but I work at an internationally-focused organization. All the translators we’ve used have been freelancers. If you want a “job-job” (i.e. salaried and you get a W-2 not a 1099) I would look into large international organizations–particularly those that have multiple official working languages.

    2. Anon

      All the translators I know are freelancers. It’s very common, and even translation agencies don’t have large in-house teams but rather have a large network of regular freelancers (they may have a contract or agreement with the translators but do not employ them directly).
      The main challenge is to get experience and build up a portfolio and a client network. In-house translation jobs are rare, poorly paid, and frustrating, but they do enable you to get a start in the field before you head out solo. You will probably want to get some sort of certification or institute membership once you get going.
      Most translators have a specialist area and language qualifications can be less important than having an in-depth knowledge of a particular field of work. For example someone with a few years’ experience in the medical field would be more valuable as a specialist medical translator than a qualified linguist with no experience in medicine.

      It can be a long hard slog but once you’ve established yourself and have a few key regular clients I understand it can be very rewarding. You could try asking around in online translation forums. Good luck!

    3. Kat

      I used to recruit and “hire” (on a per project basis) translators, so I can pass along a few points:

      1) you’ll most likely only be hired to translate into your native language
      2) get some projects under your belt before you begin marketing yourself. There are still many open-source software packages needing translation services, for instance.
      3) translators work in teams – translator and editor. (and sometimes a third or fourth party quality checker). Find yourself a good translator that you can work under as an editor. That way you can learn the ropes and build relationships with businesses that are using that person’s services. Team up with a few translators!
      4) check out some translator forums for networking, marketing, and loads of information: http://www.proz.com/ and http://www.translatorscafe.com/cafe/default.asp are two popular ones.

    4. AnotherDrJ

      I’ve done some work as a freelance translator. I got my start in grad school, through a public translation agency sponsored by my university. It was a side job for me, so the irregularity of the work and the long delays between project completion and receiving the paycheck were livable, but it was pretty tough for the people I knew who were trying to make their living as translators.

      Don’t get me wrong: a substantial project can have a great payout. You just might not see it until 3 months after you’ve finished the work. And you might have to spend quite a bit of time doing little, $20 jobs (birth certificates, transcripts) for multiple agencies before one of them trusts you with a big project.

      It helps if you have specialized knowledge (medical, technical, etc.).

      Interpretation (being a court or medical interpreter) is much steadier work, with a better-defined certification process and more career options. It requires a different set of skills though (ones I never managed to develop).

    5. Anonymous

      Thanks! I went out of town without technology and never got back on to thank you. I hope you see this.

  28. Wolfe

    I’m working at a temp job, and one of my new colleagues told me about a job opening since he’s well-aware that my contract is ending soon. It used to be his old post before coming here. I’m sure that with his strong recommendation (I’m qualified, don’t worry) I got the interview, and now am in the final two for consideration. (My current manager knows and gave a stellar recommendation – they want to keep me but can’t, so no bitterness thankfully) I’m incredibly excited! Honestly, after years of temping this could be my first permanent job with benefits. (Any tips for how to re-align my thinking when this happens?)

    If I do get it…what’s the best way to thank him? I wouldn’t want it to be too big, or for other people to get the wrong idea, but without him I wouldn’t have known about the opening. Should I just say thank you? Should I get him a bag of coffee?

    Thanks!

      1. Rana

        I agree that a heartfelt note would be a great thing to receive (I keep all such notes I get; they cheer me up when I’m feeling incompetent).

        For the record, I personally dislike doughnuts and don’t much like coffee, so those things would not be good presents for me, if I were in that person’s position. Notes fit all sizes and tastes. :)

  29. Anonymous

    What do you do when you have a boss that is a social misfit? He is just a strange guy and it is very difficult to have a normal conversation with him. I am trying to adapt but I’m not sure I’m doing a good job of it. I am not sure how to handle a person like this when they are in a position of authority…

    1. Ivy

      I would just roll with it and keep an open mind. Social misfits can be the most interesting people you meet. I would advise you to forget about some of those strict office social conventions when talking to him and just relax (not to the point of discussing anything overtly inappropriate, but you know what I mean). I feel like he probably just started, but I’m sure that in a couple of months you’ll get along fine with him. Until then trying getting comfortable with being uncomfortable :P

    2. fposte

      Agreeing with Ivy. Also, he’s not there for social reasons, so focus less on the oddness of conversations and more on how he is for work stuff. Are you getting the information and support you need? If you rephrased what had happened in terms of outcomes (“We talked and he agreed to buy more pencils, which he did”) rather than scene setting (“He kept trying to give me balloons the whole time, and called me ‘Charlie’ every sentence even though my name is Beth”), is the outcome satisfactory?

    1. Anonymous

      I don’t watch the show regularly, but I have watched a couple of episodes here and there. It seems that every employee the boss encounters is a model individual with a sob story. Do they ever come across someone that’s completely incompetent, or does movie magic keep those people at bay?

      1. Hugo

        The sob stories are horrible – imagine the jealousy of the other employees when the people featured in the show get tickets to the Super Bowl or have their kids’ college educations paid for!

          1. Ryan

            What are you kidding? I want a new car. I bring my homemade bbq to work and try and force it down my co-workers throats every chance I get just in case they’re really some rich person with way too much discretionary income. If that doesn’t end up working maybe I’ll choke them out with drywall dust.

    2. Jamie

      So formulaic – my husband won’t watch with me anymore.

      I can’t shut up about how they pick out a couple of sob stories and reward individual people instead of making more institutional improvements.

      I also hate the premise of the show – ha ha look how funny it is that the owner of a fast food restaurant can’t wrap a burger. But I’m thinking they bring plenty of other skills to the table – there are plenty of entry level jobs I would look stupid doing if you filmed me on day one, too.

      1. Hugo

        Jamie – you hit the nail on the head.

        Every menial, minimum-wage job is shown to be the toughest task in the world. These people need to be appreciated, yes – but not glorified. That probably sounds mean.

        1. fposte

          I’ve only watched a slice of Undercover Boss, but I like Dirty Jobs, which also involves the host frequently struggling with the jobs. I guess it just seems genuine to me there; the show is also really interested in the individual methodologies people develop, which I really love.

          1. Malissa

            I could watch Dirty Jobs all day and all night. But I have a serious crush on Mike Rowe…who shares a birthday with me. So you know it’s just meant to be…on some fantasy level.

            1. fposte

              And he can talk to absolutely anyone. People who have trouble talking to strangers should watch him for guidance.

          2. Rana

            Yeah, he’s really great on that show. He’s very humble with regards to his own inexperience, does the work (and isn’t afraid to do even the worst parts), and is very respectful of the other people’s experience and expertise. He’s like the perfect student.

            1. Rana

              Plus I also love learning about all the strange, difficult, and sometimes downright bizarre jobs that go into making our society work, and the people who do those jobs.

        2. GonnaBAWriterNGetOut

          Yep it does but then I would venture to say you have probably not done a menial gig (‘These people . . ‘ was my clue) in your life.
          These jobs offer little to no benefits, little to no control over the work itself and menial pay as the cherry on the cake. Actually, I think this show makes these jobs look easier than they are in real life – they don’t show the deadly, overwhelming dullness of the daily routine nor do they feature the snarky, taskmaster bosses that have to be dealt with to endure this work. Additionally, when you work a minimum wage job, you’re probably working more than one just to, ya know, live because mimimun wage is not something anyone can actually live on. Glorified, perhaps not – respected, yes indeed.

      2. Mints

        I used to watch it, but got sick of how dense the managers were. I mean obviously they’re smart in a cut-throat business way, but it seemed like every boss was like “Wow you’re so poor, I can’t believe how hard you work, but 10 people need to live in this studio apartment! How is this possible??” It’s because your company pays minimum wage, and that’s not a living wage.
        /rant

        1. Laura L

          Thank you! If the bosses think the job is so hard and that it’s so awful that the people are making so little, why don’t they pay them more??? They have power over that!

            1. Mints

              It was about the contradiction between claiming people deserved more and doing very little to help the institutional situation of paying minimum wage (just giving a couple people gifts).
              I don’t want to get into argument about living wage.

              1. Laura L

                “It was about the contradiction between claiming people deserved more and doing very little to help the institutional situation of paying minimum wage (just giving a couple people gifts).”

                This. Lots of talk, no action.

                1. Jamie

                  I understand the sentiment, and in a perfect world everyone would make enough to live comfortably.

                  But the economic truth is that if you pay more for a position than the value that position brings to the company that money needs to be made up somewhere. Not only would this come out of the salaries of higher skilled workers, and fewer lower leel workers being employed, but costs are passed on to the consumer. Higher costs create an inflationary environment where now those newly inflated min wage jobs are in the same position because they may have more money but it doesn’t go as far.

                  I feel for people who are struggling, but the way out of the unskilled segment of the market is to develop skills where you personally have more value for employers.

                  And I’m using you universally…not directed at any me poster.

  30. Charlie

    Hi everyone-

    Long time lurker, first time poster here. I applied for a job in May, interviewed in October, and recieved an e-mail from the hiring manager two weeks ago asking if I was still interested in the position. I had assumed that they’d gone with someone else because so much time had passed, but the e-mail makes me think that I’m still in the running. I replied to the e-mail reaffirming my interest, but I’ve heard nothing in the two weeks since that response. Is it too early to follow-up? This is a government position, so I’m trying to be patient . . .

    1. Sasha

      Ehh…I think so. Maybe after 3 or 4 weeks, you could ask for a follow-up. It sounds like they are still looking over their options and keeping tabs on who is available/interested.

    2. The IT Manager

      I interviewed for my government job in Feburuary and did not officially hear back from them until April that they were nterested. I had been let in on the secret that they wanted to hire me within a week of the interview – thank goodness- but I still worried about not getting the offer until it arrived. It just took that long for the HR to work until I got the official notification. I did contact the person who had arranged my interview, every two to three weeks. In part because she told me I should hear something by a certain date and when I didn’t, after giving it about a week, contacted her. She told me she was harrassing the main HR office more often than that.

      So you could well still be in the running. I’d wait another week – three weeks – before contacting the hiring manager and asking if there is a time for the hiring process.

    3. Malissa

      There are a few things that could be going on here one is that it really is taking them this long to hire. The position could be grant funded or it may not be fully funded until next year in the budget. They could have delayed the hiring because of other budgetary concerns.
      There could have been another person hired who didn’t last through the probationary period, so they could be re-looking at the original candidate pool.
      Any way about it, they look to be serious about interviewing or hiring you.

    4. Mints

      An acquaintance took a year (!) from initial application to first day on the job in a federal job. So, yeah two weeks seems soon.

    5. Josh S

      2 weeks later, you can respond and follow up. Don’t just express your continued interest, though. Ask for their expected timeline (knowing that it can change), and when you might expect to hear about next steps!

      In the meantime, keep plugging away at finding other jobs. Even if you are still in the running there, does not mean that you will eventually get the job. Good luck!

    6. Katie

      You can follow up and ask for information on the process, but they might not have much more to tell you. Government hiring is agonizingly slow, and right now with sequestration hanging over us and being on a continuing resolution, there’s a lot of uncertainty. We’ve had to delay a few new hires because of the fiscal environment. So they might want to make an offer but can’t yet.

  31. Frank

    I love open threads! I just happened to think of Alison this morning. I saw a video about how promos would look if Breaking Bad was on Lifetime. I have only seen a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad as my fiance is the fan, but the clip was hilarious!

  32. LT

    How do you deal with someone who was hired for a position that required them to become licensed in XYZ but fails the exam twice in a row? How many “fails” (or how much money spent on training/exams) before you let them go and move on to someone else? You’ve provided them with as much training material as you can find, and someone that was hired at the same time for an identical position passed on the first try.

    1. Natalie

      When I’ve seen this type of requirement in job postings, it usually says something like “licensed in X or will become licensed with Y months of date of hire”.

      If the job description didn’t include something like that, I don’t really see a problem in adding it now, assuming the license is truly necessary: “I’m afraid this position requires the Blah Blah license. At this point, we need you to acquire this license in X months.” Document, and then let them go if they don’t comply.

    2. Wilton Businessman

      Hopefully you specified a time window up front. If not, now is the time to lay out a schedule and the consequences for not meeting that schedule.

    3. Ivy

      I feel like third time’s the charm. I would give him a warning “Bob, we need you to be certified. If you do not pass the test this time, we will have to let you go” or however you want to phrase it. How many chances you give I think depends on the importance of the certification. I think the main thing here is warning them in advance and making it clear that their job rests on them passing. There is also the option of saying you’re willing to pay for x number of tries, but after that, it’s the persons responsibility. This is a solution if money is the problem.

      1. Anonymous

        Agreed. An accountant that can’t passing their certification exam is different from a Chocolate Teapot Maker who for some reason can’t pass a Chocolate Teapot Recycler exam.

    4. Victoria HR

      I’d give them one more try, and let them know that their position will end if they don’t pass it this time.

    5. The Engineer

      Reimburse for a “passed” exam. Set a date to pass or be terminated. If you are generous (and have a large enough organization) you might offer a different career path.

      Had a coworker who could not get his professional license and ended up in the technician path (government agency). Also had employees who didn’t pass certifications which led to the “pass and get paid” rule instead of paying test fees in advance.

  33. Malissa

    I have a question this time!

    Is it just me or are employers looking for more unicorns? I used to see ads that said 3-5 years general teapot making experience needed. Now I’m seeing ad that say, “3-5 years of chocolate teapot handle making experience needed.” Are they really getting unicorns or are they just trying to preemptively narrow down their candidate field?

    1. Anonymous

      No, it’s not just you. I just went through a job search and I always called it ‘waiting for Jesus’. It was like they were getting soooo many applicants that they would pass every single one of them but because JUST MAYBE someone better would come along. Well, I know for sure that some of the jobs I interviewed for months ago are still open.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I love this “waiting for Jesus” expression. That is just perfect. I’m noticing the same thing; also, that jobs I applied for are reappearing after a while. It makes me wonder if they hired someone thinking they were Jesus and then were disappointed when they didn’t walk on water.

    2. Wilton Businessman

      I can speak from the employer side of that equation.

      There are a lot of candidates out there. Some employers are looking to fill a particular slot and therefore they think they need to fill it with specific skill set. I think they are limiting their candidate pool by doing that.

      Other employers, such as myself, will list “requirements” and “nice to have” criteria. Sure, I would really like a “teapot handle maker in the french style”, but I’d rather have a solid “teapot maker”.

      But that doesn’t stop the “broom makers” from sending in their resume’s either, so I still end up looking at a lot of people.

      1. ABC

        Thanks – but now I have a bunch of Qs for you.

        So typically how do you treat the resumes that are not very strong on all the things in the requirements list? Does the priortisation of resumes start at the “nice to have ” criteria or in the requirements criteria itself (as in, do you spend more time on resumes that seem strong to you on the requirements & keep aside others till later).
        What I basically want to understand – does it make sense for me to apply when I meet only 70-80% of the requirements (eg have skillsets but not in the industry required)

        Thanks!

        1. Wilton Businessman

          “Nice to have” criteria is just that. Somebody isn’t going to get in with all my “nice to have” but none of my requirements. In other words, if they don’t meet my requirements, I don’t care if they have *any* of the “nice to have” skills.

          That being said, my requirements are not set in stone either. So if I say I am looking for someone with 3-5 years of teapot making experience and you have 2.7 years as a teapot maker, I’m probably going to look at your resume. I’m going to look that you are staying current in teapot making methods and that you have progressive levels of responsibility.

          I think how much of the requirements you meet depends on the company. I look for smart people that want to work hard and be rewarded for it. There is a certain type of person that succeeds in my company. I invest a lot of time in you and I want to make sure you are going to succeed at Chocolate Teapot Makers, Inc. I would say that if you meet 70-80% of my requirements, you will get looked at.

          Me personally, I will look at coffeepot makers if I think those skillsets will transfer well. I know a lot of people won’t, so it depends.

          1. Diane

            My HR department screens out anyone who does not absolutely meet the requirements, so if someone has 2 years and 11 months experience, I don’t even see their applications. I think it’s supposed to be incentive to hiring managers to be thoughtful about what minimum requirements are truly necessary, but in practice, a lot of good people who could learn the job and who bring other great skills get screened out. I don’t like it.

      2. Katie

        And mediocre broom makers at that! Sheesh.

        I was just put in charge of hiring for my company and completed interviews this week (and I really, really love it!). The level of professionalism ranged from disappointing to downright appalling.

        Here’s a fun interview tip: don’t sexually harass your interviewer. She won’t like it.

        1. Rana

          Wow. That seems like basic interviewing 101!

          (But I’ve mostly given up on being surprised at what people don’t know, or think they don’t need to know.)

          1. Katie

            Here’s the thing, it’s not about what people do and don’t know. If I asked that guy if it would be appropriate to sexually harass one of his coworkers, he would certainly emphatically argue no. But he might not realize that making comments about an interviewer’s appearance, while seemingly positive (to him), aren’t appropriate, nor are vague references to sex acts veiled as a joke.

            It’s hard to accept, but some men really don’t know this isn’t okay. They honestly, in their heart of hearts, think they are being funny, lighthearted, and charming. This is easier to accept and understand as an interviewer, where you have a fair amount of power. Unfortunately for many women, the power dice don’t roll out in their favor, and they have to tolerate these types of interactions to some degree. Ick.

    3. Cathy

      In my case, it’s not that we’re looking for unicorns or waiting for Jesus. It’s that like most businesses, we are running leaner than ever before, and we don’t have time for on-the-job training for things you could learn from a book or school.

      I’m in a small company, and I need mid-career software engineers who have a certain skill-set (it’s not that exotic — 3 years of solid LAMP experience, and some time with any MVC framework). This is an exempt position in a major U.S. west-coast city and I have a list of requirements and a list of nice-to-haves in the posting.

      The requirements are requirements because it’s a small team, and bringing a new person up to speed takes up other team members’ time, and we don’t have a lot of that to spare right now. We need to know that you have enough experience in a roughly similar environment that you’ll understand what we’re doing and how our specific environment works the first time we show you (or at least the second time). If you don’t have the right background and we have to help you get the basic skills before going deeper, you’re going to be a drain on the entire team for a long while.

      We’re struggling with one person who has this very issue now. It’s like trying to teach Calculus to someone who never took Algebra, and it’s wearing everyone out. To his credit, he recognizes that we gave him a chance when he didn’t have the right skills, and is working on his own time to learn them as quickly as he can; but we won’t make that same mistake with the next hire. It’s better to wait and get someone who has the basics we need.

      1. Malissa

        That is a great explanation.
        Doesn’t give me much hope of jumping industries. But I can’t argue the logic.

  34. corner cube

    How do I go about establishing a good realtionship with a new boss? I applied for his job and didn’t get it. I did, however, score a new position with a 20% pay raise, new title and got to write my own job description. I don’t want the new boss to think that I am bitter or resentful for not getting his job. I would really appreciate any guidance.

      1. corner cube

        It matters because its a very small team, and the last two people who have held this job have been fired. I am not sure why but this place is very petty and it seems like people are looking for a reason to create a “you vs. me” mentality. I am not sure if he’s been told that I applied for his job or not, but given how political it is here, I am concerned.

        1. fposte

          I wouldn’t bring it up unless he did. And then I’d say pretty much what you said here–it was worth a try, but it turned out fine for me as is.

      1. Josh S

        And do your work with quality and excellence. Try to surpass expectations.

        A friendly, respectful person who covers their s*** well keeps their job.

          1. Ryan

            Yup…you don’t have to tell him you’re not resentful…show it by how you deal with him. Don’t be all fake nicey-nice or it’ll look like you’re covering resentment. Just be genuine and pleasant and do a good job.

  35. Jay

    Semi-theoretical question: if your supervisor fights to create a permanent position for you (a temp), can you turn it down without burning bridges/seeming unprofessional or ungrateful?

    1. Ivy

      Since it’s semi-theoretical, I’m hoping you’re saying this might happen in the future? Before your supervisor goes out of her way to do this, I would talk to her to let her know that you’d love to keep working with her, but that your also looking at company x.

      1. Jay

        It’s happening now, but it’s semi-theoretical because I probably won’t turn it down if it does end up happening. It’s kind of a weird situation…I started temping FT in March, they kept extending my contract, I got a permanent PT position in my field in August but they kept me on PT…twice in November I was supposed to be finished with the assignment but 2-3 days before my supervisor would get an extension for me. Right now, she’s keeping me “as long as she can” and trying to get approval for a permanent PT position. I’ve told her I’d have to think about an offer/couldn’t commit to accepting and that the position in my field would be my priority, but I do still feel guilty about her going to bat for me when I’m not crazy enthusiastic about the job. But that’s just professional life, I guess! (This is my first permanent position, and the first time a temp position actually may go permanent, so I’m a little unsure of navigating the waters!)

        1. Ivy

          Given that you’ve expressed your feelings, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I think you might be looking at it the wrong way though, which is giving you some added stress. Your supervisor isn’t trying to make this a permanent position as a favor to you. She’s doing it because she thinks she needs some there (albeit preferably that someone would be you, but it’s not necessary). It seems her trying to make this position permanent is independent of whether you accept it or not.

    2. Jamie

      If they fought to create a position for you without knowing whether or not you’d want it, that’s on them.

      They may not like it – but you don’t owe it to anyone to take a job you don’t want just to avoid hurting their feelings.

      If that was the rule I’d have married the first guy who asked me … there is nothing wrong with being flattered but opting out.

      1. Ivy

        To me it sounds like it was more that Jay expressed interest in staying and the supervisor worked to make it happen…. Maybe I misinterpreted though.

      2. Jay

        Thanks, Jamie…I’ve told her that I really appreciate it but that I would have to consider a potential offer, so I guess that’s all I can do until I know if one is actually coming (I’ll probably take it if it does, but I was just wondering what the general feel was/what I should be doing, since this is the first time it’s happened to me!)

  36. Liz in the City

    Hey, all! I’ve been a lurker (and comment reader) for a while, but I’m so grateful for this open thread this week. Here’s why: I recently started a new job (read: Nov. 26) and I’m participating in the office’s Secret Santa. It’s a small ad agency, about 30-40 people, and it’s a fun atmosphere. My issue: I got one the EVP and since I’ve been here two weeks, I know NOTHING about anyone, much less the EVP. What I do know: She’s the one who interviewed and hired me, she owns a dog (our company has a bring-your-dog-to-work policy), has a house in the Hamptons (I’m out on LI)…and that’s about it. Suggestions for a gift, max $25, that’s not hokey and won’t earn me a place in the “worst gift ever” category?

    1. Jamie

      It varies so much from person to person – but I love candles. I know a lot of people don’t, but it’s a common “what the heck to I get them” gift and enough people do they can regift them if they won’t use them.

    2. LK

      If the EVP has an assistant, they could probably point you in the right direction. (For example, my boss doesn’t drink, so I tell vendors that, say, a bottle of wine is not an ideal gift).

    3. KayDay

      I’ve seen some cute dog accessories (like bows for collars and stuff like that) at the pet store. Otherwise my go to is a Starbucks gift card (unless they don’t drink coffee, or they are a complete coffee-snob).

      1. Liz in the City

        I thought that too, except we have free coffee in the office (and I haven’t seen her carting around her own cup…). I’m considering it though. Thanks!

        And she doesn’t have an assistant that I’ve seen yet. We’re tiny–but I have considered cluing someone else in and asking around if I get desperate. Argh.

        1. saro

          I think a nice gift for her dog would be nice. Maybe even a little box of healthy dog treats and toys?

          1. Jill

            I vote for the dog gift, especially some healthy, fancy treats. As a dog person, I’d like that, and it’s somewhat personal to her.

            Maybe an edible treat (really nice bars of chocolate) for the EVP and one for their dog?

            1. Jill

              In case that wasn’t clear, that was chocolate for the EVP and other things for the dog…don’t get chocolate for the dog :)

          2. Josh S

            Be sure that the dog treats are clearly labeled as dog treats. How much would it suck to give some venison chew strips and have the EVP come back and comment about how good the ‘deer jerky’ was…?

            1. Liz in the City

              +1 That would be hilarious…and awful (Thanks for the new job! Hope you’re enjoying the dog treats I got you. Oh, you ate them. Yourself.)

    4. Not So NewReader

      A donation to a respected animal rescue?
      Donate a small animal through Heifer Project? (You might be able to donate chickens or similar for $25. They give you a gift card that will tell her a donation has been made in her name.)

    5. Colette

      I don’t think anyone expects a fabulous, perfectly appropriate gift at an office gift exchange. I vote for something consumable – others have suggested candles or gift cards or wine – any of those would be fine.

      But I would also suggest talking with someone who’s been there longer and seeing what kind of things people gave/received last year.

  37. Schnauz

    So, is anyone else wondering about the new marijuana laws in WA and CO? I’m wondering if we’ll see things like wrongful termination lawsuits from employees of companies that do drug testing but have a shakey foundation for doing so. Or, since it seems like it will be on par with alcohol, simply a standard “no impairment at work” kind of policy?

    1. Malissa

      Most everybody is still holding to their non-drug use policies. Just because it’s legal doesn’t meant that piece of paper you signed at the back of the handbook isn’t valid any more. And most employers, in WA at least, already had policies in place since the passage of legal-ish medical marijuana.
      It is rumored that the Feds will be suing WA state before too long over this law. So there may be more definitive laws around all of it shortly.

    2. Diane

      My state allows medical marijuana, but a recent-ish court ruling upheld a firing of an employee for violating his company’s drug-free workplace policy–even though he could not face local or state criminal charges for his marijuana usage on his own time and was not impaired at work. The court said the employer’s policy trumped the green card. I imagine similar rulings will take place in other states. That is, you can legally use this on your own time, but not if you want to be employed here.

    1. Anonymous

      I see more and more people comlaining about autocorrect doing wrong things. Wouldnt it be better to just turn it off when it screws up your texts often?

      1. Rana

        Basically because 8-9 times out of time it saves you effort and corrects your typos and accidental misspellings. That’s part of why it’s so annoying when it screws up; you’ve gotten used to it behaving properly so it’s an unpleasant surprise when it does something weird.

  38. Resigning Soon

    So, I have a really good problem right now. I have been offered an amazing position at a company that I have admired for years – all thanks to the advice on this blog – and I have accepted pending the drug test (they shaved part of my head! This is a big deal apparently!) that I don’t foresee any problems with. But, now I have to resign from my current position.

    My current company closes for the week between Christmas and New Years. AKA the doors are closed and no one is allowed to come in, but we have to use 5 days our accrued vacation time during that week. I originally wanted to give my two weeks next Monday which would lead me right up until that Christmas break, but the drug test is going to take until at least Wednesday to come back clean. Even though I don’t think there will be any issues with the drug test, I’d rather not jump the gun on this resignation just in case (I think I’m going to need to have my doctor talk to their lab about what prescriptions are in my system as I was prescribed a codeine cough medicine recently).

    So, is it kosher to wait another week on this giving notice thing, even though that will only be a week of working notice and then the second week is when we’re all off?

    I want to give them as much time as possible to adjust to the idea and while I’ve been scaling back my involvement in a lot of projects I’m getting really weirded out accepting meeting requests for after my start date at my new position at my current job. I feel like it’s deceptive to let people think I’ll be here to help out with things when I know I won’t.

    1. Liz in the City

      Don’t get weirded out. You need to have the results of the drug test first before you’re fully hired, right? I just did the whole resigning-from-a-long-term-job thing (5.5 years) and it was weird during the period I knew I had the job (but no signed letter of acceptance) and still hadn’t told my boss to still act like everything was normal.

      Do yourself a favor and act as though things are normal. Accept meeting requests, schedule things for the future, just know in the back of your mind (but no one else’s!) that you’re leaving soon. If you can do anything ahead of time to make it easier for you, then do it. Otherwise, don’t clue anyone in until you have your signed offer, a start date, and a clean drug test back.

      BTW, congratulations! When I left my old job = best feeling ever.

    2. some1

      It’s not your fault your employer closes your office between Christmas & New Year’s so you should not be penalized if your notice falls during that time, especially since they make you use vacation time for it.

      I once gave two weeks notice and both weeks were short work weeks, the office was closed for Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving & day after Thanksgiving, if my employer was annoyed by it they never said anything.

    3. Dara

      Unless you’ve already negotiated a concrete start date, I guess you could work it out when you actually get the offer, so you could give your employer 3 weeks’ notice (2 working weeks, + the 1 vacation week in the middle.) I think your boss would appreciate your consideration and willingness to come back the week after the holiday to help wrap up loose ends, etc., before your departure. Hopefully the new employer will understand and support your desire to give your current employer two full working weeks of notice.

  39. Chaucer

    Hi everybody:

    College graduate here, had to take a retail job, still haven’t found a professional job yet that uses my education. Working on revamping my resume thanks to some awesome help by Alison, but admittedly the job search, along with the stresses of working retail, have been taking a bit of a toll on me. I have neglected doing things I enjoy, like weight training and reading. But I am forcing myself to peel myself from the computer after a set amount of time searching in order to enjoy life. As we speak, I am in my gym clothes and ready to punish the dumbbells in the weight room after taking two weeks off, and when I get back will enjoy some Kurt Vonnegut before I head to work.
    What things do you like to do when the job search gets you down?

    1. nyxalinth

      I’m a huge gamer nerd (mostly old school stuff, but I also play modern stuff like Skyrim and World of Warcraft) and it helps a lot.

      1. Chaucer

        I’ve thought about getting into WoW! How is the learning curve? I admit that I don’t play many RPGs, and haven’t played an MMO since Everquest when I was in middle school. I have played Final Fantasy XIII and Skyrim, though.

        1. nyxalinth

          It’s not too hard, really! It gets harder if you decide to do player versus player, and raiding can get pretty challenging, but even then the learning curve isn’t steep. It’s more about watching your rotation (what skills/spells you use when) and keeping an eye on the bosses and other players.

          The player base can be jerky at times with the random dungeon finder, but don’t mind them. Just play and have fun. I won’t be playing again until about the end of December, but if you take the plunge, I can be found as Malachaii or Xeries on Proudmoore server, Horde side.

    2. Kristen

      I am a recent grad too. I have a professional job, but it is way outside of my field and I am an admin assistant (aka no where for me to move up because everyone else in the office who isn’t an admin is in said outside field). Maybe this is bad, but there are a lot of people our age in this situation and I find it cathartic to just get together and b*tch about the situation and share stories (good, bad, terrible, terrible but funny) from our interviews and not-so-desirable jobs (that we all feel lucky to have nonetheless). This is probably not a good thing, but it makes us all feel better to know we aren’t alone.

      On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I very much enjoy doing things that keep my mind busy on things that are not work related at all. Reading a book is always great for me. Having a totally unrelated goal (run a 5k, do a triathlon, speak a new language, learn to cook, read a book each week, take a pilates class, whatever) can really help too–it makes you feel like you can at least accomplish something. Also, I like to clean sometimes…makes me feel like I have my life together.

    3. Jay

      I always liked having something to look forward to. Like book club (reading! and talking with people besides customers!) or a new recipe to try out (I love to cook, so you might like…trying out a new exercise routine? Sorry, I know nothing about weight training!)

    4. Mints

      I’m in the same situation!
      I like to bake/cook. Part of it is the over-eating like I’m so sad I want a brownie. But also, (and since you go to the gym, you probably don’t want a bunch of sugar) cooking a meal makes me feel accomplished. Like nobody called me today, but at least I made this awesome pork chop with sides. It’s just something tangible I feel productive about doing.

    5. Elizabeth West

      I’ve been really getting frantic (can’t seem to find ANYTHING and almost out of unemployment) and forced myself to do NaNoWriMo to finish writing a novel that had been languishing. So working on projects is helpful to me.

      Next project: cleaning out the closets. Arrgh.

    6. John Quincy Adding Machine

      I was going to ask a very similar question! Except mine had a much more bitter tone to it (“How can I distract myself from the fact that I’m a miserable failure who wasted four years/countless dollars on this useless degree…”). Anyway, I like having hobbies that are at least slightly related to my education — I was a science major, and I like scuba diving and astronomy. The scuba diving, in particular, is nice in that it’s interesting enough that people at parties/family gatherings will often ask me about that, rather than my fruitless job search or my current, shameful restaurant job.

      1. Anonymous

        Oh yeah it gets so awkward when all they can think of to ask you is “When will you finally get your degree?” or “When will you have a Job?” and you really dont wanna talk about this again and again because you already feel miserable enough without getting constantly reminded of this. :(

  40. Anon

    Hi all! I’m a longtime reader and I have a question about gracefully declining to participate in getting gifts for my bosses. I’m relatively new to this organization & so this is my first Christmas here. Last week, the team received an email that included this:

    “Beginning this Friday, November 30th:
    A large manilla envelope will be stored in the far left slot (box on end near safe) of my desk credenza hutch.
    At your convenience between this Friday, November 30th and Friday, December 7th at 5:00 PM, please:
    *Sign each of the 3 Christmas Cards inside this envelope (one for each of the Judges)
    *Contribute towards the group gifts (suggested amount $15.00 (which is $5.00 per Judge – however any amount is accepted and appreciated) by placing contribution in the small envelopes inside ~ this way contributions can be anonymous if desired.
    Again, the suggested amount is $5 per Judge for $15 total but any amount is accepted and appreciated to participate!!! :)”

    I’d rather not participate simply because it’s my preference not to do so. An exchange of Christmas cards is sufficiently appropriate in my opinion. How do I bow out gracefully?

    1. LJL

      I’d sign the card but not leave money for the gift. If it’s your discretion, it can be nothing, and I’m sure some others will give more/less than the recommended $15.

      1. fposte

        Ditto. That’s why they do it like this–so people can opt in to contribute and not have to openly decline anything.

      2. The IT Manager

        Well, they are gifting up, but other than that they are doing a good job at following AAM’s suggestions by making it optional and anonymous so you can exercise whatever option you want with no fear of reprisal.

        I can go a little overboard with gifts, but I don’t feel the need to buy a gifts for my bosses. I did go a bit crazy with the angel tree in my office for a needy family. It makes me sad that their Christmas list included basics like towels, sheets, toiletries, and diapers.

    2. Ryan

      You don’t need to be graceful. Just don’t participate. Your co-workers don’t get to decide how you allocate your funds. And quite frankly…neither do your supervisors.

      I have never participated in anything I didn’t WANT to participate in for exactly this reason and I have never felt bad about it.

      You shouldn’t either.

  41. nyxalinth

    Does anyone else have experience with terrible temp agencies? I know that they work for the client, not the employee, but some are just…awful. there’s one here in Denver that used to always pull a bait and switch: they’d post Super Awesome Job of Win, and I’d call and make an appointment, at which time said job was still open. then I’d get in there for the interview and hear “Oops, Super Awesome Job of Win was just filled! But here’s Low Paying Job of Fail, which is twice the bus ride for you.” This happened to me 3-4 times over a seven year period, and the fifth and final time, I cut all ties with them and told them what I thought of them and their tactics. Politely, of course.

    I also encounter fake ads (someone who used to work for Pear 2–I’m sure you can guess what agency I mean–confirmed to me that they did this, or posted for positions they *thought* would be opening up. So frustrating, and a waste of time. (I can understand interviewing and not being right for a position, but interviewing for something that doesn’t even exist is BS) They did it, he said, to get a good pile of resumes in.

    Then I’ve had recruiters who drop off the face of the earth. I go in, do the tests, do the tests the client wants me to do, I’m told everything is great and I did great and then…nothing. This happened to me two years ago–she disappeared and no one there could tell me anything–and then 6-8 months later she asked me to “come in and update my resume”. She disappeared again when I asked her if there were any specific positions she had in mind for me. Finally, she had the gall to email me saying “I have a customer service position available, so if you know anyone who would like to come in and apply for it please send them over.” I told her I would be interested in it myself, and she vanished again. Since then, I found out that the “update the resume and discuss your career goals” and the “get your friends to come in and sign up” both meant that they were resume farming from people who worked in the agencies.

    More recently, and yay, this worked out in the end! I was contact by a guy from an agency regarding a position. I did the phone screen, did the assessment, he told me I did great, would get back to me with the next step and…poof. Gone.

    A week later (my polite checking in email went unanswered) I get a call from a lady with another agency for the very same position, even!…and things happen. I do the screen, the assessment, the interview…and they hired me on Tuesday!

    I know they get paid for their placements…so all the sudden poofing always mystifies me. Snooze you lose, guy at a different agency with the same placement :D

    1. Chaucer

      That’s kind of why I stopped going to Temp Agencies. I am sure that there are good ones out there, but the ones I went to have gained me nothing. I’m doing all my job searching on my own.

      1. nyxalinth

        I’m glad to know it isn’t just me. I hear so many people go on about how great they are that I thought I just had crappy Temp Karma or something!

    2. Kristen

      I was trying to find work through a temp agency for a while (although I did not find a job through them, they sent me on a few interviews and helped me improve my interviewing skills a lot) and I had a friend who worked as a recruiter for one as well. One thing that I did that the temp agency responded well too was that I followed up with my recruiter often–I’m talking every week. Also, I treated the agency as if they were a potential employer (I did this mostly because I was naive, but my recruiter friend confirmed it was good to do). I treated my meetings with them as interviews (always wore a suit, prepared beforehand, acted very professionally during meeting, etc.) and I always kept my tone in e-mails/phone calls very grateful and never showed annoyance of not yet finding a job. The recruiter is your gatekeeper, so if you are on her mind in a positive way, she will probably send out your resume more.

      Perhaps you are already acting this way, but my recruiter friend told me some nightmare stories. During one meeting a candidate she had answered her cell phone and asked the recruiter to leave her own office so that she could take the call. Seriously!?

      1. Rana

        Agreed. Even when I was using them, and doing the twice-daily check-in calls, I could go weeks without there being anything. (And if you don’t do those calls, you get zippo.) It was better than not working, and some of the jobs were interesting while they lasted, but I never thought of them as a way of gaining permanent employment. It was always just a way to pay the bills.

    3. Blinx

      So far, I’m underwhelmed. You’re right in that they post The Perfect Job to get you in. I went and interviewed at one, they had me post portfolio pieces on their site. They did call me a week later about a temp to perm position. Then another week passed and they said it was going to be a perm position and wanted to verify salary (before I even interview with the company??). Still waiting to here about that job.

      And then they just called and said was I interested in working at X company? I said I already applied there. They said that X was changing the way they were hiring, and to go into the application site and change where I heard about the job. Instead “job board” put “registered with recruitment agency Y”. This sounded REALLY weird to me, but they said it was the only way it would work. THEN I find out that a friend of my applied and has already interviewed at X. Any questions I email to the recruiter go unanswered.

      Red Flag: Recruiter said they alway ask companies for a higher rate if the employee has to travel further (like an hour), to compensate them. This goes against everything I’ve heard here — employees are NEVER compensated based on their need, solely on qualifications.

  42. Anon for a moment

    I am interested in hearing people’s ideas on this one. I have a degree in management with a retail focus. Unfortunately, I have decided that retail management is not for me. Going back to school is not an option, financially.
    Does anyone have a story to tell about transitioning their retail focused- career/education to another field?
    Does anyone have suggestions of fields where this degree/background might be of some (ANY?) value?
    I am deliberately not giving a lot of my info because I would like to see a wide range of ideas. Creative Thinking 101, so to speak.
    Thanks in advance for reading and considering my question.

    1. AnotherAlison

      Product marketing?

      I have no idea what a management degree with a retail focus actually means. : ) What courses did you take outside the normal scope of a management degree? What is your experience level – new grad, no actual retail management experience, or a seasoned store manager?

      I’ve also known some retail folks who went into franchises in various roles. Some as local operations managers of a unit, others in the corporate office in marketing, franchise sales, etc.

      1. Anon for a moment

        I had the usual management courses- finance, accounting, economics, etc. And then I took additional courses focusing on various aspects of retail- domestic/abroad/internet, etc. It’s a solid foundation, but nothing spectacular.
        My actual experience is modest. In part, because my work experiences have been so varied. I expect to start at an entry level position.
        So you are thinking maybe business-to-business sales?
        You are already making me think— I had applied for an admin job for a marketing director. ( no luck) I am thinking that I would be better off applying as a… (am looking for the right word…) assistant/underling instead?

    2. Chaucer

      Isn’t a degree in management, regardless of focus, something that can be applied to various industries? While your degree is something that was centered in retail, I am sure there are many aspects behind retail management that can be translated to other fields.

      1. Anon for a moment

        That is what I am hoping, too, Chaucer. The stumbling block for me is figuring out how to transition. I thought if I opened my eyes to more possibilities, my next steps would become more apparent.

    3. some1

      I worked in retail and then became a receptionist. The skills I got from retail that I could use were being polite and friendly, keeping the reception area as clean and inviting as possible, maintaining relationships with important customers so they want to come back (just being friendly and taking an interest in them when visit, like “how is Jane enjoying middle school?”), keeping organized paperwork, how to trouble-shoot on the spot when dealing with an issue or problem customer.

    4. -X-

      Retail includes customer focus, managing employees, marketing, and perhaps inventory control, right? The first three are applicable to many service-oriented nonprofit organizations.

      1. LPBB

        A friend of mine worked as a bar manager for many years and has successfully segued into working in rehabilitative services for the mentally ill.

        She started out doing a fairly entry level job escorting patients to appointments, checking on them, making sure they took their meds, etc. and has since risen pretty steadily through the ranks. She manages the staff of one of the day programs now. Admittedly, when she started there was a fair amount of turn-over and the front office was a mess, but she’s also a take charge kind of person with excellent managerial skills — thanks in large part to 15+ years behind the bar.

        I’m not necessarily suggesting that career path, I could never do what she does, but like -X- says, those are skills that have a wide applicability outside of just retail.

  43. A.W.

    My friend and I are in the same boat – we are both looking for jobs. At the beginning we both checked in weekly or more with hiring manager, anxious for a sign or update….within the first few weeks I grew out of it and committed to some volunteer work to keep my mind off of things (and stay away from the computer/email). We are now at 5 months unemployed and found out a few weeks ago, she has lost her mind. She emails hiring managers/recruiters daily, and sends out emails asking for updates to individuals that do not have anything to do with the hiring process (e.g. a secretary, or vp). Then it evolved into her creating a fake email account to apply with a fake resume to create a conversation with the hiring managers and/or those who supervise for the position. At first I did not know why she did the later until she told me that sometimes if she emailed them with the fake account she would receive an update to her real account concerning her status. She believes the fake account stringing on the hiring manager helps them to remind them of the candidates for the position. I think she must be driving them insane. I know this has nothing to do with me, but I feel there are two issues here: this weird/wrong issue with the fake profile and that she might need a break from interviews/applications for her sanity. What is the best way to explain this to her? Is there any free counseling for unemployed individuals?

    1. Not So NewReader

      I have no clue where to begin.

      Does she read AAM at all?

      I guess ask her if she wants a job or wants to keep doing what she is doing now. Tell her she can only have one. Which would she like?

      1. A.W.

        Well I definitively gave her those two options but she doesn’t really understand. Also she uses the computer at the library, or friends houses to spend time sending out resumes/check email. She is so transfixed on the job hunt she probably won’t even check out the link, even though AAM is a fantastic resource. English is also not her first language, so she may have trouble understanding everything she reads.

        I’m kinda torn on whether I should be tough on this behavior. I also feel like these managers should know – or at the very least those in other states that might offer the fake profile plane tickets to an interview.

        1. some1

          Hmmm…maybe try explaining how creepy she’s being by using a different context? We use the analogy here that job hunting is like dating. Ask how she would feel if she was on a dating website and found out a guy created fake profiles to communicate with her, thereby getting info to manipulate her with.

    2. fposte

      I don’t think this one’s in your control, and you may need to let it go–you’ve got enough on your plate. You can point her to AAM and maybe say once that from what you’re hearing managers actually favor candidates who respect the timetable rather than contacting too often. But 1) she’s gone crazy and 2) she’s going to find advice that supports her position.

      Low-income counseling is very region specific; you can look for sliding-scale clinics, university-related services, etc. But you can’t make her go and really shouldn’t push it beyond a mention. If you’re finding someplace that’s helping you, that’s probably the best way to mention it.

    3. Rana

      I was going to advice talking to her about the unethical aspects of the fake stuff, and how if the hiring managers ever learn of it that would be death to her applications…

      But I doubt she’s in a position to take this on board. It may take you getting a job and her still remaining unemployed before you’re in a position to advise her and have it stick.

      I’m sorry. I’d keep being a supportive friend, but stop talking with her about job stuff, for your sanity as much as anything.

  44. J

    Hello,

    I have a question about referrals and online applications. I saw an opening at a company where I know someone so I reached out to them told them that I was interested. He graciously recommended me to the department and told me to fill out the online application. I work full time so yesterday I filled out the application and I was tailoring my cv and decided to submit it this morning. I went online this morning and the job is gone and so is the profile I filled out. The position was only listed for 3 days. I contacted my friend but I don’t know what else to do? Is it common to take a job description down after 3 days?

    1. Frances

      It sounds like the company already had a candidate in mind. When we wanted to hire a temp employee to a full time position, we were required to post the job for a certain period of time (I think it was a week for us), even though we had no intention of hiring anyone other than the temp. That may be what happened here — depending on your contact’s relationship to the hiring department he may not have been aware of that.

  45. AnotherAlison

    Okay, why not:

    Any ideas on a gift for a tutor? She’s 50ish, a retired teacher. Kind of flashy (i.e. pink bedazzled mouse). My son has been working with her for a month.

    Is a gift or a tip more appropo? I don’t really know her personal likes & dislikes.

    If you recommend tipping, would that be a certain % of her monthly fee or what? We’re around $150/mo.

    1. fposte

      “Pink bedazzled mouse” says “Jamie’s our expert” to me :-).

      (I think a gift card is a way to split the difference between a gift and a tip, but then I’m awkward with holiday tips.)

    2. Not So NewReader

      I would definitely start by allowing her to use your name as a reference. Perhaps a written reference too? And maybe toss in some referrals if you know some folks. Start there, for sure.

    3. AnotherAlison

      Thanks for the comments.

      fposte-I’m with you on the gift card. I’ve done that for daycare providers in the past. I’m not sure I know her enough to know which one. Obviously Target would work for anyone & she does buy supplies for the kids she works with. . .or she could regift it.

      Hello Kitty. . .lol, maybe! Although it would embarrass my son to give it to her (wait, an added bonus. . .).

      NSNR – I have written her a review on the site that I found her on, but yes, I’d definitely let her use me as a general reference, too.

      Good suggestions everyone!

      1. Jamie

        Ahem. Don’t give Kitty unless you know she is wanted and will get a good home.

        Although, I have to admit the pink shiny mouse increases your odds of Kitty getting warm reception.

        I’m bad with holiday tips too – but when in doubt Visa Gift Card – she can spend it where she likes – that’s my motto.

  46. D.M.

    I have a two-part question.

    1) Long story short, I have a toxic coworker. I know I should document his negative behavior, but how exactly should I do that? I do keep every email exchange between us, including writing down conversations between us (his behavior does negatively impact the business; and he’s lied outright and tried throw me under the bus more than once). What else should I document? How?

    2) Don’t worry, I have started looking for a new job. My year-end review is next week; I genuinely like working for my boss, and we have an open and honest relationship. Should I mention that I am considering leaving because of Toxic Coworker?

    I would like to stay and grow my career, and I know my boss doesn’t want me to go. I don’t want say “It’s me or Mr Toxic,” but if the company doesn’t let him go (especially after a recent incident)… I really don’t have much of an incentive to stay.

    1. Malissa

      Talk with your boss about the impact toxic coworker is having on your job. Keep it factual and unemotional.

    2. some1

      I don’t mean to sound rude, but if your coworker is dishonest and negatively impacts the business, why doesn’t your boss know about it already? It’s been mentioned on this blog that managers should never raise problems with an employee for the first time during an annual performance review, and I think that goes both ways. If your co-worker is actually preventing you from doing your job or is treating you badly, the first time to bring it up to the boss is not at the performance review. You are looking for another job without even giving your boss a chance to correct this situation.

      1. D.M.

        I agree. However, I have spoken with my boss many times regarding said co-worker and do clue him (my boss) in whenever the co-worker’s actions impact my job. This has been ongoing for about a year now, yet no corrective action has been put in place (beyond the possible report to HR that I wouldn’t be privy to anyway).

        One thing that I didn’t mention in my original comment was that while, yes, I have a pretty open relationship with my boss, he is out of the office a lot on business, which means (a) a lot of our communication is via email only, and (b) he misses a lot of the smaller interactions between the co-worker and the rest of the team.

        If said co-worker does something that impedes upon my job or the business at large, I have no problem reporting that to the boss immediately.

        However, I’m hesitant to run to my boss every single time my coworker makes a snide remark that hurts my feelings or belittles a coworker for asking a simple question. Something like that I prefer to bring up with my boss in person, and usually only when it escalates beyond a certain level (e.g., when Mr Toxic spent 20 minutes chewing me out the moment I arrive for what turned out to be someone else misreading a report). But it’s those little things that add up over time.

        The other thing that I sort of hinted at but was hesitant to detail in my post is how the co-worker is equally as dishonest and abusive with clients. Recently, a client contact the CEO of the company (several levels above my boss–we’re a decently big corporation) about my co-worker–information that my boss and his boss volunteer to me and my colleagues. But again, I’m not privy to whether corrective action was taken, or if it will be down the line.

        Basically, it wouldn’t be out of the blue if I bring up this issue. It’s more that I’m nearing a breaking point. However, you do raise a point, and maybe I am not reporting problems enough. I’ll reconsider if I do bring up the job hunt during my review.

    3. fposte

      ” I know I should document his negative behavior, but how exactly should I do that?” Well, I don’t necessarily agree that you should do that–it depends a lot on what you mean by “negative” and “toxic.” So what do you mean?

      1. D.M.

        In short, I mean that he’s a classic bully, as defined here: http://bit.ly/JU77CG

        I witness him verbally humiliating colleagues on a daily basis–e.g., meetings, or even simple questions will quickly turn into openly him bashing the performance of his direct reports. He’ll either ignore clients completely, or be hostile toward them.

        He’s done all of this to me, as well. One of the functions of my role is to provide support to him and his team. If I request his approval on an item, he’ll either ignore me (he’ll respond to maybe 1 out of 20 emails I’ll send), or will give his approval only to later contradict himself (he’ll tell me X one day; a month later it will be Y, but he’ll berate me first for X). His team is sales, so when he ignores me, or screws up and tries to blame me, the financial side of the business is severely impacted.

        Is that a bit clearer?

        1. fposte

          That’s a lot clearer, thanks. I’ve heard people use these terms to apply to characteristics that really aren’t tell-the-manager worthy, so I figured it was worth checking. But this is, as you note, affecting the bottom line and the clients as well as you, so most managers would really want to be on top of this.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I am picking up on the documenting part of your post, OP.

      Of course, you will decide what is going to work best for your setting.
      In my setting, I would chose one or two examples each day to document. Otherwise, I would never stop writing. I picked the worst of the examples- I can’t let everything be a battle. It gets exhausting.

      I limited my documenting to things that I personally witnessed. (This eliminates rumor and assumptions.)

      Additionally, I limited my stories to the stories that impacted me directly or hurt the company. (Examples: Lying to the boss about me- would clearly hurt me. Yelling at a customer would clearly hurt the company.)

      When I documented each incident – I had date, time, location, and I noted if anyone witnessed the incident. I also noted if the incident was part of a pattern of behaviors where I had first hand knowledge. (Ex: This is the third time I have seen Bob screaming at a customer.)

      I thought that documenting was going to be an incredible ordeal- but once I started writing I realized what I needed to do.
      Keep the documentation at home.

      I found that I did not need to make notes at work. The worst of the day’s events were clearly etched in my mind even after I got home.

      A side note: You might be able to have inroads to conversation with the boss if you can find some articles about work place bullies. Often, these articles mention the very behaviors we see in the work place.

      1. D.M.

        Thanks, this makes a lot of sense. One more obvious question that’s escaping me: Where exactly did you document everything? Was it just a word document? Did you email yourself?

        Good point about looking for articles on work place bullies. My first google search already yielded some useful information.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I used a notebook and hand wrote my comments. I don’t know why I chose this, as opposed to a word doc. Of course, I was dealing with emotions, perhaps the extra effort of handwriting helped me to diffuse that extra energy?

          I would leave space after each entry and space in the margins. This way if I forgot a key part I could tuck it in some where. Here’s a fake example: Suppose I document an argument over a envelop that has been stapled. This sounds foolish- when I re-read the next day I realize that I needed to add the documents in the envelop stated “Do not staple.” (Sometimes I would forget key points like that.)

          I would strongly recommend not keeping any of this on your computer at work. Do not even send yourself emails from work. Oddly, by the time you get home, you will have processed your day a little bit and the really important stuff will be at the forefront of your thinking.

    5. Katie

      I’m coming at this from the perspective of a new manager, so I might not have a clue what I’m talking about, but here goes:

      As a manager, I have to focus on specific behaviors when I talk to subordinates. Vague feedback like “bad attitude” doesn’t really cut it – I have to be specific. So I would encourage you to talk to your manager but when you do it, be very specific about behaviors and actions, not feelings. So: “John called me incompetent” is more useful than “John is always mean to me.”

      The other thing is have a clear idea of how you want the situation resolved.What is your desired outcome. If you want the other person treating you with more respect, say so. If you find the other person so odious that you can’t be in his presence, say so.

      Bottom line: be clear, specific and have a good idea what you want to get out of it. But don’t hesitate to talk to your manager. That’s why we’re there.

      1. D.M.

        Thanks, I’ll keep all of this in mind. I definitely don’t want to be that employee who runs to the manager every few seconds, whining, “John is being mean again!”

        1. Girasol

          If your boss knows what’s going on and hasn’t acted, be careful. You’ve been reading up on bullying an you know how often it isn’t dealt with properly. If, for whatever reason, your boss intends to hang back and hope it works itself out without his intervention, then having you rub his nose in the problem again and again may make you the problem employee. It’s not fair, of course, but it could happen. When it comes to bullying, the good guy doesn’t always win.

      2. Ryan

        +10
        “John is always mean to me.” is your interpretation

        “John called me incompetent.” or “John threw a notebook at me.” (yup…seen it) would be all I’d need to hear to start write-ups or in the case of things that are significant…firing people.

    6. Rana

      One thing to be careful with, if you mention it in your performance review, is to not make it sound like an aggressive ultimatum or threat, e.g. “Either he goes or I go!” but rather a simple statement of the situation in a matter-of-fact tone along the lines of “I am unable to do my work properly and find my daily working environment unpleasant due to Co-Worker X doing A, B, and C. I like the work here, and enjoy having you as my boss, but I cannot continue working for you under these circumstances. I would prefer not to leave, but I’ve not seen any movement towards addressing these problems, so I am considering doing so.”

  47. Lizette

    I’m struggling with writing cover letters since I really don’t have any experience. Any tips/advice? Or better yet, favorite examples of entry-level cover letter? Thanks :)

    1. fposte

      Lizette, there’s a whole “cover letters” tag in the list to the right that you’ll find useful, and one of those posts includes a great sample cover letter that you might find inspiring.

      1. Lizette

        Thank you :) However, I’ve already dissected all the articles in the cover letter tag already but most of the advice and examples are for those who have a lot of experience

  48. Interviewing

    Question- I am interviewing next week for a job that I am super excited for, both professionally and personally. It would be a huge step up in responsibility, and it is overseas in a country I’ve always wanted to live in. The interview is in person, and the arrangements have all been made by the organization, so there have been a lot of emails back and forth about travel details. I did not see an itinerary for one of the flights, and emailed them to see if they had sent it, or if I had missed an email. Turns out it was in one of the emails they sent me, so I feel like an idiot. I wrote back and apologized for missing it the first time around. Should I apologize again in person and say that it is not like me to be disorganized, or just let it go? The competition is fierce for this position, so I’m so mad at myself for making any mistakes!

    1. Zed

      Let it go. I suspect they won’t even notice the issue – it’s realistic to expect some back and forth and confusion in a situation like this, when the travel arrangements are being made for you. Unless you missed the flight because you didn’t realize the itinerary was in the email, don’t worry about it.

    1. Yup

      This is the BEST. I’m still cackling at the “verdant fields nudist camp” one. LOL. I’m totally putting these in the office Secret Santa next year.

  49. Josh S

    I just want to post something completely non-work-related, so:

    I love all the good food around the holidays. Simply LOVE it. (Yeah, it adds weight each year, but SO WORTH IT!) My favorites, I think, are
    -Cranberry relish (family recipe that I won’t divulge, but similar to this http://allrecipes.com/recipe/fresh-cranberry-relish/ )
    -Candied Pecans
    -Deviled Eggs
    -Bacon Jam (Oh, if you haven’t had bacon jam, you MUST! It’s fantastic on just about EVERYTHING. This is a good recipe: http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/condiments/beer-bacon-jam/ )

    What are your favorite holiday foods? Recipes are also welcome!

    1. Jamie

      I have this stuffing that’s a family recipe that is fabulous – if I were on “The Best Thing I Ever Ate” this would be what I would talk about.

      I’ve never heard of anything like it mentioned on any cooking show or by anyone I’ve spoken to – it was my grandmother’s recipe from Germany (Neuwied) so it may be a regional thing. I don’t know if it has a name – we just call it Gramma’s dressing.

      Oh – and speaking of German recipes and the holidays – if anyone from the Rhineland Pfaltz has a recipe for pflamekuchen because neither my gramma or mom bothered to write it down before they passed I would be totally grateful. I have looked on line for hours and hours over the years and haven’t found the right one. This is a like a white cake not too sweet – more like a coffee cake and the plums are cut in spears and stick up vertically like little bayonettes and the whole thing is sprinked with sugar and cinnimon and when it bakes the cake turns all streaked with purple from the plums. It’s the best dessert I’ve ever eaten and I haven’t been able to replicate the recipe.

      Then I’d have to cap it off with Christmas cookies Kolachkis and pfeffernuesse. Oh and these ginger molasses cookies from a recipe that’s been in my family since the civil war. My great- something-grandmother passed the recipe down and her husband my great-something-grandfather loved them (per some handed down diary) before he was killed in a civil war prison camp. Yeah I HAVE that recipe and haven’t gotten those right either…apparently what previous generations could do with a wood stove and a butter churn I can’t do with a grocery store, mix master, and oven.

      Why yes, I AM avoiding this paperwork in front of me – why do you ask?

      1. Elizabeth

        Jamie, you’re starting to scare me. Is Gramma’s dressing made with a cornbread base?

        Because I grew up on kolaches and pfeffernuesse, as well.

        1. Katie

          Am I nuts, or are “Kolachkis” something different from “Kolaches”? Growing up, my mother used to buy me the former, and they were little cookies with jam in them, covered with powdered sugar. The latter are more savory in my experience.

          1. Jamie

            I spelled it wrong – I’m talking about kolachkis the sweet cookie. They are the one thing I can make perfectly from scratch. The dough is just butter, cream cheese, and flour and I use solo pie filling instead of jam. Apricot are the best so I always make more of those for “testing” purposes.

              1. Jamie

                Any Polish bakery and most delis – they are a staple so you’ll even find them in grocery stores where there is a significant Polish population. If you can’t find them and you bake you can make your own. If I can turn them out perfectly anyone can:

                16 oz cream cheese
                1 cup softened butter (imperial margarine works too and doesn’t burn as quicky. More forgiving)
                2 cups flour
                Solo pie filling (apricot is the best, some people use jam but my mom would yell at me from beyond if I recommended that :))

                Blend the 3 ingredients with a pastry blender (wire thingie as its called in my house) until its all combined.

                Form into ball and wrap tightly in Saran wrap – not in a bowl – wrap the ball itself – and chill for at least 4 hours…overnight is better.

                Roll out until thin (about the thickness of pie crust) and cut in circles w/cookie cutter and put a spoonful of filling in middle.

                Bake on parchment paper 350 for 20 min. When cool sprinkle with powdered sugar.

                I make the round ones – some people fold them over but that’s not how my family makes them.

                1. Jamie

                  Aww..and this recipe is from Jamie Maidennameski-Marriednameski and my husband loves them so doubly Polish verified!

        2. Jamie

          Do you make your pfeffernusse from scratch? I’d love a recipe. I just love the pepperidge farm brand.

          And no, the dressing is eggs, plain breadcrumbs, sautéed chicken liver, and nutmeg. It’s like a big dumpling and it kind of looks like meatloaf once sliced. Sounds gross but it’s so yummy.

          1. Josh S

            I was going to ask about your Gramma’s Dressing as well. I’m not a fan of chicken liver (this Pennsylvania Dutch boy has disappointed his family!), but otherwise that sounds pretty delicious!

            1. Jamie

              The recipe without the chicken livers is how we do dumplings for chicken soup. Kind of along the lines of matzo ball but denser. Beat eggs add breadcrumbs (sprinkle nutmeg) till you can roll a like meatball and drop in boiling broth.

              Penna Dutch here too (I’m a mutt).

              Oh and I’m so making bacon jam this weekend. My husband sends his thanks – he’s so excited!

              1. Josh S

                There are a lot of recipes and variations you can do on it (search “Bacon Jam” for more ideas), but the beer & bacon jam I linked above is one of my favorites, and pretty versatile for any use you’d have for it.

                The quick-and-dirty breakfast I make sometimes involves scrambling a couple eggs in a bowl, adding a spoonful of bacon jam to the middle, and microwaving til the egg is cooked. Instant mini-omelet!

                But it seriously goes on everything–condiment on sandwiches, layered on a deviled egg, spread on toast, add to baked potato, eat on pasta/in pasta sauce…the possibilities are ENDLESS.

          2. Elizabeth

            I don’t make them; my mom never shared the recipe, unfortunately. My MIL made them, too, and we through away about 20 pounds of them when we cleaned out the freezer after she went into the nursing home.

            I have a 3-page Process (it can’t be called a recipe) for making cornbread dressing. I tried to explain it to my brother once, and it terrified him.

    2. Blinx

      Deviled eggs, in December? I love them, but have only really seen them at barbecues, in the summer. But then, I’m in the cold northeast!

      I have a Polish background as well (I remember those jam cookies my Grandmother used to make), and for us, it’s pierogi on Christmas Eve. The kind with the potato/cream cheese filling. When I was little, we used to see how many my brother could eat – I think it was around 20!

      My favorite cookie was the Russian Tea Cakes — the little balls with ground up walnuts, rolled in powdered sugar. Yummm! A lot of work though. I haven’t baked in years.

    3. The Other Dawn

      My favorite food is my own recipe for stuffed mushrooms. Once I got married and started having my own holiday dinners, I decided I would take over the stuffed mushroom-making. I added a little fresh grated parmesan cheese to make it my own recipe. My sisters were happy to give it up since it involved chopping the mushroom stems and onions, as well as the sausage, into tiny bits so they would stuff well into the mushroom caps. The first time I made them everyone asked how I got the sausage and other ingredients chopped so small and even. My answer? “My food processor.” It was funny to see the looks on their faces. Light bulb moment for them.

      My other favorite is probably deviled eggs. One of my sisters used to make the filling too mustard-y. I always groaned when I heard she was making them. Then this year she decided she would use the mustard with horseradish and what a difference it made! I couldn’t get enough.

      By the way, the bacon jam would go great on a goat cheese panini. YUM! The cranberry relish would, also.

        1. The Other Dawn

          It’s so simple, but it’s really something you just eye-ball so it’s tough to give a recipe. I usually make four 8 oz packages of the whole mushrooms when I do this for the holidays. I give some to my MIL and one of my friends, plus enough for me. I haven’t yet mastered the art of making the right amount of stuffing for the amount of mushrooms I buy. I usually have a lot left in the pan, which I then scoop up and eat straight from the pan.

          In general:

          4 links Italian sausage (take them out of the casings)
          4-8 oz packages whole white mushrooms
          half an onion
          1 stick of salted butter (roughly)
          Italian breadcrumbs (as much as you need to make the stuffing the consistency you want)
          Grated parmesan cheese, possibly 1/3 to 1/2 a cup (the fresh stuff, not the canned stuff)

          1. Pull the stems out of the mushrooms. I save all the stems from the first package of mushrooms. The rest of the stems can be discarded unless you have another use for them.
          2. Put the stems in a mini food processor (or just chop them very small) and pulse until chopped very small.
          3. Do the same for the half onion.
          4. Fry the italian sausage (take it out of the casings).
          5. Scoop the sausage out of the pan, leaving the grease (don’t dump the grease).
          6. Put the sausage in the food processor and pulse until chopped very small, almost ground.
          7. Put the chopped onion and mushroom stems in the sausage pan and saute until softusing the grease.
          8. Add the chopped sausage and the stick of butter. Cook until butter is melted.
          9. Turn off the heat and add enough breadcrumbs to soak up the liquid. This is something you should just use your judgement on. Some people like a very moist stuffing, others like it a little dry.
          10. Add the cheese and mix.
          11. Stuff the mushroom caps.
          12. Bake with the cover on until the mushrooms start to give off liquid. Then uncover and bake until the tops are slightly crisp. Again, use your judgement as to how “done” you want them.

            1. The Other Dawn

              It’s pretty easy. Like I said, it’s just rough amounts on the ingredients. Really, the only way you could mess it up is that you add too much breadcrumbs and the stuffing is super dry. But, if that happens just throw in some more butter to moisten it up.

              I kind of like that fact that I end up with too much stuffing. I like to eat it with a spoon straight from the frying pan. I’m guessing you could use it to stuff something else if you don’t want to waste it.

  50. fposte

    Alison–ironically, the autocorrect posts starting with nyxalinth’s are all appearing at the end instead of in time order.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        If you can point me to the comment where things first went awry, I can fix it easily now — just need to know which comment started the problem!

  51. Elizabeth West

    I had an interview yesterday at a place where a friend’s fiance works. It’s very corporate and the office is beautifully upscale. So I was totally unsure about the job when I went in there (it’s an administrative services position heavy on proofreading, among other things).

    I walked out really wanting the job, and liking the lady who would be my boss. I told her I was super interested and can start anytime, since they do need someone quickly.

    I’m scared. I want the job and I’m scared that I will get second/third interviews and mess them up, or that someone’s monkey’s uncle’s aunt’s sister’s cousin’s best friend will get it. I’m really scared since have only a couple of weeks of unemployment left. Then I will have to get a food job that won’t pay my bills and will completely disrupt my life, since I’m trying to start school again. I don’t want to go back to those kinds of jobs. The stress will kill me. I’m so scared.

    This would not be so bad if my boyfriend hadn’t dumped me six months ago. It really seems like it all lands on you at once.

    1. fposte

      It’s a scary situation, and you have limited control. Recipe for stress right there. However, since fear is only telling you what you already know, you need to focus on stuff that makes you feel better, and extra points if it’s physical, because that’s about the best anxiety counteractant there is. My understanding from what you post is that that means you should do a lot of skating! Find other things that might make you feel more in control of your own life–sort a closet, email back to a friend you keep meaning to answer, make a list–what’s been waiting to be done? Of course, also, keep looking for jobs–it’s both a thing to do rather than angsting and something you should be doing anyway.

      And best of luck! It sounds like it would be a nice fit, and it’s sure your turn to have some good fortune.

      1. Job seeker

        This is the best advice for stressful situations. Doing something to take your mind off things and especially something active. I always appreciate reading your post because they have a lot of wisdom.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Thanks. I wish I could skate more, but it’s $8 for an hour of freestyle practice and I just can’t manage more than two hours a week. I can’t take lessons right now either.

        You’re damn tooting it’s my turn.

    2. Rana

      *sends good vibes* *fingers crossed for you*

      I had a friend who was in a similar place, and now has an amazing job with great colleagues, so I’m hoping so hard that some of that sort of luck makes its way to you. ((hug))

    3. Blinx

      It sounds really nice — glad you got the interview! But from all the advice I’ve read here, move on now. Prepare for that fiscal cliff (I’m in the same boat). Sorry that this has been a terrible year for you. Hopefully, you’ll get callbacks from this job, but you’ve really got to be sane about it.

    4. Jamie

      Sending all kinds of good thoughts your way – I really hope you find something great. You have such a positive attitude which shows in your posts, your enthusiasm for stuff always perks me up and I’m just reading. Some place will be smart enough to see that and snap you up. Hope it’s wicked soon.

    5. Katie

      when I’ve been on interview panels what’s stood out to me the most is people who have a genuine passion about the job. I don’t mind that they’re nervous – to me nerves are a sign that you care, and I want people who care. But show much how much you want the job, show me that the work makes you light up and get really inspired. You can see that in an interview – when someone starts talking and gets exciting and bright-eyed talking about the work. THAT’s what I want – someone with a fire in their belly for that job.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I tried to. The more she talked about it the better it sounded. And I asked her how she would describe her managerial style, and she basically was like “I’m hands-off, there if you need me, not above doing the mundane stuff, but I trust people to do their work.” I was drawing happy faces!

    6. Job seeker

      I hope so much you get this job. My fingers are crossed for you. Good Luck Elizabeth. I hope you hear from them soon.

    7. JT

      Some nervousness is normal and a sign you care and are in contention. That’s a good thing. Remind yourself you’re good for the job and focus on what you can control.

      Sending good vibes.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Thanks ChristineH! LOL I do that too but if we really did, it would be hard to walk!

        Thanks also to everyone who wished me well. I keep telling myself that 1) everyone who didn’t hire me is missing out big time, and 2) the ex-bf is a giant nu-nu head. And then I start crying again. Let’s hope the next ones are happy tears. But it really made me feel better to come back in here today and read all the encouragement. :)

  52. Kate

    Thoughts on accepting LinkedIn connections from people you’ve never met? I work in university development and alumni relations, so I accept requests to connect from alumni from my university. I sometimes get requests from people I have nothing in common with– no shared connections, alma mater, field, nothing.

    What’s weirder is that none of these people ever contacts me beyond that. I figure that if you’re connecting with a stranger, you must want something, right? To ask about their field or employer or whatever.

    What’s people’s logic behind requesting to connect with complete strangers? How do you respond to these requests?

    1. Rana

      If I don’t see an advantage to connecting, I just ignore them. I view it as a form of spam, honestly. I have no idea why they do it, unless they have some weird idea about the number of connections they have mattering or something.

      1. Jamie

        Doesn’t it seem like some people collect connections like signatures on an 8th grade yearbook. Some sign of popularity that in reality means nothing.

        1. Rana

          Yep. You see that same dynamic on Facebook and Twitter too. That approach has never appealed to me; it’s hard enough managing the feeds from the people I know and care about!

          1. JT

            A possible reason for this kind of request on LinkedIn (if your profile is hard to view unless connected) is they are hoping you work at or have a connection with a certain organization, but can’t be sure till they see your profile.

            Another logic is that they are actually interested in your status updates – though this is rare. Or that they want you to know about what they are doing as some sort of “PR” effort.

            Also, I don’t see how this kind of thing is a problem with Twitter – just because someone follows you doesn’t mean that you see what they do. You don’t have to follow back.

            1. Rana

              Oh, I know that; I learned that lesson back when blogging was new. ;)

              But it does seem like a lot of folks don’t get that, and then they complain about how hard it is to keep track of everything. So, um, don’t?

              I like your point about getting to see more info by making someone your contact. I don’t really use LinkedIn that way myself – my contacts are pretty much all people I know directly, with some I’ve met through those – so it never occurred to me that people would do it that way.

    2. Blinx

      If there’s absolutely nothing in common, just ignore the request. The advantage to connecting to a stranger is only if they are in the same field, and you would then have access to all of their connections.

  53. Al

    Following the great advice from AAM, I asked for feedback following a rejection today. The hiring manager graciously responded with very kind words and said she would love to have me on her team in the future should another position arise where I’m a better match.

    Her feedback was that they went with a candidate who had the specific qualifications and experience they were looking for, but that my resume and interview were great. She even offered to chat with me further if I wanted additional feedback. Of course I accepted her offer, mostly because I would like to stay connected if another position does arise. My question is, specifically what should I ask her on the call?

    1. Josh S

      A) Ask for feedback since that was the purpose. Specifically, you can ask, “You know my general qualifications and experience. What areas should I be working on to make me a better candidate for Industry/Her Team/Area of Expertise/whatever it is you’re trying to get into?”

      B) Ask if there’s anything else her team needs/is looking for/likes to keep abreast of. If you can provide help to them–even if it’s just as simple as “I know this article will be of interest to you because you said you like to know news of Topic”, or as complex as “You said you’re looking for Employee to handle Task-unrelated-to-what-I-do, and I know just the person!”–you’ll remain front of mind for the next time a fit comes up.

      C) Ask if she knows of other ways a person like you might progress in your field.

      Expand on these topics and you’ll have more than enough to fill a phone call. Then periodically check in with her, let her know what position/projects/skills you’re doing lately, and let her know that you’d still love to work with her someday. But no more than every few months…you don’t want to be a pest, but a colleague/resource/industry contact.

    2. Katie

      Ask her this:

      “Beyond having a skill set more specifically tailored to this job, is there any way I could improve my interviewing or other aspects of the hiring process?”

      Or if you want to get even better feedback without her worrying about offending you, you can ask what kinds of things she looks for when interviewing.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I have no idea if this is appropriate, perhaps you could ask her what her thoughts on for the future people in X position. What new skills should they be acquiring now to prepare? What major changes does she see coming down the pipeline? Does she have any idea about time frame for these changes?

  54. Jamie

    I was speaking with someone today about most embarrassing work story and I thought it was perfect timing for the open thread.

    A while back I went into my bosses office about 1:30 to tell him I was leaving early – but I would be working the next day. He said okay – and looked at me like he wondered why I was telling him…

    Anyway he said “see you tomorrow” which confused me – since he never works Saturdays. I asked if he was going to be in tomorrow – he said yes in that weird way people get when they have NO idea what you’re talking about. I asked why, is something going on – because I was coming in…

    Finally it dawns on him and he asks me, “Jamie, do you think today is Friday?”

    Yep. I was convinced – absolutely convinced – that it was Friday and the next day I would have the office to myself as it was Saturday. I was positive. And completely wrong – it was Thursday.

    He shooed me home anyway since I couldn’t be trusted with data if the days of the week were too complicated for me to keep track of …seriously…my face is red just thinking about it.

    I still haven’t been able to figure out how my brain skipped ahead a whole day – never happened before or since.

    1. Josh S

      Reminds me of a time in college…

      My senior year, I lived on a campus house, about 3 minutes from an extremely boring 101 Accounting course that I had been putting off. Oh, yeah, 8am start time.

      My typical strategy was to set my alarm for 7:55, roll out of bed, rush over, and then…go back to sleep in class. (I have a much better work ethic now, I promise!)

      Well, one day I woke up, looked at the clock reading 8:05, jumped out of bed and tossed on some clothes. Busted in on one of my roommates who was in the shower so I could use the toilet quick, and dashed out the door with backpack in tow.

      I was halfway to the classroom before I realized that campus was quiet…because it was Sunday. Had to apologize to the house-mate later on during lunch for busting in. He was awfully confused at the time…

      1. Jamie

        At least you have the excuse that you were sleeping…I’d been functioning and working all day. So much for my attention to detail…

        and I hope along with a better work ethic you’ve picked up a love of accounting, Josh…it is the language of business after all. :)

        1. Josh S

          Oh, I truly enjoy accounting…at least conceptually. It was just the 101 class that was brain-dullingly slow (not to mention 8am during my college years).

          Nothing like explaining to people the reason why small businesses need to distinguish between paying salary and taking a capital withdrawal.

    2. Katie

      aww that’s just mean of him. I would have laughed. But then again I often wake up and have no idea what day it is.

    3. Elizabeth

      I’ve had entire weeks like that. The 4-day weekend that included Thanksgiving actually had me not sure what day I went back to work.

      1. Blinx

        Thanksgiving throws everyone for a loop. It just feels like a Sunday. I was looking up my favorite Sunday TV programs and wondered why they weren’t on!

    4. KayDay

      I still haven’t been able to figure out how my brain skipped ahead a whole day – never happened before or since.

      This never happened to you before?! This happens to me all the time (all the time = a few times per year). Sometimes I go into work knowing it’s Wednesday, but by lunch time I think it’s Friday. Other times, I wake up confused.

      1. Katie

        Glad it’s not just me. I am often legitimately surprised when I wake up and find out it’s not the weekend.

      2. Rana

        This happens to me All. The. Time. Working from home doesn’t help, either. If it weren’t for the date-time setting on my computer and the “today” buttons on my calendars, it would be even worse.

  55. AT

    I had a situation come up this week that is relatively new to me. I work in the artistic field and I had gotten a short term contract for work through an agency. It was work at home and very independent. After a conference call and some written information, I began to work. The client asked for rough drafts to be sent and to contact them with any questions or clarification. The project had a pretty small and strict timeline. I sent out very rough drafts and asked if I was on the right path before I’d wasted too much time on them. I got back a pretty abrupt email with direction that wasn’t specific, but told overall to think outside the box. It turned out they hadn’t wanted rough drafts but a couple of different full fledged designs in full size. I completely redid them and sent them as requested.

    After that email, the communication from one person almost completely stopped, despite saying previously they would be happy to give direction at any stage. The manager of the project would send changes. I’d ask for clarification on certain things or art, but no replies back. I’d worked for them for about 4 days total at this point.

    Then, I received a call from the agency asking me to send the client all the files I had been working on, and the contract was terminated. The agency was very polite and nice, I’ve had a working relationship with them for over 10 years. They stated that the client thought that I needed too much direction and didn’t feel it was the right fit. They were looking for someone to work more independently. I was totally taken by surprise. I hadn’t asked for extravagant information, or anything particularly detailed. I had one example to work from, and I thought I’d done a pretty bang up job on what I’d sent them.

    I agreed about the fit issue, but I’m looking back now and thinking I should’ve talked to the agency about some of the conflicting direction I was given on the project. The two people I was interacting with would often give polar opposite information and I tried to accomodate both as much as possible. I mentioned that the contact I had for the contract only emailed me once, and it was not very constructive. They’ve asked to have it forwarded it, and I respectfully declined. I tried to explain professionally that it wasn’t the email, it was the fact that it was the first and last communication I received from that person. While I agreed it wasn’t the right fit, I was disappointed that I couldn’t deliver what they were asking for.

    Are my chances of being considered for other contracts at this other agency shot? Do they keep a permanent record, kind of like elementary school? I’ve never had this issue with a client before, and I have to admit, it really shook me. I hate that it feels like my reputation has been tarnished with the agency. Should I have alerted them to the communication issues right away? I thought the right thing to do was to try to work through it by asking for clarification and direction on the art. It’s not uncommon for the client not to know what they want, but I really felt like I was doing the best I could with the information they were supplying. Do I just mark them off as a crazy client?

    Any insights out there?

      1. AT

        Dara, yeah, that’s pretty much my life, just in print rather than web! I should probably get a print of that and frame it in my office/kitchen.

    1. Rana

      My inclination is to just make a note in your files that that particular client is not one to work with in the future, and continue doing good work for the other clients the agency sends you. In some ways the agency is your client too – and arguably the more important one – and if they’re happy with your work overall, the occasional oddball isn’t going to change your opinion. I mean, you’ve been working with them for a decade now, and this is the first time this has happened, right?

      (My suspicion is that your oddball will pull that crap on anyone the agency assigns to work with them, and they’ll get the bad rep with the agency, not you.)

      I’m sorry you had to deal with weirdo client, though.

      1. AT

        Thank you, Rana. This isn’t the first time they’ve sent me a crazy client, but they usually give me some warning, or I’ve been upfront with limitations. I have had other contracts with them not work out, but it’s always been me that’s alerted them to that fact.

        I know it’s their job to “sell” the contracts, but I may have to think twice when or if they call again.

      2. Ryan

        Not only that…but this kind of work is subjective.

        (which is why I don’t like doing that kind of work. You spend all this time on something you think is awesome and the client wants something that looks like trash to you and you don’t even want your name on the end product because it looks so awful)

        Sounds like a case of them not knowing that they need to be part of the creative process if they have a vision for what they want.

    2. Katie (one of many, apparently!)

      It’s the mark of a good contractor that you are so concerned with not delivering what your client wanted, even when what your client asked for was unreasonable. Take the lessons that you can from this (communicate up front with the agency, set clearer expectations with clients), but don’t sweat it too much. Your client expected something you couldn’t deliver because no one could really deliver it, and there’s not much you can do about that. Have faith in your experience and abilities, and move on from there.

  56. J

    This might be too late to do any good but…

    Anyone have any ideas how to break into politics (working in a field office in New York City for a State Legislator, Councilperson or Congressperson, specifically) after the age for unpaid internships? I did major in Politics in school but didn’t do any internships in the field. I was stupid, I guess, and refused to do unpaid internships because I think they’re ethically questionable and I couldn’t really afford to do them, anyway. I’ve spent the last few years not really sure what I’d like to do with my life, working relatively menial jobs and after doing some work for a campaign this fall, realized I really do want to work in Politics. But I don’t know how to break into it. My candidate lost and the only people I really had contact with on the campaign were consultants from out of state so I don’t really have any contacts. I don’t mind having the worst job in the office, I just want to get in the door, somehow, and have no idea how to even start. Ideas?

    1. Mints

      I don’t think you’re too late in life, but at the wrong part of the election cycle. I think you should volunteer for campaigns, and then you can email connections for real jobs after.
      If there are any special elections coming up soon in your area, that could kick start it.

      1. J

        Well I had the thought that the recent election might mean there’s some churn in positions and something might open up. I just don’t know how to find those jobs, without connections. And like I said, I did work for a campaign this fall but it didn’t lead to any useful connections. Thanks, though.

    2. Not So NewReader

      I have seen ads online for looking for folks in NY to help with campaigns. I have also seen ads for lobbyist type work- if that appeals to you. I have found those just doing a job search with well known job websites.
      Can you find a job volunteering as some sort of liaison between the group and the bigwigs in Albany? This could be as simple as someone who communicates regularly with the various congressmen’s offices.

      I was in that area a few weeks ago and I picked up a newspaper called “The Legislative Gazette”. (legislativegazette.com)
      I am not very familiar with all the details of what you are asking but I think this newspaper might be of interest to you. I cannot promise you that it is “agenda-free”, but it probably will have something of interest.

  57. Just Don't Know

    I have been debating this most of the day. I believe so many people that post here know so much more than I do about work related issues. I have learned a lot by reading this blog and I have Alison’s e-book and guide for interviewing. I used that information when I interviewed recently. Actually, I almost had a job a month ago with a surgery center but the hours were not what I could do at the moment. I am helping my mother with some medical issues and I have decided part-time is the best answer.

    There is a job just posted on a website for part-time receptionist at a company I sorta messed up with a few months ago. I followed up wrong and I am concerned maybe burned my bridges. This job is only three days a week and I have had this kind of experience. I have finally learned how to write a good cover letter and my resume is revised in a good format now. Should I even try to apply again? I know many people have suggested to me in the past to move on. I just could kick myself in the seat for mistakes I made there. I would like to submit the cover letter and resume and wait to see if they considered me. Bad idea?

    1. KayDay

      Try. You have nothing to loose, and also they might have forgotten about how you messed up before (of course, that depends on what happened). Just put your lessons learned from last time into practice and make doubly sure to show them your best work :)

    2. fposte

      It can’t hurt. If they’re determined they won’t hire you, this application isn’t going to make the situation any worse. If they’re not, they might consider you.

      I would be particularly careful to avoid unsolicited followup calls and emails in this case; since your error was on the overeager/overinvested side, as I recall, you want to make it clear you’re a serene new you :-).

      1. Just Don't Know

        Thank you so much. Yes, I definitely do not want to do any unsolicited follow-ups just submit application, resume and cover letter and see what happens.

        1. Just Don't Know

          I feel sorta lost at the moment. I don’t know exactly how to take this. I applied for a position earlier in the week at a place I messed up with once. The position had been listed for a few days on the website and I was told by someone I know that works there sometimes the job is already filled. She said sometimes they have to post the job if they have someone in mind.

          I have been trying to find something on a part-time basis lately and have been helping my mom going to doctors. Well, I was very happy with the resume and cover letter I submitted. On this particular website, if someone in HR decides to look at your application and resume it will say Accepted. If they chose to not look at it, it will say Submitted. Your application is not always Accepted.

          Well, I applied on Monday early before I went to the doctor’s office with my mother. My application stayed Submitted all this week until later this evening when I checked online. It then had changed to Accepted. The problem is the job was closed on the website later today, meaning it had been filled. A friend of mine told me that a boatload of jobs will be posted in January there. She has an inside source. Now, I am wondering if because I made so many mistakes once with the HR department they are only accepting my application after the job has been filled. They would have to scan my resume and cover letter for the specific opening into my file, so they would have to go into my application to do so. The reason I am worried is this happened once before when I sent a updated resume. I do know there have been times my application was never Accepted only stayed Submitted.

          Should I even attempt to apply when the new postings are listed? I do not want to continue to worry about being that girl that becomes a pest. I have made enough embarrassing mistakes and don’t want to do anything else wrong.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I would definitely not worry that they’re deliberately only looking at your resume once the job is filled. That wouldn’t be a good use of their time (and they could just leave it as Submitted anyway if they didn’t want to consider you). So don’t worry about that at all.

            I’d keep applying and see what happens!

            1. Just Don't Know

              Thank you Alison. I appreciate this. I will just keep applying and not bother anyone and see what happens.

  58. Anonymous

    Ack, I got here too late! Does anyone have advice about transitioning my wardrobe to a more professional style? I work in an office in a business casual environment, and can’t shake the feeling that I look a bit schlubby. I just entered management, and I would like to look a little more polished.

    1. J

      Start reading Corporette! I’m assuming you’re a woman here but it’s a great professional wardrobe resource. It’s hard to give specific tips without knowing what you usually wear to work and more about your personal style, etc.

      1. Anonymous

        Yes, it would have been helpful to note that I am female. I prefer skirts and dresses to pants, I only wear flats and low heels, and thanks to a very large torso I don’t wear button down shirts. Makeup and hair are not a problem.

        1. Katie

          Make sure your pants are more tailored and fit well. Look for good fabrics like wool, not synthetic. Look for pants with lining.

          Skirts should also be a higher quality fabric, an appropriate length, and fit well.

          Look for nice, silk shells to wear under nice cardigans and jackets. Opt for jackets more often than sweaters. Simple, nice jewelry.

          Shoes should be in good repair, simple and classy. You can’t go wrong with a pair of low black heels.

          1. Rana

            The bit about the fabric and fit is really important. Not only will those clothes last longer, but they’ll fit better and make you look more polished. Pull a fleece over your head and you look shlubby, pull an equally comfy cashmere sweater on and, boom, professional.

            (Also, if you, like most of us, are differently shaped from the typical off-the-rack clothes, it’s a good idea to find a tailor who can, well, tailor them to fit you properly. It’s not that expensive.)

            Also, don’t overlook the power of nice accessories. A plain black sweater and skirt can be transformed with a nice scarf, an interesting pin, etc. (Though I follow the rule of three for accessories: you are allowed at most 3 items, and fewer the more interesting said items are. So tasteful earrings, small pin, and quietly stylish pumps, or dramatic pin and nothing else.)

            Also, consider investing in a higher-end hair cut. Not only will it look better than one from the chain hair salon, it will usually grow out more gracefully, so it can sometimes save you money in the long run.

            1. fposte

              I will take one word out of Rana’s post to echo it: Tailor! It is amazing how much smarter your appearance can be when clothing falls and ends where it should. Consider tailoring to be part of the clothing budget, not an additional expense–you’re not spending $10 on a $50 shirt, you’re getting a beautifully fitting shirt for $60.

            2. Jamie

              I have no idea how to wear a scarf. Is there a trick to that? To keeping them tied but laying flat? I have some nice ones but I always feel so schlubby when I try to wear them.

              1. Katie

                It depends on the scarf. I have a few square silk scarves I like to knot around my neck, actually kind of like a flight attendant. My coworkers have told me it’s a very “jaunty” look but so is my personality, so I don’t mind. :)

                If it’s a longer scarf there are some other options for tying them in different ways. Here are some good ideas: http://www.scarves.net/how-to-tie-a-scarf/

                I wouldn’t overdo the scarf thing. I do it maybe once or twice a month, otherwise I get known as the lady who wears jaunty scarves. But it’s a nice look sometimes.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  Bleah, I dislike scarves. Don’t like having something around my neck. Although I have a few, I’m more likely to tie them to my purse, or sometimes into my ponytail to dress it up a bit.

                  My sister keeps trying to give them to me, because SHE likes to wear them. She gave me this huge fringed one that actually happens to be my favorite green. It’s on the coffee table now. :)

              2. Anon in NY

                Get an “infinity scarf” if you have trouble tying scarves – its essentially a cloth loop! As simple as putting on a necklace.

            3. Josh S

              “…Dramatic pin and nothing else…”

              I’m going to guess that if you wear nothing else, the pin will be overlooked no matter *how* dramatic it is. Also, what are you pinning it to?

              1. Job seeker

                This is so funny about the pins. I used to help a lot in the schools helping in the classrooms with my children’s teachers. I have a lot of Christmas pins (Christmas bells, Santa Claus, Gingerbread girls) that I would wear on sweaters, coats during the Christmas season. Last night, I took a couple out and told my mother to pick one. I gave her a Santa Claus pin. She is staying with my family right now. So, fashion or not we will wear our little pins to celebrate the holidays.

        2. KayDay

          This site, http://hello-gorgeous-blog.blogspot.com/p/threads.html , has some cute ideas.

          I can’t wear button downs on their own, but I do wear them under V-neck shirts.

          If you like dresses, get a slip for the summer, to avoid any not-office-appropriate clinging or see-thru-ness. Commando, Far West, Target, and the Gap have some more modern cut slips (Far West and Target also sell granny slips, so you gotta hunt a bit).

    2. Diane

      It depends on your style, comfort level, body type and age group. I love well-fitting pantsuits and separates. Make sure pants are tailored and are long enough to hit the tops of your shoes (pants the shrink in length look wrong). Skirts are great, though a-lines that hit below-knee look dated and frumpy. If you like longer skirts, go for straighter lines, as long as they suit your body type and are comfortable. I’ve gotten tons of mileage out of two long-ish black skirts that are synthetic, so easy to clean and need no ironing, and go with tons of options.

      When I was building my wardrobe, I aimed for a color scheme that allowed most of my pieces to be worn together: I decided my basics would be black, dark grey, and navy, accented with a few bold jewel tones for tops and jackets. I’ve been able to build from there. My mentor took me to get my colors analyzed, and that helped immensely. I know what works well, so I feel better.

      Also, keep a lint brush in your car or at the office, along with a can of Static Guard and some safety pins.

      1. Jamie

        Great advice. I’d only add Tide to Go.

        For some reason I spill less when I have one in my purse. It’s like stains just know when I’m out and they play gotcha with my clothes!

    3. Anonymous

      OP here. Thanks for the tips. I really like the pictures on the gorgeous blog. I guess now it’s just a matter of perseverance at the stores.

  59. Katie

    I’m the new manager who posted above about a different issue. Here’s another question:

    I’d like to give my employees a holiday card with a personal note of appreciation each (ie. Thanks for all the hard work this year on XX. I’m really glad you’re part of my team.”) and an edible treat of some kind.

    Are there any pitfalls to this? I do NOT want anyone giving me gifts. I just want to do something nice and tell them how much I appreciate them.

    1. KayDay

      hmm, you might need to watch out for dietary restrictions, but that’s all I can think of. Do you ever see what they eat? If they’re coffee drinkers, some good coffee is always nice.

      1. Katie

        One of the women has Celiac’s, but the gift (caramel corn) is gluten free. I checked. They’re not all coffee drinkers.

        My biggest concern is that they’ll feel they need to do soemthing for me. It’s my first time being a manager. I really like my team – they’re amazing. I want to tell them.

        1. Jamie

          I wouldnt think so. I’ve gotten gifts from my boss and never felt I needed to do anything but say thank you. Where it feels like an obligation to reciprocate is when someone below you gives you something.

          1. The IT Manager

            I agree with Jamie. My bosses have sometimes given me gifts and I never felt the need to reciprocate.

            You can also maybe head that off by giving the gifts on the last before the holiday so they don’t have the time to reciprocate.

    2. The Other Dawn

      Giving them each a card with a personal note of appreciation is such a great thing to do. I’ve been doing this for a few years and you would be surprised how appreciative employees are to hear what a great job they’re doing. The first time I did this my employees were practically walking on air the rest of the day.

      In terms of a gift, I usually try to pay attention throughout the year to what they like to eat, any little quirky things they like to keep on their desk, non-work things they comment on during the day, etc. For the vegan I usually make up a gift bag full of vegan snack foods. Boy, did that take a long time in the store the first time! I had to read every package. For my other employee, this will be the first year I’m buying for her. She really loves coffee and trips to the casino so I might make up a coffee themed gift bag or something. The person who used to have her job loved funny calendars and things like that so I got her a page-a-day calendar with funny sayings.

  60. Anonymous

    Quickie question for you:

    My boss has issues with the English language. He grew up right here in the United States, and he is not the first generation of his family to be born here. He is very well educated, went to college and degreed in his field. But you would not believe that when you hear him. He has problems with his past participles (e.g. “I should have did that” vs. “I should have done that.”), superlatives (e.g. “more bigger” vs. “bigger”), and use of wrong words (“They learned me that in school.” vs. “They taught me that in school.”). Granted he was not an English major, but anyone listening to him at times must have their skin crawling (at least mine is). Do I have the right to correct him or should I ignore it?

    1. Katie

      I wouldn’t.

      It won’t send the right message at all. It’s not your job to help him present himself better. That’s his concern. You do your job and let him do his.

      Now, I did have a boss who was a terrible writer. He would actually have me edit his emails before he hit “send” and it was mutually beneficial – I didn’t have to read his terrible grammar and he didn’t send out badly written emails. Win/win.

    2. KayDay

      I don’t think you should say anything (since it’s your boss), but if he ever asks you to edit anything, give him corrections with clear explanations.

    3. Rana

      Ignore it. You don’t have the authority to advise him on such a personal matter, and all it will accomplish is making him self-conscious and you seem like you’re over-stepping (because you would be).

      He’s either aware of the problem and has tried to address it (and failed), or he doesn’t care.

      Either way, it’s not your problem to manage.

    4. Anon

      It’s funny that you specify that he is from the United States, because to me those errors read completely unlike the speech of a speaker of English as a second language. Instead, they sound like fairly common U.S. regionalisms (albeit ones with significant class markers) and nothing worth correcting. Unless he is making these errors in professional writing or, I don’t know, national press conferences or something. As a junior employee, I would not even be CONSIDERING saying anything – you would just offend him while sounding overly prissy and judgmental/elitist.

  61. Not So NewReader

    I read all the way down through looking for Treece who felt a firing coming on this morning. I am not seeing a follow up. Not that Treece owes us…no, no. Just hoping things are okay somehow…

  62. Anon in NY

    Here’s a fun question for you all –

    My spouse and I work in the same field, and we are both looking for new jobs. I’m currently interviewing with a few places right now – hypothetically speaking, if I accepted an offer at one place and then had to gracefully bow out of the other positions, would it be appropriate to recommend your significant other for the role? It’s not the same as trying to get your spouse in at the same place as you, but I’m not sure if it might still seem unprofessional…

    1. The IT Manager

      I don’t know. If they’re interviewing you, presumably they’re also interviewing others already and even if you are their #1, there’s already a #2 in the running. Did your spouse apply and not make the cut for the interview? Or did the two of you coordinate your applications so as not to apply for the same companies?

      I’d have to go with no unless they ask you for a recommendation of an alternate candidate or if you knew that they had not advertised the position yet and you somehow got the interview through networking. Basically once the normal hiring process starts you shouldn’t try to get your spouse in through a back door.

    2. Josh S

      Here’s a related thread that may have some relevant comments: http://www.askamanager.org/2011/06/what-are-the-boundaries-when-my-husband-applies-for-a-job-with-my-company.html

      Most people are going to think that of COURSE you’d recommend your spouse, and discount the recommendation because of the bias inherent in the relationship. So it’s probably not worth doing…it might not hurt your wife’s candidacy, but it certainly won’t help it.

      But certainly, have your wife contact those places and apply. She can even say, “I know people who have applied for work and recommended your company/department/whatever because of A, B, and C, and that appeals to me too,” in her cover letter. But beyond that, she really needs to have her candidacy stand on its own merit.

      1. Anon in NY

        Understandable answers, thanks. (Although I feel that having my spouse apply might, in the end, have the same effect – we share a very unique last name; they will absolutely know that this applicant is related to me regardless of what I say.)

        Also I find it funny (and a tad bit offensive) that you automatically assumed I’m the husband in this situation.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          This blog often uses “she” as the generic “he or she,” and I’ve encouraged people to use “he” or “she” depending on their own sex, which is what I do — I find it easier than trying to avoid gender in every sentence. I’d assume that’s what Josh was doing.

        2. The IT Manager

          Ha! When I responded I assumed Anon in NW was a woman and originally wrote husband instead of spouse in my response. I changed it when I noticed no identifying sex info in the original post. I changed it because I realized that I just assume every single LW to AAM is a woman unless there’s something obvious in post and that assumption could easily be wrong.

          except for fposte. For some reason I though she was a man until recent comments proved otherwise.

        3. Jamie

          Fwiw I assumed you were a woman.

          I don’t have advice, but I’m really impressed by any couple that can make it work while being in the same field.

          I don’t think I could do it. Being more than a little competitive I can’t imagine not letting that get in the way. I think thats cool you can do that, it must be nice to be able to bounce work ideas around at home.

          Good luck in finding something great, for both of you.

        4. Josh S

          Oops! Sorry! That was plain-and-simple an assumption, though I felt like I read a gendered pronoun in there somewhere (on second look, there isn’t one, obviously). :/

  63. Cassie

    What’s the best way to help a coworker improve her writing?

    My coworker “Annie” updated a flyer and without having our boss or me review it, sent it out to a company. I was appalled to see that she had copied text from a briefing document I wrote – most of it was innocuous, but she even included a note that I had put in italics which was along the lines of “because of the global economic downturn, we need to develop new strategies to get companies to donate”.

    I spoke to my boss and we agreed that it would be a good opportunity to talk with Annie on improving her writing. English is not her first language, but I feel she has a good enough grasp that she can write appropriately if someone would just sit down with her and go over how to improve her writing. There are two main issues – 1) she needs to write appropriately for the given audience (the example above would be okay for an internal briefing; sending it to a prospective donor would not be) and 2) she needs to be more professional in her emails. When she sends emails to people within the dept, she abbreviates a lot (which makes her look young/ immature) or writes in fragments (which makes it difficult to understand what she’s trying to say).

    What’s the best way to go about this? Telling her “write better” will be absolutely useless (if she could write better, she would… most likely) and anyway, I believe in giving specific feedback, not general “do better” criticisms. Should I print out some of her documents and go over them with her line by line ? I know from proofreading graduate students’ papers that most of them (majority are foreign students) are perfectly fine with me making corrections on Word and then they’ll just click Accept All Changes and be done with it. Only 1 student actually wanted me to go over the corrections with him.

    I’m a little concerned on how she will respond. She might think I’m picking on her or something but the honest-to-good truth is I just want her to write better. I know it’ll ultimately be up to her to improve but I do want to point her in the right direction. (There is a training course on business writing that she could take but I’m not sure that would fix the problem of her emails).

    1. Katie the Fed

      I think the only way this works is if your boss sells the plan to her. “Katya, I’ve noticed some areas where you can strengthen your writing skills. I’d like to have Cassie work with you on that – she’s one of the best writers here and I think she can help you really shine. Do you have any concerns? No, ok then…”

      1. Rana

        Yes, and to frame it as a professionalism issue, not a writing issue, because neither of these strike me as “writing” problems in the usual sense. In the first case, she’s being sloppy and not thinking about the purpose of the document or who is going to see it, which would be a problem even if she was a fluent English speaker and had perfect grammar. Similarly, in the second case, it’s less a matter of bad writing and more a matter of inappropriate informality, which, again, would be a problem even if she was otherwise capable of writing flawless prose.

        (I mean, I do understand that tailoring your message to your audience is an important part of writing – but my experience has been that when you tell someone “your writing needs work” they’re usually thinking in terms of things like grammar and word choice and spelling.)

        1. Cassie

          Some of it is problems with word choice and grammar (spelling is okay, from what I can tell).

          The reason I’m hesitant about framing it as a professionalism issue is because I am not her supervisor, I’m merely her coworker who shares the same boss. Theoretically, our boss should be the one to point out problems with the emails but he gets tons of emails and because he is so busy, doesn’t have the time or energy to work with her on it. Her other boss (she has two bosses) does complain about the emails but does it behind Annie’s back (i.e., complains to everyone else about Annie’s emails but doesn’t talk to Annie).

          Frankly, I could just drop the email issue and just focus on the 1st problem since I am involved with that project and she did use my writing after all. But if I were in her situation, I’d want someone to tell me straight up so that I could try to improve. If no one from my boss to my coworkers tell me I’m doing something wrong, how else would I know?

          1. Katie the Fed

            again, it needs to come from the supervisor, not from you.

            It’s not your place to correct a coworker’s writing style. Don’t assume she wants the feedback. It MUST come from the supervisor.

            1. Cassie

              Our boss does want me to train/mentor her (he’s mentioned it when she was first hired, and now again with this), so I do expect that he will bring up the subject with her. What I’m trying to figure out are the logistics of helping someone become a better writer. In high school and college classes, it’s so easy – you just swap essays with classmates and peer edit.

              1. ABC

                You could apply the same logic? Maybe every week you sit down with her with a few of her emails/documents and point out how she could do better.
                However, for this to succeed she needs to see the exercise positively & not be resentful of your intervention. Thats why the boss’s direct involvement is absolutely essential. If she understands that this is critical for her success, and that her boss desires it, things become easier.

                That said, I really appreciate that you are thinking of going that extra mile & mentor her, rather than just ignore.

                1. Cassie

                  Thanks for everyone’s advice – I think I’ll tread carefully and just focus on the document in question. Our boss wants the document to be corrected and sent out to the company so I can explain what changes need to be made.

                  As for the emails and improving writing in general, I’ll drop that (unless my boss initiates it). There are a few coworkers who I’m close with – we can mutually critique each other – and then there are coworkers who are just coworkers and may take criticism as a personal attack. I do want her to succeed (I hate it when people are not given a chance to improve) but I definitely don’t want to overstep either.

  64. Not usually Anon

    We were talking in one of the threads recently about management mingling and getting to know everyone on a personal level – I think it was the Holiday Party thread.

    I found out yesterday I have really failed at this, I think. I was talking wih a co-worker who casually mentioned so and so living together, which employees were each others exes, who’s dating/married now, who has kids together, what hates each other. I was floored. I knew we had one married couple, but I had no idea the place was teeming with romance. I guess as factories go it must have a certain cache, but Im immune to it as I just can’t see it.

    Is this the kind of thing I’m supposed to know? Because this was tossed out like common knowledge and I had not a clue. Of the 100+ operators I know most by name (except the newest temps) I know how they do we their department s audited, I know who the high performers are and sit in meetings to discuss how to reward them. I know who has leadership skills and sit in meeting to talk about how to reward that and work with them to see if they want to train others. I know who has discipline issues.

    But It seems like there is this underground social network of which I was completely oblivious. Im okay getting to know people personally if that means what hey enjoy about the holidays, or whatever…I will never be able to keep track of Peyton Place. Is this normal that I would work at a fairly small SMB (150 people aprox) and be so out of the loop?

    I’m not out of the loop with office personnel or actual work stuff. And if I’m supposed to mingle more how do you do that when everyone smiles and clams up when you walk by?

    1. JT

      I can’t say if that amount of romance is particularly normal, but when people spend a lot of time together, it seems normal that some amount of relationships will develop.

    2. Blinx

      I think I’m as out of the loop as you are. I kind of like it that way, but on the other hand, it might help to explain underlying tension in the room.

      One year, an admin asked me for help in making a Valentine for her boyfriend. She kept going on and on about “my boyfriend”. Years later I found out it was someone we both worked with! Since she never mentioned his name, I guess it was meant to be kept under wraps.

    3. Ryan

      I’m both oblivious and apathetic about such things and unapologetic about it to boot.

      I’ve never understood the vast amount of energy and interest spent in knowing the details of the lives of people at work when it doesn’t affect you.

      Is it a scandal to me that Mary’s ex-husband is a raging alcoholic? No…he doesn’t work here so why should I care?

      Frank is completely addicted to collecting Boyd’s bear figurines and don’t you think that’s strange for a guy?

      No…I don’t care…it doesn’t affect me and I don’t understand why you’re SO interested in his personal life. Maybe you should worry more about your own?

      I just don’t get it.

    4. Not So NewReader

      Some people prefer just to do the work and go home. Others bring their lives to work with them.
      I am some where in the middle. I will try to share good news or a funny tidbit. I want to know a little bit about the person I am working with.
      Everyone smiles and clams up when you walk by because they see you as a worker and not much of a social butterfly. A way you could change that is to go one person at a time. Learn something about each individual…their kids’ names, they just burned their mortgage papers, their dog had pups.
      If you attempt groups right off the bat, it will feel awkward like you are saying.
      There is a difference between indulging in gossip and learning something about the people you work with. If you can retain their productivity stats etc, you can retain some of these basic things too.

    5. Cassie

      I don’t think it’s crucial to know about your staff’s personal lives, unless a) it is affecting their performance at work or b) the staffer mentions it themselves. I don’t like sharing my personal life at home so when people (ranging from bosses to coworkers), I feel uncomfortable.

      There may be some people who feel your lack of knowledge about their personal lives means that you don’t care about them or whatnot, but it really depends – everyone is different. Don’t beat yourself up about it, though.

  65. Girasol

    That sounds more like gossip. I would have thought that a manager would want to know – from the person himself and not second hand – the sorts of people details that affect the job: what are their interests and hobbies, what are their career goals, what issues make work life balance difficult, and so on. Romance shouldn’t matter unless it affects the job. And it’s no surprise that as a manager you’re not on the grapevine for office gossip. Most people don’t share that sort of chit chat with a manager.

  66. Anon

    A few months ago I applied for a professional organization that required a letter of recommendation from someone who didn’t work for my same company (ie: coworker or boss) but still worked with in a professional capacity. I asked a client of mine to write the letter. The letter speaks very highly of me and I was blown away by the letter as it was so genuine and thoughtful. It was written by a CEO of a decent sized company so I was floored that he even agreed to do it let alone write such a great letter. But we worked closely together and had a great relationship. Mind you, he is NOT an easy person to please, so I was just thrilled to have earned his trust. My bosses have never seen this letter. Would it be appropriate to bring this letter to my yearly review? Or is that tooting my own horn too much/weird? I really want to start moving up and distinguishing myself from other coworkers as the person they should promote (we are a small company and not many people get promoted often). Thoughts?

    1. Katie the Fed

      Sure, why not? If there’s ever a time for tooting your own horn, it’s at your annual performance review. And remember, your boss may need some ammo to support a high rating for you to HER superiors, so things like that are very helpful. When I do appraisals, I have to present a case to my higher-ups to justify them.

      Also, you should tell your boss sooner than later that you want to start moving up and distinguishing yourself as the person who should be promoted, and ask for her help and for opportunities that will let you shine. I know a few of my subordinates are actively trying to move up and I make sure they get high profile opportunities to shine in front of upper management and get their names out there.

  67. Jamie

    Warning – rant to follow:

    Copiers and printers are not IT.

    There – I said it – a declarative statement and I don’t care how anyone argues it I will go to the grave defending it.

    While I was in training all day if the office manager had just agreed to take speak with the copier guy instead of leaving me a message I would have marched straight to her boss, who owns the company, and sung her praises to high heaven.

    I swear to God I will get a no printers clause in any future contracts.

    / rant. thanks – I feel better.

  68. Cruciatus

    I’m a little late to the party on this one, though when this thread opened I didn’t yet think about this potential (small) issue. I normally work Wednesday-Sunday, but with Christmas coming up things slow down (I work at a medical school), and starting tomorrow (Wednesday) I begin the switch to being closed on the weekends (none of my other coworkers work weekends) which requires me to work 10 days in a row, starting tomorrow. I’ll work Wednesday the 12th to Friday the 21st. I have to give up a weekend temporarily, but will gain it back when we switch back the week of the new year (so I get 4 days off in a row, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday). The problem is…I’m starting a new job in my company–no one has given me an exact day yet, but at this point I assume it will start in the new year, possibly that first week. Maybe even on the 31st of December. But…I want the days I have to get up when I work 10 days in a row–so I may possibly start 2 days later than my soon-to-be supervisor is expecting (starting on a Wednesday). I want to be a team player but…I want the weekend I had to give up! I’m not going to get litigious or anything, I’m just wondering if my company (in Pennsylvania) can say “We want you to give up that weekend and start on this specific day (like a Monday)” or do I “own” that weekend off? I hope this made sense…

  69. J

    Darn – just saw this open thread awesomeness. A little over a year ago I left my corporate job to pursue an entrepreneurial endeavor. Unfortunately, my business partner at the time went through a mid-life crisis and the endeavor has now ended. I’m jumping back into the job search madness (its been about three months now), and although I have been applying for what seems everything that is a fit. I have had no call backs. I recently found this blog, and I am sure glad I did because I have been taking a hard look at my resume and cover letter, but there is part of me that thinks my one year of entrepreneurial fun is hurting me. Thoughts?

    1. Jamie

      I bet you learned a lot during that year of working on your own. I would spin that knowledge into a great cover letter about why you would bring so much to the table for this job because of past work history including this year. And I’d just make sure to address that you definitely are excited about going back to work for someone else…because you don’t want them to dismiss you thinking you just need some quick cash to go out on your own again.

    2. Job seeker

      Sounds like you have a lot to offer. You sound like someone with experience and drive. I have learned a lot about myself this year. I have learned if I do not have a plan, I do stupid stuff. I talk too much and come across totally wrong. I saw myself in someone else just the other day and am trying hard to make changes. I believe you are ahead of the game. You have been in the corporate world and have courage to go out on your own. This seems very positive to me. You have to have strength to do what you have accomplished.

  70. Waiting Patiently

    After readings question in wee Wednesday (gpa requirements), I have about bilingual requirements. I’m not sure if you guys have discussed it. Should a candidate who is otherwise a good fit ,but not bilingual, apply anyway for jobs which list it as a requirement? The jobs I’m referencing on are in social and human services.
    In the work I do now, I come across a diverse group of people who speak a wide variety of languages. I try to be as culturally competent as possible. I know key phrase,polite etiquette for various cultures/languages and I also know sign language. While there are some communication barriers at times, I feel they haven’t had an impact on the type of work I do now. Im not sure if I can transition this knowledge to more critical areas of social and human services.

    1. Jamie

      If bilingual is a preference, sure, apply. If its required, no, because it’s a key needed skill. Kind of like you wouldn’t apply for a position that involved driving if you didn’t drive.

      If they need someone bilingual it doesn’t matter how awesome ou are in every other area if you don’t have a core component like this. Fwiw I kick myself every day for not having taken Spanish in school.

    2. Waiting Patiently

      *Adding * I understand that there may come a time where fluency is neccessary. I just want to know should I apply for some of these jobs which I’m qualified in every other area and let the hr managers decide. Or will they consider me as wasting their time. To note: I usually don’t apply unless it says preferred.

  71. Waiting Patiently

    Thanks Jamie! That’s what I figured. And I kick myself for not making the most out of the 2 years of Spanish I took in high school!

  72. Mollie

    I have a question about obtaining an internship in my field of choice. I finished my Associate’s degree a few months ago, so I am not currently enrolled in college anymore. Now I am in the midst of applying to four year schools, one of which is a state school that I’m confident I will get into and begin attending this summer. However, I am 26 (no spring chicken when it comes to finishing my BA), and I want to get some experience in the publishing field ASAP. Do I have to wait until school starts to apply to an internship? There are some fantastic local internships I want to apply to, but they are looking for “college students,” but most don’t specify if receiving college credit is required.

    So, basically, can I apply to my dream internships in this 6-month interim between receiving my AS and beginning my BA studies? How do I explain this in my cover letter? Do I have to divulge that I’m not technically a college student at the moment but soon will be? Thank you in advance!

    1. KayDay

      I realize this is a late response, but I just noticed the question. Go ahead and apply to any internships that do not require you be a current student. Some do have specific requirements about being in school, but plenty of others do not. Do, however, be honest that you are not enrolled but will be in (Fall 2013?). While you might be excluded from some internships because you aren’t a student, your ability to make a commitment of longer than just 12 weeks might help you with other companies.

  73. Job seeker

    I have been watching in shock on the report of the shooting at the elementary school in Connecticut. The elementary school news said the shooter was 24 years old. They said 27 were shot and killed
    and I have watched in horror. Hold your little ones tight tonight. As a mother I am in total shock. This is so horrific.

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