I can’t get added to the email list for work parties, avoiding work travel during IVF, and more

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

1.  I can’t get added to our office email list for work parties

I feel like this is a strange dilemma, and I believe 100% that it’s happening out of oversight and not maliciousness but…

I’ve been at my current position about two years now. As an office we celebrate birthdays, baby showers, wedding showers, retirements, etc. These parties take place during work hours and are open to the entire staff, often even former staff. These parties are announced via email a few days in advance.

Mostly I find out about these parties five minutes before they happen when a coworker will stop by my desk and say “Hey, want to head down to Bertha’s party?” One office friend has started forwarding me all event emails because I’ve so consistently been left off the email list.

I am on the email list for meetings and other general announcements, apparently just not parties. I’ve spoken to those in charge of sending out the emails a few times, as has my direct supervisor, and been assured that I will be added to the list. Initially I wrote it off as being a new employee and updating the party list being a low priority, buy we’ve hired several new people since me who have had no problem getting on the list. I also find myself left out of the office birthday card tradition, despite my name appearing on the birthday calendar.

In the grand scheme of things this is a small blip in an otherwise great job, but it is annoying. I’m not sure if I should keep pursuing the fact that I’ve been left off the event list or just let it slide.

You shouldn’t have to ask for this multiple times, and the fact that it still hasn’t happened is annoying. You’re entitled to be irritated by it, and I don’t think you should let it slide — you’re being left out of events that are part of the bonding of your team, and that’s crappy.

Go talk in person to whoever is in charge of that list. Say this: “Hey, I know you’d said in the past that you’d add me to the list for birthdays and other celebrations. I’m still not getting those emails. Do you have a minute to troubleshoot this so that we can figure out what’s going on?” If the person says they’ll take care of it, say this: “Great. Do you have a minute to check right now while I’m here, so we can make sure it’s fixed?”

In other words, make them deal with it right then and there while you’re standing there. If they say it’s not a good time, then ask when you should come back.

That should fix it, but if it doesn’t, then you should go to that person’s manager, point out that you’ve asked for something simple multiple times, and ask what you need to do to get it taken care of.

2. Should I email with questions after a company indicated they received my application?

I recently applied for a job via email. The person emailed me back thanking me for my interest, confirming the receipt of my documents, and provided me with some additional information about the institution. I feel that I should respond, but my sister thinks I should only respond if I have questions rather than just clogging the person’s inbox. What are your thoughts on the matter? And if I do respond, would a quick “thank you for the update/information” suffice?

A quick “thank you” is fine, but you shouldn’t write back with questions. The time for questions is an interview, if you’re invited to one. Otherwise, you’re asking them to spend time answering questions when they may not have determined that you’re a strong candidate yet.

3. I don’t have the five manager references a company is asking for

For an upcoming interview, I have been asked to provide five references from previous supervisors. The only problem is that I was only able to come up with four. Is it a bad idea to ask the HR contact from the hiring company about this, or do I have to come up with five no matter what?

References from five previous managers — plenty of people haven’t even HAD five previous managers, particularly earlier in their careers. I’d say this to your contact: “I don’t have five previous managers to connect you with because of ___, but here are four and I’d be glad to offer up coworker or client references too, if that would be helpful.”

(Also, what they’re asking for is really overkill. Around three is reasonable in most cases.)

4. I haven’t stayed in touch with my past managers and now need their help

I am a current undergraduate student and have been following your advice column for a while now. You have helped me out tremendously in getting a lot of really great internships!

Unfortunately, I have not behaved as professionally as I should after completing them. I have neglected staying in touch with my previous supervisors and have essentially not spoken to them after leaving the organizations. I am particularly disappointed in not having kept contact with my supervisor from an internship I had almost a year and a half ago. I think my problem was not knowing what to say after leaving and after a while feeling like too much time had passed for me to casually reach out without some sort of explanation, which only worsened the longer I avoided it. For what it’s worth, I was also dealing with some major family issues the semester after leaving and then spent the last fall studying abroad. Ultimately though, those are not valid enough excuses for dropping the ball on what I felt was a very good mentoring relationship.

To make matters worse, I am about to graduate (a year early, thus even more in need of a professional support system) and while it would obviously be great if she could help me with finding a job within or outside the organization we worked at, I don’t want her to think that this is the only reason I am reaching out to her. Is there any way I can still salvage the situation or should I just let it go?

This is actually pretty normal! Lots of people don’t do much to stay in touch with past managers but still reach out when they need a reference; in fact, I’d say that’s more common than the other way around.

So don’t give this another moment of worry. It’s totally fine for you to reach out now, update on what’s going on with you, and ask for whatever specific help you’re hoping for.

5. Avoiding work travel during IVF

My husband and I are very excited to start an IVF cycle in about six weeks. I already have a handful of appointments set up at our clinic starting in a few weeks that I absolutely can’t move due to the timing of the cycle.

I don’t travel regularly for my job but I do occasionally, often on not much notice. There are some rumblings now about a trip next month…and I’m already worried how I’m going to navigate this travel around the appointments I already have on the calendar. And of course, I’m the only person who does what I do in my company, so finding someone to go in my place is not an option.

While I have a good relationship with my boss, I don’t love the idea of telling him that I’m going through IVF, both because it’s really personal and I don’t want to be forced into announcing a pregnancy (or lack thereof) before I’m ready.

Can you help me with some suggestions as to how to draw a line in the sand around certain dates, without giving away why, and also without making people think something much more serious is going on? Saying something like “I have a medical procedure” makes me think people are going to worry I’m really ill. Or am I overthinking it?

Probably overthinking it a bit. “I have a a medical procedure that week that I can’t move” is really all you need to say. People are not likely to assume you’re seriously ill just based on that.

Good luck with the IVF!

{ 123 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Artemesia

    #4 when you touch base with old internship supervisors and such be sure to provide them with an update that both lets them know what you have been doing and are hoping to do AND that reminds them of what you did for them. They may vaguely remember you with warm fuzzies, but may not remember details. Remind them of projects you worked on, what you excelled at, things they can include to make the recommendation more powerful. They won’t feel surprised that you haven’t kept in touch; few people do. Don’t use apologetic language about that just dive in with a friendly overture and your current status and graduation and job search and ask if they can be a reference.

    1. SL #2

      Yep! You don’t need to use it as a social media tool and constantly update your newsfeed, but it’s a low-key, easy way to stay updated on where your old supervisors and colleagues have moved on to. One of the executives at my first internship connected with all of us on LinkedIn while we were there and we’ve been able to keep track of each other that way.

  2. Doriana Gray

    OP #1 – I said on an earlier thread today that I was trying to do something new for me and give people the benefit of the doubt. Then I read your letter, and that went out the window.

    Two years of this isn’t an oversight. Two weeks or two months, yes – people get busy. But you have been working with these people for 24 months and presumably speaking to them and interacting with them throughout the course of a work day, and yet nobody seems to notice you’re not included in any of these alleged team building group celebrations? What, do they think you’re merely there for decoration? Do they think they mass hallucinated you one day and thus don’t actually exist? You get work assignments, right? They’re not just assigning work to your empty chair.

    Somebody in this office needs to fix this immediately. This is high school levels of self-absorption and disrespect. And you should not feel embarrassed to speak up. You matter just as much as the rest of your coworkers, and you deserve to be included and celebrated if you so please.

    1. Artemesia

      And Alison’s advice to sit down in a chair at the desk of the person who handles that while it gets done is spot on. I’d be fairly paranoid myself at this point. When new people are added without hassle and you are strung along for 2 years someone is doing a number on you. You win by being cool and unruffled and insistent. Right now.

    2. ginger ale for all

      If you want to be passive aggressive about it, send yourself a large display of birthday flowers at work. I guarantee people will talk about having missed your birthday and the flake who cannot stay on task long enough to add you to the list nigh even get some well deserved side eye. And the card might even say something like how much you are loved. No name of course.

      1. Jessica

        Maybe your office is different than what I’m used to, but very few people would notice or care if this happened where I work, just because of the floor plan. Your immediate neighbors might notice, but they might not be the ones who maintain the email list. Anyway, maybe you’re joking and it went over my head, but I think the direct conversation is more likely to succeed than complicated tricks.

        1. Koko

          Same here. My team’s offices are strung down a long hallway, with a few offices around the corner at each end of the hall. The kitchen, elevators, and conference rooms are all accessed from about the midpoint of the hall, so there’s very little reason for anyone to go further down the hall in either direction than their own office. I’m in one of the “around the corner” offices. Back in November I completely rearranged all the furniture in my office and got a new standing desk. It was weeks before anyone even came to my office and noticed the change. Those birthday flowers would be dead and thrown away before anyone saw them in my office! (I’m not even sure I would notice flowers in the more central offices, either. I’m usually just briskly walking past them and not paying attention to the decor inside them.)

          1. ginger ale for all

            My office is more open and we are a more gossipy work place than most, especially if we think it is happy gossip (raises, birthdays, someone’s kid doing well). If there is a chance to congratulate someone, we run with it.

    3. Dot Warner

      I agree, after all this time it’s definitely not an accident. As they say, OP, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

    4. The IT Manager

      This is an unnecessarily extreme response. There’s likely one junior admin person responsible for planning and inviting people; maybe she is leaving the LW off on purpose, but this is not a vast conspiracy. No one tales roll at parties plus the LW said that she usually finds out five minutes before the party so she’s does participate.

      1. fposte

        I’d agree with this, and I’ve been the person left off for longer durations than this. People just default to the previous recipients list when sending, and they think of the problem as isolated and not ongoing.

        I also think that viewing the problem as intentional makes it worse for the OP–it makes it miserable instead of annoying, and it makes it likelier that her response will be adversarial enough to fulfill the prophecy. You want guilt and apology, not resentment and “serves you right.”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep. Also, the letter-writer says that she 100% believes that it’s happening out of oversight and not maliciousness, and she’s far better positioned than us to know that.

      2. Tamsin

        Nope, people who are left off absolutely do notice — and sometimes it’s used against them (I know one woman who was left off of these emails and then at her review her boss marked her down for not being as … I forget what she said … social with the team or whatever as she could be.)

      3. Shell

        Yeah, I don’t think we need to jump to assumptions of malice quite yet. I had the hardest time getting (more than one of) my vendors to add me to their invoice mailing list (so I didn’t have to constantly email them asking for tracking numbers of my shipments, which are automatically listed on the invoice)…and it turns out they always had accidentally typed a space in my email address, missed a character, or what have you. OP standing over their shoulder as they fix it is a good idea because it’d immediately address any potential typos, but I wouldn’t assume malice yet.

          1. SG

            Yeah- or my office had a problem where we couldn’t actually directly control the lists, so it was a matter of repeatedly harassing tech to put the right people on the right lists. It was a huge pain when I took over a few lists that were terribly maintained.

    5. AdAgencyChick

      I still wouldn’t ascribe this to anything more than forgetfulness. Here’s what I bet is happening:

      Birthday list manager doesn’t actually have a saved email list of addresses. List manager simply hits “reply all” to the last birthday message, then replaces the subject line and body of the email with the new information.

      OP goes to list manager AFTER an email has been sent out. List manager is apologetic, but doesn’t know how to change her list without emailing the whole group again right then, so promises to add OP later. By the time the next birthday rolls around, list manager has forgotten to add OP.

      This happened ALL THE TIME the other way, when I would beg project managers of accounts I no longer worked on to please, please remove me from their daily status report emails. Even by the next DAY they’d have forgotten to do it.

      If this is indeed what’s happening, I’d suggest OP go to that person and suggest sending a “test” email to the list, adding OP’s name to it, and then replying to THAT email from now on. (Or any more elegant technical solution that others have.)

      1. Tamsin

        I’m not sure why people keep defending this and trying to explain it. New people are added, no problem. This is an issue.

        1. Tomato Frog

          I think people are defending it because it’s pretty unhelpful to say to the OP “It sounds like a bunch of people are out to get you.” And also, based on the letter, she is not actually excluded from the parties and there is no other sign of this being a toxic workplace.

      2. Artemesia

        And yet many new people have been added to the list in the two years that someone the OP has not managed to get added even after several requests. I agree that she should approach this with sang froid as if it were a mere oversight or mistake — but I doubt it is.

        1. Elsajeni

          My guess would be: there’s a routine of adding new people to the list, but it isn’t automated; either there’s a formal email group and someone is supposed to manually add new hires, or it’s an informal email list like AdAgencyChick described and the person who maintains it thinks “Let’s see, and are there any new hires I should add?” each time they send out an email. Since it’s a manual process, it’s vulnerable to someone forgetting to do it, and when the OP was hired happened to be a time that they forgot; since then, the problem has been that she’s outside the usual category of People To Add, so she gets missed by someone adding new hires on autopilot. Or maybe the message somehow isn’t getting to the right person (the person who sends out the emails is not the same person who adds/removes names to the email group), or, as other people have suggested below, they think they’ve added her but actually they added the other Delphinia twice, or spelled her address wrong, or something. It is completely plausible that this is an oversight, as the OP says she’s 100% sure is the case.

      3. CAA

        Yes, I think you’re right that there’s no “official” list in the company address book for parties and people are just copying or reusing old invites, hence the OP’s determination that this is an oversight and not deliberate.

        This kind of problem is much harder to fix if several people are doing the inviting, especially if it’s not part of their formal job but something they organize when there are life events within their own teams. Also, it’s hard to fix if OP doesn’t work closely with the usual senders and so doesn’t hear about these parties before the emails are sent. If this is the situation, and there’s no formal list to edit, then I think Alison’s solution is very unlikely to resolve this issue.

        My suggestion would be to team up with the office friend who’s been forwarding the emails and ask her to do a reply all with a note that says “adding OP” every time she gets one of these. Before too long someone will use the final email in the previous chain to get the list for the next event and OP will be included ever after.

        The birthday card thing is harder. If this party culture grew organically and it’s handled by a few long time people who like to organize stuff for their own team members, and you happen to be on the team that doesn’t have an organizer, you either become an organizer or let it go. If you make too big a stink about it, you risk having management squash the whole thing and become known as the one who ruined everyone else’s fun.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          This whole thing is making me think of the time that a very junior employee came to me and asked if the office would pay for birthday cards that she’d be in charge of circulating, and I said, “Sure, but you’d need to devise a system to make sure that no one is left out and new employees are consistently added. Come up with that, and then come back and tell me what it is,” and she looked really annoyed, like I had just ruined her fun plans that really didn’t need this kind of accountability attached, but I knew that yes it does because otherwise we’re going to end up alienating someone who doesn’t get added, and then she never followed up on it again because Fun Ruined.

          1. Ugh

            There is such an easy solution here. We print up a list of all team members and pass around a folder with the names about a week before the event. Check off your name and pass it to the next person. When it’s done, return to the admin (or who ever is in charge).

            1. Observer

              If we tried something on paper, there would definitely be someone missing, or it would not get back to the organizer in time.

            2. Aella

              We did that at Previous Job, but it worked because it was a tiny office.

              Getting the card sorted out for the person who usually sent it around was fun, though.

          2. Lulubell

            I have an employee like this. Big fun ideas but when I ask her to explain how it will actually work she gets that exact look and never brings it up again.

          3. Student

            I wish more people would approach this as pragmatically as you do. We had some minor, unnecessary Office Drama last week doe to exactly the kind of thing you’re trying to head off. Here, we’ve got a bunch of nerds, a couple of managers, and some business support staff like admins, accountants, etc.

            The admins are delegated the task of handling these office social events. We had a manager and an admin both leave the company this week, of their own choice, for better career opportunities elsewhere. They each get a short lunch event with cake and chatting as a nice send off. So far, so good.

            The departing admin also got a collection for flowers, a good-bye card, and a no-host (pay your own way) after-hours party at a winery. The manager, nothing of the sort.

            The manager had been here longer and made much bigger business impacts, so there’s not a clear business reason to make a bigger deal for the admin than the manager. Neither of them were long-time employees; they were both probably here for less than five years (admin was here less than two; manager I don’t know exact tenure). It’s purely the admins in charge of social stuff making a bigger deal for a departing friend than for someone they don’t know well, because they can.

      4. EvilQueenRegina

        That happened once at Exjob. There had been a lot of staff changes and the email list was out of date. This one guy, Archie, decided to organise a group bonding night, and he sent the invitation out by replying all to some email asking for items for the agenda for a team meeting, added a few other names as well. However, and I don’t think this was malicious although he wasn’t a fan of hers, he didn’t add Cruella, who hadn’t been on the original email, wouldn’t have been at that meeting because it fell during her sick leave and it was felt that sending her that would clog up her inbox.

        I can’t remember if anyone sent her a separate invite but I do know she didn’t go (she always did decline such invites). The incident did lead me to get the list updated.

    6. Miles

      I’d assume the manager made a typo when entering your name and when they double checked they saw the name & didn’t catch the typo again… and just assumed it was a problem on your end after that.

    7. SunnyLibrarian

      Has the OP thought to email the person (maybe passive aggressively attach a receipt?)? Maybe if the person sees it while sitting at their desk with the email open, there is no way she can ignore it!

  3. Bend & Snap

    IVF travel–been there done that. You can travel with your drugs if needed, you just need a cooler, a doctors note and a copy of your prescriptions. Bonus points if your hotel has a fridge.

    Make sure you go through security by yourself, not with co workers.

    Beg off of nighttime stuff if you can–you’ll be tired! And depending on what stage of the cycle you’re in, you may need bigger/stretchy pants to be comfortable. I wore a lot of dresses during my cycles.

    My trips were hard but I couldn’t get out of them, which is the best option. If you choose to travel in the run up to retrieval and transfer, I hope the above is helpful.

    1. irritable vowel

      To me, the issue here is the monitoring appointments, which are every 2-3 days and every day right before retrieval. You really need to either block off a couple of weeks with no travel (best option), or find a clinic that’s close to where you’d be traveling to that will take you as an outside monitoring patient (if your clinic allows this). In the latter case you are looking at paying out of pocket, and it’s not ideal. Bend & Snap, how did you manage this aspect?

      LW#5 – If this were not your first IVF cycle, and you knew what to expect (both in terms of knowing how your body tends to respond to the meds and comfort level with the logistics), I might recommend trying to do what the PP suggests, but I think it’s a really, really good idea to avoid travel once you start taking the stims, and your doctor will almost certainly agree. I’ve done multiple cycles and it’s still stressful enough that I would absolutely not want to be away from home. And I totally get it on not wanting to tell your boss what’s going on – I don’t want to, either.

      The monitoring appointments are always early-morning, so I’ve been able to get out of telling my boss about those (YMMV), and for the retrieval/transfer days themselves, I have generally either taken them as vacation/personal days or scheduled sick days. (Again, YMMV as far as how far in advance you need to schedule time off, especially for the retrieval day because you’ll only have 2 days notice of when it will be.)

      For blocking time off for travel, I’d say you’d want to block off 20 days from the day you start your stims – that will most likely get you through the transfer date. Just tell your boss that you have a non-serious health condition and your doctor has advised you to take it easy (including no travel) during that time period, or that you’ll be starting a new medication and because of potential side effects your doctor has advised no travel for that amount of time. If necessary, you can get a note from your doctor that says essentially this, without getting into the details (and ask for it to not be written on the clinic’s letterhead if that will give it away), but I wouldn’t volunteer the doctor’s note if it’s not asked for. Good luck!!

    2. irritable vowel

      Another option would be to hold off on starting your cycle until after this travel period, but a) I know that’s super-frustrating when you’ve been planning for so long, and b) it sounds like the travel is still a moving target and clinics have to know when to put you on their schedule. You’ve said the appointments are already made, but you can always change them if you need to postpone. I know they often make you feel like you’re working for them, but please remember it’s actually the other way around! If postponing the cycle till May would ultimately result in more peace of mind, keep it in mind as an option. One more month on top of the many months/years of infertility is not so bad, if it makes things easier.

      1. AcademiaNut

        Yeah, it’s the monitoring – you have to start the IVF with your cycle, then physical monitoring (blood tests, ultrasounds) every 2-3 days as they adjust the drugs and make sure no serious side effect are happening. Then the extraction, which is typically under full anaesthesia and needs a full day off (and is not flexible), then a couple of days and the embryo transfer. I personally wouldn’t want to travel during the hormone injections after the transfer (I had them every three days), because of the challenge of doing self-injections into the muscle (unlike the stims, which are into the fat and fairly easy to reach the site).

        For the first round, I would absolutely say not to travel for the whole thing, because you don’t know what the side effects will be. The hormones after the transfer made me mildly depressed and exhausted, and wouldn’t have mixed well with travel, and the stims gave me mood swings – irritability and sadness. A friend of mine was dizzy and irritable over the whole process.

        I ended up just telling my supervisor what was going on – we did three rounds of IVF in a year, so it was much easier than dancing around the issue.

      2. Liz

        The drawback is that the clinic may not have a schedule opening for OP to start later. Some clinics are pretty busy. We were on a waiting list for ours, and if we’d missed our “window” we would have had to wait months. It’s not like rescheduling an one-off appointment: it’s a whole series. (And who’s to say another trip wouldn’t come up?)

        1. OP #5

          Liz is right — easier said then done to reschedule the cycle even though I understand why people would recommend that. A clinic closed recently in our area so the remaining ones are that much busier, and we already have had to wait a few months to get in. It’s time for us to do this, and the work conflicts we’ll just have to deal with. The travel specific advice everyone has shared is so helpful! I appreciate it. And I am considering telling my boss if it starts getting to be too much to keep it under wraps but we’ll see how it plays out.

      3. IVFer

        I did IVF and would absolutely not travel for the month-long process. Several others have already commented on the constant (sometimes daily) monitoring that’s required and the procedures including anesthesia, but there’s also the chance that your medications or parts of the process may need to be adjusted from the original plan. If it’s not covered by insurance, OP could easily be looking at a $15,000 price tag and even if it IS covered, insurance may only cover a limited number of sessions (mine covered one). I wouldn’t risk wasting an IVF cycle/my family’s future on job travel.

        OP – Infertility is called the “Silent Sisterhood” for good reason: people don’t like to talk about it because it feels so shameful (it’s not). I get that you don’t want to share the information with your boss, but it may be the best option for you. I was lucky to have an understanding manager and she worked with me when I had to come in late, take long lunches, leave early and take days off.

    3. Green

      I had a (male) colleague whose wife was undergoing expensive hormonal treatment and they were attempting, er, well-timed fertilization. We had a good relationship, so he just told me that he and his wife had been trying to have children for two years and that he needed to be home sometimes and–say no more!–I volunteered to do those particular travel dates for him. While I can understand not wanting to share that information with a boss (or a colleague), if you do have an ally at the office who can cover for you, that may be an easy solution. (“I can’t travel due to an appointment that week, but so-and-so has said they’d be happy to be my back up.”)

      1. The Strand

        I agree wholeheartedly. It takes a lot of pressure off that person to be able to flex their plans and be “cool”. Whoever said dealing with infertility was like dealing with the stress of cancer was, unfortunately, on target.

        1. Julie

          Long time lurker, first time commenter.

          Also undergoing fertility treatments and it is incredibly stressful. I have a good relationship with my manager so ended up telling her and she’s been very understanding. It definitely also helps that she’s been my manager for six years and that I’ve always been a pretty diligent employee (rarely call out, get my work done, etc.). She’s currently on vacation and a coworker (who is my peer – not my supervisor in any way!) actually commented on me coming in late to work multiple times a week. I blew it off with no real response, but it did fire me up. As long as my supervisor is okay with me having to come in late (and I do make up that time later!) then no one else should be concerned.

          Best wishes to all who are trying! You’re not alone!

  4. Ayla K

    I’ve had a similar situation to OP#5. I’ve just told my manager “FYI; I need to (be out of the office/not travel/miss X event) because I’ll be having a (minor surgery/ routine procedure) that (day/week). Nothing major – just some routine maintenance that can’t be rescheduled at this point.” If they push on why you can’t reschedule, just say “I booked this months ago and if I try to move it now, I’ll have to push it out (two more months/until the summer/whatever) and I need to go in sooner than that.”

    You could also say, “I heard there might be a trip scheduled next month and wanted to let you know that I won’t be able to travel on X days due to some previously scheduled doctor’s appointments, but other than that I should be fine to go.” Hopefully one of those should clear it. It’s never been as big a deal as I’ve thought it would be. Good luck!

    1. Afiendishthingy

      I definitely don’t jump to thinking someone’s seriously ill if they say they’re having a medical procedure- I would think colonoscopy/endoscopy/mole removal, if I gave it any thought at all. Mostly I would figure if they weren’t volunteering any more information it wasn’t my business.

  5. Sandy

    The five managers question really blows my mind!

    Even giving three managers takes me back six years. In my husband’s case, three managers takes him back more than ten.

    I’m not the same employee I was six years ago and thank goodness for that! Is it really that valuable to reach back that far?

    I’ve taken to providing the three, with a caveat that it’s starting to get a bit stale (even the references in question have said as much) and offered up coworker or client references in addition, noting that they are more recent.

    1. Jack the treacle eater

      One referee takes me back ten years. Two takes me back 20. Consistent good work and demonstrable achievements. Was criticised heavily in a recent interview for (1) having been in one place ten years, (2) not enough references. At the time it was a job I really wanted – looking back, there were a lot of alarm bells about that manager’s attitude, and I can’t help feeling I dodged a bullet.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian

      The managers takes me back twenty years, and includes the manager for my first office job. If I went back further, it would be work study and fast food jobs.

    3. F.

      Been under current manager nearly 9 years. Previous 2 managers are retired. One before that is 90 years old and has dementia. That takes me back to 1984. Ridiculous!

      On a similar note, I recently saw an application that wanted 5 close friends (not relatives) who have known you for at least 5 years. I am an introvert. I have exactly 1 close friend other than my husband, and I don’t want any more than that.

      1. K.

        Friends? Why? I mean, I could do it (I tend to have long-standing friendships – I’ve actually been lamenting lately how hard it is for a single childless adult to make new friends), but it strikes me as a weird professional request.

    4. JMegan

      That definitely seems like a lot! I’ve been in the (professional) workforce for more than 15 years, and I could only provide three reliable references from previous managers if I were asked today. And the most recent of those dates back to 2012, as the two since then (and not including my current one) have both vanished off the map.

      I could provide five professional references easily enough, but I wouldn’t be able to make all of them managers. What a strange thing to require.

    5. Student

      Some organizations are run very differently. We’re matrix management plus we have a bit of turn-over. I can think of nine people I can realistically refer to as “manager” at my current job alone, maybe more if I thought about it, and I’ve only been here 3 years.

      I’ve had plenty more normal jobs where you have one boss for several years, though, so I can understand the flip side of the coin. Before I took this job, I would’ve been hard-pressed to name five managers, too.

    6. ginger ale for all

      Two of my managers at one of my part time jobs have been arrested for on the job shenanigans. If that was my only job, I would have those two, two who quit in disgust, and one who left to get into a different industry.

    7. Pointy Haired Boss

      Like most of these bafflers, it’s a CYA tactic that’s been popularized by HR in larger organizations where there is a “principal-agent” problem. In large organizations left to their own devices, plausible deniability for the people responsible for signing off on a new hire becomes far more important than the quality of the hire itself. Hiring is risky — if the risk of making a good hire is allowed to become greater than that of a safe hire (or especially of making no hire at all), hiring will always push for the option that is lowest risk to the individual hiring staff.

      Managers have to take a strong tactic on this before it is allowed to become a normal part of company culture.

  6. SL #2

    OP #4: Honestly? I didn’t stop feeling awkward about losing track of my contacts (I am a recent grad!) until now, at my current job. I do scheduling for my boss so I get a lot of her emails forwarded to me. The number of ‘catch-up’ emails she gets from colleagues is astounding. And you know what? No one really apologizes for losing touch for however many years. There’s a lot of “I think it’s been X years since we’ve seen each other! I hope you and your family are doing well.” and then the email goes into the business aspect. It really showed me that even seasoned professionals lose track of their network, and that it’s not necessarily anything to be ashamed of. I hope that helps. Lots of people would be pleased to hear from former interns, no matter how long it’s been.

    1. Colette

      Yes. It’s totally normal to lose touch of people, mostly because these are colleagues, not friends, and for a lot of us the work world doesn’t change that often so there’s not much to say. Linked In is the best way to passively keep in touch so that you can find them when you have something to say.

      1. fposte

        Yeah, I’m trying to think if there’s a better phrase than “losing touch,” since that sounds to me like touch should really have been maintained. But I don’t want to regularly correspond with all my former staff–there aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m happy to recommend you based on the work you did for me–we don’t have to be pen pals too. (Though it is worth making sure you have up to date contact info for old managers even if you’re not corresponding.)

        1. Hellanon

          Plus, a year when you are an undergrad and a year when you are a mid-career professional are two very different time periods. I hear from former students all the time, in emails that generally start out with some variation on, “Hope this finds you well! I wanted to let you know what I’ve been doing and ask you for a favor…” Internship supervisors are undoubtedly accustomed to this, as are your former professors!

  7. Marzipan

    #5, the way I handled IVF at work was to tell my boss that I would have a number of upcoming medical appointments at short notice, but not to worry because I wasn’t deathly ill. This worked fine, and didn’t cause any issues. I would think you could adapt something similar to include “… and therefore I don’t think I’ll be able to go on the X trip which I know may be coming up.”

    My one word of caution would be that IVF timings have a nasty habit of changing at the last minute, depending on your follicle count/lining/response to stims etc, so I’d be wary of setting things in stone even outside of the time you expect to be cycling.

    That said, depending on when in your IVF cycle the trip is scheduled, you may actually be fine to travel then anyway. It would depend a bit on the duration of the trip, and how much monitoring your clinic want to do while you stim. I have travelled without problems for non-work reasons while injecting for IVF (I wasn’t missing Secret Cinema Star Wars for anyone, even if it meant the possibility of having to do my shots in the bathrooms of Mos Eisley space port. Which, may I say, were not as nice as the ones on the Death Star…)

    Good luck for your cycle!

    1. blackcat

      Yeah, the phrase “Non-serious but hard to schedule medical appointments” can go along way.

      When I asked for a planned day off to get an IUD inserted, I said “I’m having a minor medical procedure. I’ll be fine, but I could be miserable for a day or two, so I’d like to schedule it for a Friday. The only Friday appointment available is X day when I know you prefer to have everyone here. Would you prefer I find a different day?”

      And my not particularly accommodating then-boss said “No, we’ll make that work. I’d rather you be gone for that Friday than two days another time.” And asked no questions. A later conversation revealed he thought I had had dental surgery (no idea how he get that impression, but whatever).

      1. Mabel

        My new-ish boss just recently said she felt terrible for not asking me if everything was OK because I was having regular doctor’s appointments. I said I appreciated her concern, but that it isn’t anything serious. I go to therapy every week, and I’m not embarrassed in general about that, but I have not yet met my boss in person (I work remotely from the rest of my team), and it’s not something I want to get into at work. I really do appreciate her concern, but I felt so uncomfortable as the conversation went on that I said, “I don’t have cancer or anything,” and now I feel terrible that I said that as a way to get her to stop talking about it. I wish I could be more subtle about redirecting a conversation that I don’t want to continue. Bleah.

  8. Myrin

    #1 is such a weird problem to have I honestly can’t wrap my head around it. And I don’t mean this in a “wow, don’t be so whiny about something so little” kind of way but in a “I’m so confused about why this is even a thing” one. How does one person consistently get left out of every social interaction at this office? On the one hand, it only seems to reasonably make sense if it is indeed intentional but on the other hand, no one seems to object to the OP actually showing up at the office parties, she just doesn’t get told about them beforehand. But then, why on earth do newer hires get added to the list no problem yet the OP (as well as her supervisor!) can’t seem to get anyone to actually sit down and do this for her? Again, this almost only makes sense if it is intentional but then, doing this intentionally doesn’t make sense in itself?? So weird, especially as OP doesn’t mention any other problems at the office or how people are antagonistic towards her or whatever. Either way, I’mma sit here and puzzle about this while I heartily endorse Alison’s advice – if you don’t give the person responsible an out, this should be sortet out relatively easily.

    (Meanwhile, I’m coming up with all kinds of whacky conspiracy theories just for the fun of it – like how the organiser has some kind of personal vendetta against OP and now tries to let that out by keeping her from the parties list. She also doesn’t think OP or anyone else will ever figure that out but just go along with it. It’s kind of a weak slight in the grand scheme of things but she relishes it nonetheless, all while stroking her little pet bunny she has constantly perched over her shoulder.)

    1. hermit crab

      I bet it’s just something like there’s two Marias in the office, and the email person thought they added the OP (Maria #2) but they really just added Maria #1 again. People get tripped up by Outlook’s auto-complete all the time! Though I do love your conspiracy theory. :)

    2. Julia

      I’ve been working at my retail job for almost a year and I’m still not on the “all staff” email list despite asking the HR director about it a couple of times and sending her emails. It’s partly because retail is one part of a larger organization most of which is office employees and the retail employees do tend to be an afterthought. Part of the problem too, I think, is that I was hired in a batch of people but started a couple weeks after the others; I definitely had the impression as I was getting log-ins etc that that had caused some workflow issues, like the responsible parties had taken care of the two other new hires a week or two before I got there and then crossed “new retail people” off the list. All my access codes came about because the manager would ask, “so you have that now?” and I didn’t so she followed up on it. So I think adding me to the appropriate email lists must have been part of that package but one that got overlooked. After all, if IT didn’t assign you a register code everyone will know because you won’t be able to do your training. But if you’re not getting the party emails only you know.

      1. Julia

        (I just offer this because I see a lot of commenters who think it can’t be anything other than sinister but I think OP isn’t necessarily wrong in thinking it could just be incompetence)

    3. GreenTeaPot

      My experience with this sort of chicanery is that the perpetrator wants to “get” the victim in such a way that the victim looks petty when she/he notices or complains about it.

      I’d ignore it but confide in a trusted coworker to keep me apprised of upcoming events.

      1. Artemesia

        I think it is probably 75% likely that this is just routine incompetence — but this is the other thought in the back of my brain. Because complaining about not being on the party list sounds petty and so it is an ideal way to gig someone and put them at a disadvantage. Still, probably incompetence rather than malice.

        1. Lynn Whitehat

          People can be really thoughtless about how bad it looks to be excluded from things like this. I’d go with incompetence for now.

  9. Arielle

    OP #1 – Any chance they think they’re adding your email to the list but they’re actually not? I would sit with them while they do it and make sure they’re typing it in correctly. I say this because there are two people at my company with the same moderately unusual first name and getting people to send email, meeting invites, interview schedules, etc. to the correct Arielle has sometimes been a struggle. (No one seems to get confused between the six Steves but I’ll save my gender commentary for another time.)

    1. Alter_ego

      This blows my mind at my company. There are 6 mikes in my office alone, and they never get each other’s emails, but there’s one other woman in the company with my medium unusual name, and we get each other’s stuff all the time. And of course, she’s the head of hr, so when I get stuff meant for her, it’s usually like “here’s my social security number and salary information!” Which seems like an email you should take care is being sent to the right person.

      1. Elsajeni

        I think it may partly be the medium-unusual-ness that leads people astray in that kind of situation. I know I check more closely that I’ve got the right address when I email someone named Mike than when I email someone named Delphinia, because there have always been a dozen Mikes anywhere I go but never more than one Delphinia. Which obviously will be a problem if another Delphinia ever starts working at my office.

        1. Kylynara

          I also think the unusualness plays a significant role, especially in a larger company where people don’t necessarily know there are two.

          I think gender plays a role too, in that men’s are more likely to be called their last name only (or a play on their last name) than women are, so their last names become more visible, and it’s easier/more noticeable when you try to email Mike “Smitty” Smith and Mike Jones comes up.

      2. TootsNYC

        Is the initial of your last name earlier in the alphabet than hers?

        The auto-complete may be part of your problem. If I’m sending a message to Mike, I know there are several, so I’ll start typing his last name. So I get him.

        But if I’m sending an email to Hilda, I may figure that’s unusual enough that I can just type “Hilda,” and then I choose the first one that pops up.

    2. doreen

      There may be people with similar email addresses even if the names aren’t so similar. For example, under my employer’s former system the convention was “firstinitial last name” . If there were multiple “MBrowns”, then the emails were “mbrown” ,”mbrown2″ etc. But “Mary Brown” and “Mark Brown” and “Michael Brown” got each others emails all the time anyway.

    3. Observer

      I don’t think it’s gendered. It’s probably a result of the fact that your name is not so common, so no one thinks about the possibility that there is another Arielle in the company. But Steve is SO common that you have to be a dunce not to realize this most of the time.

  10. Dangerously Cheezy

    OP1: I was in my last (toxic) job for 2 years and I had the exact same problem… except that no one would even tell me. I would find out the next day that everyone went out for a farewell party afterwork, or I’d get a meal receipt to process for reimbursement that was for a staff party in the meeting room, or there’d be a birthday party that everyone else would slink off to and leave me working alone.

    At first I also attributed it to the fact that I was new and quiet, but even after addressing it when Id been there over a year – it just kept on happening. At one point I was even ‘accidentally’ removed from the coffee-list for meetings and I would be the only one without a coffee!

    When I left there was no farewell party and I got 1 goodbye from a coworker, none from the 25 others or management. It had nothing to do with oversights or newness, I found out that I just wasn’t as liked as I thought and that was there way to try and send a message to me that I was not welcome.

    1. Hellanon

      That’s both sad and infuriating to read. I do hope you found a better workplace and coworkers more worth *your* time…

      1. Dangerously Cheezy

        It was an infuriating place to work. It was a shock to my system when I started working for an organization that actually cared about me as a person and painstakingly made sure that I was aware of all events… they even did something for my birthday when I was only working there for 2 weeks!

    2. Artemesia

      What a horror show; hard to believe that this many middle schoolers are in the business world. You have got to be a more likable person than these yutzes.

  11. Party list

    I don’t know how big your office is, but someone should be an administrator for creating standard email lists. We have several at our office of 30: all staff, in-house staff, team leaders, teapot designers, and teapot sales. One of the items on our onboarding and separation check lists is to update those lists.

    If your office doesn’t have something like this, perhaps you could suggest it or maybe offer to create it.

  12. Nicole

    #1 – You scanned the recipient list to confirm you’re not on it, correct? I’m only asking because sometimes things inadvertently happen where such emails get put in your junk folder or that new clutter folder that outlook recently introduced. I’m only suggesting you look into this before approaching the person in charge of the list just in case. Otherwise I can’t help but think this person is intentionally being obtuse for some strange reason since newer employees have been added to the list with ease.

  13. OP #2

    Alison, I just want to thank you for answering my question. I’m in an area where the job market is incredibly tight and I find I’m being overly cautious about everything I’m doing in my job hunt. But your blog has been immensely helpful! I am especially trying to live by your “apply and move on” mantra and it has really helped me. So thanks again for the great advice!

  14. Ive BeenThere

    OP#1 – I agree it’s the reply-all phenomenon, plus one more hitch, it’s reply-all, plus “oh yeah, I should add the new guy”. Also do check your spam box. I wonder if originally your name was spelled wrong and it took off from there.

  15. Why no baby

    #5 – My sympathies. I’m not quite at the IVF stage yet but have had one failed artificial insemination and tons of doctors appointments. During certain times of the day I cover phones so if I have an appointment then (as you said, which cannot be moved) then…it’s tough. It’s really tough.

    Just keep in mind everyone has their own things going on in Real Life and reasonable people will understand. There’s a million things frequent medical appointments could mean. :)

    Good luck!

    1. Callie

      the thing is not everyone is reasonable so they don’t understand. When I was a teacher I worked for a principal who was ENRAGED that people would dare to have babies during the school year! “I wish you people would time your babies to be born in the summer, I’m tired of finding substitutes for you.” Since our maternity leave consisted of “save up your sick days”, I’m sure most of us would have loved to have summer babies, but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way, yanno. One of my colleagues had so many gyn problems over the years she eventually said screw it and scheduled a hysterectomy, and this principal put so much pressure on it to reschedule it to summer instead of January. This teacher refused and the principal only let it go because lawsuits were threatened. This principal also would fly into rages when someone had to go home to take care of sick children, nevermind someone going home sick themselves (our school had 750+ kids, and many of them came to school sick, which means we would constantly get sick).

      It’s bosses like this that scar people for life.

      1. Observer

        Good heavens! How did she treat the students? Did she threaten t fail them if they were out sick for week>? How DARE you get pneumonia!

  16. StephthePM

    Over the course of a year, I had 8 rounds of IUI, bloodwork, ultrasounds, etc. It felt like I was going to the doctor every 12 minutes! After the 2 or 3 month, I elected to let my director know what was going on, as she is very “mother-hen” with all of us, and she was personally very concerned about “me” — not so much the work as I always got that done. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive situation, she was ultra-supportive about keeping travel down (travel is a component of my job) or scheduled around appointments, tests. Throughout my pregnancy, maternity leave, and return to work, she was the same — great, supportive, no questions asked.

    I tell you the story, not because I think that’s what you should do, but just to let you know how very many of us are out there that have gone through similar fertility related treatments. I agree with Allison’s great advice and phrasing.

    Good luck with IVF!

    1. Bend & Snap

      I told my boss too and she was so supportive.

      I had 9 failed rounds of iui and 4 rounds of Ivf before I finally got pregnant. It took 7 years and 4 lost babies, but was worth every minute to bring my little love into the world.

      OP, I wish you an easy and successful journey.

    2. Pam

      Same here. Not at all suggesting what you should do, but just letting you know that I understand the struggle. :)

      I was very discreet at first (about 5 years dealing with infertility), but as I began IVF, I opened up to my coworkers and it helped me tremendously. They happened to be very supportive, nonjudgemental people, who were just worried about me. Once I got it out in the open, I felt free. No more tiptoeing around the issue, or crafting carefully worded reasons of why I had to jet out after receiving calls from clinic.

      Best of luck to OP#5.

  17. Fleur

    OP #3, One super shady thing people in my industry do is use reference lists for recruiting/networking instead of being genuinely interested in a candidate. The most extreme example being someone who got asked for 15 references.

    Depending on which stage you’re in, I’d do some research to make sure they’re legit. 5 isn’t in the outrageous range, but if say they’re asking for references before even a phone screen, I’d view it as a red flag.

  18. OP #5

    Thanks for all the helpful advice, “been there” stories, and the positive thoughts! I have a lot of work projects converging on the month of my cycle and I really appreciate hearing from people who have been through it and have been able to manage it.

    1. irritable vowel

      I’m generally a big advocate for not letting infertility get in the way of living life (because otherwise you risk letting it define you and limit your opportunities), but if you have all this going on plus the potential travel, maybe it would be better to postpone the IVF cycle for a month? It’s hard to overestimate the benefit of calm during a cycle.

      1. Artemesia

        Some things are more important then other things. Having a child is one of those things. Given the vagaries of fertility treatment would prioritize that and then let the business trips fall where they may – using the suggestions for letting boss know you are not available. Fingers cross that it goes well and quickly for you.

    2. businessfish

      After months of putting off pursuing a promotion so I could focus on infertility treatments, I ended up interviewing for a promotion right in the middle of stimming. That cycle didn’t work, but the frozen transfer from that batch of embryos did and I’m now scheduled to be on maternity leave this summer, during the critical testing phase of my biggest project! I told my boss I’d liked to have timed it differently, but if I had any control over the timing of my pregnancy, I’d have a 2 year old by now!

      basically – infertility will consume you if you put your life on hold for it (i mean, it will anyway) but it having strong distractions cannot be undervalued! In whatever ways you can keep going hard at work while still keeping your appointments, I’d recommend you do that – putting travel on hold makes sense, but I did way better when I dug in on other stuff.

      I told my boss (who is a mother, so context may help) but none of my colleagues – I found it super helpful to have her just understand that I’d be out with about 36 hours notice – because a few times the transfer times interfered with big meetings. It was also helpful when I did get pregnant and had horrific morning sickness to have her understand when I needed to work from home because of that. While part of me resented not being able to announce the pregnancy (to her) on my own timeline, I definitely felt that in my situation I had more upside than downside in being open.

      good luck!

  19. The Cosmic Avenger

    OP#1, I’ve had this myself, with only one event per year. I receive all other company-wide emails just fine. My current theory is that they use Evite or some internal system just for sending invites and tracking RSVPs for that event, and somehow I got blacklisted on whatever system they use for it (possibly due to my own actions). The person in charge was really bothered that I wasn’t included, as I know them fairly well, and they are sure they put me on the list to receive invitations, they swear they triple-checked and I believe them.

    One of these years, if I remember, I may do some troubleshooting to see if I can figure it out, but the point is, sometimes strange things happen, and we often don’t really know the root cause, which can seem quite unlikely. But of all the possibilities we go through each day, we’re bound to run into some fairly unusual and unlikely outcomes a lot more often than you would think.

    1. Student

      This isn’t some cosmic zen thing “world works in mysterious ways”. It’s a faulty communication process that is harming the OP. With some very minor troubleshooting, it’s very fix-able. The core problem isn’t the technical issue. It’s that no one cares enough to fix it, and that in and of itself is feedback in a “I-don’t-feel-valued” loop for the OP. OP is not invited tot he fun stuff, and no one involved cares enough to make a minor effort to invite OP to the fun stuff. There are literally dozens of ways to fix this simple technical issue. Really simple way to fix it if the organizer won’t get his/her world together is for the OP’s friends or line manager to forward her the invites they receive. Only one person in the group has to decide including the OP matters for this to be, essentially, solved. If no one does, it just reinforces the core problem.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        If it’s that dead simple, why don’t you outline exactly what is causing this particular problem for the OP, and exactly the steps that are needed to fix it? Since you seem to know exactly what the problem is and how easy it is to fix, I’m sure with your knowledge the OP can get the person to finally fix it.

  20. MsChanandlerBong

    So how do you handle the reference thing if the potential employer just won’t take “I only have X references” for an answer? I mentioned back in Dec. that my husband had an offer rescinded because he couldn’t provide three managerial references. He didn’t work in high school because his parents felt it was more important that he focus on his studies, and he worked at Blockbuster (which is now out of business) while he was in college. After that, he spent four years at job #1, two years at job #2, and four years at job #3. The problem with that is that job #1 is a company owned by his father, and the business has declined to the point where only family members work there; no one is going to take your dad seriously as a reference. Job #3 will not give references at all. It is against policy, and the supervisors will not give references on the side because doing so can get them fired. They even use a third-party company for basic employment verification. So that leaves him with one managerial reference. He had colleagues and people he’s volunteered with over the years ready to vouch for him, but this university HR department would not accept anything other than three managerial references.

    1. CAA

      First, it’s not very likely that he’ll run into another org that’s so strict they can’t find a way to bend their rules for someone they really want. If he does, then the only thing he can do is get a bit creative about finding references. Is there anyone who no longer works at job #3 and was any kind of manager at all? Former employees are not normally bound by these “no references” policies. He can use a former manager, his manager’s former manager, the former manager of a department he communicated with, etc.

      For job #1, it also doesn’t matter at all who works there now. What matters is who else worked there when your husband worked there. Find those people on LinkedIn and use them as references. Worst case, if someone demands a manager and the only person he ever worked for is his father, then he’s got to provide that info. It’s better to put his father than nobody.

      For the volunteer work, he can put down whoever managed the volunteers.

  21. Snazzy Hat

    So when a recent job posting asked for “three references”, did I do something really stupid by sending my entire reference list of eleven people with contact info & how they know me? My list has so many in the first place because at my last job I had three immediate supervisors, but I also want to make it known that other people can be contacted for more information. I’d rather have my references tell my interviewer, “oh yeah, she was a great employee because blah blah et cetera,” instead of only, “yes she worked here.” Or worse, have someone in HR who never met me say, “according to our records, she worked here.”

    Long story short: it would be more than three even if I list one supervisor from each former workplace, let alone people who can attest to (and praise) my work ethic and personality.

    1. CAA

      Yes, 11 references is overkill. Nobody will call that many people, and sending a huge list makes it look like you don’t really understand the process or the purpose of references.

      Your references should be managers who worked directly with you, not HR people who never met you. That doesn’t mean you include every manager you’ve ever had, or a manager from every job, or every co-worker who thinks your wonderful. If you have 11 people on your list, then great, you can use 3 different references on each application.

    2. Burkleigh

      Something I’ve seen on some job applications (the kind where you have to type everything in instead of just attaching your resume) is that they want a manager’s name for every prior job, and then ask for 3 references on top of that! I think the idea is that while the employer may choose to contact any of your previous employers, you can select the 3 references who you want contacted first.

      I think you could use a similar idea here–if you have 11 references, that’s great. But pick 3 of them who can best speak to your qualifications for the job you’re applying for, and send only those 3 with your application.

      1. Snazzy Hat

        they want a manager’s name for every prior job, and then ask for 3 references on top of that! I think the idea is that while the employer may choose to contact any of your previous employers, you can select the 3 references who you want contacted first.

        That makes a ton of sense! The first application I sent this year was very detailed, so I got the impression I needed to let everyone know who my past supervisors have been, and became confused about who my references need to be. I figure “these are my previous managers but my references are other people” comes off as “my previous managers will not say anything good but they might not say anything at all because you apparently have to call HR instead of talk to them”.

        This is also going to help phrase my request to a doesn’t-work-there-anymore former manager asking if I may list her as a reference. Thanks!

  22. Annoyed

    On #1, definitely push it to get it fixed. At the last place I worked, birthdays were acknowledged informally – if someone knew somebody else’s birthday was coming up, they would organize a lunch. One time about 10 of us went out for lunch, just to be social. Somewhere it came up that three people had birthday’s coming up, so one person said “We’ll pay for your lunches for your birthdays” without asking anyone else if we wanted to do that. It was only a few bucks a person but I was totally pissed because I had been there about 5 years at that point and never had my birthday acknowledged once. To their credit, the birthday boys tried to refuse but the person kept insisting.

    Bottom line if you are going to recognize birthdays (and other milestones) at the office, you need to damn well make sure that you are treating everyone equally.

  23. anncakes

    Oy, #1 gave me flashbacks to OldJob. In the almost 2 years I was there, I never got a single team-specific email unless it was sent by the team leader who was in my job category but a higher level. If one of the higher-ups sent something, I was somehow not included. New people got added on just fine, but I’d have to find out by word of mouth about changes to protocol and other important business. I was also of course not included in a single social activity, and the higher ups didn’t even know my name. After TWO YEARS. It became a running joke among my fellow team members, who were great to work with and very friendly, but it was extremely awkward and often infuriating to basically be shut out of the team like that, especially when newer people were welcomed with open arms. And it had nothing to do with my performance, since I got high marks on all my reviews and had my supervisor comment on how they almost never score employees this high unless they’ve been there 5+ years.

    Same thing with the company-wide emails. I talked to FOUR supervisors about it, including the top manager, and nothing changed until a new person got promoted into one of the management roles. I got her emails but no one else’s. I even watched one supervisor add me to his list on his email account. Literally watched him type in my email address correctly into the correct email group. Total emails I got from him in two years? Zero. And he did send things out. Nothing in my spam folder, nothing in my inbox. I mentioned it so many times, and nothing changed. Sometimes people would print out an especially important communication to post somewhere, and my email wouldn’t be in the recipient list. If I hadn’t been persistent about bugging coworkers for more info when they mentioned management said something by email, I’d have been out of the loop even more than I was.

    I guess there’s really no explanation sometimes. You can choose to be persistent and try to get it fixed, but if that doesn’t do the trick, then I guess it just is what it is. It’ll slowly drive you nuts, though, that’s for sure…

    1. BrownEyedGirl

      In my last position I was a (paid) intern for several years–which was fine until it wasn’t. The atmosphere changed dramatically at one point and the biggest indicator was that I stopped getting general staff emails about dumb things. It was very alienating.

  24. IVF Been there done that

    #5 Allison’s advice is spot-on (as usual). I let me boss know I was going to have a series of appointments and blood work for something health-related, but most of the appointments would be first thing in the morning so other than possibly coming in to work a few minutes late it shouldn’t impact my schedule aside from one or two appointments plus a full day out for surgery (don’t feel like you have to mention surgery, I did because it worked for me/my situation). I didn’t know when the surgery would be exactly but could ballpark a week and would let her know more specifically as the date approached and my doctors had more information for me based on the bloodwork. (I also joked that I was going to have a lot of bloodwork done so please don’t worry about me suddenly becoming a drug addict with all the puncture marks in my arm.) Having had a coworker’s dad go through surgery after that, he also faced a situation of having the surgery date set at relatively short notice.

    Best of luck with the IVF! We had to do three rounds, but the result of our third try is learning how to stand and wave bye-bye.

    1. OP #5

      Thanks! I like the idea of telling my boss that something is happening that will require some additional appointments.

  25. lowercase holly

    #1, are you me? i’ve been at my place for four years and still think i’m missing out on some list of events. i’ve pretty much given up. at least the time i missed a unit-wide staff meeting where i was supposed to be introduced (jeez, you’d think someone would have sent me an individual email on that), the other new staff missed it for the same reason. but my job is over soon so i don’t have to worry about it any more!

  26. Solidus Pilcrow

    OP #1, I sympathize with your issue about being left out. I worked as a contractor for many years and in my experience contractors get left out of a lot of things, usually inadvertently or because the company didn’t account for contractors in their distribution lists.

    At my last contracting position (I was there for 6+ years), the company routinely sent out communications to an “all employees” email distribution list. Now, 99% of the time these were announcements of a casual day/jeans week or other similar things. While annoying to show up in professional wear when all your colleagues are in jeans and sweatshirts, it’s not really a deal breaker. However, there were a few emails that would apply to everyone in the building, employee and contractor, like: a no guns on the premises policy (at the time the state’s concealed carry law just came into effect – not that I planned on coming in armed, it still affected everyone), a clean desk policy for confidential/sensitive information (that one definitely affected me and all the other contractors as we handled financial data), and a product recall for some office electronics that posed a fire hazard (yep, I had one of those electronics at my desk). I tended to find out most of these things through other channels, but it would have been nice if the company just took a little time and effort to include contractors.

    The exclusions that really annoyed me were the more personal/non-business ones, like when the entire team would disappear over the lunch hour and then come back and ask me why I didn’t attend the team lunch, didn’t I get the email from the department admin? No, I didn’t get the email. Then they would say, “but Solidus, you are really part of the team, we’ll make sure your added for next time” then do the same thing again 3 months later. I admit, it did get kind of demoralizing after a while and it did play a small part in my decision to turn down a full time job offer from them after contracting there for 8 years.


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