open thread – April 15-16, 2016

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,175 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Sunflower

    I have to fill out my first self-evaluation ever this week. I’ve only been in my position for 7 months so my biggest issue is how to weigh if I’m at where I need to be. I also tend to be very self-critical so while it’s easy for me to list accomplishments, it’s tough to say if I’m exceeding or meeting expectations. On top of all of that, we are in an insanely busy time(working long hours with little sleep), my stress levels are off the charts and I’m making little mistakes which is only making me feel more unsure whether I am cut out for this job. I seem to be getting positive reinforcement from my boss but I can’t exactly say ‘I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time but my boss seems happy so’. I will definitely be spending this weekend digging through the AAM archives.

    So suggestions for self-evaluations after 7 months on the job when you’re very self-critical?

    Reply
    1. Jill of All Trades

      One trick I’ve tried that worked was to write the evaluation as if I was writing it about someone else. I’m much kinder to others than I am to myself, and it also helps me see the line between meets and exceeds expectations better.

      Reply
      1. Amber T

        Ditto to this, and I’d even start writing in the third person. “Sunflower has met X goals in the past seven months” and “Sunflower could continue to work on Y.” It helps make it less personal and more realistic. (I don’t recommend submitting it in the third person unless that’s office norms or you want your boss to think you’re a bit weird though.)

        Reply
      2. Doriana Gray

        I do this too, Jill, and for the same reason. I’m hypercritical of myself, so learning to see me the way others do and somehow get it on the page was difficult for me at first. I think I’ve gotten better at it over the years though.

        Reply
        1. Vicki

          I stopped being over critical of myself back in HS when some of the teachers asked us to “grade” our own papers or projects.

          I figured if they were going to ask, I could be confident.

          My self-evals are, therefore, usually of the form: I did everything I was asked to do, as well as I could. Here’s what I did: …

          Oh, and staring Right Now: Get yourself a note book and, every day, before you leave, take 10 minutes at the end of the day to jot down what you did in broad strokes. If your job is tor respond to specific requests, save each of those and keep more detailed notes, on the computer or in the Notebook.

          It’s much easier when you get to the 6-month or 1-yr review and you can actually kook back at each day/week and know _exactly_ what you did.

          Reply
    2. 42

      Go with your mention of accomplishments, and tie them in to the larger picture of how busy you’ve been. Everyone makes little mistakes when you’re overloaded with work, so please don’t sweat that. Just try to look objectively at your contributions to the larger picture, and frame your assessment starting from there.

      That said, when I do my own self-assessments (and I also work in a field where there are crazy deadlines to be met with an increased workload), I do also acknowledge where and under what circumstances things tend to go off the rails. But I also offer up ways that I can prevent that from happening in the future.

      So highlight true accomplishments, acknowledge shortcomings, and propose fixes for them. Good luck!

      Reply
    3. my two cents

      I was the lone apps eng at my old job alongside a team of development engineers, and I reported into the Operations manager who wasn’t at all technical. Listing the various activities each year really helped me organize them into sections – issue resolution, technical assistance, technical writing, customer visits, etc.

      Try listing the various projects or customer accounts you’ve been working on/with over those 7 months – just list them all out for yourself. Then list whatever training modules you’ve completed. I bet once you see the list you’re compiling, you’ll feel at least a little more confident in your performance.

      And there’s always things you can continue to improve upon without it feeling like you’re just criticizing your current performance. One I kept on my review year over year was anticipating customer questions and providing complete/holistic responses to help eliminate turn-around time with additional calls or email volleys. We had several customers in Europe and Asia, and you’d automatically lose a day if you had to ask that one last nagging question. Also be sure to include any future training or classes you would appreciate to support your role – maybe it’s specific software like indesign, or in-depth product knowledge to better-support customers.

      Reply
    4. JMegan

      I once had to do an annual review when I was three months into the job. My manager told me that she knew it was a ridiculous requirement, but bureaucracy blah blah. Basically, the only goal I could reasonably have at that point was to learn about the job, so it looked like this:

      Goals for ridiculously short time period: Learn about X, Y, Z aspects of the job
      How I will accomplish these goals: Information on the intranet and policies and procedures, formal training, asking for help when needed
      Self-Evaluation: I learned X and Y, am getting up to speed on Z, and will move on to A, B, and C next.
      Manager’s Evaluation: JMegan is a fast learner and is quickly getting settled into her new position. I look forward to working with her next year.

      It looks a bit fluffy, for sure. But if the real goal is to fill out the performance evaluation form (rather than to actually evaluate your performance!), it met the requirements of the bureaucracy. Hope that helps!

      Reply
    5. Total Rando

      One of the best tips that my manager gave me about self-evals is to quantify accomplishments. Examples include:

      Spent X months leading a team of Y associates focusing on the Chocolate Teapot Redesign, resulting in $Z of savings for the Spout Department

      When it’s quantifiable, it feels less braggy and more like facts.

      Reply
      1. Bea W

        I do this, and when I see things quantified, it makes me feel like I really did accomplish something and it’s not all in my head.

        Reply
      2. Doriana Gray

        This is what I did in my last two performance reviews in 2014 and 2015 (I didn’t get one this year because I transferred to a new division). I was dealing with financial matters and numbers, so it was easy to say, “I recovered X amount of dollars in Y months, a record for the position” or whatever. Now though I’m in a division where my work isn’t easily quantifiable at all, so I’ll have to ask others in the division for examples of things they write.

        Reply
    6. Koko

      1) Be honest about your challenges and mistakes, but always always state what you learned from them and how you’ve altered your processes to address them. (Because you did, right?)
      2) Rate yourself highly. There are no real negative consequences to inflating your own evaluation metric as long as your written narrative is sound and accurate. There are potential downsides to under-rating yourself, though. Be willing to be your own champion. (This is one area where women tend to fall behind men in the workplace, because we’re more likely to underrate ourselves because society conditions us to place a higher value on things like honesty than things like self-promotion. Remember the saying: “Strive to have the confidence of a mediocre white man.”)

      By the way, do you have KPIs? Concrete metrics or goals you are supposed to be hitting? They’re a great way to get a sense of whether you’re exceeding or meeting expectations. At 7 months in you may not actually have metrics like this that you’re fully responsible for, but at least for next year, you should really push to have standards like that you can objectively rate yourself against.

      Reply
    7. phedre

      First thing – while this is a generalization that depends on how good a manager you have – your review should never be a surprise. So if you were going to get a bad review, your manager would have already been having conversations with you about improving performance. So keeping that in mind may take some anxiety out of it for you!

      I think one of the important things for someone who is self-critical to remember is that when you’re writing your areas to improve – they don’t necessarily have to be things that you’re bad at! When I first started my career, I had trouble with this section. My boss helped me reframe the way I looked at it – she said, “you’re doing a great job, but think of it as listing ways you can be even better.”

      For example, my review was last month and under areas to improve I listed further deepen relationships with donors and the board, look for further ways to integrate data into fundraising decision-making, and grow fundraising event by securing additional sponsors. These aren’t things I’m doing badly now, but you can always get better and stronger!

      Reply
      1. Kyrielle

        Yes! I switched industries about a year ago, and my self-eval for the review at the end of the year included goals of “continuing to deepen my knowledge of (new industry)” and “learning more about (specific toolset related to my current set of assignments)”.

        Reply
  2. Aussie Teacher

    Mentoring:
    I’ve been back teaching (after having kids) for 8 months now, and would like to be taking steps towards the next step in my career, which is Head of Department. I’ve read AAM’s excellent article on how to be a good mentor and it’s exactly what I’d like to be learning (e.g. Learning more about the challenges of the position, learning how to deal with difficult parents or issues with staff etc).
    My current HoD manages 3 classroom teachers (including me) and about 18 instrumental teachers. The main issue I have is that she married one of the other classroom music teachers, which puts us two remaining teachers in an awkward position, as the husband essentially can do what he likes, and our HoD has been known to rush in to defend him/attack without hearing both sides of the story.
    In addition, her husband and I are both part time, and there may not be enough work for both of us to continue on next year. (The decision will not solely be up to my HoD but obviously her opinion will carry weight).

    SO, (a) do I go to my HoD and propose some mentoring, knowing that any weaknesses or areas for improvement I reveal may be used against me at the end of the year, or (b) do I seek mentoring elsewhere?

    If (a), How do I convince her to essentially train me up to do her job, when there isn’t room for me to move into it without booting her or changing schools? She also hates managing, so I’m worried she may take her insecurity out on me if she knows I want to move up.

    If (b), would I approach another HoD at my own school or seek a Music HoD at another school? (Music HoDs tend to face unique challenges that others HoDs don’t, including managing a much larger staff and budget, and dealing with MANY parents daily, upset at which ensemble their child was placed in etc., so I’m doubtful I could learn much from an English or Science HoD, for instance). But I doubt another school would be interested in investing time in a teacher from a different school.

    Reply
    1. Mythea

      I would find a HoD at another school – they would most likely just be thrilled that someone is interested and willing to learn. As long as you are both doing it evening/weekend, I doubt either job will mind. In addition, many companies (not sure if this is true at schools as well) like to be able to brag that their people are looked upon as mentors to many in the field – that approach can sell an idea fairly easily when needed to bosses who might object.

      Reply
      1. Aussie Teacher

        Ooo I like the idea of framing it that way (mutual benefit rather than one way benefit just to me)! Thanks for the suggestion!

        Reply
    2. Muriel Heslop

      From one teacher to another (I’m also a department head), it sounds like finding another Music HoD at another school is your best bet. It doesn’t sound like your current HoD is a particularly good manager, and if you think even for a second that there may be negative consequences if she discovers your aspirations, look elsewhere. It also sounds like you really would benefit from a music HoD, specifically. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Aussie Teacher

        Yeah, I’m not sure I’m willing to risk the possible negative consequences for possible little gain, given her management style.
        It’s just so much easier to stick your head into someone’s office and say “want to sit in and listen to a difficult phone call I’m about to make to a parent” rather than sell another school’s Music HoD on regular weekend meetings where it’s much harder for them to share concrete examples of their work (and there may be privacy concerns etc). But I may have to bite the bullet and just do it.

        Reply
    3. Anonymous Educator

      Is being mentored a necessary part of becoming a department head? I’ve taught only in the U.S. (in independent and public schools), so I don’t know if this is a U.S. vs. Australia thing or if you’d just like a mentor but don’t need one.

      I would say just ditch the mentoring piece and start applying for department head positions at other schools. In my experience, some schools will almost exclusively promote from within and other schools will almost exclusively hire higher-ups externally. Best of luck!

      Reply
      1. Aussie Teacher

        It’s more that there’s so much I know that I don’t know! I want my HoD to be like “Hey, we need to hire a new saxophone teacher – want to sit in on/help with my interviews?” or to say, “I got this irate email from a parent. Why don’t you draft up a response for practice and then we can go through it together and I’ll show you what I wrote and why I handled it that way.” I have never managed others (although I’ve been addicted to AAM since 2011) or budgeted anything etc.

        In addition, my HoD and her husband will be taking long service leave in 2017-18 and they will need an acting HoD for 6 months, which is my perfect chance to gain experience in the role before applying for HoD jobs elsewhere. I teach in private schools (they pay better and are much more exclusive/have bigger budgets than public in Oz) and no one is likely to hire me without ‘acting-up’ HoD experience at the very least.

        Reply
    4. Gillian

      I think a music department head at another school would give you better information than your own. Especially if you don’t know that you’ll stay at your current school forever, they may be able to provide insight on things that you wouldn’t have even thought to ask about because your school does things differently.

      I’ve found many people in the education world (at all levels) are happy to talk about what they do with people who are legitimately interested in learning. And if they’re too busy or can’t/won’t for whatever reason, you’re not any further back than where you are right now.

      Reply
      1. Aussie Teacher

        That’s true – if I ask another Music HoD, I’m no worse off than I am now if they say no, and I’ve at least networked a little!

        Reply
    5. Fine Print

      Are you a member of the association for your profession eg for music teachers? It may be a place to find a mentor. Do you participate in professional development through such an association? Perhaps enquire at state and national level with the various associations for PD or mentoring opportunities. You mentioned your school is independent. You school might be part of an association of schools and they offers courses for aspiring leaders.

      Your Principal would, I* imagine, have to sign off on appointments. If you have doubt the HoD would be impartial, you may also be doubting that the Principal can appoint impartially. Would speaking to the Principal or other Leadership help? Only you can judge if it would.

      Its good to ask questions and its also good to take responsibility for your own development as a leader. Good luck and love to hear how you get on.
      (*education sector too)

      Reply
  3. The anon

    Does anyone volunteer online? What do you do? I am a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer but am looking for additional online volunteering opportunities.

    Reply
    1. Anna No Mouse

      Check out Idealist.org. They have a lot of volunteer opportunities, and you can sort by those opportunities that are remote.

      Reply
    2. Audiophile

      I’ve volunteered remotely for the past two years. I handle social media for a non-profit, focusing specifically on one platform. I’ve really enjoyed it and it lead to a job with a separate organization.

      Online volunteering really worked for me, because my job at the time was pretty crazy. Varied hours and long work weeks. I knew I wouldn’t have time or energy to volunteer in person.

      I found my role listed on volunteermatch.

      Reply
    3. The bread burglar

      I haven’t done it. But I know Fix the Web is a strictly online volunteering opportunity. And Stephen Fry vouches for it according to their website…

      Reply
    4. Clever Name

      I guess I’ve never thought of it this way, but I am a La Leche League leader, but I don’t lead any meetings (I work full time, and meetings tend to be during the day). I run my area’s website, and I answer questions via email. It’s not an online volunteer gig one can just pick up, though. Being a LLL leader requires a certain amount of nursing experience and at least a year of training. :)

      Reply
      1. Phyllis B

        Clever Name: Good for you being an LLL leader while working. When I was nursing/working I applied to be a leader, but was rejected because I worked outside the home. Didn’t turn me against LLL, I still participated, but I’m glad to know they now allow working mothers.

        Reply
    5. AnonymousMarketer

      I’m so glad you asked this because I’ve been thinking about volunteering but my schedule doesn’t really allow for much extra time. I never even thought about virtual volunteering.

      Reply
    6. Triangle Pose

      VocalID, you can volunteer your voice for programs that help people with ASL and other vocal issues speak!

      Reply
    7. Lucie

      I don’t know if it’s close to what you’re looking for but I the online mental health/ emotional support websites like 7cupsoftea run on volunteers and it’s entirely online :)

      Reply
    8. Joanna

      I used to volunteer with Distributed Proofreaders who work on auto-generated text from scanned out of copyright books into free ebooks.

      Reply
  4. New girl

    Does anyone have tips to help you stay focused? I’ve been working on a lot of data entry this week and can’t see to keep my mind on the task. I find myself doing things and then 5 minutes later not being able to remember what I did.

    Reply
          1. Windchime

            Oh wow, I listened to a little bit of that and I think it would make me a nervous wreck. Something about the rhythm makes me anxious. I have a white-noise app on my phone so I listen to that a lot, mostly the sounds of waves crashing on the short. It’s interesting how different sounds work for different people.

            Reply
      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I have found that video game music works really well. I listen to the Skyrim soundtrack a lot.

        Reply
        1. T3k

          Second video game music. I love playing the full Mass Effect trilogy at work (it’s almost 6 and a half hours long).

          Reply
        2. The bread burglar

          I third video game music as well.

          Skyrim and mass effect are both excellent choices. I wouldn’t recommend the fallout 3 soundtrack because a few of the songs have lyrics and that always jars me out of concentration.

          If you search on youtube there are a lot of “video game music for studying” playlists.

          Alternatively, I have found that Aston (and groups like them) are really good because they do classical covers of famous songs so no lyrics but are quite nice.

          Reply
        3. Papyrus

          I love the Skyrim soundtrack but it almost instantly makes me fall asleep! I’ll honestly want to play the game, but I end up pausing it 5 minutes in to take a nap. But I do second the idea of finding a ambient playlist on Youtube or something, because it does help to listen to something without lyrics that you don’t have to focus on.

          Reply
        4. Snazzy Hat

          Katamari soundtracks. They’re made to be fun or pleasant music while your character is just rolling around a giant adhesive ball.

          Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Pomodoro system can work if it’s something you stick to, also having something interesting to listen to can help.

      I used to spend eight hours/day calibrating scientific equipment which in a lot of ways is a lot like data entry. The only thing that kept me sane was an HD Radio tuned to NPR/BBC World, and even then I would have to stream other NPR stations to make sure I had something “interesting/engaging” to listen to.

      Substitute something that interests you for NPR.

      Reply
      1. Aella

        Seconding the Pomodoro system. It is pretty much getting me through applying for jobs and editing my dissertation.

        Reply
    2. legalchef

      Depending on what type of data entry it is, maybe break it up into specific tasks/goals? Like “I will enter data from surveys 50-100 and then take a walk around the block” or something like that.

      Reply
      1. Snazzy Hat

        When I was in data entry, if I had a large project and had to start another large but very different project upon completion of the first, I took a walk around the building or sat in a quiet room for five minutes before starting the second project. It helped prevent the repetitive motions from bleeding over. I highly highly recommend the break-apart tactic legalchef suggested.

        Reply
    3. Clinical Social Worker

      Sounds like you aren’t taking enough breaks. Get into a groove of doing these things but rest your eyes for a few minutes and focus on taking big deep belly breathes.

      Reply
    4. Sunflower

      Music and make sure you are taking breaks away from your computer. Try to get away from your desk(lunch) when you can. I’d avoid your computer and eletronics at home as well.

      Reply
    5. mockingbird2081

      If you are able. I have found when doing tedious data entry that the best way for myself to stay focused is to have an audio book going in the background or on my headphones. It has to be a book I have listened to before because I can’t be super interested in following the story. For whatever reason that seems to calm my brain enough to do the mundane task and stay focused for extended periods of time. Favorite book to do this with is Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

      Reply
      1. Anony-moose

        Me too – I save data entry for really “trashy” audiobooks like mediocre sci-fi which I LOVE, and other Young Adult fiction. Easy enough to listen to with half my brain and I actually start to enjoy data entry.

        Reply
    6. MsMaryMary

      For data entry and other repetetive, non-enagaging tasks, I actually prefer to listen to a podcast or audio book instead of music. The narrative engages enough of my brain that I can crank through my tasks.

      Reply
    7. SerfinUSA

      This American Life archives are nice for interesting yet non-distracting listening. I do a lot of repetitious work periodically and can’t always spare the concentration for a full-on audiobook, and sometimes just don’t want to listen to music. The episodes of TAL are broken into sections, have a theme, and can be enlightening as well as entertaining in a magazine-article style.

      Reply
      1. YawningDodo

        Some of my work is similar to data entry; when all I’m doing is copying information I’ll usually listen to podcasts. I’ll occasionally do audiobooks as well, but it’s easier to go back and figure out where I was if I realize I’ve been tuning the podcast out, and I find it easier for me to hit pause if I run into a bit of work that requires my full concentration and just jump back into the podcast when I’m ready to listen again. I listen to TAL as well, plus a lot of shows on the Maximum Fun network (though I’ll only listen to My Brother My Brother and Me if I’m alone in the room, because I think it’s weird to laugh at things other people can’t hear and I can’t not laugh).

        I’d also second the pomodoro suggestion. Set a timer and work for twenty-five minutes, then take five minutes to look away from the screen and move around. I do that as well as the podcast thing and find it much easier to stay on task when there’s a limit on how long I’m doing it before my next mini-break.

        Reply
    8. Clever Name

      I think it depends on how you focus best. For data entry, which I find mind numbingly boring, I listen to podcasts or lectures. To tune out loud coworkers so I can concentrate and write reports, I’ll usually listen to new age music (yes, stuff like Enya). Sometimes I’ll listen to pop music. It depends on my mood, what I’m doing, and how loud my office is that day.

      Reply
    9. Swoop

      if you have a tv or can stream it: cooking shows. They tend to be not too exciting and very much follow a pattern, but still be interesting enough that the bored part of one’s brain is engaged. There is the issue that you might end up either hungry or not hungry though…

      Reply
    10. eee

      I have adhd and the only way I can do this well is to be watching TV. Luckily I get to work from home a lot, but my office culture tends to be sort of relaxed, so I watch Netflix on my phone with headphones in. Or audiobooks, or music that has more of a narrative–like Hamilton. This works better if the data entry is a lot of numbers though, I do tend to get a little tripped up when it’s a lot of text. When it’s mixed, I tend to watch/listen while I enter the numbers, and then pause my media to type up the words. I used to feel really guilty about it, before I realized that when I’m able to watch TV/listen to some narrative, I get my work done faster and more accurately than my peers. When I have to just concentrate on the boring thing, I just fail at doing that, and make a lot of mistakes.
      Also, if it’s at all possible, use the system to make it hard to fail. I mostly do data entry in Access or Excel, so I use conditional formatting to flag anytime I’ve accidentally skipped a field (aka if the cell to the left is not blank, and the cell to the right is not blank, and this cell is blank, turn red). And data validation to prevent me from entering anything that’s off code.

      Reply
      1. Zahra

        ADHD here too. I used to listen to movies that I already knew. New movies would not be a good idea, I’d want to watch them, not work. My colleagues laughed at me for listening to the Lord of the Rings all over again. Podcasts are a no-no for the same reason. Music’s good.

        Reply
      2. TootsNYC

        I always found it easier to study in the student-union snack bar than in the quiet lounge across the hall.

        Reply
  5. Jill of All Trades

    My company is being bought in a few weeks and all of the work has dried up. I’ve completely run out of ideas for how to spend my time. Everything is organized, files have been created/updated, SOP are all written out, projects completed, etc. How awful would it be for me to read a business development book at my desk? It’s that or pretend to be working :(

    Allegedly, work should pick back up once the transaction closes.

    Reply
    1. mockingbird2081

      If you are required to be there I would ask a manager if there is anything else that can be done. If not just ask. If I was a manager and work was that slow but my people had to be there I would be happy to have them read a business development book.

      Reply
    2. Karowen

      I’m going with not awful at all. Is the development you’re looking at going to help the company in even a tangential way (e.g. learning to meditate which will help you focus at work)? If yes, especially when you have nothing else to do, absolutely go for it. (Otherwise I’d say still go for it, but try to find a way to apply it to your work.)

      Reply
    3. Wendy Darling

      Do you have a work computer and can you read stuff digitally on it and still look kind of like you’re working?

      When I got laid off and all my projects were transferred before my official end date I unapologetically and with the full support of my manager took online classes at my desk, but I know most workplaces aren’t like that unfortunately. I feel like it SHOULD be kosher to use time when you don’t have any work to do self-study that will help you improve at your job, buuut sometimes it is not.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        If you have an in-house training portal, it should be okay to use. Many companies have them with software courses, etc.

        Reply
    4. Elle

      My rule is that I can do professional development if everything else is finished, so I say go for it! I have to get 60 hours of CEUs over the course of 3 years, and I take online courses at my desk as time allows, sometimes for 10 minutes at a time. If it really makes you nervous, maybe ask your boss if it’s OK? Maybe there are things she could use your help with if she knew you had time to spare.

      Reply
    5. IT_Guy

      Is there any online training that interests you? There are loads of books online that you can use to ‘look busy’.

      Reply
  6. legalchef

    I am applying for jobs but am not using my former immediate supervisor, who left my office in December, as a reference, even though she told me she would be happy to be one on multiple occasions.

    She left on bad terms with my office, though not with me specifically, but I stopped talking to her shortly after because she was so negative about everything at my office (including my working there) that I needed to take a step back. The last communication we had (over text) wasn’t a great one. She also runs really hot and cold, and because I am applying for a job with the same title as the one she has now I can definitely see her thinking “what???? She and I can’t have the same title!!!!” and giving me a poor reference as a result.

    However, I have an interview next week (yay!) and they asked for references up front, which I’ve provided. My job world is a small one, and people at the org at which I’m interviewing are likely to know my former supervisor. What do I say if they ask why I’m not using her? I don’t want to say anything bad about her (because I don’t want to risk it getting back to her and also because I think it’s poor form), but I don’t want it to seem weird that I am not using as a reference the person who is arguably in the best position to talk about my work.

    Reply
    1. Anna No Mouse

      I get why you’re not putting her down as a reference, but your interviewers may choose to contact her anyway, if they know that you worked with her, so keep that in mind.

      If they ask you why you’re not using her as a reference, you could just say that since she left the company where you worked together, you didn’t have her updated contact information. (Though, in this day and age, I’m not sure that would fly, since Google is at your fingertips.)

      Reply
      1. legalchef

        I know that they might contact her anyway, which is another reason I don’t want to say anything bad! I can’t say that I don’t have her updated contact information – I have her personal email and personal cell numbers (as well as her new work email), so it would be really weird for me to say that.

        Reply
        1. The bread burglar

          If it was me, I would say something along the lines of you wanted to provide them a reference that is still working there, as she wouldn’t be able to verify your employment dates, etc. since leaving.

          Reply
    2. Erin

      I actually don’t think it will look that weird. Although as Anna No Mouse said, they might contact her regardless.

      IF they do and IF she does give you a bad reference – keep in mind she’s not the only one they’re speaking to. I’m sure they won’t weigh her opinion over others if the other two or three or whatever references give you a good one. And if they know this woman personally, as you suspect they might, then they probably already know she’s a bit nutty.

      Reply
      1. legalchef

        I’m sure I am overthinking it. She’s the type of person who to a casual acquaintance will seem perfectly reasonable and rational, though. The other references I gave (a coworker/supervisee, a supervisee, and a co-supervisor) will all give me great references though.

        Reply
    3. super anon

      when i applied for my current job i didn’t use my last manager as a reference even tho i had done great work for him. he had been fired from the org mysteriously (he was perp walked out and barred from the premises and then management said he was on “vacation” for 3 weeks until they could no longer hide it and had to tell people he left. i’ve been told no one talks about him anymore, it’s taboo to even say his name) , and because i was applying for a job there i was concerned of the impression it would make to use him as a reference. no one asked and i got hired for the role, so everything worked out.

      Reply
      1. legalchef

        That would work, but they are all from the same job, because I’ve been at the same office since I graduated law school (been there for 7.5 years).

        Reply
    4. Not So NewReader

      Can you just express uncertainty? Such as, “Well she has gone on to another employer and I was not sure if it would be an intrusion on her time with her new employer for me to use her as a reference. I was concerned about her taking time from her new job to discuss something from her former job.”

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        not my vote–because that’s actually how references mostly work, and it might imply that legalchef didn’t realize that. it makes her seem less savvy.

        Reply
  7. Issue with two raises in a month

    Last month I had my annual review and was told I’d get a (very small) raise effective March 1. I then got promoted effective April 1 with a bigger raise. On 3 separate occasions I was told I’d still be getting the small increase in March.

    However, I haven’t gotten my raise for March and my (former) manager is saying there was a miscommunication and the bigger raise (with a later effective date) was in place of the smaller one.

    On the one hand, I don’t want to ruin any goodwill at my company for about $180, but on the other…. I think i deserve that money and was told I’d be getting it. Should I just move on or continue to push for it?

    Reply
    1. Sunflower

      I’m confused- were you getting a raise or a bonus March 1? You got promoted and got a bigger raise so I’d assume the amount you were getting March 1 is ‘included’ in the April 1 raise?

      Reply
      1. Issue with two raises in a month

        I got a raise starting March 1 and then got a promotion (with a higher pay rate) starting April 1.

        Reply
        1. Sunflower

          I’m on the same page as ‘is it spring yet’. Raises and promotions can often happen at times other than when they are promised and within a month is really close.

          Reply
    2. legalchef

      Is it $180.00 in total? If so, I would probably drop it, unless you really need the money/have pre-spent it on something.

      Reply
    3. Is it spring yet?

      If what you want is the extra money you would have earned in March before the promotion I would let it go. While technically they may owe you this money there is a likelihood you will come across as petty and/or greedy. And with the raise and promotion that close together very, very few companies are going to process paperwork twice that close together. It seems to me that the manager felt you deserved a raise and then someone else said no she deserves a promotion but couldn’t get made effective in March.

      Reply
    4. FrenchMacroon

      I think the net result here is zero from the way you describe it. It would be different if, say your promotion was a flat % and your base should have been 1000 higher before applying but it does not sound that way.

      Reply
    5. H.C.

      I think it depends if the promotion-linked raise is based off of your former title’s pay (vs a completely newpayscale), in which case even a small percentage from the March raise would equal lots of $$$ in the long run. Of course, this means in addition to the missing March 1 pay, you need to talk about retroactively adjusting the April 1 promotion pay.

      Reply
  8. SJ

    Last week I had a day of interviews for a really great job, and I’m hoping they’ll make a decision soon, so I’m thinking ahead about getting in touch with my references in case they’re going to be contacted. However, when I was skimming my resume, I noticed that a timeline on my resume for one of my jobs is unclear and incorrect. I helped run a summer study abroad program at a university — I believe the trip was about 6 weeks long in total, ending in early August. However, the director of the program and I started meeting to plan the trip in early March. The first problem: for some reason, in my head I was totally convinced the director and I started meeting in January to plan the trip, so my start and end dates for that role say January-August and not March-August. (When I went back and found the email thread where we planned our first meeting, it confirmed it was March. It was 5 years ago now, so I honestly just remembered wrong.) The second: in editing my resume down to a page, I inadvertently removed the language specifying that the study abroad program itself was only 6 weeks and that the planning happened in the months before then, so it reads as though we were abroad from January to August.

    I’m sick with worry over this. It was an honest error — I was working on my Masters degree full-time at the same time as this job, along with working as a research assistant, and that degree was a perfectly valid reason to have gaps in my work history, so I absolutely, 100% was not trying to lie about this role or how long it lasted in order to make myself look better. But I’m so afraid of how this looks. This was, essentially, two mistakes that together look really bad, at least to me. The director of the program is one of my references, so if they decide to contact him, should I ask him to clarify the specifics of my role (regarding the planning stage and then the program stage) and then let him know I had the wrong start month on my resume? Should I directly ‘fess up to my potential employer about the mistakes? I don’t know what to do.

    Reply
    1. Collie

      Personally, I’d let it go. If they notice, they’ll ask and you can explain then. The chances that they’d take you out of the running for something like this (especially because (a) three and six months are short periods of time and (b) the difference between the two isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of things) is small, especially without talking to you first. Does your reference plan on contacting you if they are in touch with the company?

      Reply
      1. Jill of All Trades

        Do the roles to which you’re applying actually need this kind of experience? If you’re not applying to roles for running study abroad programs or their ilk, I don’t know how much a company will dig into a brief role (either timeline has it as really brief) from 5 years ago when you were in grad school.

        Especially because it was 5 years ago and it’s a variance of only 2 months from January to March, I’d let it go. Regarding the way it reads about how long the abroad part of it was, that’s something you can clarify on your resume for future applications, but I’d also let it go for this one.

        Reply
        1. SJ

          I work in higher ed and have applied for a leadership role, so it’s a good reference. The brief job I had after grad school, before my current job, has nothing to do with higher ed at all, so when it comes to the three best references, they’re definitely two of my current bosses and then the director of the study abroad program.

          And that’s making this whole thing a little sticky for sure. I’m in my first real-world, post-education job, so pretty much all of my work experience (other than my current role) that’s actually relevant to my career path has been completed while in school.

          Reply
      2. SJ

        Well, the organization hasn’t even asked for references yet, but I’m just thinking about how to address this situation if they do. The last time this guy was a reference, he did let me know after my now-employer contacted him (but I knew ahead of time that he was going to be contacted). I guess my concern is that in the course of the conversation, the potential employer could ask my reference, “Okay, so you worked abroad with SJ from January to August?” and he’d go, “Huh? What? No, the program itself was only 6 weeks long.” So that’s why I was wondering if I should address the vagueness on my resume with my reference so that if they ask him, he can say, “Well, we did work on the program for the semester before, but we were only abroad for 6 weeks” or what have you.

        Reply
    2. orchidsandtea

      I’d email your old program director and mention it to him. “Hey Rupert, just a heads up that I made an error on my resume and put January instead of March for when our planning sessions began. Just wanted you to know in case it came up when they contact you. Of course I’ll clarify with them next time we speak.”

      And on a call with the company, you could offhandedly mention, “By the way, I did notice an error in my resume—planning for the six-week study abroad program in 2011 began in March, not January.”

      It’s not a big deal, especially if you’re above board about it.

      Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      Don’t bring up the error unless they do.

      It may not matter to them in the least, and you don’t want to call their attention to it if they’ve overlooked it.

      If it matters to them, they will have already rejected you, and there’s nothing you can do.

      Just be prepared for *IF* they ask (“Oh, yes, I didn’t call out the smaller distinctions of planning, etc.”).

      And fix it for next time.

      Reply
    4. stellsbells

      Don’t worry too much about it! I used to process background checks for OldJob and the difference of a couple of months from a job that was 5 years ago would have totally been fine. If they ask, just say you knew the planning started the spring semester before the trip, but you couldn’t remember the exact dates so you just wrote the month the semester began. Very few people are going to expect you to remember that level of detail from that long ago :)

      You can email your reference if you’d like, but I don’t necessarily think that’s necessary either. You were working on that program during that time, which is probably all the new employer will care about – and I’m sure your reference is going to talk about how you worked together to plan and then execute the trip, so it won’t come off like you were hiding something in your resume.

      tl;dr – you are totally overthinking! Just fix your resume for future applications, and try not to worry about this one too much (although always easier said than done during a job search, for sure!)

      Reply
  9. Anonymous Cookie

    I had a phone interview last week which I think went pretty well. I can’t wait to hear back some time next week.

    Reply
  10. The Other Dawn

    Does anyone have any recommendations for a cushion for my office chair?

    I have very mild scoliosis and am prone to muscle spasms in my lower back on the right side, which I know is because I’m very sedentary: I sit all day at work and then go home and watch TV for a couple hours. I’m more active now that I’m going to a personal trainer, but even with all this moving, I find I’m never completely rid of lower back pain; sitting all day at work just undoes everything I did the day before. I try to get up more often at work, and I take a walk during the day, but sitting for more than about 20 minutes just starts up the pain again. It’s usually not horrible pain–that only happens after a spasm–but it’s annoying as hell and I’m stiff when I get up. I’m just so tired of noticing my back (I know that sounds weird).

    So, I’m thinking a special cushion for my chair might help. I don’t want to try a new chair yet, but I will if it comes to that. I already switched out my chair once, although I haven’t yet said I need a special chair. And if I do, I will need a doctor’s note. Not a big deal, but I’ll try a cushion first.

    Reply
    1. Anna No Mouse

      If standing for short periods doesn’t bother you, you could always try a standing desk. I have a Varidesk, that allows me to stand or sit throughout the day. I have a lot of lower back pain, and I find that being able to switch positions periodically really helps. They can be a bit pricey (mine cost $400, and has room for two computer monitors), but it’s been so work it.

      Reply
      1. IT_Guy

        If your doctor can require it for work environment, I would think that your company would pick up the tab as an AADA compliance issue.

        Reply
      2. LizB

        I have a foldable cardboard standing desk from Oristand that was $25 (plus shipping) — I bought it as a way to try out a standing desk, and I really like it! It sits on top of a normal desk or table, and puts your laptop/monitor at eye level and your keyboard (you need a separate keyboard) at the right arm height. When I get tired of using it, I fold it up flat, tuck it next to my desk, and go back to sitting. I think they only ship to the US and Canada, but if you’re in one of those places and want to try out standing while working, I definitely recommend them.

        Reply
    2. Mythea

      I am not a doctor :) I have found that using an exercise ball 1/2 the time and a chair (I switch out every couple hours) has really helped with lower back pain that comes from not moving – it helps me fidget a little more which is something I find very helpful.

      Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          Not the person you’re responding to, but I used to do this as well. I was able to get a properly sized exercise ball and adjust my desk a little so I wasn’t too low to type, but the gotcha was that I had to sit with half-decent posture to type comfortably. Which was beneficial to me but kind of frustrating sometimes when I was feeling tired and slouchy.

          Reply
        2. Mythea

          When you are using a ball for exercise you get a small one – when you are using it as a chair I have always gotten the biggest one I can still touch the floor and use. It keeps me high enough that I have had no issues and my current desk doesn’t adjust where the keyboard is.

          Reply
      1. sunny-dee

        +1. I LOVED my exercise ball, when I used one. I need to dig out of a closet, and then I’ll switch back.

        I do work from home, though. If I’m pondering something or in a long conference call or something, there is nothing better than just bouncing up and down maniacally. It’s the little things in life….

        Reply
    3. legalchef

      This isn’t a super useful reply, but I have a similar situation (though I had/have more severe scoliosis and was in a brace for much of high school and my pain is on the left), so I feel your pain (literally!). I’ve tried many types of chair cushions, and none of them worked. The ones that helped my back aggravated something else. I keep thinking I should look into a different chair entirely.

      Reply
    4. A Jane

      I’d recommend getting a BetterBack
      http://getbetterback.com/

      I have back and neck pain because I spend too much time sitting at work and this product helps you effortlessly sit in the correct position. I still find mine a bit fiddly to put on and it only works with trousers/pants and not with a skirt! But I wear it all the time when I remember and it really helps relieve the pain.

      Reply
    5. Jascha

      I don’t have a specific recommendation, but I wanted to mention that those kinds of things often vary wildly. My workplace purchased “lumbar cushions” for me and a co-worker because the way our desk chairs fit us was hurting our backs. However, they’re so large that they actually go way up my back and push me forward, causing me to hunch more and making my back worse. (I’m currently trying to fold it in half and seeing if that helps, but I suspect I’ll just end up buying my own.) So take careful note of where exactly you want support and where you don’t, and make sure the cushion you get won’t accidentally make things worse. If you’re not sure, a doctor or physical therapist might help.

      Reply
    6. Clever Name

      I had severe scoliosis that was corrected surgically, so now it’s “only” moderate scoliosis. My back is all kinds of messed up. I have a Kensington memory foam chair cushion that helps. It’s also helped me to make sure my chair and desk set up is *perfect* for my body. I found one chair that doesn’t hurt my lower back (it’s seriously the only office chair I’ve sat in that doesn’t cause intense pain in my lower back within an hour or two). You can pry this chair out of my cold, dead hands. :) I am short, and have a short torso, so I have a footstool, my desk is an inch lower than standard, and I’ve removed the armrests from my chair.

      Since your spine isn’t fused, I highly recommend yoga and stretching. There are physical therapists and I think some chiros out there that specialize in scoliosis. Unfortunately for me, very very few of them work with post-surgical patients- most of the practitioners I’ve come across work with folks with scoliosis like yours.

      Reply
      1. Lydia

        This is a little late but hopefully you see it. I’m an ergonomics rep in my company (not an actual ergonomics expert, but with some in-house training, etc.) and I also have a terrible back myself so just wanted to give you some info I know has helped me and that I share when doing ergonomic assessments).

        -The most important aspect for backrests (chair or cushion) is that the lumbar support needs to fit your back, everyone is different. Test out different options and figure out which one has the support at the right height, depth and firmness to support you. E.g. I’m tall and most chairs have the support too low for me.
        -Exercise balls work for some people but most people, especially those with damaged/weaker core and back muscles like me, will end up compensating for their tired muscles resulting in worse posture/pain over time. If you do use one and like it I suggest frequent breaks in a chair to rest your muscles.
        -As mentioned above height is another consideration with a ball: you want to ensure your seat and keyboard can still be at an appropriate height – when sitting and typing knees and elbows should both be bent at 90-120 degree angles. If you have an adjustable keyboard tray and can get the right size ball this is achievable, but I’d caution against a too tall ball as suggested above if you have existing back issues as having your knees at significantly greater than 90 degrees will transfer your weight more to your feet which will increase lower back stress and thus likely increase pain (for most people, some people love this tilted forward posture).
        -I second sit stand desks and frequent breaks as others suggested.

        I hope the above is helpful and you can find some relief. Keep us updated.

        Reply
  11. EA

    So I had a little talk with my boss and he wanted me to work on softening some of my emails. I wrote a follow up yesterday that stated “Hi __ can you please submit your _ as soon as possible. I have attached a template for convenience, Thanks, EA” (This was about the third reminder). He felt like that was brusk and frustrated, and I should have said something like “Hi _ I am so sorry to bother you and I know you are really busy, but can you please submit _ if you can? If I can do anything to help let me know, thank you for all your help on this project”

    Just for some background – he tends to fixate on stupid picky things, such as this. My official manager knows this and says I just need to roll with it, because he will always find something stupid and small to fixate on. I generally just do what he says. In this case I am worried softening to this extent will make me look bad. This email was fine in my organization, and I get several like it daily. I’ve read about women over apologizing and justifying, and I just think writing emails like that will make me look stupid. I don’t think I should have to apologize for asking someone to do their job. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Collie

      I have a supervisor with a similar perspective. Can you try to use that sort of language in only emails he will see?

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        Yeah, but her first email was absolutely not harsh whatsoever. I would not go with EA’s latter suggestion. EA, I think you should write what you think is appropriate, especially if your boss is going to nitpick anyway. In the example above, did your boss say what he would have written instead? Ask him next time.

        Reply
          1. Sadsack

            I’d feel that it is if I were the one who would be looking like a complete ass instead of a professional person. His suggestion is really overdoing it.

            Reply
          2. Florida

            In this case, I don’t think it is really about fighting a battle. If OP approaches it with the attitude of “I am really trying to understand how to do this better”.

            Reply
        1. Sadsack

          Sorry, I missed the part that the latter suggestion came from the boss! Ugh. That is terrible. Is he serious that that is what he would have written? Ridiculous.

          Reply
          1. EA

            Yes. 100% serious that is how he writes emails. The worst part is, I already softened that email.

            What I wanted to write was “Hi _, can you please send you _ thanks, EA) (and hit reply from the previous reminder)

            I felt like I already did soften it.

            Reply
            1. Charlotte Collins

              For the record, I am the kind of person who would be annoyed by your boss’s version of the message.

              Reply
              1. S0phieChotek

                I agree. I thought the first version EA had was respectful and not brusque. There’s plenty of literature out there that (as I vaguely recall) suggests that being abjectly apologetic about everything and putting sorry etc. before perfectly reasonable requests only undermines the validity of the request or the authority of the person making that request

                Reply
                1. YawningDodo

                  Yep, this. In recent months I’ve made a very deliberate effort to stop pre-emptively apologizing when making a reasonable request, stop saying “I just wanted to ___”, and stop phrasing mandatory things as though they’re optional. There’s being polite, and then there’s undermining yourself.

            2. Jenniy

              As horrible as this sounds, are you female? I’ve had this kinda thing from a boss or 2, and it was never said to male counterparts in the same position.

              I refused because Trion and Bran aren’t required to write in such a way

              Reply
    2. Anna No Mouse

      Ugh! I hate this. If you’re being polite and professional, why do you need to soften this language to this extent? You could say something along the lines of: ““Hi __ can you please submit your _ as soon as possible. I have attached a template for convenience. I understand you’re quite busy and appreciate you taking the time to submit this. Thanks, EA”

      It’s one thing to acknowledge how busy someone is, but it’s another to sound, well, kind of sniveling, which is how his wording makes you sound. Like “Gee whiz, I know you’re awfully busy, but maybe, could you possibly, if it’s not too much trouble do this thing that it’s part of your job to do, if you don’t mind, of course?”

      Reply
      1. EA

        I know. It’s just how he is.

        Like I wonder what he would think would be rude. It would be one thing if I was like “Hi _ can you please submit _ it was due yesterday” But like, I said please!

        I felt like I softened it. What I really wanted to write was “Hi _, Can you please submit you _ thanks, EA” (replied from the original reminder email) but I went back and softened it.

        Your template is good. I’ll see if it works.

        Reply
      2. Sadsack

        Yeah, I agree. Often, if I have to follow up with someone, I’ll simply write, “Can you please tell me the status of my request?” or “Have you had a chance to review my email?”. EA’s boss would probably have a fit over it.

        Reply
        1. Charlotte Collins

          I often say something like, “I can’t find that I received a response.” (I know how to use my email system but many of my colleagues don’t, so it makes it seem that I might have lost the email somehow. In my heart I know that I never received the response, but it keeps the touchy people from getting hurt.)

          Reply
          1. S0phieChotek

            Yes, I do this too. (Despite what I wrote above, I feel like I need to give them an “out”).

            Annoys me too (when I am 99.9% sure I never received a response), but every once in a while it has worked–like the person (furiously?) forwards me the original–and lo! they sent it to the wrong address or when the go to forward me the original, they see it was sent to the wrong person.

            Reply
            1. Shell

              I also do this. I am very good about my email (helps that I don’t have that many emails per day, compared to say, sales), but sometimes I miss things in my spam filter. Person A from domain goes through without a hitch sixty million times, then gets spam filtered. (Or person B from the same domain gets spam filtered.) And then I feel like an idiot :P

              So most of the time the “I don’t think I saw your email” means “you didn’t send it” but occasionally it really was “I didn’t see it.” Saves face for both sides.

              Reply
        2. Salyan

          I had a boss once who insisted that every email I write be a full letter, complete with salutation, a paragraph of text and ‘Regards, Salyan.’ I wasted more time agonizing over how to turn a simple request or notification (i.e. Please call Bob back.) into a full paragraph of text!

          Reply
      3. Ama

        Yes, I use that “I know you’re busy” sentence a lot when working with our volunteer group (who really are all terribly busy), especially if I have to send someone a fourth post-deadline reminder to return a crucial document or if something comes up and I have to have a response in only a day or two .

        I only use “Sorry to ask you this” if it really is a super big, above and beyond favor (like they’ve spent the last three weeks reviewing documents for us, and I have to ask them to do more three days before deadline because another reviewer dropped out).

        Reply
    3. Snow

      I think the second email is just giving people excuses not to give you the work! A big part of my role is chasing up data from other departments as you say you’re not sorry for bothering them so why say you are.

      I would normally leave out the as soon as possible though and give them a firm deadline (or occasionally a bit saying the deadline was *insert date here* if it’s past) as a nudge. Could something like ‘This is required by *date* and will be included in report published on *date*’ be included. I often get replies from people who say they can’t make the initial deadline but give me a date before publication which works for me and if the email were longer your boss might not think it’s brusk (even though it didn’t read that way to me)

      Reply
      1. EA

        So I already do this. I send an initial email with the template and the due date. Then I send a second follow up reminder to those who missed the deadline. (the deadline is set artificially early) This was the THIRD email to this woman. And I hit reply so she can scroll down and see the other emails.

        Reply
        1. Wendy Darling

          I think we can safely conclude that she’s a buttface and is criticizing your specific wording as a way to draw focus away from the fact that her crap is late. I think the more important question is how important it is to you to cater to her. Like, is this a person who you can mentally go “UGH” and send an email all “Sorry about that! I really need your (thing that is totally late) though, do you know when you might be able to get it done?” Or do you just literally use her exact wording in the future? :P

          Reply
        2. Undine

          Since this is about a specific recipient, can you say ask your boss something like “In general, I find I get good responses with the emails I’ve been using. I agree I need a different strategy with Maire Antoinette. Do you have specific reason to believe this will work with her? What do you think she really needs to hear?”

          I tend to be softer in tone with people I don’t know than people I’ve worked with a lot, and with people who are out of my usual scope of reviewers. So if I’m writing the head of accounting, who I wouldn’t normally contact, I would be more likely to say “I know you’re busy” to emphasize that I don’t normally contact them. Someone I work with every day, I would be more likely to feel , hey, I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy.

          I do find it helpful to offer ways to make this easier, depending on the person, your position, their position, etc. What I do sometimes is offer someone multiple ways to respond. I assume you’re using a template to streamline the process for yourself and others, but depending on the type of input, some people would rather discuss it over the phone or give you a few notes. At one job I scheduled a time to sit the two product managers in a room for half an hour to get them to go through a document. They knew they had to do it, but they couldn’t carve the time out themselves, and they agreed this was the best way to make them do it! Or in some cases, people just really hate filling out forms and letting them do verbally can help — if you have the time and flexibility to do it, of course. I think showing you have flexibility is more effective than cringing.

          Also saying exactly what you need from someone, reducing the scope, can help — “Marie, I understand you may not have time to review this in depth, but you are the only one who has the cake numbers and the results from the sheep shearing. We really don’t want to send this to Versailles with incorrect information. Can you please review section 6 and the paragraph at the bottom of page 8?”

          Reply
    4. throwdetta

      First time commenting…

      I’m in the minority but I find questions that end in a period (rather than a quotation mark) to be brusque in tone. Also they’re technically incorrectly punctuated. Would using your original text but adding a question mark do the trick?

      I am admittedly a stickler.

      Reply
      1. Rat Racer

        The problem with email is that people don’t realize the difference a period versus a question mark makes in the tone.

        My boss, who is very wise, has taught me to assume that everyone always has the best intentions. It takes me some practice, and some deep breathing, to get there (esp when I get an email in all caps with multiple exclamation points) but it really does pay dividends. A fight with a colleague over email tone is a total waste of time, and some people just aren’t very good at writing, period. Frankly, I’ll take an email that is too brusk over an email that doesn’t make any sense any day of the week.

        Reply
        1. Papyrus

          This is slightly off-topic, but at my job we were required to send three “recognitions” to other coworkers – forced Great Jobs! basically. Everyone knows that they’re meaningless, but I received one from a coworker that said “Thanks for doing a great job?”

          WHY would she end it with a question mark? I know in reality this person isn’t mean or vindictive at all, and these recognitions are just quotas, but of course it set off my tendency to over-analyze everything into overdrive.

          Reply
          1. Amadeo

            LOL, depending on my relationship with that coworker I probably would have just decided she was being a little sarcastic (since everyone knows those things don’t really mean anything anyway, as you said) and had a good laugh about it.

            Reply
      2. Florida

        That’s funny because I get annoyed when people ask a question when they really mean it as a statement. For example, when the boss says, “Would you please send me the TPS report by Friday?” but she really means, “Please send me the TPS report by Friday.”

        A question implies that it’s negotiable. (“No boss, but I can get it to you by Monday.”) There are situations where that’s appropriate. But I get annoyed when people use questions when they are really statements.

        Reply
        1. Lily in NYC

          Interesting – I would much prefer to receive it as a question. Which is why I try not to get annoyed at these things – everyone has different writing styles (easier said than done – I have my own pet peeves as well).

          Reply
      3. Correct punctuation, please!

        THANK YOU. It annoys me to no end when people end questions with periods. (More from a grammatical standpoint than anything, but I do agree a period reads a lot more brusque than a question mark.)

        Reply
    5. Rat Racer

      I agree that this is a stupid, picky thing. I get emails all the time that I think are brusk from managers, peers and even my own direct reports. Because I am an adult, I recognize that it is my fault if someone has to ask me 3 times for something, and as long as they’re not being overtly rude, I put away my lizard brain and get on with what needs to be done.

      Your boss is acting like a prima donna. But, if it’s no skin off your nose to send a highly flowery and apologetic email for asking him 3 times to deliver his __ report, then I’d pick another hill to die on. But seriously, this is stupid.

      Reply
      1. EA

        See this is what I am saying. I feel like it is skin off my nose. Stupid stuff I cater to him on. I just think that my reputation in the organization will suffer. I will seem overly passive and weak.

        Reply
        1. EA

          Also – IDK if I was 100% clear. I didn’t write that email to my boss. I wrote it to someone else in the organization, and cc’ed my boss. It is my job to coordinate a report that needs to be submitted from various departments.

          He saw my email, and assumed the person receiving it would be offended. The person who got it in no way indicated she was offended.

          Reply
          1. Sadsack

            Here’s the thing…you wrote that he finds fault all the time anyway, even when you soften the message. So, why bother with further changes? Will he not continue to suggest ways you could have written it better, no matter what you write? His suggestion will make you sound like an idiot and you don’t want that. If no one is calling him complaining about you, I say keep doing what you are doing. And be really selective about when you include him on emails.

            Reply
    6. Sualah

      Ugh, I would have just removed the request portion altogether. “Hi X, Please submit your form as soon as possible. It was due on Y. I have attached a template for your convenience. Thanks, EA” so I don’t even want to think about how your boss would respond to that! You are totally in the right.

      Not really related, but this made me think of the webcomic Basic Instructions and trying to the get RJ-17 form completed.

      http://basicinstructions.net/basic-instructions/2008/10/6/how-to-correct-a-coworkers-behavior.html

      Reply
    7. my two cents

      …receiving his re-write would drive me batty. I started cringing reading that ‘edit’. He’s absolutely giving you the ‘ladies shouldn’t be too aggressive’ sexist bs, asking you to essentially gravel for additional information,as opposed to being able to send a politely concise request.

      The “If I can do anything to help let me know, thank you for all your help on this project” isn’t too bad, and that might be an easy compromise to ‘soften’ it a smidge. But I would also mention that the rest sounds way too apologetic for requesting a mandatory, not optional, response.

      If the recipient is a higher level than your boss within the org(presumably it’s your boss’s ‘voice’ you’re trying to align with), then yeah – some softer apologetic language for the repeat prodding may be OK. But otherwise, come on… lol

      Reply
      1. my two cents

        boss as opposed to your actual manager that you report to – I’m assuming that you’re an EA that supports the boss and sends emails on their behalf, but you report to the manager.

        Reply
    8. The bread burglar

      Ugh.

      That sends the wrong message. Asking I’m sorry to bother you and I know you are busy but can you please submit x gives the indication to me that it isn’t important, you would like me to do it when I get time. It reads as too submissive and naggy. Especially if its a third reminder. I don’t know why but I read his email as more like a bad parent pleading with their kid to clean their room.

      You shouldn’t have to nag people to do their work. Or apologise for it. Your email was polite, assertive, and got to the point.

      Would adding his last line help any? I don’t see any real harm in adding something to the end after the bit about the template saying, if you need any assistance please let me know, Thanks for all your help with ….”

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        EA says her boss is a man and that’s the way he writes! Yikes. I guess it’s just some people’s style regardless of gender.

        Reply
        1. Shell

          I regularly email another person who writes similarly–not as denigrating as EA’s boss, but definitely very polite, requests couched in a lot of softening language…and also a man. He isn’t a pushover at all and has pushed back on me when I’ve misunderstood the situation, he just does it very (extremely, absurdly) politely. (Frankly, in those early days I probably deserved to be shut down a little harder. :) )

          Also, of all the people I regularly talk to, he is by far the easiest to work with, super efficient and organized. Some people really just write like that.

          Reply
    9. LizB

      Ugh, your boss’s suggested email is way over the top. When I soften my emails I usually end up in a middle ground between your original email (which I honestly think is fine) and his suggestions — something like “Hi X, can you give me an update on the status of ___? We need this information to be submitted as soon as possible so Project Y can move forward on schedule. I have attached a template for your convenience. Please let me know if you have any questions or if there’s anything I can do to help. Thank you.”

      Reply
    10. Tomato Frog

      I personally write “Thanks” with an exclamation point when I’m making a short, to-the-point request. In my head this makes the email read as brief & informal rather than brusque & peremptory. It is quite possible that it makes no difference for the reader but hope springs eternal.

      Reply
    11. Jennifer

      I apologize for literally everything at work, because I come off as “abrasive” myself if I don’t apologize out the wazoo. It’s a female thing.

      So yes, you really should have to apologize for nagging someone to do their job, or else they get mad at you.

      Reply
    12. Student

      A person like this will always find something to complain about. So, if it’s an option, give him something to complain about that will (1) really attract his full attention (2) is fairly harmless to you (3) you can plausibly keep going forever without full resolution.

      That;s how I survived having a mother like this. Pick something to push the button on that’s not quite far enough over the line to do anything but complain about, and that you aren’t emotionally invested in, and push it hard. Meanwhile, get important stuff done while she freaks out about the button I pushed.

      Reply
    13. Jen RO

      Honestly your version does seem brusque to me. I would go with something between yours and your boss’s: “Hi, could you please submit your thing as soon as possible? I’ve attached a template for your convenience – please let me know if you need any help! Thanks, EA”

      Reply
      1. Ultraviolet

        While I don’t think EA’s email is actually brusque, I do think it could be softened further without getting obsequious. To do so, I’d also add something like “Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” and maybe say “Can you please submit your X as soon as possible so we can put it with Y and Z?” A little context, even if it’s something the recipient already knows, can reduce the chance of the request being read as nagging or demanding.

        I think the boss’s suggested wording is over the top (ridiculous, really). Maybe he’s got a reasonable motive–like he’s aware it really helps to treat this recipient deferentially and with acknowledgments of how important and useful they are–but lacks the writing skill to accomplish what he wants?

        Reply
      2. Marvel

        I agree, and think that in general this is a culture thing that varies by organization and department. If I sent an email like that in my current workplace, my boss would probably come to my office that same day just to say “hey, you might want to soften that a little”; in other places I’ve worked, though, it would go over just fine. I do think the boss’s version is overkill (to the point where it actually sounds kind of passive-aggressive), but the OP’s could be softer.

        Reply
    14. TootsNYC

      There’s somewhere in the middle, surely!

      I mean jeez, people shouldn’t have to apologize for simply doing their jobs.

      Maybe less formal:
      Hi, Susie
      I need your ___ as soon as possible; my deadline is ____ [ or other payoff/reason here].
      In case you need it, I’ve attached a template.

      Thanks much.

      And point out that YOUR email has the tremendous advantage of brevity. That it’s not polite to waste people’s time on all the gushy stuff.

      Reply
    15. University Officer of Administration

      Thanks for the timely reminder! I just realized that I sent a brusque e-mail, a moment ago! Now I’m going to e-mail an apology. (I’m a woman, but I tend to be brusque– in the name of “efficiency.”)

      Reply
    16. Snazzy Hat

      “I am so sorry to bother you and I know you are really busy” reminds me of the many voicemail messages my mother used to leave on my phone (she’s cut back a LOT, especially since my schedule is less varied now). “Hey, you’re probably in class/in choir practice/at work” while I’m in a counselor’s session or at a concert or doing laundry. Nine times out of ten the assumption is wrong. IIRC, she even suspected I had choir practice after I left the group.

      But I certainly agree that you would have wasted my busy time by having me read “I am so sorry to bother you and I know you are really busy” in the first place. I’m picturing Monty Python’s God yelling “get on with it!”

      Reply
    17. Not So NewReader

      “Gee, Boss, you know I tried writing emails like that a while ago. I was told several times under no uncertain terms that I sounded wordy and spineless. I was told it would hurt me professionally.”

      There. Done.

      Now if you are not comfy with telling an almost-truth like that let me know. And I will post three times that the email sounds wordy and spineless. Then you will be honestly able to stay that you have been told several times that the email sounds wordy and spineless.

      Reply
  12. Nicole J.

    I work for an event caterer and we usually promote people to event managers internally – which means I know them, know how they work, and have a good feel for how they’ll do before they get that responsibility. But we’re always looking for more people to work on a freelance basis. I am interviewing someone on Monday. Fairly new to that, and am looking for tips on how to get the best idea of how they’ll be able to cope in an event environment. Any ideas appreciated!

    If we like them, we’ll do an assistant managing shift first, before a full shift so we’ll get a chance to try each other out in action.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      Event planner here. When I go on interviews, I get asked a lot about flexibility and multitasking. Ask for examples of times when something went unexpectedly wrong and how they handled the situation. Event environments always need someone quick on their feet with problem-solving and creative solutions. I also get asked a lot about how I handle high-pressure situations. Depending on your philosophy, you want someone who complements your style of handling the situation or mimics it.

      Reply
      1. Nicole J.

        Thanks. Not too bothered about individual style but you’re right, it’s that quality I want to try to get a feel for.

        Reply
      2. SL #2

        Yes! Even when I wasn’t applying for event-planner roles, people would look at my resume, see the sections that addressed previous roles where I did 90% event planning, and most of the time, their next question would be “tell me about a time when something went wrong at an event and you didn’t expect it?” I think it’s the default for event-planning, but in any business situation, it shows that you can think on your feet even in high-pressure situations.

        Reply
    2. Sunflower

      Definitely ask questions about how they handle stress and constantly changing deadlines and priorities. You want to make sure they can handle working in a reactive environment. Primarily you want to find out if they can keep their cool and keep their game face on even if everything feels like it’s going to ish. You want to ask about attention to detail but it’s also really important that you find out how they deal with things not going to plan. Event managers can plan all they want but 99% chance that the day of, something will go wrong. It’s important to plan but it’s really more important to be the kind of person who can cope when things don’t go as planned and handle making last minute decisions.

      Reply
  13. Fallow

    I’ve just been hired at the company I interned for 2 years in college. I am really excited! I liked my current position but it was fairly toxic and there were management issues that weren’t going to change.

    My issue is that I had given them a month’s notice on the verbal offer per my current employer asking for a month to train my replacement. The job I’m in isn’t niche but I had a lot of knowledge that my co-workers didn’t, and my boss wants me to transfer that knowledge to someone else.

    I let HR know that I would need a month and they replied that the hiring manager (my old boss) wouldn’t be happy with that time frame (slightly unrelated but the entire hiring process has taken almost half a year to get to this point). I said I could possibly negotiate 3 weeks. I receive an email from hiring manager that says he needs me to start in 3 weeks, so I relay that to current boss and he agrees. I confirm three weeks to HR and hiring manager.

    Yesterday I receive an email from the hiring manager urging me to start earlier if I can. He explains that there have been some resignations (former co-workers) and the spot needs to be filled immediately. I don’t feel right asking my current boss for another week. I have/had a great working relationship here and I don’t want to jeopardize that. How can I tactfully say “no” to my new boss without offending him?

    Thanks and Happy Friday!

    Reply
    1. IT_Guy

      People leave companies all the time and that’s the risk that they take with not documenting procedures. They totally understand that and unless there are extenuating circumstances I would reconsider. The industry standard is 2 weeks, so I would suggest you go with that.

      Reply
    2. Dawn

      “…urging me to start earlier if I can”

      Well… you can’t. “I’m terribly sorry Fergus, but I absolutely cannot move up my first day at New Company. I would in a heartbeat if I had the flexibility to, but my hands are tied.”

      Assuming, of course, that the above is true and there’s nothing you can do!

      Reply
      1. CMT

        Hmm. I’d go the opposite way in this situation. I’d say see ya later to the old job. I wouldn’t want to risk the new job pulling the offer.

        Reply
    3. Pineapple Incident

      Oof that’s rough- sorry you’re in that spot! I would just try going back to them and saying something to the effect of “I’m sorry, but I feel that I can’t shorten my notice with my current employer. It just wouldn’t feel right to renege on what we had agreed to since I’m training a replacement for my role.” and just re-up your enthusiasm to hit the ground running on your agreed-upon start date.

      Important to remember is the fact that you’re not doing anything wrong by saying you can’t start sooner. Also, they would want just as much reliability from you if you were leaving their company as you’re promising to your current employer.

      Reply
    4. Crylo Ren

      I would frame my reply to the hiring manager in terms of wanting to keep to the timeline you agreed on so that you can ensure you are doing your due diligence by your soon-to-be-former employer, and the three/four weeks agreed upon is absolutely necessary to make sure that they are well set up to function without you. I would think a reasonable employer would see the justice of that request and also understand that you would extend that same professional courtesy to them when it came time for you to move on.

      I would honestly be taking their increasing pressure on your start date as a yellow flag. If they really want the right person in the position, I would think a week wouldn’t make much of a difference. It starts the work relationship off on a bad foot IMO.

      Reply
    5. Florida

      It sounds like you told Current Job you would stay until X date. New Job agreed that you would start on X date.
      I would stick to that.

      You can tell New Boss, “I talked to my current boss about pushing up my last day but it looks like it won’t work. We really need to finish up a few projects and it is going to take the full three weeks (or whatever the time frame is). I know you want to start earlier, but I need to honor the commitment that I already made.”

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      “Sorry. I am not going to be able to do that. See, I gave my employer my word that I would work the three weeks. I owe my employer that. I would do the same for your company, too, if the situation were reversed. I feel it’s important for a person to keep their word, don’t you?”

      Reply
    7. CMT

      You really need to balance your sense of duty to the old job with the risk that the new job will pull your offer. If I had the chance to leave a toxic job, I wouldn’t risk it, even if I thought it might mean a burned bridge. Who wants a bridge to a toxic workplace, anyway?

      Reply
  14. mockingbird2081

    After much debate I decided to tell my boss and mentor that I was going to be looking for a new job, I have worked for him for 13 years. My boss asked me to guarantee I would work for him until February 28th (2 months from date I told him I was going to start looking) as I was in charge of rolling out a new project. I agreed.

    In mid March I received a job offer and because I had given him technically 2 1/2 months notice and due to some other circumstances I gave my boss a 12 days’ notice instead of 14. I had been preparing my current office for my departure for the entire 2 1/2 months up until this point. My boss at the beginning was very supportive and understanding of my desire to spread my wings but that has since changed.

    Once I informed my boss I was leaving it appears I have become the ‘trouble child’. My boss has started criticizing everything I was doing and things I have done in the past. He has never done this before. He started dropping hints that I was probably going to hate the new position and that the new company was unprofessional for only giving me a chance to give a 12 day notice instead of a 14 day notice. His wife has been more involved in the office since I announced I was leaving and she has turned into the silent one. She doesn’t acknowledge that I am even in the room.
    They felt they should do something before I left so they had lunch brought in, half the meal was spent in silence the other half his wife talked to the other member of the staff (small office) about her upcoming holiday plans, family, life in general and I was just ignored.

    With the small office setting my boss has become not just a mentor but a friend (no BFF’s but friends) I have worked hard for him for 13 years and for 13 years they have given me praise and encouragement. I am trying to just let things roll off my back but I admit it is hard. It has been 2 months since I left and I am loving my new position. But I worry about needing him for future references and honestly, saving the ‘friendship’. I also worry that perhaps I did handle it wrong. Is there any way I can smooth this over?

    Reply
    1. ElCee

      He sounds like he is taking your departure way too seriously. As Allison says, it’s business, not a marriage. You did the right thing. Congrats on the new position!

      Reply
      1. Pineapple Incident

        Agreed. Good luck at your new job! I would probably just wait a couple of months and maybe try to reach out if you’re really interested in maintaining a relationship with them- perhaps they’ll have cooled off by then.

        Reply
    2. GT

      My boss responded the same way when I left. He seemed to take it as a personal betrayal, which was unfortunate. Getting a 40% wage bump was the driving factor. He’s come around now, but it took him a bit. I hope your soon to be former boss gets over it soon, too.

      Reply
    3. plain_jane

      After I left my past two jobs I’ve sent my boss a few relevant articles (generally around the 6 month point, and then again when it seems really interesting), which I think has helped reset the relationship in a positive manner. Sometimes it leads to a lunch and we catch up and reiterate that we enjoyed working with each other.

      Reply
    4. neverjaunty

      No. You’ve been entirely professional – you didn’t give 12 days’ notice, you gave him over 2 months’ notice that you were leaving, and you kept your promise to stay on to finish a project. Your boss is taking your departure as a personal affront, which is his issue, not yours. Remain polite and professional and leave with a clear conscience.

      Reply
    5. Not So NewReader

      I’d let sleeping dogs lie. If you say anything it’s could just make matters worse. Remember the better times, speak warmly of the both of them to others and let the rest go.

      By the time you need them (him) for a reference they could have run away to Bermuda and no one can find them. Or you could discover that you know enough people tangent to your old job that you do not need their reference. Or it could be someone offers you a job and references never come up. Let your old boss sort out his thoughts by himself. Time may make this whole question moot.

      Reply
  15. vivace

    I was informed at new year’s that I’d be getting a 10% raise, with the string attached that they didn’t know when exactly I’d see it in my paycheck. I assumed maybe a couple months? However it’s mid April and I still haven’t received it, and when I ask I get a runaround about clients not paying, can you be patient. The company has also made several new hires (new positions) since Jan 1, so what’s the deal? They can allocate hundreds of thousands to new salaries but not a couple grand for me?

    Reply
    1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

      I would ask your supervisor for a face to face meeting.

      In the meeting I would ask if he has an update for the timeline for your promised raise. Then be silent.

      If he gets exasperated, harps on you to be patient, etc. I would take it as a sign that you are being stringed along and won’t be getting the raise.

      Reply
  16. Brett

    On a thread earlier in the week, I had talked about my neighbor suddenly dying, and the issue with locating his employer.

    Fortunately, his employer got ahold of his emergency contact and found out what happened. Several of his co-workers were able to make the celebration of his life that his family held for him. Many of his family members thought he was retired and no longer worked, much less knowing who his employer was!

    Reply
  17. ElCee

    I’ve been hunting for a new job but have put it on hold for a couple reasons, the main one being I realized that my longevity here basically gets me a 6-month 100% paid parental leave and we are thinking of having kids very soon. Some of the things that used to bother me about this job have improved, as has my attitude about it in general, and there is a promotion in the works, but some of the other aspects have not (the job function is not really a growth industry and there’s a low, but present, chance of reorganization that would affect my job in the future). Am I being too complacent? I know there are no fertility guarantees, but it would be a while before I get this level of leave were I to move anywhere else.

    Reply
    1. Muriel Heslop

      If someone had told me 6 years ago I would still be working where I am working, I wouldn’t have believed them. However, once I got pregnant, quality of life, flexibility, and FMLA + additional leave were huge factors. Two kids later, I am still here. Maybe I am complacent, but the picture changed and I had to choose what was best for my family and the overall picture. Really, only you can make the choice what is best for you. Good luck!

      Reply
    2. Dawn

      I think there’s this idea in the general social psyche that a job has to be an all or nothing thing, where you’re either Passionately Loving Every Minute or Buring the Building Down in Pursuit Of Your True Passion.

      It’s absolutely fine- not just fine but well, good, healthy, sane, understandable, etc – to want to stay at a job because the perks outweigh the negatives. For you, the perk of parental leave outweighs the negatives *for the time being*, and that’s an excellent reason to stay. Perhaps in the future, the negatives will outweigh the perks, and then you can reevaluate.

      I think it’s a disservice to, oh, probably 98% of the working world to have this idea that we’re all supposed to be PASSIONATE about every little teeny thing about our jobs and if we’re not then, of course, we should be looking for a new job. Like… no one is happy with 100% of their job 100% of the time. That’s impossible.

      Reply
    3. Kat

      that is a wonderful wonderful benefit you have and certainly does NOT make you complacent. You have earned those benefits and you should definitely use them! I for one am jealous of you as I get ready to think about baby #2.

      Reply
    4. Observer

      I’m not sure what you are worrying about? It sounds like the job is ok, reasonably stable, with some perks that are important to you. As long as you don’t have any illusions it makes sense to stay put for now. Obviously there are no guarantees, so you don’t want to get SO comfortable that you don’t do anything to improve your skills. But, otherwise it sounds like a sensible move.

      Reply
  18. Not a Real Giraffe

    From out an outside perspective, I realize this sounds like a silly problem. But what, if anything, can we say to a constant cougher?

    My coworker coughs all day long, every single day. It’s not a hacking cough, like she’s sick, but a dry quick cough like she needs to have some water. Sometimes it’s a couple of these in succession, sometimes it’s spaced throughout the day. On Monday, it was every fifteen seconds for 5 hours. It’s not background noise that is easily ignored; it’s incredibly distracting and it bothers my entire team. We’ve actually had people from other teams who sit on our floor make comments about it to us.

    We’ve asked her if she’s sick, we’ve offered her water and tea and cough drops. She has accepted none of it, and just says it’s an “allergy” and that the office air makes her throat dry. (And yet, she won’t drink any water to abate the dryness.)

    In the grand scheme of things, this is a small annoyance, I know. But it’s been going on everyday for almost the entire 5 months that she’s been here. I’m afraid some of us are at our wits’ end and are about to shout something along the lines of “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP COUGHING,” which I think we’d all like to avoid. What can we do?

    Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I think… nothing. It’s up to her to decide how she wants to manage her health, including her dry cough.

      Reply
    2. Redrum

      This probably isn’t the best way to handle it but…
      We had a loud cougher that was driving everyone nuts. So she would cough and then one of us would cough just like she did just to mimic her. Pretty soon everyone coughing after she did and she got the point.

      Reply
      1. Erin

        Really? I have a chronic lung disease. If people did that I’d be really, really hurt. Sorry our lifelong ailments are such an inconvenience for everyone.

        Can we liken this to say, a baby crying in a grocery store? It’s a baby, and they’re going to cry, and the mother still has to buy groceries. Mind your own business and deal with it.

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl

          OK, mockery isn’t great, but do you cough constantly? Do you try to mitigate it?

          I mean, I feel bad when I’m coughing post-cold for a few days. It’s just kind of annoying to listen to. There has to be some middle ground, it sounds like the person here hasn’t tried cough drops, tea/water, or any other steps.

          Reply
          1. Erin

            I do try, and I do step away and out of the office if it’s a real coughing fit.

            Probably won’t help the asker of the question here, but for what it’s worth I’ve been coughing a lot less since I’ve been doing yoga on a regular basis.

            Reply
          2. Observer

            No, it sounds like she has not tried in her office mates’ presence. The kind of cough being described is NOT something that most people find comfortable. If she’s not using those things, it is almost certainly due to the fact that they either don’t work or have other problems for her.

            Reply
        2. Not a Real Giraffe

          Yeah, I would never take this approach. I agree it’s hurtful, and more passive aggressive than I’d ever like to be.

          Thanks for your perspective about the chronic condition; I hadn’t thought about that. (And as someone with asthma, I really should have!) I agree with Betty below that I’m sure she’s aware of and self-conscious of it. Here’s hoping we can all figure out how to tune it out!

          Reply
        3. Pretend Scientist

          I hear you on the not being able to prevent it, but being near a crying baby in a grocery store or on an airplane is likely for a short time, and then it’s over. Five months of nearly non-stop coughing for hours a day is a whole different ballgame.

          Reply
      2. F.

        Wow. I have cough-variant asthma. While I try to handle it through medications and staying hydrated, I do still cough. A lot. To mimic someone for a chronic health condition is just shameful.

        Reply
      3. Diluted_TortoiseShell

        LOL. I only laugh because I think my co-workers tried this on me but it backfired.

        I cough a lot due to allergies. Cough drops and water don’t work.

        My co-workers all started coughing after I coughed at one point. I then jokingly yelled “It’s not a competition!” thinking it would be lighthearted humor. Everyone got dead quite. Needless to say it did not stop my coughing but it stopped theirs! Which I thought was a weird coincidence at the time but I guess maybe they were being jerks about it and got accidentally called out.

        ROFL.

        Reply
    3. Batshua

      What about a humidifier? If it really is dry air, that should help. I’m thinking of the travel size kind that you can use bottled water with.

      Reply
      1. Betty (the other Betty)

        An office humidifier could be a great idea if the air is really dry. I wonder if the HVAC people could add an office-wide system?

        Reply
    4. Betty (the other Betty)

      Sounds annoying. And if it is annoying for you, it must be awful for the coughing coworker, too. And I’m sure she knows that people are annoyed at her and talking about her.

      She isn’t contagiously sick. She doesn’t want your cough drops or water for whatever reason (maybe because she’s been living with this cough for a long time and knows what is and isn’t effective at stopping it).

      If her productivity is super low because she can’t get any work done for any reason (such as a continuous cough), that’s a management problem, and her manager should address it.

      Short of finding her a private office with a door and a way to move her there that is polite and kind, I don’t think you can do anything (but I’m sure someone will correct me if I am wrong).

      Reply
    5. Erin

      Ooooh chronic dry cougher here. I have cystic fibrosis.

      Maybe she does too, and she doesn’t feel obligated to tell her office that, since you know, it’s none of their business. When people ask if I have a cold or an allergy I usually just say yes.

      Assuming that’s it, you can’t do anything about it. She’s not contagious (again, if it’s CF specifically anyway, or another genetic disease), but you can’t do anything about it and neither can she.

      It’s really annoying when people try to give me cough drops. I know they mean well and I also know it will do absolutely nothing for me.

      She’s aware of it. She’s self conscious about it. And it undoubtedly is more of a hardship on her than on you.

      Sorry to be a little bit mean, but being on the other side of this, please just let it go. :/

      Reply
    6. Sualah

      No advice, just sympathy. In our office (but not my employer), there’s a woman who smokes three times a day and coughs all the time she’s at her desk. I’ve been at this location a year. I don’t work with her directly and she doesn’t sit too close to me, but close enough that my whole team can hear her hacking. Non stop.

      There are talks that my team might be moved. I am so hoping for it. There’s nothing else to say or do about it.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        We have a smoking cougher, too. Although who is to say that she doesn’t have some other problem that would cause her to cough even if she didn’t smoke? Idk. I try to ignore it.

        Reply
    7. Shell

      My throat gets really, really itchy sometimes during allergy season. And I cough too. Tea and water does nothing for me. Neither does cough drops (and I don’t particularly like the taste of many cough drops).

      I don’t think I cough as much as your colleague, but in my case, pretty much nothing works other than riding it out. You can try a humidifier, perhaps, but if that fails I think you’ll just have to live with it.

      Reply
    8. Martin

      She may be on medication that triggers the coughing. My aunt took Lisinopril for her blood pressure and this was a known side effect. ACE inhibitors like Lisinopril are processed through the lungs per her doctor. Hard candy and mints helped, but not much.

      Reply
      1. QualityControlFreak

        This is me. It’s annoying, but it’s not every fifteen minutes. Nothing I can do about it. However, we have a coworker who snerks and coughs much more loudly (and digs in their nose in the work area, even while having conversations with coworkers – ugh!) I don’t think anyone even notices my (quiet) dry cough. If they do, they’ve never said.

        Reply
    9. MsMaryMary

      Oh dear, are you my coworker? There is something in my office that sets off my allergies. I get that post nasal drip thing, and it results in sniffling and coughing. I use a nasal spray, but Claritin doesn’t help and I can only use Benadryl at night because it puts me to sleep. I do drink water and tea constantly, but I’m not sure it helps. The nasal spray keeps me from having a full on eyes and nose streaming attack, but I don’t know what else I could do.

      Other than having the building’s management inspect for mold, which I think is the problem. They refuse to unless a tenant takes on the cost.

      Reply
      1. Tris Prior

        +1. I was the chronic cougher at my last job. Because we had a mold problem in the building and the landlord wouldn’t fix it and we didn’t have the money to pay for mold treatment ourselves. Allergy mess helped me with the resulting congestion and itchy eyes but not the cough.

        Reply
      2. Mreasy

        I have chronic post nasal drip and have had a massive reduction in issues since I started using a neti pot! I was skeptical but it really has helped.

        Reply
    10. Biff

      I’d take it your boss/HR. Her medical problem is now impacting everyone. That’s now how it’s supposed to work.

      Reply
      1. I'm a Little Teapot

        It might, as Erin pointed out above, not be a medical condition she can do much about, and it would be really crappy to get her in trouble for her health problems. I’m sure it bothers her more than it bothers everyone else.

        Reply
        1. Chocolate Teapot

          In a similar vein, I have a cold at the moment and have been trying to sneeze in a discrete and dignified fashion. It is tricky.

          Reply
          1. Rebecca Too

            I married a chronic cougher. He’s in excellent health, there are no underlying issues other than awful seasonal allergies. OTC medication doesn’t touch it, and he’s had problems with certain prescription allergy meds making him very tired and unmotivated. A friend of ours recommended taking one teaspoonful of local honey (has to be “made” within a 50 mile radius of where you live) daily for 6 weeks in order to build up immunity to whatever is causing the allergy. My husband skeptically tracked down the local honey, took it daily, and…..it worked! Just putting that out there. So far, it’s been a cough-free Spring!

            Reply
        2. CMT

          I don’t think they’d be getting her in trouble. It may be that HR decides she moves to a private office to accommodate the issue, or something along those lines. I don’t think they’re going to fire her or dock her pay for coughing too much.

          Reply
        3. TootsNYC

          well, going to HR is not an automatic on-switch for “getting in trouble.”

          My HR person at my last job called me to talk about my cough. I went straight to “I’m so sorry it bothers other people,” and she was trying to say, “Are you OK? Have you seen a doctor? People are worried about you.”
          But it gave mea chance to say to someone, “I’ve been seeing a doctor for 4 years, we’ve tried everything, and nothing has helped.”

          Reply
    11. Felicia

      I don’t think you can say anything.

      No one coughs on purpose and no one wants to be coughing. I have a condition that causes a chronic cough among other things. I am working at addressing it, but it’s not easy to address. Water, tea and cough drops don’t really help that much, and if people constantly offer and keep offering me cough drops that would just make me self concious. I also prefer not to share the details of my medical conditions with my coworker.

      I understand why it annoys you, but there’s really nothing you can do.

      Reply
    12. Not So NewReader

      No clue on how you would suggest it, but vitamin D works on my coughs (allergy/dryness/etc.) Years ago, I found it worked so well that I quit buying cough medicine and I have not bought any in 20 years plus.

      Sometimes I have to work moldy environments then I have a meeting after work. I take some vitamin D and I won’t have any coughing jags at the meeting.

      Reply
      1. Marvel

        I would strongly suggest not bringing this up with the coworker. A lot of us who deal with chronic health conditions really do not appreciate “helpful” suggestions; we get a lot of them and they can be very annoying to deal with when you already know it’s something that’s not going to work.

        Reply
    13. TootsNYC

      Do you work with me?

      For one thing: she’s not coughing AT you. I get that it’s annoying to hear–but she probably can’t breathe.

      You could approach her and tell her that her cough is sometimes difficult to work alongside, and could she keep some water at her desk, or cough drops? And has she actually seen a doctor?

      For my case–water helps some, but then I have to pee a lot, and that has problems of its own.

      Reply
    14. Observer

      It might help if you all re-adjusted your expectations and attitude. You all seem to be assuming that she is coughing because she wants to, is too stupid to manage her health and / or she’s just inconsiderate. This is actually highly unlikely. Drinking water doesn’t do anything for a dry throat. Your assuming that it WILL help, and she’s choosing to not do something that would help is highly unrealistic.

      If it is practical, I would check with her about a humidifier or air filter. Depending on what’s actually triggering the problem, these might help (or might not, which is why it’s worth checking with her first.)

      Reply
  19. BrownEyedGirl

    I used to work for a union headquarters in an industry town (trying to be vague). I got laid off as part of structural changes. I want to stay in this town because I’ve got a house, a husband, etc., how should I try to present myself in my resume for positions at for-profit companies that may be in the same industry where I just worked for the major union.

    Reply
    1. AnotherHRPro

      I don’t think your circumstances change it much more than any other application. Explain why you want to work with the nonprofit and how your experience is transferable and will add value to their organization.

      Reply
      1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

        Yeah. In other words, don’t focus so much on why you need THEM to give YOU a job. But instead show why YOU are best for THEM.

        Also good luck!

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Tell them that you are familiar with the industry because of you work for the union.

      I assume you were in the union for your old job, can you leverage union connections to get a union position somewhere? Or is this nothing that appeals to you?

      Reply
  20. Alston

    So the “I got fired for taking initiative” letter and the chat me thinking. Half the people seemed to think the letter couldn’t be real, but a bunch of people said the knew people just like that. What’s the most tone deaf/out of touch thing you’ve heard at work?

    I had a coworker who one day was talking about how she was going to get a car, and really wanted to get a vanity plate with her name on it. But then she said she wasn’t sure if it was a good idea because what if she got in an accident, wouldn’t it make it too easy to find her? I asked if she would seriously do a hit and run. She said “of course, I wouldn’t want my insurance rates to go up.”

    What else have you guys heard?

    Reply
    1. KathyGeiss

      I once heard a colleague bragging about the feud she was in with her neighbours. The neighbour’s offenses didn’t seem that bad but her response was terrible (think calling bylaw officers everyday, purposefully killing their grass, etc). The worst part was that she thought it was totally normal and assumed everyone around her would agree with her. This was also a woman who actively talked about hating her husband’s child and wishing he would just “go away”.

      Reply
    2. pumpkin scone

      Oh, my boss is terribly tone deaf. I beg him to stick to written remarks when he has to talk publicly, because he says off the cuff things that are…ugh. For example, at an all-staff meeting, “You’re all wonderful. You all should get raises. Except you’re not, because I don’t control the budget…anyway, about parking…”

      Reply
      1. Rovannen

        We had an administrator giving out awards to students. One category was best effort. His opening comments were that these awards aren’t just for good students, some students try but just don’t measure up, etc. Would.not.stop.talking. I was sending shut-up vibes to him.

        Reply
    3. taylor swift

      I work at a mental health organization, and I have a family member with schizophrenia (all my coworkers kn0w.) Last year, a high-profile man in our state committed suicide – it was shocking to everyone. I was at the copy machine and a coworker stopped to talk with me about it, and she said to me “do you ever worry about your brother killing himself?”
      That was probably one of the most tone deaf things I’ve ever heard.

      Reply
    4. ThursdaysGeek

      I think my response to that would be something like “it might be harder to find you, but they still will, and then it won’t just be the cost of your insurance you have to deal with!”

      Reply
    5. Dawn

      I worked with a truly… unique… individual who, among other things, said that the reason Chris Brown abused Rhianna was because she was into S&M and she liked it. At work. To me. In the break room. In all sincerity. Thinking I’d just nod my head and agree.

      This person, Pat, would also wander around and start up conspiracy theory rants with anyone who was sitting still- during work hours! When both Pat and everyone else needed to be working! These rants would cover all *kinds* of topics, mainly about how the government was spying on everyone.

      Reply
      1. AMT 2

        I had a coworker rather like that, she was let go about six months ago due to the crazy… I think the most stunning thing she ever told me was about how the government had vaults in Antarctica that stored everybody’s DNA (in case of what I never found out). She also believed that dentists would implant tracking devices in your teeth, Russian soldiers training in Yellowstone, etc. – she refused to watch the news because the media lies about everything, she would only get her news from YouTube. Because apparently YouTube has better journalism standards than CNN?

        Reply
      2. anon for this

        I had as conspiracy theorist as a co-worker once as well. We worked for a state university. He thought the state was out to get everyone. I never had enough patience to ask him why he was working for the state. He also was single and no one would go out with him – another conspiracy. He would also go to Mexican restaurants where they give you menus, chips, and salsa to start you out and order a glass of water and sit there all night getting free chips and salsa refills. He loved going there during busy times. He would never pay. Finally the management banned him from one restaurant and I heard he was on his way to being banned from several more.

        Reply
      3. Rob Lowe can't read

        I also had a conspiracy theorist at one of my internships. I’m not sure which was worse: the fact that she was my ride to work (we were interning as part of the same academic program), or the fact that she shared her anti-vax conspiracy theories with the parents of our students and encouraged them to discontinue vaccinations for their children and spread the word about the evils of Big Pharma.

        (Although if I’m really being honest, the theory that annoyed me the most was that our government is made up of lizard people. In a way, I kind of understand how anti-vax is born of lack of scientific/medical understanding. Thinking that our political leaders are actually giant lizards disguised as humans is only indicative of a lacking grasp of reality.)

        Reply
    6. Lucie

      During a year-long internship (I’m about to graduate college), my boss argued with me about whether water was a human right. This is just one instance of many, for example arguing that welfare makes people lazy (I live in a socialist country in the EU). The industry was political lobbying for financial services and I am/was an underpaid, bleeding-heart socialist intern. Weird situation to say the least.

      Anyways, he thought it was hilarious to make me angry about social justice issues and after this debate about water as a human right or not he started leaving glasses of water on my desk randomly for a few days. I was not amused.

      Reply
      1. Lucie

        Almost forgot this gem: this was the same manager (again I was a young female intern in a male-dominated hierarchical structure) who, upon hearing that I had a few tattoos, said he was surprised because he ‘always pegged me as a shy, good little Catholic-raised girl’!

        Reply
      2. I'm a Little Teapot

        Several years ago, I was working part-time, unable to find another part-time job with a compatible schedule or another job in my field. So my income was quite low, and I was on state-subsidized health insurance – and I had just discovered I might have cancer.

        My boss, who had been working there full-time with benefits for years and probably made at least twice what I did, was an obnoxiously vocal libertarian. The night after I found I might have cancer, he was running his mouth about how government-subsidized health insurance shouldn’t exist because blah blah bootstraps blah the market is always right blah I shouldn’t have to pay any taxes ever what do you mean roads I drove to work on blah FREEDUMB. I quietly and calmly explained my situation, and said, still calmly, “You are saying that people like me should just lie down and die.”

        He shut up.

        (He also went on mocking rants about feminism to me. I’m a woman.)

        Reply
    7. Florida

      I worked at a nonprofit that served people with disabilities. Among other things, we taught deaf people their rights regarding interpreters and how to advocate if a doctor or someone didn’t want to pay for an interpreter. We also hired out sign language interpreters.

      I was floored when I learned that we did not invite relevant people to meetings (like inviting the IT guy to a meeting about the network) because we didn’t want to hire a sign language interpreter and didn’t want to take a staff interpreter away from doing a contract job (that would bring in money for the organization).

      Reply
    8. Development Professional

      Early in my career, I had a boss once who came in one Monday morning to tell me all about how he’d dealt with some issue over the weekend by screaming at a customer service rep on the phone. He was extremely proud of how he’d handled it, really laid into the person on the phone for the company’s error. One of my job duties: answering phones.

      This was the same guy who was somehow super fascinated that I practiced a particular religion that was different from his (and they’re both very common mainstream religions). He was in the midst of some conversation near my desk when he suddenly turned to me and asked, “So, what do YOU think about abortion?” I looked at him point blank and said, “I don’t talk about controversial topics at work.” It was the first time I found him speechless.

      Reply
    9. 3D Queen

      Once a co-worker told me a loooooooong story about meeting her girlfriend who she had “met” on OKCupid and hadn’t met in person….it became pretty immediately clear she was being cat-fished. When I mentioned this possibility, she just moved on to the next co-worker until she found someone who would just nod and smile.

      Reply
    10. Cube Farmer

      The office manager telling me that coworker’s baby was born with severe birth defects because God was punishing her or her husband for some unknown-to-us sin.

      Reply
    11. anon for this

      I had a female co-worker ask me about my favorite sex positions. I still can’t get the ick out of my mind. I reported it and she was warned.

      Reply
      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        I had one female coworker (who I didn’t like) try to tell me about her sex dreams with my boss.

        At another job, a male coworker kept trying to tell me the nitty-gritty details of his swinging (like, not just that he was a swinger, but who showed up at his house last night and the details of what-all they did).

        Both of my former male bosses have told me what their sexual fantasy is and what type of woman they enjoy looking at.

        I guess I have a “tell-me-anything” vibe.

        Reply
    12. JBean

      This week my friend was offered a promotion at less than the starting salary for the job. When she said she wouldn’t accept the offer as is her boss’ were shocked and tried to pressure her into the original offer. She held firm, because if they thought she was good enough to do the job then why wouldn’t they pay her at least the minimum salary for the position?! (Apparently it was due to some crazy rule about the max. raise one can get at a time – even if moving positions). Anyways, this sparked her boss to look into whether any of his other employees are being underpaid and work on fixing the culture and he thanked her for standing up for herself and compared her to Rosa Parks….. :/

      Reply
      1. JBean

        And in the middle of all this pressuring to take the underpaid salary, her other boss posted a Richard Branson quote on LinkedIn saying “Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t wan’t to.”

        The irony is almost too much!

        Reply
    13. Space City Funeral Home Admin

      Our handyman/maintenance guy told us the other morning in all sincerity that he believes that we did not go to the moon, that the landings were faked. (If you were wondering he also does not believe in evolution). With his smart phone in his hand.

      We are less than 10 land miles from Johnson Space Center, you can’t turn around without seeing a space reference, drive down a street named after a rocket program.

      I haven’t decided whether seeing Buzz Aldrin punch him would be worth it.

      Reply
    14. Diluted_TortoiseShell

      I had a boss once write me up for being 5-minutes late in a salaried position when I was routinely putting in 50 – 60 hours a week. She then had me ping her on our office IM every single day for 90 days to prove I was “reliable”.

      This was less than a week after experiencing a debilitating car accident which hurt my back, and made me barely able to walk, let alone get dressed quickly. Even though she was aware of my pain, and the fact that I had a long commute, she still put me on a PIP.

      Sadly this was not the worst thing she did to me, but it is the most tone deaf thing she ever did!

      Reply
    15. Anon for this

      a friend who is a terrible driver and the least self-aware person I know once told me a story about how he had been really tailgating some guy who was driving the speed limit in the backroads where there was no one else around (and didn’t mention that he was driving the speed limit, just scoffed at the fact that “he was only going 25!”), and that the guy ahead of him had eventually pulled over (presumably to let him pass?). The guy got out of his car because he thought that maybe something was wrong with…a guy he was tailgating pulling over (again, really not self aware). The man driving the other car was like “listen, please just go ahead of me, my wife’s in the back seat in labor and I would prefer to not have you driving behind me.” This story was told to inspire sympathy toward him, as in a “can you believe what i had to deal with? Unbelievable. I’m trying to get to work and this guy was so rude to me” kind of way. Typing this out it sounds so unbelievable, as did listening to it. I am no longer friends with that guy. Sadly I’m a pushover so i was just like “wow…what a tale” at the time instead of informing him that HE was the bad guy in that story.

      Reply
    16. NicoleK

      BEC coworker enthusiastically announced that she wanted to do X ( idea X is totally random, doesn’t align with the company goals, program goals, grant activities, and probably wouldn’t pass an institutional review board). Boss said no. Weeks later, BEC coworker was telling a colleague that she still planned to go ahead and do X.

      Reply
    17. Not So NewReader

      Bosses used to rattle my subordinate, then leave. For the rest of the day my subordinate ranted and we had to listen to her rants. I told my bosses to knock it off and they said it was too much fun and they would continue doing it.

      Reply
      1. Jenniy

        I swear you must work with me.
        People from other depts. Would come just to rile up this guy, who was anti vaxxer, full on conspiracy theorist, dr. Oz was his God kinda dude.

        Reply
  21. Tommy C.

    My fiancée is an assistant to one of the managers at her office. Yesterday it was the funeral for her cousin, who got killed by a drunk driver. The manager came to funeral and interrupted it to ask my fiancée where she filed something. My fiancée is upset enough because her cousin was like her sister and was going to be the maid of honor in our wedding. Her boss stopping the funeral just made it a million times worse. Even though I don’t work there and it didn’t happen in her office can I complain to HR about this for her? She hasn’t been able to stop crying. Her family is mad too and so is everyone else that was there. She reads here all the time and I want to help her but don’t know how. Can I complain to her work about her boss about what happened?

    Reply
    1. Liana

      Her boss did WHAT? WHO THINKS THAT’S OKAY.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s anything you can do. It’s not your workplace, not your boss, and I’m not sure it would reflect well on your fiancee to have you come in and essentially fight her battles. However, your fiancee should absolutely be complaining about this. That’s absurd and completely, entirely unreasonable. Seriously. She needs to go over her boss’ head, whether that means her boss’ boss or HR, whichever she thinks is more appropriate for her office. If I was her I’d be raising hell – I can’t believe someone had the audacity to interrupt a fucking funeral.

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Exactly this, unfortunately. And she should be looking for a new job pronto. A manager who is this much of a clueless glass bowl is unlikely to limit their bad behavior to a single instance.

        Reply
    2. legalchef

      Wow. Is that the only reason her manager came to the funeral? That’s… awful. I don’t know what the answer is to this, but I am very sorry for her/your loss.

      Reply
      1. Tommy C.

        Yeah it was. He wasn’t there at the start of it but later on her came into the church and made the Reverend stop talking because he said there was an emergency and that’s when he asked my fiancée where she filed the thing. She was crying so hard that she couldn’t even answer and her brother and another guy kicked him out with the Reverend’s permission. A couple of people from her office heard about what happened so they called to see if she was okay and they said they wanted to complain too. My fiancée is still too upset to talk about it. Thanks for your condolences.

        Reply
        1. mockingbird2081

          What a jerk! I would be so angry I don’t think I would be able to go back to work. I don’t think you can complain to HR about this but…I just can’t get over how rude this guy was.

          Reply
          1. Windchime

            I would absolutely complain to HR about this. Someone who would do something like this has absolutely done other things that are terrible. Even if he hasn’t, this is absolutely something that should be reported. Simply terrible. I am so sorry for your fiancée’s loss.

            Reply
        2. Isben Takes Tea

          HE STOPPED THE REVEREND?! I can’t even. I am so, so sorry.

          To echo others, no, you can’t complain (I believe she could, depending on her company), but I would get a new job as soon as I was able.

          Reply
        3. legalchef

          I don’t even… I can’t… WHAT?!?! He stopped the Reverend??????????????? Honestly that is so mind-blowingly horrific that I don’t even think my brain can comprehend that.

          Reply
        4. A Teacher

          I don’t think you can, but her coworkers could collectively raise it as an issue. We’ve done something like that in a few previous jobs–it usually worked.

          Reply
        5. Rebecca in Dallas

          Wow, that is horrible! I’m so sorry for your fiancee. Agreed with what the others have said, you can’t go to HR but I’m willing to bet that her coworkers have taken care of that already.

          Reply
        6. Observer

          That’s just …. Hard to find words.

          The one good thing is that his behavior was highly public. And, because he wasn’t just incredibly rude and insensitive to your Fiance, but interrupted a service in the Church, it is also a public relations issue for the company. That’s something that it would be worth while to point out to the company when she and her co-workers complain.

          Reply
    3. LiteralGirl

      It’s really crappy that the manager did this, but don’t complain to people at her company on her behalf. It’s her work life, and when she’s less emotional about the whole thing she can approach her manager or some other appropriate person herself.

      Reply
    4. AvonLady Barksdale

      I’m really sorry this happened to her. Her boss is a jackass. However, you can’t complain to HR for her. Neither can she, really. The guy is a jerk, but I wouldn’t go to HR over it. I would advise her to start looking for another gig when she’s ready. The bottom line is that you can’t complain for her– if she wants to handle it, she has to do it herself.

      Reply
    5. Not the Droid You are Looking For

      That is absolutely horrible.

      Ultimately, you would be doing her a disservice by complaining on her behalf. The best thing you can do is be there for her, and if she wants to go to HR, support her.

      Reply
    6. Lee

      Wait…the manager came in mid-way through the funeral to ask about your fiancee about a work related matter?
      Was she on leave/bereavement from work ? Was she crying with family in the middle of a funeral, when her boss waltzed in and asked about a work-related matter completely interrupting the funeral and the grieving family? This just seems….unbelievable.

      To answer your question…NO you should not contact your fiancee’s work to complain about your fiancee’s boss. Your complaint is 100% biased, and you have no standing (presumably) with her company to do this. It will reflect poorly on your fiancee. Instead, your fiancee should be 1- asking the question about what to do to a career advice board like this, not you and 2- telling HR what happened and see if the company bereavement/leave policy allows for this, and if its acceptable in this work culture or not. Once your fiancee has those answers, she can make an informed decision about whether to continue working there.

      Reply
      1. Tommy C.

        Thank you for answering my question. I only posted and asked because she is so upset right now that she can’t even talk about it and I want to help her and not push her or make her upset. Thanks for explaining how it works and that I can’t go to HR or complain for her. I don’t work in an office and there is no HR at my job so I had no idea how it worked.

        She was off on bereavement leave on the day of the funeral. Her boss did come in the middle of it and he interrupted the Reverend and made everything stop and then he asked her. She was crying so much she couldn’t even answer and the Reverend got people to kick him out. After reading your answer I won’t complain for her because I don’t want to get her in trouble or make her look bad. Thanks for explaining how it works and what I should do.

        Reply
        1. The bread burglar

          I’m sorry for her loss.

          Her boss is an idiot and an insensitive jerk. That being said you can’t go to her HR department for her. She should definitely speak to HR and let them know what happened. Any HR department worth their money would investigate it and speak with the manager. I would imagine he would likely be forced to apologise for it. But it will tell her a lot about her company based on how they handle it. Though if its her direct boss she may want to think about whether or not this is someone she really wants to work for.

          You shouldn’t have to tell someone not to interrupt a funeral and this is very poor judgment on his part, shows a lack of boundaries or empathy.

          Reply
        2. Ultraviolet

          That’s terrible and I’m so sorry.

          If your fiancee wants to keep working at that place (or anticipates that it would take a long time to find a new job and can’t leave until she does), it’s probably best to get a few of those outraged coworkers together and all complain to HR or the boss’s boss about how infuriating and intrusive and insensitive this was and how that impacts their ability to work with boss or trust the company. (I don’t have the experience to know whether HR or someone above the boss is best for this–I’m inclined to guess it’s the boss’s supervisor though.) This might result in a (private) dressing-down for boss and an apology.

          On the other hand, if she wants to leave soon and is able to do so, I’d probably just avoid talking about it until she’s free. Then depending on her feelings for the company and her energy level, she could either a) tell the boss’s boss about what happened and how that contributed to her leaving and how it looked to all the funeral attendees, or b) bring it up on social media as suggested by Creag an tuire.

          Reply
          1. Creag an Tuire

            Just to be clear, I am NOT suggesting the fiancee scorch the company on social media, tempting as that may be — I was saying that one of the other funeral-goers might do so regardless. Jerkface McDipstick halted the funeral for EVERYONE there, and if the deceased were my friend or relative, I would need every ounce of my self-control not to go nuclear.

            (In fact, if OP wants to be useful in this situation, maybe he should take charge of contacting the other mourners and making sure they don’t go off on a rampage before fiancee can recover enough to decide what she wants to happen.)

            Reply
        3. anon for this

          I wonder if you could draft a letter FOR her and have her look it over to make changes and then let her send it if she wished. You could write out a basic bare bones account of what happened and she can take it and fill in more details. So I think you can help with the first step and then just be her support afterwards. Just get the ball half formed and she can do the rolling if she wishes.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            Yes, this. I did this with someone a while ago. We wrote a letter together. I encouraged them to think about exactly what they wanted to say. It took a while, but it went verrrry well. They calmed down and really thought about what they wanted out of the situation and what points they wanted to get across.

            Reply
      2. NK

        I think it makes sense that he’s asking on her behalf on a career advice board – she’s deep in grief and he’s trying to help. But, yes, unfortunately this is something she’s going to have to handle on her own from a work perspective. This is so unbelievably awful that unless the company takes swift, harsh action against the manager, I would be out of there as fast as I possibly could. Just terrible.

        Reply
        1. Creag an Tuire

          Y’know, I get that generally one cannot fight someone else’s workplace battles… but what about giving the employer a heads-up about a disastrous PR situation? I don’t know where OP’s fiancee works, but I feel like all it would take is one angry relative going to Twitter about “Some JACKASS from Dunder-Mifflin INTERRUPTED my daughter’s funeral to ask my niece about some damned file!” for shit to officially go viral.

          Reply
    7. S0phieChotek

      Nomination for bad boss of the year? Maybe not quite the worst but this is appalling. Coming in person? To interrupt the Reverend?

      Reply
      1. bluesboy

        A colleague of mine once took 3 days off for her Father’s funeral. I met her for a coffee on the second day and was with her when our boss called and said “sorry about your Father dying. Now let’s talk about important things: when will you be able to finish the project?”

        These people really are out there. Tommy, it’s sweet of you to try and help your fiancé, intelligent of you to check how given your lack of experience with HR, and mature of you to accept people telling you your idea wasn’t the right one.

        Just support her in whatever she chooses to do and she’ll appreciate it. Good luck with your marriage, and condolences for your loss.

        Reply
    8. SL #2

      I took some bereavement leave a bit ago and other than the texts where I let my boss know that I would have to take a couple days off and she expressed condolences, she did not contact me whatsoever until I came back to work. And when I came back, a coworker told me that there had been a couple things that came up but my boss held firm on “we’re not going to contact an employee on bereavement leave for anything short of the office being on fire.” And that’s how it should be. I’m sorry your fiancee’s boss is a disrespectful jerk and that there are even people like that who are out there. I’m also very sorry for your loss. But I agree with the other commenters; it’s not your place to go to HR for your fiancee. Whether she wants to do that is up to her, or maybe she’ll decide that this is not a boss she wants to work for again. But it must be her decision the entire way.

      Reply
    9. Diluted_TortoiseShell

      Honestly, as family members I would call HR about this. Don’t make it about your sister, make it about you. Complain that a manager from their company interrupted your family members funeral.

      I’d also leave really negative reviews about the company online, naming the company but not the specific manager.

      Reply
      1. Diluted_TortoiseShell

        You are not that powerless here. I think back to the LW who got fired after a person on a train saw that they posted mean things about an obese woman next to her and called corporate to complain. This was retail, so there was an easy to reach complaint department, but I think it would be worth looking into a similar route. This woman was fired for a rude text outside of work on a train … this boss should be fired. Period.

        Reply
          1. pony tailed wonder

            I would think if anyone has any video of this incident, a local news channel would love to air it. It would be a ratings grabber for sure. Your girlfriends name doesn’t have to come up. Also, the parents of the cousin would have a VERY GOOD standing to call the company up.

            Reply
      2. Aisling

        Absolutely. The family, collectively, should complain about a company representative STOPPING THE REVEREND AT A FUNERAL with a LIE “yes, it’s an emergency.” That is so far from what should have happened and that company now has a horrible reputation with everyone who attended, and the company should know.

        Reply
    10. Not So NewReader

      Tommy, my condolences to your fiancee and you.

      Things like what the boss did seem to exasperate grief. Death tends to remind us of how powerless we are and then the boss walks in at the worst time. More loss of power/autonomy on top of losing her cousin/sis.

      Please do not think that going to HR is going to stop her from crying. It might not. Do, however, encourage her to cry. Tell her that it makes you want to cry and it would make any thinking being want to cry. Let her know that crying helps to keep the brain healthy and in turn tears can make us stronger. Yes, she will stop crying at some point, until then just keep telling her that it is okay to cry. It’s normal for us to want to run in and fix things. But fixing the boss will not fix what is actually wrong here.

      The serious/main problem here is the loss of her cousin. She can deal with the idiot boss later. I suspect it has gone right around work and the situation might be dealt with by the time she gets back. We don’t know. Or maybe she will simply decide never to return to work. It’s her call.

      I am optimistic for her making a good decision on this since it sounds like she has excellent support: she seems to have a very impressive fiance and it sounds like she is surrounded by people who love her. Don’t underestimate the power of loving friends/family.

      For your own anger/upset, you might want to type out a letter to the boss yourself. DO NOT send it, of course. But letters can help us collect our thoughts and steer our excess energy that we have in these situations. If you hammer out your own letter, it may help you to help her. (Again, do not send this letter.)

      Reply
    11. V.V.

      Perhaps the Reverend could pipe up. I believe he has standing as it was his service that was interrupted by this Loon.

      If I were Loon’s boss I would be upset if no one mentioned Loon’s abhorrent behavior.

      And HR should find out, as it is their job to protect the company. It is in their interest to know Loon E. Boss is behaving this way representing the company in public and stirring up ill will.

      As a member of the congregation I would have already phoned the company to complain because this is not OKAY.

      Reply
    12. peanut butter kisses

      I have a feeling that someone from the service will say something. Please update us if anything is said or done by others. It is too over the top to just end there. I know if I had been there I would have commented on their twitter feed or facebook page.

      Reply
      1. Dot Warner

        Yes, please keep up updated on this! I’m so sorry for your and your fiancée’s loss, and I hope that justice is done.

        Reply
    13. Artemesia

      Husbands and boyfriends (or wives and girlfriends) absolutely may not meddle in their partner’s workplace. Unless the fiancee is unconscious in the hospital, she needs to handle her own career. Yes this boss is a jerk, but that doesn’t excuse undermining the fiance’s career/job.

      Reply
      1. V.V.

        Hey Artemesia,
        I am not really seeing how speaking up in this instance is undermining, but I guess I am also not seeing this as job interference, I am seeing that a member of this company has disrespected the deceased, the bereaved, and the religious services supposedly on the behalf of said company.

        Maybe not everyone feels this way, but if I were the boss’s boss, I would be ashamed and embarassed if someone under my charge was interrupting and getting thrown out of funerals for the supposed sake of work, and I would be doubly upset if I did not get an opportunity to apologize and rectify this situation because I was not notified of this egregious gaffe.

        I understand people feel iffy because it is woman’s fianceé writing in and wanting to act (and trust me I am not trying to incite Tommy C., or anyone else to do something rash) but considering boss was thrown out on his ear, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone hasn’t already beaten him to the punch.

        This boss had no standing, and no right, and someone is going to call them on it.

        Reply
    14. blackcat

      Given the interrupting the reverend level of inappropriateness, would it be possible to ask *the reverend* to write a letter to send to the workplace?

      That might send a VERY strong message to boss’s boss.

      Reply
    15. Observer

      For starters, the boss is an idiot and a boor, to say the least.

      You are not in any position to complain and doing so would only make her look bad. However, depending on the culture of her employer, I would absolutely encourage her to either go to HR or start looking for another job. This guy is seriously boundary challenged.

      Reply
    16. Fafaflunkie

      First: my condolences for your fiancé’s loss. Unfortunately, this is something only your fiancé can complain about, even if going over her boss’s head. You. I’m afraid, don’t work for her company.

      If Alison’s reading this now: is this a…no, the top candidate for worst boss of the year for 2016?

      Reply
  22. ladyguinevere

    One of the Teapot Makers at my job recently started dating the VP of Teapot Making. They’ve disclosed to HR, and the Teapot Maker now reports to HR instead of the VP. It’s basically an open secret at this point — they show up at the same time, leave around the same time, the VP has been coming to a lot more rank-and-file events, etc. Recently, a group of Teapot Makers (who are friends outside the office) went on vacation together, including the VP and the Teapot Maker they are dating. Is it just me, or does this seem out of line for the VP to go on vacation with people who are in his department? It seems like it would open up a lot of room for claims of unfair treatment to me.

    I admittedly think that this group of Teapot Makers has a lot of inappropriate professional boundaries, so it could be that I’m just at BEC stage with them, so wanted some other opinions.

    Reply
    1. Lucie

      I think it really depends on the industry/regional/company culture. In my former workplace (lobbying in EU country) because everyone in the industry was quite young, everyone would go to happy hour, dinners, weekends etc. together including some quite senior people. Actually, I am now in another country to finish college and my former coworkers/bosses (ranking from interns to senior managers) came to visit me and the country I live in last January, it was an absolute blast :) That said, VP-level sounds a little too much and might have made some colleagues uncomfortable (and unable to speak up about it)…

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The whole thing is messed up, including that she’s now “reporting to HR.” In what meaningful way can HR truly manage her or assess her work? That really sounds like BS, and your company is failing to manage this well.

      Reply
    3. Kira

      I’m just confused about the part where the teapot maker now reports to HR instead of the department VP. How does that work? Does HR now manage 1 person’s workload, performance reviews, work quality? I’m boggled.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        You are boggled because it is nonsense. It is a fig leaf and either the VP continues to manage her or she isn’t managed at all.

        Reply
  23. Anon for This

    I am planning to ask my boss if I can go part-time starting in late August. I’m optimistic she will approve it, but how far in advance should I bring it up? I was thinking June 1, but I wonder if that’s too early? If it’s not approved, I’ll resign. I have two big projects to complete by September 1 so I don’t think she will ask me leave early. Any and all suggestions welcome.

    Reply
    1. The bread burglar

      I don’t see any harm in bringing it up in June. Or even May. If you know your boss and trust her not to push you out early then there isn’t any reason to wait if you know the worst case scenario is a “no.”

      I would approach her early June, so you can get the idea on her radar. You’ll want to be sitting to discuss it in a private area of your work. But you could just say “Hey Jane, I would like to talk to you about changing my hours. I would like to go to part-time starting in late August because of xyz” You don’t have to give her any reasons but she will likely want to know, especially if you have been full time for a while. “I know thats a way off but I wanted to get your opinion on it now and find out what might need to be done, do you think this would be a possibility?” You’ll probably also want to address the two big projects and could even add in any suggetions you have for how to decrease the impact this might have on your role. That way it shows that you are asking for flexibility for whatever reason but that you are still committed to doing well as part-time and you have given serious thought to how this will affect things.

      Not to mention while it feels too early. I don’t know your company but many larger organisations would require approval from above the manager, looping HR in on the change, deciding if they need a second part-timer to share your role (and if so time to find and train them), etc. So it could be a likely process and time would help improve the chances of a yes. Plus if she does come back to say she understand the importance of your request but that it isn’t feasible due to business reasons, you have more time to better plan your exit/get something new lined up.

      Reply
  24. Collie

    A previous supervisor and current reference of mine is leaving his job at the end of July. This is information I’m not supposed to have (I heard it through the grapevine) but it looks like his job has been posted. All the official contact info I have for him is his work contact. Should I assume he’ll let me know when he leaves so I can update my reference contact info for him or should I reach out?

    Reply
    1. ThursdaysGeek

      You’ve got until the end of July. Give it some more time for it to be more officially known, and if you haven’t heard anything by mid-July, give him a call to get updated contact information.

      Another option would be to reach out earlier to get LinkedIn and personal contact information, just because. The potential job change wouldn’t come into the conversation at all.

      Reply
  25. Just Curious (Anon for This)

    I’m curious about what processes your organizations use (or what you think organizations should use) when managing a hiring process with several internal candidates.

    An organization I used to work for is replacing a key vice president. I’ve heard through the grapevine that three of his direct reports (all of whom have the same job, just managing different regions of the country) and one former direct report who moved to a different team a couple of years ago have applied to replace him. The role has also been posted externally, and as it is a high profile gig that pays very well for the industry I imagine they will get a good pool of additional candidates.

    A friend who still works there told me that she helped edit one of the internal candidate’s cover letter and resume. That made me think about what an ideal process would look like for a role that attracts internal candidates. It seems strange to ask for cover letters and resumes when the hiring manager (and other relevant decision-makers: the outgoing vice president, the ED’s chief of staff, etc.) all know the work of the internal candidates very well. What will a cover letter tell them that the past six years of working together didn’t?

    (As an aside, I know the work of all these folks very well also, and at least one of them would be a very strong candidate. I’d be interested in hearing from the others about their vision for the role and what they would bring to it. But I’d want to do that in a conversation; a cover letter wouldn’t cut it. I’d also want to look externally.)

    What do you think? How would you handle this?

    Reply
    1. VintageCampus

      No specific on your end, but one thing I would be very careful of is being sure to tell the internal candidate your time frame for letting the other internal candidates know they did not get the job once they accept the offer.

      I was in the really unfortunate situation of being offered an internal promotion, having no clue that there were other internal candidates, and then when sharing my news with friendly colleagues finding out that internal candidates had heard through the grapevine about my promotion a.k.a. not getting the job. It did not make it easy for me to establish rapport with those individuals when I started – so be sure to handle the whole process respectfully for the internal hires!

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      I would debate the fact that they know the candidates very well. I had one employer that was looking for someone who did X. I knew my coworker did X. Well, the boss never asked and my stubborn coworker never volunteered. It was on his resume that he gave them eight years ago, so they should read his resume and then they would know. (yeah. okay.)
      So our employer hired someone trained to do X. My coworker laughed, sneered and mocked our employer for not knowing that he did X. (Some of my work days were unnecessarily long.)

      I have seen this happen so many times. People work together for years and still do not know many thing about each other. I feel it’s up to the applicant to deduce what might be new info and relevant for the open position.

      Reply
  26. TLV

    I got fired a couple of weeks ago and I’m having trouble coming up with the best way to describe it in interviews. Other people in the office were told my position was eliminated which is the story I’ve been sticking to, but I just found out that I am being replaced in a couple of months. I’m trying to keep it where interviewers won’t push too much to find out more information, but I wonder if that means I should get out ahead of it.

    This isn’t a case where I can say I was fired and then learned something from the experience other than “I will never work for someone with a substance abuse problem who stays up for two days straight going through my email looking for the slightest offense to build a case and coming up with a weak one at best.” Technically I was let go on insubordination, but this was due to bizarro accusations like I should take the time to bother the owner of the company with a minor French translation than asking someone who has slightly less experience with translations. Or I shouldn’t point a marketing person to a marketing document she couldn’t find without running it by her first.

    In addition to that, I do not have my ex-boss as a reference which I think will also raise questions since I was there for almost 6 years. I do have other high ranking people in the company though so is that likely sufficient?

    (Aside – thanks to Alison’s book, I have had a greater than 50% hit rate for interviews to applications. The system works!)

    Reply
    1. ThatGirl

      I am not a lawyer, but I have a friend who is an employment lawyer. I was fired about 9 years ago, thrown under the proverbial bus, it’s a long story. I was trying to work out how to present it in interviews, and my friend basically told me I could say anything I wanted to, as long as it wasn’t a lie.

      In short, it’s up to you how to paint it, but don’t lie.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        Yeah, don’t say the position was eliminated if you were fired because they will find out with one reference check call.

        Reply
        1. TLV

          It was initially eliminated though. It was fairly common to have people “restructured” out of jobs there. I will try to deal with it head-on though I feel when I tell the story it makes me look like someone who is incapable of the introspection needed to be self-critical (which… maybe that’s true).

          Reply
    2. ThursdaysGeek

      You were there for almost 6 years — did this boss suddenly change, or has she always been like that? Was she your boss the entire time?

      I’d use the other people in the company, especially if you had good standing in general. And don’t lie.

      Reply
      1. TLV

        No, she’s always been a handful and she’s the owner of the company. Generally how it worked was as long as you weren’t the target, your job was fine. But I’ve seen lots of other people become the focus of her wrath and get the boot after a similar inbox ransacking looking for the least offense. I actually rage quit around this time and ended up being lured back when I couldn’t find a job (which… was a mistake).

        Reply
    3. VintageCampus

      I would have a friend call this boss pretending to be a hiring manager and see what the boss’ reference is like. If she confirms it was a layoff, and doesn’t say anything bad, you may not have any problems to deal with here.

      Reply
    4. Lindsay J

      No advice, but sympathy. I got fired 3 years ago and I’m still at a loss as to how to explain it clearly.

      I had all good reviews, never had a write up or anything. Then one night they called me up and threw the book at me basically; they checked off a ton of things on the termination form, and while they were not exactly false they were a stretch at best. Insubordination because “told not to fuck up and did it anyway.” (Fucking up in this case being printing a report for the wrong date (it was after midnight and I had worked 17 hours that day and I got confused whether today referred to the calendar day or the operating day). Failure to report an incident for not telling my boss I had printed the wrong report (when I didn’t know I printed the wrong thing until they told me that afternoon). It was all completely ridiculous.

      I am pretty sure the “real” reason I was fired was because they needed a scapegoat. I’m pretty sure my bosses boss told my boss that he either had to do something to fix the department, or he would be fired. Firing me was a visible thing he could do to make it seem like he was doing *something*. I wasn’t the cause of any of the issues in the department, but I was the highest paid. But I can’t exactly say that to interviewers.

      So I just generally go with vague things like, “It just wasn’t a good fit” and hope that they don’t pry further.

      Reply
  27. The bread burglar

    I have job interview on monday. I’m almost 30 and have 10+ years of professional work under my belt so you would think I would be calmer than I am. I don’t usually get this nervous!

    I just know they are going to ask that question I hate being asked the most “So tell me about yourself” type question. Any tips for how to answer this? I hate the idea of going into stuff like “well i’m very detail oriented etc.” Because I feel like that send the message that I’m not all business and not very personable. I know you shouldn’t tell them everything or things not particularly related to the role.

    I usually answer with things like “Well I’m from Canada” because I live in the UK now, “I’ve been here for 6 years and really love it. ” Then I don’t know. It usually ends up being I studied X at Uni, I have Y hobbies. But it just never feels like the right thing.

    What types of things do you talk about?

    Reply
    1. Sunflower

      You definitely want to keep it work focused and around 30ish seconds. I like to tell my story in basically ‘I graduated from college in X year’ and then give a sentence or two about the 2 jobs I’ve had since then. Sometimes my last sentence will explain why I’m interviewing like ‘I’ve been at Teapots Inc for 4 years and am looking for a new challenge’ You could probably do the same and throw in there at some point how you got from Canada to the UK.

      I wouldn’t mention hobbies unless they specifically ask you what you like to do in your free time/outside of work.

      Reply
      1. taylor swift

        the best way I’ve heard to answer this question is present, past, future
        So I’m currently at x place doing x things; before that I was at y place doing y things; and I’m looking for an opportunity to do z things, which is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to apply for this job.

        Reply
    2. Wendy Darling

      My professional overview is weird because my degree is not directly related to my field and I got into my area sort of sideways, so I usually cover that progression and my motivations for moving increasingly away from my field of study. As a bonus it heads off some (but not all) of the “But you have a degree in Flatware Studies, why on earth do you want to work in Teapot Analysis?” questions.

      Reply
      1. The bread burglar

        ooh thats helpful to.

        My degree is in communication so while I should really be working in a very different area to my role, its pretty easy to make it sounds useful to most employers.

        Thanks for the input. So it doesn’t feel weird for you all to just start into talking about work stuff. This is usually the first question I get asked in an interview as an ice breaker, and I’m always scared that taking just about my work stuff will send a message of being unfriendly.

        Reply
          1. The bread burglar

            True but I guess I just assumed (wrongly and I know what that makes me) that they will be asking questions about my qualifications, and that this is more a tell me a bit about yourself partly to see what I answer with, but also to see more personality wise.

            Thanks for the advice. I’ll be more confident with discussing my professional qualifications in answer to this from now on.

            Reply
          2. Not So NewReader

            Yep. It’s a job interview. Maybe your discomfort is not relating your background itself but rather the way you deliver the story. How’s your delivery? Do you describe your progression in a way that is comfortable to YOU? Does it sound like you talking?

            If you were to tell the story to a long lost childhood friend or to the new wife of your favorite uncle Bob how would it differ from what you are saying to the interviewer? While in these instances you might be too casual for a formal interview, you can still move your formal interview statement more toward a comfortable conversation as opposed to a dry recitation of your life history.

            Reply
        1. CheeryO

          Not at all. If they want to get to know you a little better, they’ll ask about your hobbies later, but that’s typically more of an end-of-the-interview thing.

          Reply
      2. Snazzy Hat

        Yep, yesterday I had to explain to a recruiter that my degree is for future teachers and professors but I’m fine with teaching in an assisting and informing way, I don’t plan to go back to school, and I really really love data entry and helping coworkers. I also recently sent out a CL that basically said “don’t let my degree in X fool you; I love Z and would have no trouble learning duties which involve a lot of Z.”

        Reply
    3. Lucie

      Ok, I’ve been interviewing hardcore lately (about to graduate and no job lined up, gulp) and I have a short ‘elevator pitch’ about myself ready to deliver when I get asked this question. I tweak it depending on the industry I’m interviewing in.
      Usually I say something like:
      – Current occupation (for me, student) and that it sparked my interest in the Teapot industry, and international background (speak X languages, am from X country) in 1 sentence
      – Most relevant things I did before (internships, previous work directly tied to application) in 2 sentences
      – Add something less serious but that still looks good to make you seem more ‘human’ and likeable at the end e.g. and in my free time I volunteer at X charity why I very much enjoy (1 sentence)
      All in all it should probably last about 30 seconds I think.
      You can do it, good luck!!

      Reply
    4. Rachel

      The best interview advice I’ve ever gotten was to keep most of the answer to this question work-focused, but end with some sort of unique accomplishment or fact about yourself – something to make you memorable. The one I used was “I’m the 2008 Illinois Jaycee Jeopardy champion and I came in second in the national competition.” (Jaycee Jeopardy is a competition run by the US Jaycees, kind of like the show except all the questions are about the history of the organization.)

      Reply
    5. Jen RO

      I usually take this to be a question about my professional background rather than hobbies etc. My usual spiel is that I’ve always loved editing, to the point of asking people to let me edit their websites for free, and an editor friend of mine got me my first job in a publishing house. Due to the lack of job security in copy editing, I decided to apply for a technical writing job (at the recommendation of a friend, as at that time technical writing was virtually non-existent here). After a few months… I realized that it is something I love and that I am good at, so I want to keep doing for the rest of my career!

      Then I usually add a few words about why I am interested in their particular company… and that’s about it.

      Reply
  28. Amy M in HR

    I went through the AAM archives last weekend and, using Alison’s advice, updated my resume (goodbye objectives and generic one word characteristics!) and wrote an amazing cover letter for a position at a company I would love to work for. I feel so good about the updates, and was complimented on my cover letter by a contact I have with the company (who has many years of HR experience) who said he thought it was awesome and even better than his own!
    I was told by my contact that the HR Manager contacted him and let him know I would definitely be considered for an interview, but I’m not going to worry too much about being asked for an interview or even being offered the position (it would mean relocating to the other side of the country without my husband until he retires from the military next year) but I feel good just applying. Without AAM’s advice I would not have revamped my resume, nor written a cover letter nearly as good, so thank you for that!
    I will keep you all updated….

    Reply
    1. Van Wilder

      Congrats! Good for you. I still struggle with cover letters, even after a couple years of reading AAM’s wise words.

      Reply
  29. Mythea

    I am coming up on 4 years with my current job and was told a few months ago that they were giving me a new project, moving me away from my boss to a new one, to “prove myself”. Since then, every time I ask for input on the project or for direction – I am reminded that “this is a test” and I need to “show what I can do”. Am I bizarre for being offended and ticked off?

    Reply
    1. Laura

      That’s… a little weird. On one hand, it could be totally innocuous, but on the other, they might be trying to push you out. Are any people leaving your company? Do you have any reason to believe that your job might be in jeopardy?

      Reply
    2. Biff

      No… that’s kinda weird. You might see if you can talk to new boss and ask what sorts of things he feels will make the ‘test’ a success’ and what sort of things he’d like you to demonstrate. If he can’t give you a straight answer, then that’s telling, IMO. You can’t achieve success if there are no standards for it. Career objectives aren’t wedding dresses or puppies — you won’t ‘know it when you see it.’

      Reply
    3. Persephone Mulberry

      That’s very weird. I can see them asking you to take the lead/work very independently on a project under your regular boss, whose expectations you probably already know. But saying, “here you go, wow us!” when you have no idea what New Boss’s idea of “wow” is…? Yuck.

      Reply
    4. LizB

      That’s pretty weird. The only thing I can think of that might be making them do this is if you’re asking for input or direction about every single little decision, including ones you should be making on your own, and they’re trying to get you to use your judgment and make those calls by yourself. If that were the case, though, it would be so much easier for them to say, “You don’t need to ask for direction about calls like X and Y — please make those decisions yourself. Only come to me when a decision involves Z or A,” instead of making it a weird vague test.

      If that’s not the case, and you’re only asking for input on decisions where you really do need your boss’s approval, then they’re just being really weird. Could you sit down with your boss and point out that if you were doing this work “for real” instead of “as a test,” you’d still need her approval on decisions about Z and A, so that’s why you’re asking for input in those instances?

      Reply
    5. Rusty Shackelford

      Is it the kind of project that would normally require you to make a lot of decisions, and you’re asking the boss to make them for you? If so, stop that. ;-) If not, then you’re right, it’s weird, and it’s almost like they’re setting you up to fail.

      Reply
    6. Student

      This might be an extremely counter-productive way of telling you that you need to be more independent.

      I strongly suggest calling a meeting and just asking about it very directly.

      “Is this your way of telling me to be more independent and make my own calls? If that’s the case, are you going to back me up when I make my own calls? Will you still back me up when I eventually make a mistake or do something very different than you would? Finally, why didn’t you just come to me and say that rather than couch this in terms of a “test”? I’m an adult, thanks, and I can take some direct feedback more easily than I can play guessing games with you. I’ve been confused about what’s going on for X months and it would’ve been easier for everyone to just get on the same page much earlier.”

      Reply
    7. Not So NewReader

      It sounds to me like there are things going on that you are not privy to and it could be good things. But they are doing it in the most awkward way they could think of.

      I am having difficulty collecting thoughts here because I don’t understand who is telling you this is a test. Your old boss or your new boss? Your cohorts?
      Have you expressed interest in a new position or new tasks recently or did this come out of the blue?
      Have they informed you of your range of new authority?

      Do you want the new boss/new work? Do you even know who the new boss will be and what the new work is?

      Reply
  30. Megs

    I had my first interview in ages yesterday and my first using Alison’s interview guide. I won’t know how it went for a couple of weeks, but I will say that I asked two of the questions from the guide and both got fantastic answers. I want to particularly push the “Do you have any reservations about my fit for the job” question. I was really nervous about asking it, but in hindsight, it was one of the best questions I’ve ever asked in an interview in terms of setting my mind at ease. As soon as they started talking, I started nodding – I knew exactly where my weak spot was – and being able to give an answer as to how I’d address it felt like a great opportunity. I tend to be very hard on myself when I don’t get a job I’ve interviewed for, but I feel an unusual sense of peace about this one. I know I’m a good candidate, I know I’ve got an area where they’d like more experience, and if I don’t get it, I feel like I can understand that rather than blaming some amorphous internal failing of mine.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      This is my favorite question, too! It either gives me a chance to acknowledge and address the weakness, or the chance to reassess and reframe my candidacy for the next opportunity. It’s great in-the-moment feedback, and I’ve always gotten wonderful responses when I’ve asked it.

      Reply
      1. Megs

        I was worried about asking it because I was afraid to draw attention to my shortcomings, but that really doesn’t make sense when I think about it. They already are thinking about my shortcomings, and all the question does is (1) let me know what they’re thinking, and (2) respond to it, both of which are really helpful.

        Reply
    2. Rena

      I’m in exactly the same position! I interviewed for an internship yesterday, and I haven’t interviewed in 4 years. I devoured the ebook and a ton of AAM interview posts ahead of time and it helped me feel really prepared, especially with good questions to ask.

      I had nerves, but they went away as soon as we started talking. The interview was with 6 people at the same time, but we ended up bantering like friends by the end. If I don’t get the position it will be because someone else was a better fit and not because I screwed anything up, which feels really great. I’m a little blown away by how delightful the interview experience was.

      Reply
      1. Megs

        Ug, group interviews.* I’m in an industry (law) where it’s very common to be interviewed by multiple people at once, and it’s so hard to get to that easy rapport level when you’re dealing with a bunch of people at once. Good for you managing it with six!

        *Multiple interviewers, not multiple interviewees. Ug to both, but super WTF ug to the latter.

        Reply
        1. Rena

          Oh, I can definitely see how that would be unclear. It was a panel interview, I was the only interviewee. I actually found it a little bit easier than a one-on-one interview because the interviewers had good rapport with each other and I was just able to slip in and feel like a natural part of the team. Hopefully that works to my advantage!

          I’ve done group interviews before where multiple people being interviewed and those are super the worst. They’ve only been for slightly sketchy jobs though (100% commission insurance sales, temp firm), I’d be curious to know if they’re a legitimate strategy that some industries use.

          Reply
          1. Lucie

            I’ve been in a ton of group interviews recently actually, I think they’re quite common in my country (Ireland) for in-demand internships and graduate positions. This was law, banking, etc. Usually the group interview would be structured like a discussion, or an exercise (e.g. we have to negotiate together and then do a short presentation). I find it useless as people are much more type A than they’d be in an actual group work. Also, at my banking interview yesterday, I was the only female candidate with 10 bulky dudes and it was really hard to assert myself in the group discussion without looking like a bitch…I think it was very clear on my face that I was pissed at being passed over/ interrupted because I have no poker face, haha. Urgh, gender dynamics :/

            Reply
            1. Megs

              Wow, I’m getting incredibly frustrated on your behalf just thinking about it! Thankfully, group interviews are really uncommon in the US outside of the “slightly sketchy” jobs as Rena put it (at least in my experience). I suspect I’d have a similar experience to you – I’ve got a terrible poker face.

              Reply
      2. SJ

        Just wanted to add: same! I had a day of interviews last week — I met 15 people over the course of 9 interviews, so some were with just one person and some were group interviews. Thanks to AAM’s interview posts and the ebook, I think I did really well (other than one interview where the 3 men clearly hadn’t read my resume or prepared questions and just sat there in awkward silence while I prompted them with questions of my own about the position). if I don’t get the job it’ll be because someone else is a better fit and has more experience, not because I did poorly. It really is a good feeling, even though I really want the job. :)

        Reply
  31. Anonymous Educator

    Anyone else have fake dread of work?

    I have a job that’s great. But when I get home, I hang out with the spouse and cats, and it’s fun and all… until around 10pm or 11pm. Then I start thinking to myself, “Oh, shoot. I have to go to work tomorrow.” Then I wake up early in the morning, lie in bed, and think to myself, “I really don’t want to go to work. I wish I could just stay in bed.” But I get up and go to work. Here’s the strange part—once I get to work… it’s fine. I love it. And, before I know it, the day is over, and I’m thinking, “Oh, the day is over already?”

    Is that weird?

    Reply
    1. Muriel Heslop

      I have this, too! I think I start dreading all of the global bureaucratic eduction stuff, but once I get to school and am with my kids and colleagues, it’s fine.

      Reply
      1. Rob Lowe can't read

        Yup. Bureaucracy and a 7 AM start time make me consistently grumbly in the mornings. Many of the children put me in a better mood. (Some…don’t.)

        Reply
    2. StudentPilot

      Oooooh, now I don’t feel so much like a weirdo, because I’m the same way! I actually do like my job, but yeah….mornings are torture, I just think “Man, I do not want to get up and go to work.”

      Reply
    3. The bread burglar

      I have this for the gym. :)

      It sounds like its not actually about going into work but it could actually just be a desire to stay home. Especially if you are having a nice evening with your spouse and cats, the desire to spend more time with them might be making you want to not go to work… Do you think that might be it or am I way off?

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        Yeah, you’re probably totally right! I definitely enjoy the time with spouse and cats and wish I had more of it.

        Reply
    4. Laura

      Totally normal! My coworkers and I have been feeling that way this week. It’s a stressful time of year for our jobs, and we’re all just ready for a vacation– or a slow-down!

      Reply
    5. Persephone Mulberry

      When’s the last time you took a vacation – or preferably a staycation? Just to have an extended period – like a week, not just a long weekend – away from the office, with no out of the ordinary obligations, can be hugely refreshing.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        I had a vacation just a couple of weeks ago, so it’s not that. But, yes, it was hugely refreshing!

        Reply
    6. SL #2

      I have that same feeling sometimes too. Around 11 pm, I’m like shoot, gotta go to bed… ugh, I don’t wanna. And then in the morning, I’m all UGH, TRAFFIC, I HATE MORNINGS BLAH BLAH BLAH and then I come and everything’s fine.

      Mostly, though, I work at a company where our slow periods are sloooooow and then our crazy months are absolutely crazy and I’m traveling every single week in a month, so I can trace my “fake dread of work” to the slow periods where I do things like hang out in the AAM comment sections.

      Reply
    7. Rebecca in Dallas

      Oh, I totally get this! I like my job, but it’s the whole “put on real clothes and makeup and face the world” thing that I hate, lol. I would be this way at any job I had, I think.

      I want to stay up all night watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model, then lounge in my jammies drinking coffee in the morning and hang out with my spouse and our menagerie of animals! Why can I not get paid for that?

      Reply
    8. the cake is a pie

      Here too! I hate how it takes over Sunday nights when I should be relaxing and enjoying the end of the weekend. I think it might have to do with how sometimes we fixate on the negative. Like if you get fifty compliments and one complaint, you’re going to only remember the complaint. So when we’re not actively at work, all the bad stuff floats to the top.

      It helps me to just be aware of this thinking and try to stop myself when it comes up. I think to myself, “I’m here, right now.” Doesn’t always work, but that’s ok.

      Reply
    9. TheLazyB

      Is it a dislike of the transition from one to the other??
      I find it really hard to leave work because I always want to get a bit more done… even if this makes me late to pick up my Small Child from school. But I always find it hard to go to work too, even though I mostly love it. It’s the transition that I struggle with really and it manifests itself as dread of work and dread of the journey home.

      Reply
    10. hermit crab

      You’re SO not the only one! I had such bad Sunday-night-job-dread that I actually went out and found a volunteer job with a shift on Sunday evenings so I wouldn’t spend the whole night at home feeling depressed.

      Reply
    11. Not So NewReader

      I don’t think it’s weird. When I get it, it’s usually when I feel less rested. For example, I know that I have to be in bed by 10 on a work night or the next day will be looong. I can kind of cheat on Monday and Tuesday. But not so much by mid-week.

      Reply
    12. paramilitarykeet

      Yes, I have it too. I do realize that it is toxic job PTSD—like my body is used to having work-dread start on Saturday night even though I am no longer in toxic job–and I feel some liberation in just going in anyway and finding that things aren’t so bad, despite the dread. Sometimes 90% of life…success?….is just showing up.

      Reply
    13. friendlyinitials

      I have this feeling too! Though mine is more due to dreading the 1 hour commute each way. I use public transportation in a really big city (15M+) and by the end of the week I feel like my fellow commuters are a horde that’s going to trample me under their feet. But when I arrive at the office and make myself a cup of tea I feel better and ready to tackle my projects.

      Reply
  32. shep

    I work in state government, but also have a decent following on YouTube (several thousand people), which is a hobby. I’m known via an alias on my channel, so no one knows my real name. This channel is an ASMR/relaxation channel. I know lots of people love ASMR, but I know people who are unfamiliar with it think it’s weird AF, and/or something sexual.

    I also have a novel coming out at the end of the year, and it seems a shame to waste the reader potential my YouTube followers could offer if I don’t promote there.

    But my main concern (aside from stalkers if I were to reveal my actual name) is that somehow revealing this might jeopardize my public sector position. I’m in no way doing anything inappropriate on my channel, but it *is* a weird/niche community (albeit very nice and supportive!), but I could see it being construed as a conflict of interest with my job.

    I would pre-empt this situation by going to my supervisor about it, just to make sure it would be okay, but in that same vein, I’m worried that *she* would think it was super-weird, and despite the fact that she’s a great supervisor, I worry that it might color her perspective of me, even subconsciously.

    So…I don’t know. Like I said, it seems a waste not to announce my book release to an active follower audience of several thousand people, but at the end of the day, I’m not sure it would be worth it.

    Thoughts??

    Reply
    1. shep

      *color her PERCEPTION of me

      I have not had enough coffee this morning, clearly.

      And to that same end, if she says she DOESN’T think it would be a good idea, not only would I not be able to use my YouTube resources to promote my novel, but I’d feel like I’d dinged my work reputation to no avail.

      Reply
    2. Snow

      Couldn’t you publish with a pen name that would allow you do promote it on youtube without it being linked to your real job. (I say this as someone who would probably use a pen name regardless if I ever published anything just because I’d get to pick it :)

      Reply
      1. shep

        The book is well into production now, and I’ve spent several years establishing myself online and through my alumni network under my real name, so unfortunately that’s not an option. :/

        Reply
        1. Sualah

          Is there any way you can use a pen name for the book but make it obvious in your real life stuff that it’s you? Sort of like how everyone knows Robert Galbraith is JK Rowling and JD Robb is Nora Roberts, but it’s not a direct link. Then both your real life and AMSR people search for the pen name. There’d still be risk of crossover, but it’s not as easy.

          Reply
          1. shep

            This is a great idea. I wish I could, but the book and the listing is too far into production/marketing to change.

            Reply
    3. S0phieChotek

      Could you not mention it on your YouTube persona the way online influencers mention things they like? People pay online influencers to do this sort of thing.

      Of course, if you never mention products/books/clothes/movies you liked on your YouTube channel then that might be odd….

      But if you did, you might need to carefully craft it to ensure it “seemed” like your YouTube persona had read book, loved it, and wanted to tell others (and not reveal that you are also the author).

      Reply
      1. shep

        This would be a great idea if I had no author photo! I guess I *could* get away with not having one, but my publisher strongly encourages an author photo.

        Reply
      2. I'm a Little Teapot

        I… wouldn’t advise this. I heard of a case where a well-known blogger promoted books she had written under a pseudonym without revealing that she was the author, and a lot of people were furious at her. It seriously damaged her reputation as a blogger and erupted into a huge drama shitstorm. Some people even got angry at other bloggers who were friends of hers (which is dumb, but these things often get out of control and harm third parties).

        I’m an author, under a pseudonym, and my authorial pseud isn’t linked to any of my other online activity or to my day jobs or real name – and I don’t recommend my writing anywhere I’m not writing under my fiction pen name. Maybe it loses me sales, but it saves me a lot of potential public humiliation and other trouble.

        Reply
        1. Ellen Ripley

          Yeah, don’t do this. Acting like you’re two different people and one of them just happens to recommend the other one’s work is sketchy as heck, and if people find out they will be really upset and feel that you took advantage of your relationship with your fans.

          I think the best solution is to use a pseudonym, either the same one that you use for the videos or a different one that is also not your real name. If you can’t do that, and the book is under your real name which you want to keep separate from your video-identity for career reasons, you’re kind of stuck.

          Reply
    4. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)

      Well, I just had to look up ASMR to figure out what this is and I honestly don’t see what the issue is. Run it past whoever is in charge of making sure you are in compliance or not having unlawful side work, don’t call it a “brain orgasm” and you’re good. I think it makes you interesting and a little quirky, but speaking as someone who has a young family member really reliant on that sort of relaxation/meditation techniques I’d find this a pretty cool gift.

      Reply
      1. shep

        I hope that’s how my supervisor would see it!

        I tend to base my decisions [rightly or wrongly] off of the worst-case scenario, though. :(

        Reply
      2. the cake is a pie

        Agreed. It seems more like meditation than anything else. If it helps, I’m seeing increasing coverage of ASMR and so I think those who are aware of it at all are likely to know it’s just part of the meditation/relaxation/mindfulness world.

        Having worked in publishing, I’m leaning toward grabbing any chance you can to trumpet your book. It’s hard to get a toehold anywhere so if you have an already established following, a small note in your YouTube description could really go far.

        Reply
    5. LisaLee

      I would think this would probably be okay. It’s pretty normal for people to have YouTube channels as hobbies and if you sold it right (“I make relaxation videos!” vs. “I make ASMR videos which means blah blah blah”).

      On the other hand, I don’t think it will make much difference to your sale numbers if you don’t announce it on your Youtube channel. Realistically speaking, only a fraction of the people from your channel will buy your book. So a nice bump, but not one you couldn’t live without if you decide its too much risk.

      Reply
      1. shep

        I think you’re right on both counts. I’d definitely pitch it as “relaxation videos,” and I’m sure my sales numbers wouldn’t boom from YouTube followers buying, so it wouldn’t be a huge loss if I ended up not pitching it to my employer at all.

        Reply
        1. AnonAcademic

          I was going to say, just call them relaxation videos and think of it/present it like a form of meditation or something. I really don’t think it’s that weird or controversial.

          Reply
  33. Doriana Gray

    Let me start off by saying I like my new job – a lot. It’s not nearly as frustrating for me as my previous position, and now that I have my own desk, I feel like I’m settling into the role a bit and am earning the raise I was given.

    We hired six new people from one of our competitors recently and they all started last week. Since then, it’s been an Us v. Them situation in this office, which is really starting to make me uncomfortable. Our division was small (we’re one of the few divisions in the company whose org chart was only two pages) and everyone knew each other for years (including me – I worked in another division, but I did two training rotations through this division two years ago, so I already had friends here before I came). Now the new people are here, and our division’s Sr. VP is kind of going a little overboard with the welcome according to some folks in the old guard. For example, VP took the new people up to the special floor in our building that no one but our parent company’s CEO and CFO usually have access to and had lunch with them there complete with fancy chef. Well, some of the older employees were griping about this because they’ve never been. Sr. VP was taking them to dinners and taking them to lunches, and apparently this was rubbing people the wrong way (even though I’ve seen him take other people to lunches before so I’m not sure what their issue is).

    Anyway, no one’s treating the new people poorly, but there’s a lot of gossip and unfortunately, one of my friends has gotten involved in this. She’s concerned that with the arrival of the new people, her advancement opportunities will be limited. Part of her concern (though she won’t say it, but I’ve known her long enough to know what the deal is) is that for nearly three years, she’s been the golden child up here. They’ve bent over backwards to give her every opportunity imaginable, she wants to move into management soon, and the reality is, that might not happen with the new people in the mix. Most of them have way more experience than we do in the industry we work in, and upper management’s going to have to recognize that.

    Now, I don’t care one way or the other as long as I continue to get interesting work, training opportunities, and decent raises every year. I’d like to take up training as a part of my permanent role (I really enjoy showing people how to do stuff and it’s pretty cool that they’ve had me on the training team since about three weeks into my tenure with them), but my concern is this – I’m new. We just reorged a couple of weeks ago to make room for the new people, so I’m now reporting to a new supervisor. I talked to my previous manager about this, and he seemed very interested in helping to get me those opportunities. But I don’t know my supervisor that well. She’s nice and all, but I don’t know how to have this conversation with her. I think bringing it up now with all of the changes happening might be too soon and maybe a little tone deaf? She has five direct reports now when she previously only had three, so she’s a little overwhelmed right now. But then if I wait too long to say anything, my concern is that my supervisor will begin to overlook me for these opportunities.

    So I guess I need a good script for what to say and how to say it (and advice on when to say it). I’d ask my former mentor from my training program, but she’s out of the office and super busy, and I hate bothering her with this stuff because she’s no longer my manager so my career is no longer really her concern.

    Reply
    1. Doriana Gray

      And I guess I was going somewhere with the stuff about the division in my division, and lost track of my thoughts (it’s been a rambly day). Maybe subconsciously I’m concerned about it too because everything was so nice prior to this expansion – I really don’t want this environment to turn gossipy and backstabby. This is supposed to be my Zen place!

      Reply
    2. Van Wilder

      I hear you. I came into my current department from the outside but it’s a relatively new group and you can sort of tell who used to work for which competitor based on the culture clashes. It’s not too bad generally but it flares up now and then. It’s hard for both sides but it sounds like the new employees are getting the good side of the deal. That said, soon enough their novelty will wear off and they’ll be judged on their recent accomplishments like everyone else (hopefully).
      As to your question, I think it’s not a bad idea to let the dust settle before talking career goals with your manager. But not too long – maybe a week or two? It’s a good idea to let her know your ambitions so she keeps you in mind for opportunities as they come up.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        Yeah, two weeks seems more appropriate. And next week, I’m back in the training position (we have a new guy coming in to be an assistant, so I’m showing him how to do the initial setup of our files), so maybe even expressing my enjoyment for that kind of thing then wouldn’t be too bad.

        As to your second sentence, it’s probably less weird when a group is just getting off the ground to have new hires coming in. I’m glad to hear you guys don’t have too many problems though. That’s awkward for everybody.

        Reply
    3. The bread burglar

      I’m sorry but I’ve gotten a bit lost of timelines here.

      How long have you been in the new job? It sounds like this is a new position within a company you were already working for? And how long has the manager been in this role? I think the time you have both been there will play a major factor in when to bring it up.

      But I would recommend asking ahead of time to schedule some time, you could say something like “Hey Jane, I know you are really busy with a new team and all but I wanted to know if you could set aside some time to meet with me? I just wanted to have a quick 1-to-1 to discuss how things are going forward with you as the new manager, make sure I have the right priorities, etc. to be sure we are on the same page.” Or something like that. She’ll probably need to schedule it in advance especially if she is super busy.

      In the meeting just tell her that you spoke with Sarah in the past about priorities for this role as well as that you really enjoy training and that you if there are any opportunities that come up where you culd get involved moe in it you would appreciate her keeping you in mind. You might mention that you aren’t sure if she knows but you have been a member of the training team since x time. And potentially if you are comfortable even offer to help with the new employees if there are internal systems that are different for them.

      If you only approach her about the roles you are interested in going forward that might seem a bit tone deaf but if you approach it as an overall shes a new manager you just want to have a one to one to make sure you are both on the same page for your role, what she wants you to prioritise, etc. that should be fine. Supervisors change so its understandable for an employee to want to check in with their new boss to make sure things shouldn’t be done a new way. For her it might also help to know that you are good and she doesn’t need to worry about you (not that she is necessarily) but she can concentrate more effort on the other team members, etc.

      As for the Us vs them. I would steer clear of it as much as possible. It will hopefully even out in time but if it does affect morale you don’t want to be seen as being part of it. And its helpful in these situations to remember the new employees aren’t likely to be asking to be shmoozed so much by management. They want to have a nice cooperative working environment as much as you do, so try not to hold any of it against them personally.

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        As for the Us vs them. I would steer clear of it as much as possible. It will hopefully even out in time but if it does affect morale you don’t want to be seen as being part of it. And its helpful in these situations to remember the new employees aren’t likely to be asking to be shmoozed so much by management. They want to have a nice cooperative working environment as much as you do, so try not to hold any of it against them personally.

        Oh, I’m keeping my head down. As one of the newer people in this division, I can’t afford to get caught up in anything. Plus, I’m so busy I barely have time to talk to anyone about anything other than my job (which is concerning me in another way – I fear I may be coming off aloof as opposed to just absorbed in my work, but that’s for another discussion). I just politely changed the conversation to something else when my friend brought it up. I had the unpleasant experience in 2014 of landing in my previous division as the new kid from the corporate training program, and my teammates resented the hell out of me. It took a couple of months for them to get over what they saw as preferential treatment/favoritism to warm up to me. I feel for the new people in this division, but I don’t really know how to make them feel welcome when I still feel kind of like the new kid.

        As for the timeline, yes, this division is within a company I’ve been working for since the end of 2013. My new supervisor was hired into this division in 2014 and was promoted to supervisor at the same time I was promoted to Senior Teapot Adjuster (so back in December of 2015 – neither of our roles became effective until January of this year). And a priority check meeting is actually a great idea! That way it’s not, “Here’s what I want – give it to me,” but rather, “Here are the things I’m doing, here are the things I’d like to do, and is there anything you think I should be or could be doing to help the team?” Thanks for that suggestion. I’ll try it.

        Reply
  34. Original Letter Writer

    What is a nice way to say “check yourself before you wreck yourself?”
    I feel like my remote contractor just overreached to an inadvertent double-booking. My mistake, which I can and will own. I was working quickly and it slipped my mind. However, saying in IM “When I said my calendar was up to date, I meant look at my calendar for an open slot, not take one where I already have a meeting. 10-11 is the ONLY meeting I have that day. Everything else is wide open. Do you have any flexibility to do it anytime other than 10-11?” is to me both condescending and pretty unprofessional. This guy works on one of my projects and we were trying to set up our first 1:1 meeting. I don’t really want to meet with him at all now.
    Also, fwiw, he is likely to be interested in applying for an open position that we may have later in the year and that will report to me. He does good work, and we need him, but I don’t feel like I should let this go entirely.
    Am I just overreacting?

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      I think you both are overreacting. Surely there was a nicer way for him to let you know you double-booked, but for all you know, he’s had a terrible day and you happened to be in the line of fire. I’d let it go, respond with a cheerful “my bad!” type of email, and reschedule the meeting.

      Reply
    2. legalchef

      Maybe he meant it as a joke and it didn’t come off that way over email? I could see it coming across that way if that was said in the right tone (and with the right relationship between the people).

      Reply
      1. LizB

        Yeah, I could see myself saying something like this to certain coworkers to jokingly give them crap about it, but I would only do it in person. It’s so much harder to convey tone over IM or email.

        Reply
      2. LQ

        I could absolutely see trying to do this as a joke and that might be his tone or he might be trying to be like hey it isn’t really a big deal and I’m going to tease about it because I’m not bothered and want to try to establish a positive relationship.

        I’d say let it go unless you see other serious issues.

        Reply
    3. AvonLady Barksdale

      I would be pretty put-off by that, honestly. I would kind of put that in my mind as a first flag, and see if he does anything similar. But I don’t blame you for being upset.

      Seriously, all the guy needed to do was say, “Sorry, that slot is already booked! Take a look at my calendar when you get a chance and see what works for you.” People book meetings over mine ALL THE TIME, and it does irritate me, but it only rises to the level of making me angry when it’s the same person over and over again. Or when it’s my boss and he keeps telling us that calendars are so important and we should always look at them.

      Reply
      1. Van Wilder

        +1 to everything

        That response would 100% piss me off, but I also think you’re overreacting a little because it’s fresh. I’d follow AvonLady’s advice and, as AAM always says, use it as a data point.

        Reply
      2. Doriana Gray

        This. The contractor was out of line. From OP’s reaction, they don’t have the kind of relationship where it would be appropriate to say this if he was in fact joking.

        Reply
    4. Sadsack

      I think you may be overreacting. Just wait and see how your meeting goes, don’t base your opinion if this guy on one IM conversation. He may not have intended to come off the way you took it.

      Reply
    5. Not So NewReader

      It could be me. I am not sure what is wrong here. Sincere question: how would you have said it, if the situation was reversed?
      If I am getting this right, you looked at his calendar and you took the only slot all day that he had a meeting already scheduled. He pointed that out and asked for a different time. Maybe I missed something here.

      Unless he has a long history of nastiness, I’d just hold it in the best light possible and move on. Yes, that is exactly right, we have to work with other people who may or may not match our way of handling things. If it were me, I might apologize for the part I was responsible for OR if I had concerns, I would just ask him if he was angry about it. (It depends on a number of factors as to which route I would chose.) Sometimes humor can help bridge a misunderstanding, “I was not trying to get you to divide in two and be in two meetings at once!”

      Reply
  35. Van Wilder

    I share an office with my project supervisor and another coworker who technically works under me but we tend to work independently. This morning my supervisor was complaining about how other coworker was late with getting her some work, including a rant about how she doesn’t just set these deadlines for fun and the client is asking for this work. I nodded along and agreed (I find myself having to suck up to her more and more these days but that’s a separate issue).
    Anyway, when he came in, she told him he needs to be more timely and the client is asking and he needs to plan ahead and work weekends if he has to. He actually agreed (I thought this was huge because he usually gets all stubborn and quiet) but then she kept laying into him. And she said “and this goes for both of you, and I already talked to Van this morning.” Um, no? Sure, she talked to me this morning but I haven’t missed any deadlines. I’ve been trying my best to pick up coworker’s slack because he’s been really busy on another project too.
    I think my senior manager is doing the thing where she doesn’t want to make him feel singled out. But he should be singled out. Because he’s missing deadlines and I’m not. Ugh, I think I’m going to talk to her about it later if I get some time alone. Just wanted to vent because I’m annoyed, but advice is also appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      She lit in to him right in front of you? Maybe she said that she had the same talk with you just to level things out and still get her point across. Or maybe she realized too late in the conversation that she should have done it privately.

      I think it’s fine to go back in on it, when you are ALONE, and say, “Gee, I was not aware that I had missed any deadlines.” Then see what she says.

      Reply
  36. Anon13

    I’m glad I caught the open thread early! I’m having an issue and I’d like some advice. My boss often doesn’t read e-mails I send. Typically, I send a follow-up a day or two later, depending on the issue, but sometimes the e-mails don’t require a response from him, so I think he’s read them when, in fact, he hasn’t. I’ll also follow up in person (if he’s in the office) or over the phone (if he’s traveling) about many things, but, with the high volume of e-mails, it’s unproductive to follow up on every single one to make sure he received it. I usually eventually get a response on the issues I follow up on multiple times. However, recently, he has e-mailed me or checked in with me on the phone about things that I have already e-mailed him about before I’ve gotten the chance to follow up or on hings I didn’t think to follow up on . I feel he thinks I’m letting things slip when in fact I’m not – these are things I’ve checked in with him about already. He’d told me several times that if it’s not a brief question that I need a quick answer to, he prefers I e-mail him about it rather than discussing it in person/over the phone. I’m honestly at a loss for what to do. If it was an employee not reading/responding to e-mails, I feel I would have several options for how to proceed, but what do I do when it’s my boss?

    Reply
    1. shep

      Ick, that’s annoying. :/

      What I tend to do when this happens (which, luckily, is rare) is forward the original email with a quick note like, “Here’s what I sent last week. Please let me know if you need any more information.”

      Same if I’m on the phone. “Oh, I emailed you last week, but let me go ahead and forward it so you don’t have to dig.”

      I feel for you. This won’t alleviate things so much as it will control damage, but maybe it gives you some system of documentation to at least show, “Yes, I did this, here it is. Again.”

      Reply
      1. Anon13

        Thanks for the sympathy. And I think that’s a good thing for me to start doing. I do it occasionally, but sometimes I feel rude (?), I guess. (I’m not sure rude is the correct word, but I can’t think of a better one.) I will just make sure to be vigilant about the wording I’m using so I don’t sound annoyed, even though I am. I like the wording you used here and will probably use something similar.

        Reply
        1. shep

          Yeah, I used to worry it would come off as a bit blunt, but padded with a soften phrase (i.e., “Just wanted to forward this so you don’t have to dig for it!”, etc.), it’s super-efficient, and also serves as a nice record to show that you had indeed addressed whatever your boss required of you beforehand.

          Reply
      2. S0phieChotek

        Yes, I agree with this if this can be done in e a “nice” way.
        This happens with my boss too – every once in a while.
        Or he’ll call me to discuss something I’ve already emailed him the answer about–and basically I end up reading my email aloud to him over the phone. (I am starting to think that he does not “process” things well when reading.)

        Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      So your boss prefers email but doesn’t read email? I don’t know that there’s much you can do apart from deal with it, find a new job, or make some passive-aggressive jab by responding to his emails with a copy of the original email you sent that he didn’t read.

      Any chance he just gets too many emails from you?

      I always prefer to get individual emails, but maybe he prefers a digest of some kind? In other words, if you have 20 things to email him about, you could email him once in the morning about ten of the things and once in the afternoon about the other ten things?

      Reply
      1. Anon13

        Yes, it’s …odd, to say the least. I believe he uses his e-mail inbox as kind of his “to-do list,” even e-mailing himself reminders sometimes. If he read each e-mail more carefully, I think it could work well!

        And it is possible I’m sending him too many e-mails, though I think it’s more likely he’s receiving too many e-mails for him to handle in general. He tends to send multiple e-mails regarding one thing, which results in multiple responses and a higher chance of him missing e-mails. For example, when giving feedback on a document, he’ll give initial feedback upon receiving it, then more feedback 10 minutes later, etc.

        I do like the idea of trying to do a daily (or twice daily) “digest” type e-mail. I think the only hurdle would be that I need to make it clear that the e-mail contains information about multiple issues. Sometimes when I address more than one thing in an e-mail, he’ll ignore the second thing I address. (As I’m typing this out, I realize that my writing and general communication style is a lot more wordy than his. I tend to give longer explanations, remind him of the situation, etc., whereas he tends to give more curt responses. Perhaps that’s why he’s not reading my e-mails through to the end (in the instances where he’s reading them at all). Something for me to think about!)

        Reply
        1. Anonymous Educator

          Yeah, this sounds kind of like not your problem. I mean, you definitely feel the effects of the problem, but it does sound as if he just doesn’t know how to manage his own inbox.

          Reply
          1. Anon13

            Yep, I’ll continue to try to make my responses more brief without sacrificing content, try to bundle e-mails when possible, etc., but I don’t think there’s a ton I can do! Some of the strategies suggested here for dealing with it seem helpful, though, even if they won’t fix the issue.

            Reply
        2. Development Professional

          “I realize that my writing and general communication style is a lot more wordy than his.” This is the crux of your issue! Don’t overlook it!
          The reason that he’s not reading your emails carefully and says he wants email instead of a phone call unless it’s a quick question is very likely because he feels you take too long to communicate in general, give too much background, etc. He just wants to get to the point quickly.
          Have a look at Allison’s post from last week or two weeks ago about how to be less wordy. Try it and see if you get better results.

          Reply
          1. Anon13

            I guess I wasn’t clear about this, but, while that might be contributing to the problem, that’s definitely not the crux of it! He does the same thing to other colleagues (both people he supervises/people on my level and people on his level). He mentioned preferring e-mail over phone calls my first day and my predecessor mentioned it when I started, as well, so that wasn’t in response to my communication style. As far as giving less background, when I’ve tried that, he asks me for more details.

            I looked at Allison’s post from a few weeks ago the day she posted it and it mostly contained practices I already follow, but I’ll be sure to check it again to make sure. Honestly, though, I don’t think there’s much I can do to rectify this problem. It’s more that I need some input on how to deal with it!

            Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      Why not ask him if he has ideas for streamlining your emails to each other? Make some sort of joke about how you fill up his inbox and how could the two of you handle things in a more efficient manner?

      Use a tone of ” I want to help you”.

      Reply
  37. MsMaryMary

    Hi all. Can anyone suggest some good online resources to teach yourself Excel? We’ve had a couple threads fairly recently on Excel tips and tricks, but I’m looking for a good online tutorial (preferrably free). The last “teach yourself” post I found in the archives was 3-4 years old.

    The intern candidate I want to hire has practically no Excel skills. He’s a junior in college and math major. However, other than a brief intro in high school, he’s never used it. I feel that an internship is a perfect time to learn things like how to use business-related software. One of my coworkers feels not being familiar with Excel is a major shortcoming. He is shocked and appalled [eye roll]. I think it might help my argument to hire my candidate if I could suggest that we have the intern complete some online training before the internship or within the first few weeks. Give me some suggestions!

    Reply
    1. Laura

      To be fair, math majors don’t typically use Excel very much in college. In fact, I think the only students who use it heavily are probably studying accounting/business. It’s a great idea to send your intern some trainings before the start date. You could frame it as something you would do for any new intern (which you should). Does your coworker actually have any say in the hiring decision?

      Reply
      1. MsMaryMary

        My coworker is actually our Chief Consulting Officer. He used to be our COO, but a lack of soft skills meant a lot of his operational initiatives did not go over well. He is, however, still involved in hiring and has some strong opinions about who our company should hire. For instance, he’s adamant (and kind of snobby about it) that all of our hires should have a college degree, even though it’s not really necessary for several sales and customer service roles.

        For our interns, we have someone who volunteered to be the intern coordinator, and she should be the hiring manager and decision maker. I’ve been helping her, since she’s never been a hiring manager before and I have. Ideally we’d have a consensus on who to hire, and it’s going to be difficult if someone in the C-suite isn’t in agreement on which candidate to make an offer to.

        Reply
    2. Colorado CrazyCatLady

      My Online Training Hub and Chandoo dot org. They both have blogs and newsletters where they send out (they may be more suitable to more advanced users, though). They both also have some reasonably priced courses. I’ve taken MOTH’s dashboard course, which is more advanced but was amazing. I also took a course through Chandoo.

      If you let me know what types of skills he needs to learn for the job, I could probably help some more.

      Reply
      1. MsMaryMary

        That’s the other thing that annoys me about disqualifying someone who isn’t familiar with Excel. We don’t do anything complex with it. Generally, we use Excel to do arithmetic, store and organize batches of data, and to format and present financial information. Maybe the intern might need to create a graph. 80-90% of what needs to be done in Excel is done by updating existing templates, not creating anything from scratch. Beginner level Excel knowledge is fine, and the candidate seems like he would catch on pretty quickly.

        Reply
    3. Student

      If he is a math major, this is all unnecessary. Give him real tasks. He’ll figure it out from using the help function and Google just fine. He’s almost certainly already using software that is much, much more mathematically sophisticated than Excel as part of his normal coursework. Making him take an Excel training course is likely to bore him to tears.

      Reply
  38. smedley

    Three years ago I took a job with a business that is just getting started in my field of expertise. My direct supervisor doesn’t know much about my field but his boss was a real pro. I say was because she left about six months ago and now we are floundering. The company brought in some consultants to help us but since the company doesn’t know much about the field, they gave the consultants very broad powers and free reign to take on whatever they wanted–there is no contract and no parameters for their work. First the consultants were working in other departments, but their work was frustrated in that area so suddenly, they have turned all of their attention on my department! They just kind of announced that they would be doing something that is a part of my role and told me that my only role in the project would be as a sort of observer. I spoke to my supervisor and the person liaising with the consultants in HR and they both say the consultants are only there to guide and advise–they both say they didn’t know anything about this, but since they don’t know much about my job, they aren’t really willing to step in and try to push back on the consultants. What can I do in a situation like this to get back my responsibilities? I am very concerned about what kinds of damage the consultants can do, acting without much knowledge of what I have done to date working with our previous executive officer.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      It sounds like you have to drag your boss into this even if she is kicking and screaming the whole way.
      “Boss, we have a real problem here. The consultants are taking away half my work and it is reasonable to assume the work will not be done correctly because of their lack of familiarity with the particulars of our situation.”

      Reply
  39. NASAcat

    How do I nicely say that you are not my only client and I cannot hold your hand through the process (although I will try my best!).

    I currently work on a team of 3 people with about 5,000 clients. I think most understand that they are not the only Teapot Providers in the world, but occasionally we get some clients who get really upset that we don’t answer their emails within 5 minutes and know exactly who they are despite their email subject line only saying “HELP!” and there is no signature in their email. Oh and this is government, so we provide these services at no cost, so it’s not like they are paying me/us.

    I will soon take on a project with approximately 10,000 clients all by myself so I want to be as pleasant as possible when having to deal with those who think that the sun revolves around their Teapot Provider Store. TIA.

    Reply
    1. louise

      Bah! I get phone calls from employees who only give me their first name. We have a lot of duplicate names and I want to be rude and say “Why do you think I would know which one you are? Just ID yourself, already.”

      Could you set up an auto reply on email? I don’t love this option, but maybe it could help. “Thanks for your email! Please be sure your email included your [name/company name/detailed description of problem/whatever] so I can get you an answer as quickly as possible. We try to respond within [1 hour/business day/whatever]. “

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      As much as possible set their expectations early on. This means, “Our standard response time is x hours/days. For us to assist you, you will need to include this information in your email: [list here].”

      Know your limits. “That is not a service we provide.” OR “That is out beyond our expertise. You can contact Jane at Other Agency if you want further info.”

      Reply
  40. recruiter

    I’m an internal recruiter and have been working on a very hard to fill (rural location, very specialized job) job FOREVER and finally made an offer this week to a candidate…who turned me down. WAH! But I talked it through with him, addressed his fears (he was basically just scared of making a change…which aren’t we all?!) and he accepted the job and starts in two weeks. SO excited and makes me feel like a badass!

    Reply
  41. Collie

    I have a reference who is leaving his job at the end of July. I heard he was leaving through the grapevine and, to my knowledge, he has not officially announced this, though the job has been posted (internally). I no longer work for this person but I am actively using them as a reference (which he knows). The contact info I have for him is all work contact. I haven’t heard about updated info and I’m not sure he’ll reach out to update that with me when he leaves. Should I ask him, knowing that his leaving hasn’t been announced? Should I wait and see, potentially losing him as a reference? Send an email asking if there were any contact updates I should be aware of? After I left this position, we became Facebook friends, but if he still hasn’t announced his leaving, I don’t know if it’d be appropriate to follow up that way after the fact.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      I’d say who cares if he has officially announced? You know about it, so I think you should just call him. Say you heard through the grapevine and ask if he would mind if you get alternate contact info because you’ll need it if he is still willing to be a reference. Maybe start with that, actually. You heard he is moving on and is he still willing to be a reference. If so, you’ll need his contact info.

      Reply
  42. Scotty_Smalls

    I’m new to the working world, how do cost of living raises work? Let’s say someone was earning 6 dollars above minimum wage, and the minimum wage increases, should the employees’ wage increase automatically as well? If the employee is highly rated in their performance review what kind of raise should they look for?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous Educator

      I think it really depends on your company. There is no legal requirement that employers offer a cost-of-living increase. Many do, not all. So it’s very possible that if your employer is stingy, and you make $6 above minimum wage and minimum wage increases, you may still make what you were making before. In my experience, cost-of-living increase is usually between 2% and 3% of your salary.

      Reply
    2. Charlotte Collins

      Cost of living increases are not tied to performance reviews. Generally, if your position gets one, everyone in your position will get one, and it’s often a set percentage. It’s really up to your employer, unless you are in a union or have a contract, in which case the contract (union or individual) will spell it out.

      If the minimum wage increase is significant enough, a good employer should take that into account in order to not lose people.

      Reply
    3. all aboard the anon train

      I’ve found that cost of living raises are very rarely actual cost of living raises and more like 1% – 3%, which depending where you live, isn’t very much. In my experience, they’re usually done so people will feel happy about getting a raise, but they’re not enough to make an impact.

      We got a 1% cost of living raise this year which all total, barely covers all my utility bills for one month. And worse, my company bases their COL increase on where headquarters is located, which is in rural Ohio, versus the actual division locations so the offices in Boston, NYC, and San Fran lose out.

      Reply
    4. ThursdaysGeek

      In my experience, when the minimum wage increases, the only people who are benefited are those making minimum wage or under the new minimum. They get moved up to minimum. If you’re $.25 over minimum and it goes up by $.15, then you’re now $.10 over minimum. If you’re $6 over minimum, a change to the minimum almost certainly won’t affect you, unless you have a surprisingly good boss.

      Cost of living raises seem to be 1-3%, a bit more if you’re lucky, less or nothing for a lot of people.

      Reply
  43. Confused Publisher

    I know we’ve had similar discussions here in the past, but would you be willing to talk about how you tweaked your CV/resume when trying to switch industries?
    I’m in academic publishing, and looking to move into academic administration and whilst in my head I can see how many of the skills are transferable, I can’t seem to start with getting my very publishing/editorial/teaching-heavy CV reframed. (I’m in the UK: hence my greater comfort with the word CV.)
    Thank you everyone for all the awesome advice you’ve given me so far.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I’m a fairly new grad, but I started in one industry and ended up in higher ed. When I applied for my current job, I removed the irrelevant positions from my resume and made it specific to my higher ed experience. For your CV, I would focus on the mentoring/leadership aspects of your previous roles, which will be applicable to academic administration.

      Reply
    2. The bread burglar

      In your CV you want to make sure that the transferable skills are highlighted without falsifying any of the information though in your case it sounds like the move is close enough the tweaks won’t be that big. I would start by writing down the skills you believe would transfer well on a piece of paper (or typed on word/notepad), as well as checking out some job descriptions for roles you think you would like to apply for and checking if they have a job and person specification as most academic roles do. They’ll list what they think is relevant and are looking for so you have a really good idea of what you should emphasise. Then take you current CV and say “where do I have x experience/something similar.” and if it doesn’t contain that information try to work it in (but never lie on your CV).

      You’ll also want to have a kickass cover letter that shows off that you have knowledge of academic environments/issues important to academics as well as transferable skills. This is a great place to mention your attention to detail (which I imagine is required in editiorials and publishing in general), and some of the other person spec listings that aren’t CV appropriate.

      You are probably already aware of this but most academic (at least higher education level) positions here in the UK are posted on the jobs.ac.uk so you’ll want to check there. You’ll have to click apply now on a role to be transferred to the academic institutions website to access the job and person specs.

      Reply
      1. Confused Publisher

        First of all, can I just say that I love your username?
        Secondly, thanks for the useful advice: I’ll be monitoring jobs.ac.uk more closely now.

        Reply
    1. Muriel Heslop

      With my first formal mentor (teaching middle school), I dubbed myself “The Mento” and requested that people call me “The Freshmaker.” In hindsight, I am appalled (I was young!) but what’s even more surprising is that people went along with calling me that.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      Can I be a pedant the other way and say mentee is a legitimate word in the dictionary, and it means what you think it does (and, yes, it’s also listed as a synonym of protégé)?

      Reply
      1. Charlotte Collins

        But etymologically it’s a backformation. Mentor was the tutor of Telemachus. Therefore, I believe Mentor/Telemachus should also be acceptable.

        Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        I do feel like they have different connotations, too — “protege” suggests someone you have personally picked out as special, so “mentee” is useful for a lot of more formal mentoring situations, where everyone in X profession gets a mentor (not just the special ones), or where you’re matched as mentor/mentee by some outside force instead of by the mentor’s choice.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Protege just seems like a more specific situation to me. I tend to steer clear of it because it feels a bit elite to me. If I were teaching someone to play the violin then I would say protege. But if I am working a two-bit job, then this person is a mentee. Why make it sound bigger than what it is?

          Reply
    3. ladyguinevere

      Yes! We are launching a mentor program at work and they keep using mentor/mentee, and it makes me twitchy!

      Reply
      1. arjumand

        I can feel my eyelid going into spasm right now.

        How about “tow the line” instead of the correct “toe the line”?

        Reply
        1. Isben Takes Tea

          Oh my gosh CUE instead of QUEUE. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t use a q when you have the opportunity to, but regardless, a cue is a stick you hit things with.

          Reply
        1. Undine

          The reins are what you use to control a horse. If you give a horse a free, loose, or long rein, you are “giving him his head”, and he has (more) freedom over where he can go. If you keep a horse on a tight rein, you are controlling where he can go, (although if you are heavy-handed or high-handed, you might pull him up short, unless of course, he takes the bit between his teeth.)

          Reply
      2. Talvi

        Mixing up effect and affect makes me twitchy. Both exist as a noun or a verb… just please get the right one in the right context!

        Reply
      3. Undine

        What I find interesting about free “reign” is (a) it’s replacing one obsolete thing with another, and (b) even so, most of us have met more horses than kings, so why do people default to royalty?

        Reply
  44. Fawnling

    Vent:
    My coworker is singing, humming, and popping bubble wrap in her cubicle. I have asked nicely and she won’t stop >:|

    Reply
    1. louise

      There’s whistling across the hall from me. No discernible melody, just random strings of notes. And the sound of my last nerve going tauter and tauter…

      Reply
        1. louise

          Right back at you! This guy only whistles occasionally, but it’s been nonstop for almost 2 weeks now. His wife has been in the hospital that whole time and I wonder if he’s more stressed than he realizes and this absent minded whistling is coming from that.

          I’m telling myself that’s the reason so I feel compassionate instead of violent.

          Reply
          1. TheSoundkeeper

            In an office long ago and far away, we had a whistler. His hallmate, becoming tired of it, picked up his baseball bat (not sure why he had it in the office), strolled over, and inquired whether whistler could please knock it the heck off.
            Whistler: “Sorry, I just do it unconsciously.”
            Hallmate (slapping baseball bat into his palm suggestively): “That can be arranged.”

            Reply
      1. SerfinUSA

        We have a no-tune whistler in my department. Some days it feels like a dry socket wisdom tooth extraction.

        Reply
    2. Wendy Darling

      I’m going to reread this every time I get crabby about working from home (which has many benefits such as my commute is 10 yards, but I don’t like very much because I haven’t gone more than 1 mile from my apartment in six days).

      Reply
      1. Windchime

        I was drumming my fingers once and my coworker said, “Hey! Buddy Rich!”. That cued me to stop. He was an incessant pen-clicker, so one day I snatched his pen out of his hand and taped the clicky-thing down so he couldn’t click-click-click it any more. We were good friends, though, so that made it OK for us to tease each other about it.

        Reply
    3. Sadsack

      OK, I can understand people humming or singing quietly because sometimes I do that without realizing it. But the bubble wrap is bullshit. She certainly can control that and should stop if you ask her.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        I have rules about bubble wrap. If you are snapping bubble wrap within my ear shot you MUST give me some, too or put yours away.

        Us humans. We amuse so easily.

        Reply
      2. Afiendishthingy

        I gotta say the bubble wrap kind of cracks me up. I know it has to be super annoying but from my outside perspective I just find it hilarious…

        Reply
      3. QualityControlFreak

        Yeah…. I agree she should stop if you ask her. But bubble wrap can be an effective tool for stress relief. The large-cell type can be placed on the floor and stomped for a satisfying explosion. (That said, this will not go over well in every situation. And even in an environment where this is acceptable, warn people first.)

        Reply
  45. Batshua

    I have an interview today for a job that might be a major promotion given that it’s US government. Unfortunately for me, my two coworkers who are both senior to me have also applied. (I suspected as much, but I got confirmation yesterday, which somehow feels worse than knowing it’s likely.)

    I think I’m prepared to interview, at least, as much as anyone can be, but I thought I’d vent my anxiety and fish for good wishes in the open thread. :)

    Reply
    1. Batshua

      Oh gods, I’ve turned entirely into a stressbucket. We’re understaffed today and now I’m [supposed to be] doing the work of 3 people. I didn’t get my morning break and I’m peeved and frustrated because my interview is at 1 and because we’re understaffed, I won’t get lunch until AFTER my interview. We have enough staff for coverage, but instead of slightly adjusting THEIR lunches say, 15 minutes each, I’m forfeiting a reasonable time to have mine.

      I’m trying to figure out if I can discreetly eat my lunch at my desk now. D:

      Reply
  46. Pregnant

    When is the best time to disclose pregnancy at work? I’m nearing the second trimester and wondering if I should just keep it undisclosed for as long as possible.

    Reply
    1. Muriel Heslop

      The beginning of the second trimester seems to be the rule of thumb, but YMMV. I disclosed one at eight weeks because I was freaking out, one at eight weeks because of complications, one not at all (I miscarried at six weeks) and one at 13 weeks. The best time is when you feel like you should. I felt it was important I loop in my boss and HR because of leave, but I let everyone else find out organically.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    2. Van Wilder

      I’m 13 weeks now. I told my closest coworkers at 8 weeks because I was having a lot of doctors’ appointments. Then I told my counselor (like a mentor position) at 10 weeks to get some advice. Then he let it slip to one person who let it slip to one person. I was annoyed at first but I just gradually started telling people. Finally this week I think I’ve gotten most people.

      My question is: how do you tell people? I’ve just been awkwardly blurting it out. My officemates laugh at me because they’ve had to hear me tell so many people and I seem to be getting worse at it. I wish I could just send an email but for some reason people don’t do that here. I almost feel like I could do it anyway but I don’t quite feel comfortable.

      Reply
      1. Anne

        I’ve had that issue too! I’m pregnant with #2 and this time I’ve just been letting it spread its way around the department, or bringing it up in conversation. I told my boss, the rest of my team, and my close coworker friends. I’m 17 weeks now and have been wearing fitted shirts that show my belly and assuming that people who don’t know will figure it out.

        Reply
    3. NASAcat

      My coworker waited until she was visibly pregnant which was about 5 months at the time. We all work remotely so she didn’t want us to be surprised when we saw her at the next in-person meeting. She just sent an email basically saying the same thing…”don’t want to shock you the next time we see each other, I’m pregnant.”

      Just send this to out to your team. Everyone else will find out when the baby shower announcement or birth announcement rolls around ;)

      Congrats!

      Reply
    4. Jen RO

      I think it’s most common to announce once you enter the second trimester – my department has had 4 pregnant people in the past few years and they generally told our manager around the 3-4 months mark. (They usually disclosed earlier to coworkers they were closer to, but swore them to secrecy.)

      Reply
    5. Anne

      Pregnant with baby #2, and I generally spread the news around the beginning of the second trimester. I didn’t want it to be public too early in case something happened, but I couldn’t have kept it a secret for much past 13-14 weeks. My department is very friendly towards pregnant women and I knew that everyone would be excited for me (both of the bosses that I’ve worked for have had kids recently). With this baby I wound up telling my boss at around 8 weeks in my performance review, but I trusted her to keep it quiet until I was ready for it to be public. It really depends on what you want to do, there’s no “right” answer.

      Reply
  47. anonymous (and heavy hearted) 2 weeks ago

    Good news update!

    2 Fridays ago I talked about an employee my boss wanted me to let go do to not being able to work for a health condition and not qualifying for FMLA or ADA protection.

    In the end, we did NOT let him go! He’s not back to work yet, so it’s not fully resolved, but my boss agreed to give him the month of April with us covering his insurance. The employee told me this week that he hopes he’s cleared to return at his next appt in 2 weeks.

    This was truly a case where I just needed to distract my boss from thinking about it long enough to keep him on the insurance another month. It worked. :) It wasn’t a clean win, but a win’s a win, right?!

    So thankful for all the encouraging words so many commenters shared, along with commiseration re:our jacked up health insurance system and the boss appearing cold-hearted.

    Reply
  48. ElleBerry

    My boss talks so much that it literally exhausts me. A simple question or comment can elicit a super long winded commentary/answer/pessimistic contrary to anything I ask or say. And by anything I mean EVERYTHING. I’m finding it harder and harder to tolerate this. A lot of the time I don’t even get the answer I need, when I need it, because I have to sift through thousands of words of unnecessary context before I realize she didn’t even answer my question! None of the social cues you’d give to someone that insists on droning on and on and repeating themselves, just to get out a point that could have been made in 1/16th of the time it took them to answer seem to work. I’ve tried politely interrupting to redirect, I’ve tried slowly backing away, I’ve tried to make my questions as straight forward and to the point as possible, but it’s all for naught. If I email, I get a follow up conversation about the email. I try to avoid having to ask her questions unless absolutely necessary, but that’s not how I want things to be. I want to be able to go to my boss, ask a question and get an answer without losing 30 minutes to an hour of my life. Is that too much to ask?

    Can anybody relate? Any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      AAM just posted something similar, related to handling a coworker. I’ll post it in a separate link. I think you could tweak some of this advice to be appropriate for your boss.

      Reply
    2. Debbie

      Oh yes! My boss is the same way – talks wayyy too much. I was finding out about her entire life outside of work (I didn’t care to know all that), and she talked shit about her own boss, everyone in the building. One day I had enough and blew up at her – come to find out, she’s a social nightmare, and doesn’t know when things are inappropriate or crossing the boundaries. She asked me to tell her when she’s sharing too much. I now reserve 30 minutes of my day for when she comes in and bombard her with questions then (she hates mornings, so its easier to get questions answered, and move on without the chit-chat). The rest of the day, I put in ear buds – sometimes there’s no music even playing, and I ignore any interruptions, citing I can’t hear when I have music on. :) It works for me. Best of luck.

      Reply
    3. Doriana Gray

      No suggestions, but I can relate. My last boss was like this, and that was one of the many reasons I had to leave her team.

      Reply
  49. T3k

    Just 2 more weeks and I’ll be free of this job! Mom doesn’t like that I don’t have anything lined up, and trust me, I don’t like it myself either, and if I could find any good reason to stay and keep applying elsewhere, I would. But there is no good reason. So I’m going to take some online courses, maybe some local college classes, while applying for other jobs. Probably call up the local creative agency as well to get me something. At least the boss has hired another person to help out but I don’t think they’re a designer because she hasn’t bothered to ask me to train them.

    Reply
  50. Aella

    Applying for jobs right, left, and centre, I came across a job application which asked ‘If you were a vegetable, what kind of vegetable would you be? Why?’ (Suggestions from friends included. “Eggplant. *leer*” and “Salsify. Because I like explaining myself.”)

    I suppose I should just be grateful the cancer charity didn’t ask what type of cancer I’d be and why.

    Reply
    1. Debbie

      Sounds like a terrible interview question. I’ve always questioned what kind of thing a company would learn by using their time to ask such things.

      Reply
      1. Aella

        To be scrupulously fair, the company do sell vegetables. But. I wouldn’t think you want your staff to identify with your product.

        Reply
    2. Emmie

      Terrible question. “I would be a tomato. Sometimes a veggie, other times a fruit – hey, it has seeds. Or a cucumber, but I did not spell that correctly.”

      Reply
    3. Kit

      I had an interview about a year ago where there were only 8 questions, one was the veggie one, and the other was what animal I’d be. Just call me Carrot Fox.

      Reply
  51. GT

    I’m currently in academia, as a project manager/post-doc (phd in a science field). I’m good at my job, but my boss is not happy that he had to hire me. The original man in the position left for a better one; I was the assistant promoted up to manager. They wanted a man. I can expect an enthusiastic turning to a lukewarm reference upon questioning. The academic job market is terrible and I’m tired of the long hours/never ending aspect of the job, and the isolation/sexism. I’m thinking of leaving academia, but have no idea where to start looking. How do I format my resume so that my academic project management work (multimillion dollar grant budgeting, direct supervision of up to 12 people, international collaboration and networking) is taken seriously in the private sector?

    Reply
    1. Liana

      I think you’ve got a pretty good start right there, actually. “Successfully managed a grant budget of 2.5 million dollars”, “Directly supervised a 12-person department”, “and “Collaborated with teapot makers all over the world” are all things that will look great regardless of industry. I don’t know how long your resume/CV is, but a lot of academic types tend to have CVs that are pages and pages long, so just remember to keep it short and sweet! You don’t need to list every committee you’ve served on or provide a list of publications.

      Reply
    2. AnonAcademic

      I’m also a postdoc managing a large grant (RO1). I have recently been studying the PMBOK (Project management body of knowledge) which is the standardized set of definitions and procedures PMs use in the private sector. It’s pretty intuitive to learn if you’ve been running research projects. The biggest help it’s been for me is identifying concretely how I add value in ways that could easily translate to a resume were I to pursue private sector jobs, and by giving me the vocabulary to talk in “business speak” (e.g. “stakeholder management” instead of “keeping the boss man happy”).

      Reply
  52. LibrarianJ

    Posted this last week pretty late in the thread; asking again in hopes of getting additional feedback —

    I’m hoping for advice from anyone with experience supervising student workers. I’ve recently been put in charge of supervising student assistants in my department, and since I’ve never managed anyone before I’m a little lost.

    Students in my department (R) are chosen from a pool of students who work for Dept A (slightly lower-level work), and usually have both A and R shifts. As far as HR is concerned, they report to supervisors in Dept A, but someone from R (me, now) at least nominally supervises R-related shift changes, duties, etc. But I’m having a lot of trouble asserting my authority. Many of the students ignore their shift duties, blow off their required training, don’t respond to my emails (or read them, I suspect) or get appropriate coverage when they have to skip a shift (for non-illness reasons). Because they provide R coverage in off-hours, a lot of their shifts are unsupervised. I am pretty young and am not sure how much of a role this is playing as far as lack of respect.

    Because of Dept A’s expectations and the way things generally work here, I think the students would have to do something far more egregious for me to be able to fire anyone. And I can’t take away the privilege of working for R (working for R comes with a salary increase that I can’t take away, so I would basically be letting them do A-level work at R-level pay, which is hardly a punishment).So I’m really at my wits end.

    Most of the current staff is graduating this year, so I’ll have a chance to start over in the fall, and I want to make sure I start off on the right foot.There’s been a lot of confusion about who is in charge of what part of their jobs this year, which is not helping, and I’ve taken steps to correct that for next time. But I’m trying to come up with other things that I can do so that next year goes more smoothly. I’ve considered doing things like putting read receipts on important e-mails (feels very micromanager-y, even for students) or staying during off-hours to supervise for the first round of shifts each year (which would require me to work, at minimum, 6 12-hour days in a row, so not my first choice — but I’m exempt, so I could if needed). But I don’t know if there are other things I should try, or anything I could do to improve my management skills generally….

    Reply
    1. GT

      I also supervise students, and have some of the same restrictions. These don’t sound like atypical student workers, unfortunately. Being young is probably not as much of a hindrance as you might think; I’ve found my students classified me as an “adult” with them as “kids” when I started teaching at 24 (I didn’t feel more “adult” than them!). Just be assertive and act like you are in charge.
      Without the ability to impose some sort of punishment/consequences, you don’t have much ground to stand on, though. I’d lay out expectations very clearly initially (in writing, printed out, which they sign – give them a copy and email them a copy). I’d also get with someone in charge at Department A to talk about consequences you can impose – you can decrease salary at universities, but you have to justify it. Reduced duties should be a justification – send them back to Department A exclusively if they keep messing up. Good luck!

      Reply
      1. LibrarianJ

        Well, I suppose I’m glad to know this is atypical (I’m a millenial myself, so I’m not usually one to pick up the ‘irresponsible youth’ complaints, but these students….).

        I did talk to the head of Dept A after one particularly disrespectful incident last semester (student informed me she would not be completing her training exercises because she saves her shift for her HW. In part but not only because many of the students are seniors, Head A basically said that it was too complicated to do a salary decrease (any HR paperwork would have to go through A because A hired them), and basically said I could put a complaint in her HR file (which in retrospect, I ought to have done) or offer the student the chance to back out of R shifts. The student did not want to do this and showed up sobbing in Head A’s office and got the situation smoothed over in her favor, which is the other issue (and this may mean there’s nothing to be done ) — Dept A and I fundamentally disagree on how strict the expectations should be and they tend to make excuses for students.

        I did write up the job responsibilities before R workers were chosen for next year, so I’m hoping that that will help. Reinforcing them repeatedly with this group has not seemed to work. I have on multiple occasions sent written reminders and asked them to confirm they’d received/read the notice, but I’m struggling with what consequences I can impose (or would be appropriate to impose) on the 3-5 students who inevitably never respond.

        Reply
        1. LibrarianJ

          Forgot to add — thank you for the advice! I will check in with Dept A again on consequences; maybe they’d be more willing to work with me when we’re not talking about workers who are nearly graduated.

          Reply
        2. GT

          Wow. Sounds like Head A has just given up on getting the workers to do anything. I’m sorry. That’s definitely an uphill battle.

          Reply
    2. Professionally Anon

      I supervise the student workers for my office, but honestly that truly just means that I approve their time cards so they can get paid. I do have the best connection with them and that’s probably because I interview applicants so I am one of the first people they become acquainted with in the office. I’m not sure what you could do if you’re not allowed to pick your student assistants. Would a checklist of job requirements be beneficial at all?

      Reply
      1. LibrarianJ

        I would LOVE to be able to interview my assistants. This year I did get advance notice of the short-list, at least, but I don’t really get to know the students while they’re in Dept A so the names alone didn’t tell me much.

        I did create a checklist of requirements which students were actually given before accepting R work for next year (for the first time). I am hoping that that helps! They have a ‘class’ in our CMS where all the duties are posted, there are reminders at their workstation, and I send out emails when I notice a problem, but most of that seems to go completely unnoticed. Maybe I can try creating an actual ‘checklist’ that they have to check off each shift, for next year.

        Reply
    3. Emmie

      This is a tough set up, but you can manage this. Treat student workers as you would workers generally. Address the problems at the first occurance – even if it’s minor. Be consistant with every employee, and address all issues fairly. Work with the other manager. Let him / her know about the staff management issues, and the strucutre. Discuss how you will address those issues next year, and get his / her buy-in to addressing the performance issues. If a person performs poorly at half of his / her job, they perform poorly at the whole thing. Have concrete examples of how you’ve addressed these issues, and how they keep occuring. I would also inform any other necessary person (i.e. the director you share with the other person, the HR contact who assigns employees, or some equivalent.) Find out if there is a root cause of this issue. For instance, if an employee gets paid $1 more an hour to do work in the other department then there is an incentive to do the work better in the other department or to spend more work study time devoted to the project. Also, think critically about your own skills as a manager. Could you be more consistant? How will you address the peformance issues? Can you work with the other manager to create consequences (i.e. written warning, performance improvement plan.) The earlier commenter was right. You are already seen as not one of them b/c you are done with school. You are older, so you need to follow through with the authority, and consequences – especially by working with the other manager. Good luck!

      Reply
    4. pony tailed wonder

      Can you take away the prime shifts from the problem children and give them to the ones who get it?

      Reply
    5. TootsNYC

      Without the ability to impose some sort of punishment/consequences, you don’t have much ground to stand on,

      There are always rewards!

      And there’s also mere accountability. Keep a calendar for each person, and keep track of when they’re late, bail on their shift, don’t respond to emails, etc.
      And sit down and say, “Look at this; this is a factual record, not just your vague memory of what’s going on.” And also say, “Here is what this cost–because you didn’t respond to the email, i had to re-email, etc., etc., and it wasted my time. I have a lot on my plate! Other people pay a cost when you don’t follow through.”

      Reply
    6. Aisling

      I work in a public library, but we also had student workers from a nearby school, and we had enough issues with the school and the students that we stopped the program. I was spending way too much time managing for the low amount of work they were putting out. Is there any way to say that you don’t want to accept the students that won’t do the work, or that you don’t want them at all?

      Reply
  53. TheIntern

    Anxiously awaiting to hear back about a job today. I am one of two finalists, thanks so much to AAM and readers for support and guidance!

    Reply
  54. Work vs Life

    Anyone have any tips on maintaining/fostering a work-life balance?

    I’ve been at my current job for about 8 months (it is normal to leave my position after 1-2 years), and I’m starting to reach the down slope on the bell curve in terms of my tolerance and job satisfaction.

    Between this job + my 1.5-hour commute, I’m really starting to resent how much time this is taking up in my life — it’s cutting into my time to do other things I love: i.e., some family obligations, a relationship I’m committed to, volunteer work I’m passionate about, and studying for potential grad school(!). I’m not really willing to sacrifice any of these 4 things.

    The thing is, I took this job because I needed it (couldn’t find anything else at the time), but I KNOW for sure that I don’t want to stay in this industry. I really hate it. Even if grad school doesn’t work out & I go the “my job is to sustain me, not fulfill me” route, this would not be the industry I’d do that with. I definitely plan to start looking again come around fall/late summer for something else.

    I’m falling into that hole of “work all day at a job you hate, come home too tired to do anything but collapse and get up the next day to do it all over again” and it’s really starting to make me crazy. I wake up at 7 AM and don’t get home until 8 PM.

    I feel guilty, because other than how much I dislike the general industry, my boss is very supportive of me, I’m considered a high performer, and the hours (usually 9 am to anywhere from 5:30-6:30, sometimes needing overtime) are actually VERY good — in this industry they could be FAR worse than that. So I feel I shouldn’t complain, but at the same time, I’m not making any progress in the other things I want to do to move myself forward and dont know if I can just hack it until I can hopefully find something else. I want to find a way to try and work in something productive now, if possible.

    Anyone ever been in this situation with any advice? How do you get out of the “full time+long commute = exhausted robot” cycle?

    Reply
    1. SweetAnnie

      Maybe you just need a couple of days off to recharge? I get a little crazed with being on the hamster wheel constantly and taking a Friday or Monday off now and then and doing something just for myself helps me relax.

      As for a long term solution, I think you have to narrow down your priorities and possibly make some hard decisions as to where you are comfortable with sacrificing. In situations like this (and believe me, I get it because I wake up at 6am and get home at 6am if I’m lucky) something’s gotta give. Can you get a job closer to home in the same industry with comparable pay? If no, then are you willing to sacrifice something in order to not have such a crazy commute? Could you move closer to the job? What sacrifices would that mean? Which is more important to you – work life or home life?

      Reply
    2. T3k

      Honestly, I saw my only option out of mine was to quit. Granted, I live at home (job doesn’t even pay enough for to rent a place, even with roommates) but I had enough saved up to continue paying my half of the groceries, insurance, phone, etc. for about 6+ months. My reasoning was, at this point, I’d rather take a job from a temp agency in the area than continue another month where I am because I wasn’t gaining any useful skills I needed so I was just wasting my time in a dead end job that undervalued and underpaid me.

      But if you can’t do that, maybe look into taking a day off each week if you can work that into your schedule? Of course that depends on your job’s culture and how flexible they are.

      Reply
    3. LCL

      It sounds like your commute is long, but there is something else happening here. I have seen other young (post college) people bring up this question. Somewhere, somehow, you have been given unrealistic expectations about managing life with a full time job. You state your job is interfering with family obligations, volunteer work, study and your relationship, yet you don’t want to sacrifice any of those things. It’s either back off on some activities, or back off on your job.

      You have control over your after work activities. If you are getting exhausted, back off a little bit. It’s a myth that you can mix full time work with full time play. Since you hate your job and the industry, it makes the most sense for now to put your spare energy into finding another job. But even if you find your perfect job, you will still have to decide how much time to spend on your after work fun. The joy of being an adult is you can change your priorities when you want.

      Reply
      1. Chocolate Teapot Sales + Service

        “Two truths and a lie” is fun and can get some great conversations going. I think it’s more fun with small groups of 5-10 people who already know each other a little (instead of larger/smaller groups of total strangers), but ymmv.

        If you have a huge group, I think it’s fun to play “magic word”: Each person gets a clothespin with a different word on it, and puts it somewhere where the pin is visible but the word isn’t. You have to avoid saying your magic word, but if you hear anyone say yours, you can take their pin. Whoever has the most pins at the end of the game wins a gift card or something.

        Reply
    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      Sure. What is the outcome you want? (More specific than “team building.” Like: staff know who they should reach out to with which kinds of questions; staff are more willing to go the extra mile to help each other out; new staff are integrated as part of the team, etc.)

      Reply
      1. LawCat

        I don’t want a particular outcome. I had an interview this week and the manager (who had been the manager for about 6 months) mentioned she was planning some team building exercises when they hired the new staff. She said the goal was to learn how everyone communicates as people may have different ways of communicating. On the one hand, I appreciated that she seemed conscientious that people are different and don’t all need to be approached in exactly the same way. But on the other hand, I was having flashbacks to a pointless team building exercise in the past where we had to get into little groups and race to assemble puzzles while the managers observed us assembling the puzzles.

        So I’m just trying to find out if there are actually any good team building exercises. I’ve had good team trainings in the past (like we are all in the same training together about something related to our work), but when I think of anything that was labeled as team building, I can’t think of one that was useful.

        Reply
        1. Ultraviolet

          In one of my college classes, we did an icebreaker game where one person would ask a getting-to-know-you question of a random person, who would answer and then ask a different question of another random person, etc. Our questions were basically related to our college experience: What was the hardest class you’ve taken? Did you ever live on campus? What’s your favorite place to eat around campus?

          I know this isn’t exactly a team-building exercise, but it’s definitely the closest I’ve come to an enjoyable one. I could imagine making it all closely work-related and maybe turning it into a contest about who can remember their coworkers’ answers.

          Reply
      1. Anonymous Educator

        I fully support this!

        When I read team building, I thought it meant doing trust falls and playing silly games to “bond” with your team members. If it’s just doing work well and not being a jerk, yes—those are great team-building activities!

        Reply
    2. all aboard the anon train

      I’ve never minded having catered lunches or pizza and going around talking about favorite books or movies/tv or music. Even pop culture trivia games are fun. Anything that delves into physical activity or sharing personal details is automatically out.

      Reply
    3. neverjaunty

      No.

      If what you want is something to help your team be happier and feel recognized on top of already being treated well, a paid lunch or other free, nice-but-not-over-the-top, event that doesn’t cut into free time or mess up their workload is a great thing. But the way you build a team is for that team to do good, productive work together. “Let’s all go white-water rafting!” is not going to fix a problem with management or make people who are a bad fit become a ‘team’.

      Reply
      1. LawCat

        It’s not something I am putting on. See my comment to Victoria Nonprofit above.

        Just looking for some perspective as a future “team building” came up in an interview and I only have negative associations with things labeled as such. (Having to assemble puzzles with managers looking on, having to go bowling, having to go somewhere for team building without being told where we were going and being brushed off when uncomfortable with that, being put on the spot to share personal information with a group.)

        Reply
    4. Anxa

      In my opinion: giving people the space, time, and money to collaborate and communicate and touch base if they work in a more fragmented environment day-to-day.

      I can tell you about some of my coworkers’ ‘colors,’ their abilities to navigate an obstacle course, or who can make a decent potluck dish, but I’d love to be able to have time to talk about our work together.

      Reply
    5. Nynaeve

      We had a great exercise at our most recent staff retreat that involved a series of sample “cases” where a fictional student was having difficulty with various phases of her library research. Each case had questions that a different library department should be able to answer. We then split up into teams consisting of people from different departments and discussed how we would resolve the various issues and then came back and summarized everything as a large group.

      I think this was more useful than any other “team building” activity we had done because it was actually organic to our work, let us learn about the different expertise other departments brought to the table, and was geared to resolving actual problems that students may face. It felt less forced and fake than other activities and actually had a useful impact.

      Reply
      1. LawCat

        “It felt less forced and fake than other activities and actually had a useful impact.”

        That does sound useful. I guess all the “team building” things I have had to participate in were the forced and fake type that didn’t seem connected to our work.

        Reply
    6. Kit

      When I was eleven my stepmom went on a leadership retreat and when she got back she had me and my brothers do the team building games she’d learned. They are pretty fun when you are eleven and can tell your team members that they are ugly buttfaces.

      Reply
  55. Jinx

    How do you determine market rate for your position? I’ve been trying to research what my role makes in my area, but it seems like the postings are all over the place, salary wise, and aren’t always an exact match for what I do. I found Glassdoor’s “average” stats, but I don’t know where it’s drawing them from. Is that an acceptable resource?

    The reason for this question: I’m doing really well in my current position, getting great reviews, but I don’t think my starting salary reflects my value anymore. The problem is, I’m having trouble coming up with arguments to support that since I’m not able to figure out what’s “normal” for my role.

    As a secondary question, how can I deal with the guilt for wanting a raise when I make a “good” salary already? I make enough to support myself, I just don’t feel its up to par with my performance and my field. I just don’t know how accurate the internet is, and then I start beating myself up for not appreciating what I have… I would enjoy having more money, but I don’t *need* it, so asking for it makes me feel squicky.

    Reply
    1. T3k

      Is there a professional’s group site related to what you do? For instance, I’m in the creative field, so I use one I found through a creative agency but I double check with Career One Stop’s salary finder as well. If both line up around the same salary, then that’s usually enough to let me know what range to look for in an area. Only bad thing is, Career One Stop doesn’t let you put in years of experience, so it just gives you a flat “low, average, high” for a city.

      Reply
    2. Debbie

      Check the BLS. It’s free, and can be a good determinant. Don’t use glassdoor or salary.com – they can be very biased, and highly inaccurate.

      -compensation analyst.

      Reply
      1. Jinx

        Maybe I just need to spend more time on it, but I’m not sure how to use that site. I’m in IT, and a broad field labeled “Computers” doesn’t really help me much because there’s such a wide range. How would you recommend searching the site?

        Reply
  56. UK vs US

    Regarding the advice given on this site (or job-seeking advice in general): how much difference is there between the UK and US? For example, reading the archives there’s a lot of emphasis given to writing a timely thank-you note following an interview, but there was also a post where someone asked whether thank-you notes were common in the UK and the consensus seemed to be that it would be an unusual thing to do.

    I’m guessing this is something of a cultural thing? Or would it be industry-specific? Or something else? Any general things to keep in mind when reading advice aimed at a US audience when dealing with a UK job market?

    Reply
    1. Carrie in Scotland

      CV’s and resumes are different. A CV is a (usually) 2 page document that highlights your jobs, skills etc. The advice about objectives and references (as in not having them!) remains the same.

      I don’t think ‘thank you’ letters are a thing at all here.

      Unless your job has a probation period, it’s realllllllly difficult to fire people.

      Standard notice for leaving jobs is 4 weeks but your contract will tell you what’s expected of you. None of this 2 weeks/fear of people walked out the office immediately stuff. And oh yeah, we have contracts for everything. I’ve worked in bars, retail and offices and I’ve always had a contract.

      You get maternity/paternity pay/sick pay. Our standard is 1 year maternity leave, although some of it is at 100% of your wage and then it decreases the further into the leave you go, leaving you with the statutory mat pay (from the govt) but again, your contract will tell you.

      Lunch breaks are unpaid but you are expected to use them. There’s also not exempt/unexempt here – doesn’t exist.

      Erm….can’t think of anymore but maybe commenters LazyB, Ruth, Merry and Bright and Apollo will chime in with what I’ve missed.

      Reply
        1. Carrie in Scotland

          If I was on a 30 hour contract and worked 35, it would be paid overtime usually but I’ve known people have TOIL (time off in lieu) or just take back hours. It depends. In my last job, my co-worker would sometimes have to work over her 35 hrs but she’d just take a longer lunch/a half day back (it was a university) but I’ve got friends in retail who take time back or paid overtime. There’s probably some sort of literature about that…

          Reply
            1. Cristina in England

              I had a wonderful boss who would always pronounce it as the word “toil”, but a lot of people call it “days in lieu” or something similar.

              Reply
        2. FatBigot

          In the UK:
          Cover Letters: Yes
          Thank you notes: No.
          Contract of employment: This is a legal right.
          Overtime: As per contract, but must pay at least minimum wage overall.
          Unions: Generally weaker in the UK. However I strongly advise membership; I have seen someone badly treated because they did not access advice the union would have given had they been a member. As a union workplace representative you have certain legal protections. Strict requirements for secret ballots before industrial action. Strict limits on picketing.
          Firing people: You can get rid of whoever you like; its a question of how much it will cost the employer. Discrimination against a protected characteristic will get expensive. Cannot bring a claim for unfair dismissal for first 2 years of employment.
          Leave: typically 20 days +10 days statutory holidays (e.g. Christmas).
          Working hours: restricted by the European Working Time Directive.
          Health insurance: Not needed due to our very wonderful National Health Service.
          Sick leave: Entirely separate from holiday, and normally generous, but the employer has the right to demand a note from the doctor after 3 days. Expect management action if taking many short instance of sick leave.

          Reply
          1. Tau

            Note on sick leave: there’s a government mandated minimum that has to be paid (after 1 day up to 12 weeks or something like that) which is… not much. Companies can top this up to your normal wage and I get the impression most do, but they’re under no obligation to and some get stingy. I was out for two weeks for surgery a few months into my job and I got the government minimum.

            Also, it’s 8 days statutory holidays – at least in England – isn’t it?

            Reply
            1. Carrie in Scotland

              @ Tau, looking the gov website does say 8 but the 1st Jan isn’t counted as a bank holiday when it falls on a weekend. Same with Christmas. So assuming you work somewhere that’s M-F, you technically get the 10 days. At least, that’s what I’m thinking…

              That said, not every org gives you Good Friday/Easter Monday off (I’ve been in either/or but never both) and my last job gave you local holidays off as long as they weren’t in term time and you weren’t an essential person. But in the 8 years I worked previously, I never got local holidays off!

              Reply
              1. Cristina in England

                Just a note on local holidays, as I had never heard of this before moving to Glasgow. In Glasgow there is a fortnight (in July?) which is traditionally when industrial workers would take a holiday and one of my former offices was on skeleton staff for a Friday/Monday during that time. Also, there is September Weekend, which I think is Glasgow only. I totally defer to Carrie in Scotland as I haven’t worked in Scotland for 4 years, but the main point is that there are city-specific holidays in Scotland. Also, Jan 2 is a holiday in Scotland but not England, don’t know if that explains part of the discrepancy between 8 and 10 days.

                Reply
    2. Cristina in England

      I have found that American cover letters are much more emotional than they are here. In the UK, American style cover letters can seem inappropriately informal and boastful (even without the salesy stuff you sometimes see).
      I wrote a cover letter for an American employer recently, and my Brit husband was shocked—shocked!— that I said “I would love to contribute my skills doing X” and “I was excited to learn of this opportunity” and other things that basically were more than “I believe I might be of some use” (an exaggeration, but only slightly).
      I would love to hear other UKers chime in on this. Maybe we can compare snippets from past cover letters? (I will see if I can find any when I can get to my laptop)

      Reply
      1. Carrie in Scotland

        (sorry christina I missed you on my list!! :( )

        Interesting about the cover letter – I’ve definitely used some of Alison’s language since reading AAM.

        My cover letter talks about my previous two/three jobs and ends with: I enjoy learning new skills, adapting old ones and broadening my knowledge. I am lucky in that all of my previous jobs have provided me with this and believe that in applying for the post of __ within the __ will allow me to continue to extend my knowledge, as well as being able to use what I’ve already learned from my other roles, and be a part of the friendly and busy team within the __.

        Reply
        1. Cristina in England

          That’s ok, I am not very active on Fridays normally. :-)

          Ok I found these, which are both from the same point in the letter, the end of the first paragraph.

          This is from a US cover letter: “I believe that my experience in digital spouts and my background in teapot design and administration would make me a great asset to the Teapots Inc. team.”

          And the UK: “I believe that my broad tea-drinking background, my familiarity with chocolate, and my meticulous attention to detail make me a good candidate for this role.”

          The rest of the letters are quite different too, but I chose these because they are almost the same sentence, one is just toned down for the UK job.

          Reply
          1. JaneB

            Early in my career I worked in Canada for a couple of years (fixed term contract), and was applying for jobs in the UK. My Canadian boss was determined to help me ‘fix’ my cover letter… I had quite a job convincing him that his revisions were totally over the top and I needed to tone it down a bit for the UK market. Though I think the mid-point between his north American superlatives and my British and female/cultural tendency to underplaying resulted in a stronger cover letter overall!

            As someone who now gets involved in hiring (in academia, for a range of roles) in the UK, AAMs advice about SHOWING rather than stating your strengths in cover letters etc. is probably even more important here – and in fact don’t even say ‘I demonstrated how excellent I am at chocolate pouring by pouring three times as many teapots in one shift as anyone else’ (better worded of course) – state the fact, (averaging 30 teapots per shift in a system where 10 was the performance standard) and allow the reader to work out for themselves how excellent that makes you! I instinctively want to avoid people who think they are great and feel the need to tell me that in so many words, however hard I try to overcome this bias, since the Dunning-Kruger effect seems particularly common in academe…

            Reply
    3. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      American living/working in London and currently looking for a job (again). I do a cover letter for each job, but they range from my more “generic” one with a few unique tweaks, to something more customized (I wrote a doozy for a specific job that wanted to see your personality – got a few remarks on it! :)). The cover letters I have seen mentioned in career development sites are only a few lines long, which was fairly surprising. And this seemed to be fairly universal advice!

      CVs I have seen to be accepted to be longer than the two page max in the US, so I keep a longer version that highlights some of my more specific relationships to this market (going much further back than my current job). One guy we hired for my team had 2 pages front and back crammed full in 10 pt type – it was horrible. Even worse was the fact that some recruitment agency actually told him that was ok (and this for a 6 figure job)

      Thank you letters would be considered odd and possibly paint you in a bad light as being out of touch. I haven’t seen any and we have hired quite a bit.

      One thing that to me seems significantly different is the role of recruiters. Maybe its just my industry (consulting) but you cant get traction to the good jobs unless you are in with them and they can range from downright jerks to people at least willing to listen. There can also be a lot of “checking the box” here – and some people really really want to see Oxbridge or similar on a resume even though that doesn’t guarantee a whole lot.

      I would say for the most part the bulk of this advice is pretty spot on for dealing with coworkers annoying habits, weird HR policies, politics, etc, it just needs to maybe be adjusted slightly taking cultural differences into account.

      Reply
    4. Cristina in England

      This has been discussed extensively before in the comments, but one of the biggest cultural differences for me is time off. In the UK you’re expected to at least want to use your time off/vacation days, and your commitment to your role is not questioned for doing so. In some high pressure jobs it can be difficult to get time off, as in the US, but in my experience in the public and private sectors here it is normal to take a week or two off during slower times, in addition to Christmastime.

      Also, paid carer’s leave to look after unwell family members and paid maternity leave. Hiring for a 9-12 month maternity cover is common and you see this in the titles of job ads often.

      Reply
  57. Bored

    I have had nothing to do all week at work and it is driving me insane. The whole team is in a lull period. All my co-workers are on social media all day or taking long lunches or ducking out early. But I am new here and haven’t had a chance to prove I have a work ethic yet.

    My manager told me not to worry about it, that we will be busy soon, and that he’d keep an eye out for minor tasks I can help with. I make sure to volunteer to help if I see something that needs doing – but I am so new that in some cases I’d be a hindrance. I am spending all my time on professional deployment and upgrading my skills, but it is totally foreign to me to be at work and not producing anything tangible. It is really doing a number on my self worth.

    Any suggestions on how to feel more OK about this?

    Reply
    1. Laura

      This happens in a lot more jobs than you think. Just enjoy the time you have for personal development, and be grateful that your team gets to have this lull!

      Reply
    2. Dawn

      OH man I feel this one! The job that I have now is very up and down with how busy I am- some days I’m at an all-day conference and that plus travel time equals a 10 hour day. Other days there’s nothing pressing and I’m reading AAM or hanging out in the open thread :)

      Just focus on the fact that your manager knows that it’s a lull, is OK with it being a lull, knows that you want more to do, and has specifically said that it’ll get busy soon. Focus on ENJOYING the lull as much as you can! I promise there will be a time soon when you’ll look back on it and go “man, it was so nice to not be so busy!”

      Reply
      1. Bored

        Thanks – I guess I feel sort of dirty because this job was a HUGE pay bump for me and I feel like I am doing nothing to earn such a high salary. In previous jobs I worked my rear off for very low pay. I guess the ebb and flow is something I will need to get used to.

        Reply
    3. Van Wilder

      This happens at my job too. But I’d trust your boss when he says you’ll be busy soon. A lot of times when new people start here, they’re bored. But months later they’re longing for the days when they had nothing to do.

      Reply
    4. anonnymoose

      No suggestions, but I’m in the same boat. Look for a new job, actually, because this “having nothing to do and feeling awful about it even though my boss seems to think I’m doing great” is crushing me.

      Reply
    5. Liza

      Bored, you said “I am so new that in some cases I’d be a hindrance,” but I suggest you look at it differently: it sounds like now is the perfect time for that! The whole team is in a lull period, so if you make a task take longer you’re not really causing any problems, and you’ll know how to do it (whatever it is) when work picks back up again.

      Reply
  58. anon for this

    I am about to lose it regarding a Senior Teapot Project Manager on my team. He is not anyone’s actual boss, but he acts like he’s a manager. His job as a STPM is to be the liaison between the sales field and Teapot Project Managers. We have a Teapot Team Lead who is the direct manager of all TPM and STPMs.

    This one STPM really wants to get into management one day and worse than that, he’s the type of person who is not only micromanaging (he really hates to give up his projects and when he assigns one out he has to look over the shoulder of the TPM doing the work even if they’ve done it millions of times before) but he’s the type that tries to mentor and praise even when it’s not wanted. He’s routinely says things like “my Teapot Managers need a reply on this” before the TPMs even have the chance to speak up for themselves and do their job (the possessive language is really grating because he is NOT MY MANAGER).

    He’s gotten in trouble for this a lot and whenever he does, he backs off for a few weeks before getting right back into the same pattern. Whenever out Teapot Team Lead or the Senior Teapot Team Lead have told him that he’s not anyone’s manager, that he needs to back off and let TPMs do their jobs, and that he needs to just back off in general that it’s management “grooming him for management”. It’s a bit delusional. None of the TPMs want to work with him at this point, and it’s just really frustrating that everyone has to constantly deal with this and actual management won’t do more than slap him on the hand.

    Reply
    1. Van Wilder

      Ugh that’s so obnoxious. I’m sorry. I’m sure AAM would have some choice advice for his manager but I don’t know what you can do except for keep bringing it up, as a group. But ugh, I feel you.

      Reply
  59. TGIF

    I have an interview coming up with the historic society of my home-city. I’m super excited for this position and of course want to make a good impression. It was stated in the posting that they want someone with enthusiasm for the city in this role, so I want to mention all the ways I’m connected to the city: family’s heavy involvement with local university, working with a community theater, summer camps at the park, graduations at the historic church, all that good stuff.

    Here’s the one thing I’m not sure I should mention: my mother works for the county government. Not the city government but the county, but the office is in that city (we’d be a few blocks from each other if I got the job) and obviously they handle lots of legislation that effects the historic society. There’s never been any direct conflict between the two, my mother says she very rarely hears the historic society come up at her work, and she has no problem with me mentioning it, even encouraged it, but all my friends have hesitated. No solid reasons against, just voicing concerns like ‘Are you sure about that? I don’t know if I’d mention that’.

    It’s not something I think needs to be hidden from the historic society for my entire career if I got the job but now I’m not sure I should make it a highlight of my connections to the city. What do you guys think?

    Reply
    1. overeducated

      I wouldn’t mention it. I think your highlights need to be about you, the connections you’ve made and maintained, and not your family’s history or employment. It’s not something to hide, I just don’t think it’s relevant. Good luck!

      Reply
    2. katamia

      Don’t highlight it, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mentioning it if it somehow naturally comes up in the interview (unlikely, but I had an interview once where we spent several minutes talking about how great Battlestar Galactica was, so not impossible).

      Reply
      1. JustKeepSwimming

        I had an interview where they asked me what the last book I read was which lead to a very long book discussion. I did get the job, though in hindsight, I probably should not have admitted to it being a book about serial killers…

        Reply
        1. katamia

          Hah! I had an interview like that when I was applying to work at a bookstore once. Didn’t get that job, but I was offered the Battlestar Galactica one, although I turned that one down because I had some concerns about the organization.

          Reply
      2. SL #2

        One of my interviews ended up with me and one of the panel interviewers excitedly talking about our shared alma mater. And then The West Wing came up. I got the job and the running joke was that clearly it was because I had the “right answer” to the who’s your favorite character question.

        Reply
          1. SL #2

            My answer was Donna, but although the answers on my team vary across the board (all our #1s are different!), she was on several Top 3 lists so she still counted as “the right answer.” ;)

            Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      Depending on how much scrutiny your state does, you may want to reveal your connection to your mother and her job as part of the interview. Or your mom may want to let her boss know if you get the job. In my state it’s a big deal if you do not say these things upfront. My town lets the county handle zoning, code enforcement, and a number of other things that can be of serious interest to a historical group. A lot would depend upon which department your mother works in, also.
      If you mention it at the start then it’s less of a deal. I strongly encourage you to let them know now. It should not be a problem, though.

      Reply
  60. Read requests

    How do you feel about people who use the ‘request a read receipt’ feature on their emails (generally you tick a box to confirm to the sender that you’ve opened the email)? You have the option to not tick it, but most of the time I get such a request it’s always for non-time-sensitive things. It feels like the sender is trying to gauge how much priority I’m putting on them or something. I guess it could be useful if you’re sending out something like safety warnings and want to make sure everyone knows to watch out for something, but otherwise…ugh.

    Reply
    1. Always Anon

      I have a couple different people in my office who put a read receipt on every single email they send. I asked them both to stop, only one of them did. So I always decline to notify the other person that I’ve read the email. Mind you I do this on principle because they do this for every single email, regardless of it’s importance.

      Reply
    2. Anonymous Educator

      I find them annoying. Whenever I used to get those (when using Outlook/Exchange), I would never return the receipt. I would just reply if it warranted a reply.

      Reply
      1. Sadsack

        I have Outlook and have never noticed these requests. I think they are just notified automatically where I work.

        Reply
    3. Liana

      We have someone in my office who does that – I roll my eyes at it, but I usually just tick it off and move on. I totally get why it’s annoying though – I feel like she’s basically checking up on people, when she’s not a manager and it’s not her job to do that.

      Reply
    4. Aella

      I used to do that when I was annoyed with the recipient, and I wanted confirmation that they’d actually read it, vs. been away and hadn’t had a chance, so I knew how I should react when I was asked why X didn’t have Y information.

      Reply
    5. Jascha

      I generally decline to send one because I do have to stratify my inbox and don’t want anyone trying to use the delay-to-response as some sort of metric for where they fall in the priority rankings. I’d never use them myself.

      That said, I understand where people are coming from with them; they can be useful for keeping track of message status. If I’m in a position where I know I’m able to respond fairly rapidly, I usually just click “yes” and send the read receipt.

      Reply
    6. Colorado CrazyCatLady

      I HATE it. I have used it sparingly (to send to overseas vendors who sometimes don’t actually receive my emails for whatever reason, and when emailing vendor compliance manuals to all suppliers), but if it’s every single email it drives me nuts and I refuse to confirm that I’ve read it.

      Reply
    7. LQ

      I think there are 2 people in my office who do this. I’m not sure if there is a correlation or causation or coincidence, but neither of them are very competent. That said I’ve just told Outlook to never send that read receipt.

      Reply
    8. Rebecca in Dallas

      Haha, our CEO did this for a while! I think he must have had that option accidentally selected because I can’t imagine that he really wanted read receipts from EVERY employee at the corporate office? He (or his admin) must have fixed it because it stopped after a couple of months.

      Reply
    9. Jen RO

      I think my boss has his Outlook set up to request a read receipt for all his emails… but I honestly have no idea because I turned off read receipts in *my* Outlook on day 1.

      Reply
    10. Crystal Vu

      I understand the annoyance at being checked upon, but I just shrug. I read all my emails so I’m not sure what the one other person’s motivation in obtaining the receipts is.

      Reply
  61. such anon, very mous

    This is not something I would ever seriously do, just venting some frustration.

    My boss, while great at being a mentor and knowledgeable about the field, likes to be very vocal about his political beliefs. Which boil down to “anyone who isn’t a straight white man who owns guns is wrong and there is no nuance.” But even if I agreed with his politics listening to every conversation he has devolve into loudly talking about how others are wrong has just never been my jam.

    So on the days when he’s really going off and I’m really feeling like I need a new job I just wish I could tape one of his rants and send it to potential employers with the my resume and a little note that says “I’m competent and just can’t handle listening to this anymore.”

    Reply
  62. Chocolate Teapot Sales + Service

    I just got a job with a brand new company. The parent company has been designing chocolate teapots for 50+ years but this subsidiary where I’ll be working is the parent company’s first foray into chocolate teapot sales and service. I am a middle manager on a ~15 person team, and there’s still about 6 months of work before our branch is open to the public. I’m *really* excited to be a part of this from the beginning, and I want to do everything I can to make this a great place to work.

    If you’ve gotten in on the ground floor like this, how did you shape the company culture/values/whatever? What would you do differently?

    Reply
  63. Liana

    I’m kind of hitting a breaking point with my current full-time job. Quick backstory: I work as an admin in a hospital and support three different doctors. I also have a part-time job at a grocery store, which helps me pay off my loans more quickly and gives me some extra spending money (and I get a discount on food, which is nice). I like my part time job a lot – the work is super easy, it’s a 10 minute walk from my apartment, the pay is good, and I like my coworkers. As for my full-time job … I’ve been there for 14 months now, and I just don’t like it. I don’t have any patient interaction, so everything I do is purely administrative – making travel arrangements, editing various pieces of writing, scheduling meetings, etc, and I am just So. Bored. I don’t feel like I do anything meaningful, but I’ve only been there for just over a year, so I feel like it’s too soon to leave. And one of my doctors is becoming increasingly difficult to deal with – whenever he’s in a bad mood about anything, he takes it out on me, then apologizes later. And I get that sometimes people lash out when they’re in a bad place, but I’m tired of the constant cycle it’s become with him.

    I don’t know what to do anymore – I’ve considered quitting Office Job to work at the grocery store full-time, because I know they could use it, but Office Job pays really well and could never get that money working as a generic retail employee. But Office Job is not what I want for a career, and I’m having a hard time motivating myself to even stick it out for another year, and this whole experience is making me reconsider whether I even want an office job at all, or whether I’d be happier seeking out a career that doesn’t involve that particular environment. I’ve toyed with the idea of teaching English abroad, and I’m still considering it, but basically I’m just having this whole existential crisis about What I Want Out of Life and what kind of work I can see myself doing for the next several decades. Has anyone else been through this? How did you handle it?

    Reply
    1. Chocolate Teapot

      This kind of situation is where having a career coach can be helpful. Whilst a coach can be expensive, I found it useful to have somebody who could guide me into a more specific role. Working with my coach, we made a plan with a target date by which I would be in a new job more suited to my skills and abilities. Even if a coach isn’t an option, there are various online resources to help pinpoint a career which might be a start.

      Reply
    2. neverjaunty

      You’ve been at the office for over a year – unless you have a history of job-hopping, it makes sense to really figure out what you want to do for the next couple of years (not just existential daydreaming) and then move on. I promise you that Dr. Douchebag is not going to mend his ways.

      Reply
    3. Undine

      Office jobs are all over the place — just because you don’t like this one doesn’t mean you can’t find one you like. You’ve learned that you want a job with customer interaction, and where you’ll be treated with respect. That’s great info to take into your job search.

      Reply
  64. super anon

    i learned this week that after my (year long) probation i can be fired at any time for any reason. my management group has absolutely no job protection, but the difference is that after probation i can get 1 month of severance. learning this has surprisingly been cathartic – i have been absolutely miserable at my job for a variety of reasons and was terrified to speak up in case i got fired before my probation ended. but now – it doesn’t matter! i’ve made the decision to email my bosses and tell them about the racist and discriminatory behaviour i’ve been receiving from one coworker in particular and to ask if we can have a meeting about it. she’s told me more than once to apply for other jobs, and i want to know if they plan on letting me go/ have been unhappy with my performance, etc. i’m scared to do this.. but after reading AAM’s post on speaking up if you’re unhappy, i feel like it’s my best bet. my managers aren’t even on site and i’ve never met with them once in the 10 months i’ve worked here… so they likely have no idea how i’m feeling.

    this coworker gives us the impression that she’s backed by ours bosses (so there’s no point in ever complaining against her, because she holds all the power in the office) so i’m scared they won’t believe me when i talk to them and i don’t have any documented proof because she is too smart to every put anything in an email. but, i still think it’s worth it. i also think my bosses need to know that my coworkers are still basing their hiring decisions on race, rather than capability, after they’d been told to stop.

    wish me luck aam peeps. i’ve decided if i do get fired it’s fine, because if i get fired for talking to my bosses about actual workplace problems i’m having & behaviour that could open the org up to litigation if people found out, then those aren’t bosses i would want to be working for anyway.

    Reply
    1. Soupspoon McGee

      If you’re in the US, Evil HR Lady has some great advice on this, including emailing your HR department with your complaints. The subject line should be “Formal complaint of harassment.”

      Reply
  65. bearing

    So, making this sort of work-related in that it occasionally happens that a Mystery Poop Smearer leaves their “marks” in workplace bathrooms, and discussion often turns to “what on earth causes people to do this?”

    I had a poop-smearing event at my own house this week!

    (And it’s a tiny bit work-related, if you count barter as work.)

    I tutor some of my friends’ kids in my house as part of an informal bartering arrangement.

    One of my friends’ teenage sons has a couple of medication-controlled psychiatric disorders. Yesterday, by process of elimination, we determined that this young man was the likely culprit who left feces smeared and spattered all over the seat, outer toilet bowl, and floor in the bathroom off my master bedroom (plus a giant pile in the toilet itself, and wads of TP everywhere). I didn’t discover it till after their family had left the house.

    So, because this is the work-related thread, I just want to mention that I actually know a little bit about what is going on here with this young man (and yes, he is old enough to know how to correctly use a toilet). His parents are struggling right now with his medication and he’s having a really tough time. He’s never done this before in my house. I always thought that when people reported workspace poop-smearers, what was going on was a disgruntled employee who wanted to punish his/her coworkers in some way. But having had this happen, I am now inclined to wonder if mental illness might be a factor.

    Trying to decide whether to let the event slide, except now I am going to lock my bedroom door when they come over for tutoring, or whether I should mention it to my friend.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I would mention it. I think your friend would want to know, and he/she might need to mention it to the young man’s doctor– it could be relevant to his medical treatment.

      Reply
      1. anonnymoose

        Definitely mention it and make sure to express that you’re not mad or anything, just wanted to convey the info & some concern/sympathy.

        Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Your friend probably already knows. If I recall correctly there is even a name for this habit- it has a diagnosis.

      Tell your friend and ask her how you should handle it. Part of the solution maybe that your friend tours the bathroom before taking her child home. The technique I have seen in these cases usually involves the adults calmly telling the person that they need to clean it up. The key part is for everyone to remain calm and matter-of-fact. I think this is because the upset of others is rewarding in some manner for the individual that does this.

      Reply
  66. Jennifer

    I had jury duty for three days this week, which was delightful and I was sorry to have it end early.

    I do, however, have other news: I am finally getting a transfer within my office into the group I wanted to work in and didn’t get hired in! It sort of starts in July (or at least I switch supervisors and move desks then) but they won’t 100% transfer me out of this job until “sometime in September.” Some aspects of my job are following me over, but they are going to get me out of doing front counter and phones one way or another. (Again, “sometime in September.”) Even though they will be down to a whopping four people in public service and they STILL don’t plan on hiring anyone else or making any changes, which is ridiculous. There’s going to be a lot of job shuffling in half the office within the next year.

    (No idea on compensation or not: I’m assuming I will not get more money whatsoever, but they are going to have to rewrite my job description, so who knows. Maybe I’ll get lucky and get reclassed high enough to get a tiny raise?)

    Anyway, even though my certain start date of September 1 got vagued up, there is hopefully an end to my serving and smiling! Hooray!!!!

    Reply
    1. anonnymoose

      Congrats on the job shift!

      Just rambling about jury duty: I had jury duty for over 2 weeks three years ago. My work paid me for the first 10 days. Unfortunately I still had to return to the office on days that court ended early (before noon). There were more than a few days that I decided court had lasted all day because I was too emotionally and mentally exhausted to deal with work after court. The case was very sad, fortunately ended with the defendant getting life in jail and another sentence on top from a separate trial that hinged on this one’s evidence. I did not get to be on the deciding jury panel and had to spend the last two days during deliberation with a few other “standby” people, reading and generally being bored. Honestly, that was the worst part of the process. I really would have liked to have been part of the decision (though ultimately I agreed anyway).

      It’s been long enough that I can serve again and I’m kind of hoping I get called just for the break from work.

      Reply
  67. Sally Sparrow

    Currently I’m a temp, but the VP of my department has said they are offering me a full-time position (just waiting to hear from HR). Should I approach salary/benefit negotiation differently than I would if I weren’t already a temp? Or will it not be that different of a beast that AAM’s negotiation advice is still pretty solid? Also any other tips or advice is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Laura

      I don’t think you should approach it any differently. You still have every right to negotiate, but the conversation might be slightly more casual because you’ve already been working with those people.

      Reply
    2. Joanna

      Do a bit of research on how temp wages are calculated (for example if they are a certain percentage higher than full time wages to make up for a lack of paid leave) so that you have some sense of what might be reasonable under the new arrangement.

      Reply
  68. Nervous Accountant

    Just one more weekend left.. one last weekend… and the madness will be over.

    Ther’es never a dull moment here, for sure. I just wanted to post here.

    Reply
    1. Anon Accountant

      If we get 1 more call “hey are my taxes done? I dropped those off Wednesday/Thursday!” then someone here is going to snap. Or the “Hey I don’t want an extension!”. My coworker started extensions a few days ago so they are already on extension. :)

      Reply
    2. Nervous Accountant

      Do you guys get people wanting to talk about their CURRENT tax situation (that has nothing to do with their 2015 tax return)????

      Reply
      1. Anon Accountant

        Yes. They look a little “put off” when we say “how about we talk after Monday” or let’s talk more in May (after payroll quarterlies are done). So we’ve used the wording “you know, let’s see how your 1st 4 months have went and we have a more clear picture”.

        Reply
  69. RVA Cat

    This summer marks 5 years in my current job. I like my manager and the job, but I need to find a way to grow in this position so I don’t stagnate. I don’t want to move on any time soon, esp. since the work/life balance is excellent and that’s very important to me right now (married mother of a 2 year old, trying for a 2nd child). But there isn’t a lot of promotion potential. It’s in bank operations and there are a lot of “lifers” here, but that’s not me – at the same time, I don’t think I want to manage people. But I do want to grow into more individual-contributor roles. I’m no techie but I am the go-to person for my team for all computer issues. I took a few programming courses years ago and am trying to learn VBA to improve the macros I’ve already worked up to automate a lot of our more time-consuming Excel spreadsheets. Your thoughts?

    Reply
    1. Undine

      Can you talk to your manager about this? “I’d like to grow into more individual-contributor roles. Is there any way we can build on the programming courses I’ve taken so I can do more work along the lines of the macros I’ve already worked up to automate a lot of our more time-consuming Excel spreadsheets?”

      Reply
  70. Bored and waiting

    I am moving to a new department soon but problem is that at my current job I don’t have anything to do. Literally, I don’t know when the transfer will be or anything. I have asked co-workers to help them, but rarely does it result in work just in them saying OK. I have finished 3 Python, R, and SQL courses, many podcasts and so on. I don’t want to bug my co-workers always for work because I don’t want to be annoying and it rarely produces sustained work load. Worse of all, due to lack of work, my mental health issues have worsen( I suffer from depression so if I am not doing something , it comes back) and I cannot bare to look at anything or come to work. I cannot bear this situation anymore and I do not know what to do.

    Reply
    1. Sadsack

      Have you told your manager that you have absolutely nothing to do? Maybe he can suggest something, even if it is cleaning out filing cabinets or something similar.

      Reply
  71. Lucie

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a soon-to-be graduate and I’m absolutely terrified as despite applying/interviewing hardcore this semester (to the point that my coursework might’ve suffered, I think I’ve had an interview every week for the past two months) I haven’t managed to secure a full-time position for when I graduate (I used Alison’s guide but I’m not that good/ there’s a lot of competition).

    I live in Dublin, Ireland, where jobs are scarce and rent is through the roof and am about to graduate with a non-technical degree (BA in Economics and Politics), though I am fluent in three languages and did all the internships (one of which full-time, year-long and severely underpaid), volunteering, networking etc…Given that I also get relatively good grades I figured by now I’d have something lined up!! Oh, how last-year me was naïve ;-)

    My goals were either to get a Masters (I got into my dream school Oxford but my parents’ situation changed and we can’t afford it anymore) to get into one of the big ‘graduate programmes’ in banking, law, consulting etc. (I get told at the interview ‘well done for even making it through to this stage, we had so many applications etc etc’ and then fail to be called back afterwards) or to work in the non-profit sector which I would really love especially advocacy/ policy etc. but again, no luck so far.

    Anyways, has anyone had similar experiences? How did you deal with it? What would you recommend? How can I go back to sleeping at night instead of tossing around in my bed and worrying like crazy? Thank you for any insights!!

    Reply
    1. T3k

      It took me almost exactly a year before I got my first (part-time) job out of college (I walked in the Spring, had an internship that summer, so I didn’t officially graduate until Aug.). And what sucked more was they realized they bit off more than they could chew with money and I was laid off 6 months later without any warning. And yep, I cried a lot while unemployed, and cried more after being laid off.

      I really don’t know how I lasted that long. I complained a lot on forums, cried, pestered friends (many were actually in the same boat as me). If you haven’t already, I’d look into temp agencies in your area to see if they can help you out, or find online volunteer work (I wasn’t able to do physical volunteer work due to needing gas to get to the place and I was already strapped for money).

      Reply
    2. Anxa

      I graduated 8 years ago and still haven’t found anything long-term.

      I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t affect my sleep anymore (although I have independent sleep issues); it’s very hard to feel like you’ve done everything on your to-do list when “Get a proper job” is still hovering over you.

      That said, I feel better knowing I’m kind of okay. If you had told 22 year old me that I’d be working part-time at 30, I’d have been devastated. But I’m here and it’s not as bad as I thought I’d be. So maybe that future I’m dreading 8 years ahead of me now won’t be so bad.

      My biggest regret is fretting over my unemployment during graduation and shortly after. I’d never had an issue finding jobs or reaching goals before, so it was really unsettling. In my case, it did turn out to be a long-term problem, but I probably made it worse by being so worried. I was shy to apply to jobs after a while, thinking that I was so tainted and ruined, when I should have been more aggressive and less sensitive to rejection.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      I have had stuff keep me awake nights. It helps to have several tools for coping with sleeplessness. One tool I have been able to make work in the past is to tell myself that worry is for waking hours only and nothing will be resolved at x o’clock at night. I got to thinking of bed time as time out from “those issues”, a mini break.
      About an hour before bed is a no fly zone for media and food for me. This helps also. I try to keep some light reading on hand and use that to help my mind wind down from the day.

      I am not sure there is a magic bullet to fix the restless sleep/no sleep, but I do believe that making some minor changes in what you are doing will help some what.

      Reply
    4. Ismis

      I graduated in Dublin with an IT degree just when the dot com bubble burst. The only IT related jobs I was offered wouldn’t cover my basic rent and bills! I took an admin job and after about a year, started applying again, and maybe 6 months later, found a job in the industry. I know people who graduated (again in Dublin) over the past few years and their experience was similar. It can just take a bit of time to find something that’s a good fit – just take a job to pay the bills in the meantime. Lots of people are in the same boat so try not to stress too much! I know it’s easier said than done.

      If you speak three languages, would you consider going abroad for a bit? Either for a job in line with what you want, or just to take a job in hospitality or something for the summer so you can just enjoy not studying for a bit, but can put it on your CV as “brushing up on your languages skills”?

      Reply
  72. Heth

    I’m here to say thanks, I’ve posted a few times for advice about not-so-great last job (with a different name) and interview advice and I’ve been reading for years now. Thanks to everyone here and reading through lots of Alison’s advice I have an offer for a new job and I start on Monday! I’m very excited and nervous! I’ve been unemployed for 5 months and left last job at the brink of a breakdown and on medication to get me through so going back to work worries me a bit but I’m trying to stay positive. It can’t be nearly as crazy as some of the stories on this site and if it is at least I have somewhere to share them!

    Reply
    1. Jascha