open thread – April 7-8, 2017

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 :)

{ 1,765 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. AnotherAnon

    Any gift ideas for a work contact who’s gone above and beyond? This contact is in a separate department dedicated to providing support for one of my major projects (so most of our contact is via email), and over the last few years this person has been absolutely fantastic in anticipating needs, proactively getting the proper clearances, and being a wonderful resource for all questions and concerns. I’m leaving the organization in the next few months and wanted to give this person a token of appreciation, but I’m pretty clueless when it comes to gift-giving. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

    Reply
      1. Jadelyn

        I helped a manager get hired – we’d connected previously but hadn’t had any openings at his level, then a perfect opening came up and I reached out to see if he was still interested, and encouraged the hiring committee to interview him right away. He wound up getting the job and has been amazing at it, and about a week after he started I received a lovely thank-you card in the mail. I keep it pinned to the wall beside my desk still. There’s just something about a physical card with a handwritten message that conveys wonderful sincerity and appreciation!

        If you wanted to include a gift as well it’s hard to go wrong with a gift card – my work uses $5 or $10 Starbucks cards as currency for recognition and it always goes over well.

        Reply
      2. Artemesia

        I agree this is the thing that makes the heart sing. Same for teachers; the note is more valuable than another coffee mug. If you want to give a gift, I would make it an actual thing and not a gift card — they seem like ‘tips’ to me. And I would make it something that goes away i.e. edible. A nice box of designer cookies or chocolates if you know the person eats sweets or send a case of H&D pears to his or her home.

        Reply
        1. Gadfly

          Biggest problem with edibles is dietary issues. The diabetic will have issues with lots of things, the vegan or gluten free person or person with allergies will have other issues, etc.

          And if none of that is an issue, there still is the issue that tastes are just so different. And if you are buying nice edibles you may have just spent a lot on something that grosses them out. Even the pears (blasphemy, I know!)

          Everyone says edibles, but they always IMO, seem appreciated more for the gesture and not for the actual edible. And a lot of the “nice” basket ones are hardly better than store brand equivalents that you pay a quarter or less the price for.

          Reply
          1. Nic

            As a texture-picky eater, I second the point about maybe not edibles. I think out of the several times clients have sent gifts to the office that were shared, there was once or twice I was able to find anything in which I could partake.

            Amusingly enough, the a pear was usually the successful option.

            Reply
          2. hermit crab

            The thing with food is that it’s easy to share, though. If I get a gifty food item I don’t particularly want, I bring it to the office or to my volunteer job or to a friend’s house the next time I go over for dinner, and there’s bound to be someone who will enjoy it! It’s not like it’s going to sit in a box in my closet, which is likely to happen with a non-edible thing. :)

            Reply
            1. Nic

              While I agree that certainly is a benefit, as a person who often has experienced edible gifts that I have to give away it is really disappointing.

              If you have the opportunity to give something like a gift card or card to the person and a note of praise to the manager, that may be a better option than something that could be disappointing.

              Reply
        2. Thlayli

          Depends on the person. My sisters are all teachers and while one of them genuinely seems to love the homemade kids made stuff the other two are like “no way do I want that crap. Cash and wine.” But of course they wouldn’t say that to parents lol.

          Reply
    1. TotesMaGoats

      Personally, I think that’s a lovely idea. If you know the person is a coffee or tea person, I’d go with a gift basket of that sort. I called colleagues as my OldOldJob the other day to ask if I could get what amounts to proprietary code so my NewJob could do a better job of coding something. Since we are in the same state system, there isn’t a reason for them not to give it but they certainly didn’t have to. So, imagine my surprise when I was told immediately that the code would be packaged and sent. Once I get it, I’m sending them a basket of cookies. The decorated kind that say thank you.

      Reply
    2. animaniactoo

      Do you know any of their interests or hobbies?

      One thing that is beyond value and costs you nothing to do would be to write to their boss and talk about how awesome person has been to work with. But I’m assuming that you would want to give them a gift on top of that?

      Reply
    3. chocolate lover

      Edible arrangements or some other kind of food delivery? my former office had lots of company partners that would send food-related gifts. It showed appreciation, without being overly personal. They were sending to the whole office, not necessarily a specific person, but I still think it’s a nice idea.
      Or, if you know of a nearby coffee shop or restaurant this person frequents (maybe you could ask someone else in that location?), maybe go with that.

      Reply
    4. Mongoose

      Some suggestions other than an actual gift:
      1. Check if you have a peer recognition at your office. Ours is simply that you send a note to our internal communications office about your peer, and after being vetted by the peer you are recommending, it is featured in our weekly internal news letter and on the the lobby screens in our elevator bays (rotating with other announcements). The VP reads this and usually sends a follow-up thank you to the person as well.
      2. I send an email to the person thanking them for their help (always include some specifics) and include their boss.
      3. Send an email to my boss or boss’s boss, letting them know how helpful the person has been (including some specifics). My boss or boss’s boss forwards it on to the person and their boss thanking them as well for their work. It helps that my boss and boss’s boss are very senior at the organization so it’s just a nice extra layer of thanks.

      Reply
      1. Jill of All Trades

        Honestly, if I got a card saying that I was a great resource and had helped another team significantly, I’d take that just as well as if they said it in another way. I’m not sure that word needs to be avoided.

        Reply
        1. TheX

          My point (which I failed to elaborate on) was that the use of this word seems highly controversial these days (as opposed to even 5 years ago). I was recently surprised to come across a couple of posts where quite a few people expressed hatred towards being referred to as “resource”. Their common explanation was that their time is a resource while they themselves are NOT, or something along those lines.

          Reply
    5. Bagpuss

      I think a card or letter is the best thing. A letter to the person’s manager would also be a nice gesture, depending on your organisation it might well help her at her next performance review.

      In terms of gifts, do double check first whether your organisation has any rules about gifts, but assuming that there is no bar, I’d suggest flowers, or chocolates, or a fruit basket – stuff which can be enjoyed (and if she happens to have food restrictions, shred or regifted to friend or family)

      If you know her well enough to know her interest then you could give something related to that but for someone you only know through work I would go for a letter or card and a fairly generic gift.

      Reply
    6. Zip Silver

      It depends on how well you know them and what they like. Consumables are always great (like a good thing of coffee/chocolate/whatever they like).

      I once bought a carton of cigarettes and did a handwritten note for a colleague after she really came through for me on a big project, and she greatly appreciated it.

      Reply
    7. The Final Pam

      A card as other suggested is great, but I know in my office no gift goes over better than a gift card to either Starbucks or a local coffee place. Even if said contact doesn’t drink coffee/caffeine, that’s usually flexible enough that they can get something there.

      Reply
    8. Kopper

      The standard in my workplace is a note of thanks with a gift card to a coffee shop (usually Tim Hortons since I’m in Canada), but agree with others that often a handwritten note and a mention to their boss is also good!

      Reply
      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

        Totally agree with the others: A handwritten note or card, a gift card to a coffee shop, and of course, a note to that person’s Supervisor.

        Reply
    9. AndersonDarling

      I found my new favorite office gift on Amazon. It’s a desktop Himalayan salt lamp from Levoit. It plugs into a usb and it comes boxed ready for gift giving. …if they’re into that sort of thing.

      Reply
    10. Maggie

      I once gave a gift card for a fancy tea company I particularly like (after asking if the giftee was a tea person or a coffee person). I also included a note thanking them for their incredibly above and beyond behavior.

      Reply
      1. LavaLamp

        I got lucky with some very generous coworkers who’ve gifted me some really cool things over the years.
        A really neat ceramic coffee cup with my first initial and in colors I like
        A really beautiful fairy card and assembled Tinkerbell 3d puzzle/statue
        Plus countless little things like themed post its, bubbles and that sort.
        For recognition, the VP actually hand wrote and mailed me a card when I did something super well, as well as other high level people. That sort of thing makes me feel really happy.

        Reply
    11. Rabbit

      I’m + whatever number we’re on-ing to the idea of an actual physical card sent through the mail and an note sent to their supervisor/boss letting them know what a stellar help this person has been to you.

      I also feel rather strongly that there’s nothing quite like getting flowers delivered to you while at work! The times it’s happened for me I felt so incredibly special the entire time they lasted on my desk. I’d personally rather get flowers than consumables, by a huge margin, but I do agree that it’s hard to go wrong with a card and something nice to munch on or drink.

      Reply
    12. AnotherAnon

      Thank you so much for all your excellent suggestions! I’ll definitely be doing the handwritten card and emailing this person’s supervisor, and I’ll try to do some sleuthing in the next few weeks about this person’s food/drink preferences to see if a small related gift would go over well.

      Reply
  2. Friday Anon

    I’m going to be really blunt here. It may make me seem like a terrible person but it’s the truth. I’m very much in the minority of my office. In terms of race, age, marital/offspring status, and the like, I don’t fit in with my coworkers. Even in terms of my background: all my coworkers grew up locally in the city with fairly poor families, I grew up an hour away in a smaller country town with a well-off family (not gold spoon rich, but well enough that we never had to worry about paying for what we needed).

    As a result, I’m very much an outsider with my coworkers. They’re all nice to me, no one is outright mean about my difference, but they all flock together. Even when I do join them for lunch, they’re talking about subjects that I generally can’t contribute to. They’re all friends outside the office too so they’re often talking about their weekend plans together while I just sit quietly. They’re nice but they’re definitely a tight group; I’ve worked here for years but they’re all far closer with the various temps we’ve had for only a few months at a time because the temps match my coworkers in ways I don’t.

    So it’s a bad culture fit. There are other problems contributing to me now job searching but the culture fit is definitely a big one. And looking, I’m trying to figure out how to avoid being in this bad fit again. This especially makes me feel terrible because I feel like I’m stereotyping. I have an interview coming up that I’m very excited about but then I looked at pictures of the staff that are on the website and seeing much of the same crowd I’m currently working with. How can I go about finding a good culture fit and how do I do it without making me feel like a terrible racist/ageist/cultural-resistant person?

    Reply
    1. Sunflower

      Two things.

      How big is your office? If it’s small, I think even just moving to a larger office would help tremendously.

      Is the area you’re working in economically depressed? I interned once in a very depressed area and I was the outcast. I grew up upper middle class but was the poorest of my friends. These people thought I was incredibly rich and I was immediately labeled a snob. It didn’t feel good. Keep in mind that your office employs people from the area so expect it to be filled with the people that surround that area. If you are looking for somewhere more diverse, it might be worth considering moving if that’s an option for you.

      Reply
      1. anon for today

        It wasn’t nice of them to label you a snob, but to be fair, upper middle class is incredibly rich to someone who grew up with nothing. They probably didn’t feel that great either.

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          But that’s not her fault, assuming Sunflower didn’t walk in and say, “Heeeey, how are you? I grew up with money!”

          Reply
          1. TL -

            I don’t know about Sunflower, but I had more than a few friends who were completely clueless about how much they actually had – they’d go on vacations I’d never consider financially, or have really nice stuff I couldn’t afford – and then would spend time downplaying it in a way I think they meant kindly but came off as incredibly blind to the way most people lived.

            Reply
            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              I don’t argue with or disagree with that– I’ve experienced it myself– but I think it’s completely unfair to anyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, to immediately label someone a snob because of life circumstances. The impression I get is that the label was imposed on Sunflower right away, not after conversations about vacations or where she went to school or the brand of her handbag (which are not, I should note, automatic reasons to label anyone a “snob”). I know a lot of snobs, and they’re all assholes, but they had to prove themselves to me first before they got that label.

              Reply
              1. TL -

                Eh. I’ve had people unknowingly code themselves into clueless upper middle class within a few minutes of meeting them, and they weren’t being snobs, they just had no clue – some of them are my good friends but I can totally understand not wanting to deal with it on a daily basis. And often, if I was with a group of upper middle class people, it was only me and a few friends from lower classes who would notice.

                Reply
                1. Annie Moose

                  hahaha oh man

                  For my current job I moved to a MUCH more well-off part of my state, and the people I work with have absolutely no idea how much money they have, comparatively speaking. When people found out what town I moved to, there were comments about how it wasn’t very nice, etc. etc. and I’m just like… dude, this “poor” town is significantly wealthier than the town I grew up in.

                  They really, really don’t mean it, and I try to keep that in mind, but it’s a good reminder to me that I’m probably the same way to people who grew up in lower economic statuses.

                2. TL -

                  One of my college friends was telling me about her high school graduation present – a trip to Ireland with her family. I responded “Wow! That’s a really nice gift!” and she started telling me about how it wasn’t that expensive, they used frequent flyer miles for the plane, they ate at small local restaurants, ect.., ect..,

                  Meanwhile, the only vacation that wasn’t “drive to relative’s house and stay there” that my family had taken was a weeklong trip to DC, which it took us 7 years to save up for, and we stayed in a hotel room with a kitchenette and cooked, and went to all the free things – Smithsonian, national monuments. I think the only thing we paid for admissions-wise was an outdoor skating rink.

                  It would have been a lot more tolerable if she had just said, “Yeah, I’m really lucky to have had such a nice trip!” rather than trying to pretend it was a cheap gift that anyone could have afforded.

                3. Parenthetically

                  I totally agree with you about this, TL. I don’t resent people for their wealth, but I sure do resent people trying to downplay the expensiveness or luxury of two weeks at a private resort on some island or whatever. It always reads to me like, “Well, surely you could afford this too, if you just used frequent flier miles (which everyone has, right?) and went during shoulder season (which everyone can totally do, right?) and knew the resort owner (like everyone does, right?) like me,” i.e., totally clueless about how less-wealthy people live, or about the value of money generally.

                4. BF50

                  @TL

                  I don’t think I would interpret it as pretending it was a cheap gift that anyone could afford, so much as a clumsy attempt to explain that this trip wasn’t par for the course and wasn’t top of the line. They were only able to do it because they has airline miles and when they went they chose cheaper options.

                  It’s of course, still super tone deaf, but I think the intended message might have been “we aren’t THAT rich” instead of “it’s not THAT expensive.”

                5. Pixel

                  My pet peeve, especially now that I’m up to my eyeballs in work (accountant, tax season, yada yada yada), is hearing all about people’s fabulous spring break escapades. The cruises! The scenic drives! The food, the wine, the freedom! These are women who don’t work, due to their husbands making twice what me and my husband make, combined (and we’re both professionals). They can basically go anywhere, any time they feel like it, because they’re not tied up in work commitments, don’t need to save up vacation days, and don’t have to coordinate their holidays with their co-workers, and have the $$$ to do whatever. They just happily post pictures of their lovely holidays while I sit at my desk on a Friday afternoon, before coming in again on Saturday and probably Sunday. A particularly clueless one posts pictures of the view from her vacation home titled “my happy place”. Apparently, her happy place is where she escapes to from the tremendous pressure of being a stay-at-home wealthy suburban mom. I, too, would love a happy place! Right now it’s a toss-up between my desk at work and a sink full of dirty dishes at home. Oh well, back to my desk now.

                6. TL -

                  @BF50 – yes, it was a clumsy attempt to say “We aren’t THAT rich” except to me (and many non-upper-middle-class people) she was that rich and it would’ve been better if she could just acknowledged it.
                  She’s a good friend of mine and I don’t hold it against her, but my college was full of experiences like that and they do get really frustrating to deal with.

              2. Mimi

                I have to second this; I grew up in a very small town with a distinct class split. People who worked on or for the naval base tended to be middle class (with some exceptions of successful business owners running monopolies on the town!) and everyone else was of lower socioeconomic status. The middle class got automatically labeled as snobs by the lower classes and everyone knew who was who because it was such a small town and by other cues.

                I was solidly in the middle class; it wasn’t upper middle class either, it was the middle of the middlest of middle classes. Which was to say we never had to worry about food, could take decent family vacations occasionally (never anything extravagant, always budget options and within the same state), and I only managed to pay off my college student loans relatively quickly due to intelligent budgeting. My parents are Vietnamese refugees and they both came from upper class backgrounds; my father’s family had more status than actual financial backing but he still went to a very prestigious boys’ school up until he fled to the USA and my mother lived in a mansion, had a nanny, her older sisters were all debutantes (she barely missed hers)…the whole nine yards. While my father more or less rolled with the cards life dealt him and made himself a good living in America, my mother often bemoans her lost status so I grew up VERY AWARE of what the upper class had, what the middle class had, and what “everyone else” had.

                The first major incident I had that really emphasized class differences to me was in 4th grade. I had a new jacket from Ross (Dress for Less!); it was probably less than $10 because I was a pretty cheap kid who liked saving my allowance for video games. I wore it to school with lots of compliments and “Oooo where did you get it?” (note: the town only had Walmart, Kmart, and a Mervyn’s for clothing options. I got my jacket while visiting my grandmother who lived 4 hours away.) Of course, I said I bought it at Ross because why wouldn’t I?

                A classmate, who I knew lived in the “town trailer park”, slapped me across the face during recess then proceeded to burst into tears while screaming at me. She said “YOU ARE SUCH A SNOB!!! YOU KEEP PARADING AROUND THINKING YOU’RE BETTER THAN EVERYONE BECAUSE YOU HAVE DESIGNER CLOTHING FROM ROSS!!!”

                Even at the age of 9, I was stunned. I realized that to someone of lower socioeconomic status than me, it was very possible to buy into Ross’ “designer brands for less!” angle that their commercials had. It was also the realization that this girl absolutely had no idea how the actual upper class actually lived and that everyone else who was “not her” was upper class, probably had maids and butlers, drank champagne, and drove big shiny cars.

                For a 9 year old, that was a pretty big realization.

                Ironically, I became friends with a lot of upper middle to upper class people during college. We just happened to have common interests and friendship happened. Some of them are genuinely have no clue how the lower classes live while others grew up in households that insisted upon thriftiness, self-dependence (“Clean your own bathroom, I don’t care if we have a housekeeper for everything else. It builds character.”), and responsibility.

                There’s something about the difference in classes that is readable. While it’s definitely possible for people to transfer between classes in social context, there’s a certain way people carry themselves, talk, and act that are cues to the class background they grew up with. Some people react very negatively to others of a different class background and it’s a really difficult prejudice to get around because humans are such group oriented creatures.

                Reply
                1. aebhel

                  So much about social class isn’t just money, either. I grew up in a trailer where the pipes froze in the winter and we’d take baths in an aluminum tub in the living room (in like… the 90’s), getting free lunch at school and wearing clothes from the salvation army, and I was still considered one of the middle-class kids because my parents are both educated and that showed in how I spoke and carried myself. My husband actually grew up with a lot more money than we did (although still solidly middle-class), and he got read as working class because his parents both had blue-collar jobs.

                2. Casuan

                  With me, it was my reply to the daily question “We had this for dinner last night, what did you have?”
                  I always thought it was a stupid question, although at 7yo I couldn’t have ever said that aloud. So I answered.
                  It took me a few weeks to decipher why kids were thinking I was being a show-off: my answers always had a form of meat.* My dad was a rancher so for me it was perfectly normal even though I don’t think we were in a different socioeconomic class; it never occurred to me that beef or pork wasn’t on everyone’s dinner menu.
                  If anything, I felt I was lower because I lived in the country!
                  Once I realised my replies were causing problems I stopped answering & my classmates stopped asking me.

                  *except on Sundays; our traditional dinner was popcorn & homemade ice-cream!!
                  Every so often now, I’ll do the same, although it isn’t always on a Sunday & the ice-cream isn’t so much “homemade” as store bought “home style” or whatever I fancy

            2. Jamie

              Maybe they weren’t downplaying it but it really just wasn’t a big deal to them. After all not everyone has the same standards for what is considered expensive or luxurious. Reading about class differences I tend to think back to my own childhood compared to my current lifestyle. I grew up in a fairly poor family (the kind where McDonalds $ menu is considered ‘fine dining’) but now I’m solidly middle class so I’ve had a few interactions with my family where it seemed like I was ‘downplaying’ or being ‘tone deaf’ even .

              The most striking was about a year ago when I was talking to my mom about visiting her and she mentioned she’d really like to out to eat at this new ‘super fancy restaurant’ (her words) that opened in town but she didn’t think she’d be able to save enough to afford it by the time I visited since entrees were $10 each with a few being even more ($12ish). To me that’s barely a drop in the bucket so I told her I’d pay and she was borderline shocked I could afford such extravagance and insisted I don’t need to do that because she didn’t want me to ‘be on hard times’.

              Some other times were when I took out a couple $20 bills from my billfold in front of my aunt and she nearly passed out in shock, the time I mentioned my car was under 15 years old and my sister burst into tears, the time my grandma asked me what I did and my cousin called me a ‘pretentious b****’ because my job requires a college education. The list goes on.

              Overall I think it’s a balancing act. On one hand a person doesn’t want to seem insensitive. On the other hand constantly having to act like you have literally nothing so you don’t hurt others feelings, never feeling comfortable talking about good things in your life with family/friends(vacation plans, something fun you bought, paying something off, etc.), and always being treated like you’re some pretentious big spender because you can afford to fill up your gas tank more than once a month gets very tiresome very quickly and starts to erode any sympathy towards those less fortunate.

              For me, it’s gotten to a point where I just avoid family interactions with anyone but my younger sister who’s also considered well-educated and middle-class. Otherwise I have to deal with family members who get upset at the thought of me being able to pay my bills without resorting to selling my organs.

              Reply
              1. TL -

                It wasn’t a big deal to my friend and I didn’t begrudge her the trip. It was the attitude in response to my reaction – obviously “wow, that’s a big trip,” from me means such a trip would be a big deal to me. And I’ve had friends ranging from middle class to very rich respond with, “oh yeah, I’m really lucky,” or, “my family tries to do a big trip every other year – it’s really fun!” and that has never bothered me because there’s an acknowledgement of “my life affords me different opportunities,” rather than, “this is no big deal, everyone gets these opportunities.”

                Reply
                1. Jamie

                  You made an exclamation of surprise and she responded that the trip wasn’t as expensive as it first sounds and gave examples of how they saved money. Sounds like a reasonable response to your statement to me.

                2. TL -

                  It’s really not a reasonable response, given my background – even had my family had access to her family’s savings, it wouldn’t have been affordable.
                  And again, that kind of minimizing response (unless it was a trip they won or something), comes off as “everyone has these kinds of opportunities and it’s not a big deal,” which can make you feel very ostracized if you don’t have those kinds of opportunities and you don’t think you’ll be able to get them without a lot of hard work. That is the problem with those kinds of attitudes – it implies that their background is the right and normal background; if anyone says they couldn’t afford what the upper middle class affords, there’s an instant minimizing. And that minimizing implies “Oh, well you could have afforded it too, if only you knew how to save/budget/whatever.” That wasn’t the reality for my family and it’s not the reality for most families.

        2. TL -

          Indeed, upper middle class can feel incredibly rich to the right background. And, in my experience, upper middle class tends to be the most likely to have no clue of how much they have but very aware that they are not rich, so it can be frustrating.

          Reply
          1. medium of ballpoint

            Seconded. People may be working off interactions they’ve had with other people of Sunflower’s background and now Sunflower her/himself.

            For now, I’d also think about taking small talk in a direction where you ask about/listen to your coworkers. We generally feel more positive about people who allow us to talk about ourselves and if you can show genuine interest, people are more likely to reconsider their incorrect impressions of you.

            In future interviews, maybe you could ask about the office culture. I usually ask about open/closed door policies, how much socializing/interacting staff members do, and how varied their interests/interactions are so I have a good idea about whether I’d fit in. Good luck!

            Reply
          2. Ann Furthermore

            It’s true, upper middle class can appear to be very rich to others. Money is such a tricky subject. It just is, even though in the perfect world it wouldn’t be.

            A few years ago we took a vacation to the Outer Banks, and rented a house. We had talked about renting a place with some friends of ours. Our kids are all friends, so it would have been really fun for them to have the week together at the beach. They turned out not being able to swing it due to some pretty big medical bills for their son they had to pay off, which we understood. The house we rented wasn’t a mansion, but it was big enough for our family (4 people) and there would have been room for them too, it just would have been a little cozier. At the time, I wished that we could have offered to have them share the house with us and just worry about airfare, maybe buy a couple loads of groceries and/or dinner a couple times and call it even. We were going to be paying for the house regardless of how many people were going to be staying there, so it wasn’t like we’d be spending more than we’d planned. I knew that would have made things weird between us though, so I didn’t say anything.

            Reply
          3. Anonymouse

            This is so true of my family. I was lucky to make friends in college that came from a fairly broad range of backgrounds, and learned pretty quickly that I could awfully be tone deaf (I still cringe at a few things I said, but I genuinely appreciate the friends who called me on it). I hope I’ve at least improved – I’m a lot more aware of the privilege I came from and I do try to be conscientious about it – but sometimes I listen to my family talk and I just think ‘you have absolutely no clue how well off we actually are, do you?’

            Reply
          4. Loose Seal

            I know I’m late to this, TL, but you might be interested in a comment thread over at Jezebel a couple of weeks ago. The question was prompted by an article about whether Blue Ivy knows she’s rich and so the question was, “when you were a child, were you aware if your family had money/didn’t have money?” What you are talking about here — upper middle class having no clue — is reflected there too. I was completely baffled to read that people would say they grew up with only an outdoor pool, not an indoor one, so they couldn’t possibly be considered rich while I knew I wasn’t eating lunch if school was canceled for snow.

            There really is a divide. And I think the OP for this question nailed it. When you grow up desperately poor, you are poor in the same way all poor people are. When you’re middle class, you have room to choose your path. And so your family prioritizes vacations, say. But 15 years later, you are arguing on a website that you weren’t rich because you didn’t have a pool but you forget about all those vacations that you took and you think anyone should be able to take because, in your definition, you weren’t rich.

            Reply
            1. an anon

              I’m quite late too but wanted to add–I grew up lower-middle class but went to a church firmly seated in the wealthiest neighborhood of my city. I’ll never forget a youth group classmate, whose parents had just bought her a brand new BMW for her birthday, telling me that her family wasn’t “that rich” because unlike some of her friends’ houses, her house didn’t have an elevator in it.

              Reply
    2. MegaMoose, Esq

      Well, it’s not awful of you to feel like you don’t fit in. Shared background brings people together, and if you’re an outlier in a lot of ways, it makes sense that you don’t feel like you can really talk to people. I guess I would try and figure out *how* this culture mismatch happened. Was it just weird luck that you ended up the outlier, or was it something about your profession, where the job is located, how the office markets itself, etc. If you’re seeing a similar demographic marketed to on the website of the place you’re interviewing, this might be difficult to avoid in your niche/region/whatever and you might need to look at making a change, either to your niche/region/whatever, or to what you expect in a “culture fit.”

      Reply
    3. TL -

      It’s probably not actually their background but the particular dynamics of this group. You don’t have to share a similar background with someone to have friendly chit-chat with them or take an interest in their lives – I am the only person with my background in my department but everyone still manages to find things to talk about.
      I would look for a workplace where people aren’t spending lots of time hanging out outside of work; that’ll help. And maybe work on your small talk skills? If they’re friendly, they probably just don’t know what to talk to you about, so try to take an interest in their lives (start one on one).

      Reply
      1. Tuckerman

        I agree. There’s usually a shared interest hidden somewhere that can be used for chit chat. Recipe swapping, what they did with their grandkids over the weekend, the football team you both hate, book recommendations. Sometimes a kind gesture can get the ball rolling. A co-worker with whom I admittedly thought I had nothing in common brought in donuts for my birthday one year. Getting to know her, I found we both like Scotch and that we’ve modified our grandmas’ traditional recipes because they used too much salt in their dishes. We can have friendly conversation now.

        Reply
        1. Casuan

          Often, a random act of kindness helps to break the ice.
          “Here’s some donuts for your birthday!”
          “I see you’re out of coffee. I’m going that way. I’d be glad to bring you another one if you want.”

          Once in my laundry area, an aloof neighbour was waiting for me to finish up with the washer. When I finished & we crossed paths I told her I left some quarters in the machine for her. We’re good friends now :-)
          [she was always polite, just a bit aloof & she wasn’t at all being rude about the machine; it’s a small complex with one washer & one dryer]

          Reply
    4. Bagpuss

      How long have you been there? I think even if you do have a similar background, it takes a while to fit in, and in a small office, and/or one where there is low turnover of staff so people have been there a long time, it is difficult to ‘break in’ to established friendships.

      I do wonder whether you perhaps come across as a bit reserved – for instance, you mention your coworkers talking about plans together – have you ever invited them to anything? Or suggested meeting up at a public event outside of work?

      I think looking for jobs in larger organisations might suit you better, that way there are likely to be people who have something in common with you, even if they don’t ‘match’ in every way.

      Reply
    5. Chickaletta

      Culture fit is important, and economic background can influence how one values education, their view on relationships, long-term goal-setting, financial management, and more. My husband and I come from different economic and ethnic backgrounds and I’ve had to come to accept that we place a different value on some of these things.

      As for your job search, I would look for companies and industries that value the types of things you value, and you will be more likely to work with people who value those things too. And when you get to the interview, ask questions like, -What kind of person will fit in here? What do you look for in an employee?

      Reply
    6. PoniezRUs

      You will need to work at a larger, possible multi national company in a large city to get less of this. I too am a minority and have felt some of the same resentment you feel. Larger companies help to dilute those nuances and also provide more opportunities for growth (usually) .
      In regards to the socio economic backgrounds, I grew up extremely poor and it made me feel like an outsider when my coworkers with your background talked about things they did that I could not connect with. They also talked about how unsafe they felt driving through areas I grew up in and that made me angry. I have faced this at every company I have been at. I just take it as an opportunity to understand their mentality and kindly explain how out of touch their comments are. With that being said, just look for culture fit in the mission of the company, values, and career progression.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        The neighborhood thing is the worst! Though for me, it’s usually a neighborhood that looks like my hometown. I’ve just started responding, “well a lot of people live there just fine, so it’s clearly doable.”

        Reply
        1. Lil Lamb

          Definitely. Once, people kept warning me about that a part of town I was staying (three month study abroad) was “rough.” The area just looked like suburbia to me, and I found it so strange.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            I live in Boston and while it used to be a much rougher city where this wasn’t true, every time I hear “rough neighborhood” to describe a current neighborhood, it shockingly also coincides to “not white.”

            My neighborhood has a bad rap, but it’s actually much nicer than a student-populated suburb with a much better reputation. But my neighborhood is a former rough side of town that turned into immigrant town, so…

            Reply
            1. Lily Evans

              There’s a bus route I now take regularly in Boston that I avoided for the longest time because a coworker (who turns out to be a super hyperbolic person, but I fidn’t know it at te time) told me it wasn’t safe. Turns out I’ve never felt unsafe on that bus even at night, but there have been a bunch of times I was the only white person or close to it. It didn’t take me too long to connect those dots…

              Reply
    7. Freya UK

      I don’t think you’re a terrible person – I’m in a similar boat, and I’ve been in boats like this too often (school, work, socially…). I’m also job-hunting again and the whole trying to find the right culture (in all the ways) thing has got me anxious and sad also.

      It’s hard – I have strived to overcome my own biases time & time again, only to get ostracised regardless because often others don’t feel they have to address theirs about someone who fits my various ‘catagories’… especially if they have the safety of a peergroup around them. I try to stay open-minded, but you get tired of defending yourself when you’ve done nothing wrong.

      I’m afraid I don’t have any good advice for you just yet, but you’re not alone!

      Reply
    8. Elizabeth West

      I felt this way at Exjob–the people I worked with were really intelligent and many of them made more money than I did, but the sports/Duck Dynasty/camo culture was a total mismatch. That is literally all anyone talked about when they weren’t talking about work.

      I would have probably been better off if I worked with the geekier folks, but most of them were in IT (not my area) and my entire team and the team surrounding me were the other group. In fact, every company I’ve worked for here has been like that–it’s the entire city, really. It took years before I even found a nerdy group to hang with outside work. I wondered where they were all hiding!

      I’m not sure if where you live has the same issue, or it’s your company or industry. The solution for me is to accept that I am probably not going to be close friends with my coworkers (that’s fine) and to leave as soon as I can.

      Reply
      1. Nerd

        I joined my current company last fall, which is when they got a contract from a network to produce a product for a Very Popular TV Show. I’m a huge fan of said TV show as was big chunk of my old company. New company? Not so much! They announced it like, “maybe you know someone who has seen X show, you may want to tell them that we are making Y widget for it…” (subtext: we’re not assuming any of our staff actually geeks out on this odd show)

        So I’m tamping down my nerdness quite a bit to fit in, where in the old company I was known for having the best plot theories.

        Reply
      2. Gadfly

        Part of what helped push me out of my last job was that one of the two coworkers I had to work most closely with was offended that I used (real quote) “big words he didn’t understand”. And he held a grudge and was allowed to get away with a lot of mean teasing of everyone I felt crossed serious boundaries (but that’s just Fergus, he doesn’t mean anything by it.) So I got labeled a snob because I like books more than the Raiders. And he hit it off well with the other one of the two and they became a clique. From everything I know, he came from the better socioeconomic background. I could work with not being friends, but they actually made it much more difficult to do my job (which is a management fail too, where the manager kept assuming I just was having problems feeling left out when I was having problems with them not keeping me looped in or processing things correctly in the system so I didn’t need to be looped in, and because of it ads running incorrectly.)

        Reply
        1. Freya UK

          I’ve discovered that someone didn’t like me “because [you] use big words” on numerous occasions, it’s extra annoying when it’s a colleague (or a clique of them)…

          Reply
        2. Marvel

          Ugh. I’ve gotten that too–not at work, but friends of friends used to tell me “wow, you use a lot of big words” in way that sounded like it could pass as a compliment, but really, really wasn’t. I get the distinct impression that people assume that I’m doing it on purpose to “sound smart,” which I’m not, or that I think I’m smarter than they are, which I don’t–there are different kind of intelligence, and vocabulary just happens to be part of mine. I wish there was some polite way to say, “Look, this is just how I talk. I’m not using these words AT you, they are just the first words that come to mind. I don’t have a problem with how you speak, and I don’t have a problem if you need to ask me what a word means. Sometimes people use words I don’t understand, too.”

          Reply
    9. Jessie the First (or second)

      “then I looked at pictures of the staff that are on the website and seeing much of the same crowd I’m currently working with”

      What can you tell from a picture? Just age and race and gender (that last depending, remembering yesterday’s thread), right?

      You can’t tell marital status, economic status, level of education, disability status, friendliness, intelligence, politics, warmth…. And on and on and on.

      So my advice to is when you start saying to yourself “these people are just like the group I have at work now and I hate it” – stop yourself, and remember you see age and race and (perceived) gender. That tells you just about nothing about these people. Remember that, and repeat that to yourself when you start worrying.

      It’s not their age or race or gender that make you feel excluded – it’s other things. And you can’t tell those other things from the picture.

      Reply
      1. General Ginger

        Seconded. The only common trend you could definitively pick up from our office photos is that our photographer was really bad at setting up lighting!

        Reply
        1. SometimesALurker

          Thirded. If it is their age or race or gender that’s causing you to feel excluded… the problem might be on both sides, and something you can take steps to work on in your own reactions as well as in looking for a new job. If it’s not those things, then you can’t tell from the picture, and you should lean on the excellent advice of the commenters above me.

          Reply
      2. AshK434

        Definitely agree. This OP is definitely developing (or already has) some biases that as a black person I fight everyday. You can’t judge a book by a cover!!

        Also, everyone’s being really kind but I think the OP is a big part of the problem. She has this them-vs-me mentality which people can probably sense which is probably why no one really talks to her.

        Reply
        1. Freya UK

          Speaking as someone who identifies with the OP, the Us Vs. Them mentality is often created by (or at the very least supported by) the majority group in the situation, who have lead you to feel ostracised in the first place. That’s not to say there are no assumptions on my part either, but I know I’ve always tried to get on with whoever I’m working with, but I’ve found that – like someone mentioned above – there are just things about me that set me apart as being from a certain background, which some people won’t try to get over to get to know me as an individual.

          Reply
          1. TL -

            So if – as you said above – numerous people have said you use big words and they don’t like it, what they’re really saying is you’re communicating in a way they don’t understand and you’re making them feel excluded (and probably dumb to boot).
            Language is great but its primary means is to communicate with others and if you can’t do that effectively, that is a legit reason for people not to want to be around you. Ideally, one adjusts one’s vocabulary to the audience, not vice versa.

            Reply
            1. TL -

              Which is to say, while some people are just jerks, if it’s multiple people, I don’t think it’s an inherent part of you – I think it’s probably that you’re not adjusting the way you present yourself to the audience and there’s probably an underlying assumption that the way you present yourself is “right” so other people should adjust to that, rather than you adjusting to your audience.

              Reply
            2. Been There, Done That

              I go along with TL up to a point, and after that point I wonder if the math whiz would be expected to deliberately make mistakes so the more innumerate coworkers wouldn’t feel so bad.

              Reply
    10. Merida May

      When you picture an ideal office culture at your new job, what does that look like? Do you just generally meld into the office better than you do currently? Or are you interested in making friends at work that you can also hang out with on your free time?

      Reply
    11. em2mb

      In my early 20s, I worked in a very cliquish office where we all shared similar demographic characteristics (down to having gone to the same big college two states away) that made us fast friends. It was very tough to transition to my next workplace, which was much bigger and where people did not socialize as much outside of work, or if they did, it was because they were parents of young kids or some other trait I did not share.

      One of the things that made me feel better about not having those work friendships anymore was joining a couple of professional networking groups. I got to meet a lot of people that were doing similar work as me for other organizations, and though I’m now very content where I’m at, I have many friends who’ve landed their next job because of connections within the group. This might give you an insider track for new opportunities, as well as an early look at what the culture of a particular office might be.

      Reply
    12. Voluntold Volunteer

      When I started my career a decade ago, I went through this at my first workplace. I had just moved to this city in the South, and it was a medium-sized workplace with lots of people under the age of 30. When I was hired, I was the only woman in my age range (22-35) that didn’t have a steady boyfriend/fiancé/husband. Slowly, all of the women in my age range started getting married and having kids – and it’s all they could talk about. I just couldn’t relate, even though I tried for a very long time. It didn’t help that when I did talk to them, they would always make remarks like, “why can’t you find a man? What’s your problem?”

      I finally just gave up and realized that I probably wasn’t going to have many close friends at this particular office. It kind of changed my whole outlook on the company, because for the most part, I loved the company and loved my job. After a few years, I ended up moving on to another workplace (much bigger) but where I was (yet again) the only single person in my department. It wasn’t quite as bad as Company #1, but it still came up sometimes.

      As far as trying to prevent this from happening again, my best advice would be to ask specific questions about the team’s or company’s culture – “does the current team seem to be a tight knit group?” “How often does the team work late or on weekends?”, “How long has this group worked together?”, and so on. If you have the chance to interview with potential co-workers, you can probably dive into this aspect of the job/company a little further. For example, in my old department, the manager and one of her direct reports were BFFs and it caused all kinds of problems (i.e. obvious preferential treatment, letting the direct report get away with doing no work for weeks on end while others on the team were working a ton, etc.). I didn’t have the chance to interview with this particular team member or manager otherwise I would have been able to tell that they had a close relationship and it probably would have deterred me from taking the job.

      Reply
    13. NoMoreMrFixit

      In my experiences you can’t. I come from the opposite side of the tracks but similar results. Plus older than most of my coworkers. Add in living in the Toronto area which is the most ethnically diverse region in Canada. I had to learn to adapt to their varied interests and get used to being excluded from a lot of social events. Not fun but sometimes there is just too big a gulf. Doesn’t mean we don’t try.

      Reply
    14. Cookie

      I could’ve written this post. Except I’m working (and commuting) to a mid-sized depressed city an hour outside of the larger (and more competitive) city where I grew up/still live. I’m not seriously considering any positions in this mid-sized city because I know the culture is vastly different here and that’s not going to be a great fit. I’m also sure to ask about tenure in interviews – I’m not interested in places where people stay for 30 years because then you end up 1) with coworkers at one extreme of the age spectrum and 2) who have their own groups from having worked with each other for a lifetime. I had an interview recently where they said that most their employees stay between 2-6 years and that really seemed perfect for me. Lots of fresh blood where people will have more diverse viewpoints because they’ve worked in other orgs before and plan to transition again soon.

      Reply
    15. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

      I once worked briefly in an office where I had a similar problem. I had a higher education (though hadn’t been able to find a job in the field), middle-class family background, stable relationship, and hobbies/interests other than getting drunk with cheap beverages. The others were from “lower” class backgrounds, had lower education, job history in things like retail or bars, complicated family/relationship status, etc. Also most of them were recruited via networks and relationships and/or had been there a long time and had a tight knit community. I was the first person ever they recruited via an online ad. I didn’t have much in common with the other employees and we didn’t talk much about non work related stuff, except for one who was old enough to be my mother and had a very different background from me. But she was a nice person who was interested in my life. That’s not a question of class or age and also difficult to know beforehand but it makes a big difference.

      Reply
    16. Not So NewReader

      I think part of your solution might be to promise yourself you won’t stay in a place that you feel discomfort this strongly. Ask questions about culture, ask about employee turnover. Do the best you can sorting this out. If you still end up in a place that is a bad fit, then move on.

      Another thing that I have used and found very helpful, when I start a new job I tell myself “It’s all about them.” This works out quite well because they can’t wait to show me some new things or tell me the silly thing their dog did last night or whatever. Try to remember what they tell you and pick up on that in conversation again later. “Hey thanks for the tip about the copier, that was helpful.” Or “How’s that little rascal of a dog doing now?”
      Basically here you are hunting to find shared topics of interest and you hunt for those topics by focusing on them and what they are talking about.

      One place I worked there was a woman who I had to talk with daily for this or that reason. She didn’t seem happy and she was not very communicative. But at least she answered me when I spoke, so I just hung in there. After about a year we discovered that we had subject X in common, we were both highly interested in that subject. The doors flew open, we chatted often and even cracked jokes together.

      With this suggestion here the overall idea is to change your mindset. I know I like to have work friends who know a little about me and ask me “Hey, how’s the dog?” etc. I’d recommend putting that on the back burner, and instead learn about them and what they are doing. Ask questions. Sincere questions are fine, it shows interest/concern.

      I’ve worked with a lot of different types of people. As a newbie, I tend think that I have to “go where they are” in conversations. I think it helps to use this approach starting on day one, if I wait even a few months to implement this plan, it’s too late.

      Reply
      1. Casuan

        All of this!

        Friday Anon, you’re not at all a terrible person.

        You say that you feel that you’re stereotyping, which means that you’re probably doing just that. That’s okay, because really we all stereotype- it’s just how we process- even if just for an instant until our logic can take over. Sometimes that’s not as natural an occurence as we’d like, however being aware of the tendency can help us get beyond the stereotypes.

        re the photo you saw: You definitely stereotyped that one & if the individuals resemble your current colleagues, that’s understandable.
        However, if you do interview try to see past the stereotypes.

        Earlier suggestions are good [oh, for a like/not like button for comments!!]: that you might do well in a larger office & your not being assimilated now could be due more to the strong cliques than a culture/class thing. When you interview, if you can try to get a feel of the office vibe.

        side query: During an interview, Is it appropriate to ask for a quick tour?

        Please try not to feel bad about not being friends outside of work. Even though the cliques are close-knit now, eventually things unravel because Fergus didn’t pay his part of the tab or Jane thinks Tarzan looked longingly at the new intern & Jane is upset even though Tarzan has no idea Jane likes him & this all occurred at that new club they were raving about in the break-room the other day…

        Be courteous, use names, tell someone to enjoy their weekend, ask some work questions [“Jane, do you know where the extra toner is?”], ask about the photo on the desk [“Oh, those eyes!”]… usually that will prompt a reply that can give you a follow-up [“Your niece! I haven’t a niece although I do have a nephew & I don’t see him as often as I’d like. Thanks for the report, I’d better get to work on it”]

        Above all, be professional & be yourself!!
        Success!!

        Reply
    17. Chaordic One

      I can totally relate. In many of the jobs I’ve had, I feel like “Diane Chambers” on Cheers. It’s not like I consider myself a great intellectual or anything, but I do get annoyed with my coworkers when they don’t know basic information, like who their congressperson is, or that you can google how to do something in Word or Excel.

      Reply
      1. Freya UK

        Yes it’s that “common sense isn’t that common” thing isn’t it! My fiancé’s last workplace praised him for Googling things – they were so used to people who never considered that option… most concerning.

        I think that’s one thing that will forever out me as the ‘different’ one in workplaces – my reality of what is basic knowledge often does not align with other people’s reality of what is basic knowledge…

        Reply
    18. Stella'sMom

      Hi…. I am sorry you feel like an outsider and have felt left out in many ways. Here is my input, based on what I have seen working internationally for a while now. I have had colleagues and interns who came from very poor families and countries – and others from well-off situations. One of the job duties of management, and all colleagues, I feel, is to contribute to an inclusive culture at work for all. Not necessarily over-friendly but at the least, inclusive and minimising the differences that contribute to power imbalances or resentment etc. Maybe I am wrong, but I do think culture of an org should be set and demonstrated to be inclusive, discreet about pay differences, etc to make it a good place to work for the org’s goals.

      An example of where this was not the case: I worked in a place once where the very obvious wealth of the HR person (she and hubby flaunted it a lot – from cars to fancy bags, etc – he came from a well-known wealthy family) and big boss too…the flaunting made working with them very difficult… for 3 reasons. 1, because the org pay scales were transparent and they paid all of us workers very low salaries but management a lot more, the flaunting of wealth by these two created a culture of resentment; 2, because the HR person would show off things, like a new couture bag and tell us prices of these things, knowing full well that said bag cost the equivalent of several months’ rent for most of us; and 3, when the org could not pay employees on time, workers were much more affected than these two, both of whom were not bothered to miss a month’s pay due to their situations… so again leading a lot of us to leave over a period of a couple of years because of the inequity and callousness of the attitudes. Discreet and gentle did not describe either the boss or the HR person, and it came thru in the lack of awareness in my examples. (And on the inability to pay people on time… in some countries, this happens, even tho it is not legal where I live, a lot of small orgs have cash flow issues due to all sorts of factors.)

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        This sounds oh-so-familiar. It does work into self-defeating, for example, I knew of a rich exec who complained that she could not afford vitamins and other natural remedies that would probably help her. If she gave up one new $500 suit for a month she could have gotten the help she wanted for many months. Very rarely did this woman wear the same outfit twice.
        I hear you, though, it’s tough watching most of one’s coworkers on food stamps and then seeing the spendy clothes, jewelry and cars of the higher ups. We did not feel they earned that pay because they failed to provide us with even the basics we needed to do our jobs.

        Reply
        1. Stella's Mom

          Completely agree. There is a human rights and worker’s rights aspects at work here too (I know, not all work or life situations are fair, but consider the rights side of it). I am sorry you’ve seen this too.

          Reply
  3. G.R.R.M.

    Out of all the letters Alison has published in the past, which one(s) are you most hoping for an update on?

    Mine was the one posted yesterday, because I worked with a Sarah before and that person made everyone miserable. I was so glad to get out of there when I found another job. I could relate to that letter so much.

    Reply
    1. my name is Rory

      For me it is the manager who was jealous of one her reports so much that was causing problems in the workplace. I thought she was brave to come forward and ask for help.

      Reply
      1. Susie

        +1 to that letter.

        Also the letter from the person whose entire department got fired when it came out that their boss lied about having a degree. I’m so curious as to what happened to the fired workers.

        Reply
    2. Venus Supreme

      I really want to know what happened to the employee who found a bullet at her desk. Was there ever an update?

      Reply
        1. Venus Supreme

          Man, that leaves me with more questions than in the original letter. I hope that the letter writer is doing well.

          Reply
    3. MeridaAnn

      Not an update exactly, since it was the manager who sent the initial letter, but I wish there was a way to get a follow-up on the woman who quit her job to be able to attend her graduation. I hope that she was able to get an amazing job with her new degree and that things are going well for her.

      Reply
      1. k

        I would want to hear from that manager. Did they ever come around and see that they were being unreasonable? Maybe reach out to the employee to apologize? Still think there are in the right and that everyone on AAM are a bunch of morons?

        Reply
      2. em2mb

        I secretly hope that the woman who quit will someday stumble across Ask A Manager, recognize her situation in the archives and write to Allison to say she’s doing great in a new job that’s aligned with her new degree.

        Reply
      3. Casuan

        Yes. I’d love to know how both the manager & the new graduate are doing!! Let’s hope the graduate does find this site!!

        Reply
    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’d like to hear from the manager who wrote about being embarrassed that their employee paid with cash at a business lunch. Mostly because I’m curious as to why they found it embarrassing.

      Also, the employer who had an employee refusing to travel because her husband said she couldn’t.

      Reply
      1. Sylvia

        I want to know about the cash vs. card issue, too. It’s a cultural thing I had never heard of before and I’m still really curious!

        Reply
    5. MoinMoin

      I want the manager who thinks paying with cash instead of a card is uncouth to come back and give some additional context.
      Generally I want an update on all the LWs who were roundly disagreed with in the comment section to see if they give more details that justify their original opinion or realize they made a mistake or whatever.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        Very much agreed on that last point; a bit more context on a lot of them, or for them to see how their actions were perceived by others, outside their own headspaces, as it were.

        Reply
    6. ZSD

      I’d still like to hear back from the employee whose boss was making everyone be tested to see if they could donate part of their liver to his brother.

      Reply
        1. Ann O'Nemity

          I want another update! Has the OP seen additional signs of duck club activity? Are people still quacking at each other?

          Reply
          1. ByLetters

            They certainly are all over the internet .. I’ve seen references to that letter on Reddit and FB!

            Reply
    7. Temperance

      I really want to hear about the woman whose husband made all her choices. I also sometimes hope to hear back from the nurse whose husband quit the job for her.

      Reply
      1. Frozen Ginger

        Did you read the nurse’s comments in her post? Because I didn’t the first time I saw it and hoo boy adding on to the rollercoaster.

        Reply
            1. LauraG

              Sorry for double post, also the link to the original thread with OP comments is at the top of that link.

              Reply
    8. Freya UK

      The guy who hates all work, because I can identify and I would like to know he’s become self-employed and is blissfully happy.

      Reply
    9. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

      The one from last week (I think it was last week) who wanted to quit after a terrible first day on the job. I would love to know if the manager who was absent helped the Letter writer get settled and if the co-workers were more welcoming.

      Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          Aww, it sounds like she’s feeling like just another cog in the machine. I give her credit for hanging in there.

          Reply
    10. AvonLady Barksdale

      I really want to hear from the woman who got fired because she went behind her manager’s back and “took initiative”.

      Reply
    11. Antilles

      I’d kind of like an update on the teacher who forged vaccination paperwork. Because it could go so many ways – forging government paperwork is a major, fire-on-spot level offense, but vaccination is a hot enough topic among certain people that doing so might have touched off a firestorm…plus you can toss in the usual bureaucracies involved with a school district.

      Reply
    12. Bow Ties Are Cool

      The letter from the manager of the woman refusing to travel because her husband says she can’t (after she got promoted and did some travel).

      The boss who keeps referring to the (female) LW’s girlfriend as her “roommate”

      The St. Patrick’s day pinching debacle (would love to hear from both the LW/manager and the not-LW employee who quit)

      The LW sharing a 3-person desk pod with an engaged couple

      Reply
      1. ReneeB

        Oooooo, the woman refusing to travel just tingled all my spidey senses. I accept it’s impossible to diagnose via internet with a few sentences of data provided by strangers, but dear god, the red flags. All the red flags. Forests full of trees of red flags with red flags hanging from them.

        I just…I hope that employee is okay.

        Reply
    13. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo

      Besides those mentioned above, I’d love updates from the person whose boss is insisting they get their tonsils out and the person who was the only one not allowed to go on the office’s weight loss reward cruise.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        Oh lord, the weight loss reward cruise. There were so many things wrong with that one, as commenters were plenty eager to point out.

        Reply
    14. anon for this one

      As someone who is in recovery from an eating disorder, I have wondered about the letter writer who had a past eating disorder and was jealous of one of the people she managed. I think about her often since her letter was posted and I really hope she is doing okay.

      Reply
    15. Frozen Ginger

      I’d love to hear back from the recent LW who was using the agender pronouns for everybody in the office.

      Reply
      1. Kristin

        I’d love an update from the manager who had the employee with the bird phobia who injured his co-worker.

        Reply
          1. ByLetters

            No joke. Reading that one was honestly like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I honestly don’t know where I fall on that — on the one hand, with a spouse with a chronic mental disorder, I’m honestly sympathetic to the fact that we are so cavalier about mental issues. On the other hand … shoving her SO HARD that she is hurt that badly? I can’t help but think that if it were me I would be just as furious.

            What if, like me, the poor lady’s phobia was hospitals? Where would the company be then?

            Reply
        1. Rookie Manager

          Yesterday on my way to lunch I walked past half a dozen pigeons. They all flew up and one brushed past my head. I have no bird phobia but in that instant it took everything not to freak out! My empathy for the phobic guy went up 10 fold.

          Reply
    16. MuseumChick

      Hands down, the recent letter where the man with a bird phobia shoved his female co-worker into a the path of a moving car to get away from a bird. I really want to know how that one ends up playing out.

      Reply
    17. Office Mercenary

      I’d love to hear from the LW who was considering bringing her abusive, recently reconciled ex to work functions. I often wonder how she’s doing.

      Reply
    18. ReneeB

      The manager who felt like her employee was committing an egregious faux pas by paying in (gasp!) cash for lunch and then tipping in cash (fainting dead away). Then had the temerity to dress her employee down for it.

      That letter was just…bizarre.

      I seriously doubt we’ll ever hear from such an strange manager ever again. But I would LOVVVVVE to hear from the criticized employee.

      Reply
    19. Chaordic One

      I still wonder about the letter from someone who worked in a branch office that had been neglected by the headquarters. As I recall, there hadn’t been raises for several years and not much interest in the branch by the people in H.Q. Anyway, all at once almost everyone at the branch resigned.

      I wonder if they kept the branch open and restaffed it, or if it was shut down. I wonder what the people at H.Q. thought about it.

      Reply
    20. ginger ale for all

      The life coach one from April 2013 is linked to a recent blog post and I think it would be nice to hear how that turned out.

      Reply
    21. Miss Mac

      I’ve been checking daily for an update on the manager who’s employee died and now her team is forcing out any new hires for that position. People cope differently, but at this point it’s been about a year and some months.

      Reply
    22. C

      I want to know about the employee that applied for a job outside the company, then turned it down in order to strong-arm her boss into promoting her.

      Reply
    23. Lady Shalott

      I would love to hear about the LW whose direct report managed a team that could not handle the horrific death of their coworker and subsequently drove out three different people from that job. They had essentially made the job and the desk a shrine to the coworker and no one wanted an internal move to that position because they had heard how toxic the team and situation was. It was just so bizarre.

      Reply
  4. my name is Rory

    How do you get over job interview jitters? I have an interview next week and I am so nervous. I have never had a real job interview before. My job in high school was babysitting and there wasn’t any formal interviews for that. In college I had a few internships but those were always done as placements through the school and were set up by them. I’m working my first job after college now, but I didn’t have an interview because it was one of the companies I interned at and they just rolled me over to a full time paying position once I had finished school. I feel a bit like a moron for being almost 25 and having no experience with this. I have no clue what happens in an interview beyond what people have told me or what I have read about here. I have gone through the archives here to find out as much as I can about interviews but if anyone has any advice of their own I would really appreciate hearing it. Thank you so much (and thank you Alison for posting so much advice to help others)

    Reply
    1. Elle

      See if you can find a friend or family member who has experience interviewing people to role play one with you. I do this with my kids and their friends all the time. They’ve all said it helped tremendously!

      Reply
    2. CM

      I like to start my job search with a few interviews that are pretty low-stakes so I can warm up before I get to the “dream job,” but that’s not always possible.

      I think the best thing to do is to be as prepared as you can. Get a friend to do a mock interview if you think it would help. Download Alison’s free e-book and do everything it says about researching the company, preparing a list of questions to ask, and having behavioral interviewing examples at the ready (so when you’re asked about a time when you faced a difficult situation, you can launch right into your story). I also like to google the people who will be interviewing me so I get a sense of what their background is, if I know in advance who they are.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Christian Troy

        Yeah, it is really weird but I found that having a bunch of junk interviews was helpful. Not that I wouldn’t have taken the jobs, but I think having a bunch of interviews schedule helped me desensitize to nerves and get practice in answering questions, pausing before I answer so I didn’t interrupt etc.

        Reply
        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

          If the “junk interviews” are real interviews then just do it. In my experience for jobs that most people don’t want, like telemarketing, the interview doesn’t always include many questions and can be more like marketing the job so that the candidate would accept it. This doesn’t really gice you interview experience.

          Reply
    3. Merida May

      I used to get super nervous before an interview largely in part because I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. It was helpful for me to search around for really common interview questions (e.g. “Tell me about yourself?”, “What experience do you have with X?”, “Tell me about a time when…”, etc.) and actually write out answers to them. I then practiced them until I had the major talking points down. It was helpful for me because I felt like I had a good foundation of how I was going to present myself. Maybe that would be helpful to you? Best of luck!

      Reply
      1. Is it Friday Yet?

        This really helped me. Do not read your answers from a paper because you don’t want to sound too rehearsed. Try to relax and really think about your answer as you’re speaking.

        Reply
        1. Is it Friday Yet?

          Oh! Also, remember to think of questions that you want to ask them. This is almost always asked at the end of the interview, and I think you appear more interested when you’ve done your research and you actually have questions for them.

          Reply
          1. Wendy Darling

            I have a notebook I bring to all my interviews so I can write down anything I want to remember or in case I want to follow up about something later. The first page is a list of questions, mostly from here, to ask interviewers.

            It’s soooo helpful, especially because I’m in tech and six-hour multi-round interviews are normal, and there is seriously no way to have intelligent questions to ask your seventh interviewer in six hours unless you have a list.

            Reply
      2. Sprechen Sie Talk?

        This. I actually have a long Word document that I update (occasionally) with common interview questions and my stock answers in STAR format. That way I can:

        a) Remember exactly what I did in the past
        b) Add and change as needed
        c) Don’t have to go through the chore of writing them all out again the next time I interview.

        I then practice on my own remembering my key points and formulating responses. If I am going through rounds of interviews, I will add new questions/answers based on new questions I’ve heard or suspect they will ask given the position/industry.

        To get over nerves…. this may not be helpful but I have always figured it takes a few interviews to get to the one you were “meant to have”. It doesn’t mean taking junk interviews but it may mean talking to plenty of people where you have at least a 60% interest in the job and/or recruiters (if you have that situation – these are great to “talk about yourself”). Its like I need to work through the first 5 or so to get back into the groove and figure out how to sell myself again. Practice makes perfect!

        Reply
    4. LQ

      I’ve tried a few things with varying levels of success.
      Going in thinking I don’t care I don’t really want the job, or I know I won’t get it.
      Going in thinking I’m skeptical of the company and really want to make sure it is a fit (this seems to be best for me).
      Getting sick. (Weird…not recommending, but feeling slightly under the weather tends to get me an eh why bother which takes away the stress a little.)

      Reply
      1. anna green

        Ha. One time I was job searching while pregnant in my first trimester and had horrible morning sickness. Spent the entire interview just trying not to vomit. I guess it worked, because I got the job :)

        Reply
          1. LabTech

            “Did you see how intensely she was focused on the questions? She must be a good listener!”
            “When we described the role, she literally turned green with envy! She must be very enthusiastic about this position!”

            Reply
        1. LQ

          It’s so weird, like both job interviews I’ve had while sick I’ve been offered the job for. So yeah.

          Reply
      2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

        +100. I went to an interview with the attitude of ” I don’t need this job” and it was the BEST interview I ever had. They called me back, but I turned down a second interview (because I really did not want the job and I didn’t think it was fair of me to waste their time). But my point is, go in with an attitude of “THEY need Me, I don’t need THEM”

        Reply
        1. LQ

          Yes. And this is sort of what the skeptical thing is. Maybe not they need me, but they need someone and I fit what they think they are looking for because they called and asked me to come in.

          Reply
    5. anna green

      I just had my first interview last week after a long time of not interviewing, and I was really nervous too! Definitely download Alison’s interview guide if you haven’t already, it helped me a lot. Also, practice practice practice! I had my husband ask me interview questions and I couldn’t believe how much I fumbled the simplest questions the first time through, but after practicing for a while, I felt much more confident. Most (normal) interviewers are nice and friendly, so just try to relax and be yourself. But definitely preparing is the best way I’ve found to not be quite as nervous).

      Reply
    6. cookie monster

      I haven’t had a ton of experience either-I was at the same job for 15 years after college and didn’t have to interview to get it. The job I have now is technically only mu 2nd job even though I’ve been working for 20 years. What I found when I was interviewing was that I wrote out as many anticipated questions and answers ahead of time and studied them. Basically this helped me to have situations ready when someone asked “how did you handle a boss making a decision you didn’t like and you had to enforce it with your staff?” “how did you deal with a coworker you didn’t like?”
      I felt mush more confident at interviews because I knew I was capable of the work, the thing that caused me stress was not answering questions well. Having some notes to remind me of situations to pull out when asked specific things helped me to not have that feeling of madly searching my head for an answer and then later realizing the much better answer I could have given but didn’t think of at the time. The notes I brought to interviews were not detailed like my study notes, they were more like: Difficult employee: Mandy, combative resistant to authority, put my foot down and said X
      Basically enough information to remind me what I already knew, and often a catch phrase or work I knew I would not be able to pull out in the heat of the moment.
      Also, I schooled myself for ages in saying : “I feel like that wasn’t very articulate” for the situations where I couldn’t pull the correct word out at the correct time (this is a big problem with me-I can be very well spoken but also forget everything I want to say so a conversation with me can easily end up peppered with “doohickey” and Thing-a-majig” type language)

      Reply
    7. Sunflower

      Remember that you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you.

      There are lots of good suggestions here but I’d make a running document of interview questions- I have one that is like 20 pages long and includes basically every question I could possibly come up with. You shouldn’t memorize nor repeat these verbatim and they shouldn’t sound rehearsed but know enough that you have a general idea of what you want to say when asked. Keep updating this list as you go on more interviews and find which questions are more frequent. At this point, I get maybe a 1-2 questions that I wasn’t prepared for.

      I’ve also walked into a good amount of interviews where they have asked me maybe a few questions but they want to spend the majority of the interview answering MY questions. So make sure you have good ones(Allison has great ones on the site)

      Reply
    8. Tuckerman

      I don’t know that anyone really gets over the pre-interview jitters. But with more experience, I’ve developed a “this too shall pass” mentality. I know that I’m going to be nervous in the days leading up to the interview, in the waiting room, and at the beginning of the interview. But then I usually start to relax throughout the interview, because really you’re just having a conversation. Which to me feels natural.

      Reply
      1. PhillyPretzel

        Seconding this. I’m someone with a lot of social anxiety, and any time I have to go to an interview or do something else (like public speaking) that puts the spotlight on me, I get super nervous — despite the fact that I have quite a lot of experience with both of these activities. Even though I’m always well prepared and have practiced responses to likely questions, I still don’t feel less nervous — the physiological response for me is the same.

        So I think the best thing for me has been to accept that I’m probably always going to react this way, but to also realize that being super nervous does not mean that I will perform poorly. For me, the two things aren’t related and knowing that makes it easier to get through the process.

        Reply
    9. Finn

      Seconding all the advice about practice interviews, interviews for jobs you don’t care about, et cetera. Just practicing saying the words aloud is so helpful. Also Alison’s interview guide is great, highly recommend. Revamping my resume and following her interview tips got me my current (much better) job.

      Another thing I’d try is doing a mock interview and filming yourself. It sounds horrifying, and it totally is, but I did it once in college for a post-college life prep class, and it was so helpful. I was sitting in a chair that spun, and I was moving back and forth the entire time– and I had NO idea until I watched the video. Now I am very conscious of how I sit!

      Reply
    10. oranges & lemons

      See if your college’s career centre will let you come in for a mock interview. I think it was the most helpful thing that I did to prepare for interviews. My university would let alumni do it, and they also were pretty knowledgeable about the hiring norms for a broad range of industries, so they could offer industry-specific advice. I think my university’s career centre was better than average, though, so it probably varies.

      Reply
    11. Hillary

      When I was in business school, we practiced behavioral interview questions with each other at the bar. It helped more than you’d expect.

      More seriously, what everyone says about practice interviews is spot on. If you have friends are hiring managers (or friends of friends) ask them to do a practice interview and critique you. Video yourself doing it.

      Reply
    12. Not So NewReader

      Sometimes it’s easy to feel powerless. Keep in mind that you are not powerless here. You CAN say no yourself, it does not mean that they are saying no to you. Both of you have to agree and it could be that you decline.

      I like to tell myself that if I were shopping for a car, I would not beg the sales person to sell me a car. I’d look it over very carefully. I might ask for time to think about it, so I could go home and talk to a trusted friend or family member.

      I have found it helpful to have a basic idea of what I want from a job. Do you know what the pay range is you want? How about other benefits? What about hours per week, do they let you go home, EVER? Just like car shopping you can make a list of “must haves” and a list of “nice to haves”. This will help to shift your mind away from nervousness and help you to start to think about the nuts and bolts of this job and this company.

      Reply
    13. Evie

      I had an issue for a while thinking it was an them vs me thing. Now I just remember they want to hire me. This is for both of us. Good luck!

      Reply
  5. At Wit's End

    (Quick recap: I have been dealing with a terrible job that uses me as the office scapegoat, has piled the work of three people on me, holds me accountable for things that are not my responsibility, and generally makes my life miserable to the point of panic attacks and mental breakdowns. I was taking the steps to leave my job even without another lined up but was waiting for a medical matter to be settled because I needed my work’s insurance. My last post is linked in my name if you want to read it.)

    My medical matter has been settled and I have decided that I’m going to give my notice next week! And it couldn’t come soon enough after the week I just had.

    Head Boss pulled my team into a meeting to inform us that we’re doing so well without filling in the missing spaces on our team (meaning me because that’s where the majority of the work has been shoved) that he’s not going to hire anyone to fill those spaces and we’ll continue on without them. After the meeting, I was taken aside to ask if I could take on additional work to help a coworker who is falling behind in her workload (one who ducks calls from her angry clients and is never here for a full work day). I tried to push back with Head Boss and Supervisor, saying that I already was at my limit with the workload I’d received from our missing spots. They both said they were sure I’d do a great job because I’m so reliable and if it’s that bad after six months, we can discuss changing it.

    So once again they gave me more work, even when I pushed back, while I’m still at the entry salary and title when I arrived here two and a half years ago. But I smiled as I left the meeting knowing that I had already decided that my two week notice will be in their hands next week. I’ll be honest that I’m still a little nervous to be making this jump without a new job on standby but it’s time. My job has made it clear how things stand and so it’s time to bow out. And I have had a few interviews that I’m still hoping will become a job offer but even if not, I’m ready to part with Toxic Job.

    Thank you again for all the support on here, I truly appreciate it more than I can properly convey. I’ll keep you all up to date about how my final two weeks go. By the end of April, I shall be free!

    Reply
    1. anon anon anon

      I wish you were able to give them notice right then and there. Talk about satisfying. (Not the best professional advice but sometimes I have spiteful daydreams…)

      Reply
    2. animaniactoo

      “It’s that bad for me right now. The only reason I’m even getting it done is because I’m driving myself nuts to do it. If I take on any more I’ll go stark raving mad long before the 6 months is up.”

      But yeah, it’s going to feel sweet to put that notice in.

      Reply
      1. RVA Cat

        Plus the fact that when they have to pick up that workload they’ll realize it was too much for one person….

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I’ll admit there’s a spiteful little part of me cackling with anticipatory glee and rubbing her hands together in the back of my head. Just wait until they lose their draft-horse employee they’ve been happily abusing and suddenly have to actually cope with that workload!

          Reply
          1. JGray

            I had your same thoughts! It’s going to be awesome when the Big Boss and Supervisor realize how much one person was actually doing.

            Reply
    3. Anon for Today

      Please update us on what happens when you do hand it in! Perhaps I’m spiteful, but I’m curious to see what happens when you do. I’d just be careful and clear out the computer before you send the notice in!

      Reply
    4. Falling Diphthong

      Good for you! (From afar I always appreciate the dynamic “We will never change the things that are driving you crazy.” “Okay, bye.” “INCONCEIVABLE! No one could have predicted such an outcome!”)

      The second letter linked up there is about an employee who was very knowledgeable and also horrible to work with–and may have been driven that way by the terribly mismanaged company. Rather than say “this sucks and I’ll be job-hunting immediately” (as his former supervisor, the OP, did) he seemed to view such a move as weakness and he sure as hell wasn’t the one doing something wrong, so he wasn’t going to just give up and quit. That dynamic–I hate this situation, and I will absolutely never leave it because that would mean I blinked first, I’m just quadrupling down some more until the bitterness is detectable by satellite–plays out an astonishing amount.

      Reply
    5. LawCat

      Good for you!

      “But I smiled as I left the meeting knowing that I had already decided that my two week notice will be in their hands next week.” When I had a ToxicJob, knowing when I was putting in my notice soon just let me sail through the drama care free. It’s a great feeling.

      Getting out of that environment will be great for your health and well-being!

      Reply
    6. hbc

      I would put money down that they assume the resignation is just about this latest thing. Usually, I’d guess they’d try to talk you out of it by retracting that little bit of recent work and maybe offer a (piddly) raise. But based on your description, it’s more likely that they’ll just try to convince you that it won’t be so bad, and that you owe them another 3 months to see how it goes, and then whine about how you never really told them how you feel.

      Reply
    7. Aphrodite

      Please come back with updates for us! I am so happy for you, and am sure this will be a memorable weekend with lots of anticipation. There is little doubt in my mind that you are making a space for something good to happen.

      Reply
    8. Detective Amy Santiago

      Good for you on pushing back, even though it fell on deaf ears. Please update us after you give them your notice!

      Reply
    9. SupportiveFriend

      Please think carefully. I quit a job without a job lined up and people thought I was fired. I wasn’t fired.
      You need to think how you are going to handle this in upcoming interviews.
      Even when they hire you they will always bring it up thinking you were fired when you weren’t.
      I am currently in the same boat working at a sweatshop with verbally abusive boss and coworkers and I am trying my best to hold on. I was shocked to find out after I got in.
      I don’t want to repeat this nightmare. Plus it can be awhile before finding the “right” next job and there will be an employment gap. I just want to tell you this so you avoid more problems and hurt down the road. And avoid the troubles I faced. I wish you luck and hope the previous interviews turns into multiple offers soon.

      Reply
      1. Cookie

        I think that’s a fair comment, however, she could very easily say that several members of her team left and were not replaced, which meant that the workload was no longer manageable. Or more simply, that the position had changed since she began. There’s no imperative to provide a reference from every employer. Working to the point of total burnout would get her fired anyway or cause a serious emotional/physical illness. It’s best that’s she leaves now.

        Reply
      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        I was fired because I was put in a very similar situation to At Wit’s End and I spoke honestly about it when I was interviewing, explaining that I went from processing 150 teapot production orders every six weeks to processing 700 teapot production orders every six weeks in addition to managing a staff of 50 freelance teapot inspectors and being responsible for 100+ independent teapot painting instructors and I got zero support despite repeatedly asking for assistance and warning my supervisor that things were going to fall through the cracks.

        Guess why I got fired? The fact that they had to replace me with two people was also pretty telling.

        Basically, if At Wit’s End can speak to a qualitative, measurable increase in workload, I don’t think leaving without having someone lined up with be hugely detrimental.

        Reply
        1. Chaordic One

          Me, too! And I was so very burnt out.

          While they did not replace me with two people (though they could have), the next three people hired to replace me all quit within the next seven months, the first one after only a week. The job description ended up being thoroughly rewritten and a significant number of the duties were reassigned to other people.

          Reply
    10. lowercase holly

      good luck with your search! they sound awful! yes, make sure you already have copies of everything you want and your belongings safely at home before giving the notice!

      Reply
    11. Wendy Darling

      I also quit a toxic job with nothing else lined up, and even though I am still struggling to find another gig I do not regret it because I was losing my mind.

      Also going home on my last day and blasting Don’t Stop Me Now was sooooooo satisfying.

      Reply
    12. JGray

      Best of luck and a better job will come your way. It sucks that you have pushed back and they haven’t listened. Sometimes it takes drastic measures to get them to realize your value.

      Reply
    13. Pineapple Incident

      You sound really clear-headed about this, despite all that has rained on you during this hard time. Kudos to you for making the decision to walk away, because sometimes that’s the best thing you can possibly do for yourself (and ooooooooh I’d LOVE to be a fly on the wall when you deliver your notice, once they realize what’s going to happen with the 3+ people’s workload you’re leaving behind!).

      Good luck and I wish you a happy return to the workforce when it’s time/the right opportunity presents itself!

      Reply
    14. Not So NewReader

      Good for you, OP. They are paying you for your time, NOT for your mind and your health. Out there some where is a company who is going to think you are the best person they have met in ages and all you have to do is go find them.

      Reply
    15. Nic

      I got out of a similar situation in October. Not only were they piling on the work, the director level was actively preventing my manager from giving me any slack or assistance. He then offered me something the company couldn’t or wouldn’t back as an attempt to retain me.

      All that to say CONGRATS!!!! That feeling of incredible relief when you know you don’t have to worry anymore about the panic attacks from stress load. It’s so nice sometimes to go from The Person Everyone Depends On to Just Some Newbie. I’m doing a happy dance for you remembering my bliss upon leaving.

      Reply
    16. Chaordic One

      Good for you! There really isn’t anything you can say to your supervisors, that you haven’t already said.

      It’s time for you to move on and find new adventures. You’ve learned everything you can at this position and with all of the resignations and the failures to replace those people, it might well be that your company is having financial problems. The workplace just seems to be unstable.

      Reply
    17. Cheese Sticks and Pretzels

      So glad to hear you are giving notice! Nothing says “We truly don’t value you” more than giving you more work after you push back and no money.

      Please give updates as I am in a similar boat and shall live vicariously through you. :)

      Reply
    18. Jenny Next

      Your managers are truly terrible.

      I quit a very long-standing job (>20 years) a couple of years ago due to burnout. Much later, I discovered that it might have been possible to go out on medical stress leave. Is your company large enough for that to be feasible?

      Reply
  6. Admin-Develop Jump

    I am interested in pursuing a job in the development/fundraising field. I have several years of administrative experience, processing and tracking invoices and corresponding with payees, that seem like they would translate well to working with donors and their contributions. So I don’t have experience directly in that field but close; I still qualify under most posting qualifications. But I haven’t had any luck breaking into the field yet.

    Any guidance on what I can do to make the transfer into this field? Will this require classes or a degree/certification, or can I make myself more appealing as an applicant in another way, volunteering or something else?

    Reply
    1. Mongoose

      Ideally you’ll want to outline how you work well with people, are a proponent for their ideas and interests, and now how to connect them to the organization and make them loyal donors.
      Also look in your area to see if there are any networking groups for development fields–a lot of larger cities have non-profit networking groups and a lot of the attendees are frequently development/fundraising folks.
      Volunteer work may help, especially if it is for a fundraising office in a similar industry field. Example, you want to work for museums so look for volunteer work at a museum, historical society, zoo, library, etc.
      There are some places that offer degrees or certifications, but I don’t think they are necessary and I’ve never really paid attention to them when hiring.

      Reply
      1. Lillian Styx

        Adding onto all these great suggestions… when we hire in the development dept in my org we look for people with strong writing skills and also some background in communications. Also it helps to be the kind of person who isn’t afraid to ask for money!

        Reply
    2. bibliovore

      Development and fundraising is about relationships. Are you part of a community organization that you have helped raise funds.? A non-profit that you are passionate about? Do you know people at foundations? Have you written any grants. Do you like working with all kinds of people? There are degrees in non profit administration.

      Reply
    3. The Final Pam

      I don’t work in development but my mom works in it! She actually works on the development database and has done well for herself (in that non-profits actively pursue her as an employee). Getting training or experience with Raiser’s Edge could possibly help.

      Additionally, check with volunteering – a lot of non-profits look for volunteers to process donations, work with donations, etc. I know I’ve also volunteered for soliciting donations, so some organizations near you may want that.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

        I, too, am looking to get a position as an Editorial Assistant. I have a strong administrative background. In the job posts for an editorial assistant, it seems like 80 + % of the job is administrative and most of the duties listed, I know I can handle. Any ideas on how to break into this field? Thanks.

        Reply
    4. NC

      Agreed with all the other responses; you should also be willing to do the grunt work for a while – most entry-level development gigs (at least at smaller nonprofits) are data entry and tracking, rather than front-line relationship-building, but a good supervisor will give you guidance and opportunities for writing proposals, making asks, and contributing to strategy. Focus less on tasks and more on who will be mentoring you (again, emphasizing my experience is mostly in small nonprofits – larger associations & the like will have different structures).

      Reply
      1. Not a Real Giraffe

        ^^ I think it’s important to consider what level roles you are applying to. If it’s beyond these entry level roles, then your administrative experience may not serve you as well as you’re hoping. Fundraising and development roles are essentially relationship-building and sales positions.

        Reply
      2. BRR

        This is what I was coming to say. It’s less likely to move to a position with a lot of donor work. I would suggest a coordinator role for an annual or major gift program.

        Reply
    5. em2mb

      I don’t work in development, but in a field that relies on a wonderful development team to fund raise for our nonprofit. I’ve had the opportunity to be on hiring committees for members of our development team, and while technical skills are important, I think most of our hires bring solid connections to the table. So if you’re not already volunteering regularly around town, networking with other professionals who do development work and building that web of connections, it’s time to start. (And don’t be discouraged. It sucks to be told, “It’s who you know,” but that at least in my city, the people you need to know are friendly and want to get to know you as well!)

      Reply
      1. Stay At Home Cat

        I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but I’ve been in development for a long time, and organizations hiring development folks based on their connections (to donors and foundations, specifically) is usually a huge red flag in terms of the professionalism of the department. However, volunteering and getting to know people is still a great way to get a job!

        Reply
    6. TheAssistant

      I definitely think volunteering is the best way to add experience to your resume and decide what kind of fundraising you want to pursue. I was in fundraising operations for 6 years before switching to a data analyst role.

      You’ll want to think about the following things:
      –how many hats do you want to wear in a new role? I was at two nonprofits – one $15M/year and one $500M/year in fundraising revenues. Obviously very different experiences! At the smaller one (still a large nonprofit), we had a staff of 20 and some did individual giving with donor portfolios, some worked in planned giving, some did foundation work, others were researchers, some did the business/database end, and some were event planners. I was their catch-all assistant and got to dabble in all aspects, and at times people needed to pitch in to other departments (like an annual fund guy planning events and working on a specific restricted-giving project, for instance). But at a $500M per year nonprofit, we were all Highly Specialized in our roles (I was on a planned giving team of 50, and I only managed real estate and other complex asset gifts from the Western US). So try to figure out how much juggling you like and narrow your search to the right-size non-profit.
      –You should have an interest in the type of work your nonprofit does. It doesn’t have to be your be-all, end-all passion, but you need to like it.
      –If you want to work with individual donors, you need to be not only comfortable with asking for money, but in cultivating a lasting relationship before and after you ask. That takes skill.
      –Many larger nonprofits have membership departments, which are sometimes under the Development umbrella, but also sometimes under Marketing. That could be an interesting role for you, since a lot of it is processing member payments and gifts and whatnot (transferrable skills!), but also working with members one-on-one and often crafting messages to “uplevel” the membership. And I’ve known folks who have successfully floated from Membership to a front-line fundraising role on the Development team.
      –When I got my entry-level job in fundraising, I had about a year of college experience calling alumni for donations. But I also played up my Admissions background and writing skills to show how those would translate. This is probably a bit more difficult with non-entry-level roles, but use the cover letter to your advantage when talking about your previous experience and also your personal interest in the organization’s mission.

      Reply
    7. It's all fun and dev

      I work in development, and I was brought into my org by a contact I met through volunteering. My advice is to try to find a volunteer position that offers some experience in soliciting donations (even just asking grocery stores to donate food for an event), written and spoken communication, and any sort of outreach. Development teams want to know you’re not afraid to talk to people, as the end goal of fundraising is to personally ask people for money. Play up any transferable skills you have. When I applied for my job, I talked about how my previous admin position required calling people every day to ask them about their service, cold calling for volunteers for our nonprofit, and event support. I’m currently looking for my next career opportunity and I’ve noticed that (in higher ed development, at least) you have to really look closely at the job description to find out what the job is like, as titles are pretty much meaningless. I’d recommend looking to larger orgs/schools, as they’re more likely to be hiring for “development assistant” or “coordinator” roles, which would allow you to use your admin experience while also preparing you to move up in the org. I’d also suggest trying for informational interviews, to help you figure out if this is really the right field for you. Not everyone loves the pressure and “salesy” techniques, and it’s hard and tiring work. I love it and maybe you will too, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

      Reply
    8. Vieve

      I work in development, and was hired right out of college with no prior devo experience (although I did have some sales experience). Getting my job was, I think, a combination of applying through a general professional education program, and coming into an organization that was looking to gut and rebuild its development operation. I think you could potentially build experience by volunteering with a nonprofit, or moonlighting at a small non-profit that might have a looser structure and perhaps can’t afford to hire someone with a full development skill set but that would work with someone with a potentially adaptable skill set.

      Maybe a certification or professional edu program would be helpful, but I suspect only if you’re sure an organization you’re interested in hires from such a pool … and most fundraisers have fallen into that profession by accident anyway.

      Reply
  7. Adam

    No question this week; just a tale of workplace hilarity. Yesterday the women’s bathroom had a toilet get stuck on auto-flush. That bathroom is about 100 feet from my cubicle and water surged through the hall in a matter of minutes. It even seeped through walls into meeting rooms.

    Such fun moments include:
    – Employees racing to move furniture and boxes out of the rushing water’s path.
    – Paper towels flying every which way in an attempt to make a barricade.
    – A department manager warning people away from the site only to find the water had rushed around her leaving her stranded on one tiny dry island.
    – A man who is employed part-time by the organization as a psychologist rushed into the woman’s bathroom and found a way to stop the water flow, but was hesitant to do so until a woman agreed to go with him since it was the women’s restroom.
    – Water rushing down both the fire stairwell and seeping straight through the floor into the organization’s front lobby below.
    – One of my co-workers venting her frustrations that she believes she knows exactly what caused it (people using toilets to dispose of feminine sanitary products despite signs posted everywhere asking people not to do that along with installing trash bins specifically for that purpose).
    – All of which went on during the monthly gathering to celebrate employee birthdays for the month, so at least there was cake afterward.

    So after the building maintenance shopvacced the water up and tested it, confirming that it was clean water so there’s no health concern, I get to sit at my cube with a half-dozen dehumidifiers going full blast for the whole day. I was given the option to move for the day but it actually doesn’t bother me.

    Here’s to happy (hopefully) Fridays, made all the better by the fact I get to go home and finally play the new Legend of Zelda.

    Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Former Diet Coke Addict

      That reminds me of one time at my old job when I walked in to hear my very pregnant coworker calling “Help! Help!” from my cubicle. She was fine, but the ceiling over my cubicle (and mine only) had suffered a catastrophic roof leak, soaking everything. Computer, papers, floor, you name it. I spent the next two days working from a laptop in the production area while it dried out. Horrible.

      Reply
      1. KarenT

        Ha, I too have been singled out by a disaster. My office had an electrical fire due to some faulty wiring. They contaimed the fire to one office. Mine.

        Reply
    2. Pup Seal

      Haha, that reminds me of the time pipes erupted last year. It was a super cold January, and I work in a building that has multiple tenants. The first incident, a pipe burst in an office of one company. The building managers weren’t there, and the poor student worker had to figure out a way to stop the water (luckily my supervisor helped her). Four offices were flooded, and two labs were affected. There was also no maintenance person that day, and we had to wait 45 minutes for him to come down.

      A week later, it was MLK Day, and the building staff had the day off. Only tenants were present. When I walked into my office that morning, it was 55 degrees (40 degrees in the bathrooms!). The heat was broken, and everyone on my side of the building was shivering. Luckily my former co-worker had a space heater. When we finished our lunch, we shut off the space heater to give it a break, and we heard this loud rushing sound. We went out into the hallway and saw black water pouring out of the loading dock, which is two offices away from my office. The pipe that broke was a sprinkling pipe, so it triggered the fire alarm, and as the water came down to our office, my coworker and I scrambled to get as much off the floor as we could. Our offices and labs got affected, and one of the tenants affected by the first pipe incident had another lab affected. Luckily the fire department came in since they got a warning since our alarms went off.

      Two weeks later, a toilet in the guys’ bathroom burst, and water got everywhere again. At least the water didn’t get into the labs and offices.

      Reply
          1. fposte

            I was going to say a state-owned building in a state with no infrastructure money, because this sounds like my work experience.

            Reply
            1. Pup Seal

              This building is owned by a private company, but they rent it out to the university, who then rents out space to tenants.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Hah, I get that. I’m at a state university. I’ve lived through three floods and various animal invasions.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  Aaaand I’ve jinxed myself–guess who has a leaking ceiling pipe this afternoon? Squelch.

      1. Ann O'Nemity

        Oh my, that sounds so terrible all you can do is laugh. Indeed, at least there was cake.

        Zelda is fun! I have the Wii U version since we don’t have a Switch. It can be addictive.

        Reply
      2. Liane

        A couple years ago, when I worked at (in)Famous Retailer, an employee using one of the forklifts that goes really high, moved it without lowering the business end–and hit at least 1 sprinkler head in the stockroom!!
        What a flood, & I know we lost well over $10k in damages and ruined stock.
        The woman driving it got fired at District Asset Protection’s insistence, although Store Manager didn’t want to. I thought it was a bit harsh. Sure it was a stupid mistake, but it was a mistake & it wasn’t a major part of her duties. My husband, who worked the overnight inventory shift at the time & so heard more details, told me later that Employee’s annual forklift training had expired a while before and that on top of the losses was probably why she was let go. If that is true I hope management got in trouble, too; because even the decent ones were bad about not making giving people the time to do their mandated training.

        Reply
    3. SanguineAspect

      YES! Thank you for sharing your workplace hilarity (I actually just did the same lower down in the thread). I’m having a great mental image of a constantly-flushing toilet going in the background, flooded hallways, and paper towels flying haphazardly through the air, while you’re sitting in your office, calmly observing the chaos ensuing.

      Reply
    4. Robin B

      We had that happen…but it started on a Friday night and water surged through all weekend. Literally lost my entire office (and the offices of 3 co workers.) Clean water here too… but it ruined everything. True story.

      Reply
    5. Beachlover

      Well at least it was clean water. I worked at mfg facility, and one weekend the city sewer backed up thru the toilets and into the plant. When we came in on Monday, we walked into 3 inches of sewage covering the mfg floor, and it has seeped into the offices. We were all sent home for a couple of days, so they could fix the problem and clean everything. Come in the following monday, and guess what?? yup it happened again. Best thing about it was getting the days off with pay, plus they gave everyone $100 to cover any damage to their footware, and advised us to throw them out. Since I walked into it both times – I got $200.00 to replace my $20 payless shoes!!

      Reply
    6. Celeste

      We had a clean water pipe burst, but we ended up getting mold growth in the building. It took a long time to get that remediated, and there’s still a little odor. Mold works fast.

      Reply
    7. Tau

      Oh my god!

      We had water issues at my workplace this week as well, but nothing THAT dramatic. I’m now reassured that things could be worse, if also more hilarious. (Maintenance came and moved one of the ceiling tiles, at which point water gushed out. All of us are of the opinion that water should NOT be in the ceiling and have been casting suspicious upwards glances, but no one’s gotten an unexpected shower yet.)

      Reply
    8. Solidus Pilcrow

      Former workplace had an onsite cafeteria, one day they cleaned out the grease traps… it was NAUSEATING. All 3 floors stank like an open sewer for hours. People were getting sick, yet management said people should stay and work. Ugh. Of course they did this in February in Wisconsin, so it was either open the doors and freeze or keep the doors closed and puke. Fresh air won that day.

      Found out on Bar Rescue (my guilty pleasure reality show) that such foul odor means the traps have not been cleaned as often as they should. Makes me glad I never ate any of the cafeteria food.

      Reply
      1. JanetM

        One of the restaurants near my office replaced their grease trap last year. You could smell it a block away! One of the guys at a different place described it as “fermented camel dung”; I forbore to ask him how he knew that.

        Reply
      2. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, those traps were not cleaned in a very, very long time. Possibly years. It’s everything you have described here and then some. I bet the traps get cleaned regularly now.

        Reply
      3. Paige Turner

        If it’s any consolation, I used to work at a retail place with a cafe, and they cleaned the grease traps first thing every Wednesday, and it was 11/10 disgusting every time. I used to try to avoid being scheduled for Wednesday opening shifts just for that reason.

        Reply
  8. Sunflower

    Working in events, my team has to travel quite a lot – primarily to NYC which is only 1.5 hours away for me but closer to 3 hours(or more) for my boss who already works long hours. My boss and our team assistant dislike traveling for work/staying overnight in hotels. I don’t. In fact, I find it kind of refreshing and a nice way to break up my usual work week. It actually seems to slightly rejuvenate me as oppose to exhaust me.

    I get the impression my boss thinks I always say yes to traveling because I’m being a team player and not because I like it. We have a series of events coming up that would require a 3-4 day stay for someone and I already told my boss I could do it, no problem. The next day she told me she might try to rearrange her schedule (and make more work for her) so I don’t have to be stuck there that long. The events that week happen to require very minimal event management- I’m talking like helping someone put together gift bags so I know it’s not because she doesn’t think I can handle it.

    I know my boss is worried about me burning out or overworking myself. When she does ask me to travel, she does it sheepishly as if she’s asking a huge favor of me. I think that’s why she always offers but like I mentioned above, this stuff doesn’t exhaust me as much as it seems to other people and I actually like doing it. When asked about the long amounts of time, I usually tell my boss that I really don’t mind but I’m wondering if I should say something a little more direct-ish. Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. TotesMaGoats

      Be more direct. It’s not going to hurt and if she thought you were just taking one for the team, she can readjust her plan. Might mean more growth opportunities for you too.

      Reply
    2. Not a Real Giraffe

      Be direct! “I enjoy the travel aspect of the job, and would actually like to take on more, if possible.”

      I had to do this recently with my boss (I’m also an event planner) when she was bemoaning an upcoming trip. I offered to go in her stead and she said, “Oh no, I wouldn’t force this upon you,” to which I replied, “No, I would actually welcome the travel – I enjoy it a lot.” So I got the luxury of going, and she got the luxury of not!

      Reply
    3. animaniactoo

      Sure, but it can just be a quick response when she mentions being stuck with it or sheepishly asking – instead of saying “I don’t mind”, you could go with “It’s okay. I actually enjoy doing it. It makes a nice break from the office routine.”

      Reply
      1. Trout 'Waver

        Just make sure you don’t say it in a way that makes it sound like you’re ducking your primary responsibilities. In some office cultures saying it like that might not go over so well.

        Reply
    4. On Fire

      I think direct is good. I travel a lot for my job, and I definitely emphasized during my interview and at points since then that I enjoy the travel. We’ve had times when Multiple Events were happening at scattered locations, so someone else *had* to travel – at those times, I volunteered to take the event that required the most travel/longest hotel stay. I just phrased it as, “I know travel can be a hassle for Fred and Helen, so I can do Event in Faraway Place – it’s easy for me!”

      You might say something similar. You could even approach it that the travel is a gift to you. “[Boss], I want to let you know how much I appreciate the travel component of my job. I always come back feeling rejuvenated – it’s like a mini-vacation (if saying this won’t be abused), and I enjoy it. I know it’s more difficult for some of the others, so I’m always glad to travel.”

      Reply
    5. Falling Diphthong

      I think you should try being a little more direct, that you would like to take this one on rather than it’s no problem.

      This is an interesting dynamic. On the one hand, it’s good to recognize that you can enjoy X and barely tolerate Y and a coworker might have the opposite preferences, and you adjust the workload to reflect that. On the other hand, people can get really frustrated that they volunteer to helpfully handle more X and then all of the X is poured on them nonstop, so it’s good of your manager to be aware and avoiding that.

      Reply
    6. only acting normal

      Echoing the other replys: Be direct, say you actively like it rather than “don’t mind”.

      I find it refreshing that your boss is assuming (wrongly) that it’s a hassle. My work hard-sells it as a perk of the job. Some people do like it, but there is a growing contingent of us that challenge that “perk” status, especially as work trips are mostly death-by-powerpoint in a windowless room.
      I once had a grandboss send me on a 2 week work trip (because he didn’t want to go), then proceed to repeatedly call it my “holiday”. I’d actually cancelled a long weekend with my husband for it. Grandboss only got mild stink-eye (because he held the keys to promotion), but I was *this* close to snapping doing/saying something unfortunate.

      Reply
    7. Not So NewReader

      It’s fine that your boss thinks your a team player. Tell her that you don’t mind and this can be your unique contribution to the team. Explain that you live a lot closer, you like the travel and it helps everyone that you do this.
      I don’t see anything wrong with adding a little more explanation here to persuade her. You might even go as far as saying, “I am not saying this just to be nice, I really mean it.”

      I had people who would take on stuff that others did not like to do, so what I did was pass different work to the other people. After a bit, it settled into people volunteering to take up work that others did not want. (Because a person would say, “Well if Jane is going to do X for us, then I will take on Y for us.”) I think it kind of evened out in the end.

      Reply
    8. ..Kat..

      Above advice is good, but please make sure you are being adequately compensated for your time and expenses. Just because you don’t mind does not mean you should not be paid for what is an inconvenience to most.

      Reply
  9. harp+dash

    Has anyone here started a small (or not small!) non-profit? I’m in the early stage but trying to move forward with a non-profit that will provide a specific item for families with children who have special needs. My main challenge so far is… how do people get started without any funding at all? Do you personally just eat the cost of the filing fees, etc? I can’t really do any fundraisers without having my 501c3 status, but I need money to get my 501c3 status…
    Also, any other feedback for starting an agency would be very much appreciated! I’ve worked in social services for about 10 years but this is a new endeavor for me.

    Reply
    1. Bethlam

      I would also love to hear about this. I actually have some funding already, but don’t have a clue how to get started. And harp+dash says, “I need money to get my 501c3 status.” What costs are involved in getting a 501c3 status?

      Reply
      1. harp+dash

        It’s really not a lot, just filing fees ($25 here, $25 there…) and I could certainly come out of pocket if needed, I was just hoping to set up more of a corporate divide immediately if possible.

        Reply
      2. harp+dash

        Actually, with a little more research (I’m drowning in research and paperwork over here!) it should be around $450 in my state.

        Reply
        1. Anonanonanon

          Out of the people I know who’ve started non-profits, most did some kind of fundraising so they could file. Think GoFundMe, finding a lawyer who will work pro bono because they have a personal connection to the cause, things like that. There are types of fundraising you can do legally before becoming a 501c3.

          Reply
    2. Venus Supreme

      I’ve never started my own non-profit, but I’m a non-profit fundraiser and I think one strategy to get your organization off the ground is to curate a strong, dedicated board of trustees. It’s through them that you’ll get the connections to major donors, foundations, and services that would otherwise be difficult to obtain. How to get strong board members? I’m not 100% sure, but I think it involves a hella ton of networking. I hope this helps!

      Reply
      1. Lore

        I agree with the idea to start with the board. In terms of early fundraising, I recommend looking into fiscal sponsorship. I’ve done it in an arts context only so the specific sponsor organizations I know would not be appropriate, but I’m sure there are others. Basically the fiscal sponsor operates as an umbrella organization for non-501c3 organizations that need to do to fundraising (and often have other services like access to accountants, or legal services, or ticketing services; whatever meets the needs of their population). They keep a percentage of your donations but it’s a great way to get started while your 501c3 is pending or while you’re building up the infrastructure that you need to qualify for a 501c3 in the first place.

        Reply
        1. peachie

          Yes, this is what I would suggest. (Like you, I’ve worked with it in an arts organization context, so I’m not sure if an organization like that exists for your purposes–but if it does, it’s a great resource to have while you’re working toward 501(c)3 status since you can basically operate like one.)

          Reply
    3. Lily Rowan

      You can ask friends to contribute without it being tax-deductible. Also, you’re going to need a board of directors and those people should also be contributing to the start-up costs, which are going to include running the organization for a while, because it will take a while to build a donor base, I’m sure.

      Good luck!

      Reply
    4. Pup Seal

      As someone who works at a dysfunctional non-profit:

      -Get a strong board of directors
      -Budget, budget, budget! I can’t emphasize how important it is to know your budget so you can plan ahead.
      -Build your network and build support
      -Figure out your short AND long term goals
      -Cherish each donation, even the small ones.
      -Try small fundraisers like trivial night or selling candy bars. You can do a google search for fundraiser ideas, and you’ll find a lot of small fundraiser ideas. You may not get much, but it’s a start and will help get your name out.
      -Once you start accomplishing your goals and in your case, helping special need children, thank your donors and tell them how your donation has helped these children. As your non-profit grows, your best donors will be your past donors.

      Reply
    5. AndersonDarling

      Does your mission relate to another non-profit? You could approach them to see if you could make a partnership.
      You can also look for grants. You really have to be good about writing grants and documenting everything if you receive one- we actually took a grant back from an organization that didn’t use the funds how they were supposed to.

      Reply
      1. Becca

        Yes to all of this!

        I’m on the board of a small nonprofit (link on my name if you’re interested!) that runs a week-long summer program for teens with Turner syndrome. We have a tax ID partnership with a national TS society, which has helped us get the word out for finding staff, board members, and participants. We have also benefited from personal donations (via check or online fundraising sites) and grants from medical companies. Hopefully this year we’ll get some from nonprofit giving foundations as well.

        If you live near an urban center, you should be able to find grant-writing workshops, but I would focus on getting a tax-exempt ID first so that you and your private donors don’t need to worry about taxes and so you can be eligible for grants specifically for nonprofits.

        Connect with the community as much as you can, since the people in that community (not just the parents, but with adults with those needs as well) will be the most interested in being a part of your effort. Plus, grant-giving foundations (who use sites like Guidestar) like to see that your board is comprised of people in the community you hope to serve.

        Good luck!

        Reply
    6. Bree

      It’s hard to know without more details, but I’m going to recommend you consider *not* starting your own non-profit. As someone who works in non-profit, quite frankly, there are too many of them. So many small non-profits just aren’t sustainable given all that competition for donors and grants, and aren’t able to survive or have a meaningful impact. Plus, the more distinct organizations there are, the more money goes to admin instead of the mission. For these reasons, there’s a significant trend towards amalgamation in the sector.

      Is there an existing organization you could partner with who does similar work or serves a similar population, and could add this specific item to their programs or services? You could work or volunteer with them. This would save you a lot of the set-up work and back office costs.

      Reply
      1. harp+dash

        I’ve definitely noticed more agencies merging in the last few years. This will be a small agency with minimal overhead (probably no employees for at least the forseeable future). There is one national group doing something similar, but I’m looking to go in a different direction and stay local. I haven’t been able to think of a local organization that I could partner with, although I’m certainly open to that option. There is one group that is already a non-profit, but for a variety of reasons, I don’t think it’s a good match to partner with.

        Reply
        1. Bree

          Maybe you’ve already done this, but I wonder about doing a bit of an audit of the needs of community you would serve, and asking about other groups they receive supports from as part of that process. This research might help you identify another group you could partner with – formally and informally – but even if it doesn’t, the data you gather will help you when you’re looking for funding/supporters/in-kind donations, etc.

          Reply
      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Totally agree with this, unless you have a concrete, well-tested plan for where your funding will come from (and in the long-term, not just for start-up costs).

        Reply
    7. Ann O'Nemity

      There are some great books and websites on this topic. I few pieces of advice to consider:

      (1) Find partners with money. Specifically, think of ways that your service or products fit into the goals and mission of other local nonprofits. Partner together on specific initiatives that could direct funding your way. They can pay you, and if they have 501(c)3 status they can write you in as a contractor or subaward on grants.
      (2) Find local foundations or venture capitalist firms that can provide start-up funds. Some of these do not require you to have your non-profit status immediately. Use your social services network to find someone who can open these doors for you – I bet one of your contacts knows someone.
      (3) Form a board for your nonprofit. Fill it with stakeholders from government, related nonprofits, community groups, and business. Make sure at least 50-75% of your board members have access to funding for donations, or the influence needed to get funding.

      Reply
    8. Jillociraptor

      One thing you might consider is getting fiscal sponsorship. That basically entails a 501(c)(3) being the umbrella organization for your project or fund. They extend their nonprofit status to you, and usually manage some of your infrastructure, for a percentage of your budget. (Sponsors vary in how they do this — mine is extremely generous and takes about 1%, I would say 4-5% is more typical.) Fiscal sponsors vary in what they do for you, but this eliminates the need to do all the 501(c)(3) paperwork, the annual 990, manage an independent board, all of that. The consultant that we worked with in launching our organization recommended that we start here, and we’re reconsidering whether we ever want to be an independent organization; it’s much more lean and efficient this way.

      That doesn’t fix your cash flow issue, though. I’ll second what others have shared about getting a great board of directors and leaning on them for fundraising. Just to be totally blunt, you need rich people who know rich people. You can get the true believers who aren’t going to give you tons of money or connect you to people with tons of money to be on your advisory board or to plan an event.

      Reply
    9. JustaTech

      I know this will sound like a joke but it’s not: have you read “Nonprofits for Dummies”? I don’t normally put much faith in that series, but I had to read it for a grad school class and it seemed like a good starting point on how to get started right as far as all the laws go. There’s also “Social Media for Social Good” on how to use social media for non-profits.
      Good luck!

      Reply
  10. DD

    The ongoing changes at work continue apace. A snail’s pace, anyway. After my grand-boss was let go, a few of us figured that it was only a matter of time before our immediate manager left, too. That came to pass this week. So right now there are vacancies the next three levels above me (currently filled by various interim people). I’ve also heard rumblings about “leaner times ahead” around things like conference funding and whatnot.

    Anyway, in the meantime, one of my peers is taking on some duties of my former manager; I suppose if they don’t eliminate or massively change the structure of our whole team, he’d be promoted to our manager. He’s a great guy and we work well together, but I have to admit it will be strange to report to him. We’ve been equals here since I started 6 months ago, as well as at a shared previous employer before that. But he’s been at this org a lot longer, so it makes sense.

    As for me, I don’t know what’s in store. The interim grand-boss sent me a note the other day asking for a quick chat. It turns out he may reassign me to a bigger project because he wants to showcase my skills. To whom, and to what end, I don’t know yet. All in all, though, the uncertainty’s nearly unbearable. My employer’s a big one in our town, and I’ve had friends tell me they’ve been hearing from other people they know that things are “miserable” at my org. I’m not quite miserable but I hate not knowing what’s going to happen. I wish they could pull off the band-aid. They announced that changes were afoot back in November and the slow roll is brutal.

    Reply
    1. Rat Racer

      I work in an organization that sheds org structures like feathers – so I know the feeling. There are lots of people who have left because they hate the “change is the only constant” mentality – and I can’t say I blame them.

      Is your main concern that you’re going to be laid off, or just not knowing whom you will report to? If it’s the latter, I’d say that if you enjoy your job and like your co-workers, it’s ok to surrender to the chaos for a while and let the chips fall. Especially since you’ve been there for less than a year, it seems like there’s little you can or should do to proactively engineer the outcome. I know how hard it is to wait for dust to settle though!

      Reply
      1. DD

        More fear of getting laid off. I was laid off last year and was unemployed for about 6 months before getting this job. I know that a lot of people where I am now really love my work and have been told that I have been identified as having leadership potential, blah blah blah, but at my last gig I could have said the same and it didn’t matter much because the decision to eliminate my whole team came from far enough up the chain that it didn’t matter.

        So when they talk about “showcasing” my skills, I don’t know if that’s because they want to expose me to the people who will be making these decisions as a kind of defensive gesture, or because they want to tap me for some larger role that will come out of this whole thing. Or maybe nothing.

        Reply
    2. RVA Cat

      Well, with the local grapevine saying things are “miserable” at your org, it should surprise no one if you started looking. Yes it’s only been 6 months, but I doubt you look like a job-hopper when there’s a major restructuring going on – esp. if you stayed a few years at your previous employers.

      Reply
      1. DD

        Unfortunately, I was at my previous employer for just a little less than a year before I got “restructured” out of the job. Then a little over a year at the place before that, and less than two years at the place before that.

        Plus, my experience after getting laid off the last time suggested that while employers find my skill set attractive, there aren’t many who are hiring for it–it’s something that’s a level of maturity above the smaller/mid-sized orgs, and the bigger ones that do have these kinds of roles are obviously fewer and farther between. I turned down a job offered by the other logical large employer when I was offered this one. (Got both offers in a span of a few days, and made a difficult decision.)

        I’m generally a worrier, though. I’m not miserable with my work–I actually enjoy what I do and the people I work with—I just find the uncertainty to be frustrating to deal with every day.

        Reply
    3. JustaTech

      Ugh, that sucks. I’ve been through it (twice at the same company!) and seen other people go through it.
      I would offer the usual advice about networking, resume freshening etc etc.
      Also, remember that future employers will not hold being laid off against you (unless you personally and alone caused the layoff by, I can’t even imagine how that would happen).
      Don’t be afraid to admit that the uncertainty sucks! Lack of control over big parts of your life is known to be hard on your health, so don’t ignore it or blame yourself.

      Reply
  11. MegaMoose, Esq

    Networking for Introverts Update!

    This was definitely a week where the *for introverts* part made my big networking push a real drag. My last three coffees have been with former classmates, so it had a “catching up” quality that made things easier. This last meeting was just me, hat in hand, asking for job advice or “making a connection” or whatever the heck I’m supposed to be doing, and it was pretty awkward. The person I met with is in the area of law I’m hoping to move into, but has the kind of public job I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get for the past five years. It seemed to turn into a lot of commiserating over how hard it is to get those public jobs but how great they are once you get them, which did not feel like it was advancing my goal of broadening my horizons. And it turns out I was getting sick on top of everything, so I went home and got into a stupid fight with my partner. Fun!

    I think part of what makes networking so unappealing for me is both the exhausting nature of interacting with people and the discomfort of not really knowing what my role is in these interactions. I *get* that meeting people is a big part of being a lawyer, and I *get* that most people are happy to help up-and-comers, and I *get* that most people are happy to talk about themselves and their work. But no matter how much I tell myself that, I still run into the little monster voice that says that I am wasting their time, that they will see though me and realize how awkward and unsuited I am for this. And then I’m not just making a bad impression, I’m also draining my precious energy for nothing.

    I’ve been told over and over that this is the way to find work in private practice so I’m going to keep at it, but that doesn’t make it any easier. So this afternoon I’ve got my second meeting with a “new” contact – a solo practitioner who office-shares with the classmate I met back at the beginning of this big push. I’m trying not to let myself get too psyched out. I’m pretty sure my monster brain is lying to me, and this is something I can do. I don’t have anything else lined up for now, so I’ll try and take the weekend to recharge and then come at this again fresh next week.

    Reply
    1. chocolate lover

      I really liked Devora Zack’s book “Networking for People Who Hate Networking: A Field Guide for Introverts, the Overwhelmed, and the Underconnected.” It helped me think of things that may be more comfortable for me, and to teach my introverted students.

      Reply
    2. JustaTech

      Hey Moose, just remember that some times brains are jerks and you have to tell them to just shut up. (How successful that is varies.)
      But you have really inspired me to actually reach out to a high school alum (we didn’t overlap, but we have mutual friends) and ask her for coffee and how she got her previous job at the place I want to work.
      And I’m going to come up with 3 really specific questions too! How did you get in, how long did the process take, how easy is it to transfer among departments.
      And now that I’ve said it here I have to do it.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq

        Thanks – the jerkbrain can be a jerk, for sure. I’ve set a rule that I need to do at least one thing a week that an objective outsider would classify as networking (so game night doesn’t count) and so far I’ve stuck to it for two months. If it gets easier it hasn’t happened yet, but I’m pretty sure the jerk is lying about it being a counterproductive waste of time.

        Reply
    3. LawCat

      Rooting for you MegaMoose!

      If this isn’t too nosy a question, what area of public law are you trying to get into? (Not sure if I might have any insight, but I have spent my legal career in gov’t service.)

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        I’ve been trying for internal advisory jobs primarily, so my state’s nonpartisan legislative offices have been my main target – I’ve also interviewed a couple of times for the (federal) house office of legislative counsel and senate parliamentarian. Staff attorney positions for various agencies, occasionally I’ve gotten interviews for city or county attorney offices.

        I’m trying to branch my search out into civil rights law, but I’ve been so focused on public jobs I’m kind of lost at sea for how one gets hired in the private sector. Thus my networking journey.

        Reply
            1. LawCat

              You might like drafting regulations. Agencies involved with highly regulated industries are typically involved in writing regulations. Things that spring to mind: health care, insurance, anything involved with producing hazardous material.

              Also, is there a particular entity responsible for writing rules of court where you are? I am sure this is highly state specific, but my experience is that drafting such rules involves a very legislative-like process so that might be something worth looking into as well.

              Reply
              1. MegaMoose, Esq

                I’ve been keeping an eye out for regulatory jobs, but haven’t had an enormous amount of luck finding them, and the ones I have found around here have generally asked for experience in the specific field – I’ve tried for a few and struck out even getting my foot in the door. I’m actually not sure about rules of court, I should check that out. I *think* they’re done by special committees, but I’m not positive.

                Reply
  12. Rat Racer

    I have a colleague, Mike, who is more or less a peer – perhaps slightly junior to me – who sends the most maddeningly condescending emails, and my blood is boiling. The issue is a data discrepancy: his numbers say “X” mine say “X-2%.” Here’s what he wrote to me this morning, after I had clearly documented the methodology I used to get to X-2%:

    “Not sure what edits you made to the data, but want to make sure that we’re VERY clear about whatever edits are. VP’s email is consistent with the numbers I’ve seen from [Direct Report], so I am assuming you made some other adjustments that we need to know about.” (emphasis mine, capital letters are his)

    Maybe this doesn’t seem like blood boiling material – it’s in the context of a long stream condescending emails that never fail to convey that he thinks I’ve screwed something up. Do you think it’s a good idea to let Mike know how his emails are coming across to me? Or should I just continue my current MO:
    1) receive email
    2) seethe
    3) write several drafts of response until I can scrub out any traces of passive aggression
    4) wash/rinse/repeat

    Reply
    1. Lizzle

      Hoping others will weigh in, because I’m not sure my response is the best, but I would probably get really direct about what he’s saying without addressing how it makes you feel.

      “Hi, Mike. I sent you my calculations earlier; did you see those? I think it’s quite clear if you look at [Y, Z factors] how I got to X-2%. What is it about how I got to those numbers that you’re missing?”

      Additionally, do you understand where he’s getting his numbers? If you can see where the discrepancy is occurring, addressing what the different assumptions/methods/etc. are that lead to the different results might be useful.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        Yeah I would do this – just politely point out he already has the needed information.
        Or better yet, just forward the original email or link and put, “see below. I think it’s fairly clear/simple, but let me know what confused you.”

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          I LOVE this one – the “let me know what confused you” kind of shoves some of that condescension back at him by implying he clearly just doesn’t understand what you’ve already explained.

          Reply
        2. LKW

          That was going to be my suggestion. If you’ve provided the information and he still doesn’t get it – then very politely call that out.

          “I outlined the adjustments in my earlier email. Please see where I’ve bolded/highlighted the information. If you are still having difficulties understanding the discrepancy, do not hesitate to reach out to me.”

          Translation: The info is there you idiot. But if you can’t understand it, I can explain it like you were five. No prob.

          Reply
      2. Bagpuss

        I like Lizzle’s suggestion.
        You could even go with:

        “Hi Mike,
        I agree that it is important to be clear about edits. I sent you a detailed breakdown of my methodology with my e-mailed dated /timed XX . I think if you look through that you should find it answers your questions, but if you are still unclear, let me know which part of that breakdown isn’t clear, and ‘ll be happy to go over it with you.
        Alternatively, if you want to suggest an alternative method, or to include any additional aactors, let me know what they are and i can review”

        Has he given you a breakdown of his method? if he hasn’t, perhaps you can add “in any event, please let me have a breakdown of the methodology and figures you used, as I will then be able to see why we are reaching slightly different outcomes, and we can review whether any changes are required”

        That way, it is friendly and helpful but also makes clear that you have already shown him how the figures are reached, and puts the ball back in his court to identify what, specifically, he has an issue with .

        I think you could also (separately) consider having a conversation with him where you actually say “I am sure you don’t intend it that way, but some of the e-mails you send come across as quite rude and condescending. I’m happy to answer questions if you don’t understand why I have done things in a particular way, or to provide information to make sure that we are working on the same assumptions and data, but it would generally come across better if you simply asked for further information or advice when you need it, rather than assuming that something has been overlooked or deliberately withheld from you. ” (I’;m sure you could adjust the wording for the specifics of how your office works, and the type of things he is commenting on. )

        Reply
    2. Mongoose

      Any chance you can follow-up in person? I find that people who write these sorts of emails are often hiding behind them and an in-person follow-up, being as polite and friendly as can be, gets the problem solved and establishes that there is no malice in your changes/edits.
      If that doesn’t work, keep following your current MO, keep a trail of these emails, and if the trend continues flag your boss.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        This, this. If they know you are going to darken their doorway every time they send one of these emails they start to think twice. I blame it on email itself- “oh you know how much can get lost in writing in email, it’s just faster and more accurate to speak in person.”

        Reply
      2. Clever Name

        This! One of my email rules is when I’m struggling to formulate an email, that’s a sign I just need to talk to them. Another is anything contentious or emotional should be discussed in person. It’s harder in the moment but makes things easier overall.

        Reply
      3. Paxton Sparrow

        I typically find that this is the best way to go about it. I had a collegue who would always knee jerk respond to my emailed analysis with “this can’t be correct” whenever her numbers looked bad. I would reply all to the email saying I would set a meeting and anyone else who would like to join was welcome. After the meeting I would reply all with the resolution – typically that we came to an agreement that my analysis was correct or there was a tagging issue from her team but if I was incorrect I admitted it.

        This made her become the girl who cried wolf while enhancing my reputation for analysis, dealing with difficult people, and clear communication.

        Reply
    3. paperfiend

      I’d address it. Fairly directly, too. (Seething isn’t useful for anyone).

      “I included my methodology in my email from the morning of the 5th. Since that was in the middle of our ongoing email conversation, here’s a recap: I am working with assumptions X and Y, and making Z correction. The numbers [direct report] has provided use assumptions B and C, which results in the different number.”

      Reply
      1. Casuan

        Rat Racer, what you’re doing isn’t working then change what you’re doing. People like Mike drive me bonkers & often such challenges are to try to make themselves look competent &or important.

        I like Lizzle’s & paperfiends’ replies. If you think Mike would respond better if you asked him in person then do that.
        If he is cc’ing these challenges to others, consider cc’ing them in your reply. Or better yet wait until the matter is resolved then send something like “To keep you in the loop, I was asked to qualify my data & this was resolved. The data set in my calculations was correct.”

        I don’t think you should say “I think what I wrote is clear” because that sounds a bit defensive & it really might not be clear to him. Just ask what he doesn’t understand & offer to walk him through it.

        Personally I think the less words you use with him the better. Anything else will probably get translated like you’re a Charlie Brown schoolteacher “Wah wah wah…”].

        At some point, you might want to ask if you can pop in his office or ring him when he has a few minutes to clarify a few things. Tell him you’d like to know why he continually challenges your data &or methodology so you can clarify your sources, et cetera.

        Glad things are resolved now!!
        Hopefully you can change your MO!!

        re your current MO:
        Lol!!
        I can relate :-)

        Reply
    4. Rat Racer

      Well the data issue just resolved – Mike was using (what I would argue) is an inappropriate calculation to get to his numbers. I think he was using this questionable methodology because he team screwed something up this year, and the bigger X is, the better it is for them. Now it’s up to the VPs to battle it out. Bottom line:

      a) it wasn’t a data discrepancy
      b) if Mike had actually read my email, he would have known as much
      c) I don’t care who’s right or wrong, I’m just sick of being talked down to by a business partner

      @Mongoose: Mike is totally fine in person, it’s just his emails that get my back up. Which is why I’m debating saying something to him vs. working on myself. As in “I can’t control the tone of Mike’s emails, I can only control how I respond to the tone of Mike’s emails…” But perhaps the next time Mike sends an email presuming error on my part, I’ll gently remind him of the outcome the last time he presumed blame.

      Reply
      1. CAA

        Does he cc anyone else on these emails that are so condescending? If he does, I’d say that it’s worth bringing up to him because he’s smearing your reputation with others. Even if it’s unintentional on his part, it’s probably damaging enough to say something like “I don’t know if you realize how you come across in emails like this one…”

        If nobody else sees these emails, then I would grit my teeth and respond politely.

        Reply
      2. The Rat-Catcher

        Some people come across completely differently in person and in email. I try to read the email in the person’s usual tone/manner of speaking in such cases and I find that it helps.
        But I agree with CAA – that’s just if it’s between the two of you. If he is CCing others and trying to make you look incompetent, then you have every right to set the record straight with them included – it’s not as if you invited them to watch him be wrong.

        Reply
      3. EngineerInNL

        OMG there’s a Michael that I have to deal with on a pretty regular basis that is also rude and condescending in emails (maybe it’s like the Sarah thing except this is a Mike/Michael?). This guy is also perfectly nice and polite in person which I have to constantly remind myself while reading emails from him, I think some people just don’t quite grasp how they can come across in email form.

        Reply
  13. Audiophile

    Happy Friday!

    I have no major issues, though the temp I work near was giving a “note” by a temp from another department. It basically thanked her for being beautiful and nice, and left a phone number. It’s not my issue to solve, so I’m staying out of it. It definitely would have made me uncomfortable.

    Reply
      1. Audiophile

        Aforementioned temp spent a lot of time looking for other temp, joked that he must have scared her off (he isn’t aware that I know about the note). It came out from someone else in my cube section that temp commmented on their appearance.

        Reply
  14. Should I stay or should I go?

    How do you tell it is time to move on from your job when you have the best manager ever?

    I’m not very happy at work – my job has changed a lot since I started ~ 3 years ago, my position is unique, so I don’t have anywhere to go in my company and the pay hasn’t kept up with the crazy COL increases where I live. I absolutely love my manager though. I come from a long line of really bad bosses and I know how hard a good boss is to find. I am scared to move onto a bad situation with another bad boss because ultimately they can make or break your career…

    Am I just afraid of change? Recovering from old-job-PTSD? How can I objectively determine what I should do next?

    Reply
    1. Squeeble

      Would you be able to talk to your manager about it? If you have a strong relationship, they may be able to help you navigate this. Even if they can’t do much about the pay or the work you’re doing, maybe they can give you some guidance on what to do next or put you in contact with someone in their network. Of course, this all depends on how honest you want to be with your manager.

      Reply
    2. K.

      Can you talk to your manager about opportunities for advancement, new duties, increased responsibility, etc.?

      Reply
    3. Amber Rose

      I’d say you’re being a little over cautious. If you don’t like your job as such but you’re happy with your manager and not actively suffering, you’re in a pretty advantageous situation. You can job hunt and be really picky, get all the info, really make sure you’re excited about new opportunities and a new boss before moving on. Just because you look for a new job doesn’t mean you have to move fast on it after all.

      The reasons you listed for not liking your job much are excellent reasons to me for moving on. Don’t let the one good thing about it convince you to settle for something less than you feel like you can do.

      Reply
        1. Casuan

          Agree!!

          Also hermit crab makes an excellent point in that your amazing boss probably won’t be there forever.

          Reply
    4. only acting normal

      Could you frame it to yourself more like: A) you have survived X bad bosses, B) best manager ever is evidence that there are good bosses out there. So if you ever end up with another bad boss 1) you know you will survive [exhibit A], 2) you know you can go on to find another good boss [exhibit B].

      I’ve survived bad bosses (just!), it does take time to recover from the experience, but at you also probably learned some warning signs to look out for in future.

      Reply
    5. hermit crab

      Another thing to factor in is that your amazing boss might not be there forever either. People leave jobs! Jobs aren’t forever! I had, hands-down, the best manager ever (sorry, everyone else who thinks they had the best manager ever, because mine was better!) and she left me. I mean, she left the job. I’m not still taking it personally, not at all. :)

      Reply
  15. Crankypants

    Ok. I may be wildly out of touch about this, I am an admin and sit in a reception like area in academic setting. I don’t get much traffic from outsiders/studnents but I’m getting to the point where constant interruptions from my coworkers are starting to impact my job satisfaction and day to day moods. I work with a staff of about 23, all very nice people and well meaning but feel the need to say something/wave to me almost every time they walk into the office space (where I sit). This morning has been 7 times already (all small talk, non work related). I also sit near the kitchen so every time something new is brought in I get at least 10 questions about it. Or if someone is waiting for their water to boil, they will come chat with me. I started keeping an interruption log yesterday and am logging every time my concentration is broken and whether or not it relates to my job. I work a lot with numbers and spreadsheets and am getting frustrated when I am clearly concentrating but someone still asks me a question like how was your weekend? what are you doing this weekend? (small talk/not to do with work). I’m interested to see if I am over exaggerating and just have to suck it up, which I have been doing. If the results are really surpising like 5/hour this morning and it’s not just me being cranky, should I bring this to my boss, how would I frame this? I don’t know the resolution and I wouldn’t want people to be afraid to talk to me or overly cautious. I would just like a fewer interruptions so I can concentrate. I do wear headphones, sometimes with no music playing but I still want to maintain some level of approachability.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      I can make you a sign for your desk/outside your office/cubicle?

      “Concentrating in Progress:
      Please interrupt ONLY for work-related questions”

      After that, I would be really clear to take your breaks and be available to chat *in the kitchen* when you’re on a break, so that there’s sort of a delineating line between “available to be social” and “available to facilitate work”.

      You may come off as a bit of a curmudgeon, but it’s pretty easy to explain to people that due to your location, many people stop by and it’s the flow you can’t deal with vs them personally. Most of them should understand that and take it well.

      Reply
      1. Crankypants

        I really can’t tell if this is just Part Of The Job or something I/we can do something about. I like the sign suggestion, sometimes it’s just outbursts of Happy Friday! or OOOH what’s in the kitchen! without looking in my direction but close enough to still distract. But anything that curbs it even a little will make me happier.

        Reply
        1. AdminWithPotential

          I am trying to master this always concentrated serious don’t eff with me demeanor that hasn’t been off putting (yet).

          Its just the weird world of sitting in a “Front Desk” position that people don’t think you have like actual work and you are there to be their 15 minute break.

          Reply
          1. Crankypants

            lol same! one time I was really under a deadline and quite stressed about it (probably the #1 time I’ve been most stressed at work) and one of my coworkers said, “you look stressed” and tried lingered to chat about it? like thanks! but yes I am let me get back to what I’m doing!

            Still working on that face.

            I think now lately, even high skilled admins are just absorbing reception duties/position. My position requires a lot of budgeting, reporting, and at times confidential information but they need someone to sit out here in case we get a visitor (doesn’t happen often).

            Reply
    2. Grits McGee

      Our amazing department admin from my graduate program actually put up a sign that said she was concentrating, please don’t distract her unless it’s an emergency. (It was more friendly than that, but it definitely got the point across.)

      Reply
    3. Karenina

      I don’t think you should suck it up. At my last job I was in a similar position for a long time, sitting up at the front desk but also handling a lot of other tasks beyond basic reception duties. It took some coaching for me to start responding to people’s (very friendly!) chatter by simply saying: “I don’t mean to be rude, I’m just very focused right now. Can we chat later?”

      And, no exaggeration, absolutely no one reacted to this by thinking I was unapproachable or inappropriate. Most of them were apologetic that they’d interrupted me (because most people know what it feels like to be interrupted when they’re trying to focus), and certainly weren’t going to push and insist that I listen to non-work-related stories and chitchat if I didn’t have the time to spare from my duties.

      As for all the questions about something new in the kitchen, you could try sending an email to the staff about things like that when they come in (I’m not sure what you’re referring to, so not sure if that would be helpful). Then when you get interrupted, you can really breezily say: “Oh, I talked about that in the email I sent this morning! If you have any questions, could you reply to that email?”

      It may seem a little off-putting to some when you start drawing some gentle boundaries, because it isn’t what they’re used to from you. But I would not bring this to your boss if you have not tried just telling people you need to work, and I would stop writing an interruption log. That is going to seem a lot stranger and more aggressive than I think you realize.

      Reply
    4. Newton Geizler

      Have you been telling your coworkers to stop in the moment? If not, I would try that before going to your boss. For all the small talk interruptions, you can gently rebuff people with ‘Sorry, I need to focus right now’ or ‘Ask me on my lunch break! I need to concentrate on this’ or some other variation that you’re comfortable with. Over time you might be able to train them to stop interrupting you.

      Reply
    5. Corky's wife Bonnie

      I sympathize, I get this too. And when there’s a weather event happening, especially major ones that might be coming, I get no less than 15 people that want to discuss it. I did tell one person to go to accuweather.com if she need further info. You could try the sign suggestion that animaniactoo suggested, but I tried it and it didn’t work, not even a little bit. You could talk to your manager, maybe he/she could either make suggestions or perhaps send an e-mail on your behalf regarding the interruptions.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        The thing about the sign is that you have to reinforce it with additional words and actions. “Pardon me, I can’t chat right now, I really need to concentrate on this. That’s why I put up the sign!” in a decently cheerful tone (at least the first few times that particular person ignores the sign).

        Reply
    6. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

      I’m in a similar position. I spoke with the Dept Chair and asked her for suggestions. She took the initiative to have cubicle panels brought in around my area. It’s about 5 feet tall around my desk except for a “window” area that is 36 inches. She also brought it up at a department faculty meeting, pointing out rightfully that if all 15 of my faculty stopped for a 5 minute chat every morning, that’s 75 minutes of chatting and not working I’m doing, even if you don’t factor in the transition time in between.

      While I waited for the panels to be delivered and setup, my chair suggested I wear headphones at key times. We noticed arrivals around 8:30-9 am and snacks around 2pm were the worst interruptions, so I would put headphones on during that time to discourage interruptions.

      Reply
      1. Celeste

        I like this suggestion a lot. If anyone says something about it, you can say how happy you are having some privacy, because you really couldn’t get your work done easily in the fishbowl. I think the words privacy and fishbowl will resonate with people and they’ll grasp that you had a problem that needed a solution. Good luck!

        Reply
      2. CrazyEngineerGirl

        I like this a lot too. And if you’re already keeping an interruption log of sorts for yourself, consider writing down the exact times if you’re not already doing so. This could help you identify similar problem times.

        Reply
    7. Ann O'Nemity

      I bet most people think they’re being polite. And there’s using you for a little social interaction. They probably haven’t considered that you’re getting that multiple times a day from 23 people. I agree with the sign suggested above. And you may want to have a direct conversation with some of the worst offenders – “Hi Bob. You know, I like catching up with you but I’m finding that I’m getting interrupted by staff members over 100 times a day and it’s interfering with my ability to concentrate and get my work done. Of course I’ll stop what I’m doing if anyone has a work-related issue, but otherwise I need to focus on my own work. Thanks for understanding.”

      Reply
    8. Rocky

      Don’t know if it’s an option for you, but one of our admins got permission to block out time to work in a more hidden cubicle because of stuff like this.

      Reply
    9. Lily Rowan

      I’m just glad to read this, because I worry our receptionist thinks I’m rude because I DON’T say something every time I walk by!

      Reply
    10. Franzia Spritzer

      I have worked in two offices where I had a similar problem, in both cases the same solution worked for me. I had a red flag and a green flag (little pennant shaped guys), that I put out to indicate “do not disturb”, and “cool to approach”, respectively. In another office, where I was deep in cubicle land I put a tiara on to indicate that I was a special thinky princess and to not interrupt my concentration, which worked great! (I was writing code in all cases.) A sign was too many words! The flags were immediate and easy codes to read from afar.

      Reply
    11. Champage_Dreams

      I was in this exact same position and I kept that exact same log. I presented it to my boss along with the research that each interruption sets a person’s productivity back by 15 minutes, meaning I was literally going backwards. Within a month we had a new receptionist to sit up front and I had my own office.

      Reply
  16. Negotiating Pay Raise for Promotion

    Two weeks ago I was offered a promotion. I would be going from analyst/direct service to managing a program and the 5 employees in that department. When my boss offered me the job, she said that she did not know the exact salary raise but that it would be “quite a bump”. Without knowing the salary, I of course did not officially accept but I said I was interested.

    Well, this week she told me that I get paid more than she thought that I did, and that this would be a “lateral move” with a maybe $2000 raise. (exact salary offer STILL pending, btw, which is annoying in its own right.) It’s true that I get paid more than average for my current position, but that is because I have valuable skills and have always done more than the official job description.

    I am obviously very disappointed and expressed that to the manager. She asked if I could commit to the job and I said absolutely not without knowing the salary. Basically I don’t know how hard to go if they really offer a mere $2000 over what I currently make. The fact is, she does need me (I actually designed the whole program I’ll be managing, and she recently got assigned to it). But I also don’t want to essentially get demoted by letting someone else take over the project I created.

    Fwiw, this is a nonprofit, but one with a decent budget.

    Reply
    1. Learning Grasshopper

      Figure out 2 things
      1. What is your bottom line to take the job
      2. How would you fell if you DIDN’T take the job and someone else moved into that position?

      good luck, tough call

      Reply
    2. Dogwood

      Only $2000? “Maybe”?

      I work at a non-profit and got around $4k-$5k more when I went to managing a program and one employee. I’d definitely let others weigh in, too, but $2k for five people and managing a program seems really insufficient, if only because managing people can be so so so so many more headaches.

      If I were in a position like this, and basing this off of my own experience, I would rather let someone take over a project I created than risking becoming manager for 5 people and all the issues that come along with them (even if they’re good people, there will be issues–that’s just how humans are) for only $2000 before taxes.

      Reply
    3. Juli G.

      This is my biggest pet peeve as an HR manager.

      DO NOT TALK SALARY INCREASE IF YOU DON’T KNOW THEIR SALARY!

      I’m not saying that you would be okay with 2K but maybe you would have been if your expectation had been set there instead of at 10k. So demoralizing.

      Reply
    4. AndersonDarling

      If they had to hire someone from the outside, would a reasonable salary be your salary+$2,000? If someone from the outside would get more, then I wouldn’t take the added responsibility and let the employer cheap-out. Let them hire someone else.
      But if that would be a reasonable salary, then I would consider taking the promotion. If your current salary is a bit inflated, then I can understand why they can’t offer more. And if you take the promotion, it could be a stepping stone for more opportunities, and … as a manager you could be eligible for more benefits like bonuses.

      Reply
    5. Bruce H.

      Five direct reports is pretty much a full time job, unless the team is already functioning at a very high level. Would you be happy giving up a large part of your creative/technical work to spend time managing people?

      For most of my career, I would not have done my boss’s jobs for less than three times what they were paid.

      Reply
    6. Clever Name

      Wow, that’s a measly pay bump. I got a $3000 raise this year and it wasn’t attached to a promotion, just an “atta-girl” raise.

      Reply
  17. Lizzle

    I’m about to start looking for a new job. I am open to taking a pay cut for a better fit and better work/life balance, but I am not open to taking too much of a cut to my (fairly generous) vacation time.

    How negotiable is vacation time when starting a new job? One of the places I’m most interested in applying is a state university, so I would be a government employee. Does that take this kind of negotiation off the table? And does anyone have any tips for starting that conversation once I have an offer? Would I need to choose between negotiating pay and negotiating time off, should I do both separately, or should I roll them into a comprehensive conversation somehow?

    Having limited experience in job-hopping, it looks to me as if people are generally expected to rise in salary across organizations but start at square one on vacation time every time they change jobs. Any thoughts on this?

    Reply
    1. Alex

      I can’t speak for all state universities, but at mine, employees earn a set number of vacation hours based on their length of service. If you are just starting out, you would earn the minimum amount. So it’s not really negotiable. That information should be available on the university’s HR website. You also get federal holidays and any school closings like over winter break. In addition to sick leave, my university also provides leave for military service, volunteering, and a few other categories that don’t necessarily apply to everyone, but it’s nice to know they are available.

      Reply
      1. Aphrodite

        I agree. It doesn’t matter if you are management or classified (union); the benefits are set. You get so many vacation hours per year and at least for classified they go up based on your length of service. There is no negotiating on anyone’s part.

        Reply
        1. Aphrodite

          But I also want to add that at the community college I work at we have very generous leave: 16 holidays per year plus a starting minimum of eight sick days per year (one per month can be accumulated to an unlimited number) plus the vacation days beginning at a minimum of eight hours per month and increasing over time to 24 days per year).

          Reply
      2. PB

        I agree. I have worked for three state universities now, and this has been the case at all of them. You can negotiate other aspects (pay, of course, and sometimes professional development travel), but PTO is set in stone.

        Reply
    2. Justme

      Agree with Alex. Sick, vacation, and salary are basically non-negotiable when working for a state entity.

      Reply
    3. Bye Academia

      I work in an academic-adjacent job at a public university, and vacation/benefits are not negotiable at all here. They’re determined by the union contract. However, because the union is very good, I get more vacation time than I would have thought to ask for.

      I’m sure the situation varies at different universities, but at least at mine, it would have been out of touch to try to negotiate vacation or benefits right off the bat. If you get to the offer stage, I would start by gathering information. Ask how much PTO you will get if the offer doesn’t specify. Then ask whether the salary/PTO is negotiable. You may be told they have salary bands, etc. and that there is no wiggle room, but if they respond favorably then you could suggest changes.

      In my case, the contract is freely available on the union’s website. You could try googling to see if there is something similar for the university you’re applying to. Either way, might as well apply. You never know how it will go!

      Reply
      1. Alex

        I forget that unions are thing for some people. They pretty much don’t exist in my neck of the woods. At what point does the union become involved in the hiring process or how does that work?

        Reply
        1. Amber Rose

          Unions aren’t normally involved in the hiring process directly. It’s just that union agreements lay out things like wages, raises, vacation time, etc. for all employees, and since those agreements are basically binding contracts there isn’t a ton of flexibility in them one way or another.

          Reply
        2. Bye Academia

          The union isn’t involved in our hiring process at all. That’s all done through HR and the relevant department. The only way it came into play for me was that my salary negotiations had to end up in the relevant salary band in the union contract.

          Reply
        3. Creag an Tuire

          Assuming you’re in the US, the union [i]cannot[/i] be “involved” in the hiring process, at least in the sense of determining if you get the job — that would be a “closed shop” which is illegal under Taft-Hartley. (You’d likely be entering a “union shop” where all employees in the bargaining unit must pay dues to cover union costs, but where the union in turn must represent anyone the employer hires into the unit.)

          As others have said, you will not be able to bargain salary or benefits individually on hire, because these are bargained collectively. The only [i]possible[/i] wiggle room would be if the contract allows starting salary to vary based on years of experience and if there is potential ambiguity over what management could count as “experience” for purposes of salary placement (this is also about the only situation where I could see the union getting involved pre-hire, though that’s extremely rare).

          Of course, if you’re keen to bargain your raise down the road, join the union as a member (unless you’re in a “Right-To-Work” state you’re paying the dues anyway) and try to get on the next bargaining team. In my experience with unions, there won’t be people lining up to do the job and the local president will probably be grateful for somebody stepping up. :)

          Reply
        4. helper

          generally, the union specifies certain parameters for each grade — and each open position is assigned a grade (like a catagory the job fits into). Like, “teapot maker grade d, teapot designer, grade b” and so on. Each one of those will have a set starting salary with a set increase for length of service. benefits are generally set as well. The union is involved in negotiating what the standards are for each grade, so they don’t need to get involved in the individual hiring — it’s already known up front exactly what the parameters are based on the grade.

          Reply
          1. Alex

            So if you apply for a job at a university that has some kind of union presence, do you have to join the union when you get an offer or do you just benefit from the fact that the union did all the work for you?

            Reply
            1. Creag an Tuire

              You do not have to technically “join” the union but you would pay dues to cover the cost of bargaining, representation, etc. (Some unions will lump in these “feepayers” into their membership count.) Unless you are in a “Right-To-Work” state, in which case it is your solemn right to benefit from their work for free.

              Reply
              1. Gadfly

                For now, depending on a few court cases… Although the SCOTUS does not appear poised to go down a union friendly route…

                Reply
      2. Lizzle

        The starting leave benefits are pretty clear, but it was my impression that most jobs have a standard that can then be deviated from (by, for instance, putting someone in at a higher seniority level). The starting leave is not very good (less than 2 weeks), but it goes up steeply in year 3. I unfortunately have just given 3 years to another organization where the leave allowance also goes up at year 3–and am really giving the side-eye to the idea of starting over.

        Reply
        1. Bye Academia

          I think that will depend. At my university, everyone who is hired starts with the same amount of leave. It increases with years of service at the university, not seniority. But that may not be the case everywhere. Never know until you ask.

          Reply
    4. Bethlam

      I can’t speak to what goes on in a state university and YMMV, but . . . my company is closing the location where I work in July and we started furloughing employees last September. Everyone who wanted another job has secured one (some opted for early retirement), with varying success in driving distance, salary, and benefits. But everyone lost vacation. That’s partly because we have a very generous vacation policy; a few people have only 3 weeks; almost everyone has 4-6 weeks.

      Two employees, who each had 6 weeks, negotiated with their new companies and managed to negotiate 3 weeks of vacation – so, by negotiating, they only lost 3 weeks. But almost everyone else got really hosed. Another employee, who also had 6 weeks, went to a company where they don’t give you any until after you’ve been there a year. He negotiated very hard and they finally conceded to give him 1 week to start, but other employees weren’t able to negotiate anything beyond what the company’s policy was for any starting employee, many of which is no vacation until after your first year and then you get one week.

      While we’re all unhappy about losing our jobs for a lot of obvious reasons, we all know that none of us will find new employers who will match what we’ve got vacation-wise; we just hope we can do as well as those who managed to negotiate for 3 weeks.

      Reply
    5. MsEsq

      As a former state university employer (and still working in higher ed) I think you will find when you look at the vacation offered you likely won’t have to negotiate. This is what I got and is similar to what I have at a private school:

      all state/national holidays off with pay (10 a year) + 25 days vacation + 10 days sick time + university closure at Christmas (paid between the 24-1, no need to take vacation)

      In fact, as someone who didn’t really have money to travel/visit others, I almost struggled to take all my vacation time!

      Reply
      1. Lizzle

        Wow! Their website says 7 days vacation (plus federal holidays), and both my husband and I have out-of-state family so that was feeling a bit tight to me. But it could be they are not accounting for university closures.

        Reply
        1. MsEsq

          That sounds a bit tight to me as well, based on where I’ve worked and interviewed… especially for a state school! You should try and find out about closure, though, since that is a time when you’re pretty much guaranteed to have to use vacation.

          Reply
    6. Rocky

      Just chiming in to say that in state employment I’m familiar with, vacation time is not negotiable for all the reasons already mentioned, but ***unpaid leave*** can be negotiated. I’ve seen many instances of that.

      Reply
    7. JGray

      Usually in the public sector vacation or sick leave isn’t negotiable. But most places I have worked in the public sector (or non-profit) actually have better benefits than the private sector. That is part of the reason that I left my private sector job for my public sector job. I actually did the math and the wage in private sector was a little higher but when I factored in vacation/sick leave/what I paid for my benefits I actually made less money in the private sector than what I make now.

      Reply
    8. Cordelia Naismith

      I work for a state university, and negotiation, either for pay or benefits, isn’t really a thing. I mean, it doesn’t hurt to try — some jobs on campus are more open to negotiation than others — but I wouldn’t really expect to be able to. Pay and vacation are tied directly to your job title. For instance, all Teapot Maker I employees have the same pay/benefts. We do get annual COLA raises now – although those were frozen for many years — but the only way to get a promotion is to move from one job to another job on campus. You can’t stay in the same job and be promoted from Teapot Maker I to Teapot Maker II if the job duties haven’t changed.

      Also, university staff are notoriously underpaid. It’s particularly bad at my university; we are underpaid even when compared with comparable state universities, not just when compared with private sector jobs.

      I love my job and my office, but I’m thinking about applying for a Teapot Maker II job that just opened up in a different office across campus purely for the promotion.

      Reply
      1. Cordelia Naismith

        Oh, I want to clarify — when I said you might be able to negotiate, I meant the pay. Vacation time isn’t negotiable. But it’s plentiful, so that’s okay with me. I accrue 8 hours of sick leave per month and 10 hours of annual leave per month. Also, the university is closed for 14 days every year (New Year’s Day, MLK Day, Memorial Day, the 4th of July, the Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving, and for about a week at Christmas, starting with Christmas Day [we do have to work on Christmas Eve]), and you don’t have to use vacation time for those days. Staff doesn’t get all the same holidays the students and faculty get, though (like spring break). We still have to work on those days.

        Reply
    9. Windchime

      I work for a state university, too, and I was unable to negotiate vacation time. But we have 10 or so paid holidays and very generous sick leave of 12 days per year. The sick leave made the difference for me, because at Old Job all of our days off (sick and vacation) came out of one bucket. So I feel like I’m actually coming out ahead on days off.

      Reply
  18. Amber Rose

    I need some clarity on something that happened this week. I’m still not sure if it was good or bad, or neither, or if I’m just overreacting.

    So, I’ve complained a few times about how I hate doing the accounts receivables and I suck at it, but I was under the impression that it was just something I had to keep working on. Well, my supervisor sat down with me and basically said wow, this is really bad, this is not getting done at all. And I said, I know, I’m trying my best but it makes me anxious and is something that’s very hard for me to do. Anyways, the end result is that I don’t have to do it anymore. She and the accountant are going to work on it together and I’m free. On the one hand, HELL YEAH. But on the other hand, responsibility has been taken away from me because I failed terribly. Is this really bad for my work reputation?

    I sort of asked if I was in trouble, and she said she was very frustrated but part of that is because I wasn’t doing it the way she would, and that she sometimes forgets people can’t read her mind. She also said she has no idea what I do in a day, which is in my mind the biggest ongoing problem I have in this company. NOBODY knows what I do in a day. I’m like the Futurama definition of God: when I do my job right, nobody’s sure if I did anything at all.

    Sigh.

    Reply
    1. animaniactoo

      Did you respond by clearly outlining what you DO do in a day?

      Also – had you been clear to her before about struggling with the accounts receivables?

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        We did agree that I’d start sending her emails every day or couple of days just letting her know what I’m working on.

        And yes, I had. She knew it and when I mentioned it in this meeting she acknowledged that she knew about it. It had been my understanding that it was too bad, I’d just have to cope. I think is this only turned out the way it did because upper management started to complain about how bad it was going, and she’s the middleman for every problem. So part of her frustration is having to deal with this at all on top of everything else, which I get and I feel bad about, but I really tried to be better and I just couldn’t.

        Reply
        1. animaniactoo

          I would say that as long as the rest of your job provides real substantive value to the company, then everything here was handled correctly and you’re probably fine.

          Reply
    2. AndersonDarling

      Bender: You know, I was God once.
      Galactic Entity: Yes, I saw. You were doing well until everyone died.

      Reply
    3. Creag an Tuire

      Oooof. This is bringing back flashbacks of my final year at OldJob — I’d be concerned that they think they need someone stronger in the role you’re filling. (That’s not a personal slam — it may well be that their expectations for your role are unrealistic — IMO that was the case with OldJob though obviously they’d disagree.)

      I’d take the opportunity they’ve given you with the email updates to document as best you can what you’re working on, how long it takes, and the value it provides to the company — basically demonstrate both that you are doing solid work and imply (without making it an explicit production) that it would be unrealistic for a normal qualified person to do this job well on top of the accounts receivable.

      Sorry to be so alarmist, this just sounds a lot like the early flags I missed. Godspeed.

      Reply
      1. Amber Rose

        I have that concern. For the time being, I am comforted a bit in that only I have my certifications, and that it was a year long and multi-thousand dollar project to get me to this point so it’s probably more hassle to replace me than it’s worth. I’ve also started doing quarterly emails to upper management on what my department has been doing, although your guess is as good as mine on whether anyone’s reading them.

        Part of the recent trouble is that I was more or less inaccessible for two weeks doing work for another company. I was working somewhere else on things that have no impact on this company, and I was still being paid by this company, and since nobody understands that system… yeah.

        I probably need a new job.

        Reply
        1. Creag an Tuire

          So they spent months and money training you as a Teapot Amortizer (implying both a recognized need for the role and a difficulty in finding certified Teapot Amortizers in the wild) and are now all “yeah, but let’s make you do this completely different task as well.” That is a solid level of Not Smart there.

          I’m sorry, and I hope they do see sense.

          Reply
          1. Amber Rose

            More or less, if you add a few completely different tasks in there. I do stuff ranging from marketing to programming also.

            Which is mostly OK, if it’s something where I sit and try to figure things out I often can and I like learning. But A/R requires dealing with other people in a confrontational situation. I have anxiety triggers around being yelled at. And I don’t think Canada has the same sorts of rules around accommodating illness as the US.

            Reply
    4. Rocky

      I think you handled this specific situation just fine, but overall this doesn’t sound good for you. It’s never good when your supervisor tells you they don’t know what you’re doing, and taking away responsibilities from you in that light is not a favor. Keep documenting and communicating what you’re working on, but if your gut instinct is that you need a new job, I’d say heed it.

      Reply
    5. BlueWolf

      I feel you on the accounts receivable part. Asking people for money is the worst. :/ I had to do that in my old job and I hated it, but in my new job I am only responsible for preparing the bills and there’s a whole different department for accounts receivable.

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      Is this a workload problem? I mean if you had a comfortable time frame would you have been okay with the AR?
      Going in the opposite way, is there enough AR work to keep one person employed full time?

      I think that writing out a list of what you are doing would be helpful, I mean a list that you keep for yourself. It sounds like you have to email the boss now, which is okay, too. She should be more aware than what she is.
      It’s not really bad for your work rep if she does not mention it to anyone, or if she explains that she did not realize how much you had on your plate already. I think you will survive this one, you’ll be okay. It sounds like your boss is a thinking person and that is always a good thing.

      I think at some point I would go back in on this discussion under the larger heading of “NOBODY knows what I do in a day”. I have seen this type of complaint come up when a person has too many bosses and each boss does not know what the other bosses have asked of this person. Your solution might be that any new work for you has to be cleared through your supervisor first.

      Digging out of this one will be a bit of effort, but it might be worthwhile. You could have an opportunity here to shape/define your job, if you keep this as an ongoing conversation.

      One thing I would do is ask the boss, “How do I let you know when something is too much and I am running into trouble?” Then explain that the situation went on for too long so the problem got bigger, if the problem could be caught sooner then it would be less of an issue.

      Honestly, it seems like you would benefit from having a few other things taken off your plate also.

      Reply
    7. Casuan

      :::this got much longer than I planned because I was trying to connect the dots from the other posts & their good suggestions; hence: TL; R [Too Long: Redundancies]:::

      Amber Rose, from your original post & your comments, whilst this is weighing you down now, I think you can turn it around! At least, there are several things you can try.

      You were doing your best with little management. The fact that you’re the Futurama definition of God is probably a good sign, albeit it’s always good to be acknowledged for one’s work & to have the feedback that one is on the right track.

      Your specific question was if complaining about doing A/R & then having the task taken from you will hurt your reputation.
      I don’t think the damage is as bad as you think. We’ve all been there, and the thing to do is to acknowledge the snafu then to reframe it as best you can & move on from there. You’re doing just that! & you’re not the only one who handled this wrong. The management has created a culture that made you think you had to suck it up & do the work assigned to you, no matter what. Your manager reinforced this when you told her you were having trouble with the project.

      to rephrase: We all get thrown to the mat. It’s what we do after we’re down that matters.

      You’ve “complained a few times about how” you hate doing A/R.
      This is where you went off-track, I think.
      Were your complaints “I really don’t like doing A/R although I’ll do it because you tasked it to me even though I’m bad at it”?
      If so, probably all your manager heard was that you don’t like to do A/R. She said she sometimes forgets that others can’t read her mind. Employees need to remember that managers can’t always read between the lines.

      Telling a manager that you hate something & suck at it won’t always click that your real message is “Please help because I don’t like this task & my skills are elsewhere, so I really don’t know what I’m doing & I’m probably going to get things wrong & it will then cause more problems for our already-overworked department.”

      What will click is if you can state the problem [& why it’s a problem] & recommend a solution, even if the solution is “I’ve thought about it although I’m really drawing a blank” [this particular solution should be rare as usually it’s better to at least suggest something].

      You could have have told your manager the specific problems you were having, what you couldn’t resolve [& the steps you tried to take] & asked her for guidance, as well as to ask for status meetings during the project. These meetings could be as simple as 5 minutes a day or 5 minutes a week, in person or via telephone… by email… whatever would help keep you on track for the project at hand.
      You could have asked for help with specific parts of the project you were having trouble with, such as the calls that gave you anxiety. Also you could have pointed out how A/R affected your other work & asked for help to prioritise your projects.

      What caught my attention was that the manager & the accountant were going to work on A/R together. To me this seems like they realised without a dedicated A/R person the job is too much for just one person with other responsibilities. If so, this is in your favour.

      bonus non-click: The phrase “One day I’d like to be in management” [especially when said during lunch or a more casual conversation] will not prompt that manager to put the employee on the advancement list.

      As for your manager, she seems aware that things aren’t as streamlined as they should be. She also seems willing to talk & listen to her staff. Unfortunately, she’s too busy being the middleman for other things that she is forgetting that managing is more than what she’s currently doing &or her own managers aren’t giving her the time or freedom to do her own job. She is currently Not Managing, at least not very well. From the little you told us, your manager probably would be good at, ummm… managing.

      Help her with this & help your own career by taking charge of your job!!
      It’s good that you’ll be sending status emails, however I don’t see the point if neither of you are clear & in agreement about your role [ie: job description] & her expectations. Ideally this discussion also would include how this fits into your career path.
      Once you discuss this, status emails will actually have a purpose.

      If your manager doesn’t see the point in such a meeting, then, yeah… you probably should move on.
      However, it seems that she’ll be willing to do this very routine part of managing. In this meeting, discuss: your job requirements, how you can use your skills to their advantage, your manager’s expectations & how she wants you to handle any conflicts. Tell her you’re mortified [or whatever the best adjective] that you didn’t do well with the A/R & your understanding was that you needed to do it without complaint. A good manager will want to know that. Also tell her what you learned from the experience & the steps you can take in the future to avoid the scenario from recurring [with any project, not just A/R].

      Not So NewReader is spot on about steps you should take & what to discuss. Especially “NOBODY knows what I do in a day”… not even your manager knows!! Your manager should be able to tell someone what her individual staff are doing. Because she doesn’t know, then you should help to clarify this.
      How does your department fit into the needs & goals of the company? What is your manager’s vision & plan for this? What does she want from you to meet departmental goals?

      The goal is for you to have an idea of the bigger picture & how you can be a part of that; you don’t need all of the details for that. You do need the details for your function!

      Take a week or two to think things through before you meet with your manager.
      What is the job for which you were hired?
      Start there & make a list of the job requirements. Then list everything you actually are doing.
      What are your qualifications & skills? How do they fit in with your work?

      As Creag an Tuire suggested, log your achievements. I’d suggest to keep an informal log of your projects on your personal device, both rote & challenging & how you resolved the challenging projects. Especially note the outcome in terms of how your company benefitted from you doing your job.
      This will help because:
      …you can see all you accomplish.
      …such a list will help you negotiate raises & promotions.
      …this will help when you update your CV.

      *You owe it to yourself & your career to be honest with what you want.
      these queries are rhetorical so you needn’t answer here

      I probably need a new job.
      Do you truly believe this isn’t the right job/fit for you? Was this statement more from frustration & feeling overwhelmed? Or are you just thinking you want to start somewhere new for a fresh start because of the A/R situation?
      If the last question is yes, then I think you’re better served to do what you can at your current job to work on any damage to your reputation, even if for just several months. You don’t want your current employer to think you left just because a project you were bad at was taken away. You do want your employer to know you left because you found a job that will netter suit your skills. And when NewCompany calls CurrentCompany for a reference, you want CC to reiterate your good qualities.

      There are a lot of variables to answer questions like these & I assume there are more factors at play then what you’ve shared here. So the follow-up questions:

      All things considered, do you like this job?
      to be more precise: If things ran more smoothly & you had better feedback & appreciation, would you want to stay?

      Do you like the work in general? Are the salary & benefits good? Is there room for advancement? Do you respect your colleagues & the work culture?
      If the last answer is no, is this something that could improve with time?

      Please let us know how you’re doing!!
      Good luck!!

      Reply
  19. CrazyEngineerGirl

    This week, a coworker I seriously can’t stand turned in their notice! I am unreasonably happy!

    I can’t help but feel that this is going to majorly improve my job satisfaction. It’s not so much that I have direct problems with this person exactly. They are terrible at their job, never take responsibility, lay blame on others, lie, etc. But the real horrible part and the part that makes me fume on the inside constantly is the treatment they get here. Talked to about their behavior and issues but no consequences. Bad at their job but promoted, given a raise, and what basically amounts to being given an assistant (which was done, as far as I can tell, because they can’t do their job.) Big boss has refused to fire them (they had a ‘thing’ early on) and this has led to coworker basically being coddled constantly.

    But now they’ve turned in their notice and in 2 weeks I won’t have to deal with the insanity that surrounds them anymore! Woo-hoo!!

    Reply
    1. PoniezRUs

      Yay! I felt so much of the same relief you feel when I was in the same situation. I hope it improves your morale like it did for me!

      Reply
    2. Sunflower

      OMG I feel the same way about our team assistant. It’e something I’m struggling with a lot at my job and I totally think your satisfaction will go up. Hoping I get similar news to you soon.

      Reply
    3. hermit crab

      I’ve outlasted several coworkers (cube neighbors, office-mates, etc.) who had annoying habits I couldn’t stand and/or I just irrationally disliked them. It was so, so, so satisfying when they left! It must feel even better if the person is actively bad at their job/doing bad things. Congratulations!

      Reply
    4. Clever Name

      Ha. I remember when a coworker who threw me under the bus resigned. My mentor, who had backed me, asked how I felt about him resigning, and I said, “I’m trying not to be openly gleeful”. :)

      Reply
  20. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    Relating to the bird phobia letter earlier: what are you all afraid of, and how do you deal with it at work?

    I am TERRIFIED of a certain, disgusting, bug (I can’t even type it out without shuddering), but fortunately have never been in any office where they are an issue.

    I also experience nausea, panic, and “freeze” when I smell rubbing alcohol or strong alcohol-based antiseptics. So I know I could never work in any medical field! With the proliferation of hand sanitizer, I usually move, hold my nose, or try to smell something else if I am within a few feet of the person using it. Of all the things to be afraid of…

    Reply
    1. Rincat

      I’m afraid of talking to my director, who has been nothing but nice and helpful to me since I started. He is just very quiet and has sort of a mean looking resting face, and has a zillion years experience in our tech field and is extremely smart. If I have to talk to him about something, I have to psych myself up with pep talks (like “You are a competent, intelligent adult”) and rehearse what I’m going to say in my head. I have Imposter Syndrome to the max degree and just started working in a new department with lots of smart, experienced IT people so I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.

      On a lighter note I am also terrified of dolls. Luckily dolls aren’t usually found in IT but every now and then I run across someone’s office who has some collectible dolls on their shelves and my blood pressure goes up, so I just hover at the exit and try not to look at them. (Figures are okay, I’m talking like porcelain dolls, American Girl dolls, etc.)

      Reply
      1. dappertea

        I’m the same way! I have this irrational fear of dolls, especially porcelain ones. Some of my coworkers find it funny, and one of them left an Elf on the Shelf on my desk once.

        Reply
    2. Rebecca

      Clowns. Thankfully there are no clowns at work, in the traditional sense anyway, so that’s a plus. I avoid store grand reopenings in my area like the plague, because for some reason, they think it’s a good idea to have clowns on hand. Thankfully my phobia is easy to deal with.

      Reply
    3. Murphy

      I have a one specific bug phobia, but they’re not one that tend to make it indoors, so I haven’t had to worry about it professionally.

      Reply
    4. Amber Rose

      Moths. *sigh*
      They are the most harmless creepy crawly in the universe and I totally lock up when I see one. Fortunately my desk is only surrounded by spiders, so it’s not come up very much. Good thing I’m not arachnophobic!

      Also pretty much every bug that comes into this office dies quickly, likely because of the ambient deadly gases. But when it has come up, another coworker just shoos it away for me without fanfare. I’m also not as phobic as bird guy, I won’t run screaming for the hills unless one lands on me.

      Reply
      1. Solidus Pilcrow

        …likely because of the ambient deadly gases…

        Yikes! If it’s killing the bugs, what’s it doing to you?

        Reply
        1. Casuan

          Love your name!!
          I knew “Solidus” but not “Pilcrow.”
          Wo. I’ve always thought I had excellent vocabulary, although the AAM site has quite humbled me!

          Reply
    5. AnonEMoose

      I don’t do well with spiders. I don’t know if I’d classify it as an actual phobia – if it is, it’s a fairly mild one. I don’t scream or run or shut down when I see one. But I really don’t want them near me and especially not on me! What tends to happen is that I have to force myself to stay calm, and my “lizard brain” is screaming “KILL IT! KILL IT! KILL IT WITH FIRE!!!!”

      I can look at pictures of them (although I don’t like to), but watching video or dealing with the real thing is pushing it. (I can handle the Shelob sequence in the “Lord of the Rings” movies – but the sequence in Mirkwood in the “Hobbit” movies is a stretch, and the Aragog sequence in the 2nd “Harry Potter” movie is a flat-out NOPE.)

      Fortunately, I work in an office building and don’t see them at work much. And at home, my DH mostly deals with them. I might have more of a problem if I lived somewhere with more of the larger types of spider, and/or poisonous ones were more common.

      Reply
        1. AnonEMoose

          My very understanding husband let me hide my face in his shoulder during that scene, and let me know when it was ok to look.

          Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        My friend set a wasp hive on fire. It burned for a half hour. The larvae did not die.
        My suggestion is death by drowning.

        Reply
    6. animaniactoo

      Okay, honestly – Alzheimer’s. Because I have long relied on my memory, my memory is an important asset of institutional knowledge at my company*, and my grandmother and great-uncle both had it.

      So far, I cope by building in habits of checking things against the day when I may start to slip. And it was part of my push for getting our program management software used, so that I am not relying on my memory as much.

      I have no idea what I’ll do if it does start to become an issue (other than my current quiet panic and frustration when I can’t find a word or name in my brain, and I can’t decide if it’s normal aging *for me*, or the beginnings of a real problem).

      I haven’t discussed it in my office at all. I’ve barely been clear with my husband and godmother about how terrified I am of losing my memory.

      * although I am also the person who harps on about everything being organized and keeping up on our
      file/folder organizational structure on the server and webapps, etc., so if I’m gone it IS findable – it’s just not nearly as easy as asking me to find it because I have an idea of what license we did some particular teapot in for instance.

      Reply
      1. MommaCat

        I know how you feel: my mom and grandfather have Alzheimer’s, too. It’s a lot like staring down the barrel of a rifle, isn’t it? Except instead of terrified, I feel more resigned to it, and hoping like hell they come up with a cure by the time I might get it. I’m just trying to live as hard as possible before then. Solidarity fist-bump, animaniactoo.

        Reply
      2. Paxton Sparrow

        I have had family members die from many forms of cancer – breast, brain, blood – diabetic complications, and surgical complications but alzhiemers is the worst. You lose yourself first and live in a state of confusion. None of the other people lost themselves even in the deepest part of their illness.

        Reply
    7. K.

      Snakes. “Someone said she saw a snake in here” = panic. I can’t even see them on screens. It hasn’t come up at work but if it did I truly think I’d have to go home.

      Reply
    8. bluesboy

      I have kosmemophobia, which is just a long way to say that I’m basically frightened of jewellery.

      Yeah, I know, weird, right? Any dangly metal jewellery freaks me out. Frightened is maybe pushing it, I wouldn’t run away, but I feel really uncomfortable, desperately want to wash my hands if I touch it, and find it really difficult to trust people who wear large amounts of jewellery.

      Shaking hands with people with bracelets can also be an issue.

      How do I deal with it? It’s (very) gradually getting better. A few years after shaking hands with someone with lots of bracelets I would automatically rub my hand on my trouser leg to ‘clean’ it, but now I can hold on for much longer and even focus on work until I get a chance to go and wash my hands. The trust issue is more problematic, but easier now that I don’t participate in recruiting any more. It was really tough to interview someone and offer them the job knowing that they were the right person, but also that I would find them difficult to work with. One person even found out about it, and would deliberately wear more jewellery on days she was annoyed with me!

      To be honest it’s been more of a problem in my private life. You get a new girlfriend who isn’t wearing jewellery when you meet her, or on the first couple of dates. Then the next time you see her you find out that actually she ALWAYS wears jewellery, it was just hidden before under her clothes…and you have to end it!

      Reply
    9. cercis

      I have no real phobias, but I have a really strong startle reflex. Thankfully I’ve only “hit” a coworker once (recounted in the original thread – a bird literally flew up into my face and I ducked/dodged and knocked into a coworker), but apparently I provide great amusement to coworkers who like to make sudden loud noises just to see me jump and spill tea everywhere.

      Reply
      1. animaniactoo

        I have scared the shit out of co-workers who walked up behind my open cubicle and knocked on the wall when I had no clue that they were there and promptly jumped about two feet out of my seat (no, not figuratively). Fortunately for me, we all laughed about it and they have gone to great lengths to try not to startle me again.

        Reply
      2. MegaMoose, Esq

        Yeah, me too. When I used to work in a cube I would either try and move so I was facing the entrance, or set up a mirror so I could see anyone coming.

        Reply
      3. Elizabeth West

        I nearly beaned a coworker who scared me once when I was wearing headphones. She really hit my startle button. After that, I added “And knock if I’m wearing headphones” to my Gates of Moria cube sign that also said “Speak friend and enter” (which nobody on my team got because I was the only nerd).

        Reply
      4. Sprechen Sie Talk?

        Yesterday I almost fell out of my chair in a meeting because my coworker shifted in his chair next to me and it made a loud creaking sound I wasn’t expecting and well, my mind must have drifted!

        Reply
    10. Periwinkle

      Dogs. I’ve gotten better over time to the point where I can be around most dogs but I’m still terribly uncomfortable if they might touch me or I’m in a room with them without someone who can handle them. Whenever I see an article about dog-friendly offices I shudder at the idea of having to work around people’s dogs all day.

      Reply
    11. Squeeble

      While it doesn’t quite rise to the level of a phobia, I utterly loathe bananas, to the point where I can’t look at someone eating one until they’re done and they’ve thrown away the peel. If I can, I’ll leave the room entirely. It is a bit of a pain because bananas are cheap and plentiful, so they’re everywhere. Just thinking about it makes me squirm!

      Reply
      1. stk

        Me TOO. To me, they are not food, they are disgusting and wrong. People eating them is bad enough, but leaving peels around or something… EUUUGHHH. *shudder*

        Reply
    12. Case of the Mondays

      Mice and centipedes. Both have caused me to scream in my office, with zero filter. My assistant’s cube was being moved and when they took it apart, a mouse ran out!!! AHHH. They are so freaking cute but I have a complete and total irrational fear. When they were in my basement there were tears, lots of them.

      Reply
    13. Aphrodite

      I have a phobia about being trapped underground. I was actually on Leave of Absence from my job for about 18 months for this when the department I was in closed and they moved me into a lateral position. The new department was in temporary offices where it had been for the previous two years but was moving back into renovated offices after the holidays. I was taken on a tour of the new offices and my office was going to be underground. The office itself had a shorter ceiling and was made up of these giant cement blocks that formed every part of it but the door. It looked out onto a narrow hallway also made of these same blocks. I cannot tell you how awful it was. I ended up in meetings with HR, had to get a doctor’s note, and it was a long time until another job came along.

      The funny thing is I adore reading books about things like deep caving, diving in deep caves or sunken ships or submarines. I love the descriptions of the places that make my hair stand on end, the misery, the deaths, and so on. But I read them in my sunny living room surrounded by windows and the outside. Don’t even think about asking me to go caving, though.

      Reply
    14. AndersonDarling

      I had an issue with pipes, like big industrial pipes that look like they are under lots of pressure. I’m afraid they will blow up. It was a bad issue for a while and my office had a drain pipe in the stairwell so I had to take the elevator all the time. But it got better over time and I just think they are creepy instead of terrifying. As long as I don’t have anymore nightmares about scary pipes, I can cope.

      Reply
    15. Sabrina the Teenage Witch

      I hate having attention put on me (my face gets bright red if I have to speak up in front of people) so public speaking has always been a fear of mine.

      Reply
    16. JeanB

      Fortunately my one real phobia doesn’t come up at work – I’m really afraid of caves. Especially the ones where you have to crawl through a small passage to get through. I was reading a book the other day where the characters were squeezing through a tube and getting stuck, and I just all of a sudden said “I am not doing that!” out loud.

      But I am also freaked out completely by bugs and spiders.

      Reply
    17. Elizabeth West

      Aren’t phobias weird? How do we even get them? It’s so strange.

      I’m afraid of heights. I avoid going up on ladders, etc. Fortunately it’s not usually something I have to deal with at work, since I’m not in facilities management or a firefighter or anything like that. I have no idea why this is the case–as kids, we used to jump out the loft window of the barn on our property and I spent half my childhood in trees!

      Reply
      1. Jaydee

        I’m afraid of falling more than I’m afraid of heights. So I have no issue being on the top floor of a tall building taking in the view of the city. I would probably have an issue climbing a wobbly ladder, even if it’s just to change a lightbulb or reach something on a high shelf. I also pretty much lived in trees as a child and loved climbing and swinging and all sorts of similar activities. I really don’t know where it all comes from.

        Reply
        1. Anne of Green Tables

          Me too! As a kid I loved climbing tall trees, particularly barefoot, and get the bird’s eye view of the neighborhood. My front yard had three trees close to each other and I would walk far out on a branch and jump to the next tree 20 feet up. As an adult, no problems eating lunch with my feet dangling over a 4-story parking garage. But on a ladder 3 feet up and it wiggles? Nearly wet myself.

          Reply
        2. Surrogate Tongue Pop

          +1 I can be high up as long as I am not the one controlling my safety! So…bungee jumping, high dives, sky diving are all out for me. Tall buildings, bridges, etc. are fine.

          Reply
    18. Dr. KMnO4

      I have a fairly severe phobia of bees (and wasps and hornets and yellow jackets and carpenter bees…). Can barely look at pictures of them, can’t be around them. I’m also afraid of most other insects and arachnids, though the level of fear varies by species.

      At work my phobias prevent me from going into the biology labs where one of the faculty works with insects. Actually, I don’t like going into her office at all because she has dead insects on the walls. My bee phobia especially makes me nervous about being outside in the summer, since I tend to panic when I’m around them, and I don’t control my reaction. I’m afraid of looking like an idiot in front of my colleagues for sure. Thankfully it seldom comes up.

      Reply
      1. Birdbrain

        Hello phobia twin! Bees and their ilk are my kryptonite. Oddly, it’s not about getting stung: I’ve actually been stung before and it’s not nearly as bad as the psychological effects of the bee COMING AFTER ME.

        For me, the “pointier” they are, the likelier I am to panic. So bumblebees are mostly okay as long as they aren’t close and aren’t coming towards me. Wasps and hornets? NOPENOPENOPE. The buzzing sound is awful, too. The lack of bees is one of the few things I like about winter.

        Thankfully I work in a bee-free office. I have had issues when my team has gone out for lunch and sat on the patio. I have so far avoided a complete flailing panic in front of coworkers, but I definitely had a “I need to get away from here NOW” moment involving a rapid retreat and a nervous wait at a safe distance until the wasp was gone. And then I spent the rest of the meal looking around anxiously…

        Reply
      2. Lissa

        Same here. Flying insects are bad in general — I have vision issues, and having bugs flying in my face can send me into near-tears no matter the situation. It doesn’t come up a lot at work but sometimes something has gotten in the window, and if I’m right in the middle of what I’m doing, I can’t really get up and stop! Nightmares!

        Reply
    19. Iris Carpenter

      Heights. And some of our production facilities are tall, and may have things I need to deal with at the top. Fortunately it has never happened yet, but open grid style walkways that you can see right though are bad enough.

      Reply
    20. Jadelyn

      My phobia is a weird one – I’ve actually never been able to find a word for it, even on those huge exhaustive phobias lists. I’m terrified of power lines and electrical towers, I always feel like they’re going to fall on me. Secondarily, I’m scared of large machinery – basically anything with moving parts that are bigger than I am. I’m okay if I’m in a car near them, since I’m grounded/protected – I mean, I still side-eye them and am really tense, but I can cope – but outside walking around? Hell no. I have been able to force myself to walk under power lines a handful of times, but I have to do it by keeping my head down, staring fixedly at the ground, and walking as fast as I can. There’s a big set of lines that runs right through a major retail area in my town, with the result that there’s a bunch of stores I literally can’t go to because I can’t make myself walk from car to building under those damn power lines.

      Luckily this hasn’t been an issue at work, since I work in an office with no aboveground lines anywhere nearby. And thankfully, if we were doing something offsite and there were electrical towers nearby, my team is really understanding of anxiety and phobias, since several of us have unusual ones, so I’d just let my team know and they’d try to help work around it.

      Reply
      1. Bethlam

        My biking partner has the phobia of power lines & electrical towers. When we were on one of our D.C. to Pittsburgh bike trips, there’s a section with some beautiful pink bushes on a hillside that we stopped to look at/photograph. She was visibly trembling and I asked what was wrong. She pointed overhead to the large electrical lines. I had barely noticed them, nor the humming and crackling coming from them, but she was totally weirded out.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          That sound is the worst! I commend your biking partner on being able to stand still under them, I don’t think I’d be able to stay still like that.

          Reply
    21. PB

      Roaches. I hate them. I shriek when I see them. And sadly, I’ve worked in places where they sometimes emerge. I wish I could say I’ve developed a brilliant coping strategy, but I haven’t. If I scream and startle someone, I explain and apologize. Fortunately, since pretty much everyone hates roaches, this has never been a problem.

      Reply
    22. AliceBD

      I am terrified of mummies. They give me nightmares, and when we learned about Ancient Egypt in elementary school I had to leave the room crying. I can know they are somewhere and be ok, but I cannot (truely cannot) deal with images of them (one came up in my Tumblr dash one evening and I violently shoved my computer away and started crying and was upset for the rest of the evening) or knowing too much about them. I don’t have a problem with fake mummies like people wrapped in toilet paper for Halloween, and I can read books like the Amelia Peobody books where they are always excavating pyramids as long as I skip over any descriptions and don’t think too hard about it.

      Luckily this is not a thing that comes up really at work. I work in marketing so I could see it being an issue if I worked at a history or art museum, but in general it doesn’t come up and if it does I can leave the conversation.

      Reply
    23. Shamy

      This doesn’t rise to the level of phobia, but I am terrified of fish. The seafood section of the grocery store freaks me out and I definitely cant walk down those aisles in the pet stores with the aquariums. If it is a whole fish dish, they have to remove the head for me. Oddly enough, if I saw one flopping around out of water, I wouldnt’t have the heart to let it die, so despite being utterly panicked, I would put it back in the water.

      Reply
      1. Mononymous

        SAME OMG. Gross. I once went to the aquarium on Key West and was looking at the critters in an open tank up the middle of the room, then turned around to see a freaking THREE FOOT angelfish in the wall tank right behind me, staring at me with its giant beady eye. I almost fell backward into the open tank onto the horseshoe crabs!

        Reply
    24. Mononymous

      Holes in things, especially if there’s something in the holes. It’s called trypophobia. DO NOT GOOGLE if you think you also have this! Those lotus pod dried flower things are the stuff of nightmares, ugh.

      Also, tripping and falling down stairs. I will often have pretty vivid mental images of myself falling down the stairs as I’m actually walking up or down them… Falling backwards if I’m going up, tripping and going headfirst if I’m walking down, etc. It’s not bad enough to stop me from using the stairs, but I do need to be able to hold the handrail 100% of the time. This applies at home and elsewhere, too.

      Reply
      1. LawPancake

        Ugh, those frogs that have babies pop out of their backs make me physically retch. Awful. Thankfully, I don’t deal with frogs at work.

        Reply
    25. Anon4this

      I actually acquired a phobia because of a job I held as a teenager. I am afraid of roller-coasters. When I was in high school I worked at an amusement park during the summers, 2 people died on one of our roller-coasters in a very unfortunate accident, which I was present for and saw while working (but wasn’t working that ride). To this day I practically hyperventilate just thinking about it.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        I’ve a friend who has a phobia of carnival rides/amusement part rides from being in line as a teenager, in the next group to board, and it just broke in a horrific way I’ve never been heartless enough to ask him to detail. I just know a lot of people were hurt and several dies.

        I wouldn’t say I have a phobia from his story, exactly, but combined with my car crash issues it is just a non-starter for me to even think of getting on one.

        Reply
    26. Sylvia

      I’m emetophobic – clinical phobia of vomiting.

      A long time ago, one of my coworkers became suddenly, violently ill while sitting at his desk. Someone sitting closer to him rushed to the rescue and helped him get ready to go home. I asked if they needed any help. Thank God, they didn’t. I acted calm until I got home but THAT WAS NOT A GOOD DAY.

      Reply
      1. Courageous cat

        I’m super super emetophobic too and honestly, despite what a lot of comments here have said, I never feel particularly bad for/feel like running to the rescue of someone who’s vomiting. Like, it’s a perfectly natural response and generally doesn’t mean they’re hurt or dying or something. And they’re adults, they can handle it (which is why I honestly think most adults should be able to make it to the bathroom first, but that’s neither here nor there…)

        So basically if someone ever vomits near me I just get the hell out of there as fast as I possibly can. I can almost guarantee it’s more traumatizing for me than it is for them.

        Reply
    27. NewBoss2016

      I am absolutely terrified of grasshoppers. Even seeing pictures of them makes me nauseated. If one lands on me, I have to cover my mouth with my hands (so it won’t fly inside?) and tear up and panic until someone rescues me. I am not afraid of any other bugs, not even crickets. I have no idea why I have this fear, but it has been life-long. The only time this has surfaced at work was when we had a plague of grasshoppers one year. They would layer the ground outside the front door to the office, so I would have to sneak around them to the side entrance while trying to not vomit all over myself.
      I am also extremely scared of any bodies of water that are even somewhat murky. I can scuba dive to 100 feet in the ocean where the water is clear, but just being near local lakes and ponds freak me out so badly. This actually has a basis though, considering I was in a bad boating accident in a nasty lake and was trapped underwater briefly on an submerged barbed-wire fence.

      Reply
    28. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      It doesn’t come up at work, but my big one is injections. Not needles in general — I’ve donated blood with no issue, I’ve got a total of six piercings, and had two in my eyebrow back in college, but specifically having something injected into me wigs me right the heck out.

      And, delightfully, my religious background means I had no idea about this until a few years ago when I had to have a surprise root canal. Three shots of novocaine and a panic attack in the chair. That was a fun Halloween.

      Reply
    29. JanetM

      Bugs. I like butterflies and moths, and when I was a kid I used to play with the little teeny desert beetles, but gnats, flies, anything that stings, junebugs, and palmetto bugs just freak me the heck out. Flies and gnats I can swat at, but stinging bugs and junebugs? I freeze in place and whimper until it goes away. The one time I was dive bombed by a palmetto bug, I literally locked myself in the bathroom until morning, when I could get a neighbor to capture and remove it.

      Gratings in the ground (rainwater grates in the road and ventilation grates over below-ground equipment). I walk around them, but if I have to cross over one, there’s always an underlying fear that they will collapse and I will fall into the hole.

      Falling. I have what the psych folks refer to as “persistent intrusive thoughts” about tripping, not being able to break my fall, smashing my face into the ground, and breaking my front teeth. Yes, it’s that specific. Although, come to think of it, I haven’t had that one for a while, which I don’t mind a bit.

      Visual depictions of car accidents, and squealing brake noises (both actual and, for example, in a radio ad for a brake shop). These are probably the most “legitimate,” because I have, through no fault of my own, been in far too many accidents.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        Yes–brake noises and that specific crunching sound you get.

        I have only ever been in 3 accidents, but two were once in a lifetime extreme ones and made (pun not intended, but unsure how to reword) a serious impact on me.

        Reply
    30. Not So NewReader

      Panel boxes. Why am I always the one who has to go throw the breaker. I don’t understand. One place I worked at there was difficulty with the breakers. They called electricians. The electricians related a story about throwing a breaker and getting thrown through a concrete wall into the parking lot. Fast forward several jobs later here I am again throwing the breakers. But this one breaker works really hard. I have to use to hands to push it. I said to the boss, I think that breaker needs fixing.

      And then nothing happened.

      This was the start of my quest for a new job.

      Reply
    31. regina phalange

      Elevators…like a crippling fear. Luckily I’m on the second floor of a building with an open stairwell but when the stairs were recently closed I froze and was so anxiety ridden I forgot about the back entrance. For jobs in building without that option I have to suck it up, but it is very difficult.

      Reply
    32. Gadfly

      The sound of metal crunching into metal when cars collide (throw in a tire squeal and you’ll have me near puking). I think it was Allstate who had those commercials for a while that got me every single time. At work, mostly not a problem, although accidents near the building or just sometimes random noises have been close enough. I freeze up, breathe deeply (unless there is an emergency, in which case something else kicks in, I put out all the fires and then go cry in a corner.)

      Reply
    33. Zathras

      I have an intense fear of being stuck in a narrow space unable to move my arms. Not really phobia-level, but I can get a little panicky if I have to crawl into small spaces even if they are definitely large enough. For example when I was a teenager I once locked myself out of the house and was able to crawl in through our dog flap, but it took me a while to talk myself into trying it, even though it would have been actually kind of hard to get stuck. I don’t have nightmares often but they often involve getting stuck like that when I do.

      I’m not otherwise particularly claustrophobic, I can go into tight spaces/closets/whatever fine as long as there is room to move my arms.

      It also makes me uncomfortable when people in movies have to crawl through narrow pipes or ventilation ducts. Once I saw a TV documentary about spelunking and while it was fascinating, I sat through it thinking OH HELL NO.

      I’m really glad I don’t have any worse phobia – a close family member has clown phobia to the point of getting the freak-out flight response if startled by one. Thankfully clowns are rarer in the wild than birds, and this person can control it (but is still really uncomfortable) if they have some advance warning.

      Reply
  21. Mary (in PA)

    This is kind of odd in that it has to do with both work and life issues, but I’m pretty excited for the new season of Deadliest Catch, which is starting up next week. Yes, it’s a reality show, and yes, it has manufactured storylines and drama; but I realized a few seasons ago that what I like most about it is that it shows a LOT of personnel management in action! I find it fascinating to watch issues of morale, motivation, and leadership taking place in an area that I wouldn’t necessarily expect. Does anyone else watch this show, and if so, have you noticed the same things that I have?

    Reply
    1. Lo

      I have an acquaintance from high school who’s on the show. He’s Sunshine – not sure if he’s on there anymore, actually, but he had a rocky start and it was honestly hilarious.
      It’s a great show, I agree, and the personnel management in such a unique field is very interesting. I actually really love the interpersonal situations in general. It’s a neat thing to watch – especially because without the show (and the acquaintance), there’s 0 chance I’d have known anything detailed about this type of work!

      Reply
    2. KarenK

      I haven’t watched the show in a few years, but I know what you mean. I saw two different instances captains firing one of the crew. In both cases, the employee was not performing.

      Captain Keith (is he still on?) was awful about it. He asked the guy to come up to the wheelhouse and said, “That’s the last time you’ll be in my wheelhouse.” Made the guy feel like crap. What a jerk.

      I can’t remember who the other captain was, but it was a greenhorn that he was letting go. He basically said, “You gave it a really good effort, but this job is not for everybody. I’m going to have to let you go.” The captain gave the greenhorn a hug, and the greenhorn thanked him for the opportunity.

      So, same result, but one felt horrible and one felt kinda proud.

      Reply
      1. Mary (in PA)

        Captain Keith is still on the show. He’s had some personal issues that he seems to have reasonably under control, so he’s been a lot less of a jerk lately.

        It’s so interesting to see how the captains’ different management styles play out. I’m sure they aren’t thinking of it like that, but it’s neat to see what works and what doesn’t work. The Northwestern is definitely my favorite boat because, while the whole crew may have their issues with one another, they know what the job is and how to get it done safely and efficiently. And they (generally) respect the captain’s authority.

        Reply
        1. Windchime

          Fun fact: My cousin works for a marine fueling company and sells fuel to Sig and Edgar for the Northwestern. The boat actually pulls up to her place of business.

          Reply
    3. Elizabeth West

      I used to watch it but I don’t have cable anymore. I always liked waiting to see if the crab pot was full when they brought it up. That seemed so thrilling to me, and I was always disappointed when only a few crabs appeared.

      It’s a really difficult job–I don’t think I could do it, and forget about running the boat.

      Reply
    4. Not Australian

      I don’t watch Deadliest Catch but there’s a lot of good management advice in most of these reality shows. Things like ‘Hotel Hell’, ‘Kitchen Nightmares’, ‘Hotel Inspector’ and even ‘Judge Judy’ are great when it comes to practical guidance for business situations … you couldn’t watch them without learning, for example, the importance of a good cleaning routine, or how necessary it is to get everything in writing even when you’re dealing with a ‘friend’. For many of us these are things we take for granted anyway, but what can happen when you miss out one of these important precautions can be pretty eye-opening – and personally I’d rather watch other people making mistakes and learning from them than make too many of my own!

      Reply
      1. Sprechen Sie Talk?

        Add Bar Rescue to that list!

        But yeah, Kitchen Nightmares its amazing and at some point you can’t fault Gordon for going off full blast. I tend to think that a) a lot of that is for show and b) he does care a lot about quality and the job and it must kill him to see folks who just don’t have the same passion. But when he finds someone with just a bit of it, he tries to help them along.

        Reply
    5. Casuan

      It never fails to surprise me that I get inspiration, life advice & sound business principles from the oddest sources.
      I’ve never seen “Deadliest Catch”; I’ll try to watch an episode or two. Hopefully I won’t get hooked, I don’t have cable either.

      Reply
  22. MuseumChick

    I suspect the answer is to just keep doing what I’m doing but I’m curious how others would handle this. I am an atheist who doesn’t advertised that fact. My close friends know, and I’m pretty sure my family knows though I have never directly told them.

    Three is a woman at my work who is a Christian and very….emotive about that. I want to be clear I do not have a problem with her being Christian, honestly, I don’t really care what anyone’s religion is. My problem is she has started to try and draw me into conversations about religion. For example, she mentioned she was going to see a movie and being friendly and polite I asked her which one. I forget the title but it’s based on a book written by someone who used to be an atheist and then “researched it” and ended up “proving” Christianity. After she told me this I got the sense she wanted me to say something but I just smiled and kept my mouth shut. She also wanted advice about getting in museum work and wanted to get a “biblical archaeology degree” again, I got the sense she wanted me to offer some kind praise/positive response. I side stepped the question and just gave her advice for entering the museum field.

    What is the best day to handle this? I tend not to tell people I’m an atheist since it can lead to all kinds of discrimination so I don’t want to even off offhandedly mention it to her. Though she and I work in completely different areas and don’t actually interact that much. But every time we do somehow the conversation turns to something to do with her faith.

    NOTE: PLEASE DO NOT DEBATE RELIGION IN YOUR RESPONSE. Please be respectful!

    Reply
      1. Karenina

        +1

        There really should be no pushback on this, though I’ve seen it happen. It’s inappropriate for her to do this, and it sounds like it’s making you already feel discriminated against (though not intentionally).

        Reply
        1. MuseumChick

          I won’t say I feel discriminated against, just a bit uncomfortable. I heard second hand (so grain of salt) that she told someone else that there are “studies” that show homosexuals people live 30 years less than normal or something like that. And since I have LGBT people in my life I deeply care about I dread her saying something like that to me.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            …I’m not sure I’d be able to stop myself from saying “Yes, because straight people keep murdering us!” if someone said that to me. Probably accompanied by the Death Stare and heavy-handed implication that I’m classing said coworker in with those who commit homophobic hate-crimes. That’s…just awful.

            Reply
            1. MuseumChick

              Yeeeeeeeaaaaaaah. I think if she did go so far as to say that to me, I would escalate it. I’m a straight cis-gender woman but I’m not going to put up with what amounts to hate speech. It would take all my will power to not say something that would get in trouble directly to her.

              Reply
          2. Not So NewReader

            Eh, I think you can find a study that shows just about anything now. I see people talking about studies show this or that and I chuckle. Probably they have not read the study itself. They have read a headline about the study. Often times when I read the study itself it does not say what the article insists it says. I don’t know why this happens but it happens often.

            Hang on to this one: “And Jesus said, ‘ABOVE ALL ELSE, love each other.’ ” That should probably be a fitting reply to just about anything she comes up with.

            Let her know that you don’t talk about religion/politics/whatever else at work. Tell her before it goes on too much longer, or else it will look kind of weird to have waited and it won’t get easier to tell her the longer you wait.

            Reply
            1. Zathras

              You mean all those studies proving that chocolate, coffee, and wine are health food aren’t real?! Darn.

              Reply
                1. Anonanonanon

                  Yeah, it usually shows a correlation between a molecular component of said food and something like slightly lower blood pressure.

                  When I interned in a research lab, I was shocked to see that they aren’t as strictly regulated as I had thought. Given that and the fact that there are often multiple student interns involved, there is a lot of room for error. And there’s the fact that scientists are human beings and some are more honest and unbiased than others. That’s why research findings aren’t taken that seriously until they’ve been replicated under different settings and by multiple unrelated teams.

                2. Anonanonanon

                  Oh! And I meant to add, wine and coffee are things that people drink socially. They’re both probably positively correlated with having a social life, which really has been shown to have health benefits.

    1. Squeeble

      I think you’re handling this just right and would keep doing it the same way. If she ever gets more explicit, you can probably get away with politely saying “Sorry, I’d rather not discuss religion at work” (or whatever seems right in the moment) and change the subject.

      Reply
    2. Observer

      As long as she doesn’t openly say anything, just play dumb and don’t take the bait. If she does explicitly try to talk religion, tell her you have a policy of not discussing religion at work. It’s a common enough thing that it shouldn’t raise any eyebrows.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Yeah I’d say always use the “policy” language. It just reads less negotiable to me.

        Combine that with what Princess Carolyn says below about treating it like it’s just an incidentally-religious enthusiasm like any other enthusiasm and I think you’ve got a great strategy.

        Reply
    3. Princess Carolyn

      It’s hard to tell from these examples if she’s really trying to draw you into discussing religion or if she’s just blabbing about her own interests, which happen to be very religiously focused.

      You could essentially continue what you’re doing, smile and nod, maybe answer with a simple “Cool! Have fun with that!” This is the best option if she’s not really bothering you with these discussions, and your only concern is how to appropriately respond. You have the option of treating it about any other uninteresting topic that co-workers might chat about.

      But, if she’s starting to ask you personal questions or if you’re just not comfortable with these discussions, go with something like: “I’d rather not discuss religion at work, but…” and then a nice change of subject. Ideally, say it with a smile so it’s clear you’re rejecting the topic, not her as a person.

      Either way, there’s no need to reveal that you don’t share her views if you don’t want to.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        I think this is your best bet. As far as possible, treat her as your Coworker Who Always Wants You To Discuss And Validate Her Interests–this works if she’s being passive-aggressive about religion as such, and if she’s just kind of dorky about what she’s into.

        Reply
      2. Birdbrain

        Yeah, I agree with that approach. I’m religious myself and a lot of my hobbies/social activities involve my church or the local Catholic young adults community. I don’t generally discuss those hobbies with coworkers, partly because we don’t talk too much about our personal lives in my office and partly (mostly) because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But I know plenty of people who bring their religious beliefs into everything without even thinking about it. This coworker could be trying to bring up religion, or she could just be the religious version of “that coworker who won’t stop talking about his fitness regimen.”

        But even if she’s just over-sharing about her interests, it’s totally fine to say you’d rather not talk about it, and then turn to another topic. It sounds like you’re handling it diplomatically.

        Reply
        1. JanetM

          @Birdbrain — For what it’s worth (I’m Pagan, grew up Jewish), I don’t mind at all if people talk about religion *for themselves*. I get a mite cranky when people try to push religion on me.

          Examples of Religious Stuff That Doesn’t Bother Me a Bit:
          “I’m going camping with my church youth group this weekend.”
          “I’m so grateful to my church family for all their help when my mom was in the hospital.”
          “I don’t eat pork because I’m Muslim. Could you include one non-meat pizza in the order?”
          “I’ll be out for Good Friday. Fergus will be taking any questions related to $PROJECT.”
          “The Sunday school class I teach came up with some really great questions and thoughts about $SOCIAL_ISSUE.”
          Seeing Sikhs wearing turbans.
          Seeing Christians wearing crosses.
          Someone saying, “Bless you!” when I sneeze.

          Examples of Religious Stuff That Annoys Me:
          “Where do you go to church?”
          “I like you, so I don’t want you to go to hell” (said to me by a colleague in my former professional association).
          “We have a single mother at our church, but it’s not her fault, she’s a widow, so we pray for her that she will find a good man to bring her back to God’s path” (overheard at a coffee shop).
          Seeing Christians wearing (literally) six-inch-high crucifixes. Although I suspect that it wouldn’t bother me if they were nuns wearing something that was clearly a habit.
          Random customer service people telling me to “Have a blessed day!”
          “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. I skip those two words when I say the Pledge.

          Reply
      3. Casuan

        MuseumChick, Princess Carolyn has a good paradigm & response. From what you wrote, it doesn’t seem your colleague is so much pushing religion on you as she is expressing her interests & wanting to share them.

        If your colleague is simply being focussed on her own interests then “I prefer not to discuss religion at work” might be a bit of an overreaction. If the colleague does continue then you should certainly use the no-religion-at-work card, although I’d save it until you really need it.
        If she gives you an invite, simply thank her for the thought. If needed you could always say that you heard it was a good movie although it doesn’t hold much interest to you. You needn’t say why; not all Christians like those types of movies.

        The x-factor is that your colleague always morphs conversations to her faith & you’re the only judge if she is crossing boundaries vs expressing her interests, which in this case are religion-based.
        People often morph topics into gushing about their significant other, kids, pets, themselves… & sometimes one needs to say “I don’t know if you realise you do this, although it makes me uncomfortable so please knock it off.”
        er, perhaps those last three words should be changed..
        If she doesn’t stop, then definitely tell her you don’t discuss religion at work.

        [Insert story how I finally told work acquaintances that I’m glad to hear about the child’s cuteness & achievements, although if they wanted to talk potty training I told them I could set them up with others who would be glad to have this convo with them. At the most, they could tell me the when training started & ended; anything more than that was way TMI & out of my comfort zone. All complied, with the bonus they stopped with a lot of the other stories, too.]

        Reply
    4. Sadsack

      My answer is keep on keeping on. It sounds like you are handling these comments respectfully and responding appropriately. I don’t think you need to tell anyone you own religious beliefs just because they are sharing theirs.

      Reply
    5. Sabrina the Teenage Witch

      Your current tactics seem to be working well, but if she pushes any further when you don’t respond you could simply say “I’m uncomfortable discussing religion at work” and go back to whatever you were doing.

      Reply
    6. Elizabeth West

      It sounds like you handled it pretty well. If she becomes more direct, I would say to her, “Hey Jane, I’m really uncomfortable talking about religion at work, so let’s keep our focus on job stuff. Thanks.”

      Reply
    7. AnonEMoose

      It seems to me that you’re handling it well so far. I think a minimal response plus a subject change or ending the conversation when she turns it to religion is the way to go, at least for now.

      If she starts asking you about your own beliefs or practices, if you don’t want to go straight to “I don’t want to discuss religion at work,” you can start with “I’m not a churchgoer,” or similar. If you do with “I don’t want to/like to discuss religion at work,” be prepared for her to possibly ask “why” or invite you to her church/bible study/over for coffee. If she does, you can be reasonably certain she’s looking for an opening to witness to you.

      If that happens, you can try something like “I’m happy and comfortable with my current beliefs, and don’t want to discuss them at work/with coworkers.” That’s polite, but firm, I think, and doesn’t give her specifics or anything to argue with. Or something like “It’s a topic that is deeply personal for many people and can quickly get uncomfortable, so I prefer to avoid that at work/with coworkers.”

      It’s not certain that this is where she’s trying to go – it may be that it’s a huge part of her life, so it’s what she naturally goes to. But it is possible that she’s trying to suss out whether you’d be open to her witnessing to you, and it’s not a terrible idea to have a couple of responses in mind if she tries to follow up on “I’d prefer not to discuss religion at work/with coworkers.”

      Reply
      1. LaterKate

        I actually think saying “I’m not a churchgoer” is more likely to make her want to invite you to church, talk about being saved, etc than if you just say “I don’t want to discuss religion at work.”

        Reply
    8. LKW

      She may pepper all conversations with religion, so although you may feel targeted or like you’re walking into a trap, you may not be the focus. I think you’re doing everything right but if you continue to feel uncomfortable you can either say “I find it best to keep discussions about religion out of the workplace.” then change to another topic.

      If she becomes aggressive or tries to ask about your religion (or lack thereof), then it’s time to state very clearly: You regularly bring up religion and that makes me very uncomfortable. I am not going to share my beliefs with you and I am not comfortable discussing this at work. If you continue to pester me about religion, I will need to discuss this with HR.”
      Then go discuss this immediately with HR to let them know that you’ve put the stake in the ground. You do not need to tell them you are an atheist or anything other than “This makes me uncomfortable, I’ve requested it stop. I’m letting you know, I don’t need you to take any other action than getting this on record.”

      Reply
    9. light internet troll

      What is the best day to handle this?
      I’ve always thought that Tuesdays were a good day to handle troubles. You’re not piling onto a Monday (which is a bad day anyways), and you’re far enough from the weekend that you won’t risk messing it up.

      On a serious note, I tend to just go with the standard response as though there was no mention of religion at all. If you’re thinking about going back for a degree do a bunch of research, or have fun at the movie, hope you enjoy it.

      Reply
    10. Casuan

      MuseumChick, I don’t understand why your colleague mentioning an interest in biblical archaeology would make you so uncomfortable?
      …unless she was going on about God &or faith when she asked about it? That I can understand.

      Whether God exists or not, many locations in the Bible are literal locations on earth, thus “biblical” archaeology, is this correct? This doesn’t seem too out of line with the context of your work [context = what I’ve inferred from your user name & post].

      What am I missing?
      my query is from true curiosity, not intended as debate :-)

      Reply
  23. Not Ginny

    Hey guys, I have a bit of a problem. My boss keeps calling me the wrong name. My name is Jennifer, but I go by Jen. I have a coworker named Virginia who goes by Ginny. For whatever reason, my boss keeps calling my Jenny or Ginny even though I’ve repeatedly corrected him and asked him to either call me Jen or Jennifer. It’s gotten to the point that other coworkers call me Ginny and Ginny’s calls get transferred to me. What can I do?

    Reply
    1. MuseumChick

      Have you tried not responding when he says that? Like he’s calling for you “Ginny! Hey Ginny” wait for him to actually walk up to you and then say “Oh! I thought you were saying Ginny not Jen.” Or if it’s a direct conversation and he calls you the wrong name you could give him a puzzled looked and say “Who? My name is Jen.” In an amused tone.

      Reply
    2. k

      I don’t know how to handle your boss, but I would continue to correct coworkers. Like when the calls get transferred to you, don’t just transfer them to Ginny, tell them “I think you dialed the wrong extension, this is Jen.” Or if they cold transfer, shoot them an email or mention in passing “By the way, I got your call transferred to me today but I think you were looking for Ginny. She handles XYZ.” And correct them when they say it to your face. Perhaps if your boss notices everyone else calling you Jen they’ll eventually get the idea.

      Reply
    3. Sugar of lead

      I also go by a short name, but my default response to people getting it wrong is “Don’t call me Lead (II) acetate!” which is hostile and inappropriate for the workplace.

      I don’t know what you can do about your boss, but correct your coworkers every time until they start getting it right, and resist the feeling that it’s annoying for them. It’s not; it’s annoying for you. You deserve to be called by your preferred name.

      Reply
    4. AliceBD

      I have a similar situation although since my equivalent to Ginny has left the company a few weeks ago it is better. My nickname is a common nickname for a fairly formal/traditional woman’s first name. My nickname is also the first part of a newer, more common woman’s name. You wouldn’t think my full name is unusual, but you almost certainly can name more people with the similar first name, especially among my demographic.

      1. If possible, I don’t respond to the wrong name. I wait until they call me my nickname or my full name.
      2. I correct them, and tell them my full name. “My name is Jen, short for Jennifer.” For me this helps since they are calling me a different first name.
      3. And actually, I started going by my first name more. I chose my nickname in elementary school and made everyone call me it, and then that was how I was introduced at summer camp/middle school/high school/college and it was never an issue and everyone called me by my nickname. But when I started working people mess up and call me the wrong first name ALL THE TIME. My first job out of college involved a lot of phone work and leaving voicemails, and using my full name had a better chance of being called the appropriate name than my nickname. So I’ve basically switched to being Jen in my personal life and Jennifer professionally (to use your name) in order to be called the correct thing. This is not an option for everyone, but it was right for me.

      Reply
    5. amysee

      Because the confusion has trickled down to the rest of the office it seems like there is a business case for your boss getting your name right. “Boss, my name is Jen. You often refer to me as Ginny or Jenny, which is not my name. Because my coworkers take your lead, many now think I am actually Ginny and her calls get transferred to me. This is making it harder for both of us to do our work, resulting in [insert business detail]. Could you please make an effort to call me by my correct name, which is Jen?”

      We all sometimes get into mental ruts like this but really, bosses should make an effort to call their employees by the correct name. Sheesh.

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      I had a problem here where a person could not actually say my cohort’s name correctly. My name is one letter off from cohort’s name. We both watched him try to pronounce her name and it came out as my name each time, every time. We gave up trying to fix this.

      You will have to tell him that it’s causing mix ups (explain what is happening here) and he really needs to call you Jen or Jennifer. If this longer explanation does not work, then I would start asking cohorts to say to him “do you mean Jennifer or Virginia?”

      Reply
  24. PoniezRUs

    My coworker does not like me. It’s weird, at first she was so welcoming and friendly with me when I started my job 9 months ago. We are in different groups but sit next to each other in cubes. She stopped liking me when I was joking with the new higher up who really likes to tell puns and corny jokes and has a dark sense of humor. She felt it was inappropriate and expressed I did not have the pay grade to talk to someone like that. Since then she has been icy hot with me. One minute she is super friendly and the next she avoids eye contact with me. At first it hurt. I am new to this city and she helped me get involved in some hobbies I enjoy which helped me become comfortable in my new home.
    I generally avoid her. I do not want to confront her about it but I cannot help feeling sad. She is very sarcastic and cynical and often says things to me I find ridiculous. I had a cold last week and stayed home a couple days to recover. Upon my return she told me to stop sniffling so much and blow my nose. The first time this happened, I asked her if it was bothering her and she said no, it was just surprising how my cold was still lingering. The second time, I felt frustrated because I can’t do anything about it. My nose is running and it is a temporary inconvenience so I just responded with, “fine”. She does this within ear shot of everyone.

    Sometimes I want to talk to her because when I started it was nice to connect with someone with similar hobbies but I just hold back and focus on my work. I avoid her in the hallways and kitchen. I stopped saying good morning once she stopped. She is smart and talented at her job. She is just a difficult person. How do I reconcile my feelings? I did not mean to offend anyone when I was joking with the higher up. It was a bunch of puns and mild jabs at his home state since we are from the same region and rival in some ways (athletics, schools, etc). He initiated the conversations and we get along quite well and he comes to me when he needs someone from my team to help his team out.

    I have not felt this way before. I will just keep maintaining my distance with her. I am on good terms with everyone else and am getting good feedback from my boss. I do well at my job. I don’t know exactly what I am asking but it is something about reconciling my feelings about this woman.

    Thanks

    Reply
    1. Trout 'Waver

      You don’t have to like her and she doesn’t have to like you. Just be yourself and ignore the haters.

      Reply
    2. WellRed

      You don’t have the pay grade to talk with the higher up? Or joke with the higher up? Either way, the higher up has no problem with you and she sounds ridiculous. Sorry, no advice just … you did nothing wrong.

      Reply
      1. Liane

        If she’s roughly the same level as you, what makes her think HER paygrade is high enough to dictate whom the higher-ups are allowed to talk/joke with?

        Reply
    3. CDN HR

      I’ve had similar experiences and you just need to learn to laugh at it. She is the one in the wrong not you. All you did was be friendly to the new boss which I am sure he appreciated. She might be jealous that you have become the go to person for the new boss instead of her especially since it sounds like she has been there longer than you and probably had a big role in your training.

      If you can learn to chuckle at people when they make bizarre requests/complaints your quality of life will only increase. Additionally, I have someone at work that hates me for unknown reasons and I always say an upbeat hello. I feel like that ensures that we’re not in a situation where everyone wants to say something but is too scared to do so plus ensures that I treat everyone equally.

      Reply
    4. Sabrina the Teenage Witch

      It sounds like she’s jealous, but doesn’t know how to handle those feelings so she’s lashing out at you. It’s difficult to not let it bother you, but try to be as pleasant as possible to not announce the fact that she’s getting to you.

      Reply
    5. LKW

      Sounds like she was fine as long as you were on her level or below. When you developed a relationship with the higher ups, she didn’t like it. She’s jealous, petty and it will bite her in the ass in the future.

      Keep your chin up, do your work, keep making strides with your co-workers and don’t talk about her to anyone in the office. Vent here as needed.

      Reply
    6. The Rat-Catcher

      Co-worker is out of line here, not you. Both the “pay grade” comment and asking you to “stop sniffling so much and blow [your] nose” (twice, no less) are just way too invasive and inappropriate to justify as her trying to “help” you with anything. That said, it’s okay to be sad that you thought you made a friend who now isn’t really acting like a friend any more.

      Reply
    7. Not So NewReader

      Agreeing with everyone else who said this is the green eyed monster.

      Going forward, spread yourself around, talk with more people and be seen talking with more people.

      You’ve got all your eggs in one basket here, that is what is wrong. Gather up some more friendly people and this will sting less.

      Sometimes people turn out to be LESS than what they seem at first. Happily, sometimes people turn out to be MORE than what they seem at first. If we don’t put ourselves out there, be open to friendships, we don’t ever learn which is which.

      BTW, if this is typical of her rules, “don’t talk to the big boss” she’s not a person who is going to help you that much anyway. She’s got a strange sense of what “the rules are”.

      Reply
      1. Casuan

        Agree.

        Sometimes people turn out to be LESS than what they seem at first. Happily, sometimes people turn out to be MORE than what they seem at first. If we don’t put ourselves out there, be open to friendships, we don’t ever learn which is which.

        Love this!!
        Sometimes I meet someone who insists they have excellent judgments based on first impressions. I’ve never understood why this is brag-worthy. To me, I think it makes one less tolerant & less open to another’s true behaviour. Also, almost always this self-assessment is wrong.

        Reply
  25. AnotherAlison

    I’ve been involved in my department interviews recently, which is the first time I’ve been an interviewer in about 10 years. It’s given me a better appreciation for my job and a sense of how hard getting a job, and especially changing fields (even a minor tweak to your field) really is.

    I’m interviewing people with good qualifications, just not quite right qualifications. Three candidates had about 20 years experience in the industry, so you’ve got to think they think they have a good chance, but no. Two candidates were flown in and still got almost unanimous no’s from the panel. One candidate was more of a maybe, but he was younger, and we have two internal team members who are ready to be promoted soon, so we didn’t have the need at that level.

    I got into my position without the experience we’re looking for now, so I probably wouldn’t have made the cut now, either. (I do have that experience now.)

    Reply
    1. medium of ballpoint

      It was a bit surprising to me how arbitrary decisions can seem. We had a wonderful former colleague interview for a job, who would’ve been a slam dunk in any another applicant pool. Unfortunately, there happened to be one of the most stellar interviewees we’ve ever had in that pool, and our former colleague didn’t get the job. We’ve also hired applicants who are the best out of a generally poor pool, but wouldn’t have been competitive in a more typical pool. So much comes down to the applicant pool, and that’s certainly helped me feel better about my own interview experiences.

      Reply
    2. Mazzy

      I’ve had issues with candidates having experience but not being willing to do certain parts of the work anymore. I get that everyone wants to move up but it can be hard to find someone with know how in certain areas who still wants to do it after x years. So sometimes I have to start from scratch with a newbie, and this miss out on whatever the other candidate might have brought.

      Reply
    3. hermit crab

      Oh yeah, helping with hiring (when that’s not your usual job) is seriously mind-blowing. In my opinion, the #1 thing that it makes you feel is: there’s no way you would’ve gotten your own job if you’d been hired now. I was hired as an entry level candidate almost 10 years ago, and I know for a fact that I was the top choice among applicants at that time (during the height of the recession!). But the entry-level person I hired to work on my own team last year (at the same company) is, like, light-years ahead of where I was at that stage.

      Reply
  26. Let me finish

    Twice this week I had men interrupt me in meetings – once when a coworker and his supervisor were meeting with me to get my advice on his project (he interrupted my advice to state the advice he thought I was going to give) and once when one coworker interrupted my answer to his question, to explain to the other what he thought my answer would be, with the other responding what he though my answer would be and the two of them then interrupting each other to say what they thought I was going to say.

    It’s disrespectful and infuriating.

    Reply
    1. Former Computer Professional

      I was just reading an article about a study that showed that women are more likely to be interrupted than men. While it’s always been anecdotally held true, this is the first I’ve read of an actual study done.

      They studied the Supreme Court. Even the Notorious RBG gets regularly interrupted!

      Reply
      1. Let me finish

        Yes, and interrupted *by the attorneys* during their arguments. That’s like lawyering 101 – don’t interrupt the judge.

        Reply
    2. MuseumChick

      Ugh that’s really irritating. Depending on the situation I would just keep taking (and raise my voice slightly to talk over their interruptions) or wait for them to finish, make eye contact for long enough that it is uncomfortable, and then calmly say, “Ok, before I was interrupted what I was going to say is…” Then if you have repeat offenders speak with them “Hey, you probably don’t realize this but you tend to interrupt me before I’ve finished talking.”

      Reply
    3. Snargulfuss

      So frustrating! I highly recommend the book Talking from 9-5 by Deborah Tannen. She’s an academic who explores different speech and communication patterns of men and women in the workplace. It was a really eye-opening read for me.

      Reply
    4. Damn it, Hardison!

      That is super irritating. I had a manager who interrupted me constantly. I would stop talking every time she interrupted me, wait for her to finish, and then (usually) say, No, that’s not the point I was going to make. What I was saying is…..(or some variation). I wish I could say it helped but she seemed not to notice/care. I even brought it up with her separately one-on-one and asked her to stop interrupting me but she basically said that’s how is she and I just needed to deal with it. I do not miss her.

      Reply
    5. Jillociraptor

      This is absolutely infuriating. I read an article not all that long ago that women in the Obama White House had kind of a pact where if one of them was interrupted, another would jump in and get back to her point. I’ve been trying to do that a little bit in meetings.

      There’s also this passive aggressive approach, which I use when I’m not in a position to do a corrective interruption: http://arementalkingtoomuch.com/

      Reply
    6. rubyrose

      I think I would consider walking out of the room, coming back in 3 minutes and asking them if they are ready to listen to you. Don’t know if I would do it, but I would consider it.

      Reply
    7. LKW

      I loved the article about the Obama staff and how that had a cumulative effect over the years. If you are peer level and you’ve done the “Well, as I was saying before I was interrupted” and the “before you continue, I’d like to finish what I was saying” then you can always use the “I’m sorry was I talking while you were interrupting me?” but that’s a bit bitchy (and I’m using that word deliberately).

      I’ve found success with “Please, I’d like to finish what I was saying.” or “I’ll let you interrupt me later, but for now, I’d like to finish what I was saying.” and then I just keep talking as if they weren’t talking.

      Reply
      1. Franzia Spritzer

        I’ve tried, and persist with “Please, I’d like to finish what I was saying.” which is almost always countered with “I get to talk too.” I’ve tried to counter with, “When I’ve finished my sentence/point, you’ll have the talking stick, please let me finish.” and then the whole effing conversation has been totally derailed. It happens so often and makes me so frustrated I just shut down. Like, eff it, you clearly don’t want to hear anything I have to say, you’ll get all communication from me in a text format.

        FWIW I grew up with an older brother who talked over me at my every utterance, I pretty much stopped talking unless directly addressed until I was 25. I don’t have any issues, no I don’t.

        Reply
    8. BadPlanning

      Argh.

      A couple months ago, I was telling my department about the plans for an upcoming office move. Someone made a joke about something and then two of them starting debating something about the workspace. I had the answer to the debate (there was an answer — arguing about it was pointless) and tried to interrupt to tell them and they keep debating back and form. Frustrated, I said in a loud voice, “If you’d stop talking and listen to me, I can tell you the answer.” My manager then jumped in (I can’t remember what he said), but it was along the lines of “let’s calm down and let BadPlanning finish.”

      Reply
  27. Changeling

    A few weeks ago I was standing next to a coworker when his cell phone went off, his ring tone was a duck quack. I tried not to giggle.
    Yesterday I was walking past a different coworker and his phone also quackery.
    I think we have also duck club

    Reply
    1. Sugar of lead

      I remember that post! My first thought upon seeing the title was, Did I read that right?

      Quackquack!

      Reply
    2. AnonMurphy

      It does make me wonder if enough people reading about the suspected Duck Club have actually SPREAD the Duck Club.

      Reply
    3. Sled dog mama

      Several years ago I set my (technologically impaired) husband’s phone to quack when I text him. After reading that story I sometimes text him from across the house to tell him …certain things. Then I fall over laughing.

      Reply
    4. Gadfly

      I live next to a park full of geese and ducks, and it does sound like a pretty constant waterfowl orgy going on, 365 days a year. I end up thinking about Duck Club a lot, only making it a bit more literal.

      Reply
  28. LBK

    If this is the third week in a row where I’ve pretty much sat at my desk thinking “I hate this job” all day every day, is that my sign that it’s time to leave?

    I think being on vacation for a week at the beginning of March and seeing how the department basically fell to pieces without me was a wake-up call that I’m always going to get heavily leaned on to do the most complex, most bizarre, most frustrating work, and I don’t like that outlook long-term. I enjoy problem solving, but I don’t enjoy having a new urgent mess dumped on me every week, nor do I enjoy coworkers who have been here long enough to make their own judgment calls still relying on me for simple questions.

    It’s partially my fault – as much as I’ve tried to cross-train people, I’ve also fallen into a bad rut of enabling them by just doing the work for them when they come to me with issues rather than leading them to the answer themselves, and I don’t know if I can stick around for the 6+ months it would probably take me to retrain my coworkers (and managers, sometimes!) to problem solve. I feel like the only way it’s ever going to happen is if I pull the plug and leave.

    I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I’m always going to be putting out fires and that no matter how well I put them out, our clients are always going to light more. It’s actually put me in a weirdly zen mood because I’ve realized there’s nothing I can do to make them trust me. No matter how many times they freak out, accuse me of screwing something up and are ultimately proven wrong, they’ll always start from the assumption that if something doesn’t look the way they expected it to, that means it’s wrong. So why bother stressing over it? The outcome is the same either way. But that’s not really a good way to do my job because it kills my sense of urgency, so I think I have to get out before I start getting lazy.

    Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        I agree. I had that zen moment at OldExjob, when I realized that no amount of caring and working on my part was going to solve a supply problem, or make my coworkers more likely to take their calls, etc. I had been fighting so hard to get what I needed that I ended up in trouble. At that point, I realized well, I could keep fighting and make it worse, or I could stop caring and at least get through the day. When you don’t care about your job anymore, even a little bit, then it probably doesn’t hurt to start looking.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Yeah…frankly, I’ve been dragging my feet about it because I think it’s time to leave my company completely (I’ve just been moving around internally here for the last 5 years) and hunting for a job at a totally new employer feels like looking for a house in a foreign country. I don’t even know if I’m going to like the country, never mind the house! At least here there’s some level of familiarity even between divisions, so I’ve only been putting myself out there a little bit by looking for internal jobs.

          It’s tough because the company has been good to me, but so far it’s the only non-retail company on my resume, and it feels like it’s time to expand that, both just so I don’t have too long of a stint at one place and for the purpose of becoming a more well-rounded employee by experiencing a different company’s culture.

          Reply
    1. Anonyforthis

      Oh, how I can relate! I’m in the same boat, and I’ve long given up on cross-training anyone because no one, besides me, wants to own anything. I am the only one voluntold for major projects and when I go to status meetings, I come out with another huge list of items that may or may not be related to said project. I am also interrupted multiple times a day. My dream is to start over somewhere else and *not* put myself into the same predicament. I fantasize about giving my notice, two weeks only!, and just forgetting about this place altogether. If anyone has successfully moved out of the “Go To” person role, I would love to hear how you did it!

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Yeah, that’s my exact sentiment: next time, remember to not make yourself the go-to person, at least not for literally everything. It’s nice at first to feel so indispensable but eventually it makes it impossible to get anything done, and trying to take time off is barely worth it since you just come back to mess.

        Reply
      2. Chaordic One

        I gave up on cross-training anyone because we had so many seasonal employees who would work there for 3 to 6 months and then leave and never come back, a high rate of turnover among even so-called “permanent” employees, and the fact that the policy or procedure would probably change in a month or so anyway, so it didn’t seem worth the time and energy that it took.

        Reply
    2. Delyssia

      Oh, I empathize so hard with sitting there thinking how much you hate the job all the time. I have a song version. Its only words are “I hate my job” repeating over and over. Just, you know, set to music.

      Reply
    3. Intrepid

      I think the last paragraph is your sign to go– especially this bit:

      “No matter how many times they freak out, accuse me of screwing something up and are ultimately proven wrong, they’ll always start from the assumption that if something doesn’t look the way they expected it to, that means it’s wrong.”

      Go somewhere you can win some trust.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        That’s definitely the part that’s making me look for the door the most. I can deal with a lot of bad behavior (I know it’s partly just the nature of working in sales support) but I don’t have an ounce of patience for digs at my professional integrity.

        Reply
  29. bibliovore

    I said I would check in from my Bologna business trip. It was amazing and well worth going to the Fair. AAM has been a great respite when I couldn’t sleep

    Reply
  30. ThatGirl

    I know that there are a million billion reasons why resumes don’t get through ATS or if they do, why people don’t get called for followup, and it’s not personal.

    But man, 10 years ago when I was job searching I got a lot of interviews, fairly quickly. And I was young and dumb and inexperienced and didn’t interview well, but at least I *got* interviews.

    Now, I’ve got a great resume, a ton more experience, I’m better prepared for interviews and everything else … and after a month I have yet to get an interview, and I’ve only gotten two follow-up calls.

    It’s just kind of discouraging.

    Reply
      1. ThatGirl

        Not according to the numbers… in late 2007/early 2008 (when I was actually searching) the recession was just about to start; right now the unemployment rate is 4.5%.

        Reply
        1. Jadelyn

          Well, that depends on the area and the industry, too. Some areas are feeling a “talent crunch” that makes it a job-seeker’s market, while others are still an employer’s market. Overall unemployment being down doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the outlook for your region and industry.

          Reply
    1. FishcakesHurrah!

      Yes, things are very different now. I wonder if companies are suffering as a result of the software screening, too. It cuts down on time spent sorting resumes, but there is a risk that good candidates are getting sorted out for trivial reasons or mistakes.

      Reply
    2. AnotherAlison

      I posted this above, but I’ve been interviewing experienced candidates when I haven’t really interviewed people in 10 years, and back then, most of them were 1.) entry level, or 2.) had decades of experience in one narrow field.

      Even though you get more experience the longer you work, I think it makes job hunting harder. From the outside looking in, I always thought 20 years in “handle management” would show you could quickly pick up “teapot assembly management”, but I was very wrong. The “handle” people do not interview well and really don’t seem to understand the “teapot assembly” job needs. May not apply to you, but it’s difficult to move laterally to different kind of work in my industry, and the opportunities at the other three companies with “teapot assembly” work are limited by cultural fit later in your career.

      Reply
      1. ThatGirl

        It is probably true that 4 years of experience, which made me closer to entry level at a lot of jobs, made me a little more marketable because I wasn’t expecting as much.

        I think there are a lot of jobs out there I could do well but my experience has been broad and I can certainly explain in person how my skills would transfer, but it’s possible the ATS or reviewers aren’t seeing that.

        Reply
    3. LBK

      As you get higher up and have more qualifications, you’re probably also applying for jobs that have more scrutiny in the hiring process – consider that the bar is usually lower for an entry level employee, since you don’t expect them to have much tailored experience and are often just looking for a bachelor’s degree and some kind of job history that shows you have professionalism and a work ethic. If you’re looking for a senior employee, you’re probably going to be more particular about what qualifications you want.

      As a result, I think the higher up you get, the hiring processes shifts from “rapidly interview anyone who seems relatively qualified, hire the best one” to “leave the position open as long as necessary, only interviewing people who you’re already pretty confident you would hire”. The latter is how it worked for the manager position we just filled; we left it open for about 9 months and only interviewed 3 people in that time.

      Reply
        1. LBK

          On the flipside, once you eventually do get a new job, it’ll be encouraging to know you could meet that high bar! But yeah, definitely frustrating in the interim.

          Reply
    4. Trout 'Waver

      ATSs are so incredibly demoralizing to job seekers.

      Bad experiences with some ATSs have lead me to not even bother applying at certain places anymore.

      Reply
    5. ginger ale for all

      This is just my opinion but I think the managers of jobs on the lower rungs of the ladder grant more people interviews than if they were hiring for a higher level of job. It might be a result of where you are in your career.

      Reply
    6. SOMA

      The automatic systems really suck. I’d applied a few times over the years to a big name place but never got an interview. I now have a contact in HR who said she’d take a look at my application. She said I haven’t gotten any further in the application process because I selected ‘Intermediate’ in my skills with Microsoft software and the system only advances those who select ‘Expert’. That seems like such a stupid thing to get booted out of the system for, just because I didn’t want to over-exaggerate my skills but she told me to always pick ‘Expert’ from now on, because it’s not was their hiring people are actually looking for but it’s the way the automatic system weeds out applications.

      Reply
      1. Gadfly

        Let me guess–for a position that barely uses the software? My supervisor once had to have a showdown with HR over having a high type speed cutoff just because, when the job she was hiring for barely required typing. We couldn’t get people with the skills actually needed though the pipeline because of it.

        Reply
  31. Sadie Doyle

    I think I’ve finally gotten my kick in the ass to start job hunting. This week I found out that I’m losing my awesome boss. My new boss is okay, but the levels above him are just a big flashing “RUN AWAY” sign.

    I am terrified of job hunting. I haven’t done it in years. I want to get back into my original field and am worried that even with transferable skills, no one will want me. But I won’t know if I don’t try, so try I must :)

    Reply
    1. k

      Getting back out there is tough, but at least you’ve discovered AAM as a resource! I know there are some good ones in the archives with tips for changing fields or re-entering fields. Best of luck to you!

      Reply
    2. hermit crab

      Losing your awesome boss is HARD. (After I lost mine, I decided to try to fill her shoes, instead of leaving too. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done!)

      However — now you know what an awesome boss is like, so you can keep your eye out for people who seem to fit the bill. Good luck!

      Reply
  32. Venus Supreme

    A wonderful senior-level employee is leaving our organization after his contract ended. It’s a mutually agreeable split and there are no hard feelings. Our organization got a poster for him for everyone to sign, and I found a typo in my message after I wrote on it. In Sharpie marker. I am mortified. I’m the frickin’ grant writer here. As soon as I caught it I wanted to melt all my skin off and dissolve into a brick wall.

    Reply
  33. Giles

    I just have a tiny rant today:

    People who forward me emails asking me to reply back to someone to tell them we’re not interested in whatever fake award is being offered to us (replying to the person directly would be so much faster than forwarding it to me, seriously, and it’s directed at the original person..)

    Also, the oh-so-wonderful reply-all, where I get eight emails in a row all saying “congratulations!” when someone announces they won a contract. STOOOOP.

    Reply
    1. Jadelyn

      Our IT had to put a message that pops up in Outlook when you try to send an email to the all-staff distribution list that says “Please use BCC to avoid unnecessary reply chains”, because people would send all-staff announcements and then people would hit “reply all” and suddenly you’d have 50 emails of “congratulations!” for something you didn’t care about in the first place. I feel your pain!

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        The “Ignore” button is gold in those situation – sends all subsequent replies to either your archive or the trash.

        Reply
  34. Kit M. Harding

    Kit’s mother’s absurd job hunting advice, part two: She thinks I should get my hair Professionally Styled and this will help me get jobs– employers are seeing that my hair is frizzy and I’m using a leaf-shaped hair-chopsick thing to hold it in a bun and not hiring me based on that. I just keep looking at her going “People who are job hunting can’t afford to get their hair professionally styled before every interview. And who has time?”

    Reply
    1. Rincat

      Before EVERY interview??? That’s too much. Also your style that you described sounds perfectly normal and wouldn’t get a second glance from most people (if they noticed it at all). I got my most recent job with some really awful hair – I had bleached it all out (and did a crappy home bleach job) in the prior months because I was dying it fashion colors, so I had this weird brassy/green tint bleached hair with dark brown roots, in a grown-out undercut bob. It looked terrible. I just got a great job with it. My mom was also worried and kept insisting I should do something about it but my days of hair color experimentation are not over yet!

      Reply
    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      What does your mother do for a living and when was the last time she looked for– and got– a new job?

      Reply
      1. Kit M. Harding

        Helping profession, and she’s been working where she is for most of my life, but she has some involvement in that place’s hiring. (I don’t know exactly what, but she talks about being on search committees sometimes.)

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          If she would automatically reject someone who had frizzy hair and used an accessory, then she has some really antiquated and problematic hiring practices. You tell her that I have frizzy hair and am gainfully employed. No one has ever rejected me based on my hair. Or my legs, including the time I hobbled into an interview in a walking cast.

          Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      I think appearance matters, but your hair sounds fine. As a bad-type-of-wavy-haired person who wears her hair down and unprofessionally straighten it daily, I really fret about humidity and July interviews.

      Reply
    4. SansaStark

      Do we share a mother? My mother’s piece of job-seeking advice when I was freshly out of college was to cut my hair because my shoulder-length hair was “too long” to be taken seriously. The last time my mom looked for a job was in the early 80s, so maybe things were different then? Idk.

      Reply
    5. NaoNao

      My mom is the same way “how will you get hired with unnatural hair color?”

      I interviewed for my now-job with dark brown hair that was dark purple/brown at the ends (I swirled it into a bun, so it was less noticeable) and now that I’ve been here two years I have 100% bright purple/pink hair and other than the occasional compliment, no one has said anything!

      I would say that there is a slight bias against curly hair in very professional or conservative industries, and you *may* want to consider perhaps washing the hair and leaving it slightly damp, pulled up in a bun with an elastic and then slicked with a bit of hair oil (or some similar solution that works for you), that way you can be “chic” without the “pro” part. :)

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      “Uh, mom… I don’t think you mean that the way it sounds… there is more to me than my hair. I think you know that. So I don’t think you mean that people look at my hair above all my other capabilities. And to be quite honest, mom, I don’t want to work for an employer who just sees me as having their idea of nice hair.”

      Reply
  35. squids

    Last week I was in a meeting with all male colleagues. I was getting talked over and shut out, over and over again. This happens a fair bit when I’m in those sorts of committees — I tend to be quiet, and there are some big personalities and loud voices among the people I work with.

    So this was happening, and midway through one of my colleagues turned to me and said he’d noticed that I kept getting cut off. I said it sucked but I was also sort of used to it. And from that point he started subtly but actively moderating the meeting so everyone had a chance to speak.

    It was ~exactly~ what someone ought to do in that position and I appreciated it so much.

    Reply
    1. nbbuyer

      Just wanted to say how great of a post this is. It’s so nice to hear something positive and appreciated!

      Reply
      1. Notthemomma

        THIS is what gave me my ‘there is hope for humanity’ smile for today. Thanks- I needed to hear this

        Reply
    2. hermit crab

      This is fabulous! Props to your colleague. Doing that sort of thing (“subtly but actively moderating”) takes skill in addition to awareness/perception. It’s so great to hear about things like this!

      Reply
  36. Not as Young as I Used to Be

    Any advice on how to end a mentoring relationship at work? Over the past few years I’ve set up an (unofficial) mentoring relationship with a senior member of the agency. He’s been a great sounding board, source of information/perspective on issues, etc. However, our most recent contacts have become uncomfortable; he has started offering advice/instruction on things that are increasingly personal. Nothing sexual; for example, I ran a scenario by him last week, and this week he appeared at my desk with some information on a character flaw he thinks I possess, and that it needs to be fixed. I’m all about self-improvement, uncomfortable truths, and so on – but this last one was so far off base I was actually stunned. I probably dedicated an hour trying to figure out how we got from A to B here, and I still can’t come up with it. I think that some of the generational differences are coming into play more as I advance…there’s about a 20-year difference in our ages, different genders, ideas on work/life boundaries, etc. I don’t have any ill will; I just think that maybe I’ve…outgrown it? Is that a thing?

    Should I just let it taper off into nothing…gently ghost him…what do you think? I am appreciative of his past assistance, and I’m not looking to burn any bridges. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Periwinkle

      I think people can outgrow mentoring relationships. Your idea about letting it taper off is a good one. I’d avoid taking things to him as often but don’t just cut it off abruptly.

      Reply
      1. ..Kat..

        Maybe send him a nice note about how you appreciate his mentoring in the past (with a lovely couple of examples). And then say that you don’t want to take up any more of his time since you are now more experienced? (Maybe someone has a smoother way of saying this.). Because it sounds like he has done you some good in the past and it would be nice to acknowledge that.

        Reply
  37. Rocky

    Random question: I was asked this in an interview for a food service job when I was a teenager, and I’m now a middle manager in my 40s, I still don’t know why they asked the question or what answer they wanted.

    “Say you were working a shift with a co-worker who you noticed seemed a little down or sad, and it was out of character for her. What would you do?”

    What do you think the interviewer wanted to hear? Or was this just a bad question that doesn’t tell you anything about the candidate?

    (Oh, I didn’t get the job, I’m sure because I was not suitably bubbly as a teenager)

    Reply
    1. Grits McGee

      Oh eugh, that question makes me so uncomfortable that my shoulders have physically separated from my body and are slowly floating away like a weather balloon.

      Reply
    2. k

      I’ve never been asked that in a interview, but I’ve seen similar questions come up on pre-screening tests for retail type jobs. Those are always multiple choice, and the options are usually “A. Ask them if something is wrong B. Treat them normally and continue working”, and then two obviously wrong answers like “Report them to a manager” or “Tell them to stop acting weird and get back to work”.

      If I had to answer that in an interview, I’d say that I’d ask them if something was wrong, but not push the topic if they said no or didn’t want to talk about it. I think that shows that you aren’t some unfeeling robot, but also won’t push into people’s personal life and stir up workplace drama. I think that’s what they’re looking to know.

      Reply
      1. Rocky

        k, that must have been it. It was one of those mass interviews where they have everyone who applies show up at a conference center at one time. From what little I remember, the rest of the questions were of the “screen out social misfits” variety, such as, “Tell me about a book or movie you really like.” No wonder they didn’t hire me.

        Reply
    3. only acting normal

      I had a very similar question once. I answered something like “ask them if they’re ok, see if I can help or advise, blah blah”. The HR member of the panel kept making these little head bobs of encouragement ‘go on, not quite there yet’, so I kept expanding. Eventually I said “I’d tell them to talk to their boss”. That was apparently the right answer for them.
      Still a weird question.

      Reply
      1. Lance

        I’m really curious what the HR would expect them to talk about with the manager, or why they’d even need to, unless it was affecting their work.

        Reply
    4. Chaordic One

      I was asked a similar question once when I applied for a fairly low-level job at a library, only it was a customer who was sad and they were checking out a bunch of books about suicide. I answered that I wouldn’t really do anything, except be polite because I don’t know what they person was thinking. I think that was the “right” answer, but I don’t really know.

      I didn’t say that I don’t think libraries need to be the mental health police. Anyway, I didn’t get that job, either.

      Reply
      1. JanetM

        Oh dear. Yes. That person might be contemplating suicide, or might be trying to come to grips with the loss of someone who succumbed to suicide, or might be a writer trying to develop a character who was going to suicide, or, or, or….

        Reply
        1. Lance

          And never minding that, two likely outcomes of pressing them: making them more upset, or getting yourself in over your head.

          Reply
          1. Chaordic One

            I didn’t say so at the time, but I wish I had said something about there being all sorts of different reasons why someone might be both sad and interested in the subject (as JanetM suggested). I also think that it is important to respect the person’s privacy and not jump to conclusions. I might go home after work and pray for the person, but I don’t think I should have interfered in any way.

            Reply
  38. E-Comm Guy

    Happy Friday! Here’s one for you….

    This past Monday I had by far the WEIRDEST interview I’ve ever had. Let me explain.

    First, the back story. About a month ago, Fergus, a local recruiter, called me to see if I would be interested in a Teapot E-commerce Manager position he was trying to fill. I looked into the job, thought my skills & background would be a perfect fit, so I told Fergus that yeah – I’d love to talk to them about it. Fergus was thrilled, and said he’d be in touch soon with interview times.

    Fast-forward to last Thursday. My father in-law passed away suddenly, and I knew that I’d have to go out of state for the funeral. So on Friday I reached out to Fergus to let him know what was up, and that I’d be out of town for a few. I didn’t have anything scheduled with them at the time, but it was a “just in case” scenario. Fergus says no problem, sorry for your loss, all that.

    A couple of hours later he calls me, apologizes, and says that Teapot Co. “really, really” wants to have a phone interview with me on Monday – it was imperative that I do this on Monday. I reminded him again that I was going to be out of state – AT A FREAKING FUNERAL – and he was sincerely apologetic and said that he tried to explain that to Teapot Co., but they were “really, really hopeful” that I could accommodate them for about 30 minutes.

    Well, it worked out okay because the memorial service wouldn’t be until Tuesday, so I’d have some quiet time available on Monday afternoon to talk for a few minutes. Fergus and I agreed a time. I would find a quiet place, away from the hordes of family & friends & mourners, and talk to them about this job.

    Monday comes – I’ve got my quiet spot, and I spent the morning researching the snot out of the company. History, sales, taxonomy, SEO, you name it. I’m ready to talk it up.

    At 1:00 PM straight up the interviewer (Jane) called me. The first thing she asks me is, “Do you have any questions for me?” As this is typically a question that comes up at the end of an interview, I said “Not at this time”, figuring I’d circle back around to it.

    Then she says the interview will consist of 3 questions.

    Question #1: “Tell me 10 things you are good at, with examples.”

    Well, this wasn’t what I was expecting at all, so I changed strategies and stumbled my way through as many things as I could think of. Writing, editing, website management, leadership, project management…. In between each one she’d mumble “uh huh” or “okay”, and then she’d say “Next?” I think I managed to come up with 7 or 8 total – it was such an out of left field question that I really had to scramble to come up with something that didn’t sound completely stupid.

    We then came to question 2.

    Question #2: Tell me 10 things you’re NOT good at, and why not.”

    WTF? I’m supposed to come up with things that I can’t do, in order to look like a fool? I’m there to sell myself lady, not put myself down. So I was really dumbfounded by this one.

    I stalled for a minute while I tried to come up with something – she finally said, “Well, I can put down that you’re perfect, but I don’t think that would look very good.”

    Once again – WTF?

    I finally came up with one – “I can be impatient.” I explained that I like to stay on schedule, and if I have to rely on others to complete their portion of a project on time but they fail to do so without a good reason, I tend to become impatient at the delay.

    Her reply? “Well, that doesn’t sound like a bad thing. Can you come up with something else?”

    By this point, I was getting sick of this nonsense. I just said, “No, I cannot. But as you’ll see, my resume closely aligns with the job description, and I’m sure that if we could talk more about that, I could give you a clearer idea of how I can best help you achieve the company’s goals.”

    Instead, she went on to question 3 from her little checklist.

    Question #3: – “I need the names and titles of your last 4 or 5 supervisors, and for when I contact them, I want you to tell me what they will say about you – what your weaknesses are, and how they would rate you on a scale of 1 – 10.”

    Okay. This is it. Last straw. I don’t need this nutball calling anyone and asking them about my flaws. I tried to explain that most of my former supervisors have since moved on to other companies (which is very true), but came up with 3 names from the past. Fortunately she didn’t ask for phone numbers, because I have zero idea how to contact most of them.

    We then came to the bonus round.

    Bonus Round Question #1: “Can you do presentations?” Why, yes. Yes I can. It’s noted as such on my resume. Twice.

    Bonus Round Question #2: “Can you read and write English?” Um, hello?

    Bonus Round Question #3: “Are you comfortable working online?” WHAT THE HELL, LADY!? Didn’t you even look at my resume?

    And then it dawned on me. Jane hadn’t read my resume. She knew nothing about the company, knows nothing about the job, and knows absolutely zero about me or my background. She’s just a talking head, reading her script and couldn’t care if I was an experienced e-commerce guy or a walrus sitting on an iceberg in the middle of the Arctic sea.

    That concluded our interview. The strangest 22 minute conversation I’ve ever had.

    I honestly don’t know if I’m still in the running for the job or not; I haven’t heard anything back since then. In my 30 years of being a working stiff, I figure I’ve been on close to 200, maybe 250 interviews. This was by far the dumbest.

    So that’s my story – I’m sticking to it. I’ll let you know if I ever do hear from anyone again.

    Reply
    1. SanguineAspect

      Ugh, gross. After that, I have to assume you’d tell the company to pound sand if they wanted to move forward? Forcing a call with you while you were out of town for a FUNERAL, as if it were imperative, then pulling this nonsense?

      Reply
    2. Manders

      Um, what the actual hell?

      Does Jane work with Fergus? Is it possible to tell Fergus that your experience with Jane was extremely weird and you don’t understand what she was trying to do? It sounds like you’re a reasonably hot commodity if recruiters are calling you, so I do think you have some power to set limits on the kinds of hoops you’re willing to jump through.

      Reply
        1. E-Comm Guy

          Oh, believe me — I called Fergus the recruiter right afterwards. He was just as blown away as I was. I’m not sure what (if anything) will happen next, but trust me that I’m going to go into anything else with them with a cautious eye.

          Reply
    3. k

      That’s baffling. All of those questions are bad. Asking for your last 4 or 5 supervisors? If you’ve been at any of your jobs for more than a year or two you may have to go back pretty far for that many names. Heck, for me that would go back to the retail gig I had in high school.

      I would tell Fergus about this. If he doesn’t know that this is how they operate, he may not want to be sending candidates to them anymore.

      Reply
    4. Hrovitnir

      Wooow. Could you and would you be inclined to give feedback about that? Because that would be a bizarre and IMO disrespectful way to conduct an interview at the best of times, but in this context is incredibly inappropriate (insisting on this time for an interview that’s totally cookie cutter and doesn’t even require someone difficult to pin down like a CEO.)

      Just… wut.

      Reply
    5. Not Australian

      I’m not trying to diminish the crappy nature of your experience, but I have to tell you this …

      The line about the walrus is just brilliant!

      Reply
    6. ..Kat..

      Ten things I am bad at
      – I can’t fly a helicopter
      – I don’t know how to field dress a deer
      – I only know three phrases in Farsi and my pronunciation is terrible
      – I can’t bench press my weight
      – my hearing isn’t as good as it used to be
      – I don’t like doing yard work
      – cute kittens make me itchy (all cats, sadly)
      – I don’t care if my car has not been washed in a year
      – I have never Zumba’ed
      – I have a very low tolerance for stupid interview questions

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        It would be amazing if someone could both think of those things on the spot and be game to say them. :D Though they lose their impact if they’re going through a 3rd party to the people actually making decisions.

        Reply
    7. Been There, Done That

      After reading your whole experience, I’m just sitting here silent, with my mouth hanging open and an astounded look on my face.

      Reply
  39. FishcakesHurrah!

    I’ve been advised by trusted friends that I should stop behaving like an admin assistant at work. (I’ve transitioned out of an admin-assistant role and I want to keep my career going in this direction.) What would that look like? I’ve been working on dressing even more professionally and have been re-directing admin-type requests from colleagues. What else should I be doing?

    Reply
    1. Rocky

      Some common things to stop doing: party planning and social committees; scheduling, taking minutes, or cleaning up after meetings. If you’re volunteering to do this stuff, pull back. If you’re being voluntold, gracefully decline.

      Reply
        1. Rocky

          I can’t take credit – I think I first saw it on this blog!

          I have a report in a customer outreach/service role who gets voluntold (by colleagues, not me) for social and admin tasks a lot, because of her demographic and personality. I’ve made a lot of comments like, “Virginia is really busy with a high-maintenance customer and probably won’t be able to help with the holiday party this year,” and encouraged her to say no if she doesn’t want to do it. She’s getting good at it!

          Reply
    2. k

      Due to my desk’s location, some people assume I’m an admin for a higher up at our company. People will often come by and ask where they are, what time they’ll be back, etc. In our office everyone has access to everyone else’s calendar, so this is something I could easily check, but it gives that admin vibe. I had to teach myself not to make it clear that I wasn’t an admin by saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t know, does their calendar say?”. I like being helpful and friendly so this feels blunt to me, but it helps.

      Reply
    3. SansaStark

      I’d recommend learning as much about your job’s industry as you can. Read industry blogs, magazines, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just having the knowledge may help you feel more “at home” and help you project the confidence that you belong in this industry. I also second Rocky’s suggestion about not taking minutes, party planning, etc.