open thread – July 28-29, 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 :)

{ 1,487 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. ms42

    Last week I interviewed for a K-12 teaching position. At the end of the interview, the principal unofficially offered me the position pending reference check. She said she expected to be able to formally offer me the position Friday. I sent a thank you email Friday to follow up on the interview. She emailed back Monday saying that she was currently waiting due to some last minute shifts in staff, but that she would be in touch soon.

    It’s a week later, and I’m running into a problem: I have a job, and teachers report two weeks from Monday. (It’s a mandatory training day for new teachers, so I can’t just say I’ll start late because they offered late.) I’m tempted to follow up with her based on this, but if the delay is external, I don’t want to be a pest, either. Is it reasonable to email today and mention that I would need to be able to give notice ASAP to start on time? Should I stick with just a quick email asking if there’s a new timeline? Or just keep waiting?

    (I’ve never left a job for a job before, so this is all new to me. Thanks!)

    Reply
    1. Mehkitty84

      Oh that is a pickle! Are you not able to just attend your current job’s training and then give notice if that is how it works out? Asking for an update would also be okay. I would just phrase it that your current teaching position is starting and you wondered if the time line has been extended for a couple weeks with her decision. Good Luck!

      Reply
      1. Hedgehog

        I think ms42 is saying that if she gets the new job, she would have to begin training for the new job 2 weeks from Monday, which would not allow time for two weeks notice with her current job unless she gets a decision today or Monday. If my reading of this is correct, I think it’s legitimate to mention this to the principal.

        Reply
        1. ms42

          This is correct! Technically there’s a training day that’s already inside the two weeks that I can’t miss, but I’m hoping to use a PTO day for that, assuming everything is still on track and I get the job. (I’m in a good enough position with my current employer that I have a bit of flexibility with that, but I don’t want to push that bit too far.)

          Thank you!

          Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Because this is education, I think it would be okay to contact them and mention your timing issue. For non-school year jobs, this would not be a big deal, but for education it absolutely is! I say email. If your new possible employer doesn’t understand that timing here is really important, that should be a big red flag anyway. (Because what administrator doesn’t understand the concept of teachers and the start of the school year?!)

      Reply
      1. Muriel Heslop

        I agree. As a teacher and administrator, I absolutely understand the need others have to give notice. If the principal with whom you interviewed doesn’t seem concerned or isn’t considerate of this, I see that as a red flag.

        I hope this works out soon! Good luck!

        Reply
    3. fposte

      Usually I say no to things like this, but in this case I think it’s fine to nudge and mention your current job as a factor in the transition. I suspect that it’s a chain o’ waiting and she could chase down the next link to move things forward a bit.

      Reply
      1. Anony

        Yeah, this ones sounds like a reasonable thing to mention. They have already unofficially offered you the job, so letting them know that the delay in a formal offer could create timing issues seems like a relevant thing for them to know. They may be able to speed it up or the training might not be completely mandatory in this situation.

        Reply
    4. CAA

      If I understand correctly, the mandatory training day is at the new job, right? So if they don’t offer you the job today, then you would have to either miss the training for the new job or give less than 2 weeks notice at your current job.

      I think in these circumstances you could contact the principal and ask if there’s an update on the timeline. Say that you are concerned because you need to give two weeks notice at your current job, and if you aren’t able to do that by this coming Monday, then you would have to miss the training day and possibly the beginning of the school year. Then wait and see how she responds.

      It’s possible that if you can’t attend the training that they won’t hire you, but I think it’s pretty unlikely. I know she used the word “mandatory”, but the problem with timing is on their end, not yours. And what do they do if they have to hire a teacher mid-year? I bet they don’t wait until there’s another training event before hiring. If they do come back with an offer on Monday, you can still resign on Tuesday and give a little less than 2 weeks notice. It’s not ideal, but it happens and life goes on.

      Reply
      1. Lala

        Actually, if it’s anything like the mandatory training for new teachers that I’ve been through, it truly is mandatory, because it’s about gov’t required/mandated things that their HR will have them go through. When schools have to hire mid-year, they can cobble it together, but that’s rare and a huge, huge pain to do, to the point that it’s unlikely they’ll do it for someone who just says they can’t make it on a given day.

        That being said, principals/academic admin often forget that not everyone applying for teaching positions is on an academic schedule the way they are, so they might assume there’s no conflict w/ giving notice.

        Definitely contact the principal and get some clarity on whether or not you’re officially hired, and explain that you need to be able to give 2 weeks’ notice.

        Reply
        1. Julianne

          Yes, and also there are typically school- or district-based policies that teachers and staff are required to know covered then too (even if these are not legal requirements, such as mandated reporter refreshers). I know my school covers things like the disciplinary code and evacuation/containment procedures, as well as going over more cultural things like instructional focus and re-training on beginning of year assessments. They can and do provide that information to new hires outside of that time period right before the first day, but it’s much less thorough and is limited to safety and disciplinary issues, which means new teachers have to learn everything else on the job.

          Reply
    5. Hiring Mgr

      I don’t think it’s being a pest in this case…it’s pretty reasonable that you would need to know by a certain time–you’re not pressuring them to do anything, just trying to get some relevant info if it’s available.

      Reply
    6. Sled Dog Mama

      I would think that a gentle nudge in this case would be a good thing, shows that you’re conscious of needing to be at the new job in time to fulfill your duties.

      Reply
    7. Backroads

      I think it’s reasonable to check into this. Even if you wind up leaving your current job for the teaching position (which hopefully is the way this is all sounding), it’s just professional to keep everyone informed. If you have to give less than two weeks notice/miss traning depending on how the chips fall, so be it, but you’ll be better off being open about what’s happening.

      I will say, those new teacher meetings can be pretty important.

      Reply
    8. Essie

      Most teachers are required to give 30 or 60 days notice when quitting, so it’s doubly concerning that your principal is being so cavalier about this. If it does come down to you needing to give your full 2 weeks notice to Old Job at the school’s loss of your time, IMO you would be in the right to push back if they protest.

      Reply
    9. School Psych

      Just adding to the chorus of agreeing you should follow-up. A lot of times in education, you have to get fingerprinted and background checked again when changing districts. It usually takes at least a week for fed/state background checks to come back, so you would need your official offer very soon in order to be able to start in 2 weeks.

      Reply
  2. Networking Question

    I have an online store in a creative field that eventually I want to grow into a part time business, right now it’s just a hobby business. I also belong to a few online artist networking group. In the networking group some of the people I know personally as distant acquaintances, others I have never met as we live all over the country. Outside of the networking groups, surprisingly most people are not on online regarding their artistic talents.

    I have an idea that I would like to run by some of those in the networking groups. To be honest I don’t think the final product will bring in a lot of money, but advertising wise it would be beneficial for the networking artist and for my online shop. This idea would have minimal effort on the artist’s part (I can use what they have already done), I would assume most of the costs associated (causing me to break even in this project) and the artist would get a majority of the profit. I am ok with this as I have it budgeted through my shop as an advertising expense. In addition the artist’s products while different than mine, have the same theme. I should say that in my opinion the artist’s creativity well surpasses mine. In general I am finding that those in the networking groups dread the business side of things, something I excel in.

    My question is, when I contact these people how do I go about doing this. Do I

    Option 1: just say I have an idea I would like to ask them about, give a brief description – I would probably ignore an email like this if the roles were reversed.

    Option 2: go into a paragraph long description, lay it all out on the line – advertising, creativity, financial, benefits for both of us and say if you are interested please contact me. – While this is a “sales pitch” I worry it would just be considered pushy and trying to overtake their independent efforts for their own side business.

    Any thoughts or suggestions?

    Reply
    1. N.J.

      Could you do a hybrid of the two? Such as a short email like “Hi X, I’ve been working on a new marketing and sales idea for my online art store through X platform and wanted to run the idea by you for input and possibly to see if you would like to collaborate. The basic idea involves selling X, with a multi-faceted marketing and sales plan involving a, b and c. I believe that our creative projects could be compatible for this idea. If you would be interested do you have a bit of time available for a quick, twenty minute phone call or alternately, for me to send along a more deysuled project description?

      Then you could send along the full plan description email as outlined in (2).

      Reply
      1. Networking Question

        I like this solution. I was looking at it as all or nothing, and never considered the way your phrased it. Thanks!!!

        Reply
      2. Anna Held

        That sounds perfect, but I’d lead with the part where she’ll get the lion’s share of the profit and you’ll handle the business end.

        Reply
    2. esra (also a Canadian)

      As an artist, a brief description + clear bullet list of benefits/details would be best. I’m likely to just skim an email from a stranger/someone I don’t know well, so a 3-5 bullet list of why I should be interested would be most effective.

      Reply
    3. Tris Prior

      I also have an online creative side business. I would say give a brief description BUT make sure you’re including the financial details. Even if it’s a brief “I would assume X% of the cost while you assume Y%.” Just because there are so many scams out there, things where we’re asked to provide free product for “exposure,” things with hidden costs that we don’t find out about until later, etc. I would probably not respond to an email like this if it didn’t lay out what I’d be on the hook for financially.

      Reply
      1. Commenting on AAM

        I agree, I want to be up front with everything. To be honest since I can use an idea they already created I highly doubt there would be any cost to the artist.

        Side question – while I want to present this as a mutual way to advertise, would you disclose in the initial letter that overall I was not expecting the product make a huge amount of money (yes I need to work on the wording)? As you said I don’t want there to be any surprises. I was think of just saying This product will bring in $x (small dollar) per product, you would receive 80% of the gross sale.

        Reply
        1. Networking Question

          OOPS I posted two open thread questions today. My user name above should have been Networking Question, not commenting on AAM. Sorry for the confusion

          Reply
        2. Hey Karma, Over here.

          “I was not expecting the product make a huge amount of money”
          I do design work on the side. Please don’t say this. It sounds like you are undervaluing the project and therefore the artist’s work. You can say, this is not my full time work, and since I can only devote a limited amount of time to it, I expect the profits to be limited, too.

          Reply
              1. Networking Question

                Thanks! It’s a long shot but will be great once developed and implemented. I need to sell the idea as advertising not as a product sale. The joys of starting a business. Best of luck with your venture as well.

                Reply
  3. Holly

    I work full time from home. I am also on FMLA Intermittent Disability and approved to miss 3 days every 2 weeks, plus 4 hours every 2 weeks for doctor appointments. I am having a bit of an issue on two things.

    1) My workload is the same as before I went on FMLA disability and I’m finding myself working 10-12 hour days when I am not out in order to make up for it. How do I explain to them that I need my work load to reflect the fact that I am on disability, without sounding like I don’t want to work or making myself look bad?

    2) Since I have been on disability I am finding that my requests for time off are not being approved and I can tell my manager is annoyed when I take advantage of employee perks like summer Friday’s. Am I still entitled to my vacation, sick, personal time, and perks while on disability? If so, how do I appropriately handle that so my requests are approved?

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      You need to have this conversation with them – we can’t answer it. I don’t know what summer Fridays are either.

      FMLA approval CAN require that you have to use sick/vacation time for your FMLA leave, and that’s it not leave in addition to it. So that might be factoring in. TBH, as a boss, I wouldn’t love if an employee were out 3.5 days every two weeks and then taking leave on top of it. But you do have protection for the FMLA leave.

      Regardless, you need to have this conversation with your boss and HR.

      Reply
      1. Anonygoose

        Summer Fridays (at my work) are where you work extra hours during the week but get to leave early on Friday. Same number of hours per week, but get the advantage of a Friday afternoon off to enjoy the weather and get a jump start on the weekend.

        Reply
        1. Holly

          We are not expected to work extra hours during the week. The perk is specifically to give us extra time off on summer weekends. We have “unlimited” vacation. They recommend 20 days but it can be more or less depending on what is going on and approval from your manager. I typically only request about 2 weeks off per year. So, I haven’t been using all my time.

          Reply
        2. Nervous Accountant

          Here, every Friday is a half day. It’s split up in to Group 1 and Group 2, so we alternate Fridays.

          Reply
      2. Holly

        I don’t really want to take much time off. Just some days to spend with my family. Summer fridays are just half day fridays. Sorry, I should have explained that. I was trying to be brief. My handbook says we don’t have to use our sick/pto time before using leave.

        Reply
        1. Anony

          It sounds like you used up your normal vacation/sick days with FMLA. It sucks, but it is allowed. If you want to ask for a reduced work load you will probably need to work all day on Fridays. If you are taking what would be seen as “extra” time off and then complain that you have too much work, it could reflect poorly on you. I’m sorry you are going through this. It is hard to work full time with a chronic illness.

          Reply
          1. Holly

            I didn’t use up my normal vacation/sick days. My company offers 100% paid FML time for up to 12 weeks without using any of your other benefits, such as sick or vacation time.

            I also have not complained about my workload (yet). I was trying to figure out a way to do it so that deadlines can still be reasonably met and things don’t fall behind. It’s more a matter of being reasonable and finding ways to avoid impacting my coworkers.

            Reply
              1. Holly

                Yes! They really do. They are the best in the business. We get full pay for all FMLA time. They offer maternity/paternity leave which is fully paid for 12 weeks and we can use our vacation and short term disability following that for a total of 20 weeks off. They also offer 5 days berevement for immediate and some extended family and 3 days for pets! We can also take 3 days to bond with new pets and they send care packages for new pets and babies. We get the unlimited vacation, plus 8 days sick time, 3 days personal time, 12 paid holidays per year, and half day summer Friday’s. They also encourage participation in school events for your children and we don’t have to use our vacation time for it. I don’t even have to track my vacation time.

                All of this is why I want to be able to use my perks. I don’t think using some intermittent time should completely disqualify me from all the other benefits I get with my job. They are part of my compensation package and I’m not supposed to be penalized for a disability.

                I might also point out that we are a global company and my colleagues in Europe take months off over the summer in addition to their regular vacation time.

                Reply
    2. Jessie the First (or second)

      Sounds like you need to word and structure your FMLA leave a little differently. It sounds as if you have the ability to be out on certain days but your actual hours worked are not decreasing – so it is not the kind of leave you need? You have intermittent leave but not a reduced schedule, and you need both. You need to have the ability to work fewer hours every two weeks, and to have those fewer hours concentrated on certain days. So your leave needs to be reworked to include that in addition to having certain days off, your total actual hours need to be decreased. (That should probably have been obvious, but your employer is sticking to the letter of the leave request, it seems, rather than the spirit.)

      And yes, as to your vacation/sick/personal time, those might not be available. Companies are allowed to have those days off used up by your FMLA leave. You can ask HR what company policy is there.

      Reply
      1. Holly

        Interesting. My FMLA form did specify a reduced number of hours when I submitted it. But they did not specify that when I got approval. I assumed it was just wording. I will look into that.

        Reply
        1. Jessie the First (or second)

          To be clear, intermittent FMLA covers reduced schedule as well – it’s really supposed to be that your hours are lower. Lower hours can come from having some days off (on a schedule, or as needed for flare-ups), or from having just shorter days sometimes. So you really SHOULD be just working your regular schedule when you are in, and then getting days off, and not working more hours. Your company is being really nitpicky about things, and they shouldn’t be.

          So when I say your leave needs to be reworked, it’s not because you are doing anything wrong or that you requested anything wrong – it’s that your employer sounds like they are being deliberately obtuse.

          Also – I see that you say in another comment that you have unlimited vacation. If that’s the case, well, your FMLA leave would not have used up all your time off. So you should theoretically be able to take days off here and there. But talk to HR – and also make clear that you don’t intend to abuse the non-FMLA days off. But if they allow unlimited days off, then…. I don’t see how they can say “except for the people on FMLA!” (That seems like retaliation for using FMLA, and they can’t do that.) But there may be nuances to the unlimited vacation that you aren’t aware of – like, unlimited but people aren’t allowed to be out every week, for example – so check with HR.

          Reply
          1. Holly

            Thanks. I appreciate the clarification. You phrased it much better than I did. That is exactly what I meant.

            To clarify a bit, I don’t think my company is actually being nitpicky. They are genuinely supportive and haven’t directly said I am still expected to work the same amount. But my workload hasn’t actually decreased, which I think is just a lack of forethought on their part. If I can figure a good way to phrase it without implying I don’t want work (because that is not at all the case) I think they will make adjustments.

            Part of it is that I have a new manager, and while she is great, she is a workhorse and pulls 12 hour days all the time. I know her well. We were coworkers before she was my manager. I genuinely like and respect her and I know she is overwhelmed with work. So I am trying not to add my work to it. But at the same time, I just physically cannot work 12 hours a day to prevent that due to my health. So I need to find a way to reduce my workload in a way that is reasonable for both of us. It’s very tough to navigate the situation.

            Reply
            1. Hey Karma, Over here.

              I don’t think your manager understands what reduced means. It does not mean the same amount of work in less days. You need to have a meeting ASAP.

              Reply
    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      My understanding of Intermittent FMLA is that it can be used As Needed. For example, I have a friend who suffers severe migraines that has it and she uses it when she literally cannot function because of her migraines and her employer cannot hold those days against her.

      It almost sounds like you’re using yours as a regular adjustment to your schedule, which I do not believe is the intent. (If I’m misreading, then I apologize). But as Katie the Fed said, you need to discuss this with your HR department.

      Reply
      1. Holly

        There is the option to do a regular adjustment to your schedule. In other words, work a consistently reduced number of hours. My doctor did specify that on the form. But what we really were requesting was to be able to be absent when I have a flare (I have fibromyalgia), which is unpredictable, but we estimated they happen every 2 weeks and last 2-3 days. It’s an average. I do not take all of it. I only take what I need. I just meant thats what I was approved for.

        Reply
    4. HisGirlFriday

      I agree with Katie. If I were a manager, I wouldn’t love that you’re taking advantage of employee perks when you’re off so much, even if it’s covered by FMLA.

      (I am assuming ‘summer Fridays’ means leaving early, but I could be wrong on that.)

      You need to talk to HR and then your boss about what FMLA means. When I used it last year for mat leave, I had to use any personal/vacation time I had accrued (which I had saved for that reason) and THEN I went on FMLA. I couldn’t use FMLA and then still save my PTO for other stuff.

      Your workload probably should be reduced to match your FMLA time, but talk to HR first, and then your boss.

      Reply
      1. Holly

        I’m mindful of how it looks. I haven’t taken any sick or personal days and have only requested one day off in the past since my FMLA was approved. I did request some time next month which was not approved and I think its because of the FMLA. I’m not planning to take off tons of days, but I have a family event coming up and I’d like to participate in that, which is why I asked for the time.

        Reply
      2. Abby

        That is discrimination. You can’t prohibit an employee from using other employee perks just because someone is on FMLA status.

        Reply
        1. Halls of Montezuma

          Being unexcited about it is different. In normal FMLA cases, other coworkers have to pick up the extra work and it comes across as incredibly tone deaf and unappreciative to take extra time off when if causes them further burden (it doesn’t seem like Holly’s work has gone to others in this case, which does make a difference). Second, there’s lots of little ways this can result in negative impacts (or missing positive impacts) without rising to the level of discrimination or retaliation – you have to return an employee to an equivalent position when they are done with FMLA, but if you’re concerned about their work throughput you give them lower priority projects and not the higher visibility/priority projects, you don’t send them to a conference or on big trips because that would force them to miss doctor appointments nor be away from specialists in the event of a flare up, you don’t give them extra/collateral assignments that could build new skills because they don’t have time for their current workload, etc. In short, they’d stay at the same level instead of building their reputation and resume to earn the next promotion.

          Reply
      3. Ramona Flowers

        So if someone needs time off for medical treatment you don’t think they should ever get to relax?

        That’s really not understanding disability.

        Reply
        1. LCL

          Management doesn’t have to understand disability to properly administer FML and other leave. And HGF didn’t say employees on FML shouldn’t ever get to relax.

          Having employees on FML or otherwise out ill can be an incredible pain in the ass to the manager. But that’s part of the job. The kind, humane, right thing to do is to work with someone who is ill. But enough businesses didn’t so laws like the FMLA are needed. As managers and human beings we are allowed to get frustrated at all of the people missing from the schedule and ashamed of how disfunctional our unit has become because of short staffing. As long as we continue to treat people decently and comply with the law.

          And OP, it is on you to push back against the 10-12 hour shifts, since you aren’t in the office for the boss to see. You have FML approved-nowhere does it say in the law you have to make up the time you are out ill.

          Reply
    5. laevian

      Looking at your comments I get the feeling that you’d do fine to just meet with your manager and (politely) lay out your reasoning, but here’s more advice for you. If at all possible I would suggest that you don’t try to bring these all up at once.

      – If you haven’t already, set up regular checkup meetings with your manager. It will help you get this stuff off your chest without feeling like you’re going into a confrontation. It’ll also help to break these up a bit more so you don’t end up offloading a bunch of troubles on your manager at once.

      – For the specific day you want to take off: “I wanted to ask you about the day I requested to take off a few weeks ago, [vacation date]. Is there a specific reason you can offer me why that date wasn’t approved?” You might also take the time to reinforce the fact that your FMLA time isn’t vacation and is in fact time you’re not capable of working, for various reasons. If you’re comfortable sharing, offer the justification that it’s a family event that you’d been looking forward to and that you intentionally don’t take vacation very often.

      – Generally taking time off, I would try to work with your manager to figure out an acceptable amount of time/days that they’d be okay with you taking off. It might not end up being the same as the unlimited vacation time, but it might help your manager to feel more in control of the situation.

      – As for the workload, I’d go with (what I recall as being) Alison’s typical advice. Lay out the reality of it to your manager. “Lately I’ve been overloaded with work, and I’d like your help in prioritizing which projects I should be focusing on when I have more work than I can handle in a week.”

      Reply
  4. Snarkus Aurelius

    We have to talk about yesterday’s Dear Prudie letter.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/life/dear_prudence/2017/07/dear_prudence_one_of_my_colleagues_is_stealing_my_breast_milk.html

    So many things wrong with HR in this letter.

    1) The workplace is not a court of law so “reasonable doubt” and “innocent until proven guilty” don’t really apply here. HR seems to be acting like they needed to catch this guy in the act.

    2) I’d like to know more about the guy caught using his keycard at the wrong door. How long has he worked there? If he’s worked there for a zillion years, then he knew damn well what the door was to.

    3) I struggle on whether the breast pumping women have a right to know this guy’s identity. If he was caught trying to get into their locked desks to steal money out of their purses, then I could see HR telling them his identity. But, and this goes back to question 2, it’s hard to say how much plausible deniability he has there.

    4) Stealing breast milk is an incredible violation of privacy and bodily autonomy even though the area is secure now. HR has to do better here, but I’m not sure how.

    Reply
    1. Zip Silver

      I would prefer HR do due diligence before making accusations. If confirmed though, he should be dealt with.

      Reply
    2. Antilles

      I saw that. The keycard to the wrong door thing struck me as super odd. Even if the building is really big, you generally learn all the common places you’ll need to go within a couple months. Sure, every now and then you might run into a reason to go somewhere you don’t really know…but if that was the situation, that could be addressed with a 10-second explanation “Oh yeah, I had to get the files for Ancient Project and I was told they were in the third floor storage room”. Not to mention the fact that most rooms like these are usually labeled

      Reply
    3. The IT Manager

      I’m torn. And Prudie missed the point of the letter which wasn’t a continued fear of theft but the lingering feeling of violation.

      I actually don’t think the victims need to know who the suspect is. If someone is found out, they should be told the person was disciplined/fired.

      HR is wrong that they need proof (video) of the theft to fire someone and since the door is now locked that’s impossible unless he goes further and breaks into the room and steals the breast milk. But how much plausible deniability is there from trying a door that’s now locked? As the letter developed I did wonder if it was going to turn out that of the other mothers was stealing the breast milk.

      HR did act to prevent further theft as soon as they were notified. It’s just that this is such a violation of privacy that it will linger and lead the LW to wonder about all the men in her office. (Apparently they have let that much slip.)

      Reply
      1. Optimistic Prime

        Well, she did say

        If the other new mothers are also having a hard time feeling comfortable pumping in the workplace, it might be worth bringing this back up with HR, if only for your own peace of mind.

        Reply
    4. fposte

      I wasn’t convinced that wanting to get into a private room meant he was the person stealing breast milk; pumping rooms always seem subject to attempts at repurposing by others. But yeah, wild; I don’t know if somebody has a fetish or somebody wasn’t producing enough and didn’t want to go to formula.

      Reply
      1. k.k

        That was my issue. I’ve heard (likely here) of people going to pump and finding people napping, on a personal call, etc. I’m glad HR hasn’t told these women his identity, because from the letter it doesn’t sound like there is any proof he was the thief. Since they’ve only started monitoring it now, there doesn’t seem to be any way to know who had been going in there before.

        Reply
        1. k.k

          I should add, I’m not saying this man is in the clear. Misusing the room for any purpose is wrong, he had no reason to be trying to get in there.

          Reply
        2. Amy

          The pumping room at my last office had a really nice recliner in it as well as a tv and fan. Some people wanted to get in there just to nap or relax.

          Reply
          1. Nicotene

            My office coyly called it a “wellness room” which means half the young men here (and perhaps even HR, I have no idea) believe the couch is for lying down when you have a headache / just need a nap. They don’t realize there’s supposed to be a calendar for checking it out. The door does lock but they just think – better for napping!

            Reply
              1. Cher Horowitz

                So is ours! I just assumed it was the nonsense associated with being a startup but looks like it is an universal folly!

                Reply
      2. Kyrielle

        If it’s the latter, you’d hope they’d reach out – there are bunches of women who have excess but don’t qualify to donate, and many of them are willing to pass along to others who need it. There are health risks there, because milk banks test, pasteurize, and treat what they get, which doesn’t happen in private donations. But anyone who is pouring off an ounce from various mothers’ bottles is clearly not too worried about the health implications! (And if they weren’t producing enough, taking from someone else who may not be producing enough or may be just barely producing enough is really low.)

        I think securing the door so only the mothers could get in has probably addressed the issue, though. I would just be glad that the milk was no longer being taken/messed with. (Easy for me to say. Harder when you are dealing with it, I imagine.)

        Reply
      3. LBK

        I don’t necessarily disagree, but if he’s the only person who’s tried to badge in without the proper access since the new system was implemented, that certainly does make him more of a suspect than anyone else, IMO.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Oh, no disagreement. He would be “a person of interest.” But I also think that, however upsetting it is to the victims, this isn’t something that’s likely to be pursued further, and I actually think the company’s making a reasonable call in not disclosing who it is.

          Reply
        2. Sadsack

          Unless he was looking to use the room for some other purpose and it was one of the other people nursing who did it.

          Reply
      4. Sally

        Yeah, I really am no convinced that he is the culprit. It seems more likely that one of the pumping moms is skimming off the top to bolster her own stash.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          Really. Maybe I am just unusually squeamish but this would be so potentially unsafe I can’t imagine doing that. This stuff is not pasteurized — Hep B, HIV, and a host of less scary diseases could easily be passed this way.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            There’ve been online chains of people mailing the stuff to each other, to say nothing of the occasional attempt to use it in a restaurant. There are enough people who aren’t put off by that that I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what happened here.

            Reply
          2. Optimistic Prime

            A lot of people don’t think of it that way. I’ve been mildly interested in this topic from a research perspective, and there are certainly a lot of parents who believe that breast milk is just about the purest substance and/or that the risks of disease are outweighed by the benefits. (There are also people who underestimate – sometimes quite severely – the prevalence of disease in the population that can be passed through breast milk._

            Reply
        2. motherofdragons

          If it was one of the other nursers, that should become evident pretty quickly if milk is still going missing after the key card system was implemented.

          Reply
          1. Hedwig

            True, but it seems likely that if it was a fellow nursing mother, she would be aware at this point that the jig is up and would stop even though she still had opportunity. So I don’t think it’s sufficient proof that it’s the door jiggler.

            Reply
          2. Nicotene

            But now that they know someone’s looking, they might stop! The commenters at Dear Prudie actually suspected the other mom who confirmed the LW’s suspicion. But they are a suspicious lot :)

            Reply
      5. Falling Diphthong

        At my office, the pumping room was also the pregnant person napping room, because it had a couch. I imagine it might have been napped on by people who were not pregnant.

        Reply
    5. HisGirlFriday

      As a pumping mother, that letter made me see red. Prudie/Mallory missed the whole point (which, as a side note, is becoming increasingly common; the column has gone downhill since Mallory took over.)

      HR is handling this badly all the way around. They don’t need to have caught the man in the actual act of stealing the breastmilk — he was caught trying to access a room that no man has any need to be in. The LW clearly said they were ‘LACTATION ROOMS.’ This isn’t a case of, ‘Oh, I went to the wrong storage closet’ or ‘I forgot that the third-floor copier room was used by nursing mothers.’ This was a straight-up violation of a dedicated lactation space, and the fact that the man tried to use his keycard to get into a place he had no business being is enough for HR to take action.

      I’m torn on whether I think the mothers need to know — as a pumping mother, I’d want to, but I also recognize that there are privacy issues in play here. But HR should absolutely be taking action against the man and at least be telling the mothers, ‘He was caught and disciplinary measures have been taken.’

      Reply
      1. Snark

        “which, as a side note, is becoming increasingly common; the column has gone downhill since Mallory took over.”

        I actually disagree with that, I think Mallory is fantastic when she’s in her own wheelhouse. She’s also much wittier and more readable than Emily Yoffe ever was. Thing to keep in mind is, Mallory is a relatively young queer woman with no kids, no spouse, and a professional career largely composed of freelance writing and website community management. Within the bounds of her experience, I think her advice is very good – but just as one wouldn’t necessarily write to Alison on advice about coming out, I think people who write to Prudie about workplace issues are kind of doing it wrong.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Plus she’s really funny. I have low expectations generally when it comes to advice columns with workplace stuff, so I don’t really hold that against Mallory.

          Reply
        2. Artemesia

          I find her entertaining sometimes, but she doesn’t do her homework. She often just doesn’t know stuff you’d thing anyone would know and she blunders ahead with opinion. Even staid old Dear Abby back in her day had a stable of experts she conferred with when the question had ethical, legal, nutritional etc ramifications. Prudie just blathers on with advice that may be legally or otherwise dangerous.

          Reply
        3. H.C.

          Huh, I don’t necessarily think one Prudie was necessarily better than the other (or even Margo Howard, the O.G. Dear Prudence – sorry, I’m not counting Mr. Stein who only wrote under that pseudonym for 3 months); I appreciate that they all have different writing styles and approaches to various life dilemmas.

          I do agree Mallory is more attuned to queer/sexuality issues, but I also enjoy Emily’s more pragmatic, common sense approach to life’s problems too.

          Reply
        4. Southern Ladybug

          I agree. I really like Mallory, but has some blind spots. When I read that letter my first thought was, “Should have asked Alison.”

          Reply
        5. DDJ

          I agree! And when I read that column yesterday, I was really wishing that the writer would have submitted it to AAM instead! I so badly wanted to hear what she would have had to say.

          Reply
        6. Hedwig

          She may be good in her wheelhouse, but her wheelhouse encompasses a pretty small proportion of the letters she answers.

          Reply
          1. HisGirlFriday

            This is much better way of saying what I meant. In her wheelhouse, she’s great, but her wheelhouse is pretty small, and she often takes letters that are outside that wheelhouse and she bungles them.

            I read a wide variety of advice columns, and I don’t always agree with all of them, but I can generally see their points of view. With Mallory, I sometimes feel like she comes off half-thought-out and shooting from the hip. I appreciate columnists who say, “I am not a therapist/lawyer/expert in llamas, so you should consult one.”

            Reply
        7. Brogrammer

          Yeah, I think when Mallory is good, she’s really good. And she’s definitely funnier than Emily. My pet peeve with Mallory is when she’s writing on something outside her wheelhouse and just sort of blunders ahead when she’d be better served to consult an outside expert. Also, sometimes it seems like she’s answering a different question than the one the letter writer asked, but I wouldn’t say that’s unique to her.

          Reply
          1. H.C.

            Emily has her quips, too. Still remembered this one from her farewell letter

            “When you get a letter about a boyfriend who has committed bestiality with farm animals and you think, “Oh, at least this one isn’t about house pets,” you’ve probably been Prudie long enough.”

            Reply
      2. Southern Ladybug

        I, too, had an emotional reaction. I was pumping as I read that letter. And I’m pumping now. (Yes, there is a theme to my breaks!). I struggle to pump enough to feed my child. I’d be furious for the privacy invasion and what I’d perceive an action against my infant. (I’m sure others will think that’s extreme, but I am my child’s food source. Yes I will supplement with formula if I have to – but if I have to b/c of someone stealing my milk I would be beyond angry.)

        I can respect the privacy issues logically and would respect it as a professional. But the human in me would want to know and to know that action was taken. At the very least HR could let the person know that they knew he was trying to enter and remind him it’s a space for lactating mothers. Put him on notice. If it was for a less nefarious reason, fine. He’d likely be mortified and explain. If not…well, he’s on notice.

        Reply
      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        I think it’s important to know that advice columnists aren’t usually marketing themselves as gurus who know everything — just as someone with a point of view and hopefully good sense who will weigh in on your dilemmas. Carolyn Hax has been really careful to say she’s not a therapist (it’s even in her bio blurb, I think). And I know I definitely don’t know everything, and wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m holding myself out as someone who does. And of course, by definition it can sometimes be hard to know what you don’t know.

        So I would cut all advice columnists some slack! That said, there’s definitely a point where someone gets it wrong enough that they lose credibility. (The Washington Post work advice columnist hit that point for me in like week two of writing.)

        But I love reading Mallory’s writing.

        Reply
        1. H.C.

          On the note of work columnists, I miss Businesslady (formerly of The Toast, now seldomly at The Billfold)

          Reply
            1. Businesslady

              I miss The Toast SO much–its surprise reappearance was indeed all too brief.

              But it’s awesome to hear that someone wants to hear more from me! I’ve actually been publishing a lot lately, but it’s kind of all over the place and not necessarily easy to find. Here’s a link roundup: http://wp.me/p8taRz-aJ.

              Thanks so much for the kind words, it means a lot.

              (And since I know all these links will throw things into moderation–hi, Alison!)

              Reply
      4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Not being snarky or sarcastic, just genuinely curious: What do you think an appropriate disciplinary measure would be for attempting to enter a lactation room (when you’re not there to breastfeed or pump)?

        Reply
      5. Snarkus Aurelius

        This is how I felt but couldn’t articulate. If the sign on the damn door tells you what the room is, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

        Reply
    6. GuitarLady

      I really wish Prudie (and other advice people) would stop answering work questions on their columns, whenever one comes up, like this one, all I can think it, that’s not great advice, this person really needs to ask Allison! There was another one recently where someone asked how to get a $10,000 raise when they found out others in the field were making that, again something much better answered here!

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        Every time I see a work question on another column, I have to ask myself “What would Alison say?” Sometimes the answers are spot on, but a lot of times they’re missing nuance that is work-specific (or management-specific).

        I would have loved to see Alison’s response to this one, especially.

        Reply
        1. Nicotene

          I just posted below about a work one to NYMag’s Ask Polly (who I love, but not necessarily for work advice) that I would have liked to have heard Alison answer. Great minds, etc!

          Reply
    7. AMT123

      I was most surprised that this focused only on the violation and theft (not downplaying those at all!) but no one has mentioned that the breast milk has been tampered with – for myself, I would no longer feel comfortable feeding my baby breast milk that someone else has removed some from without my knowledge, there’s questions of sanitation, etc. That they have not done more about this seems a little crazy!

      Reply
      1. JustaTech

        This was my thought too! At first I thought whole bottles were missing (you’d notice that right away) but someone opening the bottle and taking a little out? Ooh, the contamination risk would squick me out so much!

        Reply
    8. Gloria Burgle

      My gut reaction was that it was another pumping mother that was stealing the milk. The guy trying to get in is awfully suspicious, but, as others have pointed out, some people try to use these rooms for naptime, personal phone calls, etc. My concern would be that, by focusing on this guy, and taking precautions to keep him out, they are not making things harder for the real culprit (if it is indeed another mother.) Of course, the whole locking the fridge thing might put a stop to it because the mother would then know she’d be more likely to get caught.

      Regardless, if I were the LW, I think I’d start keeping my milk somewhere else, within my sight. (Cooler or fridge at my desk). It’s too precious to take chances on.

      On your points #1 and #2, while I agree that the workplace is not a court of law, I don’t agree that the guy needs to be fired based on this alone or even if he’s worked there forever and knew what the rooms were for.

      Andplusalso, Mallory is not at all qualified to give work-related advice…

      Reply
      1. Snark

        She’s great at work advice where it’s centered on interpersonal relationships, but just knowing a little of her professional background, her experience with being a career professional or a boss is pretty limited.

        Reply
      2. Book Lover

        I assumed it was another mother, also. I always kept pumped milk in my office with freezer packs, but I know that isn’t an option for everyone.

        Reply
    9. kittymommy

      It’s he trying to make brownies???

      Seriously though I think it’s at least two different issues. 1. The guy is trying to enter a secure, restricted access room. That to me is a security problem and seeing as a key card is now in play, should be fairly easy to narrow down and deal with. 2. Is the theft of the milk. That would be a little harder to pin down to a particular person unless there is video involved (seeing as the key card was not in effect when the thefts happened). It’s super creepy, but I’m not sure there’s a good reason objectively for them to know his identity, as long as this stops

      Reply
    10. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

      To me it’s almost a safety issue. If HR is inclined to believe this gentleman was the culprit but couldn’t do anything because they don’t have definitive proof, I would go back to them and ask them if they feel he would/could become a threat to them. Sometimes when people have “fetishes”, removing access to them can cause people to become more extreme or escalate their attempts (waiting for a mom to enter/leave the room to gain access). So maybe in framing it as “should I be worried about my safety” will allow HR to perhaps take a couple of additional steps to ease the mind of the mothers.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous Ann

        Seems like quite a leap from ‘guy who once tried to open the door to the lactation room’ to ‘fetishist’ who may harm nursing mothers.’ He could’ve been looking for someone or gotten the rooms mixed up (I’ve been at my not-huge office for six years and still forget what rooms are what sometimes). Even if he was attempting to misuse the room for a nap/phone call or worst case steal milk, he is now no longer able to enter the room. I would wait to see if additional attempts to enter are made (by this man, or anyone else), and if milk continues to disappear since access was taken away from non-nursing mothers. You can’t really punish someone when the only thing anyone KNOWS he did was try to open a door…

        Reply
    11. OlympiasEpiriot

      Wow. Maybe there’s plausible deniability with the guy who tried to swipe his key card, but, that looks crazy suspicious.

      Reply
      1. Halls of Montezuma

        Eh, if it was only once, I disagree. I’ve worked in the same office complex for years and last week suddenly found I no longer had swipe access to a lab I’m in once a week. Wrong, turns out I was one door down from the correct room and just hadn’t been paying attention. Since I thought I was in the right place, I didn’t look at the sign at all. Sure, I’m an absent-minded scientist type, but I don’t think I’m the only one of those around (or that it’s limited to STEM folks).

        Reply
    12. Anony Oz

      Interestingly a lot of bodybuilders seek out breastmilk to supplement their growth. You could put guys looking to bulk up in this category too.
      It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a male with a fetish.

      It’s still terribly wrong to steal in any case, but somehow thinking of scenarios more like this make it less creepy.

      Reply
    13. Alice

      Hang on — there’s nothing in the OP’s letter saying whether or not there’s any sign on the door, and it seems to me that “trying to get in” could cover the guy swiping his card once because he thought it was the stationery cupboard or he was trying to get into 303 and this is 304. Of course HR or security should look into it, but is there any reason to think that they haven’t?
      And what would OP intend to do if HR were willing to tell her the identify of the suspect?

      Reply
    14. Zip Zap

      If someone is stealing milk, it’s a health and safety issue. There are some infectious diseases that can be transmitted through breast milk. Depending on the specifics, the intended recipient(s) of the milk could also be at risk if this means they might miss a meal. Breast milk is a finite resource. I don’t know that much about it, but couldn’t you run out? Maybe if it was a larger baby or more than one? Definitely not to be taken lightly.

      Reply
  5. Christin

    I have a coworker who deals with customer support and she seems incapable of typing a single question mark. “Teapot report not uploaded yet?????” “Meeting today 2 hours?????” I assume she does this to convey a sense of urgency but I gotta admit it generally has the opposite effect. Is there any way to tell this person to knock it off?

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      I recently had to address an issue with a coworker who liked to use “?!?” in her emails. I also assumed she used it as a way to convey a sense of urgency. My script (with the caveat that this was to someone who is new to the workforce):

      “This is a small thing, but I’ve seen it in a few emails from you – try to avoid the ?! in professional emails, as it comes across as both chaotic and demanding, which is not the tone you want to go for when asking for a favor :)”

      Reply
    2. extra anon today

      Not that it would work but I am The Type of Person who would respond with double the punctuation. “Report almost ready!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

      Reply
    3. SeptemberGrrl

      My two cents: you have to pick your battles. Is that really something that is so horrific you need to have a confrontation about it? If there is some larger issue with this person that you are not including in your post, that might be worth discussing but otherwise, this is so minor. Let it go. Life is short. This doesn’t harm you in any way.

      Reply
      1. Christin

        This is where I ultimately fall. I forgot to mention she tends to cc everybody on these emails so, on the one hand, she tattles. On the other, take the higher ground and let people make up their own minds.

        Reply
        1. OhNo

          Ooh, yeah, especially if she uses cc indiscriminately to share things around, best to avoid it. I can just picture her replying and cc-ing everyone else in the office with some kind of “No one else minds! You just don’t like me! Don’t be such a buzzkill!” tirade.

          Reply
    4. LCL

      Respectfully tell her that business communication uses standard punctuation. And that you won’t respond to any more emails with multiple punctuation. And ask her if there is a way she would prefer to communicate, or if there is a problem in your communication.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        You really can’t refuse to answer a colleague’s questions because she includes too many question marks, though.

        Reply
    5. Nanc

      Did you know your ? key is stuck????????

      Sorry, that’s not helpful. If it’s confusing as to what she’s trying to communicate I would just have a conversation with her or reply to the email and say are you asking an actual question, requesting an action, or what. If it’s just the keyboard equivalent of saying like and you know and up-talking at the end of every sentence than you may not be able to break her of the habit.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Actually, I might use this advice if it were me. Depends on the workplace and my relationship with the person. If you can use humor to get your point across, then I’d go for it.

        I do think it’s fine to let her know that the extra question marks add confusion or make her message read differently than perhaps she meant the message to read.

        Reply
      2. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida

        Or better yet – “Would you like me to help you open an IT ticket to get your keyboard fixed/replaced due to the sticking ? key?”

        Reply
    6. Snark

      I have a colleague who overuses….ellipses….in the oddest spots…and for no good reason…and it drives…me bonkers.

      Reply
          1. Mockingjay

            People, you can’t post great one-liners like these! I share an office now and have to clap my hand over my mouth so my coworker doesn’t hear me. *Snicker.*

            Reply
      1. Anonygoose

        Ugh my mom does this to end sentences when she emails me. It makes everything seem like she’s judging everyone or making everything a really big deal.

        “Your brother decided to go back to school…he’s dating a new girl, she seems nice…your dad said he called you the other day…maybe he already told you all this…

        Drives me NUTS but then I find I start doing it too without thinking when she’s been emailing me a lot. It’s awful.

        Reply
      2. Emilia Bedelia

        Maybe we work with the same person!

        I also have a colleague who is incapable of spelling/typing properly. I already dislike working with her, but getting “mnay thkkans for you quicklyy help, Emlia! ;9” when I drop everything to help with her urgent requests does NOT help.

        Reply
      3. afiendishthingy

        me too… except this .. is not an ellipsis ….. neither is that one….
        Why would you end a question like this..

        Thanks……

        (I can’t handle it.)

        Reply
        1. afiendishthingy

          This person is the office manager at our other location, about 40 minutes from mine. She also hung a sign on the door to their department that says “Please remember to sign in and out” (quotation marks hers. I can’t remember if there are any periods and if so how many). I really want to write -Dorothy Parker or
          -Socrates after that but she is crotchety and I’m afraid of getting caught

          Reply
    7. FormerOP

      Exactly what Giraffe said. I have had to do the same and it worked: “Writing XYZ in emails comes off as ABC. Please stick to LMN in emails for our company. Thanks!” I think keeping things light and neutral really helps prevent a defensive response.

      Reply
        1. fposte

          I wouldn’t. The person who uses three question marks internally is an annoyance that I’d expect colleagues to shrug off. Making it sound like she’s off policy when really she just bugs you makes this a bigger deal.

          Reply
        2. FormerOP

          I’d phrase it differently if it is just a coworker, rather than a direct report. And of course with the caveat that this only applies to email-heavy jobs where communication style really matters. But yeah, at this point, how people write in emails is part of how we present ourselves at work and if someone comes off poorly it is good to let them know. For coworkers, treat it as almost a broccoli on the tooth thing.

          Reply
    8. all aboard the anon train

      I do that when I text, but it’s usually to say something like, “can you believe that happened?????” I would never do it in professional correspondence.

      Sometimes these writing styles are quirks. I know I have a tendency to over use parenthesis and dashes (which I know drove my thesis advisor crazy in grad school) but it can be a hard habit to break. I think this might be something where you have to pick your battles. If it bothers you enough, I think you could just ask, “I’m just curious, is there any reason why you use so many question marks in your emails?”

      Reply
      1. EA in Partly Cloudy Florida

        I’m guilty of parentheticals (and nested parentheticals) in professional communication. I blame it on too many years of writing functions and If-Then statements in Excel. That, and having learned Scheme as my first programming language.

        Reply
    9. Sugar of lead

      When management at my job texts us about picking up extra shifts they do the exact same thing: can you work a night shift monday????? Unless this person is really close to you I’d just roll my eyes and live with it.

      Reply
    10. De Minimis

      My former boss used to do something like this, instead of just asking when something might be ready, she’d send an e-mail with a subject like “Budget report?” and then have “??????” in the body of the e-mail. Of course, when it’s your boss, not much you can do.

      Reply
      1. Teapot Librarian

        Ooh, this is much worse than the OP’s coworker. This is rude; the OP’s coworker is just unprofessional.

        Reply
    11. Stranger than fiction

      Well, I’m a smartass and my work environment is somewhat lax, so I’d reply asking her what’s up with all the question marks and add like two entire lines worth of them myself.

      Reply
    12. The Queen of Cans & Jars

      I’m in agreement that you should let it go. If it’s really driving you crazy, maybe bring it up with this person’s manager to see if they’ll say something.

      Reply
      1. Product person

        Talking to the manager sounds overkill to me. I’d let go, but if it was bothering me too much, I’d have a face-to-face conversation with the person, and say something like,

        “You may not have realized, but when you include multiple question marks in your emails, it can look like you’re criticizing people for not having already provided the information you’re asking for. Just a perception thing that you might want to be mindful of in the future.”

        Reply
    13. Mona Lisa Vito

      My mother-in-law is an Administrative Assistant for a few VPs of a very large international company. In email, she does odd things like put spaces between her words and exclamation points, like this !! Every time !! She will also take an existing email thread from, say, last week and change the subject line to a new subject and start an entirely new conversation. This is all seen in personal correspondence (but sent from her work email account), so I have no idea if she’s doing this in business communication as well. What do you think? Worth mentioning that she should probably change these habits or let it slide since she’s in her mid-sixties and only has a few years left before retirement? I presume that if her VPs had an issue, they’d mention it to her directly, but that’s not always the case. I would hate for her to look like she’s out of touch with the norms of digital communication given her age.

      Reply
    14. Zip Zap

      I would ignore it unless it really, really pushes your buttons. Eventually, someone will say something. You’re better off being the easy going, tolerant co-worker in that scenario. Or you could say something in person.

      Reply
      1. Zip Zap

        Agh, my phone went crazy and submitted this before I was done typing. I was going to suggest bringing it up in person, not my email, so it doesn’t sound confrontational. You could just ask why she uses multiple question marks and then let her know, in a helpful way, that there are certain standards for business emails. The mentor not critic approach.

        Reply
        1. Zip Zap

          One of the things I learned in the business world was that bad news (or anything that could be construed as such) should be given in person. If that’s not possible, pick up the phone. Email, chat, and text messages should be reserved for neutral and positive things. Except in circumstances where there needs to be a written record (resignations, official complaints, etc).

          Reply
  6. LO

    I have an interview on Monday for a contract recruiter position with a staffing agency. I have done light staffing related work (phone screening/interview set up/orientation activities in sales and environmental consulting environments), but do not have years of experience in this industry. Can anyone with experience in recruiting share some insights with me about the industry? Questions I should ask at the interview? Things to watch out for? Is starting off at a staffing agency a good way to build transferable experience? I would eventually like to do recruiting in an HR/on boarding capacity.

    Reply
    1. periwinkle

      I haven’t been in that world for a long time, but still read an amazing site called Fistful of Talent. The contributors post about different aspects of HR but the strong focus is on recruiting (both internal and agency). I recommend spending some time this weekend exploring the site and absorbing a wealth of insights. I don’t always agree with their perspectives but I do always learn something!

      Reply
    2. Chicago Recruiter

      Is it a recruiting role at a staffing agency or would you be contracted through the agency working for a company?

      Reply
      1. LO

        In the beginning, I would be contracted to work for the agency working with a specific company. After a time, I would be hired directly to the agency to do full-time recruitment.

        Reply
        1. Chicago Recruiter

          Keep in mind that agency recruiting is a sales job, not an HR job. If you aren’t comfortable cold calling and using aggressive sales tactics on both clients and candidates, it won’t be for you.

          Reply
          1. Champagne_Dreams

            All recruiting is sales, agency or not. Recruiting is half marketing/sales, half HR. Even if you’re not selling to get new clients for an agency, you’re selling candidates on the gig and hiring managers on the right type of person they should be looking for / the right way to market the position / the right way to interview candidates. You’ve got to have a persuasive bent.

            Reply
    3. Recruiter

      I’ve been working for a staffing agency for 3 years. It’s a super hard job due to the lightening fast pace and the fact that it is a sales job as well as dealing with a lot of facets of HR. The questions I would ask in the interview would be:
      1. Clarify wage and commission structure. For example, I am salaried at a fair rate for not having a degree, and even though my corporate pays out a lot of commissions, the branch I work in is very small in a highly competitive market so I don’t earn a lot of commissions. Like I haven’t had any in 6 months.
      2. Ask about dress code. Some agencies require you to wear a blazer and slacks/skirt every day. No thank you! My agencies is nice casual and allows dressy jeans since we handle a wide variety of positions from light industrial up to professional and tech jobs.
      3. How many hours do they work regularly? Being salaried in this industry can eat you alive because the work is never done and there is NO downtime. If you aren’t constantly working like crazy, you aren’t making money. So 70-80 hours can happen all the time. I refuse to do that thank goodness and I’m good enough at my job that they don’t push for it. I’m the exception though.
      4. Are you responsible for finding and landing new companies on your own or just for feeding leads to a sales manager?

      Best of luck to you!!

      Reply
  7. Zip Silver

    I wonder if this is common or if y’all agree/disagree. I work in a field where I have about 20 other managers don’t the same thing I do in other locations, and we all have the same boss. I’ve recently received some advice from others in the field (not necessarily from people in my company) that it’s best to aim for mediocrity, that way you stay off the radar for being an underperformer (a good thing), but also not to overachieve, because you’ll set yourself up to have to continue operating at that level year-over-year, and it’s worse to drop from top to middle than to aim for the middle consistently. At the moment, my goal is to be a top performer and promote up/job hop in 3-5 years.

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    1. katamia

      I understand their logic, especially if the field doesn’t seem to handle people taking sick leave/needing to leave early for family emergencies/whatever very well. That advice probably works well for some people. But their career goals also might not be in line with yours–if they’re planning to stay in the same place/job for a long time, then that advice makes a lot more sense than if they all want to keep advancing the way that you want to.

      Reply
      1. De Minimis

        Echoing what katamia said. This is an okay strategy if someone wants to stay in the same job/company long term, and if they don’t think they would succeed at a higher level. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’d use the word “adequate” instead of “mediocre.”

        If the person giving the advice has been there a long time, I guess it’s worked for them….

        Reply
    2. msmorlowe

      I would assume that anyone telling you this is following their own advice, and I really can’t see why anyone else would want to follow advice given by someone who describes themselves as mediocre.

      Reply
      1. Liz2

        Well there’s a bit of honesty to it. No one is truly a super star at everything. And I agree if their career goals are simply to be the consistent solid work in work out person forever- well every team has one of those pretty much and it works fine for them.

        It’s similar to advice to people to not perform so good they get promoted to management- because management doesn’t really do the job they are great at.

        All depends on where you want to go.

        Reply
    3. all aboard the anon train

      I’m starting to believe the mediocrity bit, only because I’ve always aimed to be a top performer and it’s made managers take advantage of me. I’m the one who gets more work without a promotion and everyone gets the same raise/bonus/perks so an underperformer gets the same compensation as the top performer, but the latter does more work. When promotions come, they skip over me because they don’t want to have to replace me with someone mediocre or underperforming. And then when I’m burnt out and disgruntled, if I start to slip up, that comes down harsher on me than it would someone who is mediocre.

      It’s hard because when I start a new job, I want to show the company and team that they were right in hiring me, but it always ends up backfiring.

      Reply
      1. Kix

        Preach, All Aboard! This is my current situation. I’m also held to a different standard, and I’ve recently come to the conclusion that working hard and being good at what I do doesn’t get me anywhere. I wish I had an answer other than “find another job.”

        Reply
        1. all aboard the anon train

          Yes. I’m held to a different standard than my coworkers who are underperformers and basically it comes down to me feeling like I’m being punished for being a good worker while slackers are being rewarded for bad behavior.

          Reply
          1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

            I hear ya, Anon Train. It’s the same with me. I guess it’s true- No Good deed goes unpunished.

            Reply
          2. Nic

            This this this this this. It’s hard not to be bitter at CurrentJob where my efforts are appreciated because of how many times just those things happened at OldJob.

            “Oh great! We doubled your workload and you managed to still get it done at the quality level we require, so now we’re going to double it again!”

            Reply
        2. A Person

          Can I join? I’ve had two miserable conversations with my boss in the past two days. Somehow, he expects me to both put work into improving the culture/professionalism of the office (he has told me I’m the most knowledgable and skilled of the staff), and not step on anyone’s toes whilst doing so. I wish I could just schlub along and not care but my god, it’s driving me up the wall. I just want to be left alone so I can quietly prep for the training course that’ll get me out of there.

          (I had a freelance job Monday. It was so lovely. Competant staff doing useful things. So amazing.)

          Reply
      2. Tris Prior

        I’ve had this experience too. I was always a top performer, and all that got me was more work, more overtime, worse clients and worse projects because “no one can handle this as well as you can,” and literally being expected to save the company from having projects taken away from us.

        I ended up completely burned out, and I left when my “reward” for all that work was a pay cut (but I was supposed to be grateful because they laid off almost my entire team but spared me).

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          I have been there too because is was ‘reliable’ and produced great work. If you are in an environment where promotion is not possible than it might be good advice; but if you want to build a career then you have to be aggressive about working with bosses to map out career progression not just sit there and continue to take on jobs no one else wants or can do and grind out more work. There is a line between office drudge and up and comer; it is of course blurred by sexism most places where bright and shiny young men may be guided upward and women taken advantage of, so women need to be pretty overt about their career development and not wait to be singled out.

          In the long run I got promotions that others of my sort did not as a result of my work but I still made a lot less and worked a lot harder than many who didn’t do that quality of work.

          Reply
        2. all aboard the anon train

          I feel you. My manager must have a second sense knowing I’m complaining about this because I just got an assignment because I’m his “top person” that another coworker slacked off on since May, and now needs to be turned around by mid-August or the department will lose a budget item. So, I’m being punished for being a “top worker” by fixing a coworker’s mistakes and inability to do their job and that coworker didn’t even get reprimanded.

          So glad it’s Friday.

          Reply
          1. Soupspoon McGee

            Oh geez. I had a manager who told me we worked at a place that, once you pulled a rabbit out of a hat, expected you to constantly pull rabbits out of hats. Sounds like you’re in a similar scenario.

            Reply
      3. Accountant

        So much, this!! My husband was stuck in the same job for years and would get passed on for promotion after promotion because he was too good at his job. That’s what they would actually say to him when he would ask why he didn’t get the promotion he put in for! He ended up getting frustrated and left, well they called him a year later to offer him the job he always put in for because no one else worked out! It’s too bad that people don’t just get rewarded for hard work, smh!

        Reply
      4. DDJ

        The perception that “extra work doesn’t count for anything, so why should I bother?” is so, so terrible. Not having that perception, but the fact that companies allow it to be perpetuated. Unfortunately, you might not know if a coworker received less of a raise or a smaller bonus or is on a PIP or has received a reprimand (unless you’re in a job where those things are public knowledge somehow?)

        I think, unfortunately, that you might be dealing with crappy managers. Great managers don’t stall an employee’s professional development because “they’re too valuable.” That’s some nonsense is what that is. If you have top performers and you want to retain them, you make sure they have opportunities to progress in their careers. I mean, you’d think they’d WANT to promote you, so that you could have some say in who the person filling your role would be. You could be training another amazing, top performer and instead your management team is remaining short-sighted. I’m sorry that you feel that way. And I truly hope that you’re able to find a company that values the work ethic you’re bringing aboard.

        Reply
        1. all aboard the anon train

          I’ve worked at three companies where this has been the case. Where raises/bonuses and PIPs are known (it’s always been announced and listed & everyone gets the same amount) and where people, myself included, have been told no promotions because no one else could do the job as well.

          I’m just starting to think that’s the way it is because it’s always come from the top down each instance.

          Reply
          1. DDJ

            That’s terrible, I’m sorry to hear that. How demoralizing! That’s bad managers managing bad managers managing bad supervisors.

            I’m thankful that my company’s bonus program actually factors in results from performance reviews, and the performance review process is such that no edits can be made to the document unless they’re signed off by the employee (it’s an electronic, third-party document system), which means you can’t have a situation where someone has an awesome performance review, and then their manager edits the review to put the employee in a less favourable position so they don’t have to give a raise/bonus/promotion.

            That being said, a lot of people get rated as “achieved expectations” when they’re actually NOT achieving what they should be, but I think it’s because there are some managers that don’t want to have those difficult conversations.

            I’ve read a few comments on AAM about how coming from toxic work environments really skews your view of the workplace and how things are “supposed to be.” As I said before, I really hope that these are three really unfortunate instances where you’re being taken advantage of, and that your next opportunity puts you into a much better position for growth and development.

            Reply
    4. Stranger than fiction

      I’m not going to say this is right or wrong, but I know where it may be coming from due to some experiences of people close to me.
      I have one friend in particular who seems to get taken advantage of job after job. He’s the type that always goes above and beyond, yet instead of getting promoted, he just gets more responsibility piled on him. In some instances, it’s clear he outshines his boss, and they feel threatened and they try and keep him under their thumb so the top level mgmt doesn’t see it, and sometimes even take credit for his work.
      So whoever is saying this may have had similar things happen to them.

      Reply
    5. CAA

      I think this comes down to how do you want to see yourself and how do you want others to see you? This is a very personal thing, but I just feel happier overall when I know that I am giving my best effort to the employer who hired me and is paying me in good faith, and that I am doing the best that I can as a manager of the people who report to me. I actually don’t care nearly as much about how the higher-ups see me, but so far at least, acting with integrity has mostly worked in my favor with them too.

      I can understand the point of view that says employers don’t care about their employees and will happily let people go with no warning; and that people who don’t work as hard still get the same goodies, so why should I even try. I have felt that way too on occasion, and there have definitely been times that I’ve had to consciously adjust my attitude and remember to stay professional while working on getting into a better position.

      Reply
    6. (Mr.) Cajun2core

      I have to say that it depends upon your environment. In my current situation, being mediocre is the only way to go. Initiative, hard work, a strong work-ethic, and dedication are not rewarded. Further, as someone said above, staying off of the radar and being a “yes” person is the best bet where I work.

      Reply
    7. LKW

      It’s entirely dependent on your goals. If you want a promotion then it’s typical to demonstrate that you can meet the demands of a higher level permission. If you want to job-hop, and if you plan to use your current supervisor as a reference, then be somewhere towards the top of the pack.

      You should also think about how your company operates. Are top performers kept where they are but just given more work with no title, money or other reward or are they rewarded / promoted?

      If you want to meander, then mediocrity is a fine path. I see nothing wrong with it. Eye rolls are triggered when people who are mediocre want unearned promotions.

      Reply
    8. Rusty Shackelford

      I think the word “mediocre” is problematic here, because you’re really talking more about being adequate, or average. And I’ll just put out one bit of anecdata here… I knew someone who worked on a line in a factory, and the long-timers always complained about the newbies who worked super duper hard to beat their quota and get a bonus. Which suddenly made sense when TPTB said “since it’s obviously possible to produce quota+10%, that’s your new quota.”

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Ditto here. My father was a designer. Famous Employer told him he had to help reduce costs by x %. So he did that. His reward for doing well was the following year his goal was 2x %.
        A bit of myopia for this company, I thought. People could have been doing productive work instead of reinventing the wheel and it became a huge time sink as people struggled to reach their higher goals. It also really angered people and there is no accurate measure for how much angry employees cost the company. Meanwhile my father had $2k in precious metals sitting in his desk drawer that he was not allowed to turn in.

        Reply
    9. A Person

      It depends on what you want.

      I have two co-workers at my level who are quite happy to plod along and stick with their current gig because the work-life balance is good, the money is pretty good for the amount of work and the level of responsibility is fairly low.

      On the other hand, I’m prepping for the next level qualification and considering long term trajectories which honestly, my current company won’t provide.

      As for the drop from the top to the middle point, it happens. The main things are to keep your options open, be willing to learn/adapt and take precautions for your wellbeing.

      Reply
    10. Not So NewReader

      My number one thought on this is ALWAYS do your own thinking. Do not allow others to sway you.

      It’s best to think about these things when we are at home and away from biased influences.

      I have been that hard worker, you know, the one the boss says, “I can put three people on it or I can put you on it.”
      I’ll tell you, first hand, it does sharpen you. Done for a sustained period you can feel yourself zooming out beyond your coworkers’ understanding of the job, you know the nuts and bolts of the job like you know how to breathe.

      Then you go home and fall down. The day is over.

      That is when I learned something I feel is very important. One should work at a sustainable pace. Set a pace and keep it day in, day out and year in, year out.
      Okay, so what does sustainable pace actually mean? It means that if you give so much of yourself at your job that there is nothing left of you when you come home, then you have given your employer too much. In an odd turnabout, it’s unethical because you are cheating YOURSELF. Quality of life and quality of health are actually more important than a job. If you can’t function when you get home or if you can only do the barest minimum to get by then you are depriving yourself of having a life. Annnd you are depriving your loved ones of your company and of the benefits of having you in their lives. This is not right.

      There are variations in pacing. Some people can sustain a higher pace than other people. Some people are willing to take on harder stuff and they are actually fine with it. We can’t look at the person next to us and use that person as a gauge for what we should do. We each have to figure it out for ourselves.

      OP, you have a plan. My FIL used to say, “Sometimes you have to keep your own counsel.” Stick to your plan, OP. You have a goal, an intent in mind. Keep following it.
      Last, my wise friend used to say, “Watch out for people who tell you to do less, be less or have less. Watch out for these folks. Every time you hear that ask yourself, “What is this person’s motivation for telling me this?”

      For myself, I have days that are much more productive than other days. Some of that is my own doing and some of that is circumstances surrounding me.

      Reply
  8. Rude Office Staff

    Hi Ask A Manager

    I have question about business practices of a company used for a personal issue. Before I go into detail, I want to preface this by saying in my personal life I am very careful with money. I have a lot of financial goals and every penny is allocated accordingly. I am not one for a spontaneous shopping spree, wreckless spending, eating out often. I have a budget and I stick to it.

    I had to go to a medical specialist. My company had switched medical insurance recently. In the long run it was beneficial out of pocket wise, but short term my costs were all over the place and higher than expected.

    I was having hard time figuring out costs, what was covered, etc. Before making the appointment I explained the situation and specifically asked if they had a payment plan option. I was told that most patients paid in full, but a payment plan should not be a problem. I was told verbally I could mail in what I could. I asked for this in writing, but was told it is not necessary. Based on our state laws as long as one is making a good faith effort to pay every month this is acceptable. I wanted to be prepared if I got stuck with a $1000 bill.

    Thankfully the bill after insurance was not too expensive, about half of what I estimated. Unfortunately due to some recent beyond my control expenses it was difficult for me to pay all at once. I had planned on spreading out the payment over 3-4 months.

    Every other week I was called by someone in their billing department demanding full payment; getting lectured on how they provided a service and it is rude of me not to pay; I was constantly reminded that they sent me the test results before getting full payment… I started letting their messages go to voice mail, but honestly they reduced me to tears at times. At one point I was told they were tired of calling me and I should just pay the balance on credit card (since when is using my credit card anything you have a say in?); another time I was told if I went out to eat during the week I should have the money to pay them (didn’t realize they were a financial planner in addition to a doctor’s office)

    My medical issue turns out to be fine and I have recovered 100%. The doctor wanted to do a 6 month follow up. I am getting ready to make the final payment (in month 4), and I’m done with them. Now I have the office calling me to make the follow up appointment. The calls are getting more and more frequent.

    I am disgusted by this office’s practices. I’ve run into the owners of the office at professional networking events. They are very friendly, professional. They wouldn’t know me personally but might by sight between this being a small town and the larger area networking events. I would like to email them why I will not be using their services again. I did my due diligence before making an appointment with them; asked questions; I never flaked out on them payment wise. Their constant calls, lectures, and (in my opinion) harrassment is uncalled for. What gets me is that this office is well known and highly recommended.

    I’ve since found another doctor to do the follow up. The new doctor is just as respected, they are willing to work with me given my insurance situation and even put this in writing upon my request.

    In all honesty my writing the original doctor is more me venting about how they run their business. Is it a good idea to let the doctor know of their staff’s behavior? I am justified in my annoyance? Is this crusade just blowing things out of proportion?

    Reply
    1. Mehkitty84

      I am so glad that your health is improving and the added stress of the office I am sure didn’t help. If it were me, I would write a letter to the owners. Also, you might want to write a review either with the better business bureau or a social media platform if you are comfortable. What their billing department is doing is harassment and I know with credit debt also illegal in that case. I would draft the letter with facts and try to word it as if I was the owner I would want to know. Also, a timeline would help as well in the letter.

      Reply
    2. NaoNao

      It almost sounds as if the office staff may have contracted out to a collections agency, because I used to work for one and members of my team used to say similar things (“just ask a friend for money”).
      If this is the case, I would let it go because collections agencies are just like this, sadly.

      If it is the staff, I would for sure tell the doctor. I would basically lay out the facts only, with as little emotion as possible. I know it’s hard–I once called a collections agency with every intention of calmly laying out the facts and when they answered I blew up and was yelling. Not cool, and they were all like “may I speak now?” in a frosty tone. Ugh.

      I would explain the following:
      I was told multiple times that a payment plan was okay. I was making payments on that plan.
      I informed the staff of changes to the payment plan in advance.
      I made payments on x date, x date, and x date.
      Despite this, I received calls on x date, x date, and x date (if they contacted you on a cell phone, take a screen shot of your call log and make sure the dates are written down—it’s much more impactful to be able to say “June 1, June 15, June 20, June 25 and June 30, I received calls from your office” than “every week”)
      On the first call, I spoke with the office staff, explained the situation, and my intention to pay.
      They told me…(what you said)

      Good luck!

      Reply
      1. CAA

        This is good advice about keeping your letter concise. If you want them to read it and act on it, then it has to be no longer than a couple of paragraphs — much shorter than what you wrote here, though of course you included extra info for us that your doctor would already know. If you have the names of the people who told you it was o.k. to pay over time, then make sure to include that info.

        Reply
    3. WellRed

      Oh my goodness. Please let them know about the aggressive behavior. I mean, telling someone “if I went out to eat during the week I should have the money to pay them” is beyond boundaries.

      Reply
      1. Hedgehog

        I would guess that the billing is farmed out, just because most of my drs do that, and there may be a miscommunication between the person at the office who told you that it wouldn’t be a problem and the billing people who never heard about your conversation with the office. I’d call whoever you talked to in the first place and bring it up with them and ask them to pass this on to their billing office or billing contractor. And I wouldn’t hesitate to bring it up with the doc at your follow up visit either, because Im sure she doesn’t want people who ultimately represents her office, whether they are her employees or contractors.

        Reply
      2. LJL

        years ago, when I was living paycheck to paycheck, I had a collections agency call me on Sunday morning. I told them that I couldn’t talk as I was on my way to church. The woman told me that I should be sending the money to them instead of putting it in the collection plate. Infuriating!!

        Reply
    4. Drago Cucina

      Please let them know about this type of strong arm behavior. I would politely tell the doctor’s office that it was so bad that I had been thinking of making a complaint to the state attorney general’s office. I would prefer to give them the opportunity to correct the problem. Not a threat, but they should know that the behavior could trigger a report.

      Reply
    5. kittymommy

      Yeah, it sounds like a collection agency, regardless I would write a concise, non-rant letter to the owners with a cc to the doctor if they are not an owner. It’s information that they should be aware of.

      Reply
    6. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

      I think a letter to the doctor is critical. I used to work for a medical office and we had a similar situation. I was the assistant to the office manager and when the doctor found out what had happened, he was so angry. He met with the office manager and the employee causing the problems. Then he had a full staff meeting where he made sure that everyone was aware that they were working under HIS name, HIS reputation. He would never treat a person the way that patient had been treated. That is something that really sticks in mind – as employees, you are working under the company’s name and reputation as well as the names and reputations of those in your chain of command.

      Send a letter to the doctor as well as the office manager. List dates and times and that this harassment happened. And explain that you have already found other care and will not be recommending that practice to anyone.

      Reply
    7. OhNo

      As others have said, it sounds like they might have contracted out to a collection agency for this. Those tactics – especially the calling constantly – sounds very familiar to all dealings I’ve had with collection agencies.

      Honestly, I feel like that’s all the more reason to let the office know your experience. If it is an outside agency, they might drop their connection to it if they know they’re losing patients due to shady practices and harassing tactics on the agency’s part. If nothing else, it might give you some closure to just tell them that you didn’t appreciate their behavior, even if nothing comes of it.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Agreed. And OP, from what I have seen in my life this is fairly normal stuff.

        I remember my mother died, my father had not even buried her and the nursing home started calling and calling asking for their money. Finally I caught one of the calls and I ripped that person a new one. Yeah, it was ugly.

        In a lighter story, I incurred a small ER bill. I had no money at that time so I agreed to pay $5 per month. I would simply not eat for a day or so and then I would be able to pay. Well. The collection agency called and called. Finally I ignored it. So they started sending me letters. In their last letter they told me they “were returning my account to the creditor for them to follow up on”. The way it was written I could tell they thought they were scaring the crap out of me. I was bent over double laughing. I had made timely payments to that creditor each month and I was better than half way paid. I shrugged and threw it in the garbage can.

        Do let the doc know. And you have anything in writing from the collection agency bring in copies to give to him.

        Reply
    8. Artemesia

      Doctors employ people who will do this for them. They authorized it but in a way they can pretend to not be money grubbing and sympathetic. You can certainly push back; you did everything right and they still hassled you, but don’t count on the doctor actually caring.

      Reply
    9. Marisol

      You absolutely have the right to give feedback to anyone who you pay for goods or services. Whether or not your complaint is “reasonable” or “justified” is beside the point–although in this case, I do think it’s justified. You can’t control the effect of the feedback–it may help improve the practice’s billing behavior, or it may have no effect whatsoever–but regardless of the specifics, I don’t think it is ever inappropriate to tell someone that you gave money to what your experience was like. Do it.

      Reply
    10. MsChanandlerBong

      This is awful. Yes, you received a service, but you didn’t just refuse to pay. You called ahead and asked if you could do a payment plan, and they agreed. This reminds me of the time I had an arterial blockage and had to have a stent put in the blocked artery. I wasn’t in the hospital two hours, and the billing office was calling me to ask if I could give them my debit card number over the phone (they wanted $400). My doctor was furious when he found out they did that. Maybe the owners aren’t aware that the staff members are doing this? Or maybe it’s a third-party collector.

      Reply
      1. nonegiven

        Some person calls on the phone and says you owe money. You’re supposed to just pass out your card number to some person you don’t know calling from a number you don’t know? LOL

        After I see my EOB, you can bill me for the amount it says you can. Then I will pay.

        Reply
    11. Is It Performance Art

      Definitely contact the office and your insurance company. Even if the doctor isn’t in network for you, they may be in another of the insurer’s networks. The insurance company has a lot of financial leverage and they know that people will switch plans because of the doctors in the network.

      Reply
  9. Elsa

    I’m about to (hopefully, if all goes to plan) complete a Master’s degree. I’ll be applying for full-time positions soon, and I’m wondering how to order things on my resume. (I’ve had 5+years work experience before doing the degree, but in a completely different field).

    If chronologically, then my current internship would come first – and it’s technically the most relevant to where I want to go, but I’m only one month in (for a three month placement) and won’t have that much to write under ‘responsibilities’ or ‘achievements’ yet. I have plenty to write under my last job (the 5+yrs) one, but as I said it was a different field altogether.

    Also, in the cover letter should I talk more about work experience or the stuff I learnt on the academic side? The assignments I completed for school are more in line with what the work would involve, but that’s not exactly professional experience. Some of the professional stuff I’ve done is actually quite high-profile, but again, wrong industry.

    So yeah…how to organise?

    Reply
    1. Izzy Legal

      One thing I’ve started doing lately in resumes (and it’s worked for me) is having a “Summary” section at the top, where there are three or four bullet points about my current work, expertise, etc. Maybe you could include that with a bullet about your current internship, then your education, then your previous experience.

      And then launch into deeper explanations down below that? Keeping the expanded sections (internship, education, experience) in the same order as the summary bullets.

      Reply
    2. Not a Real Giraffe

      Relating to the cover letter, if the academic-side stuff is simply what you’ve learned about but not actually put into practice with measurable results (grades don’t count), then I would leave it out and instead focus on how you can translate your actual work accomplishments into relevant experience for the job you’re applying to.

      Reply
      1. OhNo

        This. Unless it was a major project that impacted a place outside your school (like an external practicum, or major project for a program partner, or something), probably not worth having in your cover letter. There are slightly different expectations between work produced for school and work produced for, well, work, so academic projects wouldn’t really fit.

        However, since you have some previous work experience, can you see any crossover between the work you did for class and work you’ve done at past jobs? It’s definitely worth highlighting similar projects from prior positions, even if they were only a tiny part of your overall duties.

        Reply
    3. SFsam

      I finished a masters last year and it was a major career shift, so I understand the challenges! Here are some things that worked for me.

      A) I have a summary at the top of my resume that’s a few sentences about who I am. I try to tie all my various professional experiences together and highlight some major accomplishments.

      B) my resume is chunked up by type of work, with highlights below. I.e., “Consulting,” “Communications,” etc. then under each, I may have something like, “led a team of graduate students to devise indicators of impact for teapot university alumni board” and then “briefed board members on indicators of impact,” etc.

      As for cover letter stuff, I focus on telling the story of who I am and what I’ve brought to my jobs and why I’ve been successful. Because even though the responsibilities have changed, I haven’t.

      And as far as addressing school stuff, I don’t go too deeply, with a few exceptions. Mine was a professional degree that people in my field almost all have, so we all have a baseline of what classes I’ve taken. But I do highlight that I took some finance/accounting classes, because that’s a concrete skill. And I also took advantage of as many client projects as I could and describe that work. I may have been graded instead of paid, but I still delivered products and value to my client.

      Reply
  10. Lucie

    I posted back in January about making the jump back to my old company that I had left for $$ reasons about a year previous. My old boss matched everything I have been back since March and it’s been amazing. I am so happy to be back it’s no longer painful to get up in the morning and go to work every day.

    Thank you all so much!

    Reply
    1. D.W.

      Good on you for recognizing that your previous employment was indeed the best option and taking the chance to go back. And even better that it proved to be a good move!

      Congratulation, that’s amazing!

      Reply
  11. Catherine

    Does anyone have tips for how to deal with mild face blindness when starting a new job? Once I see someone a few times, it’s no longer a problem, but before then it’s kind of awkward. I look at pictures, but sometimes people look quite different in person. Or I focus on what I think is a distinct feature that the person has changed since the picture was taken. I’m sure it doesn’t help that I’m nervous about forgetting.

    Reply
    1. Qmatilda

      I’m totally upfront with people I meet in work settings, “I have some facial blindness so I’m sure it will take me a few times to make the connection in my faulty wiring.” Or something along those lines

      Reply
    2. JanetM

      I don’t have face blindness, but I am awful at remembering names (in my defense, I’m trying to work on this). I have found in social settings that, “Hi, I’m Janet, I know we’ve met but I’ve lost your name?” works pretty well. I don’t know if that would be feasible in a business context.

      Reply
      1. Neosmom

        Excellent. I use something similar:
        “I’m so sorry. Your name ran right out of my brain …”
        Only on very rare occasions do I have to add, “Please help me out.”

        New employees are on information overload for a while and,OP, your co-workers will understand.

        Reply
    3. fposte

      I’m with Marzipan–“I apologize in advance, but I’m terrible with faces, so I may reintroduce myself to you a few times before it eventually takes!”

      Reply
    4. Murphy

      I second what Marzipan says. My husband is terrible with names, and he always tells people this as soon as he meets them. “Hi Jane. I’m terrible with names, so please forgive me if I forget yours.”

      Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Meant to add, I noticed when working for a much larger company that we would run into the same people over and over in the break room, etc. but we didn’t introduce ourselves to start with. There were several people on my floor I saw nearly every day for FOUR YEARS and I still don’t know their names. I don’t know if it was because we were in different departments and so weren’t that interested in learning each others’ names, or if people were self-conscious about asking, especially if they weren’t good at keeping track of them.

          Reply
      1. OhNo

        Yep, I do this, too. After I’ve asked someone’s name, my stock follow-up is “I may have to ask you a few times”. Honestly, every time I’ve said that, people seem relieved! At least half of them say they’ll probably have to ask me a couple of times to remember, too.

        If you don’t want to mention face blindness specifically, you can just say something about connecting names with faces taking some time for you. I feel like that’s pretty common, so I doubt anyone will even blink an eye over it.

        Reply
    5. Old at Heart Millenial

      Research has shown that saying an individual’s name when you see them increases your brain’s facial recognition. Try to be more deliberate in addressing individuals in passing, which will also allow you to begin to recognize voice so you aren’t solely relying on faces. Honesty works well too. I find myself telling individuals that I am terrible with both names and facial recognition so that they weren’t under the assumption that I just didn’t care to put in the effort.

      Reply
    6. curmudgeon

      I have, more than once, introduced myself to someone I’ve been working with for weeks after they buy new glasses or change their hair or if I know there are new staffers in the office that I haven’t met.
      Yeah, embarrassing.
      I just apologize.

      Reply
    7. anon24

      I’m terrible with matching faces to names! My one job I worked in a department with about 20 people. I was so lost for the first 2 months. People would tell stories about other co-workers and I had no idea who they were talking about, even though I had been introduced to everyone. Then, when talking to a co-worker I just confessed I was having trouble. Prior to that job I had worked in the automotive industry and for some reason I’m really good at remembering people’s cars. I actually told my co-worker yeah I can’t remember faces but for some reason I’ll remember people by their cars. I just meant it as a haha aren’t I weird comment, but he actually pointed to everyone and said “that’s Jane, she drives a Ford Taurus, and that’s Fergus, he has a Subaru WRX, etc”. After that everything clicked and I had no trouble anymore!

      All this to say, is there a way you can associate some other weird thing to remember their names/faces? Oh, and I see nothing wrong with admitting up front “hey, nice to meet you, I’m terrible with names and faces so it might take me a couple times to remember you, sorry”

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Saying up front “I am terrible with names” can be a release in itself. Once dragged out into the light of day the problem can become less of a pressure cooker.

        I have scarring on my ear drum. So I miss little nuances. PEACH. Right now I have to pronounce a Russian surname that must be 16 syllables long. All I can do is tell the person, “I am embarrassed that I am not able to get this right.” And I just keep trying. That is all we can do.

        Reply
    8. JeanB in NC

      I agree with the others – just tell people you have face blindness. I’ve worked at my current job for 2.5 years and I still can’t place all the faces with names. I just say, “I’m sorry, I have some face blindness, can you remind me who you are?”.

      Reply
    9. Jules the First

      I’m upfront about it – I just warn people that I’m face blind and a) it will take me a while to learn their names and b) I need them to remind me they’re from work if we meet out of context.

      The other thing that really helps is to enlist a nearby colleague who’s good with names so that they can fill you in on who just dropped by to ask you about something.

      Reply
    10. Rookie Manager

      I’m not sure if this will help you but I draw maps of where people sit. I do this in meetings where there are new people/other departments/external agencies but also a couple of times when I’ve started in larger offices. It really helped me match people, names and job roles. Good luck!

      Reply
    11. another person

      I tell people this and it usually goes over well (although some people do get really upset that I’m not making the effort to learn their names–even though I will study before group meetings with pictures, etc which makes me think I’m possibly putting in more effort than normal). But I have really bad faceblindness where I sometimes don’t recognize my husband (or my parents or my sisters…) and usually if I can mention that in a story, it helps people understand the extent of face recognition problems I deal with. (I am good with names though, so if you tell me your name, I can usually match it up to the last time I was talking to you).

      Reply
    12. Zip Zap

      I have a different thing that sometimes leads to misunderstandings so I can relate. There’s that fear that some people will judge you. But I think being direct and straight forward is the best bet. If I met someone and they told me they had face blindness, I’d appreciate their being upfront about it. I’d probably even make an effort to help them identify me like pointing to some other feature that would be easier to remember.

      Reply
  12. Simplytea

    I’m in my mid-20s and have Resting Blank Face. I like to think of it as a not-as-intense version of the previously mentioned RB*tchF in the AAM piece here: http://www.askamanager.org/2016/03/my-boss-keeps-telling-me-i-have-a-face-on.html. When my face is relaxed, it looks like I’m concentrated but a bit bored and blank. To add to the fun, my introvert-ed nature leads me to over-analyze my every action when I’m interacting with others–especially based on dreaded facial expressions.

    For informational interviews, or in general when you’re listening to someone and absorbing info, what are good default facial expressions? Right now I default to smile-ish with head nodding, and then a “hmmmm…” look when people say something of value (little bit of furrowed brow). Can I go back to my regular face (which may be intense)? Should my eyes be wider to express interest? Are there different situations in which you’re listening and have to have different faces on?

    Help!

    Reply
    1. Snark

      As someone who’s been told that he looks like he’s peering intently into a microscope with a slide of anthrax or Ebola on it when he’s focusing, I find that making sure my forehead and eyebrows are relaxed, mouth relaxed, occasional interested nods at appropriate points, and maybe that slight relaxed smile-ish thing going on gets me looking more “what you’re saying is fascinating” and less “I am burning a hole in your shirt with the focus of my gaze.”

      Reply
    2. Rache

      When I met my current boss a few years ago, he told me that he has a “processing face”… and that if it appears he’s looking blankly at me while I’m talking, he’s assuring me that he’s fully listening but he’s learned that it doesn’t always look that way. It instantly made a world of difference in our communication. Sometimes honesty is best – people will be happy to know this and you won’t have to constantly monitor your facial features at the same time you’re concentrating on the conversation.

      Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      Move your head ever so slightly one way or the other.
      Nod.
      Blink once in a while.
      Move your eyes around, if they are pointing to something on paper, look at the paper. Use eye movement in ways that seem logical.
      Say something to show recognition or agreement. “Ahh, I see.” or “Okay, sounds good.” Sometimes people just want to know you will do something so you can indicate, “I will take care of that right now.”

      I am not good at sitting or standing perfectly still, so I shift around as I talk. You can move weight from one foot to the other, you can move your hands as you talk, or you can change angles where appropriate.

      Watch other people who you admire and see if you can copy the best of their best ideas or come up with a your own variation.

      Reply
    4. Marisol

      I think it would be best to practice in a mirror or with a friend (or even a life coach) to determine what works best for you, but what I try to do is hold my mouth in a very weak smile. It’s less effort than trying to relax a furrowed brow, and that brow relaxation tends to happen automatically once my smile muscles engage. If my brow remains furrowed, however, then the slight smile still cancels it out and prevents me from giving an angry vibe–at least I think it does.

      Reply
    5. AnonAcademic

      I have full on bitchy resting face and what I find is that opening my eyes a bit wider in response to what people are saying ensures I can’t furrow my brow in concentration, which makes me look angry. I also try to mirror body language and I’m aware that at rest I look pretty frowny so I will do the half smile as well.

      Reply
  13. Commenting on AAM

    I’m embarrassed to ask this. I actually have a question for commenting on Ask A Manager! I love this site, “meeting” people from all types of work life experiences. I enjoy reading the comments and looking at scenarios from a different angle.

    How do AAM readers handle it when you don’t agree with something and it turns into a debate? or if you give an unpopular opinion? Do you just agree to disagree?

    I sometimes feel like I am having to justify things way beyond simple a blog post. If we were in person it would be a great friendly discussion topic over lunch but that’s not possible here. In the end I feel “guilty” for my comment. Please know I am polite and professional in expressing an opinion, nothing malice, nothing to intentionally stir controversy. I’m giving my opinion based on my work experiences, that’s it.

    All this comes to mind because a few weeks ago I made a comment. The topic involved an area I was passionate about and had recently witnessed something similar at work. An employee was wronged in a big way that resulted in them having an office outburst. There was a lot of talk as to how management handled the situation. I agreed and supported with the popular consensus. However I also added that if I were the wronged employee I would have handled the scenario more passively for legal reasons and handled a management / HR discussion much much more aggressively to come to a solution. I followed with my reasoning. I even included some info that the key players in my real life work experience mentioned they had done (with their permission).

    Holy Moly the responses caused a thread of lecturing and had me feeling so conflicted over a 4 line comment. Only 1-2 people agreed with my comment. Obviously responding to the 15-20 comments disputing my comment would have just stirred the fire more. We were all entitled to our strong opinions (and i want us to discuss / debate them!). For some reason I felt like I did something wrong for having a different opinion. I even stopped commenting on AAM for a while. To be honest the discussion made me want to explain my side more but also got me thinking about other factors I hadn’t thought about. At the end of the day though, all new factors considered, my opinion hadn’t changed and I quietly agreed to disagree.

    Yes I know I am being too sensitive and taking things too personally. As I said, I enjoy AAM and want to hear different opinions. I want to know how would you would respond to a disagreement of comments with other readers.

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      I think it’s hard because generally, people are more inclined to comment on something they disagree with than to reply to a comment to express complete agreement. So it feels like everyone disagrees with you, when it’s probably just half the people. I try to compose my comments in a way that expresses my opinion but makes it clear that I’m open to other viewpoints – and I think as a whole, most commenters here do the same – but I know it doesn’t always come across that way.

      I think it’s reasonable to engage in a friendly debate until you feel tapped out and then “agree to disagree.” You’re not always going to change someone’s mind, just as they aren’t always going to be able to change yours. I think it’s important that we have a diverse set of opinions on AAM and I would hate for someone to stop commenting because they have a viewpoint that’s different. (I will admit that sometimes I’ll spend 10 minutes composing a response, only to think “eh it’s just not worth it” and then delete it.)

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I agree with a lot of this, especially the second paragraph. I think what we struggle with is often putting a period on the sentence. For me it helps to have a mental exit strategy that isn’t getting everybody to agree with me. Is it having to go do something else? Thanking people for some valuable input? Saying “agree to disagree”? Saying that huh, looks like my viewpoint isn’t as common as I thought, whaddyaknow? Saying that’s interesting, and you’ll have to think about the points people made?

        Reply
        1. Commenting on AAM

          I actually have used the “That’s something I haven’t thought of, very interesting point of view, definitely something to think about”. Usually that gets things to a neutral position. I’ve even had someone do the same for me! I guess I was frustrated because with the specific post from above, when I said those things, one particular commenter kept the ambush coming saying along the lines “now you’re just saying that”. I found it a little insulting, but truthfully I was trying to look at things from their point of view. I’ve gotten some great responses to my query today and realize that sometimes there truly are two sides to the story and we’re not all going to agree. I agree that it can be a little surprising when you think you have a passionate point of view and realize it’s not as popular as you thought. I guess it’s just how to say I respect your opinion, I will consider all angles and the interesting factors I didn’t think of, please do the same for my point of view.

          Reply
        2. paul

          I’ve been trying to ask myself if its worth the mental energy before I engage. I can enjoy a good argument, but I don’t think that’s what Alison wants on her site, and frankly, I’d rather reserve more vigorous discussion for people I know IRL (it’s easier to stay nice/not get PO’d IRL vs online, for me anyway).

          Reply
      2. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

        “People are more inclined to comment on something they disagree with than to reply to a comment to express complete agreement.” I don’t typically reply to say “+1” or “Me too!”, because I read sometime, somewhere, that it was cluttering up the comments (although, it wasn’t necessarily even on AAM, because I remember random information pretty well, but not necessarily the source thereof).

        Reply
      3. Amber T

        Oh the amount of times I’ve started typing out responses, then just meh-ing out of it. Done it both agreement and disagreement with the comment I’m responding to.

        I definitely agree with your first point – if I see someone has posted essentially what I wanted to say, I won’t comment (other than with the occasional +1 or something similar, but I’m slowly doing away with that).

        Reply
        1. Not a Real Giraffe

          I’ve stopped doing the +1 or similar, too, since I think there was discussion a while back about how the general consensus was that this was annoying. So I definitely think it’s more likely that if someone is going to respond to your comment, it’s going to be a contrary opinion.

          Reply
          1. soupmonger

            I do wish there was a ‘recommend’ or ‘like’ option for comments, though, because sometimes I’ll read a comment and think ‘yes!’ And want to flag that somehow. But I can’t. I don’t do the +1 as I find it irritating, but some comments are so spot-on that I (almost) want to.

            Reply
        2. Nic

          It is for this reason I really wish there were something like a “like” button. That way we could show our agreement without clogging up the thread.

          Reply
    2. Rebecca

      I tend not to argue in comment threads, but sometimes I forget my own rule and engage. Whenever that happens, I regret it! I’m definitely not being the change I wish to see, but I think online threads in pretty much all communities (minus maybe the late-great The Toast) are too contentious to have real disagreements that don’t get toxic.

      Reply
    3. LCL

      If someone responds to something I posted and it is clear by my response they didn’t quite get the gist of what I was attempting to say, I will post a clarification. Or if I think more information will help the discussion I will add to it. But if it is a matter of disagreement, I read what they say and then just move on.

      If I post something and someone responds with something really dismissive, like wow or way to be a jerk, I just ignore them. Because while they probably have good counterarguments to what I posted, they obviously are using the opportunity to demonstrate their moral superiority instead of addressing what I said.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        I feel like that last issue has started looming large in my experience of the comments lately. It’s not just a friendly disagreement or a hey, did you realize that was a little dismissive of X, it’s your post is disgusting and wrong and how dare you. It gets exhausting.

        Reply
          1. Snark

            Maybe I just have started noticing it more, or maybe it’s been directed at me more lately (in which case, I could probably evaluate my posts better before I post them.)

            Reply
            1. Queen of the File

              I hope this isn’t out of line to admit–when I first started reading comments here I did sometimes find some of your input a bit… abrasive? (really mildly–I don’t think I ever responded). As I’ve read you more I now have a much better idea of how intelligent and balanced your opinion is. To be honest, I think your user name biased me a little. It’s on me, not you–but it may partly colour some of the responses you receive.

              Reply
              1. paul

                There’s a few commentators–myself and Snark and Observer among them–that tend to eschew a lot of softening language and protracted disclaimers and provisos, particularly in a forum like this.

                I know in my case it’s come across as maybe a bit harder than I intend a couple of times, but it’s also just so damn ridiculous to have to spend more time qualifying what you’re going to say and softening what you’re going to say and limiting what you’re going to say than you spend actually staking out your particular issue on the topic at hand.

                One that comes to mind is someone arguing that we all needed to be expressing more empathy for a hypochondriac that was negatively impacting their workers; condition or not, the behavior was bad, and they weren’t even the one to write in, so how much time are people supposed to spend hand wringing over their condition and how hard it is in this context?

                Reply
                1. oranges & lemons

                  Ha, it’s interesting that you mention that case in particular, because that’s one of the topics where I really had to pull back although I had a strong opinion that seemed to be in the minority.

              2. Snark

                That’s fair – it’s actually a username I’ve been toting across half a dozen sites and….yikes, about 16 years – and I barely think about it anymore. But I can see how that would tend to bias some.

                And, like Paul, I think I tend to not soften my language as much as some, for better or worse, and with mixed results.

                Reply
          2. LCL

            I think part of the issue is the stream of consciousness nature of writing that happens in real time. It’s easy to respond quickly, sometimes too quickly. My professional written communication is considered and reviewed and proofed and I remove all the typos and fix the subject/verb/tense agreement problems. Here, not so much…

            Reply
          3. kittymommy

            Interesting you’ve noticed it for about a year because it was around that time that I first noticed (and of course to a comment I made) this.

            Reply
            1. Queen of the File

              There’s a thing that happens with anxiety where if your general anxiety level goes up, it tends to make your reactions to your specific anxiety triggers more intense and more frequent. For example, if work is stressful and you have a big personal conflict happening, suddenly you’re freaking out about something that wouldn’t even normally hit your radar (please forgive me for really oversimplifying this for the purposes of this comment).

              I wonder if this is true for internet commentary as well–I would say the tone across many sites has become more combative and polarizing within the last year, so maybe we are feeling an intensification here as well. Since we are witnessing attack/defense commentary more overall, maybe we are (subconsciously?) more ready to see it in situations where we would normally not be.

              Reply
                1. Queen of the File

                  Me too!

                  I think I am feeling this in particular when I think about facebook. In 2015 most of the commentary I read was banal and supportive. Today I barely go on because there is so much arguing. I’m not making a good/bad judgement on it, just noticing that there’s a LOT more conflict.

                  I think it has altered my baseline expectation of how people interact with each other online. It’s not something I thought about before today, but I do think it’s possible I am subconsciously reading more intentional provocation into innocuous comments than I would have a year ago.

        1. Back to Hibernation

          I have noticed that more over the past year or so. I have actually returned to lurker status and haven’t been commenting as often because, well, I had a couple of weeks where one commenter in particular seemed to nitpick every.single.comment on every.single.thread basically telling me I was awful for my opinions, lying, judgmental, entitled, privileged…. I took some time off and realized if I roll my eyes and move on I still get enjoyment out of the blog, whereas if I engage and get attacked I get all riled up and it IS exhausting.

          Reply
    4. Queen of the File

      I’m not the most experienced commenter by a long shot, but for me… in general I have to consciously practice letting things go online :)

      I am pretty conflict-averse in both real life and online and I also like to have friendly debates. For me, my goal is to try to avoid derailing the overall topic by more than one comment unless someone asks a question about my post or I really feel like I mis-spoke and people are misunderstanding. Nuances are lost in typing (especially when trying to be concise) so I don’t usually make my points as well as I want to. I also have to resist the urge to stew about what I said and how I said it.

      Commenting, unlike debate, isn’t win/lose. So really it doesn’t matter if people disagree with what you post (or if you disagree with them). I think it’s good to consider the alternate viewpoints, especially when many people disagree with you, but to me the main benefit is in thinking about those alternatives and weighing them against my opinion rather than responding to them.

      Reply
    5. Snark

      “Holy Moly the responses caused a thread of lecturing and had me feeling so conflicted over a 4 line comment.”

      Yeah, I’ve gotten the same reaction a few times lately, and it’s really been disheartening. There’s a small minority of commenters – and I believe it’s a small minority – who are hypervigilant, and hyper-reactive, to statements they believe could be interpreted as problematic, exclusionary, or just not quite woke enough, and their response is to nitpick wording to death and dissect your imputed motivations in the name of defending those you marginalized. And it has the paradoxical effect of making this place seem more hostile, not more welcoming. We all make statements that are generalized, or not fully explained, or not thought through, or even unconsciously problematic, and I think a lot of folks need to keep in mind that when that happens, it’s probably not because the person is ageist or racist or ableist or a scenery-chewing Disney villain, and to give people the benefit of generous doubt.

      I dig myself in deeper because I argue like a German Shepherd plays tug-of-war, but that’s my fault and my row to hoe.

      Reply
      1. paul

        Like complaining people might be discriminating against a minority religion because they got mad about the boss that was telling his female employee to cover up her ankles and neck?

        Reply
      2. Merci Dee

        This is something that I’ve noticed lately, as well, with the small minority. There have been several times – even as recently as a couple of days ago — where I’ve read a response to a comment, and the only thing I could do was roll my eyes and keep scrolling. I get that we try to be mindful of the way that we phrase things here, and I generally think that it’s a good thing to be aware of the very human feelings of the people around you. At the same time . . . . I’d like to think that most of us are adults, and we don’t have to have someone jump in to monitor and correct our speech as though we were a group of rowdy preschoolers. I fully acknowledge that Alison gets to do exactly this as much as she wishes, because its her blog and she’s taken on the monumental (and often thankless) task of moderation. But it’s been my observation that Alison is fair-handed when she steps in, and that she feels the need to do so much, much less than some other commenters. Whether she feels the need to step in less because others are doing it more, however, is something I have no way to know.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The double-edged sword of commenters’ self-policing! When it’s to reinforce norms that are important here (like “that’s really unkind”), I appreciate it; I think that helps keep those things norms. But sometimes it’s more nitpicky than I would be, and then I don’t so much appreciate it. But I know I can’t pick and choose (“remind people of norms but only exactly the way I want you to, and you’ll have to read my mind to know what that is!”).

          Reply
          1. Merci Dee

            Read your mind to figure out what you want? No problem! I know I put my Johnny Carson swami hat around here somewhere! :)

            I have the feeling I just really dated myself! Anyone else remember that bit on the Tonight Show?

            Reply
      3. fposte

        I definitely suffer from can’t-let-it-drop-itis at times myself, and sometimes I have to laugh because I’m like “Sheesh, this person just can’t let this drop!” and then I realize that’s because I won’t let this drop.

        Reply
      4. Commenting on AAM

        Snark thank you for your reply. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one experiencing the disheartening feelings sometimes. I just hadn’t realized how my comment a few weeks ago had stirred up the debater in me.

        In my situation, I was never expecting everyone to agree with my comment and quite honestly I could understand (even partially agreed) why they didn’t. I was a bit surprised that more weren’t seeing how I was looking at things, but everyone’s comment regardless if pro or con had supportive backup. I respect that. In real life, I will stick up for myself however I also try to be someone who doesn’t rock the boat and looks at the bigger picture. In my comment to the scenario I was looking at the bigger picture (the company taking time to fix the situation, the wronged employee’s long term career, how coworkers dealt with this) trying to overall make sure the wronged was righted; where as many of the commenters said I was basically “punishing” the wronged employee.

        I was more frustrated not being able to communicate that yes I agree with you I just would have gone about things on a very different path. I got even more frustrated with just not being able to argue it with out this becoming a big debate where everyone was passionate about their response.

        I’m learning I should not take a post or it’s reply so personally. We’re all on AAM to learn and advise each other with Alison’s leadership.

        Thank you for your and everyone’s attention to my post.

        Reply
      5. oranges & lemons

        Yeah, I think this is an issue that plagues most forums that tend to be left leaning and/or social justice oriented. I wonder if it’s kind of the opposite side of the coin to internet trolls–people who are concerned about social justice often have to weigh how much and when we can address instances of bigotry in our workplaces, social circles and so on, so when we find a climate that allows or encourages us to do it, we go a bit overboard. This has chased me away from a few online forums since it gets really hard to wade through after a while.

        Reply
    6. T3k

      It wasn’t so much as a disagreement one time, but more of people reading too much into semantics and it caused a few heated comments over a response I said to another poster. I’m not the best anyways when it comes to expressing myself in words, so that probably didn’t help matters. I did apologize, stating I hadn’t meant it the way some were reading it as, and thankfully the person it was directed towards understood.

      Reply
      1. Snark

        And even those who are good at expressing themselves occasionally fail to, and sometimes it’s just not possible to preemptively disclaim all possible misinterpretations.

        Reply
        1. Not So NewReader

          If someone wants to misinterpret words they will, no matter how carefully something is worded. All we can do is do our best. And for ourselves, if a comment seems ambiguous, try to hold the comment in the best possible light.
          I look at it this way. Right now, Alison gets more enjoyment from this than she gets worried from policing it. When that flips, when she is policing it more than enjoying it, then we are done here.
          We can’t make Alison, worry or work harder. If we do then we all lose.
          And to be honest, if Alison ever closed this blog I think most of us would feel a big loss in our lives.

          Reply
      2. Complainer

        This might not be the best way to handle it, but I honestly find it amusing after a while when people start debating passionately over minor semantics or get hysterical about arguments that are relatively mundane when you’re off the internet. This might seem kind of strange, but maybe …laugh at it? I’m sure most of the commenters here are reasonable people in real life who are driven to ridiculous levels of debate because …? I always find it a little funny and that’s how I handle it.

        I’ll admit…sometimes I read AAM because the drama of the comments section takes me out of the mundane of regular life.

        Reply
    7. Shiara

      I know that personally, when I post something that’s then disagreed with, it feels like I need to defend it or else nebulous bad things will happen like everyone seeing how wrong I am or clearly they’re misunderstanding and I don’t want to be misunderstood or just it feels wrong and it’s bad.

      But when I read an interesting perspective, even if I don’t agree with it, I still find it interesting, regardless of what the follow up comments think about it, or how many people have replied to disagree, and if there’s a lot of comments disagreeing, I’ll probably just skim or skip most of them.

      So I try to remind myself, when posting, that that heat of the moment want to clarify/respond/defend I’m feeling as a response to people’s responses to my comment, are not how most third parties are going to be feeling when reading the discussion. For them, the discussion isn’t a debate happening in real time. If my point was worth posting, it’ll probably stand on its own without need of defense. If it’s not, subsequent arguments probably aren’t going to make it more valid (unless there’s a genuine misunderstanding that I want to clear up, or I have a genuine change ore refining of opinion I want to express.)

      Serving as a forum moderator in a pretty popular fandom forum did a lot to teach me that the person with the last post in a contentious thread isn’t the person who “won” the argument. The winner, if anyone is the person who made a clear point, and then left deciding who was right as an exercise to the reader rather than continuing to reiterate it.

      Reply
      1. Shiara

        Another thing I do to try not to take disagreements personally is to remind myself that the person they’re disagreeing with isn’t me. It’s a collection of words that I put together, but the replier has read their own experiences, current mood, the last argument they had on the topic, perceived tone, etc, into it. And it’s that amalgamated collection of things that they’re disagreeing with, not me.

        Depending on the comment, it may be worth sifting through the response post to find the bits that actually do disagree with what I said, and then thinking about them seriously. But it also may not.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I really try to remind myself of this, but I feel like my jerkbrain is all like “You are WRONG and I WILL BURY YOU.” And I’m like “Yes they’re wrong but” and jerkbrain is like “I AM VINDICATED!”

          Reply
        2. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

          I really appreciate your first paragraph especially. That’s a great way of thinking about it, in my opinion.

          Reply
        3. paul

          Unless someone says something that’s pretty hard not to view as a personal attack, I try not to take it personally. None of us know each other IRL after all.

          Reply
        4. fposte

          I also find that getting away from the screen for a while breaks the “someone is wrong on the Internet” spell, and that later, when the heat of the moment has passed, I’m more “Well, whaddya know” and less righteous trumpets.

          Reply
    8. Oryx

      I actually had a discussion with my therapist about this exact same issue a few months back because I found myself in the same situation. I honestly was having a horrible day because some strangers on the internet disagreed with me and it got heated.

      I have learned that I have to just let it go and sometimes that means completely disengaging and just walking away from the conversation. If it’s a situation where maybe I didn’t make myself clear, I will rephrase my stance to clarify my position, but if it starts to escalate, I agree to disagree , exit the thread and just not return to that particular thread.

      Reply
    9. Complainer

      I’ve noticed this as well. I think it’s just the nature of communities getting larger. They get harder to police and become less a community and more…a country? So, you’re more inclined to disagree in a ruder way when it’s an anonymous stranger online vs. someone you’ve gotten to know over time through an online community. I just think it comes with a territory.

      I’ve noticed it manifests sometimes on the site as mass hysteria over things you may not get hysterical about in real life. Like, advising the OP get a lawyer when the situation in no way calls for that and other sort of hysterical arguments or advice. I think it’s a mob mentality type thinking and I absolutely fall into that, even after laughing at myself or others for doing the same.

      I don’t tend to always agree with everyone (in fact, I think I’m often a devil’s advocate), but the rudeness is really hard to avoid when the community just gains a lot of traction. I’d say, leave rude comments and be and it’s a pile-on, feel free to continue stating your opinion as it’s good to have a diversity of opinions, as long as you’re being respectful.

      Reply
            1. neverjaunty

              I meant that it seems a lot of people are using this particular comment thread less to talk about feeling piled-on generally than to take swipes at people they disagreed with from past posts, and snarking about “hysteria” and “mobs” and similar doesn’t really seem keeping with a preference for a kinder, more civil site.

              Reply
              1. Complainer

                Whoa, I assume you’ll never see this comment but that wasn’t said snarkily at all. It was intended neutrally. I think you misconstrued the tone of my post, which can happen on the internet. I also almost never comment (mainly lurk), so this doesn’t have to do with previous arguments with commenters.

                On another note, some posts DO become heated and there’s a lot of emotion, drama, and rudeness that likely wouldn’t exist outside of the internet where we’re less likely to inhibited. It’s not stated snarkily, I think it’s really human nature and everyone does it. I apologize that it came across that way, the snarkiness of the community really gets to me occasionally so it makes me sad that it appeared like I was joining in… :)

                Reply
      1. Don't turn this name into a hyperlink

        Your comment about the community here getting larger (including me as a newer member) makes me want to belt out “Wake me up, when Eternal September ends…”

        Reply
    10. Not So NewReader

      I don’t always bother, I think there is enough upset in the world and I don’t really need more.

      Sometimes I will go back and see that someone has replied with whatever and I just say to myself, “Okay, then. That is that.” I just don’t want to sink any more energy into it.

      I will say, that since Alison has said “do not engage people acting in a difficult manner” I have seen more times where the whole group will not respond to a comment. I am very proud of us for that.

      Reply
    11. Essie

      There are certain people I always completely ignore. You learn the community over time: so-and-so is intentionally abrasive to stir the pot, see-and-see always has to unravel a thread to microscopic levels, saw-and-saw has to PC something to death. If something gets out of control, I also tend to CTRL + F for the commenters who are always rational and well-spoken.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        I kind of wonder which group I’m in. I apologise if it’s one of the first ones – I know I have my moments. I try not to though.

        Reply
        1. Essie

          I know Alison wants to prevent overly cliquey stuff, but since you asked: you’re one of the names I search out for good posts! Particularly since you have an international perspective.

          Reply
            1. Merci Dee

              I agree with Essie about your more international view point. It’s fun to see where we’re different, but still so much the same. People are people, you know? We generally want the same things, even if we go about it different ways because of our particular cultures.

              Reply
          1. nonegiven

            I do like learning how employment law is different in other countries, sometimes I wish I knew which countries. Is the US the only bad place among ‘1st world’ countries. (If we still count as 1st world, I’m starting to wonder.)

            Reply
    12. OlympiasEpiriot

      My biggest thought if I’m about to post something that might result in conflict of some sort on any commenting thread or message board is “do I have the time to respond to people or engage with them, or am I going to be dumping and running if I say this?” I don’t go looking for conflict, but I think I generally am fairly straightforward-to-blunt and sometimes that or the opinion I’m holding can engender disagreement. Or, I might just not have been careful enough in crafting my sentences — totally mea culpa there — which leads to either misunderstanding or a different track that I didn’t see coming and that I also would need to engage with.

      I worry more about insulting someone from ghosting than from bluntness or being opinionated. I mean, when someone takes the time to respond, whether or not they agree, I sort of feel like it is a gift.

      Also:

      To be honest the discussion made me want to explain my side more but also got me thinking about other factors I hadn’t thought about.

      I find that pretty cool, but considering we all have other work to do, it can be stressful, too, to think about and absorb new ideas (even if we end up personally discarding them) AND stay on top of other duties. So, for me, time management becomes part of the equation.

      Happy you’re here and commenting, however infrequently, though! One message board I used to spend time on had an emoticon of a hippie with a peace sign rotating on an upturned finger. I have an urge to use it here. Please imagine it for me!

      Reply
    13. OhNo

      I’ve definitely had this happen before, too. The first time, I tried engaging and explaining my point of view. But that just ended up stoking the fires more (as you noted), and just left me feeling like all of the commenters who were blowing up my thread were just using my continued presence as an excuse to yell more about their opinion without actually taking what I said into consideration. I realized that it wasn’t good for my mental health to do that, so now whenever I drop a comment that I think might blow up, I just leave it and don’t look at that entry for at least the rest of the day. Usually after a day or two, I’m far enough removed that I can read the replies without feeling attacked. And I do read the replies – like you, I like to hear different opinions, and take those into account to inform my own.

      I have to say that I really like how this commentariat doesn’t (usually) drag debates from one post to the next. If we have a disagreement on one post, it stays there and I can leave comments on other posts the same day without worrying that someone’s going to start in with the “And another thing!” in a different place. That makes me feel way more comfortable voicing a dissenting opinion.

      Reply
    14. Ramona Flowers

      Honestly, if it starts to bother me I just stop reading that thread and move on with my life.

      Reply
      1. just sayin'

        And I’m glad they didn’t, because I don’t usually read the Sunday forum, but this was an important thread for the community!

        Reply
  14. Nervous Accountant

    Question about going through recruiters.

    So I mentioned it briefly before that I’ve talked to a recruiter. I turned him down bc I wasn’t ready, but I referred a coworker. I then became interested and started speaking with recruiter. After our meeting, he asked me to send my references and tweak my resume and I haven’t heard back. The meeting was 2 weeks ago on Friday (14th), and I sent him the info on the following Wednesday (19th).

    I reached out to him yesterday (26th) to refer another cw, and that seemed to jog his memory about me.

    Back when I was job searching, I had a bad experience with recruiters. I’m still optimistic now, but what should I expect this time around?

    -Was 2 weeks a normal amount of time to wait to hear back?
    -Does it somehow look bad on me to refer multiple coworkers? Because I’ve now referred 2 so far, and put my hat in the ring, and I have a few more I’d love to refer.

    Reply
    1. also an accountant

      I’m not a recruiter but work for a placement agency. 2 weeks is a long time for a recruiter to just touch base for the initial conversation. The recruiters I work for always ask for candidates to keep them in mind if they know anyone job searching, but always keep your name available as well. I personally would wait to refer more candidates to them until you are comfortable with how the recruiter operates. Do you work well with this recruiter? Did they listen to the type of job you are searching for? How prepared was the recruiter when speaking with you – had they reviewed your resume? Is the recruiter or an associate reachable if you have questions? Recruiters can get busy, so I (you) should follow up with them every few weeks. Personally I would hold off recommending anyone else until you can see the recruiters work or at the very least have a phone call with them.

      Reply
      1. Nervous Accountant

        Oh dang. Yeah, I was getting concerned because another cw I’d recommended was in talks about an offer within 4 weeks. so I don’t know, if I just didn’t interview well (he asked why I was looking to leave, we talked about salary, what’s important to me etc) and I dont’ know if he didn’t like my answers, or I’m not a strong candidate. Oh boy.

        Reply
        1. also an accountant

          I didn’t mean to freak you out. I just meant it more as the placement agency seems to be benefiting more from your relationship than you are with them. They also might not have a good fit for your right now, they could be overworked, my guess you have a new recruiter who doesn’t know how to handle things. I’d be professionally blunt – what can i do to move the process forward? do you need any additional information from me? also if you aren’t happy with the recruiters answers ask to speak to another recruiter (call the main office); say you are in the system but don’t feel like you are a good fit with the recruiter – you last spoke 4 weeks ago and wanted someone who would be able to keep you up to date a little better. Remember a placement agency wants to place you, they make money off your accepting a placement. It could be there is nothing available to match your experience right now (inmy opinion that’s no excuse for not keeping you posted). From personal experience, not from my employer, I’ve found that if you currently have a job agencies tend to beef up the job hunt once you are unemployed. If you have a job they can take their time in the search. There are a whole lot of factors to consider. I wouldn’t worry too much but I would definitely keep on top of keep in touch with them,be proactive. Good luck with your search. Keep us posted.

          Reply
    2. Michael Scarn, CPA

      I have been finding in my local job market that there is such a need for talent that recruiters who used to respond to me right away either take a few days or don’t respond at all. One who took a few days to get back to me replied to my email at 2:30 AM. I think they’re just so busy now. But I think that 2 weeks is more than enough time to follow up.

      Reply
  15. BioPharma

    Quick rant: voicemail from recruiter (after reverse search of #) simply saying “Hi BioPharma, it’s [name]. I need to get in touch with you urgently, please call #” THAT’S IT.

    Reply
    1. Izzy Legal

      Ugh! That’s happened to me too. It’s always a cold call; I think it’s a trick to get you on the phone again.

      Reply
    2. CAA

      I have gotten those too. I have decided that if someone I’ve never heard of really needed to reach me urgently, they would leave a clue in the message. Like “it’s Officer Doe from the xxx city police department”. If they don’t give a company name or reason, then it’s definitely not urgent for me and I’m ignoring them.

      Reply
  16. Junior Dev

    I’m burning out at work. I’ve hashed over the details a million times and don’t want to go into them now but I will summarize by saying that a lot of stuff is being done in a way that is shoddy and poorly planned and when I try to offer suggestions for improvement people either ignore them or argue with me that they aren’t needed. It is starting to seriously affect my health and job performance.

    I have talked to my therapist about this and she suggested I take a week off from leaving comments on people’s code submissions or offering any sort of opinion that isn’t specifically asked for. (This may sound weird but a major cause of my stress is the sense that I put a lot of work into giving feedback that feels unappreciated, so I’m going with it, just to see how it goes.) Can anyone offer suggestions to actually put this into practice? Mantras to repeat to myself when I’m inclined to offer an opinion, ways to hold myself accountable to this and reflect on it? Tips on actually working on my own stuff during pointless meetings, so I won’t be tempted to comment, without looking blatantly rude?

    I’d also love general advice on dealing with the “I care too much” variety of burnout.

    Reply
    1. NaoNao

      OOH.
      I’ve been there.
      My mom has too–she’s an editor slowly losing her mind at her job because no one listens to her.
      I had a boss once who explained “It’s our job to develop the training. They pay us to do that. Whether or not they actually use it (and they hardly ever do!) is up to them. That’s not our problem. We did our job.”

      One thing I tell myself over and over “They don’t pay you for your opinion. They don’t want it, they’re not going to listen to it, and it may even backfire.”

      I choose *one* hill to die on per project and my mantra is “I have no horse in this race.” or “I’m just here to do what you guys tell me” (said lightly).

      I then focus on areas I have complete control over and try to knock that out of the park.

      Reply
    2. Rusty Shackelford

      I don’t really have any suggestions but I just had to say thank you for using shoddy instead of shotty.

      Reply
    3. Yzma, Put Your Hands In The Air!

      I’ve found that sometimes giving myself a minimum amount of time to think things over can help. Something that I get outrageously frustrated over one day usually doesn’t seem as bad the next day (most often because it’s not an immediate pressing thing anymore). I think, for myself, that I tend to feel like “If I don’t do it now, I can’t come back to it later…it MUST be done now or never!” But that’s not usually the case, really. If I’m in a meeting, and I have some concerns about the plans laid out, I’ll keep thinking about it until at least the next day before I decide to speak up about it (barring something huge that I’m the only one in the room who realizes). If it’s something that’s really important, my input is still going to be valuable 24 hours after the initial conversation.

      Reply
    4. LKW

      Sometimes you have to let people fail. It sucks, but you can’t save the world and you can’t do everyone’s job for them. If someone asks me for a review, I often request what perspective they expect me to bring to the table. Am I SME in a particular area? Am I reading for flow? Grammar? Why me? With that it sets it up as – if you are asking me for this work, then it’s because you think I have information or knowledge that you need. Which means you’re not going to ask me to do this for fun just so you can ignore it.

      If the work is truly shoddy then I will make general comments and then say I’ll review when it’s updated because it’s clearly not ready for approval. I’ll note things like: You have a lot of typos and grammatical mistakes. The system name is spelled inconsistently throughout. It’s expected that code is commented in the following way ### and includes the following information…. I’d expect to see sections for this that and the other.

      Reply
    5. Stuff

      I sympathize a great deal. I’m in the same boat with the fun bonus of getting asked for my opinion that they don’t want.

      I’m a terrible liar so that’s out, leaving me with the kind of apathy suggested. But I’m not good at that either so I _sincerely_ hope you get actionable advice here.

      Reply
    6. Spice for this

      Junior Dev – I have had a very similar experience at former employer. This is what worked for me: Go ahead and write down your suggestions and/or improvements in a journal/on the computer/etc. This way you get a chance to record them and get them out of your system. Also you don’t have to share them with the people who ignore you suggestions.
      If by some miracle someone asked for your ideas, then you can show them what you have written down.
      Also, I came here to say that I do agree with the comment from LKW “Sometimes you have to let people fail.”

      Reply
      1. CrazyEngineerGirl

        I agree that writing them down instead of sharing them could be a really good idea. As long as it’s not specifically expected part of your job to give the feedback? That would make this much more difficult, but if that’s not the case I would definitely try writing them down as ‘Spice for this’ recommends. If it were me, I would likely end every entry with a silly mantra that would make me smile. Not my monkeys not my circus.

        Reply
    7. Mockingjay

      I completely understand. Most of my struggles at ExJob were because I cared too much. “Why do you want me working on X? I need to fix Y! Don’t you see?” (There were other major issues – it was a very toxic environment – but thanks to AAM, I was able to find something else.)

      I carried over some of this feeling to CurrentJob, which didn’t go well. Fortunately, I have a decent manager who summed it up: “You are very passionate about the work you do. You constantly strive for improvement and high quality, which are good things.” Then he gently reminded me that it’s his job to determine priorities. I can offer suggestions at any time, but when management makes their decision, I have get on board.

      It’s been about four months since that conversation, and things have improved for me. I’ve been given some control over my own small project, but it has to fit within the processes of the overall program, some of which are extremely outdated and slow. Updating to new tools is not a priority for the overall program. (“It should be! Don’t you see?”) In management’s view, the job still gets done – perhaps slower and with a few errors – but those are acceptable trade-offs because right now they are focused on another area of the program.

      I do get to implement some things for my project, but these improvements may not be carried over to the other teams. I’ve learned to be okay with that. The other teams have their own needs, and what is important to me is not necessarily a priority for them. Not right or wrong, just different.

      You asked for tips on how to offer suggestions. Have you talked to your manager about how to best present ideas? What fits your company culture? Is there a formal suggestion process you should be following but aren’t?

      Is it how your ideas come across? For instance, rather than individual feedback, could you develop a QC process or checklist to provide consistency when checking code? That’s something everyone can use and provides a positive message. (“I’m not pointing out error; I’m preventing error.”) Does your suggestion add value to the product or company, or is it a personal desire? Don’t try to fix everything. Pick one or two items; let the rest go.

      I think it’s great that you are passionate about the work you do. One final thought which has helped me: focus less on improving things and more on doing things, especially the parts of the job you really enjoy.

      Reply
    8. Jules the First

      As far as mantras go, I find that repeating “not my circus, not my monkeys” is actually very helpful…it kind of captures the absurdity of offering advice to people who aren’t interested (because really why are you caring if it’s not your party/circus) and emphasises that it isn’t your problem when the monkeys start throwing poo, because hey – not your monkeys!

      Reply
    9. Ramona Flowers

      Would it help to imagine an energy meter like in a video game? Your energy meter is at zero so you can’t comment – and then you check in with yourself daily to see where you’re at.

      Reply
    10. Henry

      I’m sorry you are feeling burned out. As a developer your attention to detail and continuous learning will help you achieve a lot. I would encourage you to work on your soft interpersonal skills and try to develop better relationships with your peers. We can all be a little territorial and feel personally attacked when someone criticizes our work. If your team doesn’t have that culture of sharing and openness then it can feel dangerous to expose yourself to criticism. If you are relatively early in your career, I would suggest you ask for someone else’s help or opinion even if you don’t 100% need it. Then they will be more likely to reciprocate. Sometimes it helps to broaden your perspective of your job. The user/customer and the business manager may never understand all of the tradeoffs and design decisions you make. Think about the real problem you are solving and step out of the weeds if you can. Software doesn’t have to be written perfectly from conception. Many times I look back on my own code and wonder why I ever took that approach. It’s hard to understand all of the assumptions and constraints that went into something’s implementation and those will evolve over time and then we can update/change it. Maybe it will help to write down your feedback or give it individually in a less stressful environment where it is less confrontational.

      Reply
    11. Chaordic One

      The only caveat to the advice given is that there’s a chance that after someone screws up (which they will do whether or not you comment on their work), someone will come back to you and say, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

      Do not say that you didn’t say anything because you knew they wouldn’t take your advice anyway. Instead say something like it didn’t occur to you that this would be a problem, or that you missed it.

      Reply
    12. Zip Zap

      I detach myself emotionally and think of the job as a role I’m being paid to fulfill. If that role involves accepting mediocrity without comment, so be it; that’s what they’re paying me for. Having projects of your own outside of work really helps. Then you can care about that and treat your job as financial support for the real stuff.

      Reply
  17. Zoe Karvounopsina

    One of my co-workers has given up sugar, and keeps mentioning it. Obviously I am very pleased for her, but, as a fat lady with body issues, I could do with not hearing her discuss it with her fellow weight-loss searching desk mates on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we are in an open plan office.

    I am having other issues with this colleague, but suspect they are at least partly because her abjuring sugar has reached BEC stage (or rather, B(n)EC). Headphones are forbidden in the office. Obviously, I can’t tell her to stop discussing her hobbies and interests.

    Where do I go from here?

    Reply
    1. Katie the Fed

      “wow, are you still talking about this” (that’s the slightly ruder option)

      or just change the subject every time. Or get up and walk away.

      Reply
      1. LCL

        Is she trying to discuss this with you? Or just with the other people in the office? If you’re not part of the conversation, learn to ignore it. If you are part of the conversation, tell her you remember discussing it with her already and have no more interest in the subject.

        Reply
        1. Zoe Karvounopsina

          I am putting all my energy into ignoring it, but it is not really working, especially since I need to be paying low grade attention to that end of the room in case of phones.

          I will try to improve my even breathing skills.

          Reply
          1. LCL

            One ignoring trick that works for me is to first spend some mental energy thinking of a pleasant physical setting I have been to, so will have sense memory of it. Then when I hear talk that I wish to ignore, I mentally go to that place. It only takes a second to go there. It is easy to leave the pleasant place to concentrate on work. Please note I am only suggesting this for normal workplace unpleasantness, not serious issues like PTSD.

            Really, ignoring people is a form of what used to be called multitasking. Modern science on multitasking is that there is no such thing, the mind is really just switching attention. Good multitaskers are fast switchers. You want to be able to switch your mind away from the sugar talk quickly. I was bless to be able to attend 2 open concept schools, one in primary and my high school, so I got really good at this. I think the open office concept blows, because open offices get too noisy for concentration.

            Reply
      2. Hedgehog

        That seems pretty aggressive. If the coworkers are happy to be talking about it with each other (as opposed to say keto-lady harassing people about their sugar intake), I don’t think anything remotely like that is called for. If it’s difficult for you to hear, I think you just need to politely say something on the lines of “All this diet talk actually makes it harder to stick to my eating plan [or whatever feels to you like a reasonable description of your concern]. Do you mind trying to avoid the topic when I’m in earshot?”

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Even that feels inappropriate. Policing people’s conversations you’re not involved in is….not a good look.

          Reply
          1. Hedwig

            Yeah, I agree, actually. I would only really advise that if this is more than just an irritation, but more like OP is struggling with disordered eating and actually needs to not hear these conversations. If this is more like when I used to dread Thursdays because all anyone at work wanted to talk about was the previous night’s episode of Lost and all I wanted to do was duct tape their mouths so they would stop, I’m more in the camp of grin and bear it.

            Reply
    2. Snark

      Bitch Eating (gluten free, low glycemic index) Crackers?

      I dunno. If it’s not directed at you, it’s hard. If you had a good relationship with this person, you could maybe take her aside and ask her to knock it off, but you don’t. I don’t think you can police her discussions with her desk mates.

      Reply
    3. Queen of the File

      Is it an option to let politely know how you feel? “Hey I’ve learned a lot about your experience giving up sugar but I am feeling a bit burned out on all the diet talk and find it very distracting now. Can we concentrate on other topics?”

      Reply
        1. Queen of the File

          I feel like conversations in open offices do kind of involve everyone… at least I feel that way here. Even if people aren’t participating in the discussion they are always right there, overhearing it. But yeah, it might not feel right to bring it up in lots of offices.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yeah, and I’ve got some regional baggage too – I’m from the mountain West, where I think the culture errs on the side of presuming the existence of privacy and boundaries, compared to, say, the South, where I think there’s much more of a culture of “if it’s in public, it involves everyone.”

            Reply
            1. bunniferous

              My husband is from the mountain West(Colorado western slope) but boy howdy are his conversational cultural practices as Southern as they could get.

              Reply
              1. Paul

                western slope represent! Nothing like sitting out getting drunk with your parents on a school night while the elk are calling and it’s just this side of freezing on a fall evening. No major cities and you can see the milky way…this time of year I miss the mountains.

                FWIW, having lived in more southern and more mountain places, I do see a difference in etiquette

                Reply
        2. V of Taco Trucks

          I would say that any conversation being had in the open can be remarked upon, and if I were saying something that were hurtful or even just bothersome to anyone, I’d want to know! Especially since this is an open office where headphones are banned, I don’t think it’s out of line to say something.

          I’ve had conversations like this with coworkers before, and the language I’ve used is something like, “I’ve known a lot of people who’ve really struggled with eating disorders, so it’s really hard for me to hear a lot of diet and body talk. Would it be all right if those conversations happen [in the break room/over there/over IM/far, far away from me]?”

          Reply
    4. paul

      Is the discussion directed at you, or is she talking to other people about it? If you’re overhearing conversations about what she is/isn’t eating, I’m not sure what sort of standing you have to tell them they can’t talk about that. If she’s trying to engage you in those types of conversations, you can disengage, change the topic, etc.

      Reply
    5. Tabby Baltimore

      Not sure this will work for you, but if your co-worker is talking about this with someone else, and both employees are physically close to you while carrying on, you could set a nearby timer (your watch, your computer, your phone) for 5 min. When it rings, you can turn it off and say “Excuse me, but I need to do some close reading/work calculations right now requiring pretty intense concentration. Since you need to have an extended discussion, I’d appreciate it if you could continue talking in the hallway/break room/conference room/other side of the wall, etc.” OR alternatively ” … I’d appreciate it if you could you please hold it elsewhere?” I’ve had some luck with this approach, maybe you will too.

      Reply
    6. Marisol

      I don’t think you can ask her to change her behavior without leveling with her. Otherwise, your request will seem unreasonable. I’d say something like, “Suzy, I have a big favor to ask of you. When I hear you discuss diets and weight loss, it makes me feel bad. You’re not doing anything wrong by talking about these things, but would you be willing to not talk about it in my presence?”

      A heartfelt request like that would be hard to say no to, whereas if you just act put-out by the conversation but don’t give a good reason, I don’t think you will come off too well.

      If that seems way too personal, then I think you have to live with it. I’d suggest earplugs, but you say you have to listen for the phones. You could google EFT tapping–you tap on acupressure points while talking about what bothers you–and do it on the topic of sugar conversations, body issues, etc. I do EFT tapping for things that bother me, things I feel insecure about, challenges I have, and it has never failed to help.

      Reply
    7. NoMoreMrFixit

      It’s been my unpleasant experience that people who give up a “vice” like sugar, booze or tobacco tend to do so with a religious fervour and feel it’s their personal responsibility to evangelize their new position on the topic to everyone trapped in hearing range. I’ve had so many dieting and weight loss tips shoved down my throat over the years that I have a hard time not going nuclear on people over it now.

      The best approach to take with these types is to ignore them. Telling them I’m not interested makes them double down on their efforts to save me. Getting rude makes me look unprofessional. If you truly can’t take it, get up and walk away for a minute. Get a coffee or something. Whatever gets you out of there for a couple of minutes.

      Reply
      1. Tabby Baltimore

        Yep, there’s a saying that describes these people: “The convert always sings loudest in church.” Not nice, but an often-accurate description, I’m afraid.

        Reply
    8. Not So NewReader

      Speaking as a person who actually gave up sugar, you’re haven’t totally given it up if you are still talking about it.

      You could remind yourself of that when you hear it.

      However, I think the best thing to do is to remind yourself that your irritation about the sugar is a symptom and not the actual problem. You said that you have had other issues with her. My guess is that if it wasn’t the sugar then she would come up with something else equally annoying. BTDT.
      You could decide to find ways to lessen or relieve the actual issues. I have used the little irritations that come along to remind me to work harder at resolving the larger issues.
      This does help. Because of stagnation. There is nothing worse than thinking a situation will not get better. Stagnation is a killer. Making a commitment* to finding ways to improving the overall situation can reduce the impact of the sugar convos.

      *Tricky part. Sometimes that commitment is just a matter of figuring out what hill to die on. She does annoying things A, B and C. You might decide that of the three B bothers you the most. So you will target B and see if you can make modest changes that improve things in some manner.

      Reply
      1. Her Grace

        Ooh, light bulb moment.

        “Your stomach might have given up sugar, but your head is still addicted.”

        I have people in my life that keep talking on and on and on about certain things. I’ve wondered why is it they keep going on about it. Now i know why; they haven’t let go in their head.

        Only after one has given up [whatever] in their thoughts as well as their stomach, had one truly given up [whatever].

        Reply
    9. Tuckerman

      I find that a lot of people who talk about how they’ve given up something end up re-using it. So, you may only need to put up with this for a short time.

      Reply
    10. YarnOwl

      I don’t really have a good solution for you, but as another fat lady with body issues I just wanted to say I’m sorry and I know how much this sucks! I love to bring treats every once in a while to share with coworkers, and the kind of comments they invite are absolutely exhausting. I hope you find a solution soon!

      Reply
      1. DDJ

        I have started cheerily responding to nasty comments.
        Them: Oh, that can’t be good for you.
        Me: I know, right? Oh man, it is delicious. Donuts are great!
        T: Hmmm…I really shouldn’t eat this…no…it’s not good for me. How are you eating that? Aren’t you worried?
        M: They’re super tasty! I would recommend you try them! If you change your mind.
        T: I wish I could eat that. But I can’t. I mean…it would be SO BAD.
        M: If you can wish it, you can do it!

        Now, it depends on who’s making the comment. If it’s a busybody who is trying to make me feel guilty for indulging in a treat? Not going to fly. If it’s someone who really CAN’T have something (like ice cream cake, but they’re lactose intolerant, or normal cake, but they’re gluten intolerant, that kind of thing), then I will go into commiseration mode. But don’t get all high-and-mighty with me and my delicious food choices.

        Reply
        1. Paul

          from what I’m reading they’re not commenting on her food choices; that’d be an easy call to tell them to stuff it. They’re talking about their own food choices.

          Reply
    11. Teach

      Is it wrong that I would be really tempted to rattle a few Mike and Ikes out of a handy jar and enjoy them while gazing blankly at Sugar Lady? Or unwrap a little piece of gourmet dark chocolate and cheerfully explain its healthful antioxidant properties? Just me?

      Reply
  18. Sugar of lead

    So here’s a question I asked a while ago but I’d still like a couple of opinions about it. It’s already over and done with so this is all the retrospectoscope.
    What would you do if:
    You were going about your business one day and happened to run into a new hire, of about six weeks. You don’t work closely together and have only run into her once or twice.
    Conversationally, you ask her how she’s enjoying working here. She responds that it “kind of blows.” You ask why. She says that she can’t stop making mistakes that she should’ve stopped making ages ago, and that her coworkers hate working with her because of this, and people keep making fun of her and she’s confused all the time because she can’t tell what’s a joke and what’s serious. You offer some kind of platitudes about learning from your mistakes and move on because you’re kind of on a clock.
    After this encounter, do you or do you not tell management what she said?

    Reply
    1. katamia

      I remember I answered this question before (I was generally on the side of not telling the manager about her comments, IIRC, but maybe giving a heads-up about the bullying). Are you comfortable with sharing how it all turned out? I was really curious.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      Question in return: it sounds like this one is nagging at you–do you think there’s an answer here that will give you peace? Are you being eaten by what-ifs? Because I don’t think being confided in made you responsible for her.

      Reply
      1. Sugar of lead

        INTERESTING YOU SHOULD ASK.
        I’m actually the coworker who hates her job in this scenario. I probably shouldn’t have said that this job kind of blows, but it was all there on the surface and it just came out before I could think it through. My coworker (“Carter”) did talk to management about what I’d said, and since we spend most of our shifts outside the office, my partner that day and I got pulled off the street because management wanted to talk to me about it. They said they wanted to help me, and that they wanted what’s best for me, which thanks to my childhood made me super twitchy, and as usual for management they totally missed the point and kept asking if I needed more skills training. I let them think they’d solved something and moved on. Later I confronted Carter (management wouldn’t tell me who’d talked to them but I had a fair idea), who said he was only trying to help, which again made me super twitchy because no one who’s said that in the past has ever been good news. And I’d gotten fired from my last job because I messed up and was on management’s radar to begin with, so on top of this I was terrified that I’d lose my job. I was kind of a jackass to him and I’m not proud of it.

        He kept being nice to me, though. And then something upsetting happened (our work occasionally involves dead people, long story), and he let me “debrief” with him after the shift, since he’s quite experienced and has seen it all before. He smoked; I talked; he listened and didn’t try to tell me I shouldn’t be upset, and then he told me an interesting story to take my mind off it. We’re on fairly good terms now. He’s one of my favorite coworkers, actually, and I look forward to running into him. Still, I always wondered if he was right to call management on me, if that was the helpful thing to do or not. But yeah, happy ending.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I confess I wondered if you were the co-worker, and I’m glad it had a happy ending. As I said when you asked before, I think either could be okay.

          However, now that I know you were the employee: the fact that a staffer is unhappy with her job is pretty significant information in a lot of workplaces, and I wouldn’t share my unhappiness with a co-worker and expect him to keep that information to himself. A decision about that information isn’t just going to be about what’s helpful to you; it’s about what’s significant to the employer. So as a third party, I can’t see any way Carter would be in the wrong for this.

          Reply
          1. Not So NewReader

            I agree.

            OP, a good rule of thumb is to expect whatever you say to be repeated. Now. This can sound pretty upsetting but it does not have to be. My suggestion is to ask questions rather than making statements. People are usually willing to help and if you have specific questions about the job then pick people who seem to know what they are doing and talk with them.

            I see about the mistakes. OP, that can be mind-bending. I been there, too. I was dealing with dying parents and getting 2 hours of sleep a night for years. How good a job do you think I did? Not very.
            One way I found to get out of the mistake making trap is to just own each mistake by setting up a plan to prevent that same mistake from happening again.
            Ha! Even now, 30 years later, my boss says, “You never make the same mistake twice.” Nope. (I can find all new ones very easily, lol.)
            So make a plan for each mistake, yes this is tiring. But no more tiring than beating yourself up for previous mistakes, I promise. And this gives your mind something future oriented to dwell on. See, OP, the answers are not in the past. If we keep looking back at all our mistakes we can find it difficult to move ahead. The answers are in the future, that is why making a plan to prevent another recurrence of a mistake can work for people.

            Reply
        2. AnonAcademic

          “They said they …wanted what’s best for me, which thanks to my childhood made me super twitchy”
          ” I confronted Carter…who said he was only trying to help, which again made me super twitchy because no one who’s said that in the past has ever been good news”

          OP, you seem to treat people saying they “want what’s best for you” as some sort of secret coded language – but it sounds like your work genuinely is trying to help you out here. There is no magic phrase that is a 1:1 predictor of someone being untrustworthy. I’m sorry your experience makes you wary of this phrasing but I do think in a workplace it is often a positive when a manager offers to help. You need to look at both words and actions and context to see if what they say matches what they mean. In this case, Carter seems to have gone out of his way to listen to you and advocate for you with management, so unless he’s left a trail of fired new employees in his wake or something, it might be worth leaning on him as a mentor.

          Reply
    3. Dotty

      I don’t think it’s your place to say, particularly not repeating what she said so just offering some reassurance sounds good, if you were in the same team I’d have suggested trying to be on hand and open to questions but as you’re not I wouldn’t have worried. Similarly If you had the same manager and a good one then you could maybe bring into the conversation that maybe she’d be interested for more reassurance, coaching but if it’s a different department I think it’d be difficult to raise this casually and really if she’s that concerned, it’s a conversation she should be having with her manager.

      Reply
    4. CAA

      Nope, don’t tell management.

      If I were in a particularly mentoring mood, I’d take her out for coffee and tell her I was concerned about what she’d said that day in the hall, and see if there was anything I could do to help her over the difficulty.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, I don’t too often say anything to management for many reasons. But I will talk to the person directly. I figure they opened the subject with me, so I can respond in kind.

        Reply
    5. Rache

      Personally, I would not talk to the management about this. I might even suggest meeting with her later – off the clock – to see if there’s anything that I could do to help her. May just be my inclination to help people, but if I love my job and know that someone is having such a tough time in the same place, I really really want to see if it’s something I can help adjust. Not to say it would work, but you might have some insight to improve things for her.

      Reply
    6. Halls of Montezuma

      I saw above that you’re the employee, so this is sort of hypothetical, but I’d probably have told someone, too – probably a team lead level, not anyone very senior. That way they’d know the new hire was feeling overwhelmed (may or may not be new info to them) and like their coworkers hated them (hopefully new info), which would let them evaluate whether they’d given sufficient help, training, and resources during onboarding, and whether the team was behaving professionally about giving feedback and correcting mistakes. Even if a new hire isn’t yours, mid-level employees have a responsibility to not ignore it if a new coworker is having so rough a time of it that they confess all of this to near-stranger.

      Reply
      1. Sugar of lead

        Yeah. I’m kind of surprised at how everyone’s tone is changing now that they know who I am in this scenario. I don’t blame Carter anymore–like I said, he helped me out later in a way that was actually helpful, and I’m an incredibly suspicious person but I am starting to trust him. As for how people treat me, I’m more or less asking for it; it’s been the same way since grade school. I can’t tell when people are joking or not, so it’s a lot of fun to tell me stuff and laugh when I take it seriously. And I come across as a little “off,” so teasing me about that’s another good way to pass the time. It’s my problem, not anyone else’s, and I’ve since made peace with that.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Everybody’s tone is changing because we now know we’re talking directly to the person who was struggling at work, that this is an event that’s a done deal, not a matter under consideration, and that it worked out okay. Everybody’s opinion isn’t changing, though. A couple of us said on the previous post that we could see going to the manager, and a couple of us are saying it here. Nobody in either post said it would be a horrible thing to go to the manager.

          Reply
        2. bunniferous

          Well, people see through the lens of their own experiences, and it sounds to me like your early experiences were not all that great. What is great about posting HERE about what you did is hopefully it will help you recalibrate-but let me say from my perspective that I understand how very hard it is to change how you hear things and in your example, learn to be able to trust people who more often than not are ok to trust.

          Reply
  19. Antti

    I’m long-distance job searching (looking for a job around the Atlanta metro). How do you handle it in a cover letter if you use your partner’s/friend’s/family member’s/etc. address in your application materials? Do you mention everything upfront about the fact that you’re not local but you absolutely are moving to the area by X date? Do you not address that until the interview? Or do you just not use the other person’s address?

    Reply
    1. extra anon today

      I mentioned it at the end of my cover letter. Something along the lines of “I am moving to XXX in early January and look forward to continuing my career there.”

      Reply
      1. Antti

        Do you mind if I ask whether that’s an ongoing search or one that you’ve already finished? If it’s over, how did that go?

        Reply
    2. a casual commenter

      When I was doing long-distance applying, I used my actual address, but had a line in the cover letter about wanting to move to X City to be closer to family in the area. So it was clear that I had roots, and that I was serious about moving, because I know that can be a concern. At my current job, we had a director candidate who ended up turning us down really really really late in the process because he suddenly decided he didn’t want to move cross-county to work here. I figure that putting it up front made it clear that this wasn’t just me fishing for cool jobs, I was serious about wanting to move and wasn’t going to flake out.

      Doing this got me several interviews, plus an offer I ended up turning down (for other reasons), and my current job.

      Reply
    3. Lily Rowan

      I’ve never been successful in long-distance job-searching even when I had a firm move date, so I would just use the local address and not mention it until you are well along in the process. Assuming you won’t have a problem getting there for an interview on short notice. In that case, you’re going to have to come clean earlier, and maybe I would skip using the local address and just try to be really clear about your moving plans (even if they are actually up in the air!).

      Reply
    4. Antti

      Follow-up question: I’m moving to join my partner (finally!). What do you do when your experience level precludes you from slightly more senior positions? So far it seems like employers are a little unwilling to deal with long-distance candidates when they’re trying to fill more junior positions and I totally get that, but I wonder if there’s something I can change in my approach to get around that.

      Reply
      1. Tuckerman

        This was my experience. I ended up taking a job that was a step up from my former one, in the same field, but not exactly what I wanted to be doing.

        Reply
    5. LazyCat

      I was applying long-distance to jobs in Atlanta a few years ago! I used my own address, but closed my cover letters by saying that I would be moving to Atlanta and arriving on (date), and would be available to work immediately after. I can’t remember if I mentioned that I was moving to join my boyfriend (now husband), but I think I didn’t. It worked! I got a job. I was in Atlanta by the time they were doing on site interviews.

      Reply
      1. Antti

        Awesome! I’m glad that worked out for you!

        I’ve been planning to get the moving ball rolling once I had a job secured, but maybe I should go ahead and reverse that and get moving solidified beforehand?

        Reply
        1. LazyCat

          As context, I’ll add that this was my first job out of grad school, and I was moving without a job if needed, because 4 years of long distance relationship was enough! (I had a time line for how long to hunt in my field before applying for anything). I was in my last months of school when I started applying, so using partner’s address but attending school on the opposite coast would have been obvious.

          Also as context my workplace is a bit dysfunctional, and may have not checked references. They do value attachment to the location though, even if you aren’t local. I had something else to note, but the Internet stole my comment the first time around!

          Reply
    6. Claire

      I used my out of state address, but mentioned the relocation at the end of the cover letter. Since I was moving back to the state I grew up in after finishing school, I phrased it as “On a more personal note, as a [State] native, I am overjoyed at the prospect of returning to home as I begin my career.”

      That was last summer, I’m now almost a year into my job, so relocation was successful! I even got most of my moving expenses covered, so added bonus.

      Reply
    7. e

      I actually included my in-state address in my recent job search instead of my actual, and I don’t think it helped anything. It’s stated directly on my resume where I currently live and work, and I also am a terrible dissembler. Usually what would happen is the interviewer/recruiter would just ask what was going on and I would tell them, but none of them ever looked at that situation and thought “that person looks local.”

      I did tell them I was moving for personal reasons, regardless of how anything worked out. Someone hired me, so it’s not a total deal breaker.

      Reply
  20. all aboard the anon train

    A friend told me today that she had an interview where they asked what her hobbies were and then in the follow up told her that her while she was qualified for the job based on skills, her “hobbies made her the type of person that wouldn’t fit in well with the company culture”.

    This is why I hate those supposed softball questions. There’s always someone who is going to judge you for your answer. TBH I always think a little less of an interviewer when they ask me those questions because I’m always wondering if it’s a trick or what they’re trying to get from it.

    Reply
    1. NaoNao

      What hobbies! Taxidermy? Trainspotting? I gots to know.
      I was asked a softball question about what music I’m listening to lately and I answered with a few “cool” bands and then noted ‘I usually just let ‘indie pop’ play on Spotify’. Interviewer: “I hate Spotify!”
      I did get the job. But I would say my general advice is to give “softball answers”

      “Oh, a little bit of everything. I’m still trying to figure out something to do besides binge watching TV every night, ya know?”
      or
      “Ooh, good question. I’ve let a few things drop lately and am looking for some new interests to fill the spot.”

      Reply
      1. Michael Scarn, CPA

        Curious about what the hobbies were too. I’m surprised the company was that specific about why they didn’t move forward with the candidate.

        Reply
      2. all aboard the anon train

        Via her text: “I said I enjoyed reading and watching Netflix, and hanging out with friends. The interviewer said, “oh, anything else?” so I said I enjoyed trying out new recipes and spent some time volunteering.”

        Apparently her hobbies are too introverted and solo, so it doesn’t show good collaborative or people skills. It was for a small-ish marketing agency and my friend has a lot of experience with some big name companies.

        Reply
        1. Murphy

          …maybe you get your people time in at work, and then you like to spend some of your downtime alone. Also, she said hanging out with friends…which is obviously social.

          Reply
        2. paul

          I’d be tempted to count it as a bullet dodged, honestly. That sort of place sounds kind of miserable to work for. Oh noes, our employee likes to veg out in offtime, we must go judgy-mcjudgy on them! ew.

          Reply
          1. Detective Amy Santiago

            Yeeeeeah, I wouldn’t want to work somewhere that judged me harshly for spending my off work time doing low key things. I expend most of my social energy getting through the work day so when I’m done, I like to have time alone to recharge. If you met me in a professional capacity, you would probably peg me as an extrovert.

            Reply
          2. Sadsack

            Agreed. I would think spending time volunteering would be impressive and not necessarily an introverted thing to do.

            Reply
          3. Samata

            I agree and was going to comment the same.
            1) As long as your hobby isn’t robbing banks I don’t see why it matters
            2) If you are in a team atmosphere or with clients 40 hours a week alone time is just want the doctor ordered
            …and on a side note…
            When is reading ever a bad hobby????

            Reply
        3. strawberries and raspberries

          Yeah, screw that place. Before I started grad school I used to volunteer all the time, and there were always those people who were like, “But what do you do for fun?”

          Reply
        4. Not So NewReader

          Good thing she did not get a job there.
          They would probably decide she is wearing the wrong color one day and let her go. “Oh that color is too passive( or too aggressive), you won’t fit in with our group.”

          I say only work with people who are willing to, you know, actually work.

          Reply
        5. Ramona Flowers

          I share her hobbies and I am awesomely collaborative at work. This blows but she probably dodged a bullet if they think like this…

          Reply
        6. Mephyle

          Wow, that is not only judgey but misjudged. Hanging out with friends is introverted and solo? Volunteering doesn’t show collaboration skills?

          Reply
    2. Murphy

      What the heck? I’ve never heard of anything like that before. How can they judge based on that? (I’m also curious what the hobbies were, even though that shouldn’t matter at all.)

      Reply
    3. Queen of the File

      Is this a trick to find out if the person has a life outside of work? Aka ‘we expect everyone to work ungodly hours’ kind of company culture?

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        I wrote this in a reply above, but they said her hobbies were too solitary and that didn’t work with the culture.

        Which is ridiculous since there are a lot of people, myself and my friend included, who enjoy being around people, but find it exhausting and need to recharge with solo activities.

        Reply
        1. Queen of the File

          Oooof that’s so annoying. I’d never have my job if my current workplace evaluated candidates that way.

          Reply
    4. k.k

      That would really piss me off! It’s hard to think of any situation where someone’s hobbies would take them out of the running for a job, outside of far-reaching situations where she would likely not being applying anyways (ie a hunter and a vegan activist org).

      On the upside, sounds like she dodged a bullet.

      Reply
    5. DrPeteLoomis

      Yikes. This sort of reminds me of a question from the other day that prompted Alison to talk about hiring for a diverse range of lived experiences. This is another classic example of “hiring for cultural fit” gone wrong. Like, a person’s hobbies should have no bearing on how they will fit into the office culture. So, maybe they won’t be joining their coworkers after work at the climbing gym. But maybe they do share a keen attention to detail or some other such actual work-related trait that would make them excellent at the actual work-related goings-on of the office.

      Reply
    6. Frustrated Optimist

      Call me cynical, but this sounds like a smokescreen on the part of the employer, especially since the applicant seemed to list a variety of hobbies – some social, some solitary.

      I have to wonder if they already had made a decision on who to hire and were just looking to downgrade the candidacy of an otherwise highly qualified applicant.

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        Possibly, but it seems a bit unprofessional to dismiss a candidate for their hobbies instead of saying that they chose to go with someone else.

        It’s sure not going to make them look great if my friend ends up writing a Glassdoor review or tells people and it spreads via word of mouth.

        Reply
        1. Observer

          It certainly is. Which makes me wonder if it’s not a smokescreen for something less acceptable.

          Like, perhaps the other candidate is a male with lower qualifications. Or maybe they are just stupid and because they went with a male they want to “cover” themselves.

          Reply
    7. Lemon Zinger

      Ugh, that company sucks. Honestly, I think your friend dodged a bullet.

      I loathe interviewers who ask about hobbies, family, etc. None of that is relevant to work, and none of it should be part of the hiring process. My personal life is separate from my work life for a reason!

      Reply
      1. all aboard the anon train

        Agreed. I know it’s come up on AAM before, but I sometimes wonder if interviewers realize those “softball” questions, even when they’re intended to break the ice, make some job candidates worry. I hate them because I’m wondering how the interviewer wants me to answer or why it’s relevant to the job.

        It’d be like if a job candidate asked about the interviewer’s hobby instead of asking relevant questions about the position.

        Reply
    8. Zip Zap

      Wow. Sounds like their culture isn’t good with work / personal boundaries. I agree it’s a bullet dodged.

      Reply
  21. SPQR

    How do I tell a coworker he doesn’t always need to be speaking? I have a (male, early 30s coworker, one half step above me) who will not stop taking. Every line of conversation requires a reply by him, it’s usually not funny, helpful, or interesting. He’s unable to not take up less than 80% off the air in the room and he’s uncomfortable with any and all silences.

    How do I deal with this?!??

    Reply
    1. Clever Name

      Headphones? Refusing to engage if he’s making random comments (“I thought you were talking to yourself”). Don’t respond to questions that could plausibly be rhetorical (“oh, I thought that was a rhetorical question and didn’t really require a response”)

      Reply
      1. OlympiasEpiriot

        Oh yeah, that is excellent. (I could never be an advice columnist. The way people like Alison or Jennifer come up with such empathetic AND practical responses leaves me in AWE.)

        Reply
    2. Beancounter Eric

      A bit wordy, but one I like:
      “It is worth repeating at this point the theories that Ford had come up with, on his first encounter with human beings, to account for their peculiar habit of continually stating and restating the very very obvious, as in “It’s a nice day,” or “You’re very tall,” or “So this is it, we’re going to die.”

      His first theory was that if human beings didn’t keep exercising their lips, their mouths probably shriveled up.

      After a few months of observation he had come up with a second theory, which was this–“If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, their brains start working.”

      ― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

      Walk away, or full discharge a can of Mace in their direction. If you go the Mace route, retain defense counsel, and update your resume.

      I don’t understand why people can’t just be quiet once in a while……Good luck!!

      Reply
    3. Marisol

      In what context are you conversing? I don’t have enough details to get a read on this. Do you have an example convo you could share?

      Reply
    4. Fishcakes

      If someone’s talking at me and I’m annoyed, my go-to is something like, “Sorry Dwayne, I have to concentrate and can’t listen well right now.” It almost always works.

      Reply
    5. Snark

      Mix and match as necessary:

      “Yo Dweezil, I really can’t keep up my end of a conversation right now, I’m trying to focus. Thanks!”

      “Hey man, sorry, I can’t talk, I’m on deadline right now and need to focus.”

      “Hey, Dweezil, I need to reconcile TPS reports today, and I’m gonna need all my brain for that, can’t talk.”

      “Dweezil, like I said, trying to focus now, can’t talk.”

      “IT SHUTS ITS MOUTH OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN”

      All those will probably help. Maybe one less than the others.

      Reply
    6. Not So NewReader

      If you can explain how it is impacting your work, you could mention it to the boss.

      I worked with one of these non-stop talkers. My theory is that is how they derive energy. Their own talking, energizes them and gets them through the day.

      Reply
  22. Mrs. T. Potts

    Does anyone else feel sick with anxiety before the annual company picnic and/or holiday party?
    Because ours is in less than an hour, and I really, really wish it weren’t.
    I’m going to leave ASAP. Usually people start trickling out after 1.5 hour or so.
    I hate sitting there making small talk with my coworkers, with whom I have just about nothing in common. And Pretending to Have a Good Time and that the food is great.
    No, it isn’t.

    Reply
    1. NaoNao

      Aw man.
      Maybe put the focus on networking? Try to talk to people out of your department?
      Or find a job—mine is usually “capture candids”. Get that phone charged and when people try to talk to you, say your bit and then “Well, I’m trying to get some pictures of the action for the newsletter!”
      Or can you help with set up and tear down? Man the drinks or food station?
      Small talk advice: Ask people questions. Start with something to do with work, build on that. Most people love to talk about themselves if given a chance.
      Maybe give yourself goalposts: 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there.
      Can you organize a game or activity that avoids small talk? (catch, beanbags, charades…anything?)

      Reply
      1. Mrs. T. Potts

        Oh gosh…This picnic is kinda weird. Nobody talks to anybody outside their department, but I guess that shouldn’t stop me.
        It’s a university, so it’s pretty big and the food services and activities are all organized and taken care of.
        I am one of the few people left on the planet without a smartphone, so no photos.
        Thanks for reaching out! I’m sure I will survive, no matter what.

        Reply
    2. Murphy

      I do. I want to engage and be friendly, I’m just socially anxious and nervous about it. So I both look forward to and dread those kind of events.

      Reply
    3. Quaggaquagga

      Oh yeah, I feel you. Our company holds an annual overnight retreat every year. There are costumes and team games involved. I end up suffering from intermittent anxiety and bouts of depression for the entire month before the event.

      Reply
      1. paul

        …I think I’d schedule elective surgery and file for FMLA leave every year rather than do that. You just described a lesser level of hell for me.

        Sorry boss, getting my vasectomy reversed, gonna miss the retreat!

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Nothing quite says one doesn’t want to go to the company picnic than saying you’d prefer a surgeon root around in the ol’ fruit bowl with a scalpel.

          Reply
      2. Lemon Zinger

        There was talk in my department about reviving a staff retreat they used to do. Everyone vocalized a strong NOPE and as far as I know, the idea was dropped.

        Reply
      3. A. Schuyler

        I used to hate this sort of thing during school (we had them in Year 5, 6, 8, 10, 11 and 12) but we had an offsite with work a couple of years ago which was overnight and involved a fancy dinner and I loved it. I think, for me, it comes down to how much I want to be around those people. With school, I didn’t even want to be around them for the required six or so hours a day. With work, I’m happy to see them much more (which is fortunate given our working hours).

        Reply
    4. Shiara

      We just had ours. I survived by dragging my husband along and bringing a frisbee and spending the entire non-food small-talk part of it throwing it around with him and another random coworker I had never met before who was clearly even more uncomfortable with the whole small talk thing and decided to join us.

      And then eating and making minimal smalltalk, then vaguely standing around with the coworkers who were using being the kidwranglers as an excuse not to small talk, and then sneaking out as soon as we reasonably could by pretending we were walking to the bathroom and then from there taking the long way around to sneak back to the parking lot and leave.

      Our food was actually okay, at least. They kept it to basic grilling.

      But you definitely have my sympathies.

      Reply
    5. k.k

      I feel your pain. I did a happy dance when I found out this years staff party was planned for a day I will be out of town. No need for a fake excuse!

      When I do have to attend these things, I pretend to look busy and leave as soon as possible. When there is food and drinks, keep your hands and mouth full. You can kill a lot of time browsing the food selection, and it’s easy to nod along to a conversation without saying much if you’re eating. When you get to the awkward pause, excuse yourself to go grab a refill of your drink. I’ve also been known to sneak off and kill some time hiding in the bathroom. People usually don’t notice that you’re missing, and when you reemerge they just notice that you’re still here (leaving early can be noticeable, so this helps with that).

      Good luck fellow small talk hater!

      Reply
    6. LKW

      I always found the “last to arrive, first to leave” approach worked well for me. If you’re driving yourself then “get lost” and arrive late and apologize. Find a co-worker or two, ask them something non-invasive and then after a short time leave with an excuse of “family commitment”.

      And I say this being absolutely fabulous at small talk. I am great at it. Hate it though.

      Reply
    7. Beancounter Eric

      I loathe company picnics/parties…..and unfortunately, the conventional wisdom is you have to go.

      Last couple, I go, break out the camera and take pictures. Oh, and have a timer running on my phone to give me a heads-up on a socialy acceptable time to leave.

      Best of luck to you….

      Reply
    8. Marisol

      I can relate–I don’t worry beforehand but I obsess about it afterward. If you have time, google EFT tapping and tap about your anxiety. It always helps me.

      Reply
    9. NoMoreMrFixit

      I feel your pain. Hate office parties with a vengeance. In the past I’ve actually had to be ordered to go as I tend to find creative ways to have to stay at my desk to hold down the fort. Show up and make an appearance so the powers that be know you were there, then run off at your earliest opportunity works well. It’s my modus operandi when forced to attend these things.

      Reply
    10. Jules the First

      Heh heh…I literally just volunteered to stay late and work on some stuff that my grandboss wanted to review over the weekend so I could duck out on the company picnic.

      Reply
    11. This Daydreamer

      One year my mom was helping prepare for the annual picnic for her workplace when she slipped on some gravel and broke her ankle. I think she was honestly relieved that she was going to be unable to attend the picnic.

      Reply
  23. Nervous Accountant

    Thanks everyone for hte help in last week’s thread on both of my questions!

    I did another training this week–it was for current employees and more of a refresher than anything else so it went significantly better. I came up with a guideline and a few writing examples I had. Next week, I’m doing a training but for a brand new group of people who are all new–I am nervous about that! I tend to be nervous around new people.

    On another note, it’s been such a weird week. I had a conversation that I was NOT ready for. And I received some information that I’ve been sworn to secrecy and it’s kind of eating me up (ok that’s a little dramatic but still).

    I came to the sad realization that this company will most likely never pay us long term employees market rate because to do so would be a 30% + increase and that’s….unheard of. So if we’re REALLY desperate for market rate, we’ll have to start looking elsewhere. I’m still iffy on leaving but Im coming around to the idea of looking.

    I had a little downtime yesterday so I re-read my open post threads from I started working here, over 2.5 years ago. I’m proud to say I’ve come so far (I’m not really nervous any more lol) and things have changed for the better (socially, work processes, my own confidence etc).

    I’ve heard the phrase “people don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad bosses/people” a lot. And there are literally 4-5 people here that if they left, I’d leave with them (not follow, but go my own way). Environment and type of people to work with are super important to me. I know I’ve written about the bad moments here before but majority of the toxic people are gone. There’s dysfunction but at different levels now, not at the direct peer/mgr level.

    Evaluations still haven’t been done yet, but there’s been buzz.

    Reply
    1. The IT Manager

      This is an awesome update. I haven’t been able to keep up with AAM comments and open threads as much for the past year, but I do remember your early comments. I’m glad it’s gotten better and you’ve gotten less nervous.

      Reply
  24. Nonprofit Director

    I currently work at a nonprofit agency in NYC, but my partner and I are hoping to relocate to the Philadelphia area. I am originally from the Philadelphia area, but being (relatively) young, all of my significant work experience has been in NYC. As I look for jobs in the nonprofit sector, and specifically in my area of expertise-workforce development-I am finding that many positions are asking for “demonstrated knowledge of Philadelphia city laws/resources/policies, etc.” While I can certainly research this information, all of my direct experience has been with NYC policies. Any ideas on how I can navigate this during my job search? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. katamia

      Are there any certifications you can get or long-distance classes you could take (maybe a couple of low-level law classes at a community college or something more related to what your nonprofit does)?

      Reply
    2. Rebecca

      Hi! I live in Philly! I’m also fairly young, and have been here for a few years, but this is not my place of origin. In my (limited, ymmv) experience, places really truly do want experience with this city. Because Philly is so special (to put it nicely), you need to have experience dealing with the way the city/PA state government interact. Is it feasible to volunteer in the area before searching actively for jobs?

      Reply
    3. LDP

      I would probably mention something about being from the area in your cover letter. Maybe you could even highlight how you had to learn those things when you were working in NYC, so you have knowledge of how to find any info you don’t already know?

      Reply
    4. IvyGirl

      Start perusing the http://www.phila.gov website, and reading up on http://www.philly.com (Philadelphia Inquirer/Daily News) for what’s going on in the city.

      Know that absolutely nothing gets done in this city without going through the City Council. Learn the districts and the council people that represent them (and the at-large council people too).

      Know that the ward system is the main voting/organizing mechanism, and that it’s representation is in the process of a sea change. Familiarize yourself with the structure @ http://www.philadelphiavotes.com.

      Visit the Committee of Seventy ( http://www.seventy.org) and Philadelphia 3.0 websites ( http://www.phila3-0.org ).

      That should get you started. Also consider getting involved in the local RCO (registered civic organization) in your neighborhood and read up on the city zoning code (

      Reply
    5. Yay Philly

      I’m also a Philly -> NYC -> Philly person. I love it here and am so glad I came back. I’ve never faced the exact situation you describe but whenever I have applied for a job where I was missing something, I try to make an argument that some experience I *do* have is relevant. The trick is to do it without sounding defensive.

      You could say “I’ve never worked in Philly, but I’ve interfaced with such and such NYC department on such and such policy…” But that sounds defensive.

      So instead, can you put some stuff in your cover letter like “In my first six months at LastJob, I accomplished [things that show you got up to speed fast]. I’ve worked with agencies as varied as X, Y, and Z.” Things that show you can (a) master complex policies and political environments and (b) get up to speed quickly. Then, they can conclude _on their own_ that you could learn the Philly environment quickly too.

      It won’t always work, but so often the employer doesn’t get their dream candidate (the person with your qualifications + Philly experience). And when that happens, your letter should work.

      Reply
      1. Nonprofit Director

        Thanks so much for the feedback everyone! It is true that when I first moved to NYC, I had to learn a lot (and quickly) regarding it’s laws, politics, mayor’s office, etc. I manage city and state funded programs, and the target population is adults on public assistance, particularly in the Bronx. I am confident that I can, and will, transfer my skills to a Philly employer. I should also mention that I have worked in Philadelphia before (my first two jobs right out of graduate school) but my director level experience is all in NYC.

        Reply
  25. Small but Fierce

    I had every intention of sticking with my current position until the end of the year, but I have a final interview in a couple of weeks for a promising position that could pay up to 20% more than what I currently make. That said, I currently have 2.5 weeks of travel scheduled in the fall for my wedding and honeymoon. I really would prefer not to take this large amount of time unpaid. While I’m comfortable negotiating as far as salary goes, I’m still fairly entry-level and don’t have much experience with negotiating for PTO and other benefits?

    Any tips on negotiating for benefits as an entry-level person?

    Also, any advice for a final interview appreciated! As far as I’m aware, I’m the only candidate in this round. From what I’ve been told, this interview may be just to get a check of approval from the VPs who weren’t in the office last time I was there.

    Reply
    1. Small but Fierce

      *other benefits.

      Also, a ton of comments within five minutes! I must not be the only one who waited for the moment this posted. :)

      Reply
    2. SansaStark

      Does the PTO accrue over time or do you get the lump sum at the beginning of your tenure? I’ve had jobs where you’d get your pro-rated PTO hours on Day 1 – if that’s the case, you may be ok. If not…you could try asking to “borrow” against your future PTO accruals with the understanding that you’d pay that back if you left the job with some hours left outstanding. I’ve found that people are usually pretty understanding about big life events like a wedding/honeymoon and will try to work with you on that. Good luck and best wishes!

      Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        My understanding is that it accrues – hopefully from day one, but the information I’ve been given isn’t clear on that point. You can borrow up to 40 hours in advance, but you’d have to pay it back before the end of the year as it doesn’t roll over. I wouldn’t accrue enough to pay it back in that amount of time, so I’d have to pay at least some of it back. I’m wondering if I could ask for a one time exception to that policy as part of my offer.

        Reply
        1. SansaStark

          Ugh yeah, that’s tough. I think it’s certainly worth asking about the exception, but I like Victoria’s suggestion below about setting aside your larger salary to “pay” yourself for those weeks if they can’t do that.

          Reply
        2. Jerry Vandesic

          Everything is negotiable. It’s not unusual to include vacation, in particular vacation during your first year, as part of the overall compensation negotiation. In my current job I asked for a full year of vacation during my first year, even though I was starting mid-year. It wasn’t an issue in my case, but that might not be true for others. Once you get your offer, ask for other things you need, in your case a full year’s vacation.

          Reply
    3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      I don’t think you’re going to have much luck negotiating to get 2.5 weeks of paid time off in your first couple of months on the job, especially if you’re entry level. That’s likely close to a full year’s worth of vacation time.

      You could try addressing it by asking about whether PTO can be advanced (rather than asking for additional time), but I’m having a hard time imagining an employer advancing that much time (that would mean you wouldn’t get any vacation for several months, which isn’t good for anyone; they would also have to figure out how to manage the possibility that you could live before “paying back” the time you’d been given).

      But the good news is that this new job pays a lot more! Can you aggressively save the 20% differential (or more?) to “pay yourself” for the upcoming time off?

      Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        Yes, I believe PTO is three weeks, so it would definitely be a big ask. I’m considering asking if I can borrow up to 40 as policy allows, but without the caveat that it has to occur prior to the end of the year. Maybe that would be more reasonable.

        Financially, it’s a hit I could afford if it needed to be unpaid. It’s just a pain point for me since I have over 100 hours accrued currently that I’ll completely lose if I leave. But if I do get the 15%-20% bump in salary, I really shouldn’t consider that much of a sticking point.

        Reply
    4. a casual commenter

      Could you negotiate the start date to be after your vacation, so you take the vacation on the current job’s time? I know that probably depends on industry; I know somebody here saying “I need to start three months from now” would probably be fine.

      Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        That’d be ideal, especially since I could get closer to the two year point at my current job and get some of my employer’s 401k match vested. But it seems like they’re swamped and in need of help ASAP.

        Reply
      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        In my world, that would never happen for an entry-level position (unless you were already connected to the org and they were essentially creating/holding a job for you).

        Reply
        1. Small but Fierce

          Agreed! I’m in the pipeline for another opportunity right now that actually is willing to wait until after my honeymoon to hire me, but 1. I’m connected with one of their directors, who passed my resume along. and 2. They’re hiring “for the fall” and don’t have a specific date in mind. We haven’t talked salary though, and given what I know of this specific role in this industry, most companies wouldn’t give me more than I already currently make without a few more years of experience. The job I have the final interview for is an anomaly as far as salary goes.

          Reply
    5. H.C.

      Does PTO at your current job cash out? If it does, you can set that money aside for when you take your leave with NewJob.

      If not, I agree with others asking for PTO advance is probably your best option (with the expectation that they might not be able to grant it – esp if your NewJob has a probationary period where all benefits may not kick in until you’re a few months in with that employer.)

      Reply
      1. Small but Fierce

        I wish! Unfortunately this is the type of company that’d sooner walk me out than let me work out my notice, much less pay out PTO when you leave. (That said, I still intend to give two weeks, even if that results in an unpaid vacation.)

        Yes, I’ll probably just ask if I can borrow without having to pay it back before the end of the year, given I’d be starting in September and taking my vacation in November.

        Reply
        1. Jerry Vandesic

          If they have shown that they walk people out, then give them no notice. They can’t expect anything more if they consistently treat people badly as they leave.

          Reply
  26. Santa Maria

    I have been at my job for 2 years, with 18 months of that in M&A activity. I’m fatigued from the process: the waiting, the speculation, the worrying, the never ending rumors. I just want to know how it’s going to play out. Every time the bigwigs share “exciting new information” it just leads to more questions. We’re hoping to have new offer letters sometime in August. I’m early in my career and this has just put me off to the working world in general. I don’t know that I actually have a question… I guess I wanted to vent and maybe someone will have some encouraging advice to share.

    Reply
    1. pat benetardis

      So – are you working on M&A deals, or working at a company that is undergoing a merger/acquisition?

      If it’s the former, think about what makes your contribution to the situation valuable. You can’t get all self-worth only from a successful deal, since so many factors can make or break it. But there are things you are learning and contributing which are important contributors that if your frame it up to yourself and believe it, you can feel good about.

      If you are at a company that is being merged or acquired. That’s tough. For me, in those situations, I just had to ride it out. Don’t get worked up by any rumors because the majority are likely to be wrong. Keep your resume up to date and when the company is ready to tell you something, they will. An open-minded, go with the flow mentality will serve you well.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      Is your company being sold and there’s no buyer yet?
      Yeah, that is lots of drama. I can understand why you’d feel put off.
      Maybe it’s time to look around and see what else is out there.

      Reply
  27. AndersonDarling

    Did you overcome your anxiety about a new job and succeed?
    My husband has gone through some rough patches with his last jobs and has been feeling down in the dumps. He was in some short term toxic jobs and had a long patch of unemployment, and he understandably feels beaten down and crummy. But good news! He got an interview and was asked to come back for a day to observe the job in action! The job ad asked for experienced and inexperienced applicants, and he made it very clear during the interview that he would need lots of training to get up and running, but he keeps thinking that they may be expecting more skills, or knowledge, and he generally thinks he couldn’t do the job well even though he has done similar jobs and this one really is a good match for him.
    I was hoping to hear some happy stories from others who overcame their lack of confidence and everything turned out well.

    Reply
    1. Spice for this

      My husband started a new job in a new city in 2012. He had lots of challenges in the beginning and felt out of his league for a while. And after 4-6 months, he finally felt at ease and had the confidence to complete most of the projects on his own. What really helped him was a very understanding and supportive boss.
      Good luck to your husband, and I hope he gets the job!

      Reply
    2. Blue Anne

      I’m just now starting to get through a very similar situation.

      I’m a bookkeeper/accountant and moved from the UK to the USA a year and a half ago. I started a job at a small accounting firm in September, and it was pretty terrifying. I was totally up front with them in the interviews that I had zero knowledge of American taxes, and beyond that, most of my experience was in management accounting and auditing, which are totally different from the public accounting, bookkeeping and TONS of tax work they do. In theory I knew how to do it all, but up until then my jobs had basically involved checking people’s work instead of doing the work myself. They offered me the job anyway.

      I had a learning curve like a brick wall. I have had to do a ton of looking things up, lots and lots of asking questions, lots of educating myself in the evenings. I had a couple of months where it was totally miserable. But… I got good feedback, people were happy to answer my questions, and almost a year later, I’m starting to really enjoy my job. I still feel like I’m constantly being given things that are a little bit over my head, but holy crap, I’m learning so much as a result of that. And I’ve proven to myself that I can handle that situation.

      So it has worked out really well! I’m thinking of asking for a title bump to Staff Accountant in another six months.

      Reply
    3. Birdbrain

      I had a job like that! I didn’t have a lot of experience in some aspects of the role and starting any new job made me nervous because of past bad experiences.

      I was terribly anxious and was convinced that I would be fired if I made a mistake or had to ask for help. And I was worried that they would expect me to know All The Things immediately even though I had been clear about my lack of experience. Of course, none of that was true and most people were more than willing to help me out when I needed it. I forced myself to do the scary things and I worked hard… but it got easier. And easier. And eventually I became the go-to person for a lot of the projects that had worried me at the start! I still deal with some of those anxieties due to my own personality, but it’s a lot easier when I can look back at successes instead of imagining worst-case scenarios. It’s 5+ years later and I’m still at the same organization, doing a job that I would never have been confident enough to try when I first started.

      Good luck to your husband!

      Reply
    4. Lemon Zinger

      I love my job, but I did not love it when I started. With my manager working offsite and a key position in the office vacant, my training fell entirely to my counterpart. She was dissatisfied with her job and disillusioned with pretty much everything, so she trained me as little as possible and avoided me constantly. I had to pick up on everything mostly by myself. The first six months, I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

      That was literally as bad as it could have been. I overcame the experience by taking it one day at a time until I felt confident with the extensive subject matter I deal with. That was a year ago and things are so much better now!

      Reply
    5. DDJ

      I had a job like that! I was a temp and a permanent position opened up, but I didn’t have the experience OR the education they were looking for. But they approached me about taking the job and said they thought I could do it.

      It was a bit of a struggle to start, but with training and support, I was very successful in the role. You have to be willing to ask questions, seek clarification, and make it known when you need training on a task (or when you’re struggling). If you can do that, and if you’re honest about your strengths and your areas that need improvement, I don’t see why you can’t have great success.

      So much of a job is about “how we do it.” So you could have loads if experience in an industry, but the new job uses a whole different set of software or tools or whatever. If you’ve got the knowledge to get you there and a willingness to be taught and to learn, that’s a big part of the battle right there.

      When I first started supervising people, I was terrified. I had no management training (although I did a bit of schooling for it, but hypotheticals in a classroom don’t fully prepare you to actually be a leader). My manager was an amazing resource and understood that I’d need some coaching because it was a new skill that needed to be developed.

      With good management, great things are possible. If they liked him in the interview and they decide to offer him the position, it’s because they see someone they want to work with. And someone worth developing.

      Reply
  28. CDN HR

    Hello,
    I have a question about how long you should stay in a position before it’s reasonable to move on. So I worked at my current company as an administrator for about eight months (it was a horrible job and everyone knows that) before being promoted to the HR Manager (in the workings since I was originally hired). This is my first position out of post-secondary and I’m also the first person in this role so I started the entire department from scratch and have done a pretty great job, according to multiple sources. In the next year and a bit we’re expecting major changes to the structure of the company and I suspect this will make my job far more difficult as those that believe in having an HR department are leaving the country and those that fight me on everything are staying behind. I’ve been in this role for about 15 months, is it too soon to move on? If so, how long should I wait before moving on? If it’s not too soon, how long do you think I need to stay in the next position before moving on to avoid looking like a job hopper?
    Thank you so much for any advice you can offer.

    Reply
    1. Small but Fierce

      I’m in a similar boat. First job out of college, a year and eight months in. I’ve been “open to opportunities” on LinkedIn for around six months now, but rarely applied for anything. In the past six months, I’ve had three interviews, one job offer that I turned down, and another offer that I anticipate will come in the next month that I’ll likely accept.

      It is generally said that two years is the minimum you should put into any given job. If you start job hunting now, you very well could get a job offer that you’d accept beyond that two year point. It takes time and you should be picky about your next step.

      Reply
      1. CDN HR

        even if it’s a manager role, which is senior and that’s kind of a miracle for how much experience I have? It’s won’t seem unusual that I’ve let such a great position?

        Reply
        1. Small but Fierce

          I don’t think so! Everyone has their reasons for leaving, and I’m sure whatever yours are will make sense to a future employer as long as it’s not just moving for the sake of a change. If anything, you’re in a good position to start applying elsewhere since you’ve been promoted, which speaks to the quality of your work.

          Reply
    2. Nanc

      You may as well start looking. Unless something falls into your lap it will probably take a few months to find something and at that point you’ll have hit the two year mark.

      Reply
    3. ...with a K

      I took a new job last year, thinking that I was going to love it. I didn’t. I gave it less than a year (11 months) and changed jobs. I figured life was too short to be crying in my office all the time. No one has thought less of me for staying that short of a time, and the things I learned in that job have helped me in my new one.

      Reply
    4. Dotty

      I don’t think it’s too soon to look, particularly as it can take a while to find the right thing but bear in mind that you’d probably then need to stay in the next job for longer so as not to have a pattern of short stays so choose carefully. Also worth thinking whether it’s something you can live with for a while – with starting as an admin then moving to HR manager your time in the most recent, senior role is less, if you’ve put in that hard work and done very well by the sounds of it, staying a little longer could be useful for the CV. I’d get your CV ready and keep an eye out but be really picky on what you apply for – even if that takes a bit longer – so you’re confident you’d be leaving for a better job

      Reply
    5. Airedale

      So you’ve been at the company as a whole for almost 2 years, right? (8 months admin + 15 months new role) Plus you think the long-term staff remaining want to push you out because they “don’t believe in having an HR department and fight you on everything”? If I were you, I’d get out of there. Good luck either way.

      Reply
      1. CDN HR

        They aren’t pushing me out but they skip over me if possible and generally disagree with me, I think because it’s me, only to suggest the idea two months later as their own. Whereas my boss always encourages my ideas and tells others not to skip over my role in the process. He is one of the ones leaving the country.

        Reply
    6. AliceBD

      I was at my first position for 17.5ish months (mid-May 2011 to early February 2013) and then left for a position that was a much better fit. I’ve just left the second position after 4.5 years. I had 2 positions at each of the companies. During my job search the length of time at companies was never brought up.

      Reply
  29. T3k

    So had phone interview this week. I think a major concern is almost all my examples for writing are volunteer based because my professional field is design. To make things worse, I’m a geek and yes, all my writing examples show that.

    But I have a question about something else.. Do general/speculative applications with companies actually go anywhere? I recently applied to one with a nice cover letter and resume but began to think that I’ve never heard of anyone actually getting a job because they just submitted to a company’s general pool and if I’m just wasting my time submitting letters to these? It’s not that I haven’t heard back before though (I submitted one once to a fairly new company a few years ago and quickly got rejected from that).

    Reply
    1. No, please

      My mother was recently hired by applying to a very large company through their website’s “Careers at Company” section. She was lucky, I guess, to happen to live in the exact area they were short staffed. So I think there’s always a chance! I hope this is encouraging.

      Reply
  30. Izzy Legal

    Just looking for advice here…

    What is the difference between too heavy of a workload, and poor time management?

    For background: my company is in an industry which has declined over the past two years. I’ve survived two rounds of layoffs, and while some work has shifted away from me, it’s not equal to the work that has now been shifted onto me. (We bill our hours, so I can demonstrate this.)

    So I am just trying to pinpoint where to make changes. There is someone in my department to delegate to, but she is very unreliable. I don’t supervise this person, so cannot directly address this performance issue.

    Any one else in the same boat, and if so, how did you approach?

    Reply
    1. Marillenbaum

      It sounds like it might be necessary to go to the unreliable person’s manager when they drop the ball on tasks you need them to complete. The problem isn’t that you are working inefficiently; it’s that the person you should be able to rely on to support you in work tasks isn’t doing their job.

      Reply
    2. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

      If you are delegating to a person who isn’t completing the work, you should speak with them about why. Are they too busy? Do they need more training on your items? You most certainly can address this performance issue because it is impacting you. If she has other priorities that take precedent and cannot complete your tasks, she should be telling you as soon as possible. You aren’t addressing it as a reassignment of duties or trying to tell her your items take precedent. You are trying to see if the process of delegation to her simply isn’t viable anymore.

      Depending on her response and whether there is an improvement, you should speak to your supervisor/manager about what the options are. “Fergus, I’ve noticed that some of the items I’ve sent to Jane aren’t completed on time. If she is too busy to accept an assignment from me, are there other options? Should I reach out to someone else?”

      You aren’t criticizing her work or unreliability, but you are bringing up the results – deadlines are missed and you are overwhelmed.

      Reply
    3. curmudgeon

      oh wow – I have been struggling with this… I was told I have a time management problem; I believe it is a workload problem (too much, not enough hours in the day).
      Can anyone recommend a time management course so I can show I am at least trying?

      Reply
      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I don’t have a time management course to recommend, but I will suggest that you track exactly what you’re doing and how long it’s taking you to complete various tasks. That will help you determine if it is a time management or workload problem and identify areas where things can be streamlined.

        Reply
        1. curmudgeon

          not sure how to track stuff –
          10:05-10:10 went to front door to let in FedEx guy
          10:11-10:14 sold over the phone
          10:15-10:25 back to front door to get delivery; also picked up & sorted mail
          10:26-10:35 delivered mail
          10:27-10:31 interrupted mail to answer phone
          10:32 – 10:40 coffee refill, stepping out to restroom
          etc etc etc?

          what about overlapping things? i.e. printed documents for an hour while I ate lunch & also answered the phone 4 times and went back to front door to open for meeting (someone else’s)

          Not trying to be obtuse but want to understand how; and how do I defend that this is not a waste of time to do when CEO poo-poos it?

          And this is the “slow” time…

          Reply
          1. DDJ

            It sounds like you might have a position that involves tiny time-drainers. But there’s no way to know for sure when those time-drainers will occur. Which means that trying to figure out average workload/capacity is difficult because one day, you could end up twiddling your thumbs for 20 minutes in between tasks, but another day you could be full-out the entire day and feel like you could barely catch a breath.

            If that’s the case, I would recommend you look at specific, full tasks that should be shifted over to the other employee, and then talk to that employee’s supervisor about it first. If you can approach it as “Hey, just wondering if Bleminda might have a bit of extra time to take on a task. I’m finding that my capacity is a bit strained so I’m just looking at a more effective way to organize my day and delegate some of the work.”

            Then Supervisor might need to talk to Bleminda about it and get back to you. But what you want to do is shift something in its entirety, so that it’s not at all on your plate anymore. If you think that’s feasible. I wouldn’t suggest partial delegation, like “can you cover the front door when I’m too busy?” because if she does tend to let things slide, she’s just never going to provide coverage for you. You need her and her supervisor to take accountability for whatever tasks you’re thinking of delegating.

            Reply
    4. Admin of Sys

      I admit to being somewhat biased, but the answer is metrics – start tracking what you’re doing, and how much time you’re spending on it. (include the metrics in this as well, and try not to let tracking your time /use up/ too much of your time. But since you already have hours to bill, I feel like you’re likely to be part way in this process?). Advantages – if you’re honestly overwhelmed with work, it’s easy to show that by showing how much time you’ve worked on things, you can identify process bottlenecks (and people bottlenecks), and you can possible find ‘safe; things to delegate that are time consuming but hard to mess up.
      This may be especially useful since a lot of companies seem to think billable time is the only time that exists, and all the overhead and such magically gets done by itself. But if you can show that it takes you 3 hours a week to do the TPS reports, and those aren’t billable, you may be able to convince someone you don’t need to do them.

      Reply
      1. Toph

        Another thing that may or may not help, but if there is someone else in the same role with the same type of responsibilities and you can compare like tasks, that might also give insight. If it takes one person an hour to do their BLAH report and it takes another person 3 hours, when they both go through the same process for said report, if the 3 hour person is the one who’s been accused of inefficiency, the data supports that. But if everyone takes an hour, and the person with the “time management problem” was assigned to do five, and everyone else was only responsible for three, then it’s a workload problem. That’s a simplified example of course, but worth looking into.

        Reply
  31. Wandering

    How old is too old to still not be sure of what you want to do in life?

    I have friends who’ve known what they wanted to be since high school and have set out to achieve that. I feel as if I’ve been too easily swayed by opinions of my teachers and pressure from relatives as well.

    It’s only in recent years that I’ve started to narrow down what I’m really interested in, but I’m in my early 30s now and it’s hard to feel like…I really should’ve pulled myself together ages ago.

    I mean, I’ve been working since graduating from uni, and discovering a bit more about what my strengths/weaknesses are with each role, but none of them have felt like a ‘yup, this is it’ sort of situation.

    Reply
    1. tw

      even if you begin at 40, you still have more than 20 years of your career left.
      “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life/ The most interesting people
      /I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives/
      Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t” — Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)

      Reply
    2. SansaStark

      I feel like what you want to do can fluctuate as your life circumstances change, so your best bet is to figure out what kind of life and work you want to have now and adjust your course as things change.

      Reply
    3. AnotherAlison

      Well, I’m even older & have been working in the same field since college, and am not sure it’s the field I want to be in (I’m actually more sure that it is not). I think it’s a myth that there is some magical “one thing” you’re going to discover and want to do forever. Jobs and fields change. You change. Your life circumstances change.

      I really can’t think of many people I know who has wanted to do “X” since they were 5 and just absolutely love it forever. I had a friend who went to school for it and became a zookeeper, and is now an ultrasound tech (for humans) and has 5 kids. I mean, that seems like pretty “dream job” territory, and it didn’t even work out long term for her. What hope is there for those of us who just move numbers and papers around for a living?

      Reply
      1. SansaStark

        That’s such a good point. I know one person like that – my dad who is a lawyer. And even then, he’s changed the type of law he practices several times over his 40+ year career. My peers who have stayed in the same job for over 10+ years are only doing so because they feel trapped, not because it’s fulfilling a “dream job” fantasy.

        Reply
      2. Manders

        Yes! I’m one of those people who actually did go through childhood and early adulthood with my eyes on the prize of a particular dream job. My expectations of when I will actually get that job have changed as I learn more about it. It turns out you don’t publish your first novel and immediately become financially stable enough to quit your day job! And publishing is a hard industry to get into and there aren’t enough job openings for everyone who wants to be an editor! And universities aren’t hiring thousands of people to work as creative writing teachers for a living wage!

        I ended up in a field I like for now. I don’t know if I’ll like it forever, but when I’m ready to make my next career shift, I’ll be doing it with a big cushion of savings in case things don’t work out.

        Reply
    4. periwinkle

      I finally figured out what I wanted to do when I grew up… in my mid-40’s. It took a few years (plus grad school) to get into that field, but I’m here and loving it. I think the indecision earlier in my working life really helped because the experiences helped me identify working strengths and preferences (plus weaknesses and stuff I really really hated doing), which in turn pointed me to appropriate fields. Sometimes you just need to trip over the right combination! I’m working in a field I’d never even heard of until I started grad school.

      Perhaps you could do what others have here – post a list of what you’re looking for in a career or just what you’ve found to be your strengths & interests, and ask for suggestions!

      Reply
    5. LKW

      It’s really easy to say “I want to be a teacher or a doctor.” but it’s much harder to say “I want to be a doctor specializing in research with a primary focus on oncological hematology.” So if you’ve started to find a focus, great – that’s better than most of us who have found ourselves in jobs that we didn’t know existed when we were in grade school like “Quality Assurance Manager” or “Government Relations Specialist”.

      Don’t get me wrong – I really like my job, and I’m doing well but this is not what I envisioned when I was in my teens and 20’s.

      So if you want to make changes, understand the impact, understand the time commitment and don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded if it’s something you really want.

      Reply
    6. anon24

      Oh I can sympathise so much with this! I’m 25 and never went to college because I never really had money and had no clue what I’d major in anyway. I started working at a small business when I was 15, and slowly worked my way up until I was made the assistant manager at 21. Then I got married and moved away at 23 and just floated jobs for the past 2 years, always desperately miserable and feeling so depressed. It’s so hard to get past society’s expectation that you should be a driven individual who has specific career goals by age 18. I stopped talking to people and have basically been hiding away because I feel like such a loser. I finally decided to enroll in a certification program in a field I’ve always been interested in, but never really thought it would be feasible to enter. I figure even if I fail at this at least I tried! Of course now I am depressed because I’m 25 and just starting school and just starting to get my sh!t together while everyone else is years ahead of me.

      Everyone has a different path in life and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s very sad that society pressures people to pick a career and stay in it and use the career to define yourselves. Some of us are born knowing their place in life, and some of us might not find out until much later, and that is ok!

      Reply
    7. Beancounter Eric

      I’m in my 50’s…sometimes I ask myself that question…..it could be the mid-life crisis talking, though.

      Early 30’s….you’re fine.

      Keep wandering, and enjoy the journey….you’ll get there.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        It’s not a midlife crisis. At least for me. I am in my 50s and still I wonder.
        I landed on taking jobs that meshed with my natural abilities. I have changed arenas a couple times.
        If you can’t come up with a better plan at least put yourself where you will have some successes.

        Reply
    8. Lurker who knits

      When I changed majors in college, my dad said (to paraphrase) that the days of having one career path from graduation to retirement were gone and that I probably would have two or three different careers. I didn’t feel a ‘yup, this is it’ until I was older than you. And, even then it is daunting because some aspects are very challenging, and I have a lot to learn (still taking steps to get to where I want to be). I think I felt guilty about letting go of past decisions and feeling pressure to see something through to the bitter end.

      I sympathize with feeling like you should have pulled yourself together by now. However, I’m surprised by how I’m resurrecting dormant skills from jobs that I thought had no relevance. No experience is wasted. At the very worst, you have crossed one option off your list and are getting closer to narrowing things down.

      Reply
    9. Tuckerman

      I think what’s important is first figuring out what you need and want in your life. For example, right now I need good health insurance. I want a low-risk career because I don’t like stressing out about bills and job security. So that limits my options, but also helps clarify them. In 10 years, I may be in a position where low-risk is not so important, and my options will change.

      Reply
    10. Sydney Bristow

      I just got a book that is all about this. it was written by a couple of Stanford professors. It’s called Designing Your Life by William Burnett and Dave Evans. The book came out of a class they started teaching that was open for students, mid-career people, and retirees. I’m only just starting to read it so I can’t fully recommend it yet, but you might find it helpful.

      Reply
      1. Phlox

        My mother liked that book so much that she mailed me two hardcover copies about six months apart. I’ve found the small sections I’ve read helpful.

        Reply
      2. Sheep

        Thanks for telling us about this book! I just read through the available pages on Amazon, and decided to buy it. It looks really good, I’m excited!

        Reply
    11. Sandra wishes you a heavenly day

      I’ve been working for 30 years and I had a job I thought was my dream job, but then it became toxic and horrible and I was laid off and now my dream job is “let me leave work at work, don’t make me talk to people, and hopefully give me benefits.” Maybe nothing is the one – some people do find that one awesome thing they love, some of us are just working to pay the bills and hoping for not too much toxicity. I think both things can be great – I loved going to work for at least 5,6 years. I’m pretty happy with my complete lack of ambition career wise these days in a way I would have been surprised about 10 years ago.

      Reply
    12. Working Rachel

      You’re totally normal. I think the path to career happiness is just to figure out little by little, job by job, what you like and don’t like, and try to do more of what you like and less of what you don’t like. You could say I’ve “switched industries” several times, but each change has built on what I learned about work and about myself at the job before.

      Reply
    13. HannahS

      I know a guy who went to medical school when he was 40. So it’s not ever too late. But I also know someone who wanted to get his doctorate in something (I can’t remember what–maybe some science), was discouraged by professor, and went in to banking. It was fine. I think he felt neutral about his job, and he maybe worked there for about 35 years before being laid off (in a massive layoff). He took it as a cue to retire, and now spends his days volunteering with the elderly. He enjoys it, but, again, I don’t think he’s really passionate about it. The point of this apparently-depressing example is that this guy is happy and has a great life. He’s happily married, loves his adult-children, had a great social life, plays sports, and travels the world with his wife. Work isn’t a “calling” for everyone, and if you don’t have a great passion to do any one specific thing, then I think being on the track of getting closer and closer to positions that are super well-suited to you is totally fine.

      Reply
  32. Rebecca

    I’ve never left a regular full-time office job before, and I’m finding my notice period to be very awkward! Any tips for navigating the “I’m leaving here very shortly” period?

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      If you aren’t already, start putting together a transition document that outlines where you are with key projects, important information pertaining to your role, where certain files are located, etc. — basically anything that would be helpful to someone who steps in to take over your work. Make sure you and your manager are on the same page about whether or not you should be taking on new projects or simply working to wrap up existing projects.

      Reply
    2. LKW

      Try not to smile like an idiot – most short timers who are leaving by their own decision just smile a lot because they are moving up and on.

      Kidding – you can smile a lot, just be prepared for teasing.

      Reply
    3. Airedale

      It’s normal for it to be awkward, unfortunately. Just keep a low-key vibe of, “Even though this is for the best for me in my career, I’m going to miss everyone here and I’m grateful for what I’ve learned.”

      Reply
  33. Anne

    It’s my last day of work!

    I honestly cannot thank this site/Alison enough. Without all the advice I spent hours and hours reading on here, I’m not sure I would have even gotten an interview for my new job – AAM helped me pitch myself as a great fit in my cover letter despite being overqualified, helped me think of my current role in terms of accomplishments rather than duties and then present those accomplishments in my interviews, helped me negotiate the salary higher, and finally – answered my question about whether it was ok to ask for two whole weeks off in between jobs! Starting tomorrow I am funemployed for 16 glorious days, after 4+ years of a very stressful job.

    And also… AAM (both the posts and the commenters) helped me realize that my current job had some major issues that were not gonna go away, and gave me the final push I needed to apply for new jobs in the first place.

    Thank you thank you thank you!

    Reply
      1. Anne

        Today I updated the calendar of all the reports that are coming due over the next couple of years, and I thought to myself… oh my god, I don’t have to do ANY of these!

        Reply
    1. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

      FUNEMPLOYED–I loooove it!!! Congrats on the new job. Once you’ve settled in, post and let us know how it’s going.

      Reply
  34. Jimbo

    I recently shared with my supervisor some difficulties and stress I’ve had on the job. These had to do with my emotional health but also with practical asepcts of the job that would induce stress in anybody with or without emotional health issues. He recently forwarded me a human resources email that outlines the EAP services available in our organization as a benefit.

    I know about the EAP already and have actually been using it for months to deal with the issues and stress I’ve been experiencing with this project. It is just odd to me that my boss is forwarding me this info. Is he trying to be helpful? It is weirding me out. I am having my mid-year evaluation in a couple of weeks. If this issue of my emotional health crops up, how best to address it?

    I know I am not obligated to reveal any details of my mental health activities to my employer and I don’t plan to. Maybe I can just say something along the lines of: “I have had stressful moments on this job. I have used the EAP service and also use the in-person services of health professionals in my coping strategy. Is there anything in particular that is of concern to you?” If he answers yes, then maybe we can have an honest conversation about what may be bothering him that he would send me a note about EAP.

    Reply
    1. edj3

      I’ve shared EAP information with several of my direct reports after they’ve told me they are handling highly stressful issues. At least three didn’t know that resource was available, and were really glad to get the information.

      I’d take it as your manager being helpful and ensuring you know about EAP and know you can use it. If he’s like me, he doesn’t need to know details you don’t want to share, he just wants to know you have some benefits you can use.

      Reply
    2. special snowflake

      Honestly I think you’re overthinking this. You had a conversation (where it seems you didn’t mention using the EAP) and your boss forwarded to you presumably to make sure you knew it was available.
      Say thanks and move on – I don’t think it’s worth bringing up again.

      Reply
    3. JanetM

      I tend to agree with edj3. If your manager is normally a reasonable, considerate person, then I think he is trying to be helpful and make sure you know about all the options available to you. He didn’t do this out of the blue, but after you told him you were experiencing work-related stress.

      I am not a manager myself, but I have pointed a number of coworkers and even managers to our EAP (ours covers not just mental health but things like legal referrals and financial planning referrals). It’s kind of glossed over in orientation, and when someone is under stress, they can sometimes get super-focused and not think about alternatives.

      Reply
    4. Jimbo

      Thanks all for the perspective! I tend to get paranoid when dealing with my boss because we’ve had friction in the past. But it looks like this isn’t one of those situations.

      Reply
      1. DDJ

        It’s also a really common piece of advice for managers who have employees going through a difficult period, who don’t know what to do, but who want to do something so that the employee knows that they are valued and appreciated (and have support). “Make sure to send your employee the information on our great EAP! Not all employees understand the program, or they may just not be thinking about it because they have so many other things going on.”

        Reply
  35. katamia

    (Work-related) visa question, asking here because I’m hoping to not put myself on the visa people’s radar. For grad school in England, I’m not allowed to “engage in business.” I understand most of what this means, but I also write fiction. Some of it is done and almost ready to go. Does submitting fiction (and being paid for it if it gets accepted somewhere) count as “engaging in business” (since it’s technically self-employment, at least in the US), or does anyone know of a good other site not connected with anything official where I can ask this? I’ll hold off on submitting if it really does mean I can’t submit any fiction while I’m in grad school, but I really don’t want to.

    Reply
    1. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      US citizen in the UK here – you may want to check in on the UK Yankee forum – they will know. You are allowed to work in school for x amount of hours per week though, right?

      Frankly, this govt wouldn’t know who was doing what, where even if they DID have tracking. I would be more concerned that the nature of publishing means that your name could be published and THAT would cause you to be flagged. Maybe.

      Reply
      1. katamia

        Thanks, I’ll check it out. I’m allowed to work I think 20 hours a week, but I already asked the school visa office and they made it very clear that I’m basically only supposed to be an employee, no self-employment or anything.

        And all the fiction, if it were accepted, would be published under a pen name, so unless someone did a weird and excessive amount of sleuthing I can’t imagine them tracing it back to me.

        Reply
    2. lisalee

      At least in the US, you can have profitable hobbies that do not constitute business, as long they meet certain qualifications (some of which are extremely subjective however). It looks like the English tax code also has a “hobby income” category. I did some brief googling and it seems that in the UK, you do not even need to declare income under $1000. Any chance your sales will stay below that?

      I also write fiction, and I know one person getting their PhD in the US who had to ask magazines to not pay them based on the type of visa they were on. They could still publish, just not be paid. But they were fairly successful and their (prospective) income definitely didn’t meet the “hobby income” qualifications because they were pursuing it in a business-like manner. So it is an option to publish without profit if you want to.

      If you’re writing something fairly unprofitable and only irregularly, I think you’d be okay. But I would see if there’s a different visa adviser (or maybe Student Legal Aid?) who you could talk to to know for sure.

      Reply
      1. katamia

        Thanks! This would be occasional short stories/poems and submitting novels to agents (which is unlikely to result in any payment before the program is over, since it’s just a one-year grad program). I can’t imagine making anywhere close to $1000 on short stories and poetry in a year, lol.

        Reply
  36. Manders

    Does anyone know of books or online communities that talk about how to take care of your mental health when you work full-time? A lot of what I’ve found so far seems to be aimed at giving advice to people who aren’t working or having much more flexible schedules than I can ask for right now. I’m looking for something more along the lines of how to keep your focus at work when you’re in a job that requires a lot of mental energy, how to know when it’s time to take a mental health day, how to manage your feelings of resentment at friends who don’t have to work because they get financial support from parents or spouses, etc.

    I do have access to therapy now (yay, new job with new insurance!) but I also have some bigger issues to triage right now. Plus, figuring out how much time I can take off work for appointments and what to do when I get emotional in therapy but have to go to work right after the appointment is another thing I’m having difficulty with.

    Reply
    1. Queen of the File

      Commenting here so I can hopefully benefit from responses. I feel like the ‘odd duck out’ with most of my friends, being one of the only ones with a full-time job, and I don’t feel like they understand exactly how draining it is even just to be away from home all day every day. I would also like some resources on how to manage this. Solidarity feels from over here.

      Some of the ‘how much time to take off for appointments’ and judging when you can take a mental health day will depend on your workplace. For me, we have a maximum number of hours allowed for medical appointments (4). If you need more than that in a day, you take it as sick time. We get enough sick leave that I do feel comfortable using a mental health day now and then when I’m at the point where I can only get out of bed in the morning if I promise myself some kind of prize (usually buying myself a fancy coffee or lunch).

      Reply
      1. Manders

        To be honest, I’ve been drifting away from a friend group where I was the odd duck out. It was taking a lot of energy not to snap at people like the woman who lived rent-free in her sister’s house and complained about the decor or the man who had taken tens of thousands of dollars from his girlfriend while lying to her about looking for work. There are a few people from that group I’d like to stay in contact with, though, so it would be nice if I could still hang out on occasion without feeling so tense every time money or work comes up.

        My workplace is very small and doesn’t have a lot of formal rules around this kind of thing, and I’ve just come from a company that nickle-and-dimed you down to the second with a time clock and fired someone who had health problems, so I feel like my idea of normal is seriously out of whack.

        Reply
    2. Marillenbaum

      My always-and-forever favorite post about this is Captain Awkward’s “How To Tighten Up Your Game at Work When You’re Depressed”. It really helped me when I was struggling at my first full-time job. I also tend to make sure I’m bumping up my self-care when I’m outside of work as well: I have an alarm that tells me to get off the computer and get ready for bed, I have enough frozen dinners to make sure I eat a meal even when I’m too tired to cook, and I firmly believe in the mantra of Heben and Tracy from the podcast Another Round: “Drink some water, take your meds, call your person”.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        Keeping frozen dinners is a smart idea. I have a bad habit of getting home, not wanting to eat what my husband made, and just snacking on random fridge items without thinking about whether I’m actually getting the nutrients I need.

        Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      For me, I had to take control of my food/water intake and my exercise.
      I pretty much had my household on a schedule. Thursday was start the laundry day and so on. It can really feel like a hamster wheel.
      I also decided to cut unnecessary or labor intensive things out of my life.
      I streamlined where I could, for example I would make two days worth of lunches at a time. Except for Friday, of course.
      Sleep was super important to me when I was pushing hard at work. So going to bed on time was top priority.
      With jobs that require a lot of mental energy, going for a walk night after night can be helpful. You might even notice differences with even a short walk.
      I very seldom call in sick so my rule of thumb is a mental health day every 18-24 months. The heck with it all. I stay home and do nothing of any importance.
      It’s probably not a great solution but I felt proud of myself about my job. I was kind of scared for my friends who were not working for whatever reason. But honestly, I was so busy that I never saw that much of my friends where it could eat at me anyway.
      Can you schedule your therapy appointments for late in the day so you don’t have to go back to work?
      Can your therapist help you build a plan so that you CAN go to work and complete your work day?

      Reply
    4. Admin of Sys

      re: emotional after therapy – Would it be possible to schedule work that allows for more private space/time when you get back? My office has little one and two person conference rooms when folks need to focus, because we have a really open floor plan. If there’s something like that, you could schedule a half hour ‘focus time’ and get work done in a safer space w/ less concern about people interrupting you, while still being at work.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        I guess I could say I was going to a doctor’s appointment and then finish up my work at home after the appointment. My problem is that my therapy sessions are about the impending death of my mom, which is hard to talk about without crying. Afterwards my face is obviously red and swollen for hours and I’m sometimes sniffly for an hour or two, so I feel extra self-conscious being around other people. There’s no private place to work in my current space, I’m always in the same room with the boss/company owner.

        I’ve had a hard time finding therapists who have slots available at the end of the day or on weekends. I’ve always had a hard time finding therapists I click with, so holding out for the perfect therapist who clicks with me and also has desirable slots open doesn’t seem realistic right now.

        I’d like to talk more time off for mental health days, but I need to save that time up for visiting my mom.

        Reply
        1. CrazyEngineerGirl

          I am so sorry you are going through this. I am currently in counseling too, having lost my mother in June. It can be incredibly draining, both physically and emotionally, can’t it? My first thought is, have you talked to your therapist about your concerns? If she knows it’s a potential problem and what your concerns are she (1) may be able to fit you into later appointments as time goes on and (2) she may have insights and suggestions for you with regards to going back to work after an appointment. Therapists have usually had 100s of patients, most of whom probably work and had appointments such that they had to go back to work afterwards, so it’s likely something that has come up before.

          Also, a kind of random thing that I’ve sometimes used when I’ve been puffy and/or red from crying is one of those cooling face masks. I like the ones with the little gel beads. Putting something like that on my face for like 10-15 minutes (or until it’s no longer cool) cools it down which helps me with the redness and puffy look. Maybe you could take something like that in a cooler with cold packs to keep it nice and chilled?

          Reply
    5. Teach

      Therapy will help you keep triaging the other things, so try to prioritize that. Also, I’m not sure if this is universal, but my first few months of therapy were super emotional and exhausting. An end-of-work appointment was crucial. Now, a year later, it’s more routine and doesn’t consume my day. So your needs there could change.
      I’m rarely physically ill, so I feel fine taking a mental health break at the rate my high-performing colleagues call in – maybe once every two months, especially around times that are stressful.
      Are you familiar with HALTS? Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired, Sick/Stressed all affect our ability to cope with mental health stuff, so that’s where I tend to focus. Healthy food I like, exercise, time with friends, good sleep, and schedule management are the ideal, which may not all be possible at once!

      Reply
    6. Ramona Flowers

      I found the MindTools website helpful for this – it has a really good section on stress management. I paid 75p for a one month trial and I think it’s a dollar in this US.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        I’ll give that a try! I tried an app called 7 Cups of Tea, but I found the interface confusing and when I connected with various people who were supposed to be doing the counseling they all told me they weren’t trained for such serious problems.

        Reply
    7. Sandra wishes you a heavenly day

      What to do when you get emotional in therapy is a great thing to discuss with your therapist. :)

      Also, I haven’t tried them, but there are apps out there – someone down further on this page recommended SAMapp for anxiety.

      For venting purposes, just to blerg everything out on a screen, there’s 750words dot com where you can just write every day and try to manage things that way? It is an amorphous award based thing where you get points for doing something every day – for some kinds of mental health issues I know that can be triggering.

      Reply
  37. edj3

    Update on direct reports who smell like smoke

    You might remember I asked how to handle my new team being made up of mostly smokers (I have reactive lung disorder), especially when I have 1:1 meetings with them.

    I took your collective advice and kept the conversation low key and more about my lung issues than about the way anyone smells, and asked for help. I told them (honestly) that I run to keep my lungs healthier, and that this summer in particular has been rough in terms of horrible air quality. I didn’t suggest any solutions, just asked for their help.

    The whole team has been great about it. While no one has quit smoking, they have on their own moved their breaks to after our various meetings.

    So thank you all, esp those who smoke, for offering your advice and perspectives.

    Reply
    1. paul

      Good! Glad it worked. In my experience most smokers are oblivious about how they smell but mostly respect a request to not smoke right before meetings or similar.

      Reply
  38. Teapot, Inc.

    My company has an “overachiever banquet” once a year on a Friday night. It’s based on your yearly productivity, but most of the people invited hate it and don’t go. They’ve already worked hard all week, they want the weekend to themselves, and the banquet frankly is boring and kinda sucks (especially the food).

    But everyone in management is invited, regardless of how horrible their areas did each year. And since they love it (and apparently hate good food), the banquet attendance is like 25% overachievers and 75% management.

    Anyway, said management is tired of people making fun of the attendance, but they don’t want to stop inviting themselves. So this year, they’ve found the perfect solution. They’ve invited everyone, no matter how much of a screwup you are, and they’re only going to celebrate the three most bestest overachievers…who will be hand-picked by management.

    Did I mention management is now eligible to win? They totally are. (I don’t really have a point here or want any advice. It just amuses me.)

    Reply
    1. Bryce

      I can think of a few choice things to unofficially redub that event. “Wanquet” is the one I’m most proud of, at least that I’m comfortable posting.

      Reply
      1. paul

        I would give good money to know Teapot, Inc. snuck that into official communications about it (but don’t, you’d be in trouble.)

        Reply
  39. Definitely NOT a T-Rex

    Any advice on working on a team that’s socially/professionally exclusionary?

    Coworkers and boss seem to all be friends with each other. I like them all, but boss checks in with them daily and maybe checks in with me 1x a month (if that). It’s gotten so bad that boss didn’t realize I had gotten married until 8 months after the fact (everyone else knew). My coworkers’ offices are all next to mine, with one of theirs being directly across from my door (so, the easy opportunity to check in with me during their daily check-in is definitely there). Boss has told me in the past that I can be trusted to get my work done, but that doesn’t explain the frequent nonwork socializing that everyone else is included in.

    Coworkers have also repeatedly “forgotten” to assist me with a project that’s not possible for me to complete without them. But they assist each other on everything else they’re working on.

    Am feeling like I’m disrupting a “clique” and that the only way to be happy on this team is to be part of the “clique”. Am I being too sensitive? If not, how do I explain these concerns to my boss without invoking the image of being “too sensitive”?

    Reply
    1. The Queen of Cans & Jars

      Do you want to be included in the non-work conversations? Or do you just feel like you’re missing out on work-related stuff. If it’s the former, and it’s not like they’re actively excluding you, you may need to be the one to go talk to them. I’m naturally more introverted, and I want to wait until people approach me, which I think reads to a lot of people as that I’m not interested in them. As much as I hate to do it, I usually have to make the first awkward effort to engage coworkers in conversation, and get the ball rolling from there.

      In regards to your relationship with your boss, I would have a conversation with your boss, but avoid discussing the clique or feeling left out. Personally, I’d talk with her to see if you could set up a regular meeting time to check in.

      Reply
  40. D.W.

    How do I have a conversation with my manager to provide feedback on management style? My manager is wonderful! She really sweet, gives me autonomy, supports me, but she drastically retards my workflow.

    She has self-identified as a “slow thinker”. Meaning that it takes her a while to process information, which is fine. That has some downfalls, but the major issue is that she’s not very assertive and is very much so a people pleaser, so much so that she takes on too many *high priority* tasks.

    I do preliminary work on a lot of our deliverables, but it requires her review before we approve the final product. I’ll meet my deadline to produce the first run and she’ll give herself a two – three-day turnaround, but then a week (or longer) passes before I hear anything. And yes, I follow-up way before then, but she is bogged down with other priority work. Alternatively, the situation is also reversed where my manager will start something or I’m awaiting key information from her to start / complete my work.

    We always meet the absolute deadline, but we miss these benchmark deadlines for product review in which we would have time to catch mistakes, redundancy, missing data, etc., and we’re doing it ALL at the eleventh hour, which always falls on me, and staff that I now have to bother and rush, and I’m always concerned that in the rush, details are overlooked even though I painstakingly go through the products multiple times.

    How can I have a constructive, productive conversation about how this affects my work and ultimately our output as a team?

    Reply
  41. Lefty

    Looking for advice from Federal Hiring Managers- what are your views on portfolios? Should they be done, ever? What should be included? Should I bring copies for each person on the interview panel?

    Background: I have been referred aka “listed” for a GS position (merit and general lists) for a stepped promotion and am hoping for an interview invitation. A few of my coworkers have suggested making a “brag book” to include copies of all of my SF50s, feedback from the public/partners, and writing samples. I think that a portfolio with these items would be useful, especially writing samples due to the heavy focus on that aspect of the job. I will not call it a “brag book” and thought I might have a few examples of my writing and my SF50s for each interviewer. Thanks for your insight!

    Reply
    1. Halls of Montezuma

      No, and for a high grade panel, we can’t even look at it. Your relevant SF-50 and supporting application materials should have been part of your USAJobs application. Great feedback can come from references and from specific accomplishments listed in your application materials. Bringing more won’t help and could even hurt if it makes you look like you don’t understand how the process works, plus asking interviewers to look at it would only take time away from your interview, which will probably hurt you compared to candidates who use the time to answer the questions thoughtfully and more thoroughly.

      Reply
    2. Tabby Baltimore

      Seconding Montezuma here. I’m not a Hiring Manager, but I am a federal employee, and I’m pretty sure the reason federal interviewers can’t look at those supplementary materials is because–if they didn’t come in as part of your application package–they’re off-limits. Federal hiring managers have to be fair, above all. If you had brought in supplementary material, but other candidates didn’t, and you ended up getting the job, you would’ve gotten it through a hiring process that didn’t treat all the candidates equally. And fairness in hiring is very important. I hope that if you do get an interview, it goes well and that you knock it out of the park. Keep us posted!

      Reply
  42. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

    Theoretical question: where would an ex-con find work after prison if they were convicted of murder? What kind of work would be available to them? I’ve worked at places where they hired ex-cons as long as they weren’t convicted of a violent felony, but what about those who were?

    Reply
    1. katamia

      I’ve heard of some nonprofits that run restaurants or bakeries staffed by ex-cons to help give them some positive work experience after they get out of prison. Actually, the restaurant industry in general seems relatively friendly to people needing second chances.

      Reply
    2. Manders

      I’ve heard that restaurant kitchens take a high number of ex-cons. There may be some other industries where hard work and low pay mean hiring managers are more interested in keeping a reliable worker than knowing details about their past.

      Unfortunately, it can be very hard to get a job as an ex-con, and a lot do end up committing new crimes for money.

      Reply
    3. Construction Safety

      Construction. Residential, commercial, heavy industrial, it doesn’t matter. We only had one client who requested background checks but that was for supt. and up.

      BTW, we have at least one ex-con (murder) working for us now.

      Reply
    4. Lefty

      Construction, food services, janitorial services for some spaces, maritime work (especially fishing vessels, entry deck work, shore maintenance). Also, dedicated programs exist in many states to get a start that can lead to more(if there is a parole officer involved, they sometimes have resources).

      Reply
    5. CAA

      Someone I know worked at a printing shop while on probation after release and later ended up owning a small business with her husband.

      Another person, whose crime was financial rather than violent, works in outside sales for a technology consolidator.

      Reply
    6. Oryx

      Depending on where you live, there are hopefully local resources available. I know where I am, there are organizations where their mission is to help formally incarcerated individuals find jobs and in particular we have a restaurant that hires only ex-cons. Your state’s (assuming you are in the US) corrections department should have a reentry program with information possibly available online and if there is a library at the facility they should hopefully also have a reentry section in house with information related to getting a job after being released.

      The PrisonTalk forum online might also have some ideas, they have regional forums that might be beneficial for specific locations that are open to hiring.

      Reply
    7. anon for this

      I read an article about a gym started by and completely staffed by ex-cons. I’ll link in a separate comment.

      Reply
    8. LawPancake

      A lot of restaurants either hire felons or don’t ask about priors. My wife is a chef and a good half of the folks in her kitchen have pretty long records. I know at least two there have some kind of homicide/killed a guy charge.

      Reply
    9. Not So NewReader

      Anything that is demanding physical labor. Nurseries, roofing companies, and from what I am hearing nursing homes. Well maybe not murderers in nursing homes but with burning through help like they do sometimes they turn a blind eye.

      On the good side of things, I see many contractors who are willing to hire ex-cons. The guy has to work, no doubt about that, but the business owner is definitely willing to hire. There is no program here so this is remarkable in that businesses are just doing it on their own.

      Reply
    10. Zip Zap

      I’ve lived an interesting life; I’ve known a few people who served sentences for homicide. One worked in a restaurant and two were on disability. In at least one of the disability cases, it had to do with the terms of the sentencing and/or release. Something about a mental health condition being a factor in the crime.

      Reply
  43. This is me

    I had a 1st phone interview for a position on July 10th.
    I had a phone interview with the hiring manager on July 14th.
    I met with the hiring manager and the COO on July 18th.
    On the night of the 20th, the hiring manager emailed asking for references and a work sample.
    I responded back on 21st with all needed materials.

    It is now the 28th and my references have not been called yet. And I am trying not to freak out. I walked out of the interview on the 18th confident, but ready to put the job to bed and not obsess. (as advised by AAM) But then , they ask for references, so it riled me up again! This is a great opportunity and would utilize my skill set fantastically. But now I am struggling to find my job search “its not yours till the offer it” zen.

    Maybe someone is on vacation.

    Reply
    1. Murphy

      My assumption would be that someone is on vacation, or something else took precedence for the moment. But it’s easier for me to sya because I’m not you! I’d be anxious too.

      Reply
    2. A Bag of Jedi Mind Tricks

      Hmmmm. It’s been a week since they emailed you asking for your references and work sample. That’s not a long time in JobSeek (although, I know it seems like an eternity). So I wouldn’t freak out yet. Since it’s summer, I’d say the odds are good that someone is probably on vacation. Give it another week or so. If you haven’t heard anything by then, you may want to contact the person that emailed you and just ask if everything was ok with the references and work sample you provided. Best wishes.

      Reply
  44. Dotty

    Ok – pretty serious one for a Friday but here goes…

    My friend manages a large team where one person was recently fired without her prior knowledge as it was discovered by IT that the team member had done something illegal from his work computer. Instant dismissal appropriate of course…but the IT guy didn’t take it to his manager or HR but to the company VP he’s friends with – together they’ve covered it up (presumably because it would expose the security issues in the IT set up that someone could do this? to clarify, IT found it by chance when fixing something else) which most likely would lead to the IT guy being fired.

    The VP has effectively made up a cover story for the firing, it’s actually a pretty good one but it still depends on the fired employee keeping quiet. But they’ve kept this from the CEO. Maybe he thinks he’s giving the CEO plausible deniability should this come out, but the potential ramifications of this security breach are huge (lost clients for sure, maybe worse) so I feel the CEO should know and be able to choose how this is dealt with! I guess she could try to convince the VP to take this to the CEO (it’s only been a few weeks so mayyybe he could say he was investigating before escalating it hence this initial delay) so that the CEO can decide how to rectify the situation right?

    What do you guys think? Should my friend a) stay quiet, b) go to the VP and try to convince him to come clean to the CEO, c) go to the CEO, or d) something else I’ve not thought of?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. katamia

      Ouch. I definitely think the CEO needs to be told about this. I highly doubt the VP can actually be convinced to tell the CEO, but I’m worried about possible repercussions for your friend if she goes straight to the CEO. I don’t know enough about whistleblower hotlines to recommend a particular one, but maybe it might be good for your friend to talk to one (or maybe even to a lawyer).

      Reply
    2. ThursdaysGeek

      How did your friend find out the details? It sounds like they did inform the manager, since that is your friend. Or did the fired person talk to her manager after the firing?

      Reply
      1. CrazyEngineerGirl

        This question. Because how your friend found out this information is extremely important I think. Is she 100% sure that she learned the 100% truth and is she 100% confident the CEO doesn’t actually know? If she was told directly, why her? If she learned it some other way, who’s to say the CEO hasn’t/won’t find out the same way?

        Reply
      2. Dotty

        She found out because it was her team member that was fired – its extremely odd that a manager would have one of their team fired by a senior manager without her knowing of any issues. She was told by the VP only because it’s one of her team members and she wouldn’t settle for the cover story

        Reply
    3. Not So NewReader

      Your friend could go back to the IT guy and say, “You are asking me to risk my job here by covering for you. I am not sure I can do that. HOWEVER, I can say that you did find the problem and you took immediate steps. I feel very comfortable saying that. Perhaps you will not get fired if the CEO understands this part. I think you and the VP should go to the CEO together. Organize what you will say:
      1) Here is what happened.
      2)Here is what has been done so far.
      3) Here is how we can prevent this in the future. (May overlap with #2.)

      OTH, it could be that the CEO does not want to hear it. It could be that the CEO expects the VP to handle all tech stuff.

      And I would be remiss if I did not say, if your friend decides to go to the CEO herself, she probably should have some ideas of where she will go for her next job. These things can get worse before they get better. And if she works in a company with a bunch of little secrets that is only going to make things worse.

      Reply
    4. Reba

      I think Friend could/should go to the VP first and explain why they think the VP should come clean–depending on what they know about the VP and how they are likely to react. But I think Friend should also be prepared to go higher up herself, and can decide whether it makes sense to advise VP of that (“I’m not comfortable keeping this from CEO; I’m going to tell her next week”) or to just go for it. To me the first seems like the best course, since it gives the VP a little time to act on her own and she won’t be blindsided–but that time to act could also mean she harms Friend in some way. What a sticky situation.

      Reply
      1. Dotty

        Thank you everyone, it’s certainly a sticky situation! I’ll send her the link to these responses, the suggested wording of what’s happened, how it’s been resolved sounds good

        Reply
  45. Ruth (UK)

    I decided to be open with my boss about the fact I’m job searching. I’ve been at my job for a little over three years, it was my first admin job following a string of retail/fast food jobs, but it is a small company and no potential to move into another position, either upwards or otherwise. Luckily my boss seemed to take it well. The fact there is no room for movement or really any further training etc in my company helps in this case, because he understands why I don’t necessarily want to do this job forever (I’m in my late 20s so I’d have to be prepared to do this very basic repetitive job very long term or find a new job at some point) and since no opportunities exist anyway, its not like I’ll be passed up for anything. I feel less stressed not having to worry that someone might contact him for a reference or something before I got a chance to talk to him, and wont need to make up excuses to attend interviews if i get any etc (in three years I’ve had two sick days in total so it would look odd if I suddenly started calling in..). Anyway, I also have greater access rights on the system than a lot of my colleagues so i think he was pleased to know I might be leaving so he can sort out getting someone else the access. I know this post is super rambly and not that well set out. It’s partly that I’m writing it on my phone which gives a small viewing screen and makes it tricky to go back and edit anything…

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      Some bosses understand that the positions under them are a stepping stone. They understand that one part of their jobs will be to hire new people every few years. Your boss is smart and has handled this well.
      Good luck on your search.

      Reply
  46. a casual commenter

    Hey, Alison, would it be possible if you could indicate in an edit to the letter that the LW has replied? Or perhaps move it up to the top of the thread? In long comment threads, it can be really hard to know if there’s been a reply, especially if I just comment early and see the post later but don’t check the comments to know there’s an update. I understand if this is a no, too much work for you, but I thought I’d throw it out. :)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      This gets suggested a lot, but I’m already at my limit (if not past it) work-wise. I’m also hesitant to commit to doing it when I know I won’t be able to do it reliably (since then people will be assuming they’ll hear about it if there’s an OP reply and that won’t always be the case). So unfortunately no, although I agree that a way to easily see that info would be great.

      Reply
    2. Dotty

      I tend to do a quick text search every now and again for “OP” or “Letter Writer” which usually works well enough, assuming the OP uses one of these

      Reply
  47. Disagrees with Partner

    Partner and I are disagreeing on this and I’m curious to know what others think.
    Sending flowers (or edible arrangement etc.) to one’s significant other at work, OK or not?
    I think it’s fine as long as it’s not over the top or often. My parents sent me valentines flowers at work one year that was kinda awkward since I was teaching high school and ended up explaining to every single student that no they were from my parents not my SO.
    Partner thinks that any thing like that should be kept our of the workplace completely.
    Is this just a case of know your workplace?

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      I think it’s a case of “know your workplace.” At all my jobs, it would be completely fine to receive the occasional bouquet, and I’ve worked at a range of nonprofit, academic, and corporate environments.

      Reply
    2. JanetM

      One of my coworkers receives flowers three times a year, I think (Valentine’s Day, her birthday, and their anniversary). No one ever says anything more than, “Oh, those are so pretty!”

      For reference, higher ed, IT department.

      Reply
      1. Lemon Zinger

        Interesting! I work in higher ed administration and this would not look good in my office. It has never happened AFAIK.

        Reply
    3. Emi.

      I personally would not risk it unless I had seen someone else do it without it being weird. (Also, edible arrangements would be a pain to deal with at work–wouldn’t you have to make space in the fridge?) It would almost certainly be weird at my workplace, but that might just be because it would go like this:
      “Hi, flowers for Disagrees With Partner.”
      “This is a secure facility. Have you been pre-approved for access? Who’s your escort? Sorry, you can’t come in.”

      Reply
      1. Arielle

        I got an edible arrangement this year for Valentine’s Day and I put it out for my team to eat. It was gone by the end of the day! Win-win, I felt loved and I also didn’t have to carry the sticky thing home.

        Reply
    4. Rincat

      Know your workplace. I don’t think it has to be kept out EVER, but it also shouldn’t be over the top. A couple times a year seems fine. A couple times a month seems strange.

      Reply
    5. Murphy

      I think it’s OK! As others have said as long as it’s not over the top, like not all the time or anything overly huge.

      Reply
    6. The Queen of Cans & Jars

      I agree that the occasional flowers would be totally fine. Except in the case of a workplace such as mine (food processing), they’d never make it out of the front office, so the office admin would probably have to tell people all day that they weren’t for her.

      Reply
    7. paul

      It happens here but not too often. It never causes issues.
      Avoid if you have a secure or sterile workplace though.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        PS non-profit, people would just think it was nice but I would prefer that they checked with me that I was okay with it.

        Reply
      2. Kathenus

        Agree. Know both your workplace and the preferences of the recipient before sending something to them at work.

        Reply
    8. SC

      I think it’s fine in most workplaces. My biggest concern would probably be allergies or aversion to fragrances if the recipient did not have his or her own office. My parents sent an arrangement containing lilies to my office once, and I couldn’t handle the smell in my own small office. I carried them home, where the smell had a chance to diffuse, so it wasn’t a big deal.

      Reply
    9. AllergyAlert

      Funny story…

      My team lead’s birthday was yesterday and his wife dropped by for lunch and gave him a balloon bouquet.

      I am highly allergic–as in I have gone into anaphylactic shock in the past and have an epi pen–to latex. My manager is aware of this and so is the department head and HR, but seeing the balloons I realized that when team lead was promoted three months ago I never informed him.

      Nothing terrible happened, but I told him immediately and he took them out of the building.

      Reply
    10. Chaordic One

      I don’t see anything wrong with it.

      I should add that at back at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. we had an occasion where a spouse sent her husband a stripper at work. The spouse seemed to think that it was hilarious, but it really was awkward and definitely inappropriate.

      Reply
    11. Zip Zap

      I think it’s “know your workplace” plus common courtesy. If it happened a lot or was over the top without an obvious reason, it could make other people feel bad. Think of the people who don’t have anyone to send them flowers at work. Most would be fine with it if it only happened on normal occasions, but you don’t want to push people’s buttons.

      Reply
  48. CJ

    I recently finished graduate school and began job searching in May. After talking with my school job/internship adviser I realized I really needed to just get my foot in the door in my desired field so I applied to some part time jobs as well as full time. I am in the (long) hiring process for a part time job. Nothing is official yet, I am still going through the background check.
    My question is: I am waiting to hear back from a couple of full time jobs that I had applied for. What is the protocol on leaving if I am offered a full time job?

    The part time job is very low pay (over 50% less than what I made hourly in my FT job before grad school) and a long commute. My family is saying leave PT job but just expect no reference if I don’t stay long.

    Reply
  49. BusyBee

    I just got a small raise, but feel a bit hard done by because I was hoping to be promoted. My boss said it could happen within the next year, but… Feels like I’ve done so much compared to others and still only AT average market rate. :-(
    Just needed to vent a bit… Any promotion success stories anyone wants to share? :-)

    Reply
    1. Dotty

      I was getting to the point where I’d been waiting for a promotion for what felt like a really long time and was so close to leaving then I got surprised with a promotion and a much better raise than I’d anticipated. But I’d also had a conversation with my manager some time before and asked what it would take to move up to the next level and then actively worked on developing myself in those areas

      Reply
  50. EllaGrace

    Has anyone had any experience moving from the US to Europe on an EEA Family Permit? I just got a call-back for a job in London (!), which is contingent on being able to get a permit with my Austrian partner.

    Reply
    1. BusyBee

      If your partner is resident (in the legal sense) in the UK then you should be able to join him without issues as long as his salary is above a certain amount (I think it’s £18,600).

      Reply
    2. Sprechen Sie Talk?

      I did it and am currently on the EEA2 Residence Card and about 18 months out from Permanent Residency. It is, hands down, the easiest of all permits to use to get into the UK HOWEVER be forewarned that there is a veritable sh*tstorm right now around rights/access/future due to Brexit.

      Basic facts:
      If you are US based you need to show:

      1) proof of your partner being EU (passport I think),
      2) your relationship (marriage certificate or papers proving 2 years of relationship “akin to marriage” – like leases and stuff although I used medical insurance cards!)
      3) proof of who you are (US passport)

      No need to show additional photos, prove income levels (as suggested above – thats for non-EU partners), proof of residency, etc. There is a slight catch in that your EU partner has to, within 90 days, prove that they are “exercising treaty rights” in that they have a job, are searching for employment, etc. We came through in 2014 when it was more relaxed, so they may now be checking into this, especially now.

      So, you get your information bundled up and pack it off to the NYC consulate (oh, with some passport photos) – there was a biometric step in there too (you go to a local center) and your passport will come back about 2 weeks later with the FP inside. That will give you 6 months from issuance to enter the UK and start “exercising treaty rights”. At some point you need to apply for the EEA2 Residence Card where you will need to show your EU partner is doing such (we used employment contract) and that WILL take up to six months to process, although you can request your passport back during that time. That gives you 5 years as long as your partner is exercising treaty rights, then its one year of Indefinite Leave to Remain and then Citizenship.

      Granted its been a few years since Ive done this so best check the UK Gov site and check out UK Yankee forum as well.

      Now for some major caveats and personal griping:

      London can be a dream destination but I would actively urge you to really look at the opportunity with eyes wide open. I cannot tell you how much ambient stress this whole Brexit mess has put on me personally and the wider citizenry. I am now waiting for some two-bit disaster of a government to inform me of what my rights may be to stay, or not, while I pay a ton in taxes. Salaries are low and stagnant, infrastructure is a mess, and the £ is on a roller coaster with the $ since last year and lost 20% in value overnight, which was real fun. We move as much money out of the country into $ and $ investments as we can right now.

      I haven’t personally been on the receiving end of any xenophobia, but its hard to not feel unwelcomed now, that the tone of the city has changed. We are getting Plan B and Plan C together now and while we initially intended to stay here at least until 2020, I am not going down with the ship if it comes to hard Brexit. Any other time I would have said “Sure! the infrastructure is a mess, salaries are low, and housing is expensive, but itll be a great adventure!” but now all bets are off. Only you can know if this is best for your career/situation/outlook – just have contingencies in place!

      Now, if you are using EEA FP to move to any other country, other than Austria, its the same process. It is only when you are moving to the partner’s home country that you come under different rules.

      Good luck!

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, Brexit effectively killed my dream of moving there unless I end up married to some rich Brit, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon. On my own, it’s now impossible. :(

        Reply
        1. Typhon Worker Bee

          Wanna buy a UK passport? Mine’s not much use to me anymore. Effin’ Brexit :(

          (just kidding – I like having a second passport as backup. But I use my Canadian passport as my primary document all the time now, even when flying into the UK and other EU countries. Mostly ‘cos I feel like I need to blurt out “I voted Remain!” every time a non-British EU citizen finds out I’m British. I even managed to get “Cath would like everyone to know that she voted Remain, so Brexit is not her fault” into the official minutes of the international research consortium I’m in)

          Reply
        2. Foreign Octopus

          Even if you do marry a rich Brit, I still would advise against moving there. Britain has changed so much over the last two years. The build up to, and then the Yes result, Brexit really tore away the veneer of respectability that we had and highlighted how small minded we have become.

          I recommend Spain. It’s warm, beautiful, lovely people, beautiful language, and so much cheaper.

          Reply
  51. Stella

    The head of my department is very well-known in our little corner of the world. He has just announced that he will be leaving his post to head up a new department at a related organization. We are not direct competitors, but are in the same sector.
    As the department head here, he has come to expect quite a bit from his office administrative staff; the lines between personal and business can get a little blurry for him. We are already awkwardly assisting him with small tasks which are clearly related to his new position (think downloading, printing, and organizing a dozen color photographs), but we are all dreading how the transition will go over the next few months, and wondering how much he will continue to ask of us as it wears on, and even after he leaves.
    Any advice for how to get through this period, and even how we might draw a line if any of these requests become unreasonable? I’m thinking about Alison’s advice to say that performing these tasks will delay the completion of others, and ask which is the bigger priority, but in some ways I’m more concerned about managing my own frustration with his expectations that we drop everything because his new job has a sudden deadline, or because he really needs to make an appointment for a haircut right his minute. I realize that as our boss he can do that, but what is our responsibility as he transitions out of that role? He’s hoping to stay on here in some advisory capacity, so the worry is that he will never really leave.

    Reply
    1. Not So NewReader

      I hope I am understanding this correctly. You will get a new boss, right? So technically you guys no longer work for this man. If this is the case, I would just ask the new boss how he wants you all to handle any requests that come up.

      Reply
  52. Fishsticks

    Hello!
    I am a just graduated and recently employed in a job I really enjoy! However, I’m looking for tips to tell my boss I’ve run out of stuff to do. My company consists of me and my boss and he’s been traveling a lot since I started and it’s been extremely busy on his end, so I’m not sure how to approach it. It’s a very independent/self-driven position I’m in so I’m concerned that if I ask for more work, he will think I’m not getting everything else done (ex. accounting and other office stuff that my boss doesn’t deal with). This past week I’ve been bored out of my mind and finally have stuff to do today, but am dreading next week when I’m out of stuff to do again…
    Thanks so much!!!

    Reply
    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      Could you ask him if there are there any long-term projects that you could take on? So when your day-to-day tasks have been completed, you can fill in your other time by chipping away at this long-term project?

      Reply
    2. DDJ

      I would make it pretty breezy. “Hi Boss! I wanted to let you know that I’m feeling really comfortable in what I’ve taken on so far. Thanks for recommending x method/providing the training/pointing me in the right direction. I’m finding that as I’m developing my skills and getting familiar with my regular tasks, they’re not taking as much time. I’m able to get everything finished on time/before deadlines. Are there any projects that I can help with, or tasks you might have for me to take on?”

      If you have a good boss (and since you say you really enjoy your job, I’m guessing you have a good boss who’s good to work for), they probably want to make sure you’re not overwhelmed. They may have had experiences with previous employees who took a little longer to learn tasks, or maybe with people who made themselves look busy without doing a whole lot (in which case, the boss might not realize that the workload is actually low). I’ve seen it happen – a coworker was promoted into a position after a departure, and after about a week, she realized that she could get everything done in a couple hours a day, and couldn’t figure out what the heck the previous person had spent all their time doing. So she took on additional tasks and responsibilities.

      If you let your boss know that you have extra time and would like to take on more things, particularly because he seems super busy, he’ll probably be thrilled. Just make it clear that everything is getting done and deadlines are all being met, and you still have capacity to take on extra work.

      Reply
    3. Zip Zap

      I would keep it short and sweet. “Let me know if need help with anything else.”

      If it seems appropriate for your workplace, you could send him a weekly report. A bulleted list summarizing what you did that week. Optional: use words in that list as links to examples of your work. That way, the boss has the option of either skimming or looking for more detail. If you go that route, you could follow the list with a line mentioning that you’re available to help with other projects if needed.

      Another option: Decide what you’d like to help with if you were given more work, then offer to help with that. “I noticed the website hasn’t been updated recently. Would you like me to update it?” Kind of a win win – it makes it easy for a busy boss and you get to choose which direction to go in.

      Reply
  53. stitchinthyme

    This situation happened years ago (in 2008), so it’s not highly relevant to me now, but I’m curious if it’s a common practice.

    I was doing a passive job search (posting my resume to job sites and taking interviews when contacted, but not actively applying for anything outright), and was contacted by a recruiter for a job at a very small company (~15-20 people). I did the interview and got a job offer…but the recruiter said it was contingent on my signing a contract saying I’d agree to stay at least a year or else pay back the fee the company owner paid the recruiter for finding me, pro-rated for however long I did stay (so I’d pay half if I only stayed 6 months).

    As I was told that the full amount was somewhere around $20K, I turned down the offer. I’d signed similar agreements for relocation expenses before, but at least with those I was getting something out of the deal — a move to a different state. And I certainly wasn’t planning to leave in less than a year, but I wanted the option if the job didn’t work out for me.

    So what I’m wondering is, is this sort of thing — asking the candidate to foot the bill for their recruitment if they don’t stay at least a set amount of time — at all common? I’ve never had it happen before or since, or heard of it happening to anyone else.

    (This isn’t relevant to the rest of the story, but there is more to it for those who may be wondering: A couple of months later I got a call back from the same recruiter, who told me that the company owner was still really interested in hiring me and had agreed to take the recruiter-repayment thing off the table. Because things at my current job had gotten worse — many layoffs had happened, and all the remaining people I liked working with were jumping ship left and right — I ended up taking the job. I was there nearly five years.)

    Reply
    1. Manders

      Nope, that’s definitely not common. I’ve heard of similar agreements for relocation expenses, so maybe that’s how the company owner ended up with the idea that this was a normal thing to ask for. $20k in recruitment costs also seems very high to me.

      Out of curiosity, how was the job once you took it? Was this just one weird quirk, or was it a red flag you should have paid attention to?

      Reply
      1. stitchinthyme

        Red flag. I mean, I did stay for nearly five years even though there are a lot of good tech jobs I’d qualify for in my area, so obviously it wasn’t pure hell. But I only got one raise in those five years; when I looked in the employee handbook to see what the official company policy on performance reviews was, it was basically “Whenever the boss wants to do them”. And the boss did things like yelling at a guy for calling sick when he had been in the hospital, and trying to convince a coworker who needed his gallbladder removed not to do it (because of the extra expense on the company-subsidized medical insurance).

        The main reason I stayed was job security: my last two companies were, shall we say, highly unstable, with constant layoffs and uncertainty. At this place, it’s highly likely that I could have stayed there for 20 years as long as the owner was still around — they never had a layoff, and the only firing anyone could remember was for good cause (no-show, no call). For that reason, I didn’t burn bridges when I left — if I called Boss tomorrow and asked to come back, he’d rehire me if he had work for me to do. But I hope I never have to resort to that, because I really did dread going in there every day.

        However, I’m now at a place that has the best of both worlds: small company (though bigger than that one), no layoffs, raises every year, and other little things that show they value and appreciate their employees (like free food). Been there four years now.

        Reply
    2. Rincat

      I haven’t worked much with recruiters but that sounds really odd. I would think recruiter fees should be lumped in with “cost of doing business.”

      Reply
    3. blackcat

      I heard of at least one headhunting firm that would do a partial refund to the business if someone they recruited left early, but that’s a pretty different thing.

      Reply
      1. mreasy

        I believe that is relatively common, but the firm takes the hit – further motivating them to find someone who will really work in the role.

        Reply
    4. Chaordic One

      I’ve heard of this and it is definitely a red flag. I think you did the right thing.

      My understanding of such things is that usually if a recruit doesn’t work out, then the recruiter takes the hit and has to refund a portion of the fee paid that was paid to him or her. It appears to be an incentive to make the recruiter take the process seriously and really make an effort to locate the best candidates, as well as to work with good solid employers.

      Reply
    5. Zip Zap

      Sketchy. At best, it’s naive and misguided. At worst, it’s a scam. Hypothetically, they could be pushing people out and then billing them. That might sound paranoid, but with all the scams that are out there, I think it pays to be skeptical. You did the right thing.

      Reply
      1. stitchinthyme

        Since I did end up taking the job (and believe me, I read everything I had to sign when I was filling out the hiring paperwork *very* carefully!) and got to know the owner reasonably well over nearly 5 years there, I can say with a decent amount of certainty that he didn’t intend it as a scam. He was just notoriously cheap. He hated it when anyone called in sick (even when they were actually in the hospital!), gave me only one raise the whole time I was there, “promoted” a couple of people and gave them more responsibility without a pay increase to go with it, tried to talk a coworker out of gallbladder surgery because of how much it would cost the company’s medical insurance, and tried to get another coworker to put together a company documentation server on his own time (because it couldn’t be billed and he didn’t want to pay anyone to do it, though he did recognized that it would be a valuable thing to have).

        My favorite was when one of my coworkers moved and found that his new commute was absolutely horrible, so he asked for a small schedule change that would have made the difference between it taking a half-hour to get in, vs. an hour to an hour and a half or more — he wanted to come in a little earlier or later while still working the full day and still being there for the “core” business hours. (We were a software business, so it wasn’t like we needed to do time-sensitive shifts or anything.) The boss said no, and suggested that he move back to this area. This guy was in the cube next to me, and I knew — and so did the owner — that he had moved in order to finally be with his formerly long-distance girlfriend (now his wife). So I heard this exchange, came out of my cube, and said, “Wait a second. You expect him to leave the love of his life…for THIS place??” The look on his face was priceless, but he didn’t back down, and that coworker found a new job and left a few weeks later.

        Those are just a few examples. And oh, the guilt trip I got when I told him I was leaving!

        Reply
  54. EllaGrace

    What remote collaboration tools do people use? My company is 100% remote, but resistant to using Slack, etc. Any ideas to make that kind of thing more appealing? We’re stuck with just Skype and email right now.

    Reply
    1. Admin of Sys

      We’re using mattermost, tied to our git instance. Are you looking for rt communication channels or shared documents/work tools?

      Reply
  55. It's almost lunch wahoo!

    I’m interviewing for a job I’m super excited about next week! (and the manager even asked me to apply–I had been a finalist for a different position there a few years ago) I am excited! I don’t want to jump the gun, thinking about possible schedules and things like that, but I do have two scheduling bumps, which I’m not sure when to bring up. One is major, the other is minor. The major: I’m teaching a class (I have a PhD) at the local university on Tues/Thurs mornings this fall. It’s only the one class for the one semester. The minor: I have a vacation planned for a week in October. I know the vacation is NBD, and that it’s usually pretty straightforward to get an early vacation approved. But what about the teaching? Do I wait until there’s an offer (if there is an offer!!), or do I let them know earlier in the process, assuming it seems like it’s going well. Again, I don’t want to count chickens before they’re hatched, but I also want to be prepared. Any advice appreciated! Thanks

    Reply
    1. Product person

      Wait for the offer. This is when you have the most negotiation power (they know they want you and will be more willing to discuss an accommodation).

      The answer changes if you won’t take the job at all unless they can accommodate your teaching. This is because they’d have invested time and energy interviewing you, and nobody likes to be surprised with unusual requests like this one at the eleventh hour. Good luck!

      Reply
  56. NW Mossy

    Anyone had success coaching/being coached on developing critical thinking and judgment? I’ve got a direct on my new team (I’ve been managing them about three months) who really needs to improve in this area and would like to offer her more guidance in the hope that she’ll be able to turn the corner.

    She handles routine work reasonably well, but anything non-routine throws her for a loop and her error/rework rate spikes. This isn’t a role where it’s reasonable to avoid giving her non-routine work is feasible – non-routine work is the core function of the team, and a routine task becoming non-routine based on new information is a common occurrence.

    I’ve talked with her about strategies to use to help her stop and think, like writing out a plan of action before she starts and vetting it with a more senior peer first. She’s been doing that and it helps a little, but she’s still making errors that I wouldn’t expect someone with 4 years in here and decades of experience prior to make. Realistically I know that firing her is the most likely outcome, but I’d love to hear about what’s worked for others in case there’s something I can offer her that I haven’t thought of yet.

    Reply
    1. katamia

      You’ve probably tried this already, but checklists are what I would suggest–over time they should slowly become automatic, and they can make non-routine work feel more routine for people who need that kind of structure.

      Also, have you asked her what other managers/supervisors have done in the past that’s been helpful for her?

      Reply
    2. Snark

      “Anyone had success coaching/being coached on developing critical thinking and judgment? I’ve got a direct on my new team (I’ve been managing them about three months) who really needs to improve in this area and would like to offer her more guidance in the hope that she’ll be able to turn the corner.”

      Honestly? This is a really, really hard thing to teach, and a hard thing to learn. I’d love to tell you there’s a great way to instill this in someone who’s bad at it, but it’s fundamentally a function of self-awareness and introspection. Even checklists and work plans might not be enough, if non-routine work is really the core of your group’s functions and she can’t rely on predictability.

      I’ve witnessed and dealt with this too, and in every instance I can think of, the manager (whether that was me or someone else) eventually ended up having to either fire the person or put them in a new role where their work was largely routine and offered no surprises.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah. This is not something you can usually teach in the amount of time you have available to salvage the situation (if ever). You can try really intense coaching for a few weeks on the chance that it’ll pay off, but I’d go into it prepared for the likelihood that she’s the wrong fit for the job.

        Reply
      2. katamia

        I agree even though I already commented with suggestions. Sometimes you can find solutions to improve with certain types of non-routine work, but it’s a little surprising (and also a little sad) to me that she’s stayed so long in this field/job that doesn’t seem to be a good fit for her.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          This is why I’d actually advise NW Mossy to consider whether the discussion needs to be how to help this employee turn the corner, or whether it needs to be about a transition plan. After four years reworking their stuff, this employee has to know on some level that she’s not a good fit for the position, and that’s got to be incredibly dispiriting. Working with her to find a better role, hopefully within the same org, might be a relief to her.

          Reply
          1. NW Mossy

            She kind of…gets it but doesn’t, you know? She’s attributed her struggles to this point to significant challenges in her personal life, which I’m sure are a factor but probably not the major one and not really something that the business can or should wait around on for her to get straightened out. You’re also right to note that it does burden my other team members to carry her water in so many ways, whether it’s spending more time checking/vetting her stuff or picking up things she’s not capable of executing well.

            Unfortunately, I’m basically certain that I’m not going to be able to find another role for her that offers the kind of work she’s suited for because those kinds of roles in our business line are under the cost-cutting do-we-need-this microscope right now. I’d have more options if she were in my site (the home office) because I could potentially reach over to another line that’s based here, but the office she works from doesn’t support those other lines.

            It’s a crummy situation all around, and it’s not really been a service to her to let her limp along all this time. It’s unfortunate because if the prior manager had let her go back when, we would have been able to replace her; now, we’re in hiring freeze mode and can’t replace people who leave. But if she can’t get on track basically immediately, the small amount of value she brings isn’t going to be enough to justify keeping her.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              It sucks. I mean, you know what has to be done, you’re saying it here, but it’s so much harder when nobody’s the butthead, isn’t it? When someone isn’t, like, flagrantly negligent or incompetent, and is a good and decent person you want the best for on a personal level, but they’re just….not good at their job.

              Reply
              1. NW Mossy

                You’ve pretty much nailed it. It’s a hard message to communicate in a way that doesn’t feel judgmental of her as a person, given how much our jobs are entangled with our sense of identity. Much as we objectively understand that the equation isn’t “failing at job = failing at life,” it can sure feel that way sometimes, especially when it’s happening to us.

                Reply
      3. Snark

        Another thought: yes, writing out a plan of action and vetting it with a senior coworker could help in the short term. But if every novel assignment throws her for a loop and those are your core functions, that’s putting a lot of hand-holding work on your senior staff, and that might not be a fair thing to ask of them.

        Reply
      4. The Queen of Cans & Jars

        +1 I think that these are going to be really difficult things to teach, even given infinite time and resources. In some cases, people just aren’t cut out for a certain job, no matter how hard they try. It may be time to have a conversation with them about whether this job is really the right fit for them.

        Reply
    3. Catalyst

      I am having the same issue with one of my employees, so unfortunately I can offer no help, but I wish you luck!
      And will be watching this thread in hopes of also getting some advice. :)

      Reply
    4. Kathenus

      Late to comment, but in case you see this here’s one thought. I agree with others that this may end unsuccessfully, but in addition to looking for proactive options like checklists and the plans of action you mention, have you done an after-action style discussion about specific times when she handled a non-routine issue poorly? Breaking it down with her step by step – what her thought processes were, what she did and didn’t do, reasons for her actions; and then using it as an example to show her a different way she could have handled that same situation in a way that you need her to be able to learn to do? Sometimes reviewing a real-life situation as an example is easier for people to understand than a hypothetical situation that might occur in the future. Good luck.

      Reply
  57. HJ

    So, has anyone let their managers know that they were starting to look for a new position and regretted it? The main reason I’m considering leaving is because of grand-boss’ decision to cut payroll and leave us permanently understaffed among other things. I have a great relationship with my manager, but I don’t know how grand-boss will react. I don’t want to be forced out before I’m ready, but I also want to give my manager as much warning as possible. I’m hoping that it’ll help her convince grand-boss to get my replacement in before I leave rather than last minute when I give my formal notice. I’m working on manuals of my job responsibilities in the meantime, but I want to train my replacement before I leave too. I’m hoping being honest about job searching won’t come back to bite me.

    Reply
    1. ms-dos efx

      I’m in a similar situation myself — I work in a season-based field that more or less corresponds with the school year. On top of this, my boss recently announced that she will be going in for surgery within the next couple of months. I’ve been in the process of trying to return to a former employer, and although things seem likely to work out in my favor, I haven’t even interviewed yet. I spent some time looking up old AAM posts about talking to your boss about leaving before you actually give notice, and it seems like in the vast majority of situations, it’s really better not to. A lot of workplaces are not even able to post an opening until you’ve left or at least given formal notice, so although you have good intentions for wanting to be open with your boss, it may not even be possible for it to have the effect you want. On the other hand, it could result in you getting pushed out the door much sooner than you’d like — especially since that would save your grandboss even more on payroll.

      Reply
    2. Not So NewReader

      If your manager is as great as you say, then he already knows you are looking.
      He probably cannot start looking for a replacement until it is certain you are leaving. So there is no benefit to telling him.
      I’d let it go.

      Reply
  58. not the finance person...

    need some reassurance here…CEO just requested I pull a check for someone who was left off payroll. I’m the Finance Associate & don’t usually issue the actual checks, just do all the paperwork. Guy in charge of Finance is not here today.
    I’ve included him on the email response, letting him know the check #, amount, & that I will copy the check before sending.
    Just…I don’t like this.
    Please tell me this is SOP and I should give her (CEO) the filled out check with no wories…
    thanks

    Reply
      1. not the finance person...

        I never handle the checks until after they’ve been signed; have no idea of how Finance tracks them, no access to the software so it’s all handwritten. I didn’t even have any payroll info for the person (how many hours) and had to figure out how to figure out union dues, FIT, SS, Med, other deductions, etc.
        As I said, just outside my usual duties.
        Feel free to delete my comment

        Reply
        1. LizB

          It sounds like the request was normal and you did the right thing, but your company could have provided you with more support. Off-cycle paychecks happen, and your company shouldn’t rely on Main Finance Guy always being in the office when they do. It would be smart to have you (and maybe another person or two) trained on how to do that task ahead of time in case it comes up, and to have documentation in case all the trained people are gone.

          Reply
          1. The Queen of Cans & Jars

            +1 on this one. We are a small company with only 1 person in charge of anything money related. I keep trying to lobby for someone else to be trained as back up because it is really bad practice to have knowledge of a procedure held entirely by one person.

            Reply
      2. JanetM

        If it were me, my uneasiness would be, “The person *said* they didn’t get their check, but they went to the CEO rather than to the payroll department, and what if the CEO didn’t make sure they really were left off payroll, and I don’t have any way to make sure the check wasn’t actually cut, and what if they’re lying and I cut the check and the company is out a month’s pay for him, and I get in trouble?”

        Reply
        1. Academic Anon

          Once main finance guy gets back it would be easy to verify that this person was paid the correct amount. If there was a mistake it seems like it would be easy to fix in the next paycheck.

          Reply
    1. Belle

      As a payroll person – I wouldn’t do it without calling the person or back-up who normally handles first:

      1. What if the person has garnishments or something you aren’t familiar with since it isn’t run through the system
      2. How does this impact reporting
      3. Do you have authorization to pull checks for control purposes – can be a big audit issue
      4. Is there money in the account to cover the check
      5. Did the money go out but to the wrong account or an old account
      6. Are the hours correct – what about overtime

      If I run it past the person who normally handles it and they say it is okay, I would then ask for an email to document – I have seen too many problems with not checking first and getting verification.

      Reply
    2. Beancounter Eric

      If you worked for me, I’d say you did fine.

      Did CEO request in writing/email – your note sounds like they did. If not, and much depends on your situation, ask them to please email the request…in my career, every CEO I’ve worked with has been very happy sending an email memorializing their order to issue a check.

      Looks like you documented everything – copy your boss and the CEO – and Monday, you and your boss need to discuss having a written procedure for this sort of thing in the future.

      Reply
    3. Admin of Sys

      Was the communication with the CEO over email, and do you know the person who you’re pulling the check for? Because there’s a well known phising attack happening that involves spoofing a higher up and asking for checks to be pulled/charges made in non-standard ways, in an attempt to garner funds and access to accounts. This is especially dangerous if it’s bypassing normal payroll, because folks get access to and change direct deposit information, then have a check issued, resulting in the money going to the new location, owned by the folks who have faked the credentials.
      In summary, if the communication was through email and you’re concerned, I’d def. double-check everything including company policy and if you have a security team, check with them too.

      Reply
  59. Fenchurch

    Last week my work dropped a bombshell on us. My area has been going through a massive restructure, placing me with a known micro-manager (eek!). On top of that, this is my third manager in as many years at this place. I cannot get traction to get promoted here, despite being told repeatedly that I am a rockstar employee.

    All that is survivable. Our company has 2 major business hubs, one located in a major city (where I am currently working and just bought a house within walking distanc