open thread – April 20-21, 2018

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.

{ 2,195 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous for this

    I have discovered something weird about a new(ish) coworker. It is not a big deal, but it creeps me out a little bit and I wonder if I should say something.

    She has been here about 4 months, and is doing a good job and is friendly. A first, she ate with the team every day, but lately, she has started eating at her desk (doing personal stuff or working) or out.

    I discovered by accident that for the lunch break, she actually goes to the nearest cemetery (it is located about 100 meters from the office, so very close) and reads on a bench. It is not a creepy cemetery, it has a lot a trees, but it is still a cemetery.

    I think it is weird that she goes there during her break instead of eating with us. Should I say something to the other coworkers or her manager (who is my manager too) ? Should I talk to her to know why she does this ? Isn’t it a bit unprofessional ? What if someone else from the office saw her ? Am I the only one to be creeped out by her behaviour ?

            1. The Cosmic Avenger

              Thirding. Sounds nice and peaceful to me! I actually prefer talking to people, but if I wanted quiet time and had a cemetery nearby, that might be what I would do!

              1. Still Looking

                I find cemeteries to be really peaceful and interesting. Not everyone thinks they’re creepy.

                1. Lauren

                  It’s peaceful and she isn’t harming anyone (if OP is an atheist) and is providing reading material and companionship to the ‘residents’ (if OP has afterlife beliefs).

                  She isn’t skateboarding off the headstones, which would be wrong. She is sitting and reading on a bench. Creepy to you, but not to her. And not to other people, but I worry that you will put your own spin on telling this private lunchtime activity to others. Please don’t turn this into a thing where she is branded as weird at work, because this isn’t a thing to worry over or concern yourself with.

                  People walk, bike, and learn to drive in cemeteries. People sunbathe in cemeteries in Europe. They are like giant parks in Denmark. It is usually public property, and diff people use it even when not there a funeral or visit to a loved one. As long as you are not being disrespectful to the graves (ex. taking a nap directly on a grave), I’m not sure why you feel you need to out her as if its something that she needs to be scolded for at work – especially since it isn’t happening on work time.

                2. Kali

                  There’s a 150+ year old cemetery near me. The city seems to have grown around it, so it’s just a little cemetery, about the size that would be taken up by a mid-sized house, on a residential, suburban street (I say suburban, we’re less than a mile from the city centre). There’s one grave that I took a photo of the other day; a tree has grown right through the headstone, cracking it. It’s one of those that lies flat, and the tree has cut halfway into it.

                3. Kali

                  …though, I did get creeped out earlier. I study biology, we share a building with the pharmacy and med schools, and, long story short, our tutorial classroom for this semester is next to the mortuary.

                4. Blue

                  I feel the same. Whenever I visit one an old cemetery, I think about those individuals and what their lives might’ve been like (I’m a historian, so that’s not as weird as it sounds). I think there’s something kind of beautiful about acknowledging the lives of perfectly ordinary individuals who’ve largely been forgotten.

                5. Quoth the Raven

                  And in my case, although I don’t go to cemeteries often, I find the architecture and artistic design in mausoleums and tomb stones to be really interesting.

                  Some cemeteries are actual museums or tourist attractions. I know I’d go to Père Lachaise and Montparnasse if I went to Paris, or Hollywood Forever in LA, for example.

                6. Quoth the Raven

                  To add, I also live in Mexico City. We celebrate Day of the Dead (think Coco). So they can be very bright and colourful and not necessarily solemn and “creepy”.

              2. PhyllisB

                Agreed. There is one near my house that is beautiful and has a pond. Now that the weather is nice, I have thought about going there for a picnic lunch/read a book. Obviously not on a day when there is an interment, but it’s such a peaceful place, plus I have family members there. Maybe she does, too. Don’t say anything; just let her be.

          1. Hills to Die on

            Fully none of your business. You’re the one who is going to seem odd if you bring it up to a manager (or anyone else).

          2. Specialk9

            Agreed, you’re going to sound like a gossip if you whisper to your coworkers and manager how creepy this person is for their private and harmless activities in their personal time.

            Wait, no, I meant you’ll BE a gossip.

        1. ThatGirl

          You’re allowed to find it creepy, I guess, but it’s not unprofessional and doesn’t strike me as remotely strange. Nor should it affect you or anyone else you work with in any way. It’s a cemetery, not a meth house.

          1. Phoenix HR Lady

            +1 Not unprofessional at all. She found a peaceful place outside to read that happens to be in a cemetery. Perhaps someone close to her is laid to rest there and that allows her to feel close to them. Maybe she just finds it relaxing. Either way, bringing that to someone’s attention would really just make you sound catty, and I would guess that is definitely not your intention. :-)

            1. Anion

              Yes, I had that thought, too: it’s possible a friend or family member is buried there, and she goes there to read because it makes her feel close to them.

              Either way, it’s weird to you, OP, and it’s fine that you think it is, but it’s likely other people will have the same “So what?” response that many of us (myself included–I like cemeteries, and if there was one near me I’d totally go have lunch and/or read or even work on my laptop there) have, and you’ll look like you’re being nitpicky and trying to “get” her. So please don’t mention it!

            2. The Rat-Catcher

              I had this thought as well. It may bring her some comfort if she has a loved one laid to rest there. She may have gone out to eat with you all at first because she felt like that’s What You Do at a new job, but maybe as she’s gotten more comfortable, she’s returned to what was a normal routine for her.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            Yup. We’re allowed to have emotional reactions to things, finding our coworkers’ habits creepy or endearing or dull or whatnot. We don’t need to take action and tell people they have engendered these emotions. Just think “huh” and go on about your day.

            It’s not unprofessional. Skateboarding off the headstones in a company T-shirt would be, but all you have here is a person who likes to read outdoors somewhere quiet when the weather is nice.

          1. Sandra

            That was my first thought as well. Maybe this gives her a way to disengage from the office Mean Girls without being “political” and also get a little quiet time.

            1. Say What, now?

              Whoa, we don’t know that they’re mean. Some people get wigged out by cemeteries and I think the OP just got herself worked up with her own hang-ups.

              OP- There can be a stigma to cemeteries, but there really shouldn’t be. They are a place where we inter our dead but you’re not demonstrating a death wish or an inclination toward witchcraft or anything in that vein just by reading in one. I think it would be good to lay off the movies and CSI-type shows for a while, though.

              1. Rainy

                OP wants to report her to management for unprofessional behaviour because she likes to read outside in a peaceful location during lunch sometimes.

                Sounds pretty mean-girl to me.

              2. AnonEMoose

                And what’s wrong with an inclination to witchcraft, anyway? (Says the practicing witch.)

        2. General Ginger

          I walk in one of my local cemeteries several times a week. It’s gorgeous, peaceful, has excellent paths for walking, and I’ve incidentally learned a lot about the historical demographics of the area by how the sections of the cemetery are organized (time periods, family groups, immigrant communities, etc). I don’t get a long enough lunch break to make it there from the office, but I would, if I did.

          1. Artemesia

            And in this case, it is a nearby place that has a bench and is quiet and private for reading which she prefers to do on her lunch break. think of it as a park, which is pretty much what it is for the purpose she is using it for.

        3. Jules the Third

          This is totally a you problem, and you will look weird to your coworkers if you mention it as something notable.

          My mother’s family (US midwest farmers) spent spring / summer Sunday afternoons at the community graveyard, tending the plants, mowing, catching up with the neighbors / extended family. They had picnics, the kids played hide n seek, etc. You may not be the only person uncomfortable with graveyards, but quietly reading on a bench in a graveyard at lunch is firmly in the ‘normal’ range of activities.

          There is, after all, a bench there.

          1. RES ADMIN

            Traditionally, that was one of the main uses for community cemeteries–as park space for families to gather for picnics, family play time, etc. as well as honoring their loved ones. It is only recently that people have started to view cemeteries in a more restrictive light.

        4. Observer

          Which doesn’t answer the question.

          Replace “reads at the cemetery” with “like blue skirts” and try again.

          Q – My coworker likes blue skirts. I find it creepy. Is it unprofessional?
          A- Why would it be unprofessional
          Q – I don’t know, it just creeps me out.

          You have the right to be creeped out by anything. But, you do NOT have any standing to assert your personal and unexplained creep-meter as a standard for professional conduct,

          Don’t even think of bringing it to your manager, because if your manager is a reasonable person, it is going to make you look VERY poorly.

          As for saying something to your coworkers – why would you even think of doing this? The only one with standing to talk to he about her lunch break (if she were doing something problematic, which she is not!) is her manager. Going to coworkers is nothing but pot-stirring and gossip mongering. Not a good look for a functional office.

          Lastly, it is absolutely NOT your business what she does during her lunch break or why. Asking her to justify her behavior would be utterly overstepping appropriate boundaries. On the other hand, the question itself gives me a clue as to why she might not want to spend all of her lunches with “everyone from the office.”

        5. Xarcady

          I live across the street from a cemetery. It’s old–there are graves from about 1730 there, but burials still take place from time to time. Further down the road is a newer section where you can still buy a burial plot. The city is in charge of the upkeep.

          People walk babies in strollers there. Joggers take advantage of the shade from the old trees. There are tours of historical graves, and a Halloween “spooky” tour, as well. They’ve had to ban people from walking dogs in the cemetery, because not everyone was scooping their poop.

          If there were benches there, I’d go sit and read. It’s a surprisingly welcoming spot.

          And taking time out in a cemetery has its literary roots, as witness Anne Shirley in “Anne of the Island.” (Anne of Green Gables books)

      1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials

        It’s only unprofessional if she takes off all her clothing while reading and places a posterboard sign next to her bench announcing where she works. Otherwise, seems fine to me!

    1. Yolo

      No, this is neither unprofessional nor weird. She is entitled to spend her time elsewhere on her lunch break.

    2. sheila_cpa

      It might seem creepy to you, but I’d do it if there was one nearby. I love cemeteries. It’s like sitting in a park. It can be very calming. And it’s definitely not to the level of mentioning it to others.

      1. H

        As someone who has walked my baby in the cemetery by my house every day I could during my maternity leave (not many, unfortunately, thanks Neverending Winter ‘18), I co-sign this wholeheartedly! Anyway, I could go into the role of the cemetery as a peaceful place for the public as designated during the Victorian Cult of Mourning…

        1. Artemesia

          My daughter lives near an old cemetery with interesting monuments, a lake and island etc etc. When I am baby sitting that is where I am likely to walk with the stroller and baby.

          1. Elizabeth West

            I used to cut through a large cemetery on my way to the mall when I was in college. There was an older section with really cool and interesting tombstones that had small portraits of the decedents set into them. I liked looking at them the same way I like to look at the people in the Victorian cabinet cards I collect and wonder about their lives. It makes me feel like they’re not forgotten; even if I never knew them, at least someone is thinking of them. :)

        2. Anion

          The town where I used to live had one of the oldest churches in the area–13th century. The graves out back were all more recent, like 18th/19thc., but I used to always take the path through them when I had the chance; some weeks I’d be there almost every day. I loved that short walk. It was beautiful and peaceful, and as a history lover it was always fascinating–it made me feel connected to the history of the place and the town. (One of the grave markers even had the “As I am, so shall you be,” line on it, which delighted me when I saw it because I’d never actually seen it on a real grave.)

      2. Say What, now?

        It’s like a park but with implied quiet restrictions. So it’s even more ideal for reading. She probably likes to be outside and she may need her space to recharge herself mentally. So I wouldn’t take it as creepy or a slight to you and your coworkers.

        Definitely don’t go to your boss. And I wouldn’t change my thoughts on her.

        1. Solidus Pilcrow

          All of this. It’s a park with headstones and WITHOUT joggers, frisbee players, kids’ birthday parties, dogs running around…

          It also sounds like this is the closest place with a bench nearby.

    3. MaureenD

      Please don’t say anything. What your coworkers do on their lunch break is their business. Personally, I love cemeteries. I find them very interested and calming. I don’t really care if people think this is weird because it doesn’t have anything to do with them. Let her enjoy her lunch break however she wants! By all means, feel free to invite her to join your group, but an invitation is not a summons.

      1. Nervous Accountant

        That’s really interesting that you find them calming. I have never known people to find them calming or interesting, or basically anything other than heartbreaking. (Don’t get me wrong, the coworker can do whatever they want on their break so I am not judging her. Just curious).

        Maybe this is a convo for the weekend thread.

        1. rldk

          There are several older cemeteries in Boston, where I grew up, that were designed as a mix of cemetery and arboretum, with a very park-like structure of paths and ponds and benches. They’re intended to be a calming space as well as a solemn place.

        2. fposte

          I think it’s pretty common for people to like them; it’s also pretty common for people to find them sad. I also think your current bereavement may be coloring your lens on this a little.

          1. Nervous Accountant

            That’s possible. It may also be a cultural/religious thing. Even before, whenever we drove past the cemetery in our neighborhood I would get chills and say a quick prayer for them.

            This is all just so fascinating and interesting to me.

            1. fposte

              That’s possible too. My parents would do the “hold your breath when you pass a cemetery” thing with me as a kid but it was mostly a game, and I suspect mostly to shut me up for a bit because I was a mouthy kid :-).

            2. Zennish

              I’d be fairly certain it’s just someone looking for a quiet, sunny spot to read a book. There is a cemetery near me that that has dedicated walking trails, and refers to itself as a “Cemetery and Arboretum”. People have picnics there…it’s totally not a thing.

            3. MaureenD

              FWIW, I am an atheist and have no strong cultural ties. I am not afraid of death and am more of a celebrate the life than feel sad about the death type of person. However, what I really find calming about cemeteries is that they are generally quiet, have greenery, provide a learning experience (about history, people, grave markers, etc.), are out in nature (generally), and usually command respect.

            4. Kathleen_A

              I’m religious, and I enjoy cemeteries, too. Mostly I find them calming and pleasant, and while you do sometimes see something sad there – e.g., a child’s grave, or worse yet a cluster of child graves (as often happens around the flu epidemic of 1918, for example) – it’s not an immediate, heartbreaking sadness, at least not for me. Nothing wrong with a reminder during the middle of the working day of how precious life is, or so it seems to me.

              Mind you, this is all during the day. Cemeteries after dark make me vaguely uneasy (or sometimes really uneasy), which I realize isn’t logical, but there it is.

        3. Bea

          I had someone ask me to take pictures of old headstones once. I refuse because I find that uncomfortable on a personal level.

          However I can see how people view them as quiet memorial like parks because they’re resting places for so many people.

          1. Penny Lane

            There is a site called Findagrave where you can request a photo of your loved one’s grave and armies of volunteers will carry it out. This is particularly important for those buried in Jewish cemeteries (where the gravestone will often contain the Hebrew names of both the deceased and his/her father) and for those who are doing research to get into a lineage society such as Mayflower descendants. I, too, find them interesting and calming and I can easily see going to sit in one for some peace and quiet during a lunch break.

            1. fposte

              I was just watching Zoe Wanamaker’s “Who Do You Think You Are” episode, and when she goes to the Jewish cemetery in the Chicago ‘burbs where her great-grandmother is buried, they’re very keen for her to share her information so that they have family context for the grave. I found that very touching.

            2. Jesca

              Interested and random note! I am actually a direct descendant from someone off the Mayflower and gravestones are actually really helpful with searching ancestry like this.

              Not everyone has hang-ups about cemeteries either. it just depends on your cultural, etc beliefs. Sure, your manager MAY side with you on being creepy, but does that make it right? No.

          2. LiptonTeaForMe

            Bea as a genealogist, I take pics of gravestones all the time for people tracing ancestors across the country. Many of us don’t have the funds to just on a plane and do it outselves.

        4. Akcipitrokulo

          Glasgow Necropolis is regarded as a very beautiful place and a bit of a tourist attraction!

          1. RVA Cat

            Same with Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, VA (the Confederate section is a bit creepy, though that has more do to with the living).

              1. Anon Bluenoser

                We have so, so many cemeteries in Halifax that are essentially tourist attractions, albeit respectful ones. The Titanic cemetery shows up on a lot of tour routes, and the Olde Burying Ground downtown always has art students and ghost tours in and out of there. (link to their website in my name) Heck, there’s an annual tradition to go pour a beer out on Alexander Keith’s grave at Camp Hill cemetery on October 5th.

                Granted none of those (or a handful of others) are active cemeteries — they’ve been closed to new burials for at least a century, in some cases, which means you’re not going to be disturbing any active mourners during Keith’s beer run. But they are absolutely fascinating public spaces.

                1. Bluenoser two

                  Hi Neighbour!

                  And you’re right, those three are lovely cemeteries to visit for those of us on Team Not Creepy. The Olde Burying Ground is the first in the city so great for seeing old carvings and checking out the demographics of the first generations (Also the real life inspiration for the cemetery in Anne of the Island). Camp Hill has a ton of local luminaries and used to have the only stoplight in the world located inside a cemetery (I’m still sad they moved it). Fairview (aka the Titanic Cemetery) got quite famous when the movie came out because of the grave of “J. Dawson”. It’s also the place to find a lot of victims of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the largest manmade explosion before the nuclear bomb.

                  Ahem – sorry to ramble. I love histoire and my city!

                2. Anon Bluenoser

                  @Bluenoser two

                  We’re in the right place for that! There was this great guy from Newfoundland – Rene – who used to wear a black cape and do ghost tours of the downtown, mostly folklore and local history. He was a chef at Henry House for a while, if I recall correctly, but I haven’t seen him around in years.

                  Did you ever do the Citadel ghost tour, by the way? That was an excellent evening. Very creepy. My better half absolutely swears that he heard a non-existent cannon go off while we were there.

                3. Bluenoser two

                  I’ve done a couple of different ghost tours which were fantastic! On the best of the two, we accidentally got locked in the Olde Burying Ground (which was not quite so uncreepy at that point). I think we scared the passing Dal security guard more than we were scared, though.

                  Every year I mean to do the Citadel Ghost walk and every year it doesn’t quite happen. That being said, I was in there after dark for Nocturne one year and it was absolutely creepy. There was a dog with our group that just sat and stared at this one dark doorway in the outer wall for the whole time we were there. Nobody mentioned it at the time but we all saw it and declared it decidedly creepy afterwards.

                  Also, if you like ghost walks and short road trips, there’s a great one in Lunenburg with all kinds of folklore. They do walking tours in the daytime and break out the spooky stuff after dark.

                4. Anon Bluenoser

                  The dog story gives me chills. Brr!

                  And we did the Lunenburg tour last summer! We had a great time, and ended up in the cemetery by the old Academy building. That place’s got a great Haunted Mansion look with the scaffolding and the up-lighting in the dark.

                  We like to do a lot of road tripping when the weather’s decent, and always have an eye out for good tours — are there any others you’d recommend?

                5. Bluenoser two

                  Yup! That’s the tour! I think the stop at the church was the most interesting but the school in the dark was pretty impressive. As for other tours, Charlottetown has a really good one that’s put on by the group who do the roving Parents of Confederation during the day. I also want to check out the Valley Ghost Tours sometime, but their schedule is a little erratic.

              2. Baby Fishmouth

                Greyfriar’s in Edinburgh is a big attraction! And one of my favourite places. It’s become very popular due to the Harry Potter connection.

        5. That Would Be a Good Band Name

          There are cemeteries in New Orleans are tourist attractions. We took a tour when we went a couple of years ago. But I wouldn’t find it calming or peaceful to sit in the one were my grandparents are buried – too personal. I think it’s just a matter of personal experience that will determine how you feel about it.

          1. sparty

            I’ve done 3 tours of cemeteries and find them fascinating. I have been to Boot Hill near Tombstone, the Voodoo lady cemeteries in New Orleans, and Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires. They are all fascinating for different reasons. The history of Boot Hill and St Louis cemetery (NO), the epitaphs of tombstones in Boot Hill, seeing the amazing architecture in Recoleta (one is valued for tax purposes at $1MM), the Romeo and Juliet stories of rich families and their various mausoleums.

          2. Lindsay J

            I did the New Orleans cemetery tour when I went on a visit close to Halloween a couple years ago. I found it fascinating.

          3. Samata

            I find cemetaries peaceful. I go to the one my grandparents are at when I am and just sit. It makes me feel close to them, but I can 100% see where it would be a personal preference. I wouldn’t judge anyone for liking or disliking the practice – and I definitely wouldn’t let it color my lens of them at work.

          4. stitchinthyme

            +1 for this – I was about to say the same thing. The cemeteries are one of my favorite things in New Orleans.

            And I can totally see the attraction of hanging out in a nice, quiet, peaceful place to read at lunchtimes. As someone above pointed out, it’s got the beauty of a park, with no kids, dogs, or anyone else running around or making lots of noise.

        6. Susan Sto Helit

          I think it depends very much on if the cemetery is still in current use, or if it’s a historic place.

          Many European cities, and plenty of them outside Europe as well (I recently visited a couple on Cuba) have cemeteries of historical note which are major tourist attractions. They’re relevant for their architecture, and possibly for noteworthy people buried there. Visitors are expected to be respectful as they’re a resting place for the dead, but they’re not sad places. If anything there’s a gothic grandeur to them, and a great sense of history.

          I can understand how a cemetery for the recently deceased could be a sad place, and it might be considered odd if someone were to choose to spend their lunch break in one, but cemeteries and graveyards in general I find very interesting. I’ve even been in the Paris catacombs, which are stacked with bones. They’re incredible.

            1. RVA Cat

              Exactly. I wouldn’t find Pere Lachaise creepy – except for the wall where a mass execution happened. It’s places where people died that give me the shivers, not where they’re buried.

            2. Susan Sto Helit

              Yep, I’ve been to that one!

              Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón was an odd visit, because it’s both a stunning historic cemetery, and also still in use. I discovered this whilst sitting in the chapel…and a coffin was suddenly wheeled in. Accompanied by mourners in shorts and t-shirts.

              I vacated quietly, but everyone else seemed to accept that this was standard procedure!

          1. Antilles

            I mean, if we’re going to talk about historic places, it’s reasonably common in the US too – Arlington National Cemetery is a stop for many Washington DC tour groups and a lot of Presidential memorials around the country too.

            1. Boo Bradley

              Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn is the final resting place for a lot of people, along with really interesting monuments and crypts. The Steinway mausoleum was built to hold something like 200 bodies, but there are only 80 or so in there. There are also a cluster of graves for firefighters who died on 9/11.

              I don’t love cemeteries, but my love of history led to do a walking tour through Green-Wood. I spent four hours there and only got through half the tour (I was self-guiding myself with a book). I did occasionally get the shivers like I always do in cemeteries, but it helped that this cemetery was designed like a park, so there were lots of opportunities to walk on paths so I didn’t feel like I was walking over bodies all the time.

              1. Boo Bradley

                There’s also Hope Cemetery in Barre, Vermont, which is amazing. Barre is known for their granite, and a lot of granite sculptors are buried in that cemetery. The monuments are amazing: an easy chair, a soccer ball, an airplane, etc. etc. I highly recommend it.

            2. AnonEMoose

              The cemetery near the Gettysburg battlefield is something of a tourist attraction, too. It’s part of the battlefield tour, at least if you book a private guide (which you can do). I found it moving, but not sad or creepy.

            3. Jane of all Trades

              Yes. The historical Bonaventure cemetery in Savannah, GA has beautiful statutes and is such a beautiful, peaceful place.
              I think there is nothing wrong at all in visiting cemeteries, so long as we make sure not to be disrespectful or disruptive to people who mourn. Its a great way to acknowledge the lives of the people who came before us, and learn about our history.

          2. Who the eff is Hank?

            I toured the catacombs in Paris last month– it was incredible, and definitely makes you think a lot about the world and your place in it.

        7. BadWolf

          There is a cemetery near my house that’s wooded and winding roads — it’s very pretty and has markers from many years (new and old). It is pretty to walk in and interesting to read the names, dates, and what people have included on gravestones and the great variety of headstones/markers. One “headstone” is actually bench…so I can only assume that person wanted to people to come and visit and enjoy the pretty place.

            1. fposte

              I’d never heard of that and I so want one! The inscription can read “Sorry for freezing your butt.”

              1. .

                I think it’s spike Milligan who’s got

                I told you I was ill

                On his grave stone, which makes me laugh

        8. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night

          When I was a kid I used to ride my bike in a cemetery all the time. Lots of different paths, almost no traffic other than the occasional car, and much closer to my house than the nearest park. To this day I also find them calming, peaceful places and am not creeped out by them at all.

          1. Drago Cucina

            When we lived outside Philadelphia a neighboring cemetery was where everyone took their kids to learn to ride their bikes. We all kept the staff was excellent in letting us know what areas to avoid due to services and everyone was very respectful. My husband, his brothers, and other neighborhood children used to go sledding in the cemetery near their house in Queens, NY. In both situations it was seen as a celebration of life among those remembered.

            I have a fascination with cemeteries because it shares the stories of lives lived.

          2. ronda

            my co worker once told me her kids used to bring her flowers when they were young.

            She eventually figured out they were getting them from the cemetary :)

        9. Ellery

          I also find them calming and interesting. I even wrote my master’s thesis on the documentation of gravestones for genealogical uses. Cemeteries/churchyards are very fascinating to me, even on a professional level.

        10. Le Sigh

          I like cemeteries. I like reading, I like the peace, like a park. I also like feeling like I can stop and say hi to the people I loved, if they’re there (I’m not religious, I know they’re gone, but I like the idea of saying hi and thinking about them). I also like reading the headstones and thinking about the decades and world in which that person lived, what they might have experienced, what the world must have been like — and it’s not always a happy thought, but I like to think about these things. One day we’ll all be dead, there’s not much to be done about it, so I don’t find them creepy.

          To each their own.

        11. LilySparrow

          When I was a kid, my grandparents’ church had a “homecoming” picnic/potluck every spring. It was a very old place, and the picnic area was on one side of the grounds, with the cemetery on the other side and around the back. Lovely, shady and cool.

          So after we ate and had our faces pinched by all the distant relatives we didn’t remember, the cousins would go wander around the graves and look for the even older relatives. We’d read the inscriptions and generally try to digest in peace.

          It’s hard to be creeped out by anything strongly associated with fried chicken and chocolate cake.

      2. Parenthetically

        I agree! We have a beautiful historic cemetery in my city, with many famous people interred there, and it’s not only lovely, but really fascinating. When I lived closer, it was a favorite place to walk, and when my now-husband first visited, it was one of the places I wanted to show him.

      3. A.

        The cemetery near my house has peacocks. The grounds are very beautiful and well maintained with alot of trees. It is very peaceful.

      4. I Didn’t Kill Kenny

        I’d like to know what telling your boss or coworkers would accomplish?

        Do you want your boss to do something about it? Do you want your colleagues to feel creeped out, as you do?

        You can feel as creeped out as you want to. Keep it to yourself.

    4. Guy Incognito

      It sounds like she’s going to the nearest bench, outside to read. Regardless, if it’s outside of working hours, (including her lunch hour) you should probably ignore this, and let her read in peace.

      1. Naptime Enthusiast

        Agreed, I don’t think reading at a cemetery is any different from reading at a park. She’s probably not going to be disturbed by anyone there.

        Probably. O_0

        1. Guy Incognito

          By the description, it sounds like it’s mostly a park, anyway. Regardless, it just sounds like she’s trying to get away for a few minutes. Don’t blame her.

      2. Ladylike

        Agreed! Just a peaceful place to read outside. I can’t blame her one bit. Please don’t make an issue of this, OP. At worst, it will alienate your coworker. At worst, you’ll look petty.

      3. JennyFair

        Yes, judging someone’s lunch break is a lot like judging someone’s Saturday. It’s unpaid, non-working time, and who they spend it with (or without) and what they spend it doing is not related to their professionalism unless they are literally doing it in the name of their company. I’m not sure it’s the cemetery that is the poster’s issue, so much as feeling like the coworker is slighting the ‘lunch crowd’ in favor of the cemetery. As an introvert, I can totally understand wanting some very quiet time away from the office, and many people also like to keep work and personal lives separate, which is hard to do if you’re sharing a meal together on a daily basis.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago

      I think you’re seriously overreacting.

      It sounds like it’s a nice green space and your coworker wants some fresh air on her lunch break.

      You shouldn’t say anything to anyone. It’s really none of your business.

      1. Luna

        +1. I don’t get the concern here. People are allowed to do whatever they want on their own break. Also, many cemeteries are designed to be nice outdoor spaces to spend time in (lots of tress, flowers, etc.). There is a bench there for a reason, it’s meant to be used!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          My sister and brother-in-law had their wedding photos taken in one of the local cemeteries.

        2. Salamander

          Exactly. A long time ago, cemeteries were America’s first parks. I think it was at the turn of the twentieth century when it was at its heyday. It was not uncommon to see people picnicking in cemeteries with their families and people strolling about, enjoying nature in those locations. Now that they are less crowded, a cemetery is a perfectly good place to have some quiet time in nature. There’s nothing weird or odd about it.

          1. Not So NewReader

            This! My mother’s family went back for centuries. When my mother was a little girl, there would be family picnics in the cemetery. This probably worked because of carry-in, carry -out and no one had to clean up a big mess afterwards. It was an annual thing, and everyone tried to get there because it was important to go.

            1. Salamander

              That sounds really lovely. When my cousin and I were little girls, we would pick flowers and put them on the graves of a tiny family cemetery that was on the property of the farm her family owned. The stones were old, and they didn’t belong to members of our family, but it was just something we did. This was an activity for sunshine-y afternoons, when the foxglove was blooming, and I have really fond memories of those times.

            2. Jules the Third

              My mom’s family did this multiple times over the summers – 40s / 50s, US midwest, very rural – lots of farmers. It was used as a time to tend the greenery around the graves and as a social thing, after church.

      2. Wendy Darling

        And maybe some alone time. I’m friendly but I am a hardcore introvert and if I’ve had a morning full of meetings I want nothing more than Lunch Alone Time.

      1. CG

        This is a really good point! It may be that she is there to be close to the grave of someone she loves, and you will not come out looking great if you bring it up and imply that she’s unprofessional or weird for doing so. (It’s still 100% okay and perfectly professional even if she just goes there because she finds it calming and is looking for some quiet alone time outside. That’s a perfectly normal and reasonable thing.)

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess

          When it’s nice out, my best friend regularly spends time at the cemetery her grandparents are buried at. So that honestly would be my first thought.

          And even if that wasn’t the case… wouldn’t register anything than a slight shrug from me. If that.

      2. mediumofballpoint

        Seconded. There are so many different cultural norms around death and grieving that this really isn’t worth opening up.

      3. Middle School Teacher

        I was thinking the same. It’s nice to visit your grandma, even if she’s passed away.

      4. Jane of all Trades

        That’s what I was thinking too. If she’s going there to be closer to a loved one she lost, it would be a terrible, terrible thing to call her a creep for it.
        LW, I would file this under “that’s not what I would do, but it doesn’t affect me,” and recognize that people have many different habits and preferences. Just because they differ from yours doesn’t make them less valid.

    6. De Minimis

      I think she’s just looking for a quiet place to read, and the nearest place just happens to be in a cemetery. There’s nothing unprofessional about wanting to take a break from the office at lunchtime.

    7. HR Lady

      Oh lord no, leave her be. I work in a bit of London city centre where churchyards and graveyards are the only green spaces – unless it’s raining I sit on a bench, read and eat my lunch there. It’s quiet, it’s time away from people and the screen, does my health the world of good. Unless she’s spending her lunch break dancing around gravestones dressed as the Grim Reaper or something there’s nothing weird about this behaviour.

      1. Anion

        “Hey, Jane? Maybe you could…wait to change into your lunchtime outfit until everyone else is out of the office? Or use one of the restrooms downstairs? It’s…it’s kind of creeping people out, to have you walking through the office in that costume.”

    8. sweetknee

      She probably just wants a little peace and quiet, which would be easy to find in a cemetery. Occasionally, I want that, and end up driving to a park that is about 1/2 mile from the office and sitting outside there. This is not that much different.

      Sometimes working with people all day long and then eating lunch with them too just gets to be too much.

    9. Meyla

      If it were a park instead of a cemetery, wouldn’t it be fine? I don’t think it’s really any different. That’s just a convenient and probably quiet place to sit.

      1. Many Names


        I know some people feel cemeteries a very singular purposed places but more and more people use them as parks, areas to walk and meditate in and there’s even talk about cemetery tourism for some historic places where this makes sense. Please don’t interfere or say anything. I’m someone who needs my own time at lunch and maybe she tried socializing, she may have even felt pressured to do so (I can relate) but prefers to recharge and take a break alone.

        1. Samata

          Very much this. I worked somewhere once where people lunched together every day. After about 6 months I realized I actually needed the time to charge, so I went to a bench at a nearby park to read and eat my lunch from then on out. Same thing happening here; there is really no concern to be had.

    10. Foreign Octopus

      I would say you’re probably thinking about this too much.

      I preferred to take my lunch away from my colleagues because I needed an hour to relax and decompress from talking to too many people. I used to park my car in a little alcove of trees and read with my feet sticking out of the window. Probably unprofessional if anyone saw me but it was also my lunch break. As for the cemetery, I wouldn’t be concerned about that either. It doesn’t sound like she’s doing anything indecorous there. Reading a book peacefully seems fine.

      Depending on the culture of your office (and I suspect that it’s a bit noticeable that she’s doing this because you’ve picked up on it), you might think about inviting her to eat with you once a week and then letting her do her own thing.

      Don’t think too much on this, and certainly don’t judge her for it. Certain people need time to relax during the work day. She sounds like one of them.

    11. Still needs a name

      Don’t say anything. My husband’s grandpa would always eat lunch in a cemetery when he was out for the day somewhere.

      Some cemeteries are even tourist destinations, if famous enough people are buried there.

    12. A Teacher

      Its definitely a “you” problem. Cemeteries can be peaceful and she may just want to enjoy a bit of downtime away from the office. Nothing about what she’s doing is unprofessional or odd–your reaction to it honestly throws me off more than anything you described.

    13. Star

      Why is going somewhere peaceful and reading a book on her lunch break unprofessional? I do this regularly, and it lets me recharge, get some fresh air, and get away from work. I sometimes have lunch with coworkers, but it’s not the same as being able to totally escape.

      I understand why people find cemeteries creepy, and don’t want to spend time there, but this sounds like a pleasant and peaceful one to spend some time.

    14. ExcelJedi

      It would come off as really weird and invasive to me if a coworker or direct report told me this about someone else’s lunch habit, especially if they thought it was something I should be concerned about. It’s her lunch break, she’s not obligated to spend it with coworkers. Reading in a nearby green space (even a cemetery) sounds very refreshing to me, and I’m sure she thinks the same thing.

      1. DivineMissL

        I agree – I think I would be creeped out to know that my co-worker was nosy enough to TALK TO MY MANAGER about where I go on my lunch break.

        1. AnonEMoose

          This. It’s none of your business, OP. She’s just enjoying some time outdoors in a quiet place, with her book. She may be more of an introvert and really need the time to recharge in the middle of the day. Please mind your own business, chalk this up to “different people have different preferences,” go on with your life and let her go on with hers.

        2. Fiennes

          And if i were the manager, I’d be seriously worried about the judgment of one of my reports…NOT the one reading in a cemetery. The one who thought this was an actual work issue.

      2. Maude Lebowski

        Me too … it’s pretty near borderline maxi pads in a bag with shampoo and toothpaste in the back of your car territory.

      3. RedRH


        What she does on her lunch break is none of your business and you telling your manager about it will make you look nosy and petty that she isn’t eating with you.

    15. foolofgrace

      I think her lunch break is her own time to do with as she pleases. Frankly, I can relate to wanting to sit in a quiet place and read rather than spend yet another hour with the team I already spend 8 hours a day with. And I don’t think sitting in a cemetery is excessively creepy. If there were a park nearby she’d possibly choose that location instead, but maybe there’s no place else she can go to get a bit of peace and quiet.

    16. Erin

      Yeah, I think you’re the only one who is going to be creeped out by that. I prefer to read on lunch too, and if there’s a place for her to do outside that sounds perfect. It might be weirder in your office culture for her to read at her desk on lunch.

      Also (and I say this gently), it’s not really your business what she’s doing on lunch, that’s her own time. She’s not obligated to spend it socializing with coworkers. That’s her time to recharge.

      1. SoSo

        “Also (and I say this gently), it’s not really your business what she’s doing on lunch, that’s her own time. She’s not obligated to spend it socializing with coworkers. That’s her time to recharge.”

        This. As an introvert, it takes a lot of energy to be “on” for my coworkers all day. The lunch hour is a brief reprieve to get away from the office and recharge. It can be difficult to relax with coworkers, even at lunch when you’re off the clock. While I enjoy the occasional social lunch, my favorite thing to do is to grab some takeout or a sandwich, drive to a sunny spot, and read or listen to an audiobook by myself.

        1. The Luidaeg

          As an introvert who works with the public, there are days when I need that lunch time to re-center and re-charge. Cemeteries historically have been places of quiet reflection, and many were designed to be like parks. Part of why they were designed like this is because families would sometimes get together to remember loved ones, but also spend time with each other. Back in the day (i.e. horses and carriages), being able to gather together would be a day-long affair. There are also cemeteries which are also arboretums (like Bellefontaine in St. Louis). Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville is huge and designed to be park-like.
          That is beside the main point, though — and what I’m getting at is what SoSo is saying: what one does on one’s lunch break is one’s own business. If people find they re-charge by gathering with other people and talking, great. If someone else needs a quiet moment for themselves, also great. And no one’s business.

          1. Sky Bison

            Your comment is very on brand for your user name – I imagine you know all about back in the day ;)

          2. K T

            I absolutely love Cave Hill! I grew up going on picnics there, so I am definitely on the side of cemeteries are a great place to read or relax.

            1. Reba

              I remember Cave Hill well! Especially when my baby brother was attacked by a goose! Cemeteries are peaceful, huh? ;)

        2. RVA Cat

          This. I’m getting an “introverts are so weird!” and a whiff of maybe the former head cheerleader shocked that former Goths have jobs….

          1. AnonEMoose

            You’re not alone. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty involved in local SF/Fantasy fandom. And there are people who find that really weird, too. Which has occasionally made things difficult for me at work because I just “didn’t fit in.” And that’s a sucky thing to do to someone. Don’t be that person to your co-worker.

            1. Elizabeth West

              I literally saw an online Harry Potter fanfic editor job listing today. I was so tempted–however, if I put that on a resume, I might run into an employer like this who thinks it’s too weird.

            1. AnonEMoose

              I know, right? Next thing you know, people who volunteer with science fiction conventions will have jobs, too!

    17. Temperance

      That’s neither unprofessional nor creepy. I thought you were going to say something way stranger than this.

      I would honestly rather eat alone/spend time alone than be forced to socialize with colleagues during lunch. Reading on a bench sounds delightful.

      1. A.

        I like eating alone too. There is so much pressure from my coworker to join them in the lunchroom. While I appreciate them wanting to include me, I really want to spend my lunch time alone or running errands.

    18. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      I don’t think it’s strange, unprofessional, or creepy at all. It’s completely normal for people to want to spend their lunch break away from the office. As long as she isn’t toppling headstones on her lunch break, why would you be concerned about why she chooses that nice quiet spot to read a book?

    19. Lois Lane

      I don’t think it’s weird at all. I like to spend my lunches alone, either reading or catching up on news sites. And I used to walk around a local cemetery and even roller-bladed in it often (it was also an arboretum and permitted). It’s her lunch break. Let her enjoy it how she wants.

    20. Let's Talk About Splett

      Should I talk to her to know why she does this ?

      Nope, if she wanted you to know why she would have volunteered that info

      Isn’t it a bit unprofessional ?

      No. She’s at lunch

      What if someone else from the office saw her ?

      That’s up to her to manage, not you.

      Am I the only one to be creeped out by her behaviour ?

      Probably? If she were trying to pressure you to join her, that’d be another thing, otherwise it’s not your business

    21. Ask a Manager Post author

      I feel like this could possibly be a joke, but in case it’s not: This is not really your business at all, and if you reported it to a manager, it would reflect oddly on you! There’s nothing here that your office needs to be concerned about.

      1. Triplestep

        I think this whenever a LW characterizes something as “unprofessional” when it is so clearly not.

        1. LouiseM

          +1. If we can believe that someone reported their coworker for having maxi pads in their car, I don’t see why we shouldn’t believe that someone thinks it’s unprofessional to do something that a great many people would consider odd or creepy. Although of course I agree with the commenters that this OP should MYOB and would look ridiculous if she brought this up.

          1. Triplestep

            I think I wasn’t clear. When I said “I think this whenever …” I was referring to this being a joke.

            1. LouiseM

              No, you were clear. I also think this was a joke. But my point was that we hear so many outlandish letters on this site, some of which I personally suspect are fake, that this does not seem more obviously fake to me than some others.

              1. Jesca

                And I find it weird that there is a subset here who are always bringing up the validity of truth about a letter, even though many others here have stated over and over that similar things have happened in their work place. Therefore, even if it is “not reeeeeaaaaallll” it still happens. I work with at least three people right now who would do what this LW is asking permission to do here. A lot more people than we all realize actually have very little self awareness and are full of judgement on sooooo many levels.

                1. Triplestep

                  I rarely see people speculating on whether or not a post is real … I can think of one time. I felt free to comment about it today because Alison did. Otherwise it’s pretty much taboo around here and I don’t want to get dogpiled. But if someone wants to get a comment storm going, all they need to do is submit a post deeming something unprofessional when it’s not, talk about feminine products or women-centered topics like nursing, or pose as a manager baffled by a staffers behavior which turns out to be entirely reasonable. Or some combination of the above.

      2. Drago Cucina

        Yes, if someone reported that to me I would, 1. Roll my eyes so hard that she would probably call 911; 2. Think the person was weirdly invasive.

    22. Snark

      Unless there’s a leafy, treed park that’s quiet and pleasant closer than 100 meters from the office, I don’t think she’s weird. Presumably, it’s quiet, sunny, there’s vegetation, and she’s not inside. In particular, she’s definitely not weird for declining to eat with you, because some of us humans are introverts and we need some time not talking to people and in a pleasant, peaceful place to recharge our batteries. If a cemetery meets that need, it’s as good a place as any. You don’t mention her trying to raise zombies or dancing about the graves, so.

      What I do frankly think is very weird is your impulse to bring up a non-work and non-performance related issue with her manager, and your impulse to ask her why she’s doing it is only slightly less so. You can be creeped out if you want, but that’s 100% your problem, to solve on your own and without demanding anything of her.

      1. Samata

        If their building was the only structure smack in the middle of a leafy treed park that’s quiet and pleasant the co-worker isn’t weird.

      2. stitchinthyme

        ” In particular, she’s definitely not weird for declining to eat with you, because some of us humans are introverts and we need some time not talking to people and in a pleasant, peaceful place to recharge our batteries.”

        Yes! I don’t often eat lunch in the kitchen with my coworkers, both because I’m an introvert and because I have hearing issues — I find it really hard to make out what anyone is saying to me when there’s a lot of background noise (and our kitchen does get pretty noisy at lunchtime).

        That said, I do try to eat there every once in a while so my coworkers don’t forget I’m here or think I hate them all. (I only hate some of them. ;-) )

      1. Work Wardrobe

        And… why are cemeteries creepy? They’re resting places. Usually beautiful and full of flowers and trees. And people’s loved ones.

        My SO is big into heritage and we visit cemeteries every summer to photograph headstones of his forebears. Cemeteries are for the living to celebrate and remember and honor.

          1. Camellia

            The huge cemetery for our town was just up the hill from my childhood home and it was our (only) playground. It never occurred to me that other people might find that creepy.

            1. Brandy

              Ive always said I wouldn’t mind living next to a cemetery. You know it the best neighbors. Always quiet and peaceful.

              1. Mobuy

                I live across the street from a small cemetery, and I love it. So do my kids. My daughter, at age five, once said, “Mom, there are people in our cemetery!” I thought it was hilarious.

                The only busy times are Memorial Day and the 4th of July (they have a little ceremony there). Also, of course, the occasional funeral. Pretty good deal, really!

                1. LibraryGryffon

                  Our first backyard when we moved to Galway shared a fence with a retired cemetary. We liked quiet neighbors.

                  Where I live now there is a cemetery across from my PT’s office which has a ton of Pokestops and gyms. When I’ve gone there I’ve read many headstones, admired the parklike layout, and seen others doing the same (or jogging, or walking their dog, or eating, or …).

              2. Snark

                Until it’s Halloween. “Dammit, great-great-great Aunt Gertrude, keep it down over there!”

        1. The Cosmic Avenger

          Well, it really doesn’t matter why the OP feels that way. There’s nothing wrong with that. But they don’t get to expect others to feel that way, or expect there to be work repercussions because someone else has a different opinion or way of doing things, since it has zero impact on them (at least, with respect to work product and productivity, which are the only relevant measures here).

          1. LouiseM

            Yeah, this seems pretty obvious to me…it’s very odd to me how many people on this thread are surprised that others find cemeteries creepy! I mean, I don’t find it creepy that someone else wants to chill out in one for fun, but they are the resting places of dead people. It’s not that much of a stretch to associate them primarily with death and mourning.

        2. Jules the Third

          So, some people find them creepy. That’s who they are and how they are. Let’s not judge their feelings just because ours are different.

          (says the woman to spends time reading gravestones with her mom fairly regularly…)

        3. Boo Bradley

          I get creeped out by walking over graves. I’m okay with cemeteries if they have nice paths, but there are a lot of cemeteries where graves are just crammed next to each other, and you have to basically walk over people’s graves to get the grave of your loved one. It’s not that believe in zombies or anything, but it just makes me shiver to think about walking over human remains.

    23. Emily S.

      I don’t see anything odd about this. It’s her lunch break, and she can do what she wants. There was a period in the past when I used to go to a nearby cemetery for a peaceful lunch. I liked the quiet tranquility.

    24. Aaaaaaanon.

      You’ve said yourself that she does a good job and she’s friendly. She’s going to a cemetery to read on a bench, not for a lunch time necrophilia break. Even if this creeps you out, it has no bearing whatsoever on her professionalism and you’d be well advised to not mention anything about it.

      If I were your manager and you mentioned this to me, and your concern wasn’t clearly about whether your new colleague feels included enough to eat lunch with the rest of your team…TBH, I’d be more than a little concerned about your professionalism and boundaries.

      1. EyreOntheSideofCaution

        If the co-worker were reading “A Rose for Miss Emily” in her collection of short stories by William Faulkner while she was in the cemetery I might wonder about her, but I’d still keep my own counsel…

    25. Bea

      This seems like you have an uncomfortable feeling towards cemeteries. I spend a lot of time in one specific one because my best friend is there. So if I worked next to there, I would probably do the similar thing. It’s probably peaceful to her.

      Unless she’s perching on headstones and making a ruckus, she’s not doing anything wrong.

    26. Totally Minnie

      There are a lot of reasons your coworker could be spending her lunch break at the cemetery. If it’s closer to the office than the nearest park, it might just be a convenient way for her to get away from the office for a little fresh air. And cemeteries tend to be quiet places, so if she’s feeling stressed out from work, she may find it calming.

      Some people get weird/creepy/scary vibes from cemeteries, but others don’t. I’d just put this one in the “people have different preferences” category and move on.

    27. Lady Jay

      As a confirmed introvert, I love cemeteries! They’re beautiful and green and quiet, a perfect place to read a book and eat lunch. That would give me energy for the second half of the day.

      Also! Especially if you’re in the US, we have a dearth of green spaces; a cemetery is like a little park. Plus so many cemeteries have interesting history.

    28. MuseumChick


      1) Isn’t effect your work, her work, or the business at all. 2) Is on her own personal time (lunch) and 3) Is not something she is making a Thing out of (she isn’t talking about it at all it seems, isn’t trying to get people to come with her, etc)

      She found a quiet bench to read on. That is all. Honestly, it’s more concerning to me that you would think something needs to be said or done about this.

    29. The Other Dawn

      What she does on her lunch break is her business and no one else’s. Unless she’s doing something illegal or unethical that would hurt the business, of course. Cemeteries are very peaceful and maybe she wants to have a nice quite break. I’ve gone walking in cemeteries for exactly that reason. Nothing unprofessional about it.

      As to why she doesn’t eat with everyone anymore, she probably only did that in the beginning as a way of getting to know everyone and to not have people say she’s antisocial or something similar.

      1. essEss

        Or she found her coworkers to be very judgmental and controlling and decided she needed a break away from them during the day to keep from getting too stressed out.

        1. RVA Cat

          There are so many other things she could be doing on her lunch break that could actually be an issue at work. I mean, today is 4/20 after all….

    30. Akcipitrokulo

      Not unprofessional, not creepy, not unfriendly. She likes spending spare time in quiet place reading. It’s all good!

    31. Russian in Texas

      There is nothing unprofessional in not eating lunch with one’s coworkers. To the contrary. Lunch is my time NOT to socialize.

    32. I'm A Little TeaPot

      Some people are creeped out by graveyards. Others are not. Clearly, you and your coworker are on opposite sides of that fence. She’s probably sitting there because it’s nice and peaceful, nearby, and she enjoys being outside for a bit. Some people need a bit of a break from their coworkers during the day.

      Let this go. Nothing wrong it with, and all it does is demonstrate an underlying difference in how you regard graveyards. If you tried to bring it up, others are more likely to wonder what’s wrong with you.

    33. Ell the Bell

      So where I live, there is a Victorian cemetery where they encourage people to come hang out and spend time. Some grave stones are actually tables and chairs for people to eat at. The cemetery was designed in a time when there were few public parks, so people would literally use the cemetery as their local park.

      They still host weddings and parties, run tours, have special events like yoga and fun runs, exercise groups meet there, people picnic with their families. The group that maintains the cemetery wants it to be a place to celebrate life, not to fear the dead. This was the original intent of the cemetery and they still honor that today.

      1. Elizabeth West

        That is so freaking cool.

        There are memorial benches in Hampstead Heath, a huge park in North London. I sat on one while I was visiting and took a picture of it and the lovely view it overlooked. A couple of years after that trip, a friend of the person the bench was dedicated to commented about her on my post. It personalized things in a very moving way. It was almost as if she were reaching out to say hi. <3

    34. Tasslehoff Burrfoot (formerly Buffy Summers)

      I love cemeteries. They’re so peaceful. I can see me doing this. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with your coworker going there on her lunch break and it shouldn’t creep you out.

    35. That Would Be a Good Band Name

      There’s a bench in the cemetery because they expect people to come and sit on it. It’s not weird. It’s a quiet place for her to recharge during lunch.

    36. Scubacat

      This isn’t something to report at work. If you’re weirded out by cemeteries, that’s pretty normal. What is also normal is visiting a cemetery to enjoy nature. The local cemeteries in my city are known for their horticulture and well kept walking paths.

    37. lisalee

      You know, in Victorian times, cemeteries were often the only green spaces in urban areas. So they were often places where families picnicked, children played, and young couples took walks to court! Gravestones were often extremely elaborate and artistic for visitors to enjoy. There is a long history of people enjoying cemeteries as recreational areas. Our discomfort with the dead is fairly new.

      1. Gypsy, Acid Queen

        Thank you! I was about to come into this thread to note that in the Victorian era, cemeteries were created and designed to be parks enjoyed by the public.

      2. Iris Eyes

        True but there is also a long long history of the resting places of the dead being considered taboo.

        I do think that some of our discomfort with death and dying at large is our removal from it. We don’t see people dying, they do that behind closed doors in hospitals. We barely see funerals, they usually erect a tent. We don’t often see animals even in a state of death (the three seconds passing by road kill in your car are fundamentally different than processing a carcass for food). I know people who have made it into their thirties without ever once having attended a funeral or having seen a dead person in person.

    38. bohtie

      I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but cemeteries used to be popular gathering places. tourist attractions, if you will. It’s no different than if she went to a park to read. This sounds like a you problem, and for the love of god don’t rope your boss into this nonsense.

      somebody who doesn’t want to eat with my coworkers because they’re judgy and also I have an eating disorder

    39. Q

      It sounds to me like she just needs a little quiet and alone time. I find cemetery’s peaceful and would not be creeped out at all. You’re entitled to feel weird about it but I wouldn’t recommend telling others. They might decide you are weird for being weird out.

    40. Decima Dewey

      She’s probably an introvert and wants to use her lunch break to recharge. Without having to answer a lot of questions about what she’s reading, how she likes it, has she ever read….

    41. Adele

      Mind your own business. It creeps you out but it probably wouldn’t creep most people out. I regularly take walks in the lovely, historic cemeteries near me because they are peaceful and lovely and I have been known to sit and rest on a bench therein. I have no loved one buried there. In fact, starting in the 19th century, cemeteries were designed to be park-like settings and were accepted destinations for outings and picnics.

      I think if you were to tell your co-workers or manager about this apparently-to-you deviant behavior, they would think you were nuts and a busybody.

    42. Shrunken Hippo

      As an introvert who needs alone time to recharge throughout the day I have also gone to a cemetery to read. They are quiet and well kept which makes them an ideal place to relax and have a peaceful moment to yourself. She may just want or need this time to feel relaxed for the rest of the day. You are allowed to feel creeped out by it, but I would suggest you just think of it like she goes to a park to read. It’s not that she’s trying to avoid coworkers, and she’s not trying to be morbid, she just wants to read in peace. This is definitely a you problem and talking to anyone at work about it will make you seem like the weird one or at least a drama queen.

    43. Still Looking

      She probably goes there because it’s quiet and she can read without being interrupted. Some people like to go off and recharge on their breaks. She just sounds like an introvert type who enjoys her brief reading time alone or maybe her book is so good she gets back to it every chance she can.

    44. Kms1025

      About the park like cemetery setting. I honestly see nothing wrong with this coworker taking her break there. It sounds like she just needs a break from the “noise” of a busy day, and this is close by. I don’t find it weird at all. But maybe I am weird =^.^=

    45. Schnoodle

      I wished I had a cemetery 100m from here I could go read at. That sounds like a lovely lunch.

    46. JustAGirlTryingToMakeIt

      No, don’t mention it. It’s not really your place to do so as it isn’t effecting you or your colleagues. Perhaps she has a relative buried there and its comforting for her to visit when she can on lunch? My grandma passed a few weeks ago, and all of my family is buried in the local cemetery a few blocks from work. I went to see her during lunch just to have a quiet moment away and visit with her. I would just let this one go. You never know what someone is going through.

    47. PB

      Lots of people find cemeteries relaxing. They’re quiet, green, and well maintained. It may not be your cup of tea, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Don’t report it.

    48. Night Cheese

      I grew up in a historically significant area with many gorgeous, historical cemeteries, and I spent a lot of time in one of them reading. I don’t find this weird at all.

    49. soupmonger

      If someone I worked with told me that my habit of reading outdoors in a local space was weird, creepy and unprofessional, I’d take a pretty dim view of that persons opinion. This is a you issue, not your co-workers. She likes a bit of alone time, in peace and quiet – leave her alone to enjoy it!

    50. WillyNilly

      I just this past weekend took my kids (4yrs old) to a children’s concert workshop in a cemetary. A still active one at that. Afterwards we walked around and my kids delighted in righting tipped over flowers & plants, and checking out, respectfully, the items and photos left on graves.
      It was a beautiful place to visit.

    51. Candy

      Sitting outside in a quiet, treed place with a book and a lunch sounds like an incredibly normal, non-creepy thing to do on one’s lunch break

      1. Candy

        And if she’s only started eating outside instead of with the group lately it’s probably due the weather getting warmer, or because she’s now been at the job long enough that she knows which parks or gyms are nearby that she can pop out to on her break. But, again, this is far outside of creepy

    52. a1

      Are you more upset about the fact that she used to be more social at lunch and now is not, or that she reads in the cemetery?

    53. Tuxedo Cat

      You shouldn’t say anything. She’s not harming anyone.

      I don’t understand it myself, but people do like to go to cemeteries to read. The explanation someone gave me was that they’re quiet and look nice.

    54. Not So NewReader

      Like you, I used to think cemeteries were pretty creepy. I now blame that on too many horror flicks.
      Time has been kind. Working on the family tree meant going through cemeteries, this changed my perspective. I learned a few things about “cemetery art” and I was amazed by the info they used to put on old stones.
      More currently, I kind of think I know as many dead people as I do living people, which changes my thinking even more. We honor the people who went before us by marking their final resting spot. If we ever stop doing that, this world could be come a very cold and viscous place.

      My vote is to leave her alone. If you push this you could find out this is her prayer time or she is visiting someone dear or any other number of explanations that could leave you feeling you were sorry you asked.

    55. AngelicGamer, aka the Visually Impaired Peep

      Don’t say anything. I’m wondering if she might be from New Orleans, where it’s quite normal to tour cemeteries and other things. This sounds like something I would do too. I want to be out of the office but not talk to anyone and there’s a nice cemetery with benches? Score, going there and taking my book.

    56. Sky Bison

      You’ve got some good comments here already and I think a little self-reflection would be excellent but I also wanted to point out there’s a chance she has a relative buried there and she likes going on her lunch break to sit with them. I will sometimes go to my families graves and sit there and talk to them and read for a while. Not because I think they can hear me, but because I miss them and this makes me miss them less.

      But even if she doesn’t have anyone buried there, it’s pretty normal. The cemetery near where I live often has people picnicking in it (I’ve done it! It’s nice!) and recently hosted an easter egg hunt.

      You might also benefit from reading a little bit more about the death industry! It can change the way we perceive these spaces. Often times we feel creeped out by things like open caskets and cemeteries because death is scary! So we try and distance ourselves from it. I recommend the book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty. It talks about her experience as a mortician and going through mortuary school. If you’ve recently suffered from a fetal loss though there is a chapter that goes in detail about that, just so you’re aware, I’d recommend skipping it if that’s the case.

    57. Jadelyn

      This is a perfect example illustrating the “Sometimes your feelings about something are your own problem to deal with” concept.

      You are allowed to find it weird or creepy (and I am allowed to find it weird and intrusive that you feel that way about such an innocuous habit). You do not need to then turn around and make your feelings about her personal, off-the-clock habits anyone else’s problem, whether hers, your manager’s or your coworker’s.

      And for the record, “saying something to the other coworkers” about something harmless and personal like this is just straight-up, flat out gossip. Which is never a good look for anyone.

      1. Observer

        And for the record, “saying something to the other coworkers” about something harmless and personal like this is just straight-up, flat out gossip. Which is never a good look for anyone.

        So much this. It also tends to lead to a pretty toxic environment.

    58. Bacon Pancakes

      It is/was pretty common in various parts of the US for cemeteries to be considered more of a quiet park than creeps-ville central. I would chalk this up to regional/generational differences and move on.

    59. elwm73

      You are the only one creeped out by this.
      Historically, cemeteries were family or town gathering places for picnics and reunions-kill two birds with one stone so to speak. Some have meditation spaces and gardens.
      I wish I was close enough to go have lunch at Blandford Cemetery like I used to-used to tell my boss I had lunch with Friends. I did-sort of-the Friend family plot next to the church had a lovely shaded bench.

    60. Margo the Destroyer

      I wouldn’t say anything. This is her lunch break and she can do what she likes. We have a cemetery here where I live thats more like a big park, people go there to run, take in the flowers etc. It isn’t creepy at all to be doing things there.

    61. Starbuck

      Cemeteries can be lovely, especially this time of year. It can be a nice place to get some quiet outdoor time if there isn’t a park nearby (and maybe the park is a playground and full of loud children or what have you). Coworker is doing a pretty normal thing here.

    62. Loves Libraries

      Us introverts need our peace and quiet especially if your office is noisy. I do think that it might be good for her to occasionally go with the gang to lunch.

    63. Observer

      I doubt you were expecting this level of response.

      It’s worth noting something. You have gotten a TON of responses from people showing that your reaction is certainly far from universal. That may overshadow the other – and in my opinion – much more important point that people were making.

      That is: This is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. There is absolutely NOTHING you can appropriately do about this. Nor is there any reason to. Going to coworkers is just gossip. Going to her is boundary crossing as all get out. And going to her manager makes me think of first grade tattle-tales, but worse, because there aren’t even any “rules” involved here.

      1. Basia, also a Fed

        This. Most of the comments are about whether or not cemeteries are creepy. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s none of your business. The fact that you want to gossip to your co-workers for the purpose of making her look weird (which is bullying) or go to her supervisor, for what purpose I’m not sure, makes you look shallow and petty.

        I love this blog and have learned so many things from it, but I’ve been discouraged by how many letters there are from or about people who want to do things just for the purpose of stirring things up, making life difficult for someone, or hurting someone. I guess I’m lucky I’ve never worked anywhere with so much pettiness.

    64. Lucky

      I think you need to mind your own business and do lunch however it works for you. She probably just wants some quiet and getting away. There is nothing creepy about it. That’s your own take on it. You could go and say something, and in the process embarrass yourself.
      This is really one of those cases where this is YOUR issue.

    65. A.

      Why do you care? How does this affect your life? I think it will be way more unprofessional for you to gossip about where your coworker is eating her lunch. I am actually not surprised she does not want to eat lunch with you anymore. You are coming across like a serious busy body. Mind your business.

    66. Anony McAnonface

      This is very normal. Many cemeteries double as quiet parks. People walk and jog and sit quietly there. It’s not weird, it sounds like she’d just rather have quiet time than eat with coworkers, which is perfectly fine.

      What is weird is that my jr high didn’t have somewhere for us to go for our break so they just send us all out to run around the next door church yard, which was also a graveyard. Disrespectful af in retrospect. At the time it seemed normal to us.

    67. Leela

      Oh please don’t say anything to your coworkers and certainly not her manager! At best (for you, at worst for her), you risk really putting her on the spot and having everyone start thinking things about her based on nothing, really. At worst (for you, best for her) you come off looking like you really overthink things and your colleagues will start to wonder what you’re guessing about them!

    68. Menacia

      It’s *not* a big deal, so it should *not* creep you out. She’s on her own time, doing what she wants. I too used to eat lunch with my coworkers, but then I decided it was better for me to go off and do my own thing for lunch. Again, it’s no big deal, and no one bats an eye about it either.

    69. Graveyard Lunch Guy

      I do this! There’s a huge, lovely cemetery near my office. On nice days when I feel like taking a short walk at lunch, I will bring my lunch with me and sit on a bench overlooking the pond, play on my phone, eat my sandwich, and just have a nice, quiet lunch break a couple blocks away from my coworkers. Often, there are other people doing the same. There was a young couple making out on my usual bench once, so I sat in the grass a hundred feet away or so.

      The only difference is that my coworkers don’t eat lunch together usually, but even if we did, I don’t think I would feel obligated to skip my private time for that.

    70. Actually Its You

      Dear AAM,

      My obnoxious co-worker won’t let me read alone in peace and instead thinks that I should spent every moment that I’m not at my desk with her. Frankly I’m tired of hearing about how many instagram followers she has and would just like to read my novel. What should I do?

    71. Anonymous5

      Perhaps this has already been said but picnicking in cemeteries was common in Victorian times.

      Also, very much already said but this is not even remotely a problem. It’s barely creepy. This is a you problem, not her problem.

    72. Chaordic One

      It’s not morbid or inappropriate. Personally, I feel sad when I visit cemeteries. Almost to the point of depression. (Boundary problems.) It’s just something about the loss of life. If I know the deceased, I probably miss them. Even when I don’t know them it makes me sad. Walking by the grave stones and seeing the birth dates and death dates makes me wonder about the people and their lives. So many people die young and I wonder about what injury or illness caused their death. On the one hand, there are people who had long lives and those don’t bother me so much. I hope they were happy lives. OTOH, I think the saddest place of all is the section for babies.

      I keep reimagining the Thornton Wilder play, “Our Town,” in my head.

    73. aes_sidhe

      Is she molesting the bodies when she’s out there? If not, it’s none of your business and certainly nothing to report to a manager.

      I get that some people are creeped out by cemeteries, but she’s not doing anything wrong at all on her lunch break. She gets to go where she wants/do what she wants so long as she’s back in time.

    74. Oxford Coma

      Report her if:

      –The book she’s taking to lunch is “Graverobbing For Dummies”
      –She comes back from lunch looking significantly younger (like, years)

      Otherwise, MYOB.

      1. Wintermute

        you just gave me an AMAZING idea (based on the “looking younger” part)

        Imagine an AAM from a dark urban fantasy type world where paranatural creatures (all the stuff that chased Abbott and Costello: vampires, werewolves, mummies, ghosts, you know) were real and “out of the coffin” so to speak?

        That would be an amazing fictional blog.

        Or an AAM from a cyberpunk dystopia: “I had to have an employee assassinated, is it weird to go to the funeral?” “How necessary are neural interface plugs to get a job, really?” “My employer implied that my lack of memory implants is keeping me from getting promoted, but I’ve worked hard on my natural skillset! how can I convince him time spent with a textbook is just as valid as a few thousand Eurodollars worth of silicon?”

    75. Grizzzzzelda

      Seems a lot more professional than what I do! And that actually sounds really relaxing. A good way to be outside, alone, and in a quiet place.

      I used to eat lunch with coworkers. Then I realized how much better I like being alone for an hour each day. I’d still be bothered if I took my lunch in my office, so now I just sit in my car. Usually I read, but on some days, especially warm weather days, I fall asleep.

      I’d much rather be seen reading in a cemetery than I would snoozing in my car, probably drooling half the time! (I’ll be damned if I give up my occasional car naps though!).

      Seems like this is something that just makes you uncomfortable. Why do you think that is? Is it that cemeteries remind you of death? Are you uncomfortable at the thought of death and your own mortality? Are you feeling rejected that she would rather sit in a cemetery than with you (no matter how I type this it sounds snotty to me, but I can seem to reword it in a way that doesn’t sound snotty, so just know that is not my intent!)?

    76. Engineer Woman

      I’m so glad OP wrote in to ask her questions. So much better to obtain hundreds of good opinions than go ahead and do something that shouldn’t be done in the overwhelming majority of views.

      Leave your co-worker alone. Reading in a cemetery during her lunchtime is her own business and if the cemetery had a nice park-like atmosphere, it sounds really lovely and not creepy at all. OP is entitled to her opinion that it is creepy but as it isn’t to the general public (aka majority of people), don’t say anything to anyone about it.

      For example: I think dolls are creepy. Maybe it’s those Chucky movies from long ago. I don’t express this to every parent whose child who I see with doll as in: “that’s so creepy. stop your child from touching that.”

      1. Observer

        I’m so glad OP wrote in to ask her questions. So much better to obtain hundreds of good opinions than go ahead and do something that shouldn’t be done in the overwhelming majority of views.

        Good point!

    77. Freelance Everything

      First of all, no you definitely shouldn’t say anything to anybody about this. This is not any kind of deal.

      My second point is on a slight tangent and is not meant to be aggressive or accusatory so please bear that in mind when reading it:

      – Your preoccupation with her behavior to the point of seriously considering mentioning it to coworkers or even her manager is concerning. I understand that this behavior is striking you as particularly ‘weird’ because it’s obviously not something you would consider doing. And I understand the compulsion to discuss things you find incredulous.

      But nevertheless, I wonder if it’s something you should examine more closely; do you have habit of being judgmental or ‘dramatic’ when faced with behavior from other people that is at odds with yours, despite that behavior being harmless? Are you quite vocal and negative about that ‘strange-to-you’ behavior with colleagues?
      A couple of other commenters have mentioned that this behavior puts you at risk of positioning yourself as ‘Office Gossip’, and I’m sure that’s not the reputation you’ve been trying to cultivate.

    78. StressedOutToTheMax

      Serious introvert with ADD here. I work in a very small office – think 7 people if all FT and PT are in. Some of my coworkers spend more time in gossip than work, sigh…

      I also have a lot of stress both personally and professionally right now. I’m privy to information that some of my coworkers are not aware of that could affect the future of the company. Anyways, there are days where I disappear for lunch to just get recharging time. I read in restaurants because its still winter here (thank you Michigan!) but can be found in my car in a parking lot at said church Frankly the gossipy drama is too much even one day a week when I’m stressed. Leave the coworker alone for both your sakes – she’s just recharging in the first quiet place she found.

    79. Quinalla

      I know some find cemeteries creepy, so nothing wrong with your initial reaction, but to me this sounds like a nice quiet place to read. Whenever I can, I find a place to read during part of my lunch break, sometimes it is at a restaurant I am eating, sometimes it is wherever I can find outside downtown that is nice when the weather is agreeable. If I had a cemetery nearby, I’d definitely go read there.

      There also may be some extrovert/introvert misunderstanding going on here too. As one who heavily leans introvert, my extrovert buddies just don’t get while my lunchtime reading is so important to me. Its a great recharge for my energy and I love to read and if I also get some outside time, wow, its perfect! Not sure if you (and maybe your office?) lean more extroverted, but it struck me as likely this might make it seem weirder to you.

    80. Competent Commenter

      In my town there are a ton of PokeStops in the only cemetery, which is around the corner from me. Lots of young adults wandering through, looking at their phones and playing Pokemon Go. I guess some of the larger monuments are the stops.

      My 10-year-old plays Pokemon Go with my husband on my husband’s phone. If he gets to play on our drive home, he’s frequently heard saying “Can’t we got to the cemetery? There’s a [whatever it’s called] that we can catch! Pleeeeeease!”

      Also, while I don’t personally understand why it bothers the OP that her coworker reads in a cemetery, I had a coworker who would cross the street to the other side when we were walking to a nearby restaurant for lunch and had to pass a mortuary. So I guess this kind of thing really bothers some people.

    81. sange

      Yes, unfortunately you are the only one creeped out by her behavior! It sounds like a nice break from the office, and a good opportunity to go outside. Who wants to eat lunch with their colleagues every day?

    82. The Rat-Catcher

      I can’t really think of a reason that you should say something to anyone else working there. I would not ask her why she reads there, for a lot of reasons, but one because the answer might be really emotional. I don’t think I would even ask that of a very close friend. You may not be the only one that is creeped out, but to ask other people and talk about it with them, I think, would be unnecessary. Nor am I seeing anything inherently unprofessional. Unless you have further insight than what you’ve already stated, I vote for leaving it alone.

    83. another STEM programmer

      Nah, I wouldn’t. She probably just likes the quiet vibe of the area. I don’t think its unprofessional at all of her.

    84. Jill

      Yes you’re the only one with a problem about this. What she does on her lunch hour is her own business. Period. If you complain to anyone else about this you will look like a creep, not her. Grow up.

    85. WFH Lurker

      I grew up with a large cemetery right behind our house. It was pretty, quiet and peaceful. It wasn’t morbid. One wonders if she goes to read there because she knows that it’s quiet, peaceful and no one will disturb her.

    86. MissDisplaced

      Sounds to me as though your coworker just likes to get outside and the cemetery provides a quiet and peaceful place to sit outdoors that is off of a city street and/or away from busy restaurants, cafes, etc. As she is sitting on a provided bench, this is perfectly NORMAL. It’s probably also a lovely spot to sit.
      Now, if she’s still doing this is 10 degree weather… it might be a little weird.

      Don’t say anything. It’s not your business.

    87. Mara

      There is no way to do this without severely damaging your own credibility and professionalism. Either co-workers won’t care or even worse they will think you are being mean gossiping about someone you have decided is “weird”.

      If you talk to management it shows you have a lack of appropriate boundaries as long as she isn’t committing crimes or badly damaging the companies image it doesn’t matter what she does at lunch (this doesn’t count as damaging the company image even if you have uniforms that identify where you work and it doesn’t sound like you do).

      If you tell your manager and management does stop her going (which they won’t if they are sane professionals) if coworker is going there simply as it is a quiet place to read you look like a busy body.

      Further more if it turns out a spouse/parent/sibling/child is buried there and she goes to feel close to them you will look like a heartless bully.

      You probably aren’t a bad person but I think this is more about the fact she doesn’t eat lunch with you anymore. Maybe your a naturally extroverted person (nothing wrong with that) who doesn’t understand why she wants some quiet time at lunch. Some people simply like quiet time in the middle of the day.

      I am introverted and was on the other side of something similar to this. I ate lunch with coworkers at first to get to know them then I withdrew to read at lunch. It didn’t mean I suddenly disliked everyone I just needed time to recharge. Most people didn’t care but one coworker was very insistent and thought I suddenly hated her. I didn’t…at first. But given how much she harangued me about it I started to really dislike her when previously I thought of her as a perfectly nice person and potential friend. I think there are often misunderstandings between introverts and extroverts and extroverts think introverts dislike them when they don’t they just want to be around them (or anyone) too much.

      And what kind of outcome do you want? Do you just want her to stop going to the cemetery? If she does because she feels mocked or the manager forces her (which a sane one will not) it may damage your professional relationship. Even then the manager can’t force her to eat lunch with you and if she knows you essentially tattled on her for what is a normal activity you will likely damage your working relationship. You could perhaps ask in a non-judgemental way but if she says a loved one is buried there it will be awkward at best and you’ll look insensitive (and nosy) at worse. And its hard to ask without looking like a busy body.

    88. nep

      I’m seeing this late and I’ve not read all the other comments — Just to say, I will sometimes go out of my way to drive to a cemetery a couple towns over that has some of the grandest, most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen. I see nothing the slightest bit odd about someone choosing to spend time in nature in a cemetery. I can’t fathom why you’d want or need to talk with her or anyone else about it.

    89. SpaceOddity

      Let her be! I will occasionally pop in to old cemeteries I pass by to take a few minutes to talk to my grandmother, who was cremated, but was a genealogist and loved to look at names etc in cemetaries. Harms nobody, helps me remember her.

    90. Drama Llama

      I eat by myself. I talk all day in meetings or on the phone and I want to enjoy my meal break in silence. Don’t want to socialise, make small talk, or even sit with other people.

      What people do with their own time (and breaks count as one) is not your business to comment on.

    91. LilySparrow

      I found that staying in the office at lunch was bad for my mental health, no matter how congenial my coworkers.

      I really needed natural light and greenspace for at least a short break every day. Walking or even just reading outdoors was a lifesaver.

      Most likely your coworker just sees it as a convenient, quiet, grassy area with a bench.

      Nothing wierd about that.

    92. Ashk434

      This is 100% not weird. In fact, if I were your coworker and you brought this up to me, I would think you were crossing major boundaries and would not appreciate you judging what I did in my off time. I used to work in an office like this and thought it was very cult-y

      Not everyone is like you, OP. Some people are introverts and need time alone to recharge. Or heck, maybe that’s the only hour in the day where she can finally read that book she always wanted to get to. Ultimately it’s none of your business why she chooses to spend her time this way. And heck no this is certainly not unprofessional.

    93. Star Nursery

      I think she just found a quiet relaxing spot outside nearby. She doesn’t find the place to sit creepy. I get that some people are creeped out by the thought of dead bodies buried there but really not everyone else is even thinking about the bodies laid to rest when they are at the cemetery.

      Plus the weather is warming up so she wants to get fresh air and read. I

      I also find cemeteries relaxing (and it’s interesting to look at headstones and names and dates people lived.) It’s also a gentle reminder that this life is not going to last forever. And reminds me to think about my life decisions and goals and how I spend my time. And gets me going on a philosophical thread that leads me to think about my life and whether I’m accomplishing anything. Sometimes it feels like a healthy kick in the butt… To waste less time worrying about the small stuff and reprioritize what matters to me. We are not guaranteed a tomorrow. This is my life (today/now) and am I satisfied with progress or lack of progress towards my personal and professional goals? Getting too caught up stressing over things that don’t really matter? Getting too busy doing stuff that I don’t put enjoy doing what I really care about? Am I living content and life to the fullest? I could go on but it’s not a bad thing ever to rethink my priorities and remember how my life will be here like a flower that fades.

      Anyways during the day I don’t find them creepy at all. I grew up with a cemetery and park that had pretty pond, benches and picnic areas. Great spot for fishing, running or walking, and the park side is rentable for reunions and graduation parties. My family would bring Subway for a picnic to eat on the benches and either enjoy the sunshine or go fishing. Some of the headstones are elaborate statues worth a tour. The Memorial day parade and band was led into ending at the cemetery.

    94. Sentido común

      It’s weird you care so much about this. There is nothing unprofessional or to report or tell other people about. It’s her time, her break she can do whatever she likes. Also it’s problably peaceful there.

    95. tamarack and fireweed

      Let me just put in my $.02: This is a completely normal and appropriate use for a cemetery. It’s what they’re for, to be used by the living.

    96. Nana

      We visited a small 19th Century church cemetery on Maui…my girls (12 and 11) were fascinated. It was one of their favorite memories. OTOH, Mom was depressed to see (a) how many babies and children were there and (b) how many entire families…taken by one epidemic or another.

    97. Kitty

      Lol! I’m guessing you’ve never met an introvert? ;-)

      My guess is that she just needs some alone time from working with people all day, and the cemetery is the closest nice green space she can get alone time. I used to go sit in the armchairs in the big lobby of the building next door to my work, so I could read in peace in a comfy chair without the chance of running into a co-worker and having to make conversation.

    98. MustangSally

      Four months ago it was cold. Now it’s spring and she wants to enjoy the weather. When it gets cold again she will probably start eating with you again!

  2. Lillian Gilbreth

    Looking for advice on picking a mentor!
    I’m in a pretty great position of having two women a few years ahead of me in the work place who seem interested in becoming my mentor in our male-dominated field. However, I don’t know which one would be better for my career. The first, let’s call her Ana, has been at my company for 5 years (this was her first job out of college, and the only job she’s ever had.) However, she’s risen very very quickly through ranks, receiving three promotions and more than doubling her salary in the 5 years she’s been here. She is very very good at what we do, but it is a bit of a niche industry. Also, we went to the same school for undergrad.
    The second woman, let’s call her Kim, worked at my company for three years right out of college and then left for a much bigger, broader company. She only stayed there for about 6 months and is now back in our small field. Even though she’s younger, since she has had more jobs she has a much wider professional network.
    Now, the issue is I have to pick because these two women hate each other (really Kim hates Ana, Ana is a pretty chill person, but there is definitely animosity on both sides.) I still hang out with Kim socially, and she frequently asks me about Ana (what she’s doing, what the office gossip is, etc) and recently while chatting with Ana I mentioned chatting about salary with Kim and she asked how much Kim was making at her new job. So basically, I think either one of these women would professionally mentor me but I feel a little sleazy talking to both of them, since the info they give me on their career progression is something the other one would be interested in for gossipy reasons.
    Any and all advice appreciated!

    (Also, this makes them both sound like horrible catty people but they really aren’t! They are both wonderful smart women who I enjoy spending time with, the drama is just what’s causing issue in my life at the moment so I focused on it here.)

    1. dr_silverware

      Keep up with both of them! If it wigs you out to be friends with both of them, maybe ask them different kinds of advice? And practice that deflection to avoid the gossip…

      1. Lillian Gilbreth

        Thank you! Since Ana is solidly my superior we have more of a friendly coworker relationship (we chat at work, email each other funny/relevant articles, but don’t hang out on the weekends or text out of work), while I went to Kim’s boyfriend’s birthday party recently. So definitely different relationships, but glad to hear it isn’t some sort of faux pas to keep them both around :)

        1. Reba

          Yeah, your relationships are different. I actually think “choosing” one of them would be the worse approach. (This might depend on the reason why they don’t get along–not that you should deeply investigate this, but for ex. if one is accusing the other of doing something unethical, that would be something you’d want to consider, weighing how much you trust their respective words. But if it’s a BEC thing between them, it’s not a good look to let that affect professional interactions.)

          Depending on the nature of your conversations I could see having a gentle but direct request NOT to be asked specific questions about the other one during your chats. As you’ve presented it here, I’m reading it as they are invested in their beef and looking to you to feed it? Maybe that’s overreach but yeah, try to rise above!

        2. dr_silverware

          Nope! I think it would be more of a faux pas to overly formalize either relationship, actually.

    2. Forking Great Username

      Why does Kim hate Ana? I’d be pretty wary of choosing someone as a mentor if they hate other people in the field for no good reason.

      1. Lillian Gilbreth

        Honestly, I think they just don’t get along. They’re both very driven, talented individuals, but they approach their work very differently and I think it irked Kim that Ana was doing so well despite being more laid back. One story I heard from Kim was that when Ana got promoted she was suddenly grumpy about being asked to help out with data entry work (which would still have been part of her job, just a smaller part.) I’m not sure if that’s true though, I hadn’t started yet when it happened.

    3. Grapey

      Are you only looking to them because they’re the two female mentors? Personally, I would SO hate to work with someone I considered sleazy and it would cancel out looking to be mentored by someone of my own gender. Is there a larger pool including male mentors you could ask at that have the technical skills you’re looking for?

      If you’re determined to pick Ana or Kim, do so with the idea that you could become someone’s future mentor and learn from these women how NOT to act.

      1. Jaguar

        Yeah. Unless you feel you need a mentor on gender issues in your industry or these are the only two people willing to provide mentorship to you, if you’re in a male-dominated industry and you’re looking for women to mentor you professionally, you’re logically eliminating the majority of your mentorship opportunities from the start.

    4. Millennial Lawyer

      I think you’re overthinking it. A mentorship relationship isn’t about you “choosing a mentor” – it develops naturally. Right now you’re just talking about who to get career advice from. There’s no limit to that (and no limit to how many mentors you can have either by the way). It’s perfectly normal to go to either one of them and even pick and choose which things are better to talk to them about. As far as gossip – no need to get involved. You can stay general in your responses.

      1. Quinalla

        Yes, having more than one mentor is best IME as you can go to different mentors with different things and for something big can get feedback from more than just one person. And as another woman in a male dominated field, I definitely understand the desire to have at least one woman mentor (and I finally do now, only took 15 years :/ ), but for sure don’t rule out men for that either.

        For me, right now I have three mentors I actively seek advice/guidance/etc. from regularly right now (at least once a month), but I have seven others that I go to much more infrequently. I’d love to have more women on that team, but right now there is just one. I do try to be a mentor myself for others whenever I can, not sure if you are ready for that yet or not, but keep it in mind!

    5. designbot

      I think this notion of picking *a* mentor sets up unrealistic expectations. I’ve had several mentors throughout my life, sometimes at different times but sometimes overlapping. Unless you’re in some structured program that mentor-matches you and there’s a really formal relationship, this doesn’t need to be a thing. Just spend time with people who you enjoy or who inspire you and don’t overthink it.

  3. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

    Librarians in the audience: Is it normal for public libraries to leave their staff totally exposed to attacks and bad behavior from patrons, without providing public safety officers, or training for staff?

    I work for an urban public library system. We recently had a town hall meeting about the library’s new five-year plan. I piped up and voiced my concern about the library system’s indifferent attitude toward public safety. At this time, we have fewer public safety officers than we do branches. I mentioned that it would not be possible to create inclusive and welcoming spaces – one of the goals of the five year plan – if patrons and staff alike do not feel safe at their library. (Several of the staff who I supervise have witnessed patrons inflicting violence upon other patrons first hand; in my first few months on the job, I myself was cornered at the reference desk by a belligerent, intoxicated patron, and was essentially left on my own to deal with the situation.)

    The library’s executive director said that she’s heard the complaint many times, and that we have all come to rely too much on public safety staff to solve security problems. (The staff that’s not even present in two thirds of our branches.) She didn’t present any other alternatives to deal with what is a very real issue. In other words, her answer was to deal with it.

    Only one librarian in a room of dozens of people came to my defense. Another employee passionately defended the ED and said that uniformed authority figures (we use uniformed peace officers) tend to just escalate situations and make matters worse, and scare people in at-risk areas from using the library. Another person in the audience lamely said that the library has provided active shooter training (once, and it was held at the same time that I was delivering a program for our patrons).

    I was humiliated, and felt like crawling under a rock. But are they right? Do I need to just accept being on my own to deal with dangerous situations if I’m going to continue to work in a public library? I understand their point of view that people might see someone who looks like a police officer and perceive the library as unwelcoming to them. But they didn’t suggest providing any sort of training for staff, either; just that the world is a scary place, and we have to live with the risks.

    I’m well aware of the trends in the public library world: libraries as community centers and not necessarily places of learning/information, librarians increasingly serving as social workers, librarians being increasingly expected to revive overdosing patrons with naxolone, etc. I think I can live with those things, but with no provision for public safety whatsoever? Is this normal?

    1. Foreign Octopus

      Full disclosure: I’m not a librarian.

      However, I have worked years in customer service and I have to tell you that the worst places were the places where there were no safety measures in place to deal with badly behaved customers. You’re not out of line to raise this, and I feel like the fault is definitely higher up with the fact that the complaint has been raised many times and nothing tangible has come from it.

      Do what Alison always advises, get a group together and go in to push for change.

      Your safety is paramount.

    2. Still needs a name

      I’m not a librarian, but you should be able to feel safe in your workplace. That’s a given. A library is unique, because it’s a public place where people can hang out, and unfortunately that can attract some bad characters.
      I would think of it as a workplace safety issue, document, and try to investigate what safety standards are needed from that angle.

    3. Luna

      “rely too much on public safety staff to solve security problems” – I mean isn’t that literally what they are there for??

      I don’t work at a library but I think you are right to want a safe place to work. Yes there might always be more incidents expected when working directly with the public but that is why there should be low-key security there to help out.

      1. WellRed

        Right??!! And I am guessing the ED is tucked away in a nice office away from the dirty public. Honestly, in addition to banding together with fellow librarians, I’d get the public involved somehow. (and maybe a note to the local newspaper).

        1. A tester, not a developer

          You’d have to be very careful about how you word the concerns – you’d need to emphasize the benefit to the whole library community without drawing attention to the fact that there’s legitimate reasons to be concerned for people’s safety.
          If the general public becomes scared of taking their kids to the library, or going themselves, you’re going to get fewer patrons. And from what I’ve seen, lower numbers are a Very Big Deal to public libraries. Anyone who’s seen as the public face of scaring people away could have a rough time…

          1. Gatomon

            My experience manning a public computer lab for several years has totally cured me of any desire to use a library or computer lab again if I can avoid it.

            If the library won’t protect the staff, who is going to protect the patrons?

      2. General Ginger

        Exactly. I don’t work at a library, but I used to, and while I get that libraries are often one of the few community places at-risk groups have access to, you aren’t going to have a safe place for them, either, if other patrons and staff don’t feel safe.

      3. Lance

        And more than that being what public safety staff is there for, that’s also what they’re trained for. Are normal public library staff trained to deal with situations like patrons fighting, or getting aggressive, on their own? I’m leaning toward ‘no’, and that’s why this is a very real problem, and the ED’s sentiment is, quite frankly, idiotic.

      4. Falling Diphthong

        “rely too much on public safety staff to solve security problems”

        Think about what happened in Philly this week. People have solid reason to hesitate about having any concerns addressed by uniformed officers, possibly off-duty police. (e.g. Patron A doesn’t like that patron B is sitting in that cubicle, because patron B seems suspicious.)

        1. Your Tax Dollars at Work

          Yes, seconding this. A library is tough because anyone can be in there for any reason as long as the library is open, and “feeling safe” can be arbitrary. For example, what is ok at a library in one part of the city may not be as welcome in other parts of the city. I think your ED is right to be a little concerned, slow moving, and intentional about creating uniform policies regarding public safety. And I say that as someone who works in public service, in an office anyone can walk into at anytime, with no security.

        2. Luna

          But if there are no security officers then the librarians will be MORE likely to call the police because they don’t have anyone on staff to deal with it. Better to have unarmed staff guards who have no power to arrest anyone than to be constantly calling in the armed police officers.

    4. Meyla

      I agree with you, though I do understand the thought behind not scaring away at-risk groups. I would speak with the librarian who agreed with you (and anyone else you can find who may have been in silent agreement) and try to come up with a solution that would work for everyone. Can the security person not stand right at the door? Or not be clearly uniformed? Having an officer on site certain days of the week?

    5. Damn it, Hardison!

      A patron was recently stabbed to death in a public library in the Boston area, so the threat is real. I can understand that it is a fine needle to thread in communities with poor police relations, but at the same time, expecting librarians with minimal training in handling violent situations to deal on their own is not a solution.

    6. MK

      I have never seen any kind of security in a library. And no, having security around will absolutely not create an inclusive and welcoming space, rather the opposite. I would focus on pushing for more training.

        1. Antilles

          I don’t think it has to be uniformed police officers though. I used to work within walking distance of the Cleveland (OH) Public Library and went there on my lunch break regularly and can personally confirm they had security guards – one at the main entrance, then I usually saw a couple more walking around within the building.
          Not police officers, just the usual private security guards like you commonly see at company headquarters or malls or whatever.

          1. Jules the Third

            Uniformed security don’t make vulnerable patrons safer either. I’d actually argue that their lesser training and authority make them *less* effective than police.

            1. pleaset

              Depends on the guards. Speaking as a black man, having guards without the abiity shoot and arrest is better. Untrained guards might make more mistakes, but the results of police can be way way more severe.

              The library system I frequent (as a user – I have a library degree but do not work as a librarian) has security guards that, I think, are well-trained be part of the library system, playing it soft generally, and I think are under the direction of the library leadership.

              In my experience, police don’t take kindly to having to answering to anyone but their police bosses. I really wouldn’t want them in our libraries except in emergencies.

              1. Clare

                Yeah, better to have unarmed security guards that can’t do much more than hustle someone out of the building than have the librarians calling the police.

                1. ‘Sup

                  Amazingly and, apparently beyond most comprehension levels, if people follow the orders of the police, nothing drastic happens. Amazing, I know. The place to argue innocence is in court not on the side of the road (or anywhere else) with a police officer.

                2. Natalie

                  @ ‘Sup, take it somewhere else. Your just trying to stir the shit, not mention anything actually relevant to a discussion about security at libraries.

      1. WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

        You must not have been to a library in a downtown area in awhile. I work in downtown near a library that I frequent. It is rather close to the soup kitchen, therefore people seeking shelter or just wanting to read, get on the computers, etc. come to the library often and are always welcome. I have seen on more than one occasion someone getting unruly and yelling at patrons, the librarians, anyone in the vicinity. There are several security guards on site that are able to handle the interaction to keep it a safe place. A librarian should not have to have the same safety training as a security guard.

        1. Mickey Q

          When I lived in DC I once went to the library during the day and 95% of the people there were homeless. This was back in the day when they released a large number of people from the mental hospital and most of them had to live on the streets. Luckily I did not encounter anybody who scared me, but I can see how it could easily escalate into an unsafe situation.

          1. Grace

            I remember that day—every park in thr District had dozens of people released from St. E’s with no place else to go.

        2. JeanB in NC

          People already expect librarians to be parents, babysitters, teachers, job coaches, etc., etc. It’s not fair to expect them to add being a security guard to their job.

      2. Joie De Vivre

        I was in the main branch of the Dallas Public Library recently. Multiple security guards walked through the floor I was on. There were a lot of homeless people present. Everyone was quiet and respectful. I felt better with the police presence. I assume the homeless were ok with the security, or they wouldn’t have been there.

        I did have a good conversation on the elevator with a man I suspect was homeless.

    7. fposte

      I think it’s unfortunately common, but it’s not ideal. ALA has a Safety and Security in Libraries libguide–have a look there and see if that helps you with specific suggestions. I’ll post a link in followup.

      1. The Luidaeg

        Full disclosure: I am a librarian. In an urban library.
        We have a public safety team who work at all of our locations, but we have also had training on dealing with hostile situations and how to de-escalate situations. So no, in my opinion, it is not out of line that you brought this up. Front-desk staff are often the first people that library patrons encounter, and they need to be confident in how to handle certain situations.
        Perhaps you could suggest some info from Black Belt Librarian: — or a webinar: (sorry for the long links).
        Even if you have public safety staff, it’s very helpful to know how to handle situations or at the very least make an attempt. I feel that the more information staff have and the more comfortable they are, the more confident they are. I understand your frustration, definitely — but there are resources you can tap into on your own, but also suggest to your director. Something like a webinar to start, or perhaps having someone from the police or even a mental health professional come in to speak to staff, could be a good way to help everyone (even if they don’t work on the public desk).

        1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

          Thank you very much for this, and also to Fposte above. I’m going to read these. I do agree with the ED that some of our staff do rely on what minimal public safety staff we have to handle *every* unfavorable situation that might come up. Some situations don’t require any escalation. But training is paramount.

    8. MuseumChick

      This is pretty typical for GLAM jobs (gallery, library, archives, museums).

      Not one museum I have worked at has had a “public safety officer”. That fact that you have any would be a HUGE step forward for most GLAM jobs. It’s really unfortunate. Luckily no one I know has ever been hurt but there have been a few scary incidences.

      You are right, the current tread is for libraries to be centers for community activity. There is nothing you can do about that trend. What you can do is present an suggestions (in a respectful way of course) the the director. “I was thinking about the safety issues we discussed in the meeting. Since the PSO are not the solution we want to go with what if did X, Y, or Z?”

    9. TiffIf

      I worked in a library–it was on a university campus in a town very much not known for violence or any sort of disorder and there was security in the library. They were students (like I was) but they did have specific security training and the librarians, library assistants, shelvers, etc were not expected to handle any violence or issues, we were told to call security.

    10. Intel Analyst Shell

      I worked as a library clerk in a very poor town in Mississippi for two years and this was the norm for us. We were down the street from an underserved high school and would have 40 (literally 40, I would count) teenagers in there every day after school until we closed at 8. It was terrible. We had zero control. I once called the cops and asked to be escorted to my car at closing (my self and another female coworker) because a creep had been hanging around all day and was then waiting in his vehicle parked between our cars. When I told my manager the next day I had called the police I got reprimanded. I have more stories but I’m on my phone at the moment. It was a constant battle of disciplining a neighborhood but still being welcoming becuase these kids really had nowhere else to go. For my manager at the time numbers came first and safety came second. So it seems to be the “norm” but that doesn’t mean it’s right.

      1. MuseumChick

        This reminds me of something that happened at one of the few for-profit jobs I had. I was in the front office with one other woman. Waaaaaay in the back of the building was the warehouse so there were other people on the property but it would take them a long time to get to the front. Well me and the other woman saw a car circle the building, then park for 10 minuets, then circle the building again, park for 10 minuets, repeat over and over. We locked the front door, called the warehouse guys who went out and asked him what he was doing there. I forgot what the guy said, just that it sounded like BS. He drove off but we kept the door locked. When the owner came in about an hour later we told him what happened. He reprimanded us and told us “If you were that scared call the cops.”

    11. petpet

      Disclaimer: I work in an academic library, though we are open to the public and deal with our fair share of problem patrons.

      This is probably my non-public library mindset showing, but the notion of a safety officer posted in our library has never even occurred to me. Our safety policy is that as soon as a patron’s behavior crosses the line – including yelling, cursing or belligerence – we ask them to leave, and if they won’t leave, we call the police. We’re fortunate in that we’re in a mid-sized city and police response is quick, and we’re also fortunate in that 90% of our police calls are about theft, not violence.

      Is that an option for you and your colleagues? Or are you truly expected to de-escalate and handle unsafe patrons by yourself?

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        We can call the police; there’s no restriction against that (thankfully). But most of our branches are not within immediate distance of a precinct, so of course, there’s a lag time where it’s all on the library staff to control the situation (or not).

        1. OhNo

          Ooh, that makes it rough. I’ve worked in a couple of different types of libraries (academic right now), and there are so many situations where the problem can largely be reduced or avoided just by having the person removed quickly, before things have a chance to escalate too far.

          Any chance you could advocate for silent call buttons? I’ve worked in two different libraries that had them – in one case the button went straight to the police, and in the other it triggered something in the back room where other staff worked, as kind of a silent “I have a situation and need a witness” sort of alarm. That might not be workable in a public library, but it’s something else to consider.

    12. Samiratou

      I don’t know if they should have safety officers assigned to every branch, but I also wouldn’t hesitate to the call the cops if there was violence between patrons or to remove drunken patrons.

      If the cops are called often enough, that should get their attention. The police may even start requiring branches provide security. Not sure.

    13. Leave it to Beaver

      I work for a big, urban library. All our branches have security officers, but that doesn’t mitigate the issue that there is always the possibility that a patron will become reactive or aggressive to a staff member. As others have said, libraries are public spaces and regardless as to whether their community centers or a place to read, anyone is welcome. It sounds to me that the issue is that you don’t feel confident in your ability to manage aggressive (or potentially violent) situations. That’s not a criticism of you or your skills, but how your Library has trained you to handle these issues. Your ED’s response was pretty substandard to be honest, which is definitely disheartening. But, my question is what were you hoping the ED would say or do? Were you asking for more security staff or more training or stricter policies to support staff or all three? I think you’re absolutely right to bring up an issue that impacts your work and person, but it’s also important to demonstrate what it is that you need.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        I want to thank everyone for their responses so far. I wish I had the time to respond to everyone, but I do want to clarify that either providing more security staff or more training would have been acceptable to me. I hopefully made that clear to the ED.

    14. Modernhypatia

      I’m with fposte on ‘it’s unfortunately common’ but thinking we can and should do better at it as a field. Some library systems are way more attentive to it than others.

      I’ve noticed a significant uptick in people talking about this in the past year, and there are resources out there (feel free to contact me via the site linked in my name if you want some options). Ryan Dowd has written a Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness (via ALA) and also offers training for staff (that libraries can sign up for) and a free weekly newsletter that gives you a sense of the content.

      There are also definitely trainings out there for things staff can do for each other – things like having a code word if you need someone to back you up with a difficult patron, or get you out of a situation where a patron is focusing on you in scary ways, or be ready to get more help.

      I think one of the things that can be really complicated in library work is talking about challenging patrons with other staff – sometimes different people see different things, and no one puts together that someone is being threatening or inappropriate for a long time. That’s lousy for other people in the library, and it’s lousy for staff.

    15. AnotherLibrarian

      This is a complicated issue. When I worked in a public library, we never had a uniformed officer and I am glad we didn’t. I would have found it off putting and do find it off putting in libraries that do, unless they hold rare materials and need the added security.

      However, we did have a panic button we could push that would alert local law enforcement and we had a good relationship with several members of the local homeless population who let us know if we should be wary of anyone. One particular patron, I recall, was arrested for assault and then out on parole and threatened a coworker. It was our homeless friends that helped us get his full name, so we could put in the restraining order against him after that incident. Several had warned us about him, so we knew to be wary before the threatening behavior began.

      I am generally opposed to uniformed officers in libraries, but I also am opposed to people feeling unsafe. Perhaps you could look at the ALA Guidelines for Library Security and see about getting a training? We did several training sessions on how to approach people who were drunk or having mental health issues. No one should just have to “deal with dangerous situations”. That’s not fair to you.

      1. Not So NewReader

        They make panic buttons that you can wear. This way the button is with you at all times. You wear it so it can be seen, that in itself can be a deterrent. The signal works on radio waves.

    16. Q

      You are right. You deserve to feel safe at work. The downtown branch of our local library system used to have some of the issues you mentioned. They now have a security guard posted at the front door and another in the back by the restrooms. The front door guard is friendly and acts as a greeter, unless someone gets out of line and then s/he escorts the unruly patron out. The guard in the back watches over the computer uses and holds the key for the restrooms and you have to ask to be let in.

    17. allthearts

      (Not a librarian.)

      I’m going to agree with your colleague that having uniformed officers can escalate situations and create a fearful and unwelcoming space for minorities who, especially right now, don’t have a lot of ability or reason to trust police officers. I understand that you use “peace officers,” but, at least in my understanding, they’re still law enforcement. There are a lot of articles and resources out there about de-escalation and alternatives to calling the police–I would recommend seeing if there are any local groups doing that sort of training or advocacy work in your area and reaching out to them to do a presentation or workshop for you.

      The links in here are a decent starting point:

    18. Decima Dewey

      In my library system, we aren’t supposed to open a branch without a guard present or on his/her way. We also have an online form to report incidents and another to report workplace violence. I’ve had to file such reports myself and have gotten prompt calls from the powers that be and/or a member of workplace violence committee.

      We are also told that public safety is every staff member’s responsibility, not just the guard’s. If a patron is breaking the rules and the guard is on his/her lunch break, any other staff member can intervene. Training in deescalation is offered frequently and all staff are encouraged to attend.

    19. Rather be Reading

      I work in a medium sized library in an area that’s part suburb and part kinda-dodgy. We don’t have a security guard, but the nearest police station is under a mile away, so if we have an incident we can usually get a pretty rapid response. Even when I worked in a library that did have a security guard, we would still have to call 911 from time to time, because people wouldn’t listen to directions from the guard.

      I have some questions about your library system’s overall safety protocol.

      1. Does your district allow/encourage staff to call the emergency police line when things get bad? A patron assaulting someone in the library is a crime, and that’s absolutely something you should report to the police.

      2. Can you and your coworkers devise a “rescue me” signal? Having an agreed on sentence or physical action to indicate to your coworkers that you need them to intervene or call 911 has been a big help to me and my coworkers in the past.

      3. Does your library/local government have an incident reporting system? In every library I’ve worked for, we’ve had a form we were supposed to fill out if a customer went over the line in the ways you’ve described. It creates a body of evidence that may show that your branch in particular could use more assistance from law enforcement.

      4. Is there anyone in your branch that has the authority to remove patrons from the library if their behavior becomes a problem?

      If you and your coworkers can figure out the answers to these questions, it might make all of you feel a little safer and more empowered.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        In response to the four points you mention:
        1. Yes, we are allowed to call the police.
        2. This is a great idea and we have had code words here – it’s a system that has worked.
        3. This one is the real problem – we do have an incident reporting form, but some security administrators have encouraged us to document *everything* while others have reprimanded my colleagues for (in my opinion, correctly) using the form.
        4. In theory, yes, any staff member is empowered to ask a disorderly patron to leave. But in practice, I’m an average-size, very meek person that a less friendly member of society does not take very seriously. To be fair, those patrons normally don’t listen to our security staff, either, when present. The best answer, to me, seems to be to press for additional training.

        1. Iris Eyes

          Do you have regular patrons that are more assertive/intimidating that could be deputized? At least made aware that if they see a librarian trying to address the issue they can come and stand beside them and reaffirm what they are saying as necessary?

          There are plenty of people who may want to help but might feel that its not their place to. I think the sometimes presences of uniformed professionals can greatly dissuade people from backing you up as well.

    20. Disaster Voyeurism

      I’m a librarian, though not a public one.
      You are not alone in your observation. There has been some discussion of this topic on library twitter about safety versus community comfort vis a vis security personnel in light of the Philly Starbucks incident (because Starbucks has a corporate ‘third place’ policy which is the same kind of ‘place’ a public library is expected to be). Hopefully there is a #critlib discussion about it at some point to help illuminate how to handle and frame these situations.
      Your ED sounds like they don’t know how to handle this or -fingers crossed- didn’t want to address it in detail in an open forum (too bad they didn’t offer to talk about it with you later).

    21. EmilyG

      I formerly worked in a big urban public library system, not in a frontline job, and now work in a different kind of library. I’m not sure what the exact right approach is but I think your ED certainly got it wrong by brushing off the question. To me the least-bad solution might be very very well-trained library security staff, which is what my old system strove for. A diverse group of staff in not-too-police-looking uniform with special training that emphasized just talking to people, de-escalation, guiding them to social organizations that can help with beyond-the-library issues like food and bathing. Not all of the “problem patrons” were homeless by any means, but rules regarding bothering others users and personal odor were some of the most frequently broken compared to belligerent or violent patrons. I don’t think ignoring these issues is fair to you as a staff member. At the very least it would be realistic to admit that these challenges exist and train *you* on how to respond. I think it really comes out in smaller cities, which deal with problems that people, 1980’s style, think of as “big city problems” but they’re actually everywhere now. Relevant link to follow in another comment.

    22. LibraryLife

      It’s very common for libraries to not have a safety officer. In fact, for many libraries, the expense would be more than their annual budget. The libraries that I have worked at (considered small when compared to Boston or NY, but they are some of the largest in our state), staff is encouraged to intervene if they feel safe, but are instructed to call the police if patrons get out of hand. Very often mentioning calling the police is enough to get patrons to stand down.
      We have an excellent relationship with our police officers, and they are always happy to come to the library to help us out, but we did not employ any sort of security.

    23. Thursday Next

      Sorry for yet another non-librarian comment, but I thought I’d come out in support of well-trained library security. I’m a block from the central branch of a large urban library, which has a huge children’s wing, and there’s security posted by that exit. It definitely makes sense to have a security presence where there’s a large group of children in a public space. I feel better knowing that my kids couldn’t make a break for it unnoticed, and it certainly sends a message that the space is monitored and the kids’ safety is valued.

      I certainly understand issues around police relations in minority communities (my library is located in one), but at the same time, the security officers help preserve a safe after-school place for children who aren’t accompanied by adults, and I think that’s a very valuable way to serve minority communities.

    24. Sky Bison

      I worked for a major university library for about four years. We had, at all times, 3 security guards. One at the entrance, one who patrolled, and one who just kind of floated. None of them were armed, sometimes they were small women, but all had cuffs and I believe a kind of nightstick? This was in Canada, but in a city where there happened to be a lot of prisons (yes I’ve outed myself to other Canadians what school this was now), and I only had to call on them three times total in my four years there. Once because I found a weapon in the stacks, once because a patron was threatening me, and once because a student was attempting suicide.

      So three times in four years but all of those times it was a situation that went from 0 to 100 extremely quickly. If security hadn’t been there, I’m not sure what would have happened. I also was only part time so I can only imagine the things you have to deal with. This level of complete disregard for your safety – people don’t see or use libraries the way they used to. Libraries (because Librarians are badasses super geniuses) have managed to keep up with the change, so the rest of the staff needs to get on board and get you the support you need. This is unacceptable. Don’t feel embarrassed. They should feel embarrassed.

    25. Zennish

      “we have all come to rely too much on public safety staff to solve security problems. ”

      Really??? Isn’t that a bit like “We have all come to rely too much on the maintenance staff to solve our plumbing problems.” or “We have all come to rely too much on the IT staff to solve our computer problems.”

      What, exactly, are they there for besides solving security problems?

      1. Zennish

        I should also mention that our urban branches don’t have guards, but then we’re not in what you’d commonly think of as a high crime urban area (think more like Indianapolis, less like Detroit). Those branches do, however have cameras, security lighting, and the police on speed dial, with management backing if the staff decides they need to call them.

      2. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        “We have all come to rely too much on the IT staff to solve our computer problems.”

        That attitude is prevalent at our library as well. It’s a strange place.

    26. SnarkyLibrarian

      I work in a large urban public library system and we use a mix of uniformed police officers (picking up overtime shifts) and private security officers. I have never, ever seen one of the private security people do anything but play on their phones. Or go outside to “check the parking lot” and disappear for a nap in their car.

      A lot of my coworkers feel unsafe in their branches and like management isn’t protecting them. No advice besides the excellent links others have posted, just lots of sympathy from someone else in the trenches!

    27. Melodious Thunk

      I hope you attend to the news enough to understand that “uniformed authority figures” DO “tend to just escalate situations and make matters worse” and that, therefore, some of your patrons will both feel and actually be LESS safe if there is a greater police presence. That makes the situation you describe a more complex problem than you seem to recognize. Of course both library staff and library patrons deserve to feel and be safe. At the same time, it’s really true that increased police presence might literally endanger some of your patrons and staff. So, what’s needed is, I think, a less complaining and combative attitude on your part. Acknowledging the complexities of the situation will give you better standing to insist that a suitable solution has not yet been found and to offer ideas for finding that solution. Depending on the demographics of your situation, that might mean a branch-by-branch series of conversations that include staff, patrons, and community partners such as nearby homeless shelters or social service agencies. Or it might mean a process of consultation with libraries that have found what feels to them to be a balanced approach that protects everybody without endangering anybody. I love libraries and librarians, so I know that there are lots of good examples out there. Good luck!

      1. Junior Dev

        Agree that the presence of police or security guards may make some patrons and staff less safe, disagree that the OP is being “complaining and combative.” This is a really complicated issue. OP has the right to be safe at work; the tricky part comes with recognizing and working around the fact that police and security don’t always make things safer.

        I volunteer at a homeless teens organization and occasionally they have to deal with someone being belligerent. If your concern is with the homeless population in particular you could ask some local orgs that work with that population for advice. Keep asking around until you get someone who acknowledges that police and security guards can make the situation more dangerous and has found strategies to deal with that.

      2. SpaceNovice

        This is a very good point. Whether a police presence will make certain groups of people safer or not relies entirely with HOW the officers are trained. If the department lives and breathes modern training techniques that include de-escalation, mental health crisis intervention, anti-bias, and dealing with learning disabilities, they make everyone safer all around. If the department doesn’t follow those sorts of best practices, then it’s a crapshoot whether the security officer has the capability to bring situations to safe and successful resolutions.

        (You can figure out immediately if a police department follows best practices by searching online for “de-escalation” with the department’s name. Departments that adopt this training are usually very loud about it because it’s so effective, so if it doesn’t show up, assume they’re not following best practices. They may also be in transition with not 100% of officers trained, in which case the library should request someone that HAS been trained. It’s an enormous night and day difference.)

      3. Luna

        I think some people are confusing staff security guards with police. While some people will feel uncomfortable around anyone with a uniform, they aren’t the same thing.

      4. Specialk9

        “So, what’s needed is, I think, a less complaining and combative attitude on your part.”
        Riiiiight. OP, just stop noticing that you’re afraid of being physically hurt at work without training or backup or management even caring. The real problem is on you for not caring enough about the complexities behind why they’re trying to hurt you. Why are you *complaining* about being harmed physically at work? So *combative* of you to care about a safe work environment.

        1. Melodious Thunk

          I was referring to OP’s dismissal of the perspective of a more experienced librarian in her own system as well as OP’s reference to “no provision for public safety whatsoever” at the end of a post that quite clearly discussed *insufficient* but not *absent* provisions. It’s one thing to say, “I don’t feel that the public safety provisions we have in place are enough, let’s talk about how to improve them.” It’s another thing to complain about “no provision for public safety whatsoever” or to give off the air that you think this is because people don’t care enough rather than because the question of what to do is really complicated.

    28. Drago Cucina

      Public Library Director here. This is a legitimate concern. We don’t have public safety officers present in the library. We do have a good relationship with our police department and if anything ever feels hinky we call and ask for a walk through. We don’t over react so they know if we call it’s legitimate. On the white board in the staff area one of my top 5 rules is “When in doubt call the police.”

      I have also been on a long term mission to expect patrons to treat our staff and each other with courtesy and respect. The staff shouldn’t be harassed in anyway shape or form. Before Sandy Hook I had beefed up security into staff areas (coded locks) and other safety measures. I had the police chief come do a security walk through and give me suggestions. I was seen as over reacting. Then I was seen as prescient.

      We’ve added security cameras. Our recent staff training day focused on dealing with sexual harassment from the public. We also did active shooter training. We close the library two days a year and do all staff training so we don’t run into the problem that you had. I had a board member wonder why we would bother with active shooter training and had another board member told her she needed to read a newspaper.

      Some libraries have lost major lawsuits to staff because they refused to protect them from harassment. I sometimes have to phrase it that I’m protecting the library from liability. We want to be open and welcoming, but that has to be balanced with protecting the staff and members of the public.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        You sound like a terrific library director. Thank you for your comment.

    29. Seal

      As an academic librarian and branch manager, I am disgusted by your ED’s response. Everyone should feel safe in a library; there is absolutely no excuse for not setting and enforcing standards of behavior for patrons and staff. I currently work at a large academic library in a college town. In addition to a large student population, we also have a significant number of non-affiliated users, including a large homeless population, that use our library. We have uniformed security monitors (students in polo shirts) that regularly patrol our buildings, limits on the amount time non-affiliated users (e.g. members of the public) can use computers, and a patron conduct code that gets enforced. All of this was put in place years ago in response to a few major security incidents, including an arson fire. While none of our security measures are heavy-handed, security is a definite and obvious presence in all of our library buildings and no one hesitates to call on them if there’s a problem. As a result, we have very few security incidents and everyone feels safe, largely because our regular users know that bad behavior will bring consequences up to and including getting banned from our building. What we do isn’t unique, nor should it be; library administrators have a responsibility to their staff and users to ensure that their facilities are safe for everyone.

    30. Ellery

      I worked at the central branch of a library in a large city and we had either uniformed security or cameras at every entrance. Unless there was a problem, security just stayed at their desks, more or less.

      The vast majority of the staff patrons encountered were not librarians, most of them were pages and senior pages, most of whom were still going to school. Very young people who should not be expected to de-escalate potentially violent situations.

      I’m not sure what security was like at the other branches, but again, most of them were staffed by pages.

    31. Glomarization, Esq.

      I think patrons should be in on the conversation on how your library goes forward with security personnel and procedures. Imagine how the Philadelphia Starbucks situation would have gone down differently if the manager’s training on “trespassing” included a face-to-face conversation with people of color.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        I agree completely. Especially after reading the comments to this post where I’m seeing a very diverse range of responses just among library employees, which has been pretty enlightening, I wonder exactly how patrons feel about this issue.

        1. Anion

          Patrons feel like if the library isn’t safe, we’re not going there, and our tax dollars should be paying for safety for ourselves, our children, and the library’s employees.

          I personally would not go to a library that refuses to address safety concerns. I actually think the OP might want to consider taking this to a higher level.

          1. Anion

            Oh, and–OP, *if* you were a librarian in my town, and *if* you were to, say, post your concerns on the community’s Reddit boards/Facebook page/City Hall website/local newspaper discussion forums (or wrote a letter to the editor)/whatever other town-centric public forums, online or not… I would join you, and would *as a citizen* begin writing letters to whichever people in authority had the power to set policy, approve funding for security, or make laws regarding same.

            I mean…just *if* you were to do any of that to make the issue public.

            And I bet I’m not the only one. Libraries are important, librarians are important, and the safety of both is not something that should be sacrificed. This is an issue I would get very involved in.

    32. librarianish

      Librarian here, though in an academic institution. Agree w/ others who have suggested prioritizing safety, and pushing for change. If the particular security staff wasn’t working out, then that’s the thing that should be improved. Even staff with training should not be expected to deal with issues involving threats to anyone’s safety.

    33. Anonymous5

      I’ve worked in both public and academic libraries, only one had a public safety officer (academic) and it was amazing!

      I agree theoretically that police officers can be intimidating and scare away potential patrons. But I also believe that the public safety officer was my best friend sometimes. I could do my job because he could take care of people yelling and screaming, being creepy, stealing things. He was friendly, and all the students knew him by name, he was a well-liked figure.

      I also don’t think this is the norm. Most libraries don’t have this. And that is an unfortunate reality whether or not it’s fair.

    34. Student

      Worked in a library in a neighborhood that was similar to yours.

      We had a local on-duty police officer that would regularly come by for a part of his patrol. Our main library police officer (it was almost always the same guy) was a stand-up fellow. He understood his “beat”, and that a library cop requires a compassionate, calm, and deescalating policing approach. He was great. Never saw him mis-handle a situation. He wasn’t there all the time, but it was often enough to make a difference without scaring off all our patrons. He wandered casually around the building, often in the stacks or around in back areas, so that he wasn’t scowling at people near the entrance or being generally intimidating.

      We locked stuff up and locked stuff down to discourage bad behavior. Computer access was limited to a specific room with hard-wired internet on the computers (this was before wi-fi was a thing). It was obviously supervised (by a librarian conspicuously in the area, not a cop), and you’d lose privileges if you broke the computer rules – like looking at porn or not taking turns (a half-hour at a time, I think) when people were waiting. You could potentially switch off wi-fi if that’s contributing to people hanging about without using the actual library services, and move to a more old-fashioned computer lab.

      We locked the bathrooms up at night. That helped keep people from trying to move in or stay past closing. We librarian-hushed people who were noisy, which generally drove disruptive people off and broke up/supressed groups of teens.

      We still had plenty of problems, but we approached them with a lot less general anxiety than your post displays. Maybe you aren’t really cut out to work in the community you’re serving? You don’t understand them, and it doesn’t seem like you are learning how their world works; you expect somebody to turn it into your world. For a lot of poor people, what you’ve described is normal daily life – whereas to you this is obviously very jarring and you don’t know how to handle it.

      Primer: It’s okay, expected even, to get tough with problem patrons. It’s okay to expel people who can’t follow the rules, and throw them out if they try to come back – that would be you making the library a safe and calm place for all the poor folks who are more respectful of it, rather than making it the eternal refuge of one noisy drunk who won’t change his ways any time soon. It’s okay, and expected, to call the cops when someone attacks another library patron. It’s okay to raise your voice to somebody who’s trying to intimidate you, or to walk away or refuse to serve people who are cruel to you. They EXPECT you to take a hard line with them, because they do not come from your polite world – they come from a world where, largely, might makes right and authority figures take a hard line – so when you fail to do that, they will try to see exactly how far they can walk all over you as a way of undermining your perceived authority. I know that sounds harsh to you – but that’s how I grew up, and that’s how I lived until I moved to the world of civilized politeness and had to learn the system you’re more familiar with.

      1. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)

        I’m not going to further engage on this but I just want to make it clear to other readers: I didn’t say a word about the neighborhood of this library in my original post.

      2. Anion

        I don’t think making assumptions about, and condescendingly lecturing, the OP is helpful here. She asked a specific question; did you choose not to answer it, or did you simply miss it in your rush to call her a sheltered snob?

        1. Student

          I didn’t get deep into details here, but this is what actually works to deal with patrons who are out of control and not members of the upper crust, so to speak. I had patrons attack me, slash my tires, hit on me, beg from me, try to scam me, try to follow me into the back, try to sleep in the library, deface stuff, dealt with drunks, drug addicts, etc. I was poor right along next to them, so it’s not a matter of not understanding them or not having sympathy.

          You’re obviously an outsider, so let me spell it out – we are different than you, we operate differently than you, we think different than you, and we have different values than you. We live in a different world than you and it does not operate on your rules. That is exactly why we’re so different from you. I know because I got to live in both poor-land and wealthy-land.

          I took a hard line because I knew, personally, that the library was better kept as a refuge for the poor who respect it than as a temple to the worst of our (explicitly, my) kind who’d terrorize the poor, quieter patrons just as much as they’d bother the librarians. The mad-kings of the poor can go claim some other public area to lord over and abuse.

          I see now that OP doesn’t have that in him/her to follow such advice on being tough to them, from an earlier OP comment about being on the meek side. OP, you have two options – make good friends with a fellow staffer who can deal with difficult patrons for you, and have them handle that part of your job for you – or get a different job. Your job isn’t going to change, and it sounds like you aren’t willing or able to change to meet your patrons where they are.

          And you don’t need to pretend about the neighborhood, OP. No need to get he vapors there, that’s not something that actually offends people. We all know you aren’t tending to a library on the nicest side of town if you’re worried about getting attacked at work or thinking about giving people OD remedy drugs. Poor folks like me don’t resent it when you notice that we’re poor and that our neighborhoods suck. We resent it when you pretend as if our obviously crappy neighborhoods are just as nice as the high-rises or the McMansion suburbs, though. It’s obvious to us that we’re not living in Disneyland – the drunks vomiting in the public library give the illusion away pretty fast.

          1. Anion

            …and now you’re making assumptions about me.

            Please stop.

            You do not know me. You know nothing about me, where I live, how much money I have or do not have, and what I have been through in my life.

            I have been homeless.

            Quit patronizing me.

      3. Anonymous Librarian - Northeast USA

        I’m actually curious here, Student: are you male or assigned male at birth? Because all of these behaviors that you’ve so condescendingly lectured the OP on as being okay are actually very AMAB/M behaviors, and depending on the library, may actually not be okay from the ED’s point of view.

        1. Manuel

          Student made it pretty clear that the distinction is along socioeconomic lines, not sex and gender. Ad hominem attacks aren’t helpful. I’m female and I learned early on to take the same hard line Student described with people that tried to take advantage of me and/or victimize me. I’ll help out someone in true need, but other intentions receive a firm no and a readiness to defend myself physically if necessary. I thought Student did a pretty good job explaining that people who use violence, fear, and intimidation in their daily interactions think very differently than people who don’t/won’t/can’t. These are behaviors that they have relied on their entire lives for basic survival.

    35. Anion

      It is unfortunately normal these days that the safety of the general public–especially women–is sacrificed for the sake of looking “inclusive.” Generally the people making these policies, the ones who are most concerned with looking “inclusive,” are the ones who do not have to put their own safety at risk, but are happy to tell us proles that we must do so.

      (I am specifically NOT trying to make the above as a political comment, and am not trying to start a political discussion.)

      1. Elizabeth H.

        If you’re NOT trying to make a political comment, maybe you shouldn’t have posted your comment, which is entirely political!

        1. Anion

          Really? Which political party did I blame? Are they not both guilty (yes)?

          Making a general statement about “people who make policy” is not a partisan political statement. The OP asked a question–“Is this normal?”–and I answered it.

    36. JG

      I’m on the board of my local library. It’s a good-size building (60K+ square feet) in a downtown area. We always have at least one security guard on duty and would absolutely do more if our staff felt unsafe.

    37. Anonymous Librarian - Northeast USA

      Your ED is a terrible person. My library is lucky, in that we’ve got community security officers and we have a pretty regular police presence. We also had several rounds of active shooter training lately, as well as police come in to do a serious workplace evaluation. Because of that, we just updated our security camera situation, too.

      I’m so sorry that you were humiliated for bringing up a very real concern, and I wish there was a good way to help you fix this. Maybe reach out to your state’s (or neighboring states’, or country’s?) professional library association and see if they have safety recommendations. In my opinion, personal safety in public places is one of the things we all need to be thinking about.

      And just to reiterate: they are not right! You should not be trapped behind any desk by any kind of patron and told to “deal with it”. That is not acceptable, and the fact that your ED finds it acceptable when they would never be in that situation is very troubling.

      1. Anonymous Librarian - Northeast USA

        Another thought – if you’re comfortable doing it, it may be worth reaching out to your local police force and encouraging them to stop by to use your bathrooms during their patrols. It’s an irregular police presence, but it’s regular enough that it can often discourage people from being rowdy — they’ll never know just *when* a police officer might be in the building.

    38. ronda

      my local library refused to open one morning because the full staff (including security person) were not in yet.
      I think most places with more than a few employees do actually have security people / procedures.
      your library is probably ignoring it because of cost.

    39. Lara

      Not a librarian… but I can recognise a weak excuse for not wanting to spend the money when I see it.

    40. Old librarian

      Librarian here and your ED is wrong. Everyone needs to feel secure at work. The presence of security can be done unobtrusively with correct training. Unfortunately, I doubt that there is anything you can do. Real solutions take time and money and those are usually lacking in most public libraries.

    41. BeBoth

      As a fellow librarian, I want to be kind here, but you screwed up a little. In a room full of your peers, you put your ED on the spot. Unfortunately human behavior veers toward the defensive in that situation, and that is exactly how the ED responded. A few others voiced support of the ED’s opinion, because either 1) they agree with the ED, or 2) they want to make brownie points with the ED. Who knows.

      The better way to go at this would be to gather up some data and other information (as a librarian, I bet you’re good at research, right?) and come up with some possible solutions for this issue. And by the way, I agree that the issue you raised is a REAL one that should be taken seriously. But, nothing will be done if you don’t do some work to make it happen. A couple suggestions:
      -ask open-ended questions of your co-workers in a one on one environment. What do they think? Do they fear for their safety? Do they have any suggestions about how to fix the problem?
      -do you belong to any library-related forums or mailing lists? Make a post asking for feedback and suggestions. What have other libraries done to deal with safety?
      -look outside the box, so to speak. What do other places do that have to deal with a wide variety of the public? How are employees made to feel safe there?
      -put all that information together and come up with some viable solutions. Set up a meeting with the ED. If at all possible, include some of your co-workers who support your point of view in the meeting to make a united front.
      Good luck!

  4. Llama Wrangler

    Two questions, as I am deep in the job search. Short versions at top, explanations below. (1) Do you think a slow reference check process with bad communication is a red flag, or just a normal part of hiring always taking unexpectedly long? (2) What are your strategies for emotionally moving past not getting a job offer?

    (1) * Do you think a slow reference check process with bad communication is a red flag I was told I was a finalist for a position about a month ago and asked for references.* (They had actually already asked for my references earlier in the process, but this time they wanted a different set with some specific non-supervisors). I sent it along with a follow-up question and just got back a quick “Thanks, I’ll get back to you soon” email. Two weeks passed; my references didn’t hear anything, I assumed that they had either paused the hiring process or decided to move forward with another candidate. Then, a week and a half ago, I got another email saying that they had been waiting until after the holiday to call, would be calling last week, and would be in touch this week. Given that they’d been moving slowly, I wasn’t expecting them to stick to their timeline, but apparently none of my references have heard from them at all. So, now it’s been a month since I sent them, and 8 days since they said they were going to start checking them. My question specifically is would you take this delay this late in the process as a red flag? Or is this normal? I’m very used to slow hiring processes, but every other time that I’ve gotten to the reference check stage things have move very quickly. For what it’s worth, there have been no other major red flags in the process, but there has been some recent reorganization within the team.

    (2) * What are your strategies for emotionally moving past not getting a job offer?* I recently interviewed for a position, and after the interview decided that it wasn’t a good fit for me. They contacted me a few days after the interview and said they had decided they didn’t want to move forward with me either. So, should be cut and dry. However, I still feel kind of frustrated with them — I feel like they did multiple things that set me up to struggle in the interview, and then attributed it to my lack of skills (which I think was representative of the manager’s approach to supervision, which was why I decided I didn’t want to work for him), and I think they’re making unwise decisions about how they’re trying to staff the role (again, why I didn’t want to work there). I can’t figure out why I’m not feeling a sense of relief at having dodged a bullet! Is this something other people experience, and if so, how do you move past it?

    1. Susan K

      (1) No, I don’t think it’s a red flag. Managers are busy, and who knows what crisis may have come up in the past week that became a higher priority than hiring? It’s really, really common for the hiring process to take longer than expected every step of the way, so I wouldn’t read into this.

      (2) I don’t know if there are really “strategies” other than just changing your mindset and not taking it personally. I’ve had some frustrating interviews, too, where it seemed like the interviewers spent most of the time trying to sell me on the job instead of asking me questions to determine if they wanted to hire me, and then I didn’t get an offer. It really irritated me that they flew me out for these interviews and didn’t even give me a chance to make a case for myself. But, you know, there are pros and cons to every job, and maybe even if they had picked me, the offer wouldn’t have been good enough. Maybe if they had done good interviews, there still would have been someone better. I guess you just have to accept that sometimes things don’t work out.

    2. DivineMissL

      Regarding #1 – I used to work in retail, and then about 20 years ago, I switched to office work. I was APPALLED at how slowly everything moved, particularly hiring. Often applications are accepted for several weeks, and then it takes several weeks to schedule the interviews because Joe’s on vacation, then Jane is at a seminar, there’s a holiday, etc. Then, the decision makers aren’t available for two weeks, or somebody is out sick – and before you know it, it’s been 3-4 months. In retail, we always filled jobs immediately, because we needed folks out on the sales floor. In offices, there doesn’t seem to be the same sense of urgency. If the place is reorganizing, that may explain some of the delays. It’s unfortunate that they’re not communicating with you, but if there are no other red flags, you’re probably just going to have to be patient (but still send out resumes elsewhere, just in case). Good luck!

    3. Llama Wrangler

      Thanks Susan K and DivineMissL — it’s helpful to hear that this is not a sign of dysfunction. I know how slow the hiring process is in office jobs, but I’ve worked in (multiple) toxic places before so I’m really trying to make sure I’m not missing anything in vetting this place.

    4. Seriously?

      I think these are very common feelings. For the first, I think you need to mentally move on. If you hear from them great, but there is nothing you can do right now except drive yourself crazy. As for the second, if this is the managers approach to supervision, then maybe their interview process actually will help them find someone who can do well in the role and screen out people who will not. It can actually be a good thing if the interview makes some of the position’s challenges abundantly clear.

      1. Llama Wrangler

        Thanks! I think in both cases they are things I know intellectually to be true but am having a hard time FEELING to be true. I’ll just keep reminding myself that this is out of my control and to just keep applying.

    5. hbc

      Regarding #2–are you something of a fixer? Because I sometimes end up stuck in that same place, where it’s like, “If you just stopped doing this obviously wrong thing, then both of us would be happier. Why are you being so self-destructively wrong and getting your wrongness all over me?” I have to remind myself that what seems obvious and easy to me is somehow non-obvious or impossible for them, and I’m just not in a position to make them see the light.

      1. Llama Wrangler

        Haha, yes that is a good description. I think because my field is relatively close-knit and tends to have a culture of cross-organizational support, it’s harder for me to see an org that seems to be ignoring best practices and going off the rails. But you’re right that I’m not in a position to get them in the fold.

    6. Formerly Arlington

      1. Is it a really large company? Our HR team takes forever! It’s absolutely not personal if the hiring process tends to be slow there.

      2. I was in this boat four years ago and honestly mourned the loss like a heartbreak. I’d been to their offices 4 times and met a total of 16 people. The job seemed perfect and I was pretty certain I was going to get it given how detailed our conversations about salary were and the fact that they exposed me to their entire management team. In the end, they promoted someone internally and passed on me. I was devastated. Six months later, I got a job opportunity that was better than this one in ways I never would have envisioned then, and meanwhile, that company has had a rough few years and had layoffs that likely would have impacted me. So I guess just keep in mind that things sometimes work out the way they are going to work out. But when I remember the day I got that phone call saying no…I still cringe. It hurt.

    7. designbot

      WRT #1, sometimes we have to remember that our normal is not the same as industry normal is not the same as someone else’s normal. This may be normal for them.
      Or, it may just be indicative of something about the situation—I’ve found from the other side that my pace about getting back to someone has so much more to do with what’s going on with me than it does with how I feel about them. Either they have such a need that they don’t even have time to hire, or their need isn’t that urgent and this keeps getting pushed to the side for other priorities.

    8. Mad Baggins

      Re: #2, I had a similar experience where I was frustrated by an interview and also frustrated that they didn’t pick me (even though I wouldn’t have picked them). It hurts to be told you’re not good enough/you’re not what we want, especially when you feel like you haven’t gotten to make a case for yourself. In my situation, I got some drinks and vented about it, talked out my insecurities, and eventually realized that even if I could have made the perfect presentation with backup dancers and an orchestra, I wouldn’t have wanted to work there anyway. What I was really nervous about was do I have what it takes to break into this field, am I interviewing well, am I explaining my experiences well, etc. and I chose to address those issues so I’d be better prepared for a job I actually wanted.

      So, what do you want to learn from this?

  5. Foreign Octopus

    It’s so hot in Spain at the moment that I’m having trouble concentrating when teaching my classes. I realise this is sometimes the opposite of a problem but halfway through the day, I just want to fall asleep because it’s so hot. Any idea on how to keep myself awake that isn’t coffee related?

    1. Irene Adler

      A good, brisk walk. I know it’s hot, but if you can get the body moving and the blood flowing a bit, that will wake you up. Maybe some laps around the class room?

      1. Grad Student

        Your username reminded me–there’s a scene in Elementary (a Sherlock Holmes adaptation) where Watson shows Sherlock how she pulled all-nighters in med school: by doing 100 full-body squats with sweeping horizontal arm motions. I’ve tried this (but doing like….20, not 100) and it wakes me up at least temporarily!

        1. Foreign Octopus

          I don’t think I could do one without breaking down into tears but that’s an idea, thanks!

    2. sunbittern

      Water for sure! But also iced tea or something cool/cold with ginger in it keeps me peppy without coffee.

    3. Pseudo Soriano

      I have nothing to add except that I am jealous. I was in Madrid from Easter weekend until last Wednesday, and holy mother of San Isidro, did the rain in Spain ever get on my brain.

    4. TheCupcakeCounter

      As I had snow and ice the first part of this week I want to hate you. However, I second the recommendation to keep very hydrated with some flavoring in the water to keep it interesting. Strawberry and cucumber is a particular favorite of mine but the ginger recommendation is also good.

    5. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      If you have the ability, try keeping a damp washcloth in the freezer and when you need a wake up, drape it over the back of your neck until it isn’t cold anymore. It’ll cool you off and wake you up. I also use this when I get so overheated that I start to feel sick/headachey.

      1. Anion

        Exactly what I was going to suggest! I hate the heat and tend to get very tired and sick-feeling if I’m too hot (which is anytime the temp goes above 90F). So I use this trick a LOT. It really helps.

        (I used to rub my girls’ necks with a cold damp cloth and then blow on the backs of their necks, too, which they loved.)

    6. CBE

      I pull all nighters frequently in my line of work. If I can’t get away for a brisk walk, I find a strong mint followed by ice water wakes me up pretty well for about an hour at a time.
      (Also once served as a cavity detector and THAT time it kept me awake for longer. Ow. Called the dentist first thing in the morning!)

    7. KR

      I live in the desert so I understand your pain. If I have to go out and run work errands in the heat it just drains me. I end up getting milkshakes and being drained and sweaty all day. Wear loose clothes, splash a little water on your face and wrists, eat healthy foods with lots of water (fruits and veggies) and remember how cold it will be so very soon.

    8. mediumofballpoint

      I’m a fan of the cheap little misting fans. When I was living in the desert, they were a godsend for keeping me alert when I needed to be.

    9. Totally Minnie

      I find that eating a couple of mints and then drinking some cold water is a great way to wake myself up.

    10. bb-great

      Cold running water on the inside of my wrists (and if possible my elbows) can help a lot. Cold water on your face and the back of your neck work really well too but might be harder at work. Also, weirdly, washing my feet makes me feel really refreshed, especially if I’m wearing sandals or flats with no socks.

    11. whistle

      Apples supposedly contain a chemical that wakes you up. I eat an apple in the late afternoon when I don’t want more coffee, and it does seem to help.

    12. Sky Bison

      My teaching friends say they wear uncomfortable clothes if they think they’re running that risk. Pinch-y shoes or an itchy sweater are the examples they gave. Something that’s annoying enough to keep you awake but not so annoying you hate your life.

      If you’re not actually speaking you can also do what I do in large ass meetings that drag on. I count things. Ceiling tiles, windows, how many people in the room are wearing glasses, how many of those people wearing glasses are women? How many people are carrying backpacks and how many have messenger bags. Count it all. How many minutes between students saying ‘um’, how many people spoke today in class etc. I will also do memory exercises so for instance what was the name of every teacher I’ve ever had, what is the name of every British monarch in order etc.

      But then sometimes I just doodle a shitload of ducks or cats on surfboards. You do what you need to do.

      1. Tort-ally Hare Brained

        Omg I’ve found my people! When I doodle, it’s a surfing snail, his name is Stanley the Surfing Snail. I don’t really know why he’s surfing, but he has been for over a decade now.

    13. Nita

      I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but are siestas not a thing any more? That seems like a brilliant way to cope with a hot climate, but I have no idea if this tradition has survived in the modern world.

      Personally, I find that sweet carbonated drinks chase sleepiness away very nicely, and that very light (but long) clothes make the heat easier but keep the sun off my skin. Still, this only goes so far… when it’s hot enough, staying active is very draining.

    14. essEss

      If the smell isn’t too distracting for students, the smell of citrus is a wake up boost.

    15. Matilda the Hun

      Peppermint and vitamin C- not necessarily together :) when I worked late nights at a heavily-attended amusement park, I was popping peppermint Altoids regularly, and downing orange juice every time I was in the break room. Peppermint keeps your mind active, vitamin C keeps your body going. Can you make some peppermint iced tea to drink starting at lunch, and have orange juice/vitamin C tablets in the mornings?

    16. nep

      Ice pack held on inside of wrists, inside elbows, on neck — can be quite refreshing and might help keep you awake.

    17. Koala dreams

      Fruit or vegetables make me less sleepy, for example apple, orange or carrots. The cool running water on wrists trick is also good.

    18. Jennifleurs

      I find pretty much the only thing that will keep me awake is talking to someone, for at least a minute or two. Something that actively engages the brain.

  6. BRR

    I have a variation on the question of how to say that’s not my job. My newish manager oversees several very small teams. One team is not performing very well and my manager keeps asking me to do their tasks so the work will be done correctly and quickly (this team often doesn’t follow up on things).

    He recently emailed me a request that is pretty in depth and should 100% be the responsibility of this other team. Normally I would try Alison’s advice like, “If I keep doing A it’s going to take away the time I can spend on B” or “I’m not sure about that, I think Jane handles X” but those don’t feel right in this situation since my manager has been open about why he is asking me instead of them.

    I think with this specific request it’s the best time for me to address the overall situation but I’m not sure how to phrase, “Stop assigning me this team’s work because they suck at their jobs.”

    1. Lil Fidget

      As long as its faster and easier to just have you do it, the manager is unlikely to change anything. Why should they, this is working great for them. I’d suggest letting them feel more pain, which is why the “I won’t be able to get to X today if I’m handling this” construction works great. Also, remember to save this up as ammunition when you request a raise. You’re clearly on your way to being invaluable to this manager.

      1. Where's the Le-Toose?

        Totally agree! This came up at my work the other day, a general discussion among some of us managers that the head of our agency always takes the path of least resistance.

        So if the boss needs to assign something and can choose between irresponsible manager and good manager, the rational thought process is that the work is divided 50/50 and if the irresponsible manager doesn’t measure up, the boss would document the errors and then take action. But nope! Our boss assigns around the irresponsible manager and then overloads the good one.

        So BRR, like Lil recommends, until you start putting up resistance yourself, there is zero incentive for your boss to do anything differently.

        1. BRR

          Thank you (and everyone!) for such great responses. It’s been difficult to put up resistance so far since most things have been small and really wouldn’t impact any deadlines. As I mentioned down thread I’m not sure if their performance issues are being addressed but I know my manager is aware and frustrated. Maybe my real question should be, how do I say “I’m not the solution to this team’s performance issues.”

          1. SierraSkiing

            Perhaps you can draw on the pattern of an increasing number of small tasks from them when you’re talking to your manager: “Hey Manager, I just wanted to let you know: I’ve spent about 10% of my time the last couple of weeks working on projects that Team B normally should handle. That hasn’t cut into my work yet, but if I keep getting more complex tasks like [example] from them I’m worried that it’ll interfere with X. Can we set some boundaries on me doing work for Team B, so that we can make sure it doesn’t slow down our team’s work?”

    2. JokeyJules

      I’m with lil fidget on this one.
      I would go with “I’m not able to get to X if I have to also do Y.” If they persist, you might want to consider offering to help out the team ONCE or offer insight or advisement on the task since they are having trouble. That can be a real slippery slope, though, so be careful to stand your ground.

    3. Temperance

      Do you want to take over this team or join this team? If so, I would probably tell the manager that you’re happy to do their work if you can join that time in some sort of supervisory capacity. (If posisble!)

      I would probably push back if not, and let him know that you don’t have time because you’re doing X, Y, and Z today.

    4. Emilitron

      Also consider “Yes, I can work on this if you think that’s the best solution. Going forward, is there a plan in place for making sure TeamB can handle this themselves? If it would help, I can get Jane to shadow me on this task today.” Okay, now that I look at these words, it’s a bit forceful for a first-approach script, but asking about training team B might still be a direction to try.

    5. foolofgrace

      “If I keep doing A it’s going to take away the time I can spend on B”

      I don’t understand what’s wrong with that advice. It seems to be the best way to handle it. You could add something along the lines of “I’ve done my best to help out in the past but it has caused a great deal of stress, having to do two jobs, and if this keeps happening, my workload is going to suffer, and I need to know how you want it handled.”

      1. Triplestep

        Agree. It makes no difference if your manager has been open about the reasons; there are only so many hours in a day. This is (at least partly) a time management issue that he needs to be made aware of since he apparently hasn’t come to the conclusion on his own.

      2. designbot

        Also this can be used to play into a strategy that’s like, “I see why you’re using me as a short-term solution, but can we talk about a more long-term plan so that I can get back to focusing on my job?”

    6. lulu

      I would have a larger conversation with your boss about this. “I noticed you have been assigning me work that usually falls under Team Delta’s purview. I understand that this comes from performance concerns, but I wanted to know how you plan to address this in the future. I don’t mind pitching in to help out occasionally, but I cannot handle their work on top of my regular duties.” So you’re not asking him why, you know why he’s doing it, you’re just telling him this is not a sustainable solution.

      1. Camellia

        This. It’s not a matter of two things that are your job and which one has priority. This is NOT your job and I think this is a good script to bring that out into the open with your manager and try to get him to deal with the larger picture.

      2. Totally Minnie

        I really like this approach. It shows that you acknowledge and understand the reason your boss has been giving you extra work, but that allowing the other team to continue as low performers creates an unsustainable workload for everyone else.

      3. Lindsay J

        I like this one.

        It calls out that this in generally that team’s purview, not yours. It calls out the issue – that you can’t continue doing the work of two different teams all the time.

        However, it does leave the option of her saying that, in order to handle this in the future she will be re-prioritizing or reassigning some of your regular duties to have you continue doing the tasks she’s been assigning you. Which, as much as you want to feel that it’s not your job, as your manager she does have the power to decide that these tasks are now your job. So, straight up saying, “that’s not my job” feels a little out of touch.

        Hopefully you’ll find out that they’re in the process of managing the non-performers on the other team out, or upping their training in these areas, or something. However, if their plan is to keep on having you do those tasks, you’ll have to decide if that’s a hill you want to die on in this job. (And, even if it is a hill you want to die on, they may decide that having the person in your role do these tasks is more important to them than keeping you in the position, so that’s something to be prepared for).

      4. Not So NewReader

        It’s true, he let you in on what is going on. This means it’s okay to mention the reason. Some people feel that if they are “covering” for others they cannot mention that they are covering for others. But your boss has already opened the topic with you, so there is no problem reopening again with him.

    7. The Ginger Ginger

      If it’s coming from your manager, you probably need to do it, but I would ask specifically, “what piece(s) of my normal work do you want me to put on hold to finish this?” Make your manager prioritize this for you, so you both have clear visibility into what isn’t getting done, and your manager is making an explicit choice. Then if that becomes a pain point for you or your department make sure that’s visible for your manager too (professionally, of course). As in, “I wasn’t able to finish Y because you asked me to do X instead, and now Project Llama Mama is going to be late because the hand off was delayed. How do you want us to handle that?”

      Don’t let your other tasks end up invisible to your manager, but maintain a cheerfully professional attitude about the extra work. If it causes enough problems, maybe your manager will step up and actually take care of the real issue which is the other team not doing their work well enough.

      As for longer term, if Manager continues to request that you do work that should be done by the other team for longer than a couple weeks or so, I would then ask “it seems like you’re asking me to do department ABC’s work on a regular basis at this point. Are we changing my job description to include that type of work for the long term? What type of work will we be asking ABC to do and what will fall to me?” And bring up any concerns you have based on you manager’s answer. You’re not arguing necessarily, but you are surfacing issues and keeping it fresh in your Manager’s mind. What you don’t want is for your manager to just shove it off on you because it’s easier, without making Manager explicitly and knowingly choose to do so. I know that’s kind of a weird distinction, but so many times decisions get made simply by following the path of least resistance or inertia, and you don’t want that to be the case here.

      And maybe later, if your job description creeps a bit, you can leverage a raise out of it.

    8. CBE

      Saying “not my job” to your manager (even if worded super well) isn’t a great strategy.
      WHY don’t you want to do it?
      Is it because you have a heavy workload already? If so, then absolutely ask about prioritizing. “I can do that, but I’m concerned about the projects already assigned to me. Which one should I put off in order to prioritize this one?”
      Is it because you’re not qualified? Speak up about your concerns. “Are you sure I’m the right person for this? Jane has much more knowledge about running reports in the llama tracking software.”
      Is it because you just don’t wanna? Suck it up and do what your boss is telling you to do. He’s been clear about why, and it’s pretty normal for managers to assign people to do work.
      He’s a newish manager, who probably has immediate deadlines and a long term coaching job on his hands. He needs your help on this, has explained why, asked you to do it, and you’re not really giving any good reason why you don’t want to do it, other than “not my job”

      1. Ama

        I think that’s a little harsh. BRR has proven they are a good worker and their “reward” is to have to clean up after another team that’s not pulling their weight. They are within their rights to point out that this isn’t a viable long term solution.

        1. Michelle

          I agree Ama. There is a meme out there about the reward for doing your job well is that you get to do other people’s jobs, too. If the long term plan is for BRR to keep cleaning up behind that team, it’s a bad plan and it might push BRR to look at other options/job search. It’s fine to help out colleagues now and then, but it seems this is a pretty regular thing.

      2. The New Wanderer

        I think CBE’s point is that there’s value in being clear about why specifically this isn’t a viable long term solution. Particularly the point about just not wanting to be the go-to person for that work. Prioritizing and qualifications are relatively easy conversations to have.

        The one about not wanting Task A to become your primary job function when you were hired for, and prefer, Task B is pretty difficult (because that sounds the most like “not my job”) but still important (because the OP could easily choose to leave if their career path is changing without their input and in a direction they don’t like). There is already a team that’s supposed to do Task A. The manager’s job is to get the team to be functional, not to use OP as a bandaid.

      3. BRR

        These are great clarification questions about the issue. That I need to clearly articulate why. The biggest reason is probably that by this team not doing their job, it is making my job (and many other people’s jobs) much more difficult and me doing their work is not going to solve the issue. They’re not overworked; I’m more than happy to help out when people have more tasks than hours in the day. They’re simply producing less than they should be and at a lower quality than they should be. I’m not sure if performance issues have been addressed with them.

        1. Green Goose

          I think this is really valid to say to your manager, and maybe even turn it into a question about what your manager’s future plans are with this team.

          “I understand why you have been asking me to cover Team B’s work because they are not producing at the level that is necessary for the job, and I’ve been happy to support you while you figure out what to do about this issue. However, me taking over their responsibilities in addition to my own is not a manageable or permanent solution and I’m curious what your plans are around addressing Team B’s productivity in the long-run.”

        2. Mephyle

          To add to that, there is also the factor that in the long term, if this trend continues instead of being dealt with, it could lead to a division-of-duties creep in which Team B’s substandard performance gets rewarded by having more and more of their tasks passed on to competent people. OP said that they have time to do it now, but if it gets worse, that may not be the case in the future.

          1. BRR

            “Team B’s substandard performance gets rewarded by having more and more of their tasks passed on to competent people” Too late. Three of us are having to monitor their work, make corrections, and are getting delegated their tasks.

          2. Mephyle

            Not so much ‘too late’, then, as that it strengthens your case for Something Must Be Done, because the creep is already happening.

    9. Eye of Sauron

      I’ve been in the same spot as you. Ultimately I bit my tongue and did the work. Sometimes I was not very successful in biting my tongue with my boss. In the end, though, I was promoted and the other team’s manager is currently ‘exploring options outside of the company’ (our way of saying fired).

    10. Nesprin

      How about numbers? how many times have you covered for lousy coworkers in the last couple of months? Total time invested? # of incidents where covering caused your work to be delayed? This seems to me like the sort of thing that you should ask for a meeting with your boss about and bring numbers to show that this is a problem.

    11. Free Meerkats

      You need to make sure if you say, “Doing A will cause the delivery of B to slip to the right,” that it actually slips to the right. Don’t obviously slack off, but don’t work yourself into exhaustion to do your job AND their job AND get everything done on deadline.

      You mention below that them not doing their job makes yours more difficult. Is there a way to make this more evident? Talk with the others whose work is being delayed because of the other team and speak as a group to your managers?

    12. Observer

      Actually, this is a PERFECT time to deploy Alison’s script. Right now, it’s easier for her to assign you the work instead of managing that team. So, she needs to understand the real cost to taking this path. It needs to stop being easier to assign you the work than to manage. And the only way to do that is to make it clear what you will have to drop to make it happen.

    13. Gutrot

      How about “if I have to do the sucky teams work, why don’t you promote me to Team Leader and let me sort them out properly”

  7. Susan K

    I am working on a project to reduce my department’s paper consumption. A big part of this effort is getting people to view documents electronically instead of printing them, and to that end, the company has purchased a brand new iPad pro and Apple pencil for each employee in the department.

    I totally expected to encounter some resistance and complaints because a lot of people just don’t like change, but I underestimated the degree of resistance, especially when it comes to the iPads. I figured that even people who aren’t open to paper reduction would at least be interested in getting a cool new device, but no…

    There are people who refuse to take their iPads out of the box. The company has a walk-in help desk where IT professionals will help employees set up their iPads, but the iPad haters won’t go. A lot of people are unwilling to even try very minor things, such as viewing a meeting agenda on their iPads instead of printing hard copies, let alone more complex changes like learning to use some specialized apps. People are saying things like, “You can have my paper agendas when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.”

    I’m trying to figure out ways to encourage people, in a positive way, to use their iPads. I don’t want to be a jerk about it, say, by banning hard-copy agendas (not that I have the authority to do that, but even if I did, I’m not going to sabotage a meeting over 12 sheets of paper), but I’d like to give some incentive for people to at least try using the iPads. I was thinking about maybe offering to bring in donuts if everyone in the department registers their iPads by a certain date, or if everyone uses the iPad app to log inventory at least once (instead of writing it on a piece of paper and then entering it on the computer). I am also trying to come up with something that could be a friendly competition, like a prize for the person who brings their iPad to the most meetings this month or something. I’m not sure if people would respond to these things, though, or if they would just find them silly or patronizing and ignore them (not to mention the potential pitfall of a food reward that not everyone likes or can eat). Also, I don’t think I can use the department’s budget for this type of thing, so the donuts or whatever would probably have to come out of my own pocket, which I can swing a few times but not, say, every week.

    So, any thoughts/advice/suggestions on this? Good idea/bad idea?

    1. Lil Fidget

      Can you make some tasks much easier and faster on the ipad? That would incentivize me to do it – show me how it will actually make my job more efficient.

      1. Susan K

        Well, that’s the idea of this — not only to save money and reduce waste, but work more efficiently. The problem is that people aren’t even willing to try, and if they won’t take their iPads out of the box, they’re not going to see that it actually is more convenient to do some things on the iPad rather than write it on a piece of paper and then type it into the computer.

        1. College Career Counselor

          People like to take NOTES on their hardcopy agenda. I find it much harder to take notes on an iPad (and I looooove my iPad)!

          1. Luna

            Yeah, while there might be some people who are complaining because they just don’t like change, it would be useful to keep in mind that something that one person finds more convenient can be LESS convenient to someone else.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            I was just thinking this. My husband is more tech friendly than I am, but he spent about 15 seconds trying to take sample notes on an ipad before saying “So you’ll want a laptop with a keyboard.”

            Two things going on here, I think:
            • Mental pathways. Like using a QWERTY keyboard, it doesn’t matter that there are better keyboard configurations if my motor memory knows this one.
            • Tablet-y things are good for storing or passively consuming content–read a book, watch a video. They are awful for entering information. Are these tasks immediately, clearly easier with the tablet if you just try once? I recall when Home Depot first introduced self check-out, and soon the only two cashiers would each have a dozen people in line–people who had learned the hard way that there was no way they were actually getting out of the store with this item via the self check-out, it was just a trap to lure them into giving up their place in line. Now Home Depot has self check outs that usually work–but I skip Target’s, knowing it will probably lead to cursing, piling my animal food back in the cart, and going to stand in line for a human anyhow.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              Also, nothing you mention would remotely inspire me to use the tablet. Only it making something easier than the way I do it now–and by that I don’t mean “easier if everything works right the first time, so failures don’t count.”

        2. LKW

          Mid-day send out an invite for cake. People with paper agendas won’t know it’s happening. Don’t buy enough cake to feed everyone, first come first served. Make it in an out of the way conference room where they would be unlikely to see it while walking by. Eventually they’ll learn to use their iPads.

        3. Observer

          Firstly, they shouldn’t need to take the thing out of the box and set it up and then experiment and try is out in order to find out IF it’s easier or not. These things should have been set up for them – at least the basics, with ONLY the personalization left to them. The fact that they are the ones who need to take the time and make the effort to make this thing usable is a barrier by itself. But it also tells them that YOUR idea of “making things easier” almost certainly does NOT match theirs.

          Beyond the set up, why should they take the time to experiment with a new way of doing things that may or may not actually end up being easier? Even if you could be 100% sure that it would be, why do you expect that to translate to THEIR certainty of that? And since they are not certain, why would they spend the time? On the other hand, why have you not outlines clearly and simply how this is going to help them. If you have not done so then you need to do it ASAP. If it’s not something that’s realistic to do, that tells you that there is actually a good chance that it WILL NOT make things easier for them.

          1. Susan K

            Unfortunately, that is not how it works here. I can’t personally set up the iPads for them because they need to enter their password at various points along the way. IT will set it up for them if they bring it to the help desk, or they will walk them through it over the phone, but I can’t do that on their behalf.

            Why should they take the time to do it? Same reason they should do any other part of their job, even if they don’t like it: because it’s part of the job they are getting paid to do. Management’s vision for the department is to do things electronically instead of on paper. There is a plan for all the changes that are being made for this project, including the reasoning and the expected benefits of each change, and it has been presented to the entire department. Could management just order people to do it under threat of disciplinary action? Sure, but I don’t think that’s generally a good way to implement changes.

            1. Observer

              I get that you don’t have the power to hand them fully set up iPads, but you should realize that it IS a real barrier. The password thing should not be an issue, unless they need to put their network passwords in. Otherwise, you put in a password, tell them what it is and have them change the password to whatever they want.

              The problem with “it’s their job” is, that it really is not their job. You’re trying to push them into doing something that is not core to their work and which you think will make them more efficient, but they think will not.

              When management gets the input app done, that will be different – THEN you can say “we need input done this way” and they are going to need to adjust. Till that happens, you are on shaky ground.

              And, by the way, even when using a computer or any other device is mandatory, it is not unreasonable to make sure that people are given already set up equipment that only needs final personalization.

    2. Gollum

      I would be ONE OF THOSE people. I cannot process information well on a screen. I have outlook/google calenders, email etc and if it is really important, I print it out. Sooo.. that said, I really don’t have any tips for you because screens simply don’t work well for me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      1. Snark

        Consuming incredible amounts of paper doesn’t really work in general, though. Printing stuff out is incredibly wasteful.

        1. Lil Fidget

          I always feel a little bristly when people come at me about one specific environmental impact they want me to prioritize. Unless you’re doing good, thoughtful cradle-to-grave environmental work, there’s usually some other reason you’ve picked this ONE thing and are deciding this is the hill to die on and I need to jump in line right now. Why is the water wasted by the company’s unnecessary flushes, or the impermeable surface area of the massive parking lot, or the toxic chemicals being mined and then discarded for those ipads, or the coal power being used up to power the office (including the computers) all “just part of business” or whatever but my printing agendas is now equivalent to clubbing baby seals? How did that get picked, instead of providing reusable grocery bags or better guidance on recycling across our sector?

          1. Lucky

            ^^^This. You drive an SUV to work every day, Carol. Don’t tell me that my use of paper is what’s killing all the polar bears.

          2. Snark

            Because employees choosing to print out emails and agendas is something they can directly control. That’s something YOU can prioritize. Unless individual employees get decision-making power about replacing toilets with low-flow models, installing solar roofs and green swales in the parking lot, and dictating mining regulations in various foreign countries, there’s really nothing they can personally do about those factors. Those factors can and should be addressed, but not by the employee; those are company- and nation- level policy decisions far outside their hands.

            But you can bring the agenda to a meeting on the tablet provided you for free.

            And I do think there’s a lot of companies that pluck low-hanging fruit rather than focusing on holistic improvements to environmental process, but even if it’s low hanging fruit, it’s still a significant environmental factor.

            1. Lil Fidget

              Actually I think you’ve put your finger on why it’s irking me – they have gone with the option that shuttles the problem down to ME to make behavioral changes so they can feel “green,” instead of the option that the company thinks strategically about their impact across the field and makes the required changes/sacrifices to have meaningful impact. My printing an agenda doesn’t change the world, but my company’s exploitation of minerals in third world countries actually probably does.

              1. Snark

                Except that millions of people printing off agendas every day in every office absolutely does have an aggregate impact.

                1. Iris Eyes

                  From a cost-to-benefit perspective is the purchase of 2! pieces of technology for every employee outweigh the benefit that could come from another source for the same dollar amount?

                  Since some people are still going to print things would it be a better use of IT time to have all printers default to double sided printing? Reformatting things so that they print on less pages?

                  Also pre-loading Candy Crush on said iPads would probably go along way to getting them out of the boxes. I have seen no other app so widely adopted by the “non-tech” people.

          3. Susan Sto Helit

            I assume it’s because offices use huge amounts of paper, and a lot of the time you really could get away with not printing it. It’s a manageable action. Similarly, cycle-to-work schemes, or public transport initiatives, are something that the company can achieve without making massive changes to the office environment or adversely affecting the lives of their employees.

            Suggesting that your employees only flush the toilet in certain circumstances, or that your parking lot be replaced with a giant muddy field, on the other hand, is going to make your employees hugely unhappy and your company look insane.

            It’s never an all-or-nothing situation. I can decide to improve the environment by reducing my paper consumption while also accepting that other things I do (like having the office fan running all day) are bad for the environment. At least my net effect this way is slightly less bad.

            1. Lil Fidget

              I agree that’s the tradeoffs individuals choose to make. And that’s not all or nothing. But in this case, the company is saying, I don’t care if you run the fan all day, I don’t care that most people commute 45 miles alone in an SUV every day, I don’t care that we throw our industrial waste into a landfill without paying extra to recycle it, but anybody I catch printing a paper agenda is going to get it.

              1. Susan Sto Helit

                You have no idea whatsoever if that’s the only thing this company is doing, though. Maybe they have all sorts of other initiatives going on at the same time? The question is about this one specific one.

                If you had a very strong reason for needing to keep a paper agenda, I guess there are other things you could suggest as a compromise – perhaps getting in a supply of lower-quality recycled paper to be used in one specific printer for things like meeting agendas that won’t leave the building. Or come up with an alternative cut-down initiative that might suit your working needs better. But try to work with the company, rather than fighting them.

              2. Snark

                Again, though, your examples are flawed, because they’re fundamentally different decisions made at different levels. They can’t dictate what car you drive. They should recycle industrial waste, but you, personally, are not concerned with that and have no decisionmaking power. But they can tell you not to print out agendas and emails and stuff. That’s the one thing that’s come up here which they can tell you to do, and which you have the power to make the decision on.

          4. pleaset


            It would so annoy me having to navigate through an ipad instead of taking notes on a yellow sheet of paper. I’m sometimes so busy at work – please don’t make my life harder with stuff like this.

            1. curly sue

              Same. I find it much, much more difficult to process text electronically, especially if it’s anything that requires highlighting or marginalia. I have an iPad at home that I use a lot for email and games, but serious reading? I can make it maybe five or six pages before my cognitive functions go offline. I order physical copies of books at the uni library as an accommodation whenever I can because the ebook versions are painful. Maybe it’s a brain function thing, I don’t know – it’s certainly not a lack of practice or technical knowledge.

              I’m fast on a keyboard, faster with notes by hand, but there is no way I can keep up in a meeting if I’m expected to take notes on a tablet. Too much cognitive function goes into making the dratted fake keyboard work and register presses and then figure out how to get the files out of it in the end. I’d end up copying the agenda by hand into a moleskin or something and bringing my hardcopy with me that way.

              1. JaneB

                There’s solid research showing that taking notes by hand is better for retention and understanding than typing etc., and whilst you said they got the pen things (I don’t have a tablet), what I understand from tablet users is that many people find them REALLY hard to take notes on.

                I get that folks not TRYING is frustrating, but having TRIED new initiatives (it will be quicker to comment on essays on screen!) and found that they didn’t work well FOR ME (it was slower because the app is fussy and requires lots of changing of tools to do different things, and I gave myself a postural migraine from the amount of mouse use needed after trying it for half a day (no key commands because it’s a Very Modern App and I rely heavily on key commands to reduce mouse use for health reasons)), then been told off by my boss for not liking them, I’m increasingly inclinded to just not try new stuff. And I LIKE tech and novelty (although I hope the tech has great insurance as I am HARD on gadgets). Many people don’t, especially older workers who maybe don’t have or want these things at home.

                1. FedLiz

                  You can take handwritten notes on an iPad Pro with a pencil. It’s one of the main reasons I got mine.

          5. Starbuck

            The “why aren’t you doing all these other things first” argument is a weak one. You gotta start somewhere, and looks like that was what they could get the company to agree to support. Just because you can’t do everything at once doesn’t mean that something isn’t better than nothing! I work in the conservation field and this attitude makes me so sad. There are NEVER enough resources or time (or willpower) to do every environmentally conscious action at once. When I hear responses like yours, I hear “I would rather do NOTHING.”

          6. Specialk9

            They’re all good points, but it kinda sounds self serving. You shouldn’t have to do it the part that’s within reach and easy because this other huge difficult thing’s not being done by other people. Mm-hm.

          7. mediumofballpoint

            Yup! My company recently went to a model where they took away our regular sized garbage cans and recycling bins and instead gave us big recycling bins and teeny tiny garbage cans we have to empty ourselves. It’s supposed to encourage more recycling and mindfulness about creating waste, but practically, I just bring in garbage bags, use the recycling bin as a garbage can, and no longer bother to separate trash from recycling because it’s too much of an inconvenience. I’m creating more waste than I was before because the incentives were completely flipped. I feel vaguely bad about it, but I think it’s a dumb system and I’m not going to go out of my way to find a workaround.

            1. Elizabeth H.

              We have that at my office too. Your attitude seems really childish. If you have time enough to post comments on Ask a Manager, and to bring in trash bags from home, surely you have enough time for the “inconvenience” of separating trash from recycling.

        2. Luna

          Paper is recyclable. Mining the materials that go into all those fancy tech devices is also terrible for the environment (not to mention the way many of the miners are treated can be questionable at best). There is no one perfect solution, everything has its trade-offs.

          1. Lil Fidget

            Well and so often it’s actually kind of a crapshoot. (I do recycle and try to reduce printing, by the way! These are just things I think about a lot!). There are some things that use more water and energy to recycle than is saved by not disposing of them. Or you’re trading air emissions for space in landfills, which might be kind of a shrug in terms of toxic consequences. What irks me is companies explaining I need to change my behavior in a relatively small likely meaningless way, while continuing to be lazy and cheap about something MUCH more impactful. They would make a bigger dent in climate change by reducing their AC by one degree than by harassing me about printing meeting agendas. And I’d be more willing to do the latter if I saw them doing the former.

          2. Snark

            That’s very dependent on the company’s policies. Apple, in particular, has been going above and beyond.

        3. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!

          And for those who learn and take in information better with something printed? Please realize one size doesn’t fit all regardless of how hard you try.

          1. Snark

            I have a really, really hard time believing that preferring printed paper vs. a screen is an inherent learning and processing need.

            1. Frankie

              When I’m doing really intense editing, I print out everything I need to edit and do it by hand. I catch errors I missed on the screen 10 minutes beforehand. It’s just different, and I do a much better job, and can keep more of the text in my head as well to comprehend it as a whole better.

              There’s a lot of research being done on differences in cognitive processing when using screens vs. paper, which you could check out. I work on a college campus so it’s a constant topic of discussions, whether students are better served with hard copy textbooks and whether they digest things as fully when consuming them electronically. There does seem to be some difference.

              I try not to print wastefully but printing some important stuff absolutely helps me do a better job.

            2. Elizabeth H.

              Are you serious? This is so well established. There are many other factors related to use of electronic devices vs. analog implements, such as ergonomics (body position, hand strain, posture, eye strain) and attention allocation issues.

            3. Observer

              There is actually a LOT of good evidence that for many people & situations, this really is the case, though.

        4. Observer

          Making people use tools that don’t work for them ALSO doesn’t really work in general.

    3. Yolo

      Is there a mechanism that you can ensure people have enough time to set up and get acquainted with the device without their other tasks suffering? Like can they be told they have 1-2 paid hours (if hourly) or a reduction in billable requirements (if you’re under that kind of scheme) during a single pay period at which time they are expected to sign on and set up email or something?

      1. Susan K

        I don’t really have the authority to do that, but I could talk to my manager and see if she is willing to assign people to set up their iPads on specific days. Most people have plenty of time but choose to spend it on Facebook or playing with their phones instead.

        1. Seriously?

          I think you may need a manager to make setting up the iPad mandatory. They are refusing because right now it is optional and it is not something they want to do. If a manager schedules everyone times to set up the iPad then refusing becomes a disciplinary matter. Then once everyone has it set up, have a mandatory training session where you walk everyone though key applications. If people are dead set against learning how to use the iPads, there is not way to incentive them into doing it (other than giving them extra money if they do).

          1. Lindsay Gee

            Something you could do, for example the meeting agendas, would be to not provide the agenda in advance for them to print it off. Email to everyone: “Just as a reminder, the agenda for today’s meeting will be available at 10 am at the start of the meeting on the shared drive, so don’t forget your ipad to be able to access it!” it’s a little passive aggressive, but it creates consequences for the team members NOT using the ipads for their intended purpose. They can’t function at the meeting, or contribute as effectively- which leaves opportunities for the manager to do/say something.
            Maybe it’s petty, maybe not the best example- but there HAS to be consequences to employees NOT using the ipads. I think your intentions of wanting to be friendly about this isn’t going to work if they’re being that stubborn about it.

            1. pleaset

              Or just put it up on a screen in the meeting or write it on a whiteboard – then tell them everyone it will be up to see and so there is no need to print unless they really need to. That makes things EASIER for them, rather a chore they need to be reminded about.

              Oh, and good meetings should have agendas provided in advance – not for printing but for thinking. If you get to the point where agendas are kept away from people to save paper, it seems priorities are way out of whack.

            2. DDJ

              I’m not sure that making the agenda available only at the beginning of the meeting is effective – part of the point of an agenda is to allow people to prepare for the topics that will be discussed/reviewed in the meeting. I prefer to have the agenda at least a day in advance so I can make sure there’s nothing I need to brush up on prior.

        2. Iris Eyes

          Brilliant! You have the answer right there under your nose. Facebook gets blocked on computers but is still available on tablets. Sometimes the social media carrot is mightier than the stick :)

      2. Ama

        I think this is a good point. I’m pretty tech savvy but I got a little irritated last year when my office decided to replace my laptop without warning me, because they showed up with the new laptop right in the middle of a major project with a firm deadline and I literally did not have the extra time to do all the settings adjustments and file transfers one needs to do with a new computer (especially since they also upgraded both our Office suite and the operating system so I had to also learn everything that changed from the previous version). I managed to convince them to let me keep my old laptop until I got past the deadline, and then I actually had time to make the full switchover.

      3. designbot

        This! There is a program at work that I’m one of the latest adopters of, and it totally came down to, in order to learn this thing which will save time/money/whatever in the long run, I need some extra time Right Now, that I just don’t have. So I kicked the can down the road again, and again, and again… because I didn’t have 10 extra minutes to figure out how to send an attachment and file an email a different way, I barely had the 30 seconds to send the email in the first place.

    4. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

      I think you can say, without being a jerk about it, that it is now an essential part of their job to utilize the company provided iPad. I would liken it to people who are resistant to reading their email, or refusing a company provided cell phone. Start to make less important items available only on the iPad to start to get them into the habit of using them.

          1. Grapey

            Did she mention that elsewhere? I don’t see anything in her original comment about it being a directive. Sometimes my own bosses throw out these pie in the sky ideas but they are wishy washy when it comes to enforcement. OP asking “good idea/bad idea” doesn’t sound like it was a directive from on high, more of a “if you can get people to play along with your pet project, go for it.” (Surprised they paid for iPads if that was the case…)

            My own personal experience with this: I had to move everyone over to a new wiki system (with the directive ‘get people to send you the exported pages they want to keep’) and people didn’t actually convert their old pages into what I needed unless my boss told their boss to tell them it needed to be done.

            The person in charge of bringing the horses to the water can’t always make them drink.

            1. Lara

              *shrug* personally I think it’s really weird that so many people are refusing to use new technology provided by the company. Maybe they need training? Or are frightened of breaking them? I guess it would run about $1000 to replace and maybe some of the staff are leery because they don’t have the funds?

          2. Specialk9

            People here talk about “insubordination” a lot, but outside of military infused cultures I’ve never really heard that in real life.

            1. Clairels

              Agreed. Crying “insubordination” is one step below “threaten them with beatings.”

        1. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

          People used to think that of computers, email, and then smart phones too. I see so many companies now using tablets (of various manufacture) to do business that it isn’t really going to be “optional” in the future. I can’t even go to a restaurant these days without the food server taking my order on a tablet which is linked directly to the kitchen.

        2. Grapey

          Yeah I’m still not sure if this is being mandated by bosses or if OP just had a project she had an idea for and management gave her permission to try to convert people.

          I’m tech savvy (I build robots ffs) but my note taking only works if it’s manual, and I wouldn’t carry around an iPad for notes unless my job was on the line over it.

    5. CTT

      I’m not sure about the prize thing – I don’t think incentives would help because I would imagine the issue isn’t “I don’t feel like using this” (which an incentive would encourage) vs “I have a way I like to work and someone is trying to stop me from doing it without allowing me to opt-in”. How is your work set up – do people work in departments or teams? If so, is there at least one person who likes using the iPad within those departments/teams? You could talk to them about evangelizing for it. If people really like their hard-copy agendas, it’s probably because they like being able to mark them up, quickly flip pages, etc., and don’t want to have to worry about being tripped up by that in a meeting. If there’s someone in their group who can say “Actually, I’ve found it’s been easy to move to an electronic agenda, here’s how I’ve been using it…” that might be more helpful than working with IT (I worked with a few very stubborn people who hated going to IT because they “just don’t understand how I work” – so if it’s coming from an actual coworker it might be better received)

      1. Susan K

        At the moment, this initiative is limited to my department, and I am that person within the department. At meetings, when someone tries to hand me an agenda, I say, “Oh, thanks, but I don’t need one — I’ve got it on my iPad.” There are a few other people who have willingly accepted the iPads, and they voluntarily bring them to meetings and use them without being asked. My hope is that, once people give it a try and get used to it, they will see for themselves that there are advantages to using the iPads, but they are too stubborn to try. That’s what made me think of using some other form of motivation just to get them to try it.

        1. CTT

          You’re seeing it as “they don’t want to try” and they’re seeing it as “this is fundamentally changing how I work.” A prize for bringing it in to the most meetings isn’t going to address that issue. I can’t tell from your original post – have you had any trainings on using it? A situation where food would get people in the door and willing to try it might be a lunch-and-learn session.

          1. Lil Fidget

            Yeah hmm, there’s something a little off about the tone of the comments Susan K, that I see in a lot of the consultants that come into our office. They know they’re right but they don’t really understand the barriers to switching to what they want us to do – we’re just “lazy” or “defiant” or whatever. Mostly it’s that we’re busy people with a lot of priorities other than whatever their new interest of the day is, and we’ve seen a lot of initiatives come and go.

            1. Chaordic One

              Agreed. I can totally get that the employees see this as being an unwanted piece of burdensome, hard-to-learn-to-use technology that further complicates their lives and is being “foisted” on them. There’s probably a good case to be made that there is no upside to it in their day-to-day work lives.

              I also have to say, that in my experience, training from I.T. is not much of an incentive and actually kind of a demotivator. So many I.T. people are full of jargon, while being disturbingly verbally inarticulate. They really don’t seem to understand what we actually do with the information in the databases, and how we add to that information, or the order of the steps we go through in using the databases. When there’s a problem they’re almost always, “Well that’s the way it is, it’s too complicated and expensive to change, so live with it.”

          2. Susan K

            We have done training on the specialized app that our department is using, but not on how to use an iPad in general. However, there is a walk-in IT help desk that is basically like the company’s version of an Apple store where IT professionals provide one-on-one help with getting the iPads set up and showing people how to use them. I can say with confidence that a lunch-and-learn session isn’t going to fly; it’s a union environment and people aren’t going to give up their lunch break for training, even for free food.

            1. mediumofballpoint

              I think training on the iPads would help. If you have older or not as tech savvy workers, they’re really not as intuitive as you might think, and if folks have to figure out how to work the stupid thing just to get to the work they actually need to do, that’s definitely going to add to the resistance.

            2. CTT

              Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding is that you are strongly encouraging people to use iPads, but that they have to learn how to use them on their own time. That’s going to be a barrier for some people! My dad has been using computers in his work daily since the 1980s and loves new technologies, but he still has issues using my mom’s iPad because it’s an entirely new type of hardware to what he’s used to. It’s great that you’ve made IT people available, but this is still new technology to a lot of people and they’re going to have to learn how to use it and potentially struggle with it, which will slow down their work along the way. Also, that you didn’t provide iPad training but did provide specialized app training could send a message to some people that they’re already expected to know how to use an iPad and might be embarrassed to ask for help.

              1. Susan K

                I guess I assumed that most people are familiar with how to use this kind of device, because most (if not all) of them have smartphones, which work in a very similar way. I would think that most people are going to feel insulted if they are required to attend training on how to turn on an iPad and open an app. But either way, we didn’t provide general iPad training because that is something the IT department already provides and we didn’t see the need to reinvent the wheel. We encourage people to go to IT to set up their iPads (but it is not required if they would prefer to do it themselves), and our IT department is very good — they will teach people the basics if needed, but not waste people’s time telling them things they already know.

                Anyway, I will talk to the people who are refusing to use their iPads and see if I can find out if their issue is about needing more training, and if that is what’s holding them back, I can either help them one-on-one or refer them to IT.

                1. DDJ

                  Since your IT walk-up desk allows people to get one-on-one training, do you think you might be able to get a few IT people willing to set up actual appointments with people, where they could work with that person in their own workspace, rather than at the IT desk? And it could be a calendar appointment? Making it FEEL more structured to some of those who are resistant might help.

                  We have a walk-up IT desk at our location and still, whenever we go through upgrades or system changes, every person going through the change gets a one-on-one appointment, at their desk, to go through it. And here’s the thing: if someone is uncomfortable using an iPad at all, they probably don’t want to broadcast that to everyone. And even as you say, “I assumed that most people are familiar with how to use this kind of device,” if someone has any type of smartphone other than an iPhone, it’s not always as intuitive as you might think to use other Apple products. The perception that “everyone already knows how to use this” might be part of the problem, because anyone who doesn’t can end up feeling really embarrassed about it. Saying “I don’t want to” doesn’t earn the same judgement as “I don’t know how to.”

                  I think that talking to the people who are resistant is definitely a good plan. Just find out what the actual problem is. It might be something along the lines of “I really process by writing things out, and I find it difficult to maintain that experience on a tablet.” At which point I’m not sure if there’s maybe a specific app that they could be introduced to that would give them that similar experience.

                2. Guacamole Bob

                  Downloading and installing stuff on your personal phone is different than a company environment, though. Are you giving people clear instructions for which apps to download and how to get those apps synced up with company email and document sharing? Are there IT security measures they need to understand or protocols to follow?

                  I’m pretty good with technology overall, but “here’s an iPad, start using it to collaboratively edit documents with your colleagues” would not make me excited to dive in. File management is something I never do on my phone, so if I were to start using it even for my own notes in a work context I’d have to figure how how to save all those notes to my work servers somehow. Does my IT department allow us to use google docs? Is there an Office365 app that would sync with my work account?

                  You might try at least creating a cheat sheet of some sort with guidance for getting started on the things that are needed for your work environment.

                3. Falling Diphthong

                  I got a smart phone for email and maps. That is, “I got an X so I could Y.” The tablets are not solving a problem that most people realize they have. Sometimes people don’t care until they try, then become a passionate convert–that’s why I have glide floss and a memory foam mattress–but it needs to really be BETTER when they try it. “It’s paperless” isn’t better for these people. “It’s faster” might be.

                4. Observer

                  I think you are missing an important point here. Using a phone is rather different than using an ipad in the ways you are envisioning things. So, to the extent people need training, it’s not in how to open an app, it’s how to use this THING to do something that I never do on my phone.

                  Also, iPads don’t even always work just like iPhones, much less Androids. It’s not THAT different, sure, but it can be enough to throw off people who are not techie.

                5. CTT

                  I use my iPhone all the time, but if you handed me an iPad I wouln’t know how to edit documents on it. Like others have been saying, it’s not as intuitive for everyone. (And also there is a lot more on the spectrum of Knowing How To Use Technology than just “knowing how to turn it on” and “feeling comfortable using something professionally.”)

                6. AcademiaNut

                  I’m very tech savvy, and use multiple operating systems and devices. But it’s not about knowing how to turn on an iPad and open apps – the issue is that it is going to take time and mental energy to learn how to use the iPad apps to do things you were doing with a pen and paper earlier. And it’s going to take time to get proficient on the new methods so you can do it without consciously thinking about it.

                  And during that time, you will be doing things less efficiently. So is your employer willing to accept a noticeable drop in productivity while people learn the new system? Are you willing to slow meetings down until people get used to using the onscreen keyboard and stylus, and pause while people sort out how to do things that were completely automatic before?

                  As an example – for a project I’m working on we were told we needed to use Sphinx for documentation. I quite liked it once I learned how to use it, but I put off learning it until I had a slow period where I could dedicate a few days to figuring it out, and then gradually port over my documentation.

                  Also, regarding the environmental impact – if that were given to me as the reason, I would definitely be asking for a breakdown of the environmental impact of paper, given that I recycle, and reuse one sided printouts for taking notes, vs an iPad over the typical lifespan of a device.

            3. Lara

              Well tbf work related training shouldn’t happen on a lunch break. But if their managers can release them for 2 hours that could be a really good idea.

        2. Seriously?

          Can you convince the department to stop printing agendas for people? That way if they want a paper one there are extra steps involved.

          1. ABK

            Seems like there needs to be a transition period where some people are using Ipads and some people are using paper still. This period would like many months, probably up to a year, but slowly people will acclimate until you are only printing agendas for the few sticks in the very thick mud. This would also accomplish your green initiative by greatly reducing paper use. Going from 0 to 100 is too aggressive.

          2. Falling Diphthong

            Yeah, you need to change the environment so that using the tablet is the default because it’s easier.

        3. misspiggy

          I’d choose another type of document rather than meeting agendas to push on. A lot of people use meeting agendas to take notes on. If they’re not using the agendas, they’ll be using notepaper, so not much of a win for the environment.

          Is there any form of documentation you could promote that people can’t conceivably need in hard copy, once they get used to reading on screens?

          Bear in mind, though, that a lot of people will have significant vision problems. They might have evolved one way of coping with these using paper, and may find total reliance on screens worrying because they don’t yet have adjustment strategies in place. Or they may just not have developed the muscle-memory skills of using touchscreens quickly enough to fluidly work with them.

          It’s pretty unpleasant being instantly disempowered by a technology switch. Not to say you can’t make people use the tablets, but there will be a lot of legitimate anxiety around it that should be recognised.

        4. Observer

          As others noted, it may not be “too stubborn to try” but not seeing the rewards that you are claiming are there.

          I had a tablet that I was bringing to meetings. I stopped, eventually. I LOVED the fact that I could take notes and then have them just show up on my computer. But ultimately, it was waaaay more trouble than it was worth. Even with a good screen and stylus, the thing was finicky when it came to writing. So, I’d have to spend far too much time and mental effort on the note-taking as opposed to the actual content of the meetings, and then I would STILL have to do a ton of editing to get the notes into usable form. So now, I either take paper notes or I make a very, very few notations on my phone.

    6. Maude Lebowski

      I am not in love with this idea, but is there a way to e.g. put a max on how much people can print in say a week or a month? Then they can self select what they think is important enough to print?

      1. ket

        Yep, I think this would be most effective. Carrots are great — but sticks work. If you truly want to reduce paper use, make paper use cost something, and let people allocate their resources as they like.

    7. Al who is that Al

      So instead of carrying a couple of sheets of paper to a meeting, they have to carry an iPad – I can see an issue already.
      For me an iPad is a very limited and restricted user unfriendly item with excellent marketing. It’s not the device I would have chosen to drive a paperless office environment.

      1. Snark

        It’s neither restricted nor user-unfriendly. You may have a personal beef with Apple, but it’s not reasonable to extend that to work-provided equipment you’ve been instructed to use.

        1. Seriously?

          It doesn’t sound like they have been instructed to use it. They have been encouraged to use it and are opting out.

          1. Snark

            It’s one of those situations where being “encouraged” is tantamount to being told. Maybe it needs to be turned into a directive, just to clear up any lingering uncertainty, but.

            1. As Close As Breakfast

              But it sounds like at this point they are being “encouraged” by a coworker, not their boss. I mean, obviously Susan K was either tasked with this project or given permission to take on this project, so there is management support/authority in there somewhere. But at this point, it may be a matter of her boss (or whoever up the chain) stepping in to turn the “coworker-encouraged” into a “management-directive” situation. For the record, I completely agree that everyone needs to use these iPads (and I’m a by choice non-Apple user in my non-work life.) There’s a chance that some (most?) of the people refusing to use the iPads are clinging to a “well, my boss didn’t actually tell me explicitly that I /had/ to use this, so I’m just not going to!” mentality.

        2. Al who is that Al

          I did say to Me, it’s restricted and user-unfriendly to develop a paperless environment in an office. It does seem that in the original post, the decision to go paperless has not been studied in depth and a decision to get iPads for everyone was possibly because it’s a “cool new device”. The use of Document capture, interactive whiteboards, interactive TV screens and the various Software already developed would seem to be a better choice rather than just handing everyone an iPad and saying put all your stuff on there, then we’ll try and sync that to a central repository on a server that everyone can access.

          1. Susan K

            We are not trying to go completely paperless, but to reduce paper consumption, not only due to financial and environmental costs, but for efficiency improvements. I wouldn’t say we have studied it in depth, but our management analyzed the costs and benefits before they spent thousands of dollars on new iPads. My department spends an excessive amount of time printing out forms on which we hand-write information, and then when the forms have been completed, we have to scan them into the computer and send them to be archived. We also take a lot of data in the field, which we hand-write on a piece of paper and then enter the data on a computer when we return to the office. We have a specialized app on the iPads that allows us to enter data directly into the database from the field, as well as to electronically fill in the necessary forms that can be saved directly to the archives rather than printing, manually filling out, and scanning back in. Of course there will be a learning curve for it, but it will ultimately save the department a lot of time and money. Implementation is a many-part process, of which handing out iPads is just one step — one I thought would be easy but has turned out to have some unexpected hurdles.

            1. Jules the Third

              Ok, that app is the hook you need, not agendas.

              See if you can do a ‘lunch and learn’ where the COMPANY provides the food and everyone who walks in the door has to submit one form during that lunch. Have tech support there to walk people through, from basic set up to form submission.

              Have management announce the timeline for no more manual submissions of the form. Give deadlines. Track who hasn’t submitted a form yet, and have meetings with them where you listen to why they haven’t, and walk them through it again.

              If the app will save them time, most will get moved eventually. But don’t focus on *agendas*, focus on the true value-add app, the forms!

              1. Mbarr

                THIS! Give them some hand holding on how to accomplish major tasks with the app. Plus the deadline for paper submissions is brilliant.

                I was in a similar situation before – brought on to support software that NO ONE wanted to adopt. You have my sympathies… Management never backed me up and therefore people never adopted the software despite being given quotas. I left after 14 months.

              2. DDJ

                Yes! And also accept that some people may never adopt the technology. They will always have reasons for you for not being able to complete the forms. “Something was glitchy when I was trying to do it and I didn’t want it to be wrong, so I did it manually. It seems to be working ok now, though.” That’s going to be the #1 excuse from the die-hard resistance (speaking from experience…). If there is ANY way to work around the app, they will find it. It might only be one person, but…be prepared for that person. I do agree though, focus on how great this app is for the forms, how much time it saves, how much easier it is, how much less work it takes…it’s the money beet.

              3. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD

                I pretty much never print anything, and haven’t in a decade, *except* meeting agendas. I agree with you that meeting agendas should be the last thing tackled, if at all.

              4. Falling Diphthong

                Fifthing, or whatever number. Focus on the task that will be quicker and easier on the tablet. That’s the hook to get people started.

                Nothing about any “cool new device” is remotely appealing to me unless it is improving my ability to do something I value. If you say “But it’s NEW–and a device!” I will just stare blankly at you. The only time I borrowed my husband’s kindle (which I bought him for reading on all his business travel) was when I was stuck in an airplane seat with no reading light.

            2. pleaset

              What does any of this have to do with agendas for meetings?

              If there is a business process improvement with the ipads, have at it. Force it.

              But saving paper by not printing agendas or not having people take general notes on paper? Pfffft – what a waste of energy.

              1. JaneB

                it makes a small amount of sense to me, as long as you don’t have to type on the forms too much and can use dropdowns etc,.because I really struggle to type on my phone for a minute or two – or should people with my kinds of hand problems (I can use an ergonomic keyboard for a full day’s work, but half an hour with a laptop keyboard is my limit. I can use a good quality pen/pencil on paper for a few hours with a decent grip on the pen, but anything involving finger dragging or having to grip tightly/press firmly as tablet users tell me is the norm is really painful after a few minutes) just not be able to work in this setting? I think there are some really cool ways to use tech, but people who come up with them tend to assume everyone is like them and make no allowances for the variety of people and their own little work arounds and ways of doing things, and then come across very poorly to those who aren’t instrantly on board. We aren’t all resistant for the heck of it or in disrespect, sometimes we just can’t handle one more battle, or one more innovation, or just don’t have the bandwidth right now

            3. Observer

              Has anyone who actually fills in a lot of these forms been involved in the design of this app? If not, that’s a problem right there. A lot of people are going to distrust that some bean counter at headquarters designed an app that is going to work right – even if it’s TECHNICALLY right, it may not work well. And that fear is not generally unfounded.

              I’m going to say, stop being all over the map on this. Instead identify one or two really strong use cases (and agendas are NOT), make sure that they work really, really well, and then get your boss on board with mandating the use in those particular use cases.

              1. Susan K

                Um, no. Nobody at my company was involved in the design of the app. The app was designed by the company that created the database software we use, and it is being used by several other companies in the industry. App design is outside the scope of this project.

                I have to say, I’m surprised by the number of comments criticizing the use of the iPads for viewing meeting agendas. I’m pretty sure this is the primary use of the iPads for managers (who were the first to be provided with company iPads), and as far as I know, most of them like it. Even if the actual agenda is just a couple of pages, many meetings have large packets of information that are referenced during the meetings — sometimes over 100 pages of documents for each person. Now they don’t have to bring a huge stack of printouts to meetings they’re running, and they don’t have to organize all the papers from the meetings they attend, and they can look up information on the fly. I never would have expected anyone to view this as a negative.

                1. Observer

                  I never would have expected anyone to view this as a negative.

                  That’s your first problem right there. You haven’t thought about the fact that there could very well be a different perspective.

                  Besides the fact that different people do things differently, there is a MAJOR reason why managers who are running meetings are going to look at this differently than everyone else. The managers have all of this extra paper and materials that they need, so the learning curve is off set by the fact that they no longer have to deal with all of this extra material that they need to make sure is present and they have to carry. If I were a manager and my tablet enabled me to stop bringing in boxes of paper into a meeting, I would be very happy to bring my tablet and a pad of paper to the meeting! I’d also be very happy to project all of the materials being referenced, rather that having to tell people “Now, on page x” and then wait for everyone to find page x (and maybe someone’s handout is missing page c) etc. On the other hand, your managers are probably not the ones taking notes on these things.

                  Your staff, on the other hand, has a VERY different use case here. They don’t need to worry about bringing lots of paper or making sure that everyone is looking at the same page or item during the meeting. They need to think about being able to flip through the document and make notes for themselves before and during the meeting. They also probably don’t need to take the material that’s being referenced in the meetings back to their desks, so the iPad is not helping them with that, either.

                  For me, I would summarize it this way: For running a meeting, especially with a lot of ancillary materials, give me a laptop or tablet any day. As a meeting attendee, give me a paper agenda.

            4. Lara

              Fantastic! Apart from anything else this sounds like it would save a lot of time. But I think a manager needs to step in to make use of the i-pads mandatory and also implement some training (during work hours).

        3. Luna

          Different users have different preferences. Obviously some people do find it to be user-unfriendly.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I would be physically uncomfortable trying to type my meeting notes at a meeting table.
        There have been too many times that I try to type something important and I lose the whole thing because of a computer problem or because I cannot figure out how to make the computer do a particular thing that I seldom do.
        If you want me to absolutely get the info, then you have to let me decide how I will record the info- pen and paper or computer. If I have had a long week and I am tired, the last thing I want to do is deal with a computer that is misbehaving.

      3. Britney


        I seem to have dropped my iPad!

        It doesn’t seem to work any more. Good thing I have a pen and paper!

    8. Lefty

      I would love to say that incentives would work… but from my (limited, personal) experience with a similar tech initiative, it didn’t work for us! The biggest factors in our eventual success were 1) top level buy-in and promises to support/enforce and 2) tracking and targeting use.

      The most effective tactic was buying printers that produce when we swipe our badges AND that track usage. We weren’t incredibly strict about it, but eventually it was easy to see who were the biggest culprits in usage (some were using 80+ TIMES more paper than average!). We also made this an informal discussion point, never a disciplinary action… there were definitely positions that could justify the paper use, so we wrote that into our procedures as normal, expected cost.

      Another thing that worked, but was generally hated- mandatory training sessions. We required supervisors/managers to attend the training sessions before they were offered to employees so we could potentially spot any expected issues. These tended to work best when we held several of the same session, repeated at various times over a few days so employees could select which session they wanted; there were some employees who would go to an early session to learn, try out, and come back with questions or to make sure they got it. Many folks told us that they liked being able to go with a group they felt comfortable with (usually saying they wanted someone around the same tech level as their buddy). We heard from employees that they were more comfortable knowing their bosses weren’t there to witness their “stupid” questions/lack of tech savvy. Some feedback said that the employees appreciated having third party trainers because they thought some of the internal IT folks had too-high expectations of them or “were good at tech but don’t have patience to teach it to people like me!”.

      We had growing pains, but got through eventually! I hope you can get public buy-in and support from the top on this, it really made the difference for us. Best of luck!

      1. Susan K

        Thanks for sharing your experience with this! The good news is that we have buy-in and support from our managers. The managers were the first to adopt the iPads because company iPads are normally only issued to managers. My department had to get special budgetary approval to get iPads for non-management employees, so that’s why I kind of thought people would see it as a privilege.

        As for training, everyone has already had one-on-one training on how to use the specialized app that is going to be the main use of the iPads for our department. We haven’t provided general training on how to use an iPad, but our IT department has a walk-in help desk that is the company’s version of an Apple store, where IT professionals will help employees one-on-one to set up their iPads and show them how to use them. Training sessions are tricky here because it is a production environment, and we can’t just stop production for everyone to go to a training session. People also have different schedules, so even if we did training for everyone who’s here today, that would only cover half the department, so often, one-on-one training works out better for things like this.

        The company does have the printers where we have to swipe our badges to get our printouts, but NOT in my department’s main work area, because those printers are also connected to special instrumentation and the badge-readers wouldn’t work for those. I’m not sure if IT can track how much each person prints on those, but I’ll look into it. I know management had some data on how much paper our department uses because they used that for their cost-benefit analysis of this project.

        1. Not So NewReader

          The scheduling of training is a huge hurdle. Probably what you will have to do is assigned training sessions where a few people would be off the floor at any given time. It’s either that or shut down the line, which is probably a big no-no.

        2. Jules the Third

          The agendas are a side issue! People will always have preferences there that may not match up with exec’s preferred tech. Focus on getting everyone to submit the forms, which is your value-add app.

          1. Susan K

            Well, my thinking on this is baby steps — get people used to using the iPads, carrying the iPads, viewing documents on the iPads, and doing simple things (like looking at an agenda on the iPads) to get comfortable with the iPads before completely changing vital work processes.

            Also, we are not ready to move completely to electronic form submission yet. Those electronic forms have to be set up and that is still a work in progress.

            1. Amtelope

              But what you’re doing is introducing the iPads to people in the most frustrating of contexts, so that what they learn is that the iPad turns simple tasks (print out a document and write on it) into tedious ones (figure out how to open the agenda, figure out how to write on it with the stylus or type on it, figure out how to save the file, figure out how to find the file if you want to look at your notes later.)

              Honestly, I would push to wait until the electronic forms are ready, so that you can then introduce the iPads as a great way to save people from the boring work of scanning or retyping handwritten forms. You are building up resistance to using the iPads by trying to require people to use them to do a task where they make the job harder (for people who prefer paper agendas/taking notes by hand) rather than easier.

              1. Luna

                I agree, this should wait until the app/forms are ready. Right now the only take away they are getting is that the iPad adds little to no value. By the time the real valuable forms become available it might be too late to reverse their original impression.

              2. Falling Diphthong

                You’re introducing the iPads to people in the most frustrating of contexts.

                This this this. You want to apply the wedge at the point where the tablet actually makes the task easier. Once people are using it for that task, they may find it useful in other areas. Starting with meeting agendas is backward–the tablet is heavier and harder to interface with compared to the paper solution they already know how to use.

                1. Susan K

                  The problem is that the tasks for which the iPads will be the most valuable are also the things that have the steepest learning curve. Viewing a meeting agenda just requires them to open an e-mail and view a document, just like they already do on their phones every day. Entering data from the field will require them to learn how to use a whole new app that is completely different from anything else they use and also very different from the desktop version of the database (and, although they have had training on this app, it will take some time using it to get comfortable with it). I’m afraid that if I start with something like that, people will get frustrated and decide that iPads are just too hard to use and not even try to do anything else, even the easier stuff.

                2. Falling Diphthong

                  From my work: One of the absolutely most frustrating ways to teach people math is to teach them a slow, inefficient way to do something when there are quicker and easier ways to solve a problem. It doesn’t reassure them because it’s easy and it’s baby steps–it annoys them because it wastes their time.

                  If you instead teach them the fast way in a more challenging context, where the existing tools are unhelpful or really slow, they will learn it. It’s more advanced, but it has a point.

                  I can learn any new tech that I am going to need to use regularly. But there needs to be a problem right in front of me that will be solved by my learning to use this tech. I almost never send email on my phone, for example, because the interface isn’t as good. But I got a smart phone in part because there were contexts where I wasn’t at home but wanted to read something stored in email, and a smart phone solved that problem.

                3. Observer

                  Susan K, actually you are asking people to use an iPad in a way that they don’t use their phones, very often. And you are asking them to do something that is NOT GOING TO BE EASIER FOR THEM. It’s just not. A few pieces of paper are lighter, easier to carry, easier to jot notes on or even just mark and easier to flip through. And you can fold them up and stuff them into their pocket.

                4. Lara

                  This might sound mean, but actually, things can be mildly irritating and difficult to learn and still be necessary to a company’s business goals. I’m surprised that so many AAM readers are supporting the idea of these employees just noping out of a new device / software.

                  Support, training etc should all be provided – in their working hours – but acting like OP is being unreasonable to expect grown adults to change their methods up is a bit odd to me.

              3. Observer

                Exactly this. I hope that whoever is setting up the app has a better handle on workflow and usability issues, or you really are going to run into trouble.

            2. Observer

              You have it backwards. Most people are NOT going to be more effective using an ipad for things like note taking or meeting agendas – especially in the beginning. On the other hand, with the app, even if it’s a wash for people in terms of work, it’s a win for the company. It’s also easier to mandate, and people can more readily understand why it needs to happen.

              The nice side effect is that SOME people will develop the kind of comfort with the technology in use that will enable them to branch into these other areas.

    9. ToodieCat

      If colleagues need badges to print and you can get some kind of reporting from your printer or whatever, you could incentivize by which team has printed the fewest pages?

    10. foolofgrace

      IDK if you’re a manager or not, but can you just schedule half-hour meetings with each person for the purposes of getting the iPad out of the box and into use? I think maybe some people are just afraid of looking stupid and are afraid to try. If they have no choice and a meeting is scheduled, they can be reassured during the task.

    11. Akcipitrokulo

      Switch the printer off?

      Either that, or it needs to be someone with authority to say “these will be used”. Maybe non-optional training sessions where a group at a time will have theirs set up and walked through a few options?

      1. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

        Switch it off is probably not an option, but what about moving it to an inconvenient spot or — if the boss is really on board with reducing paper — into their office. Just the idea that the boss may be keeping an eye on who is the biggest paper waster may reduce your coworkers’ desire to print.

      2. Susan K

        Unfortunately, that’s not an option for my department. There are still some things that definitely need to be printed. This project is going to have a multi-step implementation, and handing out iPads is just one of the preliminary steps. We are not ready to switch from paper to electronic documents for certain processes yet.
        Also, this is a production environment and safety and quality come first. My manager would definitely not want me to jeopardize that just to save some paper. It would not go over well if someone were having trouble with their iPad and couldn’t print a document they needed in the field.

    12. Former Retail Manager

      Paper lover here. I would tell you the same thing…pry the paper from my cold dead hands. Quite frankly, I need paper and I’m sure some other people do too. I am a visual and kinesthetic learner. I visualize the words on the paper as well as my own notes related to those words…yes, I also handwrite notes. I’ve tried doing this electronically and it was a miserable failure. I can honestly say that I gave it a valiant effort, but the information just doesn’t stick in my brain the same way if I’m typing it or even writing with a Stylus. I just don’t know that it will ever change for me personally. So, would donuts motivate me? No. Not even a cash bonus of say $1,000 would motivate me personally. I need paper.

      I bring all this up to convey that while some people are just resistant to change, some people may also have a genuine need for paper because it helps them to recall things better/do their job better.

      Also, as an aside, was this your idea and something that management just let you run with or is there a directive from above regarding an eventual transition to being mostly paperless? If there is a directive from above, I’d find a way to incorporate that into your “requests” that people utilize this technology.

      1. Susan K

        Well, what motivated you to give electronic note-taking a valiant effort? I actually don’t mind if someone tries out the iPad and says that for certain things, doing it electronically just doesn’t work for them and they’d like to go back to using paper. But I have a feeling that a lot of the resistance is just about learning something new or doing something differently, and once they actually learn it and get used to it, they won’t mind it and might actually prefer it. But first, they have to take the iPad out of the box and actually use it.

        1. Grapey

          Different commenter here. I like paper because I can jot things quickly. I can photocopy/scan them fairly quickly (sharing and cropping screenshots is a hassle, and I use SnagIt religiously).

          Opposition “just” because someone is learning something new is actually a big deal in the user experience world. They need to see their leaders using it, they need to see their peers doing it, and they also need to see their job being done on it exactly. Hand waving away user problems is a guaranteed way to not get buy-in for your ideas unless there is some organizational muscle behind your changes.

          1. essEss

            I think in terms of pictures, so my notes are frequently diagrams or abstract shapes that tie ideas together. I can’t type my notes. I need to actually move my hand and draw a picture to retain information. When typing, the info goes from ear to keyboard and doesn’t stick in brain long enough for the long-term memory to kick in.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          I have tried drawing tablets, and it’s just not satisfying in the kinesthetic way that working with a physical pencil or brush is. (This is for art-for-fun.)

          When I take notes in a meeting, my computer is displaying the art layout and any texting back and forth (usually posting of links) and some backup materials I can grab in the background, while I take any notes on a pad of paper. This is partly just physical amount of space, partly tactile mnemonic. But why would I WANT to give electronic note taking a try, just in the “well it’s different, even if more awkward at first” rationale? I use electronic notes in documents wherever I need to do so for work, but that’s because it’s important for interacting with multiple people in an agreed on format.

          Some advice I routinely come back to, that I think applies here–kids don’t want the sample problem to be easy. It’s not helpful to them to see how to solve something when all the awkwardness drops out–they can work that out on their own, given a more advanced example. In math, nothing is more annoying than being taught the slow, inefficient way to do something just so you’ll appreciate the actually quick and effective way–just start with the quick and effective way, in a context where it actually is quicker and more effective than other means of tackling the problem.Hand-holding people through baby steps will just drive them nuts. I strongly agree with the suggestion upthread to not roll this out beyond an “explore for fun if you want to” until you’re ready to use it for the value-added app. Right now you’re just teaching people that the tablets make simple things more complicated.

          1. Mad Baggins

            Unrelated but +1 to your comment about learning math. I don’t need to know how arduous it was to solve these before Genius McGeniusface came up with the Genius Shortcut, just show me the shortcut!!

        3. Observer

          What motivates most people to give something a valiant effort is if the see a REASON for it. Meeting agendas and the like simply DO NOT PROVIDE THAT.

          The new app might be harder, but if these people are good at their jobs they can understand WHY they should do it. BTDT.

      2. Susan K

        Oh, and it is a directive from above, but I am responsible for implementing it. My department’s management analyzed the costs and benefits of this effort before making the decision to move forward with it and assign me to the project. I think my manager is hoping to use our department as a model for similar initiatives in other departments.

    13. Master Bean Counter

      I’d round up everybody that hasn’t registered their Ipad into a meeting. Explain to them that this is the way the company is going. Not doing this is not an option. But do show empathy. Give them a chance to voice their concerns and ask any questions. Then walk them all through the set-up process.
      If you have no-shows are complete jerks in the room, take names report back to managers. Tell the manager you need help getting them on board.

      1. Lil Fidget

        But I’d also say pick your battles a little. It sounds like paper agendas is really a red herring here – think of the people who print out a single 1428 page report unnecessarily – you could have given 20 people the warm fuzzies of having their beloved hard copy agendas if you’d reached that guy instead.

    14. Sunshine Brite

      Admittedly, I hate Apple products… Is this a whole operating systems change for these employees though? That’s usually overly time consuming and annoying to save a little paper. Particularly if it messes with formatting in other applications, etc.

      1. Sunshine Brite

        Also, my old job had a badge scan to the printer so that you had to confirm you wanted things printed and it cut down on extraneous printing the most out of the efforts to do so outside of moving to electronic record systems.

    15. Grits McGee

      Have you gotten any feedback on specific objections to the tablets? Sometimes it really does come down to resistance-to-change-itis, but there may be concrete issues you can address to increase use.

      For instance, do people like to mark up or take notes on printed meeting materials? That’s not really intuitive to transfer over to a tablet without investing time to really learn all the options on the tablet. If the technology learning curve is an issue, making it as pain-free to learn as possible could be helpful.

      I have to say though, at my workplace the only really successful approach to getting people to use new technology is cutting off access to the old one.

    16. Anon for now

      I don’t love the contest idea. It will only incentivize people who care about donuts more than registering iPads, and could set up some tension as people pressure one another over these donuts. The contests also seem patronizing.

      People may be digging in because they’re feeling frustrated by this change and are doubling down. It doesn’t sound like a requirement for their jobs to use the iPads so people who don’t want to just aren’t going to. If you have some iPad enthusiasts who love the change, you could encourage them to informally share how they been able to effectively use the iPad. These are you sort of iPad ambassadors. Personally, I get how people are frustrated by “do new thing you’re not familiar with and will have to spend time learning instead of doing your job, and choose that over what you know and is effective because it saves paper!” It just seems like it is being made into a big deal over something that many people would not view as a big deal. They may be more receptive as they hear others’ positive experiences using the iPads. Not everyone may convert. If it’s not a requirement, let them do what they’re going to do.

    17. The Ginger Ginger

      I would definitely start by making time with IT to get their iPad set up mandatory. I know you’re trying not to be a jerk about it, but that doesn’t mean (as long as your authorized to do so) you can’t be firm. And at some point, you need to be less apologetic/soft, and these things need to stop being requests.

      I also recommend you read some articles/blogs about change management. There will be some very helpful info on segments in your work population and how you need to work with each to push a change through. Early adopters vs. quiet compliers vs. vocal objectors. You want to push your early adopters to be evangelizers who can work with you to move your objectors into compliers.

      You also want to make sure everyone understands the goal you’re shooting for, and how this request (that’s not really a request) feeds into that. Then you need to enforce it. Incentives like a pizza party after the first 30 days paper free (or something) are nice ways to celebrate, but you need something firmer to push through that initial reluctance.

      At a minimum, I’d make everyone schedule time to get their ipads set up with IT, then schedule a group training on specific tasks on the ipad. Calendar management, accessing email, and a note taking app are probably, at minimum, tasks they’ll need to master to successfully use their ipads, so those should be included. After that, maybe a quick poll on what additional tasks they need to do on the ipad could give you some insight into gaps in their knowledge/comfort levels.

    18. Leave it to Beaver

      I would not like this. I’m not a paper monster and pretty comfortable with technology (despite being on the wrong side of 40). But, I’m very much a note taker and typically use agendas to both prompt my memory later and take notes on projects or discussions. (Similarly when I’m having difficulty with a writing project, I will print out a draft and go to town or even take out a legal pad and do it the old-fashioned way.) An iPad wouldn’t change this behavior as it’s the physical act of writing that is useful to me, but perhaps (and I say this with some hesitation) if I could use an app that would allow me to write with a stylus or some such, I may… may…. may…. abandon pen and paper. (I say may because I also find that I’m fairly organized with where my papers are, much more so than how my documents are saved, and honestly, it’s sometimes easier to pull out a piece of paper than pull up and open a file.)

      1. mediumofballpoint

        This. Typing on an iPad is a pain, even with a Bluetooth keyboard. I can take notes faster and better on paper, or type faster on a desktop. iPads are sleek little machines, but a but difficult in an office environment.

      2. Frankie

        Yeah, mostly I like to note-take on my computer because it’s fast, but particularly if I’m in a planning or creative mode, I find that working with pen & paper where I can move around the page helps me strategize a bit better than if I’m just typing stuff in lines down a page.

    19. Susan Sto Helit

      Try having one paper-free day in the office a week? By which I mean, one day a week in the office in which the printers are switched off and unplugged (or, if easier, the printer paper has been removed and locked away). Pick a day where it’s not going to be hugely disruptive if people can’t print things, and make sure everyone knows about it in advance. It might help everyone adapt.

      You can also try sneaky things, like not sending around meeting agendas in advance – wait until everyone is physically in the meeting, then send it to their iPads. “Jane, did you forget your iPad? Don’t worry, I’m happy to pause for a moment while you grab it.”

      Also make sure you’re still providing recycled notepads so people can take notes by hand. People can adapt to viewing things on a screen but making notes on one is going to take a lot longer to learn. Pick your battles.

      1. Observer

        Basically, you are suggesting that they sabotage their work to force people to use their iPads. That just doesn’t make sense.

    20. Q

      At OldJob when they couldn’t manage to reduce paper consumption, they “accidentally” forgot to do the paper order one month and we ran out. It got really annoying to have to scramble to print things you did need on backs of old paper but it did cut down on people printing things they didn’t actually need. It wasn’t worth the extra effort required to find a blank sheet, load it in the printer, and then hope no one else printed on it before you get back to your desk and print. When they did resume ordering paper, it was at half of what they used to get and we had to manage.

      Maybe rather than go this drastic you could straight up tell them that next months order will be 3/4 or normal and the month after that will be 1/2 and that will be the new normal.

    21. BadWolf

      I would concentrate on the “reduction” as some people probably just jump to “we’re eliminating all paper” and are fighting against it.

      I might turn it around and say that for minor things, you can certainly still use paper. Printing out 1 agenda sheet is totally cool. But for that thing that you have to print 50 pages out — maybe try using it on the iPad and print out the 10 most important pages.

      1. Susan Sto Helit

        I had a meeting last week at which we were all provided with a paper agenda, but all other materials for the meeting were shown on-screen. In the end I only wrote about two things on my agenda so could have gone without that as well. I’m so glad I didn’t have to shuffle around dozens of pages in a printout all day.

        1. Observer

          This makes a lot of sense. Let people have their paper agendas, and display everything else. It’s a win all around – reduces paper, doesn’t make life difficult for people who take notes, and it actually makes the meeting more smooth to run because you know what people are looking at. And it reduces some prep time and effort, because you don’t need the packets.

    22. Lindsay J

      I would go about making sure that the processes they want you to do on the iPad are actually easier on the iPad than with paper.

      They got our maintenance techs here iPads to use to look up information in the manuals, rather than having to look at it on a computer (when we don’t have computers up in the plane where they’d need to look up the info) or in big binders. Theoretically, having everything in a searchable pdf would be much easier.

      However, the way the pdfs are rendered on the iPad make it impossible to search through it – each chapter and subchapter is sectioned off into it’s own document, so you can’t search the whole thing in one go. You would have to open each chapter and subchapter and search seperately. So that eliminates what would be the biggest advantage the iPad would have over the binders. The files are also so big that they take a long time to open on the iPad – longer than fishing the binder out of it’s assigned spot and flipping open to the chapter.

      Plus, it’s more of a problem if the iPad gets greasy than if some paper does – you can always just reprint the paper. The binder isn’t going to crack if it accidentally slips out of your hands like the iPad does, etc. People might steal the iPads out of their bags or toolboxes while nobody is going to steal the binder. If the iPad gets taken home and stolen or lost then there’s confidential information on them that would present a threat to security.

      So adoption of the iPads has been low. Most people did at least try them, but most people don’t carry them regularly.

      Tech docs called MX to find out why people weren’t using them, and this information was reported to them.

      On the other hand, the pilots have used iPads to mostly replace all the maps and such that they used to use, and adoption there is much higher. The programs used to render the maps are much nicer. They don’t have to dig out a specific map, just load up the app and pull up the one they need. There’s not the same issues with grease and other contaminants. So they actually want to use them, and do.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Make sure that the processes are actually easier on the iPad than with paper.

        This. If you want people to adapt it, it can’t be slower and more awkward than what they’re doing now.

    23. IL JimP

      Remove the printers, that’s what my office did or severely limit how many you have so it’s inconvenient to print everything

    24. Grapey

      Other org changes could be made, like requiring a meeting agenda ahead of time. This would double as a time saver (people can see the agenda ahead of time and decide if they want to go to the meeting, or add things to it) as well as reduce paper if nobody wants to print it out. Or have it as the first slide in a powerpoint if it really has to be sprung on meeting attendees at the last minute.

      95% of people probably won’t print it out. Occasionally I like to print an agenda ahead of time and I mark it up with relevant questions/decisions that I have. I don’t know how I would easily do that if I had to depend on an iPad.

    25. Guacamole Bob

      Can you tell us a bit more about the ways the employees are expected to use the iPads? The conversation has focused on meeting agendas, but I’m guessing that’s not the point. I see two possibilities here:

      – The iPad initiative is focused on general paper use and is general purpose, and employees are being encouraged to change their (possibly long-established) work patterns to save a few sheets of paper. In most offices this will face massive resistance, because people have figured out what works well for them in terms of reviewing documents, taking notes, etc., and demanding that they upend their existing patterns to record and process information in a different way is a Big Deal. There may well be opportunities to improve workflow with technology, but it takes time and in the meantime it actually slows things down for a lot of people who Ain’t Got Time for That.

      – There’s a specific process that can be majorly streamlined or that produces tons of paper. Employees are filling out manual inspection reports or call logs or service reports that have to be hand-entered into a database and now there’s an app for that. Daily work assignments are handed out in paper to thousands of employees (my organization!). You’ve got a team of lawyers that’s printing thousands of pages of documents when a tablet could do instead. In this type of situation, it really needs to come down as an edict about a change in policy and process, with training and deadlines for making the switch.

      1. Jules the Third

        From a comment above, the value proposition for the iPads is based on forms that the team must submit. Pre-ipad, people printed the forms, filled them in manually, scanned, and sent for processing. The iPad has an app to fill / send the forms without printing / scanning, and the time / cost savings on that is why they got the iPads.

        Having seen that comment, I do not understand why Susan is looking at people’s printed agendas at all. If everyone uses the iPads for the forms, she’ll have captured most of the value proposition; let the remaining bits go in the name of morale.

        1. Guacamole Bob

          After I posted my comment I saw the other new ones, and I totally agree with you. The meeting agendas aren’t the point here and focusing on the seemingly trivial paper use in that context will just annoy people and turn them off on the whole project. But if it’s really going to save that much time and money, management needs to treat this as a change to their process, just like when you introduce new software and phase out support for the old. Announce that by X date all Teapot forms will be available to enter by app only, here are the training opportunities, etc.

    26. Margo the Destroyer

      Can you create some sort of phase out plan for the department? Determine the order of importance of docs and set hard deadlines to when they can be printed out? And with each set phase decrease the amount of paper thats ordered, so they know start to realize paper will be very limited shortly?

      We had to go paperless at work mostly as well because they started offering work at home, but you have to be paperless to do that.

    27. Where's the Le-Toose?

      People are funny this way. My office has the reverse problem. A bunch of us want tablets so we can take notes, not waste so much paper, etc. The head of our administrative division allows tablets, and all of their managers who wanted one, got one. The head of the legal division I’m in is a luddite and believes it’s a waste of resources, so I’m not allowed one.

      There are two good ways to change behaviors. The first is to give someone an incentive and the second is to make it more difficult to keep doing the status quo.

    28. Eye of Sauron

      A couple of things…

      Carrot and stick – yes, bribe people with goodies and incentives. But on the same token, work with the managers and leadership to push compliance.

      Next, make sure you have given them the tools such as compatible apps and options of apps to help them get used to the new tools. I use several different ones and it’s been a lot of trial and error to find what works best. Offer training for how to use the apps and to integrate with their current tools. For instance if they already use MS Office, teach them OneNote and how to integrate with Outlook and the like, then show them how to interact with OneNote on their iPad.

    29. Evil HR Person

      You are in sore need of a mini game: “How much money could we save on paper if we all looked at our iPads instead of printing things out?” Then, with the money saved per month/quarter/half-year, you give them something they like, such as a pizza lunch, or whatever flies at your work. We’ve had them at my office. The most popular one was to have our crews use the ice machine at the warehouse instead of buying ice at the store. They saved a ton of money, which was easy enough to figure out. Then, with the savings, they did something fun for all. It’s pretty simple to look at your usual paper purchase and see if there’s a difference from one purchase to the next.

      Here are the (loose) rules of a mini game: (1) it can’t last more than 12 weeks because people get bored; (2) you have to keep track of it somewhere where everybody can see how they’re doing – like a big scoreboard; (3) every time you hit a milestone (say, every month if it’s a 3-month game), everyone gets a little something. The milestone prizes should be small – people are competitive, for the most part, so they want whatever it is they can win, even if it’s a pencil. Then the grand prize should be large, and everyone should win it – that’s why I’m thinking like a lunch, maybe a catered lunch from a nice restaurant, or whatever makes your people happy.

      1. pleaset

        Speaking from a fairly high-paid perspective, I don’t agree: I want to get my work done more easily/faster, not get pizza. If the technology makes the work easier/faster – then I’m in. If not, I’m out. It’s simple.

    30. Not So NewReader

      Your goal got lost here.

      Somehow reducing paper usage morphed into “Use this iPad!”
      No, the goal is to reduce paper usage.

      Let’s go back to that. So the naysayers can be told, “Okay, not happy with the iPad. We still need to reduce paper usage, so what do you think you personally can do to contribute to that effort?”

      My boss NEVER buys me writing tablets. I have a slot in the paper/file holder on my desk just for paper that I have printed out on but the back can be reused as scrap paper. I have worked for her for 6 years and not used a single pad of new writing paper.
      At home I take the paper I can reuse and cut it into quarters. It’s the perfect size for little reminder notes or short shopping lists. I started doing this when I was cleaning up my father’s estate. Man, he had a lot of paper. I had 17 cases in one room and the other rooms did not look much better. That was when I decided to start using the backs of paper. My father has been gone 24 years and I have not run out of paper yet. sigh. So I don’t buy writing paper for home use either.

      The other issue I see and so many times this part is lost, there is NO time to learn the new technology. And telling me to get it up and running myself is a burden beyond belief. Sample story. I had a computer. TPTB decided it was not good enough and I had to have another. I installed it. It took hours because I am not a techie. I had to connect my boss’ computer to mine, remove 2 CPUs that I had and so on. Nine months later, I have another computer. “This one is better.” Alrighty then. I get that new CPU in place and running. It was hours because of unforeseen problems. Meanwhile I am not doing any of my work. Just to be clear, if I work steadily at my normal work, I am still way behind. Not working on my own work puts me unbelievably behind.
      Then I get a call. I am getting a third computer. I pushed back. I got yelled at. I pushed harder.
      The new CPU they wanted to give me was the same thing I had. They insisted that I did not have one. So while I got out of installing another CPU, I did spend a bunch of time explaining to the non-believer that I already had the same CPU.

      This is the computer story. I have phone stories, fax stories, credit machine stories, computer program stories. I lose HUGE amounts of time just dealing with technology and my voice does not get heard on this point. If I say anything I get laughter. (Not from my wonderful boss, though. She sees the insanity.) There is no ONE person who realizes how many technology problems any given employee is facing. It would be interesting to survey the people and find out how much of their time is dealing with tangent technology and how much of their time is dealing with the REAL work.

      In your setting you have conflicting goals going on. Production has to meet goals or the bills don’t get paid because there is not enough product to sell. Managers are telling you they buy in because what else is there, they have to buy in. But no one is figuring out where the time will come from for people to set up and acquaint themselves with the new tech. I worked production supervision for a lot of years, I know first hand, if people are not given the time to learn the change the response will be “Management, you want ONE more thing out of us? Then you can just go whistle up a drain pipe, I am not doing it!” I have seen the same reaction in retail. (And this is how employees can sink a company.)

      My suggestion here is to go to the production managers and ask them what they need to make training times happen. Probably your solution is to put everyone on overtime to get their training done. Make the training mandatory and make computer usage part of the job requirements.

      A board I am on, needed people trained to do X. In order to get them the training we had to set up for coverage while they were learning X. They MUST learn X, so we had to figure out how to make that happen. They were told it’s now a job requirement. (It should have been a requirement ten years ago but somehow that did not happen.) Time was set aside where they were relieved of their regular duties, they were provide materials to use for learning and they were quizzed/checked afterwards. It had to go that way, we had no choice.

      1. Susan K

        I don’t think I have lost the goal — I am just realizing that I underestimated the complexity of a step I thought would be simple, namely, “Give everyone an iPad to use.” Clearly, it was foolish of me to think it would be that simple, but I thought most people know and love mobile devices (I mean, lunchtime here is silent because everyone — including the people who refuse to take their iPads out of the box — is sitting in the breakroom staring at their smartphones while they eat) and would be happy to have one to use on the job. I was pretty surprised when I was handing out free iPads and multiple people told me, “I don’t want this and you can’t make me use it,” and it made me realize I am going to have to put more work into this part of the project than I expected.

        There are many things we are doing in the effort to reduce paper usage, and the iPads are necessary for most of them. Not all of them are ready to implement right now, but I don’t see why we shouldn’t implement changes one at a time, phasing out paper usage gradually, rather than change everything at once. Electronic meeting agendas are the absolute simplest part of this project (and I know it might seem negligible, but we have meetings every day, and some of them have 30+-page packets of documents in addition to the agendas). We also have an app to enter data directly into the database from the field instead of writing it on a piece of paper and transferring it to the computer. We are also working on a way to make SOPs available on the iPads for use in the field so people aren’t printing out 200 pages of SOPs every day. We are also creating electronic forms that can be filled out on the iPads and sent directly to archives instead of printing, filling manually, and scanning. People are going to need to be able to use their iPads, which is something I took for granted, and I want to make sure we don’t get to the day when we eliminate manual forms and have people say, “But I don’t know how to use this iPad that you gave me 6 months ago.”

        I know change is painful, but sometimes it is necessary to learn new technology to keep up with what you’re expected to do. When I was in high school, I interned for a lady who didn’t do e-mail. She made me print out her e-mails, and she would write out her replies by hand and then have me type and send them for her. Can you imagine someone doing that in this day and age? Pretty soon, in my department, that will be the equivalent to printing out a form, filling it out by hand, and then scanning it back into the computer. If people haven’t learned how to use their iPads by then, they will be in trouble. Management has made it clear that we will be making these changes, and I just want to make it as painless as possible.

        I do think it is a great idea to get management to make training happen. They can make it a work assignment for Fergus to go to IT and get his iPad set up today. Putting everyone on overtime for this is not going to happen, though. I don’t have the authority to authorize overtime, and management would laugh in my face if I asked, and frankly, rightfully so, because they get a report every month on internet usage. If Fergus complains that he doesn’t have an hour to go to the IT help desk and have them set up and show him how to use his iPad, they can look at their report and say, “Last month, you spent an average of 10 hours per week on Facebook while you were on the clock, so use some of that time to learn to use your iPad.”

        1. Elizabeth H.

          You wrote “And I want to make sure we don’t get to the day when we eliminate manual forms and have people say, ‘But I don’t know how to use this iPad that you gave me 6 months ago.'”

          I think you are probably going to get to this day whether you like it or not. Using an iPad for meeting agendas, as practically countless commenters have mentioned, is not a compelling reason to use an iPad. Using an iPad because you have eliminated manual forms and the iPad is the ONLY MEANS to accomplish the data entry you need to accomplish IS a compelling reason. Most people are basically rational.

        2. AcademiaNut

          I think the fundamental problem is that you’re asking people to do stuff based on principles, not on practicalities. Basically – do this thing on your iPad that’s annoying and impractical and makes your job less efficient, because it will make it easier in the future when we start using the iPad for something actually useful. By the time you get to that stage, though, people will associate the iPad with frustration, and be even more resistant. This is the exact opposite of the painless method you want.

          My advice – for now, start putting stuff in iPad practical formats (ie, *not* letter sized PDFs!) that’s easy and efficient for access, but don’t force it. Create a step-by-step tutorial for people to set up their iPads and ensure that they don’t need to use personal resources (ie, you should provide company iCloud storage, not require them to use a personal one). Also, buy them all keyboards to go with the iPad, not just pens.

          When you’ve actually got a working system for entering data on the iPad, get a few of the more eager people to beta test it in the field. Listen to feedback about what works and what doesn’t, and what’s a serious pain in the neck (for example – they need to enter numbers with a stylus, but the handwriting recognition doesn’t work well, and you get errors. Or they need a table and a stand for the iPad rather than holding it). Fix the problems and test again.

          Then, and only then, hold a department wide training seminar. I’m talking everyone in a room with iPads, going through the new software step by step, then a day or two of using the software on test cases and checking the results. Use your beta testers as additional trainers. Provide lunch and snacks.

          After this productivity will absolutely go down as people adapt to the new system, and then gradually go back up.

          In general, most people are only going to switch from a system they know well and can use efficiently to a different one when they have to. Some people will never be happy, but most people will adapt, *providing that the change you are asking has a logical reason and is mostly bug free*. If you force a change without a good reason (like the agendas), or the change is bug riddled and frustrating (ie, you don’t use the beta testers), they’ll all hate it and resent you for it.

        3. Observer

          Except that you have it backwards. As simple as it seems to you, you are asking people to do something that is more complicated that you are willing to admit for relatively small gains. You can get rid of most of the paper in those meeting without making everyone use ipads, because all that STAFF need are the agendas. All of the other stuff goes on the manager’s ipad and gets projected.

          Meeting agendas on the ipad are the LAST thing you should be implementing. The database stuff and SOPs should be first. Yes, the database stuff may be technically harder, but not as much as you think. And it doesn’t really matter because most people WILL see the benefit to them and even if they don’t they will understand why it needs to be done, assuming that the training is done reasonably well. And it is MUCH easier to mandate something like that because the benefits are much clearer and tied to core functionality.

      2. Leave it to Beaver

        I’m also a paper re-user. For my to-do lists, I keep print-outs I’m no longer using, clip them together and use the clean side to keep track of my projects. (And this is not possible to do digitally as sticky notes would get lost behind the dozens of windows I have open)

    31. Nesprin

      Ugh. Your coworkers saying “You can have my paper agendas when you pry them from my cold, dead hands.” are making a statment that this solution does not solve their problems. I am tech savvy, (own 4 computers, 2 tablets and a phone) and I would absolutely revolt against using an ipad for notes/agendas in lieu of paper. I cannot possibly imagine that ipads are cheaper than paper usage, and the cost of having to charge and carry an expensive fragile device would put me around the bend.

    32. Little Bean

      Whose support do you have for this? Because honestly, the only way I see this working is if bosses start enforcing it. Many years ago, my office switched from a paper calendar (like one large shared office calendar and you had to walk to the front desk every morning to copy down your schedule) to Outlook calendars. One woman threatened to just stop attending any meetings or doing any work if it wasn’t given to her on paper. My boss was very patient, made it clear that this wasn’t optional and scheduled a 1:1 time to sit down with her and go over how the calendar worked. It took her a couple of weeks to stop grumbling but she got over it.
      If your mandate is just “encourage people to cut down on paper use where it won’t ruffle feathers”, then I would do something like an incentive for people who participate, like, have free food at the ipad registration meetings. But I wouldn’t make it contingent on everyone having to do it, because they won’t. If your mandate is that everyone must use ipads, then you need stronger muscle than donuts.

      1. Susan K

        Management supports this, and in fact came up with the project before assigning me to it. My grandboss is the one who is really pushing for it. I think it’s because he wants to make a name for himself by being the first department to go mostly paperless, and he has indicated that he sees this as an opportunity for me to have a big accomplishment. I am not a manager and I have no authority over my coworkers, but my coworkers know that this whole thing is mandated by management.

        I feel like it would reflect poorly on me if I repeatedly went running to management to have them force people to comply with this initiative. I also don’t think it goes over well for management to make people do things “because I said so.” I’m afraid that if the only way I can get people to learn to use their iPads is with threats from management, they will be even more resistant to the next change. Maybe there will be a couple of super-stubborn holdouts who will have to be threatened into compliance, but I’m not ready to give up yet, and I don’t want to turn to that at the first sign of resistance.

        Management has acknowledged that we are not aiming to eliminate paper completely, but reduce as much as possible within reason. It’s not about not ruffling feathers, but about not compromising safety and quality. Some comments have suggested taking away the printers or putting a limit on how many pages people can print, but we can’t risk having people unable to get the documents they need when and where they need them, whether it’s because they don’t like the iPads or their iPads are broken. At the end of the day, it’s more important to get the work done safely and correctly than to save paper, but ideally, we want to do both.

        1. Amtelope

          If management is determined that people need to use their iPads for meeting agendas, then you may have to level with the resistant people in your department about that. “I know you prefer paper, but grandboss really wants us to make this switch. It will negatively reflect on our department if we don’t do this. I would hate to see this made mandatory because I know people would like the option of occasionally using paper, but we need to come up with a plan for making sure that grandboss sees us using the iPads for meeting agendas 90% of the time.” Which, yes, carries the implication that grandboss may step in to insist if they don’t make the change. But that’s the situation, right? This isn’t really optional, they have to do it, and you can only sugarcoat that so far.

          If using them for meeting agendas isn’t really mandatory and management isn’t insisting you die on that hill, then pick another hill to die on. Wait until there’s a process that’s genuinely faster for everyone on the iPad, and insist that they be used for that process. Give people plenty of warning — “In two weeks we will switch to doing X electronically only. Paper forms won’t be accepted after that date. If you need training on the iPad or X software, please sign up for one of the following dates: (some time slots you have scheduled for the people who still haven’t taken their iPads out of the box.)

          And know that whichever approach you take, there will STILL be people the day you finally switch over saying “I don’t know how to use the iPad, here’s my paper form.” Make sure everyone involved is empowered to say “no, we only take forms submitted through X software.” Figure there will be some lost productivity the day(/week) you make the switch. That’s inevitable when you’re asking people to adopt new technology.

    33. Badmin

      I totally understand both sides here. I think you need to ask why they aren’t using or even opening the iPads. I can imagine the why is information processing, habit, and preference but you may get some valuable information by setting up a survey for feedback and allow them to give thoughtful responses. You could also ask why/what people
      are most likely to print. And little by little replace something they only print once in a while with the iPad.

    34. Student

      It’s time to accept that your company’s approach to this, buying everyone iPads, has failed to achieve the desired objective.

      Trying to cajole your team like this won’t make it better.

      Try this instead:
      -Telling your team you need them to reduce paper consumption so that there’s more budget for other things; give them examples of what your current printing budget is, and what you’d use the extra money for. Get buy-in.
      -Next time you have a huge IT budget to do something like this, try this instead: buy a department printer that requires the user to affirmatively click a button on the physical printer to get their document printed. These are commonly available in commercial printers now. They can be configured so that, if you have a bunch of them, the document gets printed to whatever printer the person goes and clicks on. It cuts down on documents that people print and never pick up, and/or documents printed to the wrong spot, and people walking off with each other’s documents. It works because it’s specifically targeted at print waste instead of at changing the way people do their job substantially.
      -If you want to get tough about paper waste, go have a talk with IT. Get the stats on who prints the most pages and try to intervene with those people specifically. Maybe there’s a job-based reason they need to print so much; or maybe they are printing out text books for their kids. It’s usually not a department-wide thing; it’s a couple of specific people – so it’s better fixed by intervening with the key employees directly than trying to get the whole department to change.
      -If you’re determined to do department-wide things like this, get some buy-in FIRST, before the iPads show up. If you want to solve real problems, you need to actively engage with people, not give them imperatives from on-high that seemingly have no relation to their jobs. Talk to people first, figure out if the iPads are actually likely to achieve your objective, and get the team’s feedback on the idea. Nix or modify the idea if the first round of feedback is very bad. Give people warning of what’s coming and a chance to grouse in advance so they get it out of their systems. Maybe some of your folks would’ve been happier to go paperless if they had a similarly-priced non-Mac device. Maybe they don’t view this as a problem the way you do. Maybe the iPads actually make their work-flow harder because they can’t access certain job-specific things. Maybe the support offered is bad or not in a format people understand and can use well.

      1. Susan K

        You have some good points, but, you know, hindsight is 20/20. Most of these decisions were made before I was involved in the project. I actually would have recommended a different brand of tablet that has some specific capabilities that would have been useful, but the manager likes iPads and already purchased them.

        The company does have those printers (although not in my department’s main work area, because our printers are connected to equipment that wouldn’t work with those printers), and management got all the data available on our department’s paper usage before proceeding with this project. There are some pretty obvious sources of paper usage, though, like SOPs that are required to be taken into the field and have each step signed off, and doing this electronically would save hundreds of pages per day.

        1. Student

          Then YOUR real problem is taking on a poorly-thought-out and poorly-implemented project, through no fault of your own. You’re being asked to salvage something that can’t really be salvaged at this point. You lack the actual authority to change your co-worker’s behavior.

          Try to pass it back to management, pass it off to somebody else, or figure out a way to manage the fissile-out.

          I’d probably start that off by telling management that I’m running into a lot of resistance on iPad adoption that’s too deep to overcome on the co-worker level. Maybe they take the task back from you, or maybe you end up ratting out one of the biggest resistors and management makes an example of them.

          1. Susan K

            Wow, I think it’s a little extreme to say I should give up on the whole project just because it’s not going perfectly. This is not an optional assignment for me, so I have to do the best I can with what I’ve got. And, while I personally lack the actual authority to make my coworkers change their behavior, the changes are not optional for them, either. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try to get people to do what they need to do by asking nicely before I resort to asking management to order them to do it.

    35. Benray

      Have meeting leaders send out agendas in printing restricted PDFs. Create a performance measure to track printing/non-printing of certain common, high-volume documents. Target would be 100% use of iPads for certain documents, with folks who have vision issues not included in this measure. Post this performance measure so all can see it.

    36. Xarcady

      My retail job recently gave everyone in my department a tablet and pencil.

      1. There were two required training sessions. So no one could claim they did not know how to use the tablets.
      2. They took the on-floor computer away after a month of letting us practice on the tablets. Thus forcing everyone to use them. Those who had refused to practice had a steep learning curve.

      So in the OP’s shoes, I’d hold mandatory training sessions. That at least would get the iPads out of the boxes.

      And then I’d try to figure out some way to require people to use the tablets. Or make it more difficult to use paper than to use the tablet. And rewards for using the tablets might also work.

      Our tablets have a setting that allows the user to write notes on documents/images with the pencil. I’m sure the iPad must have something similar.

      That said, my other job has really gone paperless over the last few years. Without iPads. Everyone has a company-issued laptop and we all bring the laptops to all meetings. People take notes on their laptops. Every meeting room has a HD projector and the agenda can be projected on the wall. Or people can look at the agenda/related docs on their laptops. We did all have to learn new tricks in Adobe Acrobat for marking up documents, but we managed to deal with that–there was some resistance there.

      So I’m wondering if there are paperless methods that do not include the iPad that might work for some of the more stubborn employees? While I’d jump at the chance to use an iPad, maybe someone else would prefer a different method.

    37. Nina the Ballarina

      If your company can afford to buy an iPad and Apple Pencil for every employee, it can afford modest incentives such as donuts or better! Do not use your personal money to finance this. Survey the group for what incentives will motivate them (including past successful efforts). half day off, gift cards, lunch or breakfast if you hit a target, etc. You might also consider a day with no printer/copier access (or some part of a day).

    38. Observer

      Step One:

      What is the benefit to staff of using these new iPads? What are the actual pain points? No, it’s not JUST that they don’t like change – not when it’s this many people. You need to find out what is really holding people back.

      Then you need to reduce the pain points, and find SOMETHING that significantly helps the people who actually have to use these things.

      Part of this is making sure that those cool new iPads are actually the best tool for what they need to do and that they integrate well into whatever workflow they need to engage in.

      Obviously I don’t know what’s bugging your staff, just from the little you have said, I could think of some possibilities.
      * People don’t want to go to the walk-in IT because it’s a madhouse, the wait time is forever, or techs are rude or make them feel stupid.

      * It’s actually a lot easier to write the inventory info on a regular paper with a pen and enter it into the computer on a proper computer with a decent keyboard and the whole screen visible.

      * They don’t find the iPad screen as readable as paper.

      * They are worried about having to handle this expensive and fragile piece of equipment, and concerned that they are going to have to pay when it breaks.

      * They want to be able to flip quickly through a document and look at multiple pieces at the same time / side by side.

      I spend a huge amount of my time deploying technology, so I’m on your side here. But if I, in literally seconds, can come up with a bunch of potential problems with the scenario you mention, it’s a good bet that there there are some real issues that are playing into the resistance you are getting.

    39. Undine

      If I were in your department, I would be having some trouble with the overall equation. How many pieces of paper do I have to refrain from printing out in order to add up to the environmental impact of an iPad? A lot, surely. Like, reams and reams.

      I found this for printed books (although it doesn’t address e-waste, or conflict generated by tantalum, for example):

      “A single e-reader’s total carbon footprint is approximately 168kg, and for a book, this figure is somewhere in the range of 7.5kg; the book’s length and type can lead this figure to vary. Using an average of 7.5kg, we can conclude it would take reading about 22-23 books on an e-reader to reach a level in which the environmental impact is the same as if those books had been read in print.”

      So that’s a *lot* of printed agendas in the lifetime of a device. Given that paper works well for me, that I don’t print out the agenda every time, and that I will use paper sometimes no matter what, you need to convince me that this is valuable on a meta level. Otherwise, you’re chasing a paper tiger, so to speak, and not doing any real good.

    40. LilySparrow

      Yes, I would find it silly and patronizing, and I probably would ignore it.

      If you want people to take your project seriously, treating them like third-graders probably isn’t the best way to go about it.

      I don’t take notes on a tablet or laptop, I take notes by hand, and I don’t like writing on screens. It’s never, ever, easier than a pad of paper. Never.

      My pad of paper never runs out of charge. It never freezes. It never interrupts me with a software update or push notifications. It never requires a password or goes to sleep when I pause to listen. It never complains that its lost the wifi. And even if I forget *my* pad of paper at home, I can use *any* piece of paper equally well.

      If I did use the iPad to view the agenda, I’m still going to take notes on paper. Which would save printing, I suppose, but will probably use the same number of sheets.

    41. Mona25

      Late to the party but, my two cents, maybe they dislike Apple products, that may also be a factor. My work phone is an Apple and I am not crazy about it, even though everyone says it’s the latest model, I do the bare minimum on it, I just figured how to set up my voicemail, and I have had the thing for a few months! Thankfully, I only have to use it for work. All my personal devices are Samsung.

    42. ShiverPug

      I bought my own iPad Pro and Apple Pencil so I could take notes on it! Lol. I’m sorry I don’t have any advice.

  8. Snark

    So I got a call from my future boss on Tuesday reassuring me that they were working the process of getting me hired and told me my start date and so on, so YAAAY I stuck the landing on this layoff. Huge relief. I feel like my shoulders are hanging an inch lower lately.

    1. Snark

      I will say there’s no official offer yet, but this is the federal government, and they have to do things a particular way based on a stack of regulations about as thick as an average dictionary, so.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Hang tough. I am sure you interviewed very well and they want you on their team SO MUCH. They will jump the hoops to make it happen. I am sure of it.

    2. Basia, also a Fed

      Hey Snark, I’ve been following your journey through lurking. I have also held an Environmental Protection Specialist position at a federal agency (not EPA and I’ve since transitioned into a different position). Are you going to a different agency? Are you able to stay in your current area? I’m so glad everything is working out for you!

      1. Snark

        It’ll actually be the same agency for which I’ve been a contractor for the past six years, but a different location – but it’s still right in the area, even if my commute will be 10-15 minutes longer. It’s a massive, massive relief.

        And heyo, EPS fistbump! Though I’ll actually be taken on as a biologist, it sounds like.

  9. Llama Wrangler

    Oh, I had two more questions, in addition to the two above, those these are maybe more vents/requests for commiseration! (Again short versions at the top, explanations below). (3) What’s with jobs asking to speak with your current supervisor for a reference? (4) Why are jobs asking me to give a numerical rating of how my last boss would rate me?

    (3) *What’s with jobs asking to speak with your current supervisor for a reference?* I’ve had two jobs recently ask to speak with my current supervisor as a reference. In my case it’s fine because my supervisor knows I’m looking, but why are jobs insisting on this? Has anyone here ever successfully pushed back on that because your supervisor didn’t know you’re looking?

    (4) *Why are jobs asking me to give a numerical rating of how my last boss would rate me?* I had two jobs ask me the same interview question this week, which I hadn’t encountered before: “Who were your last two bosses? And how will they each rate your performance on a 1-10 scale when we talk to them?” (The two jobs asked a 75% of screen questions that were word for word identical, so I’m wondering if there’s some standard “phone screen” list they were pulling from. And I know they were identical because the first one sent them to me to reply to in email, and the second one was a phone screen and I pulled up the first one’s questions while I was on the call so I could reference my previously thought out answers.) Anyway, this rating question seems weird to me. First, it doesn’t even ask for an explanation (though I gave specific examples), and also why do they need a numeric rating? I tried to say “high” to the phone screen and the interviewer pressed me for an exact number. Not to mention neither of my last two supervisors gave me performance reviews, so I didn’t actually know what they would say, other than that they’ve both promised to be strong references for me. Maybe this is more of a vent than a question, but I’m curious if other people have encountered this.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe

      WRT #3, I’ve seen this happen with a coworker of mine who was job searching. In her case, she received a verbal offer first, and the written was contingent upon the reference of the current supervisor. She was told this at the outset of the interview process, presumably so she could opt out of the process if she knew her current boss would not say glowing things.

      1. Llama Wrangler

        Yeah, that seems much more reasonable to me, both because it’s transparent early on, and because it comes after a verbal offer.

      2. JHunz

        Ugh. Why not just provide a formal written offer with acceptance into the position contingent on a decent reference from the current supervisor? If you’re serious enough to want to talk to my current employer, put something on paper to prove it.

    2. Samata

      I applied for a job last summer that contacted my current supervisor for a reference before they even called to tell me that I was being considered for an interview. Talk about going over like a lead balloon. They did NOT know I was looking, but luckily I was able to smooth things over and still use it as a negotiation tactic. I don’t understand why companies do that.

      So, really no advice, just saying I agree it sucks!

      As for the numerical rating, I have never ever had that before. And I don’t know it something valuable – I mean, I am sure there are people out there who would say 9/10 when it’s more like 2/10.

      1. Llama Wrangler

        Yeah, the only thing I could think of it is if they are actually comparing your rating to what your supervisor says to see if you have accurate self perception. But if they’re asking this question in the initial screen and not speaking with references until 2-3 interviews later, they’ve already gotten a lot more information about you before.
        I guess I should write this off as “bad interview question” but it caught my interest because two people used it in one week and so it seems like someone said it was good for something.

    3. Book FTW

      I can highly recommend the book “How to Answer Interview Questions: 101 Tough Interview Questions” which covers this exact issue about rating yourself 1-10. The book is written in a way that you can skip questions that don’t apply and really helped me prep for these “Tell me about a situation where…” or “Tell me about when your boss..” or “How would you say you ….”.

      1. Llama Wrangler

        Thanks! I’m curious if you remember what their big picture thoughts were about the rating questions (I would have been less surprised how I would rate myself, vs how I thought my boss would rate me). The funny thing is that I am well prepared for the situational/behavioral interview questions from reading AAM and I have been getting asked them so often. Like, yesterday someone asked me “tell me about whether you’re organized or not, and tell the truth.” And then complained that it turns out often that people aren’t actually organized once he hires them!

        1. Book FTW

          Sorry for the delay. Step one is to simplify. You should never be <=5 and you should never rate yourself a 10, so you need to pick from between 6 and 9. Personally I would always go with 8 or 9. I would say something like "I am an 8 because my manager can always rely on me to get the job done when it really needs to and there's a tough problem to solve. I am working to improve my skills in area X and working towards being a 9 or a 10".

    4. Windchime

      The job I currently am in had the #3 requirement. At the time, my boss was Becky but I was applying for a job with Carmella. Becky was vengeful and was in fact the reason I was leaving, so I was naturally worried about what she would say to Carmella. Carmella thought the rule of “hiring manager must talk to candidates current boss” was really stupid but she didn’t have a choice; it was the rule. As it turned out, Becky refused to give me a reference at all but it didn’t matter to Carmella because I had lots of other good references.

      But yeah. I’m not sure what employers are thinking with that one. Tipping off managers that their employee is looking for a new job isn’t really a good thing.

  10. Ann Furthermore

    I have a final interview today for a job I’ve got a very good vibe about, and really hope I get. They’re making it sound like it’s just a formality, but of course, nothing is guaranteed until there’s an offer letter in hand. The process has gone pretty fast, considering how many steps were involved. First I submitted my resume, and then I had to take this IQ test thing that they require everyone to take. Based on the Glassdoor reviews, some people find that a bit creepy and invasive, but I really don’t care. Then I had to take it again while being proctored to make sure I wasn’t using the internet to find answers – again, weird, but OK. The results must have shown that I’m not a halfwit, because then it was an HR interview, interviews with a PM and the IT director (both Tuesday), interviews with the finance director and senior IT director (both today), and one more in-person interview with the IT director again tomorrow. I submitted my resume on April 4th. The IT director, who I would report to, said in my first interview that he really liked me, my background, and my attitude and approach to things, so that’s a positive sign.

    I think this would be a great job, with a cool company, and it’s downtown. The train station is 3 miles from my house, and drops off a block away from the office. It’s a 40 minute ride, so it would be some built-in downtime every day to read or whatever, which would be lovely. I’m pretty sure my current employer is running out of money, so it’s time to move on – fast.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Thanks! It went very well. The director I met with, who would be my boss, said that they were moving towards making me an offer. So…I’m very encouraged.

        The only downside I could see was that it’s a completely open-concept office – not even half cubicle walls. I don’t think it’s a hot-desking setup, where you don’t even have your own assigned workspace, but still. I’m a bit of an introvert, so that will be a huge adjustment for me. I’ve never worked in a setup like that. But more and more companies are moving in this direction, so it’s something I need to get used to, I guess. I’m an old fart — just turned 50 — so I need to keep an open mind and be open to new experiences. :)

  11. Meyla

    I’m worried that I don’t work enough hours. I have been at my current job for almost 2 years. My team works 2 week sprints, which means we have an explicit list of tasks to complete with a very clear start and end date. The team does not like to have tasks that “roll over” into the next sprint, so we’re pretty rigid about committing to what we know we can accomplish and no more/less.

    I work very quickly, so I tend to finish my assigned work by the end of the first week… which leads to a lot of downtime for me. Because of this, I tend to leave early multiple days of the second week when there isn’t anything left for me to do. I’d probably say 3 days of a 10 day sprint I will only work 7 hours. I feel really guilty about this, but I’m literally sitting idle browsing the internet or reading tech articles. I ask every day if I can help anyone with their work, and most of the time the answer is no. Should I feel bad or try to do something differently? I always get glowing reviews from my manager, and I am happy to work extra hours to meet a deadline that comes in last minute or offer support when there’s a problem (I worked 9am to 4am twice last year – I really don’t have a problem with that). I just feel like I’m doing something wrong when I don’t put in a 40 hour work week. I’ve taken to writing unit tests totally unrelated to my task just to fill in some of the time (even though by letter of the team “law”, I shouldn’t be).

    Does anyone else have a similar situation in a salaried position?

    1. dr_silverware

      You get glowing reviews!

      By team law you should have exactly the right amount of work in a sprint. So go to your team lead/project manager and see if you can officially build in more work for you into the sprint–even if that’s unit tests or other process improvement. (Careful that you don’t get stuck as THE unit test person though!)

      If that’s not an option, then I think you’ve got two options–soak in the free time, or amortize your work over the full two weeks. Consider the amortization planning good practice in development time estimation. :)

    2. Scrum Master

      You say “so we’re pretty rigid about committing to what we know we can accomplish and no more/less.” But you are committing to less work than you know you can accomplish. Have you been on a team that worked in sprints before? The point of the sprint is that the team commits to an amount of work that can be accomplished in two weeks (or whatever). If you’re completing all your work in the first week then you are not pulling enough work into the sprint. When you plan your sprint, pull in additional tasks that will keep you busy for the full sprint.

      1. Meyla

        You’re completely right that personally I have less work than I’m capable of, but we’re bottlenecked by QA resources. If I take on more tasks, they certainly won’t be QA’d by the end of the sprint and therefore won’t be completely “done”. I’ve been trying to find work that can be done without needing QA resources, so that’s how I ended up spending time writing unit tests. Another part of the problem is that I feel like we over-estimate how much effort something will take due to the fact that there are a number of new people on our team, and therefore the sprint is planned with the right amount of work for a layman, but not enough for more experienced team members.

    3. Bea

      As long as your work is done and done well, you are asking others if there is anything they need help with and so on, you are doing everything right. You just simply work at the pace you do and that’s normal for some of us!

      I wish I could leave instead of sitting around, sadly I’m also the “go to” for random questions that may pop up. So I’m stuck at work, I do leave 5-10 minutes early when possible and that’s never been a problem for anyone since it’s extremely rare anyone has something pop up at that time, they’re all wrapping up to go home and I’ve been wrapped up for hours!

    4. K-Ok

      It sounds like your team is doing a really poor job of estimating capacity and story points. Its understandable that the team doesn’t want to over commit, but if this is a recurring theme, then the team is NOT maximizing velocity here, or even optimizing it. Its worth discussing one on one with your Scrum Master and letting them know whats going on. And, on an agile team, everyone should be able to perform multiple roles (e.g. cross functional) so you should be able to pick up other efforts like code review, test scripts, and testing (if your team performs these functions as well)

    5. only acting normal

      Are you averaging 80hrs over the 2 weeks, but front weighted? Is everyone else there struggling to finish in the 2 weeks? Or is everyone sprinting to start then coasting to a finish, and you’re just a bit ahead of the curve?

      NB I’ve never worked anywhere that actually contracted anyone for 40hr weeks (I’ve had 35, 37.5, 36, and 37), so you’re still doing longer hours than I’ve ever even been contracted for. But I understand being underemployed is a massive downer. I once spent a week blatantly shopping for Xmas presents online to see if anyone cared, no one did – I still had to get out of there because I couldn’t *stand* being so bored.

      Is there a new skill you can train on in downtime with your manager’s blessing? Maybe something that will let you diversify your work within the team ? (e.g. I wish I had some downtime to properly learn some R or Python at the moment.)

    6. Seriously?

      Talk to your manager. Tell them how much down time you have on average and ask if your team should take on additional work or if there are areas you can be trained in so that you can use that time productively or even if you can help out another team in your down time.

      1. Jules the Third

        +1 Training training training, even if it’s just shadowing team members.

        My company’s working to implement this, and one benefit is supposed to be team members picking up work from others, so that the whole team’s capacity is increased. Your manager should be able to point you to areas where you can become useful.

    7. Samiratou

      Sounds to me like the tasks you’re being assigned aren’t being estimated well and/or neither is your overall capacity.

      If the time estimates for your tasks are double what they should be, adjust the estimated hours/story points down accordingly, so that during sprint planning they can more accurately scope your work.

      If they aren’t willing to do that, or to add more work to you each sprint, have them queue up tasks in the next sprint that you can pull in to work on if you finish the rest of your work.

    8. The Ginger Ginger

      Are you telling your manager or Project manager when you have open capacity during the sprint? Or are you just talking to your team? Because Project Manager especially should be able to task you something if you’ve got down time and have finished all your other tasks. If there’s really nothing left on the committed stories for the sprint, PMO and Product should be able to decide what additional work they could give you from the back log when you’re done with work for the sprint. This of course assumes there’s a healthy and well-groomed back log to pull from. But I’d start with that.

      You should also talk to your manager about how you’re not getting enough work each sprint, and ask how they want you to handle it when you’ve finished tasks and no one needs help. I’m not sure that it’s your whole team that has an estimation problem necessarily, but they’re definitely not using you to your fullest capacity, and that should be flagged for them.

      In sprint planning, when you’re agreeing to the tasks assigned to you (I’m assuming this is happening and not that you’re just getting assigned work without your agreement) are you also offering estimates of how long you think the task will take YOU vs. whatever the initial LOE was? Does that differ frequently? How much are they loading you up capacity-wise? At the beginning of the sprint are you tasked out to 90-100% of your available capacity and still finding down time? Or are they only topping you up to say, 75% of your available hours? If they’re tasking you to full, and you’re still getting done early, I would also talk to your manager and PMO about helping you do (or get, if you’re not doing them) better estimates, because there’s definitely a disconnect happening somewhere in that process.

      1. Meyla

        Whether this is good or bad practice I’m not sure, but all our stories are groomed assuming a layman will be working on them (since about half our team is new to our products). This means that if I work on a story that I’m very familiar with, it’s sorely overestimated. We don’t estimate stories based on the individual who will be assigned to them. When the sprint starts, individuals select tickets they’d like to work on. There are sometimes a couple of stories that would be estimated appropriately for my familiarity with the product, but I tend to let other people get first dibs since overall I’m more experienced and I want the others to get familiar with anything they’re interested in.

        Our PM is aware that I tend to be idle – he uses it to his advantage since that means I’m available to help troubleshoot/supervise deployments during the day, but that might fill 3 hours of an 8 hour day. We under-estimate when loading the sprint in general because we are bottlenecked by QA resources (lost some people recently). I help with QA as much as I can, but our QA lead prefers to have QA specialists handle it since they are much more familiar with the process than I am.

        1. Blue_eyes

          If your PM knows, and you’re always available for more work as needed, then I think you’re fine. It also sounds like this may be a temporary problem – will they be replacing the people who left from QA? If this is a short term issue until QA gets back up to full capacity, then I would just keep doing what you’re now in terms of letting people know you are available to help them. And as others suggested, you may want to bring it up in a retro in case your manager or PM wants to rebalance the work load or assign you more tickets each sprint.

        2. The Ginger Ginger

          Agree. If your PM is in the loop there’s not too much else you can do at this point besides to mention it in the scrum meetings where it makes sense to do so.

          My team will sometimes task to stories as a SME (subject matter expert) so that people new to the product/project can come to them for help in a baked-in window of time. It works for us because it keeps us tracking those learning/teaching hours, and accounts for the time our experts are available to support our newbies. It also lets the newbies know they’re expected to get some assistance from our experts, so it can help them get up to speed faster. May or may not be something that your team would find helpful or even consider, but wanted to float that as something you could put time to if your PMO was into it.

    9. CAA

      Have you brought this up at the sprint retrospectives? I agree with Scrum Master that there should be more work in the sprint, but since it’s a team commitment, the team has to recognize the problem and agree on the solution. Since this is a consistent issue for you, bring it up in your next retrospective. If you don’t regularly have those, talk to your scrum master about doing one soon.

      I suspect that the root cause of this problem is that your team that has a poor balance of skill sets, so there are too many developers and too few technical writers, testers, etc; which means if you take on enough coding work to keep all developers busy then your stories can’t really get all the way to done because there’s limited capacity somewhere else in the group. Scrum was originally intended for use with groups where everybody can do every job that needs to be completed, though that’s not the way we really use it, so we tend to end up with the too-much-work vs too-little-work problem.

      Also, swapping my scrum hat for my manager hat, I bet there really is work you could be doing even if there’s nothing left on your sprint board. Have you asked your manager if there’s anything else in the office or on another team that you could take on? Even on your own, there are always new software products and new skills you can be learning, relevant industry material you can be reading, etc.

      1. Meyla

        You’re right about the root of the problem. We have a mix of new and veteran team members, and some of us aren’t as willing to wear all the hats vs stick to our niche (I am! But there’s definitely push back on that). I haven’t brought it up in retros yet since up until February I didn’t have this issue (we tended to bring too much into each sprint and we cut way back to make sure we meet everything we commit to). Also, I don’t get the impression that a lot of other people have the same problem so I don’t want to make waves about an issue that is only impacting me. I guess I could ask next week if anyone else feels the same. Maybe everyone isn’t speaking up?

        1. CAA

          It’s totally appropriate to bring it up in a retrospective and ask the team to brainstorm a solution. Even if you’re the only one with the issue, inefficient use of resources is still a problem that affects the team’s output. Maybe a few members will have an aha moment and realize that they could commit to more if they shared part of their testing or documenting work with you; or maybe the team will look for more tasks that don’t impact QA, such as internal code documentation, refactoring stuff that’s already got automated tests, unit tests, etc.

    10. (Mr.) Cajun2core

      Is it possibly that you are more efficient than your co-workers or maybe you can work at 100% longer than your co-workers? I know for me, when I have something to do, I put 100% into it, until it is done. If I am “focused” or “on a mission” (as my co-workers call it) I don’t socialize, I almost literally run people over, I seem to be zoned out, I sometimes even ignore (or barely acknowledge/respond) to routine greetings (like “Good Morning/How are you, etc.) and I am hyper-focused. Because of this, I often get things done quicker than some of my co-workers. If this is the case with you, then I wouldn’t worry about it.

      To clarify, I am not trying to brag on myself. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have different work styles. It may be that I can work at 100% for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and then totally crash and only work at 50% for Thursday and Friday. Whereas, my co-workers can work at 80% for the whole week. This may seem like I get more done quicker but it is only for smaller projects and on Thursday or Friday, I don’t get much done at all. I don’t think there is anyone who could work at 100% for 5 days straight. I know couldn’t.

      1. Meyla

        That’s definitely true for me as well. My coworkers need a lot more breaks than I do. I am excited to work on a new task and tend to put on my headphones and focus for 4 hours straight before I need to get up to pee. I don’t think either style is right or wrong, just different. I blame my long streaks of focus on 8 hour gaming sessions during college!

        1. (Mr.) Cajun2core

          I wish there was a way to indicate that you read a post and not have to say anything. Sort of like a “like” button. Though I do have to say 8 hour gaming sessions could definitely make someone hyper-focused!

    11. govt_drone

      Everyone on my team has a running list of professional/technical development things they want to achieve over the week/month/year, plus there’s always technical debt to clean up. When we have excess capacity (usually because of bottlenecks) the norm is to do something from your PD list.
      For example, I have no sprint work left to do today so I’m organizing my old code into mini presentations or blog posts that I can share around. The last time I had a day or two to kill I brushed up on my differential calculus, learned how to make animated graphs, etc.

      You might think about putting together a list of things you’d like to improve, learn, etc and pull it out when you have downtime.

    12. Starbuck

      “Only” 7 hours? That’s still pretty much a full day. Sounds like you must be salaried? I wouldn’t sweat it. I don’t have a task management set up like you, but the business of my job varies with the seasons, so some months I’m consistently working 40+ (or even 50+) hours a week, and other months I can come in late or leave early once or twice a week and no one worries about it. I don’t get paid a ton anyway, so I’m extra not worried about it. It’s not some moral failure to not work 40 hours every week.

  12. Quiet anon

    I’m having trouble with socializing/fitting in at work. Whenever they arrive in the morning, they say hello to everyone but me by name. For example “Hi Jeff!” Or ” ‘Morning Mike” and just walk right by me. Or when multiple people take off on Friday, one particular coworker will complain that the day will go slowly because no one is here & acts like I don’t exist. When the people get back in the office on Monday, they complain about how quiet it was without them and how much they miss them.

    I’m quiet, but when I do try to talk with them, they seem annoyed and brush me off to go talk to someone else- so it’s not like I’m interrupting them- they just don’t want to talk to me.

    I don’t know if it’s a vibe I’m giving off or they just decided to hate me, but it is getting harder to go to work and put on a happy face.

    Is there any way to resolve this?

    1. Lois Lane

      How long have you worked there? It may just be that this is an established office clique. Does your office do any team-building activities? Would your boss be open to that if you suggested it?

    2. Aaaaaaanon.

      How long have you been at your job? Is there a big difference in tenure between you and your colleagues? If you’re the one relatively new person, that might be part of the issue and it’ll improve with time.

      Maybe find one colleague with whom you can establish a strong one-on-one relationship, and have them help integrate you into the group?

    3. Meyla

      I had the same experience when I started my current job. Most of my teammates work from home on Friday, but I don’t like to do that so it was usually me and 1 or 2 other people in the office that day. They’d complain loudly that it was so quiet and they were all alone even though I was sitting 5 feet away. It took probably 6 months for them to realize that I have RBF but I’m otherwise harmless. It definitely hurt to not be part of the cool kids club at first, but now it’s fine.

      I do make a particular point to try to be overly inclusive when someone new joins the team, so they don’t have to be in the “outer circle” unless they choose to.

    4. Bea

      Honestly they sound cliquish and like self absorbed dicks if they really are annoyed and brush you off. That is sadly some office cultures, they just don’t bring in the newer folks readily and they suck.

      However sometimes when we’re shy and quiet, which I was very much so in my youth, sometimes we “feel” like we’re annoying or that we’re being brushed off. I have made an effort to try to shake those feelings and unless someone says “I wasn’t talking to you” or walks away when I’m talking, I assume that they’re not actually bothered by my interjections. I did this at my last place when I started working there and it was awkward and we had a couple prickly personalities that it took a minute to realize that no, they’re just resting grumpy faced and snarly SOUNDING but they loved me in the end once I warmed them up.

    5. Lumen

      I have some suggestions to try. They aren’t guaranteed to help, but they’re what I would hope a friend would tell me to do:

      Say “Hi, Bob!” to the person who normally walks right by you. Not in a passive-aggressive or pointed way. Just congenial and polite, the way they speak to Jeff and Mike. It doesn’t need any follow-up. Just make a mental note to say hello to people as you walk through the hall, whether or not they usually do the same for you.

      When your coworker complains that the day will go slowly because ‘everyone’ takes off on Friday, you have two options to try out, depending on which you’re comfortable with:
      1) “I KNOW. We should throw a mini office rave.” – Joke around, but in a “we’re in this together” way, because that may be how your coworker actually means it. It’s entirely possible they’re trying to engage you and feel less lonely when people they know better are out for the day.
      2) Some version of “What am I, chopped liver?” I wouldn’t suggest doing this if you’re feeling annoyed or hurt by the coworker, because I think that frustration will come through the sarcasm. But if you can keep it light, it may be a gentle way of pointing out that um, you aren’t invisible, and they aren’t in a ghost town.

      On Monday, when your coworker tells others that they were missed, try not to take that as personally. Maybe they just know those coworkers better and missed them. I don’t mean this to be dismissive, but they’re allowed to miss their friends at work, and that’s not really a comment on you. Or: it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to absorb that.

      And finally: I have been there. At my current job, I felt for most of the first year (and still sometimes feel) like most people don’t really like me and get annoyed if I try to talk to them. There are a lot of cliques. It’s gotten better, and I realized that a lot of them were slow to warm up and that I wasn’t making much effort (and also, my social anxiety was spiking pretty hard for my first 6 months so I WAS pretty awkward). But some people still just aren’t interested in chatting with me.

      I try to stay friendly and open-minded with people at the office, even the ones who seem brusque. Some of them have thawed towards me, just very slowly. Others don’t care. And that’s okay, because it gives me more energy to put towards my life and friendships outside of work. Even if everyone at work honestly disliked me, that doesn’t mean they’re right. Even if they HATED me, it doesn’t mean I’m hateable.

      If your coworkers are just jerks, just remember that isn’t a comment on you (not one you have to take seriously, at least) – their poor manners say more about them than you. Keep your side of the street clean and be collegial even if they aren’t, and otherwise? Don’t think about them.

      1. Eye of Sauron

        I think your suggestions are good ones. It’s easy to take things the wrong way when you’re insecure, which would be understandable if you feel like an outsider in your workplace. Including yourself in these statements will lead to the coworkers including you in the statements.

    6. Millennial Lawyer

      Going to work and putting on a happy face might improve things, actually. Why don’t you say good morning when you see them? Ask them how their day is? Give them a smile? You may be putting out a vibe that you’d like to be left alone. An alternative is they might know the other colleagues more/been to happy hour with them/connected with them and don’t have a relationship with you yet. Feel free to start forming them yourself!

    7. Not Maeby But Surely

      That would bother me, too. If I heard someone say the “No one’s here today” bit, I would respond in the moment with “Gee, thanks”, “Sweet, I guess I get the day off too then” or a similar what-am-I-chopped-liver kind of response. It will at least bring their attention to the fact that they do it. But it’s possible that the “no one” they’re referring to are their work friends, so it might not be a personal jab at you, but rather an “I miss my friends” thing. For some reason, I’d not be inclined to go the sympathetic route.

      For the greeting thing, I would just make the first move and greet them first with a cheery hello. If they purposely don’t response, then you know they are likely just jerks and to not expend any more energy caring whether they say hello or not.

      1. Louise

        This feels a little passive aggressive to me, but I tend to be a catch more flies with honey person. I’d probably hit em with an “I know right? so quiet! Would you wanna grab some coffee later?” It can be really scary and vulnerable to make the first step of inviting someone to something, but it can really be a game changer!

    8. foolofgrace

      You’d need a thick skin for this, but maybe you could try saying “Good morning, Mike” first — greet as many as possible by name. Do this for a week and see where you are at that time. I say “thick skin” because at first people might not respond as you’d hope, and that might just continue, and you’d have to continue to reach out. It’s probably not personal, just an office clique that doesn’t quite know how to reach out to the new guy.

    9. OhBehave

      This sounds like a concerted effort to alienate you. I’m wondering if you replaced a beloved coworker or it’s just a toxic workplace.
      I would definitely say (to the rude person who claims no one is there), I’m here. Want some coffee/lunch?
      Do you say hello to everyone when you arrive? If they continue to ignore you, just say Good Morning as if they didn’t ignore.
      If you have a supervisor, assuming they aren’t doing the same things, I would ask in a casual manner how long it takes to assimilate!
      I hope you can get to the bottom of things. It would bug the heck out of me. Please update us!

    10. Reader

      I have no real advice but a lot of sympathy.

      This post + the cemetery reader + nosy coworkers posts sums up why I’m sick and tired of working in office environments. Surely this sort of thing can happen in different work environments, but it seems like a definite by-product of the “boredom” and inevitable downtime that comes from office work, in my experience. It took me a long time (and the firing of a lot of cliquey coworkers which was a lucky break) for me to meet like-minded colleagues with whom I could develop a friendly rapport. Unfortunately, most of these friendly co-workers have moved on and it feels like I’m back to square one.

      I’m desperately looking for a realistic job (i.e. not manual labour which I can’t do) where I don’t have to deal with this. Working remotely would be a dream for me.

      1. Quiet anon

        +1000000!!! Same here! I envy people who can work from home or remotely! The offices that I have worked in have so much drama and gossip- it makes me uncomfortable, but some people thrive on all of that. Plus there are a lot of “stronger” personalities that bully those they deem weaker than them. It’s like “Hunger Games:Office Edition.” Right now I’m just grateful for the paycheck and insurance, but wish I could find someplace more peaceful/less dramatic.

  13. Nervous Accountant

    In this week’s episode of WTFery–

    so a lot of clients request reassignments. usually it’s b/c they feel the current accountant isn’t as responsive or personality clash. w/e, nbd.

    on occasion, we get the clients (male and female) who say they want a female accountant, or someone with no accent. I posted about the former on here and got some good insight on that…..a crazy one was where there was the client who thought the accountant was flirting w/ her husband.

    this tops that (IMO).

    Sales team reaches out and says a new client wants someone Christian like themselves. The accountant he was already assigned to and hadn’t even spoken to yet was Muslim.

    After seeing red for a bit, I calmed down and told the salesperson while we can accommodate this one time…. but we can’t do this on a regular basis. I also said that I wasn’t sure what level of Christianity the new accountant followed that the client would be comfortable with. (not sure if anyone could pick up on that sarcasm?).

    Do yall know how icky that is??? We’re a very casual office and joke around A LOT….but this was too much for me. If I was in a higher position I SO WISH i could have just fired the client and reamed out the sales guy for even making that request. (maybe it’s good that I”m not at that level??).

    Salesguy and I had a quick back and forth and to his credit, he did seem to feel bad about making that request so hopefully this was just a one-off thing.

    1. ExcelJedi

      That’s so squicky. No one in my company even knows my religion, and I’d probably outright tell them it was an inappropriate conversation if asked. If a client asked, I’d (probably) be nicer about redirecting, but there’s no way I’d tell them.

      Also, how did they know the accountant was Muslim? Did the salesperson tell them? Or was it just an assumption based on a name or picture or something?

      1. Nervous Accountant

        They get an email w the persons name etc. He had a Muslim name.

        Issues w identifying as one religion or another aside….I’ve openly told my mgr that the day someone says they refuse to work w me solely bc of my religion, all hell willbrrwk loose.

        1. LKW

          I think you mean he had a typically Middle Eastern name, because with a few exceptions, most names aren’t indicators of religion. That’s probably a good reminder to your sales person. I know Jewish people with the last name Gentile. There are Christians all over the world with the last name Chan or El Bar or Smith.

          1. JHunz

            Well, there is one particular first name that’s extremely common among Muslims and not at all otherwise…

          2. Nervous Accountant

            I’m not sure what you mean. He’s not middle eastern. I know the person and I know they are Muslim and he has a name that definitely was not “Christian” according to the client.

          3. Plague of frogs

            In India (I’m told) you can determine someone’s religion by their name. If they convert, they will often change their names.

            I seriously doubt this prejudiced shitbag of a client is aware of that, but I just thought I would bring it up.

        2. Student

          So why will all hell break loose when somebody does it to YOU, but not when somebody does it to your employee?

          1. Nervous Accountant

            He’s my peer not my employee. And I did do my best to shut it down in whatever capacity I could.

            And the raise hell was supposed to be tongue in cheek… my apologies.

    2. Al who is that Al

      Oops, replied to wrong person – Say you only have Pagans or Buddhists currently available !

    3. Lily

      A script the sales team could use with the client could be, “We want to do everything we can to make you comfortable — but we certainly don’t want to get you or us in legal hot water here, since [sex/race/religion] is a federally-protected class. Let’s talk about what your biggest priorities are here [responsiveness to emails, familiarity with certain area of accounting, etc.] and make sure we find someone who’s a good fit for that.”

      1. Lefty

        This is a great script for a situation that makes me want to use an arsenal of four letter words.

      2. You're Not My Supervisor

        But isn’t gender a protected class? That would mean they couldn’t make accommodations based on gender either. Not that I think they should/shouldn’t… just saying the script changes things for them…

        1. Nervous Accountant

          We’ll thats interesting. A while back I asked why people want to work w female accountants only and I got some good insight. IME only it’s been for not so good reasons and I wish we could do away w that as well but what the client wants the client gets…..

          1. Jules the Third

            If the client wants you to hide income, do they get that? No, of course not, it’s illegal!

            So is assigning work based on gender or religion.

            1. ronda

              it is illegal for the employer to discriminate. it is not illegal for the customer to decide who they want to work with.

              1. Jules the Third

                Nervous Accountant’s company chose to not assign work to someone because he is Muslim. That looks illegal to me.

                The customer can request whatever they want; if it’s illegal, the company has the responsibility to not support their illegal request.

    4. Bea

      I would make it a practice to tell that kind of person that we do not have the means to accommodate them, since we do not ask our staff’s religious affiliations and it’s a private matter all together.

      They are welcome to go find an All White Man Accounting Firm if they’re sooooooooooo put out but at some point you cannot cater to these bigoted jerks. Seriously, call up your church’s CPA, bro!

      1. Turtle of Flames

        Tell them that because religion is considered a private matter for all employees, you don’t know who is or is not Christian, so they will get a randomly assigned but competent accountant.

      2. LKW

        This. Name rarely indicates religion. I’ll give a nod to folks with the first name Jesus, Christian or Christina or Christopher as well as those named Mohammed though.

        1. Student

          A name is (possibly) a reflection of their parents’ faith. It doesn’t mean the person with the name is actually a member of that faith.

        2. Who the eff is Hank?

          My husband and I considered the name Christian as a baby name, and we are not of the Christian faith. We just like how the name sounds.

        3. Mephyle

          A famous example is filmmaker Norman Jewison who is, in fact gentile, Protestant Christian to be specific. His father was of English and Ulster-Scots/Northern Irish background, and the surname is not actually Jewish.

      3. Not So NewReader

        Yep. This. Churches do publish booklets of Christian owned businesses. While it’s not anything I have ever felt a need for, I do see that some people use a shared belief system as a way of filtering people. Just my opinion, but the people who do this can be uncertain or worried for a number of reasons. I mean these might be people LOADED with worry. They think that if they find someone of a shared faith that will help them to worry less. (Actually what they need is someone who is good at their job. I can be the best Church Person ever and still be bad at my job.)

        Just tell them that you are sorry but matching up people by faith is not a service you can provide. Then move on to say that each of your staff have qualifications x, y and z. Tell them that the best you can do is assure them that the person assigned to them is well qualified and will do a thorough job.

        1. Kuododi

          Ironically, the worst experiences DH and I have had over the years has been from business persons who were quick to identify themselves as “Christian business owners.”. At best the quality of the work was ghastly, at worst we’ve been outright hustled!!!

    5. Millennial Lawyer

      I know what you already said can’t be changed (unless it can) but this never should have been accommodated. Your company has now involved itself in giving a Christian employee an opportunity meant for a Muslim employee purely on the basis of religion. I don’t know the full legality of it but this is NOT something you want to be involved in doing. Kindly tell the client you can not accommodate that request.

      1. LouiseM

        +1. This Muslim accountant is being discriminated against on the basis of his faith…not by the client, who sounds like an ass, but by the company. Full stop. This needs to end!

      2. Nervous Accountant

        I know, I feel like it should never have even reached us at all, it should have stopped at the salesperson.

      3. fposte

        Yeah, the feds are pretty clear that accommodating client preference isn’t sufficient justification. Accounting firm did a dumb.

          1. Millennial Lawyer

            The article is just analyzing a theory of how best to tackle customer discrimination – I don’t think it disproves what you said.

    6. Making Me Think Too Hard on Friday

      I could maybe see this being not horrible if the client was a religious institution and even then it is a stretch. While reading this though I found what bugs me is that it is someone Christian asking for a Christian but if it were reversed and a Muslim was requesting another Muslim I wouldn’t have any issues with that. I’m not really sure why though…
      For the record I identify as Christian even though I am not particularly religious.

      1. Jules the Third

        Because of ‘punch down’ – xtians are dominant in the culture.

        It’s actually very wrong in both cases, and possibly illegal. Religion is a protected class.

      2. Nervous Accountant

        The client worked at a church and that’s y he wanted someone “like himself.”

        1. Plague of frogs

          In that case, tell him you can’t accommodate him because you don’t employ assholes.

        2. Bea W

          I almost feel like that’s even worse. The client isn’t even owning his bigotry. He’s explaining why his request is okay. No! It’s still not okay. No one at my church would think this is okay. This just doubles my horror and disgust. FFS!

    7. The Opening Act

      Why on earth did you accommodate this, even once?! Is this even legal? Your company is now assigning work on the basis of religion, which seems like a discrimination case waiting to happen! I’m not in the US so not entirely sure if the legal situation, but it seems dangerous to me.

      This should have been shut down the first time it was raised, and hard!

      1. Nervous Accountant

        I don’t know about the legalities. I’m not a lawyer. I was plenty outraged about this. But someone mentioned above about opportunities-that’s not the case here. I mean 1 client goes away, there’s more in its place so the original guy is hardly going to suffer from lack of opportunities. Almost everyone just laughed it off as “what a nut job” so idk. Our salespeople tend to do this a lot and are run by another Dept so as much as we want to fight back it’s generally a pick your battles situation.

    8. mrs_helm

      This won’t be popular, but what if New Client (NC) had a reason? Like, they want to do financial planning and have a lot of goals that revolve around church/tithing/missions. Their last accountant was aggressively anti-Christian, and really critical of those goals, and that’s the whole reason they are moving to a new accountant.

      We’re all over here *assuming* this client was prejudiced against the Muslim, and that’s possible…but we don’t KNOW that’s the case.

      1. Jules the Third

        Even if their last accountant was that unprofessional, they are applying that unprofessionalism to a new accountant based solely on the religious differences.

        That’s actually the definition of prejudice.

        1. mrs_helm

          So, what could a client who wants to avoid that previous issue do differently? Send a prescreening survey asking if the accountant has experience with, and can be positive in their support of, x,y, and z endeavors?

          1. Nervous Accountant

            Well, clients can (and do) always ask “do you have experience in X Y Z?” And we accommodate them.

      2. Nervous Accountant

        I am not sure what you mean. Previous accountant who has a non-Christian sounding name? If that’s who you mean, he never actually got to work w the client.

    9. Jules the Third

      Nervous Accountant, I think you really messed up here. This sounds like illegal discrimination against your Muslim employee. I think you need to make sure your sales team understands the legal implications of these requests, and that you, or someone, coaches them through ‘No You May Not Discriminate Here’ responses.

      Also, I’ve missed some of the prior posts, but if you are allowing people to choose the gender or accent of their accountant, that sounds pretty illegal too. Even if they’re preferring female accountants. The protected class laws don’t take into account society’s gender power structure, they just say you can’t discriminate based on gender.

      I understand that you, personally, are seeing red at having to deal with the bigots, but if you’re the one saying ‘yes we can do that’, even once – you’re right in the targets of a complaint or lawsuit. You need to get a ‘Hey boss, we get asked to discriminate, here’s the legal, non-discriminatory way I handle that, and here’s my suggestions for the sales team responses when they get the request’ email up your chain, asap.

      1. Arjay

        I don’t think this is illegal discrimination. It doesn’t seem any different than someone requesting a female massage therapist. It’s rough out there for male massage therapists because both male and female clients often prefer female therapists. It might be unfair, but I don’t see where it’s illegal.

        1. WonderingHowIGotHere

          I think the gender thing is different to the religious thing though. I’ve (to my own health detriment) cancelled cervical smear appointments when the surgery couldn’t guarantee a female gynacologist covering for vacations. I would get into a panic at the thought of a male (fully qualified and professional) gynacologist anywhere near me in this vunerable condition because of reasons.
          But if my nurse was Christian, Buddist, Muslim, or worshiped the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it wouldn’t matter because that has no bearing on my reasons, and I cannot see any other reasons beyond simple prejudice for it to be considered.

      2. Not So NewReader

        The only exception I can think of here is if a person had a hearing impairment and honestly could not understand a person with an accent. I am fine in person, but over the phone it is hard for me to understand accents. I have a slight hearing impairment which combined with the crappy phone service makes it so that I get maybe every 5th or 6th word. I would think that other people with a real hearing loss could have a harder time in person. In a case like this it’s just two people who are not a good match up for practical purposes.

        NA, FWIW, I think you handled the situation fine. You had an unfamiliar situation. I don’t think your bosses train or guide you as well as they could. You limited your decision to this ONE time. That was a smart move. Then you decided to ask here what to do. Yet another good move. I have made similar decisions, when we are in the moment we have seconds to figure out what to do. A good move is to say, that you will do it once. Going forward you can say, “Well, I said I would do it once because I wanted to check into proper procedure. I checked. I can’t do that again.” If the same customer ever asks again, you can add, “Please don’t ask me to do that again, because I can’t and I won’t.”

        1. Pina Colada

          My comment posted below, but it was in reply to Not So New Reader

          I don’t see how religion implies having or not having an accent though. Is the assumption that Christian=English speaking? There are certainly many English-speaking people of non-Christian faiths, and many non-English speaking Christians, and every variety in between. Language=/=religion=/=culture=/=race

          1. Not So NewReader

            Whoops sorry that could have been clearer.I was agreeing with Jules with the very limited exception of someone with a hearing impairment, where they honestly could not understand what was being said.

      3. Nervous Accountant

        I don’t consider it that i am allowing anyone to do anything of the sort…I have absolutely -0- standing to control or train the sales team.. it’s a totally separate dept run by separate set of people and my mgr & boss reports to their boss (VP) . The best I can do is state my opinion, and hope that it gets through to someone and know how to act going forward. That dept does a whole bunch of other things that are just sleazy or plain weird.

        1. Jules the Third

          “I … told the salesperson while we can accommodate this one time”. That means you have some kind of standing in this decision, and that means you are at risk if someone takes this to the EEOC.

          I would cover my legal a** real fast with this, personally, with a strongly worded email to my manager at least. Those come across better if you provide some strategies for dealing with the concern.

          And you’ve been here on AAM long enough to know some basic legalities – you can’t not assign someone work based on their religion or gender. Any work = opportunity. If you’ve been assigning accounts based on gender for a while, that’s a *pattern* of discrimination.

          You are hiding from the full implications with ‘I don’t know about legalities’ and ‘I don’t know that they lost opportunities’, please stop and think this one through. We know your heart is in the right place, but you need to do some CYA actions, which may incidentally also help your company get its actions in the right place.

          Just because the customers are jerks doesn’t mean that your company is legally allowed to accommodate their jerkness.

          1. Nervous Accountant

            I did send mgr a strong email.

            What I meant by no lost opportunities is that the volume of work is SO high, 1 client goes there’s 2 more in its place. So no one really *feels* that a client is lost.

            But I c what ur saying. Thanks

    10. Arjay

      I agree with the squick factor, but there are people/programs that tie Christianity and budgeting together. I can see a client who follows one of those philosophies feeling like they want an accountant who would understand that mindset personally. I don’t think this is the way to do that but it could be oinforming the request.

    11. Nervous Accountant

      pls dont get me wrong, i’m not defending what happened or minimize it any way. There’s a reason it felt so messed up to me. Maybe I just have a limited view as to what I could possibly do or have done.

      In the past I’ve been the recipient (if someone wanted a female accountant, they all came to me) so I couldn’t push back against that. I’m still brand new to *this* particular thing.

      There were rare incidents in the past (way before I started) where the mgr said “Ok client we are firing you b/c we don’t discriminate.”…in my view they were those who wouldn’t get fired at the drop of a hat. I guess I still hold on to that fear despite getting more and more responsibilities and growing, so I just really don’t want to mess anything up.

    12. Drama Llama

      Oh my. I would have told them we don’t have knowledge of staff’s private religious beliefs, so we will not be able to accommodate that. And if he doesn’t like it presumably he can go find another company to take his business.

  14. Lil Fidget

    I have been beating myself up all week for not being more productive. Today I sat down to read something I’ve been meaning to get to for two weeks. Well, I never made it more than ten minutes before somebody came by to disrupt me. Either people talking loudly nearby, or someone actually coming to my desk to bug me about something. No wonder I never get anything done.

    I hate our open office with the power of a thousand suns – I feel like I can never get to deep concentration, I’m always sort of on alert mode, skimming lightly while waiting for the next thing that’s about to come up.

    1. Quaggaquagga

      “I’m always sort of on alert mode.” Huh, I also work (and dislike working) in an open office and haven’t really been fully conscious of the fact that yes, I am constantly waiting for the next thing to interrupt my day. Open offices really are the worst!

    2. KR

      Same. There’s only three people in my office but one of them is so loud. I would kill for my own office.

    3. Snickerdoodle

      Can you wear headphones? My earbuds are a godsend (e.g. right now, when my cube neighbor is in the middle of a drama-filled personal call). We also have signage posted here and there reminding people to be quiet since people are working, and cube etiquette gets addressed from time to time in division meetings. At my old job, I had to tell people to shut up because I couldn’t hear people on the phone when they were bellowing two feet from my desk. Happily, that’s rarely a problem here, but asking people directly to keep it down is probably your only safe bet. You could also take a quick break and then come back when they’ve dispersed.

      Whenever I have a high-priority project that can’t be interrupted, I shove a chair in my cubicle entrance with a sign that says NO. Can you do something like that?

      1. Lil Fidget

        I do use headphones to drown out nearby chatter when I’m working on something mindless, but I have a difficult time doing something that requires deep concentration (like reading this in depth report) while listening to music, and my headphones do eventually give me a headache. I haven’t tried the serious sound cancelling ones, that might be the way to go.

        1. Bowl of Oranges

          Have you tried listening to white noise or music specifically geared towards concentration? There are a TON of videos on Youtube if you search for “music for concentration” – those help me a lot. They aren’t distracting, but really help drown out outside noises.

        2. Thlayli

          Have you tried earplugs? We have a lot of loud machinery onsite so we have boxes of earplugs and they are great for concentration. But you can just buy them in pharmacies or online too

      2. leukothea

        When I need to concentrate in my open-office concept mini-cubicle, I listen to pop music in languages I can’t understand. The high-energy peppy music helps drown out whatever else is going on around me, but I can’t understand a single thing they’re singing about so I don’t get sucked into the songs. Pandora has a great selection of Korean pop music.

    4. Your Tax Dollars at Work

      Open office plans are THE WORST! Ours isn’t even cubicles, just desks in a big room and we can’t wear headphones. I don’t have any advice for you, just…good luck my friend.

    5. A. Schuyler

      To add some balance, I’ve only worked in an open office and I don’t have these complaints. Our team wouldn’t be nearly as productive if we couldn’t just spin around to discuss or collaborate. If anything, I’d prefer to be in one of the activity based offices with lots of different types of unallocated desks, where I can choose the best way to work on any given task.

    6. Runner

      My office actually has cubes, and even some have slide doors, but it’s still wide open with nothing running to the ceiling, you can hear everyone within whatever your normal earshot accomodates (50 yards in all directions?). The guy in the cube next to me nervously bounces his leg loudly for hours on end. Drives everyone up the wall. It’s like working next to an oblivious preteen.

  15. Naptime Enthusiast

    I’m traveling business class for an international work trip with people that are not in my work group – they are the business and logistics side, I’m the technical expert. We leave Saturday, arrive Sunday, and start working Monday morning. How comfortably can I dress getting on the plane without looking out of place? If I were traveling coach or by myself, I would be in stretchy pants and sneakers.

    If it makes a difference, the site we’re travelling to is a business casual manufacturing shop so it will be dress pants and safety shoes during the day, but casual attire after working hours.

    1. Triumphant Fox

      This depends on your gender, I think. For women, I’d recommend a comfortable knit dress, leggings and comfortable shoes (do you have less sneaker-like sneakers? All black or more muted tend to blend in). If you were in all black, you’d look dressier and can get away with more. I also bring scarves along for layering and to dress things up without being uncomfortable. As long as you’re not in straight-up workout gear, you wouldn’t be out of place to me, but I’ve been wearing tennis shoes every day of my pregnancy to save my feet and not really caring if they go with my outfit…so my rules may have become more lax recently.
      For men, I think stretchy pants and sneakers would be too casual. You’d be good in a polo (since those seem nicer but also comfortable) and khakis or some other pant that can be comfortable but still look less like workout gear. You could probably get away with most footwear except sandals/flip flops.

        1. Bea W

          You absolutely do not! I even ended up in that really posh super exclusive British Airways First once. No one expects you to wear a dress to business class. You spend most of the time curled up under your complementary blanket anyhow. You could be naked at that point, and no one would know (Just don’t remove the blanket!).

      1. AcademiaNut

        I travel long haul for work regularly. My travel outfit (literally – I wear it only for long flights), is a pair of very comfortable linen blend slacks with a relaxed waistband and cloth tie, a short sleeved tunic style top which goes past my butt, and a pair of long socks. If you get cold easily, add a wrap of some sort. I wear comfortable shoes – I’m not running around an airport in dress shoes – but change into cloth slippers on the plane.

        This is respectable enough to not cause issues in airports and comfortable enough to sleep in in economy class, without worrying about exposing myself. The long socks are to keep my lower legs warm while sleeping. It also packs up small and is machine washable.

        I never wear dresses for work, and won’t wear anything that doesn’t have pockets to put tissues in.

    2. Still Looking

      For a flight where you will not be going straight to the job on arrival I dress comfortably in casual attire. I will often layer my tops because it could be hot or cold or anything in between on the plane. For an overnight international flight I wear something I can sleep comfortably in that is not pajamas and suitable for day wear. I’ve flown international business class, and dress on overnight flights, especially weekends is mostly casual. Some people may be dressed up, but they are likely meeting business associates on arrival. You will even see these people slip their shoes off and put on the complementary plane socks over their existing socks. That way they can rest comfortably without the fancy shoes while keeping their dress socks clean.

      Dress code in business really isn’t different from what you see in coach. What you normally wear there is fine.

    3. Parenthetically

      I’ve spent plenty of time in business class lounges and I see loads of women in leggings and sneakers — nice ones, but still. Long tunic, nice leggings, comfy flats, nice scarf, sunglasses, oversized purse, attitude of insouciance.

    4. pat benetardis

      I’m a woman who flies international business class with coworkers/colleagues a few times a year. If i don’t have to do business when I land (and I’m flying overnight from US to EU) I wear yoga pants and sneakers or other comfortable slip on shoes. I usually wear something flowy and comfortable on top. Because basically, I’m going to be trying to sleep. So I’m going to try to be as comfortable as possible. And I do not stick out as being underdressed.

    5. Eye of Sauron

      Yep it depends on the plans when you get there, but if it’s a Red Eye flight then I would err on the side of comfortable. Stretch pants would be fine, but I’d stay away from the ones that say ‘Juicy’ across the backside :) And just make sure that you stay in the comfortable but not slobby realm because of the coworker factor.

      Business or first class doesn’t have a dress code, so I wouldn’t really worry about that aspect. I don’t dress any different because of my seat. (Yesterday flew FC home and wore jeans, t-shirt, sweater, and birkenstocks )

    6. Naptime Enthusiast

      I am female, I’m also at least 5 years younger than everyone else on the trip. It doesn’t sound like a lot now that I type it out, so maybe I’m reading into that too much. It’s a red eye so yes I will definitely try and sleep! Thanks all :)

      1. Thlayli

        They might actually give you free pyjamas in business class – they did when I flew overnight. I always wear comfy clothes for travelling unless it’s a short hop.

    1. KatieKate

      Wow, they were far more kind to the MLM scams than I would have been. There was one mention of “oh you can only make money if you recruit people” but overall it made them seem like a genuine employment possibility. Not a fan

      1. Lady Jay

        I read this article today. I was struck by the woman who left her high level management position to run her MLM, because she was making more money that way. Sure, you’re making more money *now,* but what happens when you want to advance? Or take a step forward in your career? She’s deadending herself!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago

          So, I’m actually friends with that woman. And she recently accepted a high level management position with a different MLM company. I don’t think it was mentioned in the article, but a big part of her decision to do that was to be at home with her son.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago

                  I actually posted a thing on her wall the other day about her vacation souvenirs.

                  Feel free to PM me on there if you want :)

          1. Lady Jay

            Cool. I guess that makes sense. Personal life situations (e.g. staying home with one’s child) can make what seems like a bad decision from the outside be a genuinely good decision. Awesome that she’s doing well!

        2. Nico M

          MLMs are evil.

          If she prospers, it’s only at someone elses cost .

          I’d have more respect for a drug dealer.

      2. H

        I read this earlier this week and found it very forgiving, too.

        I found this article lacking ANY mention of essential oil MLMs which seem to be A Thing unto themselves, at least among my high school graduating class (we’re all 30 now).

          1. JustaTech

            MLM scam and medical nonsense scam all rolled into one! Two terrible things that taste terrible together! (Essential oils can smell nice, but they are not medicine and can make people sick.)

      3. Reba

        I mean, “mass hoax” is in the title, but then they use the phrase “join the workforce”!

        I appreciated the closing quote. Big picture but empathetic.

        1. JustaTech

          Here’s another thing that this article didn’t address but is a big issue with MLM’s: they don’t count towards your Social Security. But you do have to pay taxes on your earnings.

          A friend of mine did Mary Kay (for about 2 months) and at her big “first party” the lady 2 levels up tried to convince us that if we lived in a studio we could write off all our rent on our taxes as a business expense because our apartment would be our office. The actual tax professional in the room told us (after Mary Kay lady left) that is the kind of claim that gets you audited something fierce.

    2. stej

      Every article on MLMs is the same story with different names, and it always makes me feel so sad.

    3. EmilyAnn

      I have very strong feelings about MLMs and I think that article is one of the best ever written about them. As a logical person, I couldn’t really understand why people who are so well informed about the odds of being successful continued to sign up to do these things. The community aspect that the article explained in depth helped me understand the value of belonging to one of those ventures.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago

        I’m actually also friends with the person who wrote the article and she spent 2 years working on this piece.