it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news!

1.  “For nine years I worked for a large nonprofit with a good team but a not so good upper management. I moved into a new home slightly further away and started job hunting to make my commute better. Nothing panned out. My manager left, new manager asked me to go from working 30 hours per week with work from home privileges to a full 5 days a week in the office. I negotiated a 30% raise and bump in title. Two months later and the pandemic sent us working from home for 6 months. New manager only lasted a year, but I managed to crush a few projects during all of the above. CEO offered me a promotion to lead the team and I negotiated a 68% raise.

My plan was to survive one year with my difficult CEO and then to get something else. This site really helped me hold up in a toxic environment. I also used the interview tips. I wanted something closer to home without taking a pay cut. Took a little longer than a year, but last December I started working in C-Level management for an even larger nonprofit – only 10 minutes from my house, with flexibility to work from home whenever I chose, a great team, and 35% raise. In four years my salary has gone up 203%!!!

I want to add a little more nuance to those fellow working mothers out there. I wanted to work part time when my kids were young. I was very, very lucky to finish an MBA while pregnant and was hired into a part-time position. Pay sucked, but I was able to grow the role and 13 years later I have a great job. Looking back, I am glad I stuck with working even when I wondered if it was worth the expense of daycare. ”

2.  “I’ve been reading Ask a Manager for years now and I finally have some good news to share! I began a letter a few years ago when I was going through a really uncomfortable hiring process with my former intern placement, where the manager ultimately refused to hire me because my husband worked there too (me interning was apparently fine). I was very upset because the interview felt very perfunctory up until they asked me, ‘What if you get divorced?’ It dragged on for months until I got another job, at which point they told me they were never going to hire me because he worked there. Could have saved me months of stress and told me that when I submitted my application!

Anyway, my good news is that I am leaving the backup job years later to join my husband’s new workplace. I realize it isn’t ideal that we are in the same very narrow specialized niche, but this workplace addressed the relationship and expressed their trust in us as professionals right from the start, and then focused the hiring process on my actual qualifications. I am so excited to get back to my preferred practice area, with management that will address awkward issues head-on. And I used your ‘magic question’ at the end of my interviews (because I had very few actual questions, given my inside scoop on the workplace) and got great insight into the interviewers’ goals for the organization and my position. They loved answering it! Thank you for the resources, amusement and much-needed perspective that you provide here.”

3.  “I was laid off in August last year due to the company going into liquidation. I had a recruiter get in touch with a role that was similar to what I’d been doing but in an adjacent industry (for clarity: I’d been working as a project accountant in property development and the role was finance manager in construction). I interviewed and wanted the role. BADLY. Given I’d been laid off, I was desperate in more ways than one, so didn’t negotiate at all on salary which obviously was silly; negotiating on salary when we literally work to get paid wasn’t going to cause them to rescind the offer! But anyway, I started in September and it’s been everything I was hoping for, plus more.

The company recently changed the performance review process so that while performance reviews still occur on applicable anniversaries, remuneration reviews are all aligned for July. Initially, it was inferred I’d miss out on any review of remuneration because I hadn’t been there 12 months yet. As it was, I did get a raise, but not as much as I’d been hoping for. So, I dived into the archives of AAM and drafted a case study to support my reasons for deserving more. A meeting was booked to discuss it which worried me a little because I struggle to verbalize/remember my points when in the moment, without reading directly from the document (which I fear makes me sound robotic/unprofessional). As it turned out, we had an issue come up that needed prompt attention so the meeting was brief. I told my boss I had my support for a higher raise written down and given we were limited on time, I could just email that to her to address in her own time and come back to me. She agreed this was a fantastic idea.

Along with my reasons, I named a figure that was a 14.5% increase on my starting salary. The original increase offered was 4.7% , and I was expecting that they’d negotiate down to the middle, or a 9.5% increase.

My boss was so impressed with my case study support that there was no negotiation. They agreed to my named figure. I also got an email thanking me for taking the time to provide concise, quantifiable support and how it really made clear the value I add to the company. I also found out from the people and culture manager afterwards that management want anyone who wants to negotiate an increase higher than that offered to do a case study just like mine to support their request.

It’s made a substantial difference in these tough economic times and makes me even more motivated to do well here, since I now have proof they will recognize the effort.”

open thread – September 22-23, 2023

It’s the Friday open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on any work-related questions that you want to talk about (that includes school). If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to take your questions to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

manager only invited half of us to a party, telling a sick employee to find their own coverage, and more

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

1. Can I tell an employee who calls in sick at the last minute to find their own coverage?

I know that you always advocate for the employer to find coverage when an employee is sick. But what about when it’s always at the last second?

I own a cafe and people have to be there at 6:30 in the morning. When people text me the night before that they are not feeling well, I have no problem calling around to see if anyone can cover it. I’m talking about when people call at 6:25 in the morning to tell me that they don’t feel well, and should they still come in if they’re throwing up/have a fever? (Magic words in the food service industry.) My opinion is, if you’re calling me at 6:25 in the morning, you knew that you were sick for quite some time, and you’re probably just lying in bed thinking, “Ugh, I don’t want to get up.” So now I have to continue doing my job, plus your job. I don’t have time to call six people to see if they can cover for you. Can I tell people that’s their responsibility?

No, you should not. It’s not reasonable to expect someone who’s sick and probably needs to go back to bed to start making phone calls. Moreover, finding coverage is work! I realize it’s common in food service to treat it as if it’s not and to expect people to do that labor unpaid, but any time someone is spending their time in service of their employer and engaging in action they wouldn’t be taking otherwise, that’s actual work and they should be compensated for it. And in this case, your employee is too sick to do that work and so it falls to you or someone you designate to take on that task instead.

That said, you can certainly ask people to alert you as early as possible if they’re sick. They might be waiting until just before 6:30 because they don’t think you’d want to be contacted at, say, 5 am … so ask them to text as early as they know they won’t be coming in, in case they haven’t thought that part of it through.

2. My manager invited half of us to a party at her house and excluded the rest of us

My supervisor invited two employees to a party at her house this weekend. I overheard (it’s important that I overheard) her invite one, and I texted my other coworkers to ask if they thought that was appropriate (to legitimately get a gut check). That’s when I found out she’d also invited another coworker.

One of the invited coworkers told her I was upset and that I felt it was inappropriate. So I was called to my great-grandboss’s office to “clear the air.”

The meeting determined that she’s allowed to invite some of her direct reports to her house for a party and not all of them. Out of four employees, she invited two and excluded two, and my leadership thinks that’s fine and said we can’t do anything about it because it’s a private event.

Further, my boss stated that I was causing toxicity by asking my coworkers about this. So: the supervisor who is showing favoritism isn’t causing the toxic environment, but the employee who asks about it is? Is this as nuts as I think it is?

Yes, this is wildly off-base. You are right and they are wrong.

Managers have a professional obligation not to show obvious social favoritism, like by inviting half their employees to a party at their house and excluding the others (also by not vacationing with an employee, dating an employee, having sleepovers with an employee, and on and on). People who don’t want that restriction on their social relationships at work shouldn’t accept management roles.

Your employer is 100% wrong that they can’t do anything about it because it’s a private event; they have the authority and the standing to tell a manager in their employ that she cannot show this sort of favoritism and still remain a manager there. The fact that they’re unwilling to is deeply problematic … and the fact that they’re blaming you for raising it is even more so.

3. Therapists and work advice

I, like many professionals, suffer from a mental illness. It’s well controlled with medication and therapy. Still, tough times at work exacerbate it, and I have often found myself discussing work issues with my therapist.

I’m sure the work advice my past therapists have given is what they think will be best for my mental health … but I’m not sure they’ve always understood the professional ramifications of their recommendations. It sucks to say it, but sometimes a temporary, limited sacrifice in one area of life (like a mild knock to my mental health during a stint with a bad boss or company) might set me up for long-term benefits that are worth it to me (a stable, decently paid, and fulfilling career path). It might make me feel better to pour my heart out to my boss and coworkers when I’m struggling — until I got fired for crossing professional boundaries! Then I would feel a lot worse than before. I would rather understand the trade-offs up-front so I can own the outcome, whatever I choose.

It’s awesome that we’re seeing a societal shift away from stigmatizing mental illness and are more willing to believe someone struggling with mental health can be a productive, even high-performing employee. But sometimes I worry that many therapists don’t fully understand that 1) that shift still hasn’t reached a lot of people, 2) some people will exploit any sign of “weakness” to get ahead, and 3) the contractual relationships and power dynamics in a business environment mean that you can’t or shouldn’t deal with your colleagues the way you should with your friends and loved ones. I wonder if therapists themselves have a unique working environment that might color their responses.

I’m not suggesting people shouldn’t seek out therapy if they need it! It’s been a huge help in my life. But are there common pieces of work advice that you hear from some therapists that you wish came with a few more your-mileage-may-vary qualifiers?

Oh yes. Some therapists give advice for handling things at work that might be great in non-work relationships without accounting for the dynamics in professional ones (and which in some cases could cause real professional harm). That’s not true of all therapists by any means, but when it does happen, the two big categories seem to be: (1) trying to destigmatize mental health issues without accounting for the level of medical privacy that’s appropriate at work, or not accounting for the reality that sharing mental health challenges can have professional ramifications (it shouldn’t! but it still does, far too often) and (2) not fully understanding the power dynamics and political realities of many workplaces, possibly because their own work environments are very different from the ones their patients are in.

Some examples that comes to mind from letters here: the therapist who told a patient to start highlighting issues with their work that their boss wasn’t concerned about in order to “break the silence” around imposter syndrome (including things like responding to being called a “perfect employee” with “I don’t feel perfect because of the issue with my work from last Thursday”). In the comments on that letter, we also heard about a therapist who “suggested simple conversations without acknowledging that politics could exist and those conversations weren’t as simple as she maintained” … and someone else reported, “It’s nice that my therapist thinks I so special that my employer should let me work three days a week if I want to, but she has no idea whether it’s a reasonable request.” Those are pretty typical of what we hear about when we hear about bad work advice from therapists.

4. Contacting a hiring manager directly to get around an automated requirement

My stepdaughter will finish her master’s program in December and is currently applying to full-time jobs for once she graduates. However, she’s been blocked from applying to her “dream job” and wants to contact a manager in the company directly in order to avoid using their hiring portal.

Here’s what happened: earlier this year, she applied to an internship with Big Multinational Company and had to take a logic test as part of their application process. However, she failed the logic test. When she tried to reapply and attempt the test again, she received an automated message that because she failed the test, she cannot reapply for any roles with them for 12 months. Now, after a successful internship with a different company, she’s found a full-time role that she would be perfect for with BMC — but her application was blocked, again, due to the failed logic test.

She considers that she’s gained significant new knowledge and experience from her current internship, so she deserves another chance. She found the hiring manager for her dream role at BMC on LinkedIn and wants to send a direct message in order to get around the block that’s been put on her applications on their job portal.

I think this is a terrible idea, but my husband (her dad) says she should do it because she has nothing to lose, so why not try? She’s in a big, generic field, so it’s probably unlikely that “word will get around” or anything like that. I feel confident that this won’t work, but it’s true that I can’t really think of any negative consequences. What should she do?

She can certainly try. If she’s a really strong candidate otherwise, the hiring manager might be willing to consider her — and hiring managers often have the ability to bypass some hiring portal requirements for a candidate they really want (although not always, and it’s less likely at a big multinational company). If she’s not an unusually strong candidate, though, it’s very unlikely that the hiring manager would do that … and they’re definitely not going to do it just because she’s had an internship since originally taking the test. (Presumably most people who failed the test have other work experiences afterward too, and that doesn’t get the 12-month wait waived.)

Either way, her dad is right that she has nothing to lose by trying it so she might as well if she feels strongly about it.

Someone should, however, try to steer her away from the “deserves another chance” thinking — which isn’t really a thing in hiring — as well as the whole idea of a dream job.

my coworker pressures me to take his shifts at the last minute … because he knows I can’t afford to say no

A reader writes:

When I was hired for my current job, it was for overnights, with the understanding that I would work three to four days per week. I was also trained on the evening shift. Since those training shifts, all my shifts have been overnights. I was also assured that I could move to full-time after several months, working both overnights and evenings. There is almost always only one person working overnight, every night. I had a second, seasonal job, but that ended months ago and will not re-open.

That full-time status never appeared, and several actual full-timers have been hired. That is beside the main issue. The main issue is the full-time overnighter, Rick. For the past several months, I have been scheduled for three days and him four. At least once a pay period, he has called me, asking me to come in for him. Almost always, it’s to take the shift, not to switch with him. He has always assured me that management is aware. (I doubt this, but anyway.) Almost always, I take it. Nor have I missed a single one of my own shifts, unless it was switched at his request.

He also keeps calling one or two hours before the start of his shift to ask me to take it, and if I don’t answer his texts, he will call me. His excuses have ranged from his mother being in the hospital, to him being “too tired.” The one time I turned him down, I had a 103+ degree fever. He complained about my saying no, until I offered to take one of his other days. He turned me down, and then complained to another coworker that he wasn’t sure if he’d “feel like working that other day.” He did not mention the fever to her, of course.

I was warned that he would try to take advantage of my time, and have been told by multiple people that he is lazy. I should have listened, but my bank account dictates otherwise. My coworkers advised me not to complain, saying that management would probably just ban shift switching altogether and there would go that extra day of income. To be honest, I have been more upset about the late notice than the shifts themselves. It’s quiet at night.

Until this schedule. I looked at it tonight, and I am down to two days, and he has five. The manager is out until Monday, but I texted her with the following: “I need to talk to you on Monday, please. I can’t afford to only have two shifts in a week. Rick texts and calls me at least once a pay period to work his shifts (usually within a couple hours of the shift), knowing I can’t afford to refuse. I don’t think it’s fair he gets even more hours when he doesn’t work the ones he has.”

If management punishes me, I’m planning to job hunt. Less pay (nothing around here pays within $2 of what I currently make) but more hours will still be a net win for me. Am I handling this the right way? I feel like Rick has me by the short hairs and knows it. I also get the feeling that he may start calling me more often to cover his shifts, knowing I can even less financially afford to say no. I very much doubt management is keeping an eye on who’s scheduled vs who actually shows up, especially at night.

Job search.

The issue is less Rick — although he’s a problem — and more that you’re working somewhere that promised you full-time work, has reneged on that, and now is scheduling you for even fewer shifts than you started out with.

Rick is a problem only because your employer has put you in a position where the only way to get enough shifts to support yourself is to say yes to Rick’s last-minute requests. If your employer was giving you the amount of hours they promised you, you’d have a much easier time saying no to Rick. He might be taking advantage of the fact that he knows you want more shifts, but your employer is responsible for you being in that spot in the first place.

All that said … if your management is unaware of who’s actually working each shift (and doesn’t realize how often it’s you, not Rick), that’s worth pointing out. I could quibble with the framing of your message to your manager a bit, but it’s reasonable to say, essentially, “I came on board with the promise of having full-time hours by now. I don’t have that, and in fact I’m scheduled for fewer shifts now than I was earlier on. I’ve been working X extra shifts per week because Rick frequently asks me to take his at the last minute, but that’s not sustainable and I need a schedule I can plan on. Since I’ve been averaging X shifts a week, can we formalize that on the schedule so it’s not dependent on last-minute calls from Rick to fill in for him?”

the Ask a Manager book is on sale at Amazon

Ask a Manager coverThe Ask a Manager book is currently on sale at Amazon (Kindle version only) for only $1.99! That price lasts through tomorrow.

In Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work, I take on more than 200 of the tough conversations you might need to have during your career and give you the wording to do it. You’ll learn what to say when:

*  your coworker keeps pushing her work on you
*  your new job is very different than what you agreed to
*  your boss seems unhappy with your work
*  your boss keeps stealing your lunch
*  you catch an employee in a lie
*  colleagues keep making judgmental comments about your diet
*  your coworker’s loud speaker phone calls are making you homicidal
*  and plenty more difficult or awkward situations you might find yourself in!

Buy it here.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

my husband and I share a home office — how do we make this work?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

Has anyone successfully shared a home office (permanently) with their spouse/roommate/partner/etc and if so, what are your tips for success?

My husband and I both work from home 75% of the time and have a three-bedroom house (currently occupied by our bedroom and our two offices). We are expecting our first child soon, and our current plan for once everyone goes back to work is for the smallest bedroom (now my husband’s office) to become the baby’s room and to move his desk into my office, which is much larger.

I am nervous about the feasibility of sharing an office, he doesn’t think it will be a big deal. To be honest, he only works from his office now when he has calls (a big part of the day) and moves around the house the rest of the day, but I spend most of the day at my desk and have a fair amount of calls myself. It’s true I used to work in an open office and had no problems with it (got my trusty noise cancelling headphones), but for some reason this feels different. Obviously we would arrange the desks so we’re not visible in each other’s cameras. I’m just wondering if there is something huge we are overlooking.

If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just try something else, no big deal, but this would be the most convenient so if anyone has tips for success I’d love to hear them.


our building is full of bats and sewer smells, company requires us to notify HR when we go to urgent care, and more

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

1. Our building is full of bats, sewer smells, moths, and more

Do you have advice on how to get upper management to take concerns about our facilities seriously? My coworkers and I haven’t been successful in communicating what seem like very obvious, major problems. For context, our employer is one of two tenants in a seven-story building downtown. The other floors have been vacated. The building is clearly run down and not maintained — e.g., the escalators are barred off and the awning is crumbling. The building itself is very outdated, but frankly, that’s the least of our concerns:

– There are bats in the office. Twice in the past month, there’s been a bat on the ceiling above our receptionist’s head (she is very freaked out). This has been an intermittent issue for years. At one point, someone discovered a bat in the office popcorn machine.

– The HVAC is spotty at best. If the AC is running, it creates a loud, distracting rattle on my side of the building that I need noise-canceling headphones to work through. Other parts of the building don’t seem to get AC, and it’s not unusual for most offices to be over 80 degrees through most of the summer. In the winter, we don’t have the ability to turn the heat down. I used to work with my window wide open in the middle of winter, but the windows have been replaced and don’t open now.

– The public restrooms — the ones we send our guests to use — smell like a sewer. One of the two stalls in the public women’s bathroom has been broken for over a year.

– Our offices adjoin to an empty space on the same floor. (We think this is where the bats live.) We think non-employees are accessing our space after hours through this empty space; for example, we found a man’s wallet left on the couch in the non-public women’s restroom.

– The air quality sucks. You get hit with a blast of musty/mildewy smell when you walk in the front door of the building. An upper floor flooded at one point, and we know that because of that, at least one of the director’s offices has mold in the walls.

– Dead cockroaches and moths on the floor and in stairwells are a common sight.

– We technically have a cleaning crew, but they’re spotty at best. We’re lucky if they take the trash out. They don’t vacuum.

Our lease is up next year, and upper management was exploring the possibility of moving to a different floor in the building that was renovated to our specifications. Those negotiations broke down, and now it sounds like we’re just planning to renew our existing lease. I can’t wrap my head around this — for what we’re paying for a downtown space, we could absolutely move to a newer, better maintained building anywhere else in town. I don’t think our director understands how bad this space is for morale, because he has a military background and has said in all-staff meetings a few times that our building conditions aren’t that bad compared to the spaces he worked in while he was deployed. We’re at-will employees, not service members.

I’m at a point in my career where it would make sense for me to move on soon, and the building condition is high on my list of reasons. I don’t understand why these issues aren’t being taken more seriously. Am I being unreasonable to want to work in an office free of bats and mold? How many times can I express displeasure at our circumstances before I get labeled as a whiner or a diva? If upper management has already said what course of action they plan to take, is there any point in me continuing to speak up?

Good god, no, you are not being unreasonable! It’s one thing to work in a building that’s on the older side and has some of the normal issues that come with that, but you work on what sounds like the set of a horror movie. Some of this is an actual health concern.

Your best shot at getting any movement on it is to organize a group of coworkers to all speak up and say the problems with the building have become untenable. It’s possible it’s not too late for your management to change course — but also there’s power in numbers, and you’re a lot less likely to be labeled as the problem if there’s a whole group of you pushing the issue.

Some of this is likely reportable to your local health department as well; it’s worth a call to find out.

2. My company requires us to notify HR when we go to urgent care

My workplace apparently has a policy of having staff notify HR when they go to urgent care. HR’s reasoning is so that they can proactively assist with accomodations if needed. This makes me uncomfortable, as I don’t really like the idea of HR knowing when I go to urgent care. I’m wondering if this is a normal thing for an HR department to step into.

No, it is not normal. Moreover, requiring that you inform them of medical issues will, in some situations, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (depending on the reason you’re seeking urgent care). There are lots of types of medical information that you can’t legally be required to disclose.

It’s also nonsensical since if you have time to alert HR you’re at urgent care, you would have time to instead alert them about any accommodations you need as a result of whatever brought you there. They can just ask you to inform them if/when you need accommodations (which you would presumably do anyway); they don’t need to monitor or track your urgent care visits.

3. How do I remember to follow up on emails I’ve sent but haven’t heard back on?

I work in local government, where we are generally under-resourced and trying to spin too many plates at once. This means that emails sometimes go unanswered and need chasing up.

I’ve had success using your chasing script in the past, but how do I keep track of which need to be followed up on in the first place? For example, I recently emailed April asking her to provide data on the number of flowers in our parks, to be included in a public document. April did not reply, and by the time I remembered that we still needed this information we were two days from the deadline and the wider Parks & Rec team ended up having to rush to get us the data we needed. We also had no time to ask April follow-up questions or for more detailed data on specific flowers.

Ideally everyone would always respond to every email the same day, but in reality this is not going to happen without a change in how we are funded. Is there a way I could keep track of emails I’ve sent that still need a response without spending ages making some kind of behemoth spreadsheet?

You need a “waiting for” folder in your email — a folder where you drag any messages that it will be important to hear back on, so they’re all in one place and you can see at a glance what you’re still waiting for. You can achieve this with labels too, depending on the email program.

The key, though, is that you need to commit to going through the folder regularly or it won’t do you any good (I go through mine once a day to see if there’s anything I need to follow up on).

you need a “waiting for” folder

4. What if I really really REALLY know I don’t want to return to work after I give birth?

I know the advice is never say you’ll quit your job instead of taking maternity leave because you don’t know how you’ll feel once your baby arrives, but what if I feel really, really sure about it?

I have always wanted to take a year or more off after having kids, and while no one knows how they will feel, I have nannied and babysat and helped out my sisters pretty significantly after their babies were born, so I don’t feel like I’m going in totally blind. We have also stepped up our already aggressive savings plan to put away the equivalent of my take-home pay for a year to both build up a buffer of short-term savings and to see how easily we can live on my partner’s salary alone, and it is eminently doable, even if we have to step back on saving as much for a few years.

Also, I don’t like my job. I don’t like the company I work for, which is news-making levels of dysfunctional, and my team is understandably a mess. The idea of returning here after giving birth makes me feel physically anxious. I also know I might feel bored and want to work, but I can’t imagine any universe in which it would be here. I was aggressively applying to jobs before I got pregnant and would have set a hard deadline to leave by the end of the year if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, even if it was to go back to freelancing. And really, if I do find not working incredibly dull or we do find money tight, I’ll transition back to freelancing at the end of my self-funded ‘maternity leave’ whenever it feels right.

So where does that leave me? Plenty of friends have suggested taking the maternity leave knowing I won’t come back and just telling my boss things have changed at the end of it, but even the thought of having to talk to them ever again also makes me feel anxious. I really just want a clean break and to never have to deal with these people again. I know it’s a huge privilege to even be able to entertain this thought, but since I can, is there a reason not to just go for it? And if I do, when should I tell my boss? I know there’s a chance of being pushed out before I’m ready, but there is a hiring freeze at my company (see: high levels of dysfunction) and I would be really surprised if they were even able to maneuver to replace me any sooner than they had to.

The advice not to decide anything ahead of time is just meant to highlight that once the baby is actually on the scene, things can change in ways you didn’t expect. Often people assume they know what they’ll want but then their circumstances change — and they can end up regretting it if they already locked themselves into not returning.

In your case, you’ve already thought all of that through, and you were ready to leave even if you hadn’t gotten pregnant. The one thing I’d suggest thinking about that you didn’t mention is whether you’d want to hold onto the job as a safety net in case something happens with your partner’s job. If so, then the safest course of action is to hold off on your announcement that you’re not returning until you’re closer to that date.

But you also get to balance that against the anxiety you’re feeling when you think about having to talk to them again. You might decide that outweighs other considerations, and you’re allowed to make that call. Just make sure you won’t wish you could backtrack later if your circumstances do change between now and then.

5. Advice for former Hollywood freelancers

I have seen a lot of people looking to leave Hollywood because of the triple threat of writer strikes, actor strikes, and Covid after effects, and searching for “real” jobs when we have finally had enough.

In my case, my main question has to do with resumes: On my resume I list a lot of my production credits, but it kind of looks like I am a job hopper and that I really didn’t have much of an impact in these roles. Would it be better to combine all my credits into one large “Freelance Production Coordinator” role and just list the highlights?

You attached your resume so I could see exactly how you’ve done it, and it’s pretty clear that each of the jobs were show-specific; it doesn’t look like job-hopping, just a normal reflection of how jobs work in your industry (and even people outside that industry, like me, should understand that).

That said … it could be interesting to experiment with a resume that combines them all under one umbrella heading and see if you get any more bites with that version. Do some A/B testing and see if there are differences in results! Or it might even end up that when you see the revised resume, it will obviously be stronger or weaker than the other one. Try it and see what you think! There are no hard-and-fast rules on how to present stuff like this.

can I ask my boss for feedback about how I’m doing?

A reader writes:

I am fairly new to the workforce. I’ve been at my current job for close to two years and I cannot shake the feeling that I’m bad at it. Rationally I think there are parts of it that I am indeed not-so-great at; rationally I think there are parts that I’m decent at. Rationally I know that I haven’t made any dramatically awful mistakes, and I’ve gotten some good work done.

But irrationally? I feel So. Bad. At. My. Job. Almost all the time. And I hate feeling that way. Some issues (ADHD, anxiety) make it hard to improve in particular areas of the work — I don’t think coordinating other people will ever be a strength for me — but I’d like to get an honest assessment of whether I’m actually good enough that it’s worth continuing in this position. I think probably I bring more pluses than minuses and it would be a serious inconvenience if I quit in a fit of anxious pique. Probably.

I guess I’m asking how to get that kind of assessment from my boss, without just seeming like I’m asking for a pat on the head. Are they happy with my work, are there some specific places I can improve, do they think I have any strengths. And here’s the other thing: if I ask, how do I set myself up to be ready for tough feedback? I care about the work enough to want to be good at it.

I hear how neurotic I sound just writing this. But I think it’s a reasonable question?

It’s absolutely a reasonable question! Even people who don’t struggle with anxiety can struggle with not having a solid sense of how well they are or aren’t doing in their jobs.

Managers should be making the people they manage know where they stand — where they excel, where they could (or must) improve, and how they’re doing overall. In reality, an awful lot of managers are bad at doing that. Some managers are generous with positive feedback but falter when it comes to talking about problems. Others almost never praise but are remarkably comfortable criticizing. Others don’t give you much in either direction at all.

Of course, there are also managers who do a good job of providing feedback — both on specific projects and “here’s how you’re doing overall” — and still have employees who could write a letter like yours, because sometimes our brains are jerks and make us question if we’re good enough, regardless of how much evidence we get that we are. And the reverse is also true — sometimes a manager is forthright and explicit that someone is not doing well enough, and that person somehow remains confident they’re doing great.

So my first question for you is: What, if any, feedback are you getting from your manager? Do you have formal performance assessments? If so, what do those say?

But it’s also completely fine to sit down with your manager and ask point-blank how you’re doing. You can do that with specific projects and tasks, and you can do it with the big picture too.

For getting feedback on specific projects and tasks:
* “Can I get your feedback on that report? I wasn’t sure if it was what you were looking for or not.”
* “How did you think that meeting went? I couldn’t tell if I presented the concept clearly enough for the client.”
* “Can we talk about how X went?”
* “I would love your feedback on X, especially about the Y element of it.”
* “I would love your thoughts on how I might be able to improve X/do X differently/approach X more effectively.”
* “I was pretty happy with how X turned out — do you agree, or is there anything you want me to do differently next time?”

For getting feedback about the big picture:
* “Could we talk about how things are going overall? I’ve realized I don’t have a good sense of how you think I’m doing, and if there are areas you’d like to see me work on improving in.”
* “How do you feel things are going overall? Is my work in line with what you’d expect to see from someone at my level of experience / is there anything I should focus on doing better?”
* “Would you have time in the next few weeks to do a mini performance review with me? It wouldn’t need to be anything formal, but a conversation to talk about how I’m doing would be so helpful to me.”

my team keeps complaining about someone I don’t manage

A reader writes:

I direct a department that’s on a different floor than the rest of our office. A portion of my team’s workflow has to go through an administrative person in another department, Jane, who reports to another department director. Jane is new — she started six months ago — and she seems overwhelmed. From my perspective, she’s disorganized, bad at prioritizing work, and slow to learn tasks. She’s following someone who really excelled in this role, and she suffers in comparison. I’ve found her really difficult to work with, and I’m trying to minimize the amount of our work that has to go through her, but there are some things that just have to cross her desk, no matter what.

I hear a lot of complaining about Jane when my staff has a negative interaction. Some of it is just venting, but sometimes someone will approach me for help in dealing with her. When she was brand new, I did my best to speak positively about her. I knew she was facing a big learning curve. But at this point, she’s still failing at things she should have mastered, and I’m having a hard time not letting my frustration show. I have no role in deciding whether or not to keep her (she’s still in her probationary period), and so I’m working under the assumption that we’re stuck with her.

What should I do when my staff complains about Jane? And how should I handle my own frustration? I find myself sliding into joining the venting about her, and I don’t feel good about it, but it’s really hard not to!

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

my coworkers are annoyed when I’m 2-3 minutes late to meetings

A reader writes:

I am generally reliable and conscientious in my job, but sometimes I am slightly late to meetings. (Shock! Horror!) By slightly late, I mean two or three minutes. I work remotely, so these are all virtual calls, usually with video.

Frequently, at about two minutes after the start time, a coworker will ping me to ask, “Are you joining the call?”

This drives me bonkers. Is two minutes really such an inconvenience? Is it really enough time to suggest I won’t be joining? Couldn’t it be that I’m getting a glass of water or using the restroom?

Recently, I joined a meeting three minutes late, and there were several other people who also joined a few minutes after me. As I was logging in, I caught the meeting host making a snarky remark about why people were late. (“What the hell?” was thrown in there.)

I’ve been with this company for about eight months, and people are typically pretty prompt but can sometimes run late when jumping from meeting to meeting. So punctuality is part of the culture but not to an extreme degree.

Any suggestions on how to handle this or what to say when people make ungenerous comments?

So … I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ping you two minutes after the start time to find out if you’re joining the meeting or not. It’s a little on the fast end, but not to the point that you should take umbrage at it.

Because the thing is, you’ve got other people assembled and sitting there waiting, not knowing if they can start or not. In some cases it’s reasonable to just go ahead and start the meeting once they’ve got a critical mass of people there and others can catch up on their own once they join … but in other cases, if someone joins late, it means everyone else will have to backtrack and repeat what’s already been said.

There are workplaces where the culture is that meetings don’t start until five minutes (or even more) after the official start time, to give everyone time to trickle in. (But sometimes, although not always, that just means they’re waiting 10+ minutes before they start, because everyone mentally adjusts the time to X:05 in their head, and then gives themselves several minutes of grace after that.)

But more importantly, it seems like your workplace isn’t one of those offices. What your coworkers are telling you when they ping you is that you’re late and they’re waiting on you, and this isn’t an office that functions with that five-minute grace period — they want you there on time so they can start.

Obviously sometimes being a little late is unavoidable — you’re in a meeting that runs over and it takes a few minutes to extract yourself, or you have a bathroom emergency, or your meetings are packed back-to-back so tightly that being a little late is the only chance you’ll have to grab a coffee/use the bathroom/wolf down a sandwich. But if you’re able to join right after someone nudges you with a ping, I’m not sure that’s what’s happening here!

So the only real thing to say in response to annoyed comments is, “I’m sorry to be late” .. followed by a commitment to be on time if at all possible. And if you have the sort of schedule that makes that impossible, sometimes it’s useful to tell meeting organizers in advance that you’ll be a few minutes late because you have back-to-back meetings that day (or to tell the previous meeting that you have a hard stop so you can be on time for the next one).