weekend open thread – September 19-20, 2020

This comment section is open for any non-work-related discussion you’d like to have with other readers, by popular demand.

Here are the rules for the weekend posts.

Book recommendation of the week: The Two-Family House, by Lynda Cohen Loigman. Two very different brothers, their wives, and children share a two-family house in the 1940s and 50s, and the sisters-in-law, once close, are driven apart by a secret.

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

it’s your Friday good news

It’s your Friday good news, with more accounts of success even in this weird time.

1. I’ve been working my first real full time job after college for the last year, and during quarantine I decided I had had enough. With the free time from being furloughed, my husband suggested that I apply for jobs in my degree field in the city we’ve been wanting to move back to for a few years.

I thought most places would have had hiring freezes due to all the craziness right now, and I wasn’t sure if I could find something that would keep me in the public sector. On a whim I submitted an application for a job that I thought could be a huge asset for me even though I felt sure I’d be turned down immediately for my lack of experience. Surprisingly, I got a call for an interview and after brushing up on my interview skills using your resources, I felt like I blew the interview out of the water!

It’s only been 3 weeks since I first submitted my application and as of yesterday I have received a job offer from this wonderful company in the public sector for a job using my degree! I hesitate to put all my eggs in one basket, but this is a huge leap towards my endgame and based on my interview, I feel confident that I will gain a lot of very useful experience here with the opportunity for significant growth in my role.

Thank you for all the suggestions that you give your readers. I wouldn’t have been as confident and prepared for an opportunity like this without your blog.

2. I’ve been at the same company for 10 years, and a low-level manager for the last 2. Pre-COVID, a promotion was on the cards for this fall- it was to be a small bump to doing the same basic job with a bigger-picture outlook, and promoting one of my team to manage more of the detail work in our department. With no warning, the company decided to open a department similar to ours at a European location and offered me the role of training and building that team (remotely, still living in the US). Based on advice I’ve read here for negotiating and setting expectations, I was able to help re-write the job description to suit my tastes and let me take on the exciting and visible expansion role without entirely abandoning the team I currently lead. The raise they offered me was a bit higher than the company’s standard promotion-associated amount, and was right at the amount I’d hoped to negotiate to. The company will be rolling out transparent salary band information soon, so in a year I’ll be in a good position to know if there’s room to ask for a raise, and to have a strong track record in the new role to support the request.

3. I was laid off at the end of June when the nonprofit I worked for suddenly and unexpectedly folded. That was a real blow, since I loved the work and my boss, the pay was great, and to top it all off, they had just offered me a promotion that would have been great for my career. My field is small, informal, and mostly word of mouth, so I immediately started reaching out to contacts and applying to whatever I found. I revamped my resume and cover letter using your advice, and submitted them for a job I thought looked promising. I heard back that afternoon—they said they loved my application materials and were very interested in me. We met, they offered me the job, and I just started this week. I think it’s going to be a great fit, professionally and personally, and it even cuts my commute in half. The icing on the cake? I just heard from my old boss that they’re trying to revive the company and may succeed; if they do, they want me to do some work for them in whatever time I have free (something common in my industry). Hooray!

I’ve loved the Friday good news section and hope this cheers someone else up like the other stories have cheered me up. :)

4. My good news is that after working 3 jobs, I have gotten a single job for double what all 3 of my jobs pay combined! I used the interview question regarding what makes someone great at this job versus simply good at it, and they loved the question. I am already getting some rest and balance back in my life and am super excited for my new job!

open thread – September 18-19, 2020

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 (that includes school). 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 do not repost it here, as it may be in my queue to answer.

not feeling the Hogwarts spirit, who pays for coffee, and more

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

1. I don’t want to work at a Hogwarts event

I work in a public library, and every year we do a Hogwarts-related event. Since the author has revealed herself as a transphobic bigot, I am not comfortable participating this year, not least because I’m genderqueer (pronouns TBD, she/they is fine for now). However, since I’ve been an enthusiastic participant before, I’m anticipating some confusion and questions from my supervisor, manager, coworkers, and other fans of the series who have listened to me happily gush about it before.

This event is after normal working hours but requires staffing to get it to go smoothly, and they’re probably counting on me as a volunteer. (“Volunteer” meaning we get paid for the hours, but it’s not required that everyone be there.) I haven’t responded to the email asking for volunteers yet because I honestly don’t know what to say. This is in addition to anticipating the crowds of small children who will almost definitely not distance properly, but that’s honestly a whole other letter. I guess I’m looking for a script that doesn’t require me to out myself to my workplace, but also isn’t technically a lie. (I’m not swamped with other projects, for example.)

I’d just not respond to the call for volunteers and see what happens. If you’re then approached individually, you should be able to explain your discomfort with the author without outing yourself — lots of cis people are deeply disappointed and disturbed by her statements too. It wouldn’t be outing yourself to simply say, “I’ve enjoyed participating in the past but am not volunteering this year because of the bigoted statements the author has been making about trans people.” But if you don’t want to do that, you could instead just say “I won’t be available on the date of the event this year” (it’s after hours, after all).

2. Job candidates are sending me questions about global politics

I hope you can give me some advice about something I’ve seen recently from candidates/recent graduates who are job hunting.

I have a degree in International Relations, which is in no way related to the work I do now as a hiring manager, but it is still on my LinkedIn profile along with my work history from before I graduated. Recently candidates have reached out to me through LinkedIn, asking about available opportunities and including a paragraph at the bottom asking my opinion on a global political issue. To give an example, this morning I got a message asking me my opinions on the developing issues in Belarus, I’m assuming because they’ve either read my LinkedIn profile or are trying to make conversation. From what I read on their profile, there wasn’t an obvious reason why they chose to bring this up.

I find this strange coming from someone I’ve never spoken to and since it isn’t relevant to what they’re really asking for. Is this something candidates have been told to do to enhance their application? My initial reaction isn’t to completely discount someone just on this, but how should I respond?

That’s incredibly bizarre, and yes, it’s almost certainly stemming from advice to try to make a personal connection with the person they’re contacting or to express interest in some particular detail in their background. But it’s being horribly misapplied! You’re presumably not seeking to discuss global political issues with random strangers, or people who are using it as in for what they really want. This is an awful tactic — they’re asking you to invest your own time in writing out a response to a nuanced issue for no reason other than to advance their own potential candidacy.

As for how to respond, I’d just ignore that piece of the message. Frankly, you’re not obligated to respond to messages you receive on LinkedIn at all, but if you’d otherwise answer them, go ahead and answer and leave the comments about Belarus, etc. unremarked upon. (If that feels rude, I’d argue it’s ruder of them to expect a stranger to invest time engaging on an unrelated topic so they can advance their own job search, and that in some ways you’re being polite by just ignoring it, the way you’d ignore a fart in an interview room.)

3. Who pays for coffee?

I started this year as a PhD student. My advisor and I are not comfortable going to campus, so we recently scheduled a meeting in person but off campus. My advisor offered to make this a lunch meeting. I’ve met with my advisor before during my undergraduate degree over a cup of coffee, etc. and she always pays even though I offer to (etiquette says that the more senior person should pay, right?). I was so caught up with the actual contents of the meeting that when the bill came for lunch I forgot to even offer to pay. Of course, I thanked her for the lunch when I realized that she picked it up. Is this a faux pas and do I need to bring it up again?

Nah, she was probably expecting to pay. Someone who doesn’t want to cover both people will usually say, “It looks like we both owe $X” or so forth. And you’re right that the more senior person usually pays (although there are some exceptions to that, like if you’ve asked someone to meet as part of a favor you’re requesting from them). Ideally you would have offered to pay because that’s polite and you should always be ready to, but you thanked her once you realized and it’s not something you need to bring up again.

4. I keep getting fired but can’t get feedback on why

I am a private tutor (more than seven years now), but I keep getting fired by certain students, with no feedback given by the parents or agency, beyond “not being right for them.” It’s frustrating, as many of my students have progressed amazingly and have enjoyed lessons with me on a weekly or more regular basis for one or two years.

My feedback is always great, but then parents or agencies will inevitably fire me for “not having the right vibe” or “not being the right kind of fit.” How do I face up to these criticisms, and how do I improve?

Ideally you’d seek feedback from your agency, stressing that you have a sincere desire to learn from the experience and improve, and that you’re not looking to debate the decision, just to avoid something similar in the future. A good agency will give you feedback. If they won’t, it’s likely that (a) they’re not a good agency, or (b) the problem is something they’re very uncomfortable talking about (like if you’re coming across as creepy in some way), or (c) something else is going on that’s more about them than you (for example, racism).

It’s also true that with some contract jobs, it’s part of the gig that you’re not going to get any feedback or coaching — part of what clients, and even agencies, are paying for is the ability to say “it’s not working, we’re going to try something else” without having to get into why. I don’t know if this is one of those fields or not, but it could be interesting to talk to others who do similar work about what their experience has been.

5. How do I ask about pay for a job that doesn’t quite exist yet?

I recently applied for a job that’s similar to mine but at a more stable institution (think large university instead of tiny nonprofit). The manager got in touch immediately and was up-front that the job would be more procedural and detail-oriented than originally advertised. A position that would better fit my skills is likely to open up within the next year and we planned to talk then. It was a great conversation, we had a good vibe and agreed we would like to be colleagues, I’m not in a rush to change jobs (or relocate), and I appreciated both her honesty and her accurate, non-judgmental assessment of my strengths. So far, so good.

However, my behavior in the next year depends at least a LITTLE on what this job would pay—and the range is almost impossible to guess. If something else comes along in the meantime, or if I have an opportunity to move to a different city than the one I’d move to for this job, I will deal with that differently depending on how good of a prospect this is. I don’t think those things will happen, but they might! We are past the “thanks, that was great, let’s stay in touch” email stage. Is there a way to politely pop back up and say “and also, how much money do you have”? Is that normal?

It’s not really the time to do that. This is a job that might open up in the next year or might not. You really shouldn’t be changing your behavior in the next year based on a possibility that might never come to fruition — and even if it does open up, you might not be hired for it or it could be configured differently at that point, etc. If I were that hiring manager and I got the sense that you were counting in any way on (a) a job that won’t be open for months, if ever, (b) that you hadn’t even been interviewed for yet, and (c) which there was no certainty you’d be hired for … I’d be alarmed. When I tell candidates, even strong ones, about a position that might open up in the future, it means “if that happens, we’d be glad to consider you as part of our candidate pool, which will almost certainly contain other strong candidates too,” not “if this job opens up, we’d probably hire you for it.”

The only sensible thing here is to proceed however you would if you’d never heard about that potential job. Definitely don’t let it influence things where you do or don’t move!

With all that for context, you shouldn’t contact her again to ask for a salary range. She may not even know one yet, and it’s going to come across a bit strangely considering where things stand.

should I avoid softening my emails with qualifying language?

A reader writes:

I am curious about your thoughts on using qualifiers (“I think,” “I believe,” “it seems to me,” etc.) in work emails.

I’m a woman in my mid-20s working in grants administration at a nonprofit. I often catch myself writing sentences like “I think the next steps here are…” rather than “The next steps are…” I go back and forth about deleting the qualifiers from a worry that I am being too deferential when I should be authoritative. But without the qualifiers, it feels like I’m stating something as an inarguable fact when in reality, there could always be a nuance or piece of information I’m missing. But I do wonder if it weakens what I am trying to say.

It is certainly not lost on me that being a young woman plays a role in this. Am I overthinking this? Is using language like “I think” just how people talk? Or should I consciously try to be more confident and declarative in my work emails?

There are no hard and fast rules on this. It depends on the context, your organization’s culture, the person you’re writing to, and any politics in the situation. In some cases, you might need to be slightly deferential (if you’re writing, say, to a major prospective funder) or acknowledge that you’re not speaking with absolute expertise. In other cases, you’ll have the expertise and authority to simply announce what the next steps will be, or the best way to tackle a problem, or so forth.

It also depends on your own situation. If you don’t feel you’re taken as seriously as you should be or if you’re working on coming across more authoritatively, you’d want to pay more attention to this than if you’re doing just fine on those fronts.

There’s also the matter of what you’re really saying. If you’re proposing next steps that your boss needs to sign off on, then it doesn’t makes sense to declare “the next steps are…” (In that case, go with something like, “For next steps, I propose…”) But if you’re the one deciding on next steps, it’s probably clearer for other people if you just set out what those steps are.

Don’t get too hung up on “it feels like I’m stating something as an inarguable fact when in reality, there could always be a nuance or piece of information I’m missing.” Unless you’re going around making pronouncements about things you have no standing to opine on, it’s generally implicit that you’ll adjust your thinking if you become aware of something you hadn’t previously taken into account. (Definitely don’t get so hung up on it that you become this office.)

You should also pay attention to how people you admire in your organization write. If there’s a culture of softer communication, with lots of “I think” and “I believe,” then it’s usually helpful to be in sync with that. (Look at a broad range of people — people on your own level, people just above you, and people more senior — but most importantly, look at the people who are most successful there.)

If you’re still stumped, spend a couple of weeks taking qualifiers out of your emails unless a particular sentence feels truly jarring or wrong without them. See if it feels more natural once you’re more used to it. And/or spend a couple of weeks not thinking about it at all, and then go back and look at your emails and see if you see patterns that bother you.

As a general guideline, though, I wouldn’t worry terribly much about this! If you feel you’re taken seriously and what you say and write is generally respected, you’re doing fine.

my employee disagrees with his performance evaluation

A reader writes:

I am in the process of doing an annual evaluation for one of my employees, I’ll call him Carl, who has been with the company for about a year. We did a six-month evaluation at the end of his probationary period and it did not go well. Even though I felt I gave him pretty good scores (everything was “meets expectations” or “sometimes exceeds expectations”), Carl was very unhappy that he did not get anything in the highest range (“consistently exceeds expectations”) and tore apart every thing I wrote because he did not agree with some of my word choices (such as using the word “disagreement” when talking about how he handles differences of opinion with coworkers). At the end of the meeting, I felt like I had been evaluated.

We are now at the one-year mark and I know he will expect that his scores will be massively improved. There has been no improvement on most of the evaluation metrics (despite many meetings about his shortcomings) and, in fact, several of his scores have gone down. Everything is still in the “meets expectations” or “sometimes exceeds expectations” range, but I have a feeling I am going to have a fight on my hands, especially since the scores on the performance evaluation directly determine raises.

As part of the evaluation process, Carl was required to submit a self-evaluation of his own achievements over the past year. There is definitely a discrepancy in the way he views himself and how I view his performance. For example, he believes he is a strong team player when he has left other members of the department in the lurch on multiple occasions, forgotten when he agreed to switch shifts with a coworker, missed appointments with customers, and scheduled appointments when we are short-staffed.

How do I address this difference of opinion on Carl’s performance? I have had multiple meetings with him, especially addressing the problems he has caused for the department by not thinking of the whole department when making decisions. Overall, he is a good employee who makes mistakes occasionally; he just is not as fantastic as he thinks he is.

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.

I get emotional when customers yell at me

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

I recently got promoted to assistant manager at an apartment complex and I feel pretty confident that I can do the job well.

However, I know that whenever we have residents call in with complaints or we have people coming in and yelling, the calls and residents typically get passed to the assistant manager (now me) and I do not do well with that type of conflict. Often when I’m yelled at, I get red and teary eyed, I sometimes draw blanks, and my voice and body shake. I know it’s a natural response to an overwhelming situation but as a manager, I feel like it’s unprofessional, doesn’t set a good example for the team, and gives the residents an impression that I’m weak or that they can bully me to get what they want. I try to stay calm and just let them rant but even when I have to open my mouth to give a response, it’s often a VERY shakey “okay, we will see what we can do.” And I hate to burden my boss and pass everything to her. How can I better manage my emotions and not get so worked up in these situations?

I’m going to throw this out to readers for suggestions, but first a quick thought from me: I wouldn’t be surprised if these situations feel overwhelming because you aren’t confident about what tools you have available to solve them. It could help to sit down with your manager and talk through (a) what options you have for various types of complaints and (b) how she typically responds when residents are challenging (for example, when someone presses for something she can’t do, when someone is angry, etc.). Often when you have a concrete menu of options in your head or even just some go-to phrases to use (even really simple stuff like “let me look into this and get back to you by the end of the day”), it can make situations feel less overwhelming. Also, if I were your manager, I’d suggest we do some role-play to give you some lower-stakes practice with specific situations that could come up or have already come up — and you can do that on your own or with a friend as well.

What advice do others have?

correcting your boss’s grammar, coaching a peer, and more

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

1. Correcting my boss’s grammar

One of my pet peeves is grammar errors because in a past life, I taught English composition for many years.

The problem is that my supervisor asks me to give feedback on documents she’s put together. Nearly all have had grammar errors. I have pointed out the errors and suggested corrections but she’s either ignored them or argued about them. Nothing gets corrected. I feel that my feedback hurts her feelings and wastes my time. Should I continue to provide feedback or not?

Probably not. It doesn’t sound like she’s looking for grammatical corrections and might just want your input on the substance of what she’s written. The best thing to do is to ask her directly: “When you ask me for feedback on documents, do you just want input on the substance or are grammatical edits helpful too?”

I know it is VERY DIFFICULT not to flag it when something is flagrantly wrong, but if she doesn’t want those edits, she doesn’t want them and that’s her call.

2. Visible nipples

I’m rather well-endowed, and it seems that my nipples are “visible” unless I’m wearing a padded bra. This is both uncomfortable and makes me feel like Betty Boop. Is it really that bad that people might be able to tell I have nipples? I’ve noticed male colleagues with the same issue, and no one ever has a problem with that. For the record, no one has ever commented on them or my appearance — it hasn’t seemed to hurt my career. But I’m not sure anyone would say anything. Just wondering if I really have to choose between looking like a cartoon or sweating under multiple layers of clothing in order to be professional.

Reasonable people will understand you do in fact have a human body and this is a thing that can happen. You aren’t a cartoon character! But if it’s making you uncomfortable, what about trying those petal things that either stick to your skin or go in your bra, specifically designed for this reason? There are a whole bunch of other suggestions in the comment section on this post.

3. Can I try to coach a peer?

The comment thread on Tuesday’s post has me wondering about coaching my coworker, Alex. We are the same level and on the same team. Alex works hard and develops their technical skills and is always looking to do more and grow but has a very direct manner and tends to rub people the wrong way. I have directly received feedback from multiple people in our organization that they do not care to work directly with Alex, not a full “will not work with them” but they aren’t excited about it. A couple of us on our team are aware of this issue and they have urged me to talk with Alex since I have the strongest relationship with them.

I have thought I might mention things if the right time presents itself, but am I overstepping and is it not my business to coach/give feedback to a coworker? We have been in a weird spot for the last six months and floating without a manager and now with the pandemic it doesn’t look like they will be filling that role anytime soon. Also I received the feedback from colleagues who are all on the same level as us and am not certain if that feedback has made its way up the chain.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t try to coach a coworker unless (a) they specifically request it, seem genuinely open to feedback, and you want to do it or (b) you have a strong rapport with them, have observed they take feedback reasonably well, have reason to believe they’d be receptive to feedback from you specifically, and have asked if they’d like some help and received an affirmative answer.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that in other cases you can’t offer occasional suggestions like “I found a quicker way to do that, want me to show you?” or “the client you’re about to call can be tricky, let me tell you what’s worked for me with them” and so forth. But it sounds like you’re talking about much more involved, substantial coaching — and that’s not really something you have standing to do as a peer unless you’re in one of the two situations in my first paragraph.

4. What to say when a “vacation” isn’t a vacation

I inherited a house and all that’s in it from my mother after her passing. She was wonderful and I struggle with her passing still. She was also a hoarder.

I have months and months (and months) of clean-up in another state. It’s just me now (no siblings, single mom). I have a family friend working part-time on it, but it’s not anywhere near enough. The last two years, it sucked up most of my vacation days. This year, I intended to take a “real” vacation, and then, well, you know.

I’m travelling out there (driving, bringing supplies to avoid any rest stops, bringing my own food) to deal with some issues around the house that I’ve been putting off since March, and I know it will be exhausting. This is the first “vacation” I’ve taken since COVID, and it’s really really not going to be a vacation. I gave myself one additional day after returning, but I got handed a HUGE project with looming deadlines that was way over-schedule when it came to me, so taking days off is tough.

Everyone is telling me to enjoy my trip and have a good vacation. I don’t want to go on this trip. It will not be a vacation. I am going to do my best to have it not suck but I am stressed about it, not excited. What do I say when people wish me a relaxing/enjoyable/fun trip? I’m going to need a real vacation soon, so I feel this need for people to understand that this is not for fun. If I say “eh, I’ve got a lot to take care of, so it’s more of a working trip than a vacation” people seem flustered. Should I just let it go? Is there a better script?

I totally understand the urge to correct people who assume this is a relaxing vacation when it will be anything but. But “have a fun/relaxing vacation” is similar to “how are you?” in that it’s more a social nicety than an invitation for a real conversation about why your time off actually won’t be fun. I think people are getting thrown off when you respond the way you have been because they don’t know where they’re supposed to go with the conversation after that.

The only person who really needs the context is (maybe) your boss, if you want to make sure she knows you’ll still need an actual vacation after this. If you want her to have that context, definitely give it to her — but other people are unlikely to spend much time thinking about why you’re taking a second vacation when you just took a first. (Although if you get any strange reactions to the second one, you can just say something like, “My time off in the fall was to deal with my mom’s house — this one is for real vacation.”)

I’m sorry about your mom, and the stress you’re dealing with now.

5. Can I ask to volunteer for an organization?

My first job out of college was working at a nonprofit whose mission I really cared about. However, the job itself was pretty awful, and I ended quitting and leaving the nonprofit world after generally feeling burnt out and disillusioned. I work in the private sector now and am much happier. However, I miss feeling like I’m part of a bigger mission. (I care about the company I work for, but not as passionately as the big issues I worked on in the nonprofit world.)

There’s a nonprofit I know of that does amazing work, and I’d love to volunteer for them. Their U.S. office is across the country, so it’d be remote work. I was thinking of sending them an email briefly explaining my situation and offering to write articles for their blog/do social media work for them as a volunteer. They have a blog and social media, but both are very sparse. My background is in communications, so this is something I have a lot of experience with. (I don’t know if it comes off as pushy, but my reason for suggesting something specific I could do for them is because I know how exhausting it can be when well-meaning volunteers suddenly appear at a nonprofit and ask you to find work for them to do). I was going to attach my resume as well, just so they could get a sense of my background.

Is this a good idea? I’ve run it by some friends, and I’ve gotten everything from “go for it” to “I guess it can’t hurt” to “that’s a weird thing to do” and “they’re going to think you’re trying to sneakily get a job.” (I promise I don’t want any sort of job with them.) I thought this would be a great way to keep a job I enjoy but still help a cause and organization I care about, but since I’m pretty new to the professional world, I’m not sure if this is a normal thing to do or not. The company doesn’t have an organized volunteer system (otherwise I’d join that way), but they do list an email address for people with questions about careers there, so I thought I’d send an email to that address and explain what I was hoping to do.

This is a totally normal thing to do and you should make the offer! This is how a lot of people end up doing meaningful volunteer work.

That said, go into knowing the organization might not take you up on it. Overseeing a volunteer can be a lot of work, particularly with things like writing and social media: they have to get aligned with you on voice, someone has to edit and sign off on what you write, there may need to be feedback about why a topic or framing isn’t quite right, etc. That work might not be a strategic priority for them right now relative to other things, so don’t take it personally if they decline. But it’s absolutely fine to make the offer, and they might take you up on it. (In fact, my sister got her start in grant writing that way while on the run from academia.)

how do I quit when my boss won’t speak to me?

A reader writes:

Let me preface this by saying, I love my job and I adore my coworkers. My boss and I go back a while; I’ve been their right-hand man for almost a decade. I have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of the folks I work with. We’re definitely one of those places that has insisted “we’re a family.”

Over the last two years, my boss has become increasingly erratic, quick-tempered, and secretive. It’s become dramatically less pleasant. We’ve had a lot of turnover in that time, shrinking from 18 staff to eight; four have left in the last six months alone. Those losses have hurt. Morale has been in a free fall, but we’ve all stayed because we love the work and each other.

In part through reading this blog, I’ve come to see how unhealthy our environment is. Once my coworkers and I started sharing more about salaries, we discovered glaring inequities. Our working moms, in particular, have gotten short shrift. Promised raises, never delivered. Explanations that asking for more will hurt coworkers.

When COVID hit, we hit rock bottom. The boss didn’t take it seriously — we had to organize ourselves and insist, as a group, that we could not come into the office. It went poorly, but we successfully lobbied to work from home, which we’ve managed to acclimate to beautifully.

But the hits have kept on coming. PTO suspended without notice. Angry outbursts. As I’ve become more vocal about my discomfort and desire for increased transparency and healthier communication, others have as well. As a result, the boss has shut themselves off from pretty much everyone.

When I’m being honest with myself, I realize I’ve been unhappy for a long time, and I’ve stayed for the people. I’ve got about six months of savings, a few promising side hustles I can scramble into a healthy freelance career, and many excellent relationships in my field. I’m ready to take the leap.

My question is … how the heck do I do it? My boss literally won’t speak to me. I asked the other day if we could have a serious check-in and they told me, verbatim, until I apologize for how I’ve been behaving, they have nothing to say to me. I’m desperate to get out as graciously as possible. I understand they’re under enormous stress. I have a lot of specialized knowledge and relationships that would dictate a longer horizon for transition planning, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help everyone move forward. I’m scared the boss will fire me the second I indicate I’m about to leave. I almost don’t care. I just want out.

Your boss told you they won’t speak to you until you apologize for how you’ve been behaving?

That’s … not how this works.

That’s not okay in personal relationships; it’s definitely not okay in professional ones.

And really, if your boss thinks you’ve been so out of line, why on earth aren’t they doing their job and addressing it as your manager? They’re just … leaving it in your court? What if you don’t apologize for months, or ever? I have so many questions about the specific brand of dysfunction you’re swimming in there.

Anyway, if you’re ready to resign, I would just … resign. Try first to do it in person — go to your boss’s office and just say, “I’ve decided to move on, and I want to formally give you notice and set my last day.” It’s unlikely that they’ll say “no, you can’t resign until you apologize” — but if they do or if they otherwise refuse to talk to you, then you should say, “Okay, well, please know I’m planning for my last day to be X, and I’ll send this in an email as well so you have a record of it.” (And then do that.)

If you’re currently working remotely, you can do the same thing using whatever method you’d normally use if they weren’t freezing you out — phone or so forth. If they won’t answer your calls or you otherwise can’t reach them, go ahead and just put it in an email. It’s not ideal to resign via email, but when you literally can’t reach your manager for something this important, you have to resort to it. (Make sure you cc HR if you have it and/or your boss’s boss. In fact, if those people exist — and I realize at this company they may not — you could also just go straight to them and explain you’re resigning to them because boss won’t speak to you.)

Now, the subject of your end date. It sounds very possible that your boss will indeed tell you to leave as soon as you give notice, so you should pick your announcement date accordingly. Since you’re quitting to freelance rather than for a another job that doesn’t start for a few weeks, you’re not in the situation some people are in, where they can’t afford to be without work for a few weeks if their boss tells them to leave immediately. That means you can give notice whenever is convenient for you. If your boss tells you to leave immediately, you’ll leave immediately. If that’s bad for the transition of your work, that’s on your boss, not you. (Do make sure you’re ready for that though — take home personal belongings ahead of time, remove personal files and emails from your work computer, save any contact info you’ll want to have after you’re gone, etc.)

I know you want to leave as graciously as you can, but you can only control your own side of things. By all means, give two weeks notice if they want it, be willing to work on a smooth transition, etc. — but if they tell you to leave immediately, that’s their call and you’re not responsible for saving them from themselves.

how to set boundaries with a very chatty coworker

A reader writes:

I work with a dedicated and conscientious person. We have the same title and role and interact a lot for our jobs. I like her but she is extremely chatty. She is clueless as to how it impacts me and our joint workload and it’s starting to wear on me.

A typical conversation will be her asking “How was your weekend?” Upon anyone’s response, she is off and running and can’t be stopped. If someone says they went to the lake on the weekend, she’ll respond “Oh, I have a cousin who has a lake house but the house has been condemned because it was infested by rats so she had to move and now she lives in a different town but she lives in an apartment and she needs to downsize but she’s worried if she sells her furniture she’ll have to buy more…” She’ll continue to ramble on — you get the idea. She doesn’t seem understand she’s talking too much and making it hard to focus on work.

I’m impacted the most because we work together so closely. It was worse when we were in the office, but even now that we’re working remotely she floods our Slack channels and my IMs with chitchat.

It’s to the point where sometimes I don’t even respond but it doesn’t stop her. I think she’ll be wounded if I’m too direct, but this has to stop. What can I do?

You can read my answer to this letter at Vice today. Head over there to read it.