mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s mini answer Monday: seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Manager told me to stop wearing my engagement ring

I am a nursery nurse, working directly with children. I got married last year and have worn my engagement ring since May 2010. Three months ago, my manager told me I couldn’t wear it any more because it may harm a child, as it sits quite high. In the whole time I have worn it, I have never scratched a child, or anyone else for that matter, apart from my husband while asleep. I don’t wear it in bed anymore. No one else has to do this, although to be fair no one else’s ring sits as high as mine. Are they allowed to do this ? I do feel uncomfortable without it, and my husband was very upset about the situation. Any advice would be appreciated.

Yes, it’s perfectly legal for them to set rules about what is and isn’t appropriate attire and jewelry. If there’s a safety concern about your ring, of course they’d need to say something.

2. How to stay motivated when you only have a month left on the job

I have been working in my current position in term appointments. From 2007-2011, I worked only a few hours per week (fewer than 10) on special projects. For the last year, I have worked closer to full-time, 32-40 hours per week, sometimes more, sometimes less. I am an hourly employee and earn no benefits. When I began with increased hours, I was told it would become something more. Now after more than a year, I’m burnt out. I told my boss that when my latest term is up, I won’t be coming back. I’m very bitter, but I don’t want to burn bridges. I’ve only really griped to my husband and a few close friends.

The thing is, I have more than a month until my contract is up. I’m having a difficult time staying motivated. I don’t want to slack so badly that I will earn myself a bad reference, but I have a terrible case of short-timer-itis. Any tips on how to survive it?

Well, do you think of yourself as a person with a work ethic, a person who meets commitments and follows through on her word, or do you think of yourself as someone who slacks off when she can get away with it? Hopefully you think of yourself as the former … and, you know, the real test of that is how you handle it when it’s not easy to do it. If you only keep up on your work when you like your boss and your job, that’s not really much to brag about.

And from a more self-interested view, if you spend your last month slacking off, you’ll lose any moral high ground that you have in objecting to your employer’s behavior, and you’ll also damage your own chances of better work in the future … because you’ll jeopardize your references, as well as your reputation among the non-reference-givers you work with.

3. Miserable at movie theater job

I am 27 and recently went back to college after a number of years. I have been working part-time at a big chain movie theater for the past three years. I am much older (10+ years) than my fellow employees and most of my managers too, but I am treated like a child by them and my general manager. I am very good at my job. I have trained many of my fellow coworkers, although I was never asked if training was something I would do; they just assumed I’d do it. At this job, I am supposed to just follow the leader, but I am not like that, I have never been that way, and they knew this when they hired me, even liked that about me. I always try to make things just a little bit better for the patrons and for the employees, but I get chastised, berated, and told that that’s not my job. I am not supposed to remedy any situations on my own or do anything except get a manager. I am forced to sell extremely overpriced concessions and not help patrons save money by offering a different item of lesser value.

I am utterly miserable. I truly hate this job. Nearly every day, I bite my tongue to stop myself from quitting on the spot. I don’t have another job lined up, but I don’t think I can take working here any longer. With all the current and upcoming movie releases, I feel like I would be letting my general manager down. Coming from another state and not being from around this town has also led to misunderstandings, and I am sick of being accused of saying things that I never said. I am very much to myself at work right now and only think in terms of minutes, how many minutes before I can get away.

Well, yeah, this is the reality of lots of low-level jobs: you don’t have autonomy or authority, you need to just do what you’re told, and you need to consult a manager rather than making decisions yourself. That’s the job. It sounds like you were envisioning something else when you signed up for it, but this is pretty typical of this type of job.

Knowing that doesn’t change your circumstances, but it might help your peace of mind to at least realize that this is par for the course with these jobs and not anything specifically horrendous about this one in particular.

4. Listing unfinished degrees

I want to know what your opinion on unfinished undergraduate degrees is. I was enrolled in a regular 120 credits Bachelor of Business Administration degree at a top-tier business school from 2008 to 2011. I was not expelled; I left voluntarily due to financial constraints. I completed 105 credits out of 120 with a 3.34 GPA at the moment of withdrawal.

I have been working at the same retail store since my second year of college. I’m now looking for a new job in an office environment. Do you think I should list my unfinished degree or not? If yes, how should I do it? Furthermore, I honestly do not know whether or not I would be able to return to school in the short term to complete the unfinished coursework.

Yes, list it. Many employers will prefer seeing that you completed some college versus no college. List it like this:

University of Virginia, 2008-2011 (105 of 120 credits completed toward Business Administration degree)

5. Health is impacting my work

I work at a job that requires a lot of report writing. I have occupied my position for the last year and a half. For the first year, my work was positively viewed by my director and I even received an excellence award for my performance. Last year, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which worsened over this past summer, and it has had a devastating effect on my general outlook. I feel really down at work, my colleagues have noted that I have retreated, and the last two reports I handed in were filled with comments and corrections by my Director. The more I think about my performance, the more worried I feel that I am making mistakes or missing details and the harder I find it to concentrate. It feels like a vicious circle and I don’t know how to get out of it. Any advice?

Talk to your manager and telling her what’s going on. It’s far better for your manager to understand what’s causing your changes at work than to think that your work is suffering for no reason, and a reasonable manager is going to be more willing to work with you if she understands what’s going on. You also might be able to talk about whether there are changes that could made in your job, even temporarily, to accommodate what you’re dealing with.

Also, if the issue is that your health is affecting your state of mind and that’s affecting your work (as opposed to your health affecting your work directly), you might be able to get some coping hope from a therapist.

6. Applying for an internal promotion

In my organization, there’s a very clear track for promotion in my department and the next position has opened up much sooner than I was expecting it to. I’ve only been with the company about six months, but due to turnover, I’m also the senior person in my current position. I’ve never applied for a promotion I really wanted and thought I had a chance of getting before. I’m not sure what questions to expect when interviewing with people I’ve already worked with, though. Do you have any advice? Am I trying to make a “second first impression” on someone I already work with?

Nope, it’s not a second first impression. It’s about demonstrating that you’d be able to excel in the new job. You’d approach it just like you’d approach applying for any other job, except more informally because you know these people and they know you. Plus, you’re able to draw on inside knowledge of what is and isn’t working, what’s needed, and how you’d approach the job’s challenges.

7. Applying for jobs after running your own business

How do I rejoin the workforce after being self-employed for over a decade? I am 35 years old, and I am from England, but now live in New York. After high school, I took a year out from education before attending university. During that time, I started my own business. I was studying business, and thought that this would be a great way to get some hands-on experience. My capital was a small (~$1000) inheritance that I had recently received, and 13 years later, I had five retail outlets and sixteen employees. Needless to say, I never did go to university!

Three years ago, I decided to sell up and move to America to be with my (now) wife. Now my problem is getting a job! I am working in a drugstore at the moment just to bring in some money, but it’s an enormous step down for me, and I am horrifically underemployed. My problem is twofold: I don’t have a degree, and I don’t look good on paper.

Having my own business has given me a fantastic and wide ranging set of skills. Having been an employer, I know that I would hire someone like me in a heartbeat, but I have no tangible way of proving this. I can’t even really supply references, except maybe from people who worked for me in the past, and they all live in a foreign country. The only reference I can provide is from the manager of the drugstore where I currently work. While my manager is constantly telling me that I am wasted working there, and would give me a glowing reference, I doubt that her testimony would carry much weight.

I’d love to go to college and earn a degree, but that’s a physical impossibility at the moment because we have a baby, and we’re struggling to pay the bills. Do you have any advice for me? I can’t bear the thought that I am destined to work as an unskilled minimum-wage employee for the rest of my life!

Whoa, your impression of your qualifications is seriously out of alignment with (what sounds like) the reality. Don’t focus on your lack of degree; you’re a successful business person with a successful track record. Why do you think you don’t look good on paper? With your track record, you should. So you’re either underestimating yourself, or you’ve done a terrible job at writing your resume and cover letters. I don’t know which it is.

In any case, you sound like you’ve hired people yourself, so think like a hiring manager: What would make a candidate like you attractive if you were hiring? What would you want to see in their application materials that would convince you to talk to them? That’s what you should focus on, and don’t spend another second worrying about your lack of degree.

{ 93 comments… read them below }

  1. COT*

    #1… would your boss be okay with a lower-profile ring, like an inexpensive plain band? That would help you feel less “naked” without your main band on.

    These are a cheap option for folks who can’t wear metal bands at all at work:

    1. Nodumbunny*

      It sounds from her description of this as an engagement ring that she also has a wedding band. In which case, I would think she could just wear the wedding band and not the engagement ring. I totally agree – safety of newborns trumps wanting to wear even important jewelry.

  2. KellyK*

    As far as the engagement ring, I’d ask if you can wear it in another way while at work, like on a chain around your neck. I definitely think the safety of newborns has to be a MUCH higher priority than getting to wear jewelry that’s important to you. Though I understand how taking off a wedding or engagement ring can make you feel practically naked.

    1. mh_76*

      wear it…on a chain around your neck

      I was going to suggest the same thing. Or you could figure out a way to pin it to/inside your bra…actually, that might be trickly depending on how you’re built, what style you wear, and whether/not you want to be occasionally stabbed with a safety pin that spontaneouly unhitches.

      1. NICU Nurse Mgr*

        Yes, it’s allowed. Many nurses wear rings, etc around their necks instead. You’re making too big a deal out of this.

        1. AmyRenee*

          Not just nurses – I work in a lab, and I and many of the women wear our rings on a chain because they can snag latex gloves and break through them. My aunt is a dental hygenist and she and several of her co-workers bought plain gold bands to wear as their “work rings” for the same reason. My mother is left handed and she kept snagging her ring on things and the diamond would come unseated – after several times she had it re-set into a beautiful necklace that she wears instead, and she just wears a gold band on her finger.

    2. Construction HR*

      Several of our he-men construction workers wear their rings on chains. Especially electricians. Something about a ring wearing a hole in a glove that gives them incentive.

      1. Erin*

        My husband works with electricity. It’s because of the danger of wearing a conductive metal, in addition to the risk of your ring getting caught on equipment and ripping your finger off.
        Wish he had thought of the chain, though. After accidentally wearing his ring to work and having to leave it in his truck several times, he lost his ring before our first anniversary. :(

  3. Ring*

    Re: the ring.

    If you won’t wear it in bed because it scratched your husband (who, I assume is tougher than a newborn), I can’t imagine why you’d insist on wearing it around a delicate newborn!

    Just because it hasn’t happened yet, don’t assume it never will.

    1. some1*

      This, although the OP didn’t say she’s specifically working with newborns/babies.

      Also, as far as the complaint being recent (when you’ve been wearing it awhile), it could be that a parent recently expressed concern about it.

      1. some1*

        never mind, I am the one who read that wrong, I thought the OP meant she worked in a nursery school, not a hospital nursery.

        1. Really, dude?*

          “If you won’t wear it in bed because it scratched your husband (who, I assume is tougher than a newborn)”

          Clearly he isn’t, if he’s “very upset about the situation”.

  4. Your Mileage May Vary*

    #3, you’re not forced to sell overpriced concessions. People who come to the movie theater know that concessions cost a lot. They can choose not to purchase them.

    But that comment indicates that you aren’t 100% behind the mission of your workplace. And that’s fine. But you can’t fulfill the mission you think they should be doing instead. So you have to decide what you want — suck it up, stay, change your attitude, and start doing the job properly OR get another job and quit.

    You talk as if you are stuck in that job. That’s not the case. You’ve had three years of customer service, showing up on time (I hope), and working hard your entire shift (again, I hope). You can get hired someplace else.

    It sounds like you’re in a spiral where the job is getting you down so much that you don’t feel as though you have options. So then, when you’re at work, it just seems that much worse.

    To get out of this situation, you’re going to have to get out of your spiral. You should start crafting a resume and resolve to apply to X number of jobs a week. Try your campus for part-time jobs — maybe you can get one that relates to your major.

    Another job is not just going to find you. You have to pound the pavement to get there. And taking that action may make you feel better about yourself so that work isn’t so unbearable in the meantime.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      YMMV, I agree – was writing the same thing only you said it better and first.

      OP#3 – keep in mind what you value (saving money) isn’t necessarily what your customers value most, and it certainly isn’t what management values most. Every dollar you save your customer is a dollar out of your gross sales.

      (If you think EVERYONE must value savings the most, think about this: not everyone drives a Civic, shops at Wal-Mart, has a prepaid cell phone, or spends their vacation at the local water park. There is a market for luxury AND value. Think of your customers as a luxury-appreciating crowd, and consider that you’re saving them the hassle of sneaking in outside candy by offering concessions. Then maybe you won’t feel like your ripping them off.)

      1. Henning Makholm*

        And even if there isn’t any objective loss of quality for the “item of lesser value” the OP wants to suggest, there’s the luxury inherent in not being forced back into everyday penny-pinching mode by the concession staff.

        Movie theater patrons are — by definition — people who have decided that being entertained and having a good time is, for the time being, more important to them than holding on to their money. If even buying a bag of candy becomes an exercise in comparing bargains and making rational value-for-money decisions, where’s the fun in that? Might as well spend your nights grocery shopping, then.

      2. fposte*

        Okay, I own an ancient Civic and have a crappy prepaid phone, so you’ve made me laugh. But even I don’t want to nudged about frugality when I’m out at a movie, because I know how much it costs and I’ve decided to spend it–that’s why I’m there.

        It’s also not a situation where you develop relationship with a clientele. There are retail positions where it would make long-term sense to murmur to a shopper that that coat’s actually going to go on sale in two days rather than making a sale today, but that doesn’t really apply to Milk Duds.

      3. KellyK*

        Think of your customers as a luxury-appreciating crowd, and consider that you’re saving them the hassle of sneaking in outside candy by offering concessions. Then maybe you won’t feel like your ripping them off.

        I like this!

        People attending movies (and sports events and amusement parks) know that concessions are overpriced. People who want to save money are either watching the movie when it comes to Netflix, at home, with their own popcorn, or eating before or after the show.

        Also, if it’s a theater I *like* I’m happy to pay for overpriced concessions, as long as the food is decent, because I know that’s where they make their money. And if the theater I like keeps making money, I get to keep going there.

        (Sidenote – I’m a big fan of Bengie’s Drive-In in Baltimore.) I will happily drive past 2 or 3 closer theaters to go to a triple feature there because it’s a fun experience.)

    2. Daisy*

      I was going to say something similar.

      Saving the customers money is in direct contrast to what the movie theatre exists to do. If I were managing someone who thought this was appropriate in this setting, I’d warn them once and then fire them. Movie theatre employees are supposed to upsell, not downsell. If this is so upsetting to OP, I’d recommend working for a non-profit.

      1. mh_76*

        Saving the customers money is in direct contrast to what the movie theatre exists to do.

        So true….always trying to up-size my order and few staffers -don’t- try to talk me out of ordering the kid’s (popcorn/soda/candy) combo (which, in the 1980’s, was a large in terms of quantity).

  5. Meg*

    #2: I totally understand where you’re coming from. I have a week left at my job, and fortunately it is a former employee who is returning to take over my position instead of going thru the stress of hiring and training my replacement in a period of two weeks.

    I’m finding it hard myself to follow the newer rules and guidelines they are implementing (like mandatory clocking out for 30 minutes for lunch when I’ve never ever had to clock out for lunch before, or clocking in at my scheduled time as opposed to clocking in early when I arrive, and few other new stuff) simply because I think to myself, “What’s the worse that could happen? I’d get written up? I’m leaving in a week!”

    I think my supervisors have that same train of thought because they are less strict on me about the new guidelines than anyone else. But the way I look at it, I’m in a unique position. I find myself volunteering for different duties or requests that I normally wouldn’t take simply because I’d be missing on prime selling time (I make salary + substantial commission), but my commission portion for this month is going to be held for 6 months anyway (for chargebacks).

    It gets me out of the drab routine I’m used to and losing motivation during, lets my coworkers get used to me not being around, and it looks good to my supervisors. Is it possible for you to do something similar in your current position?

    #4: I, too, have an unfinished degree that I list on my resume. I put the years attended and what major, but I don’t indicate that I have a degree (because I don’t). I used to get asked if I finished college, but sometimes I didn’t. I think Alison’s advice is spot-on; put down the numbers of credits you’ve completed. It shows that you have some of the education, and doesn’t leave any gray areas as to whether you’ve finished or not.

    1. Anonymous*

      This is Q2– nice to have someone to commiserate with! And Alison, thanks for the kick in the pants.

  6. Another Ellie*

    For #1, my aunt is a nurse and when she got engaged she specifically picked out a ring that she would be able to wear while she worked. Large/high engagement rings pose a number of patient safety risks aside from just scratching, including catching on lines and tearing through gloves. I’m honestly a little surprised you didn’t realize this and plan accordingly. I would really recommend that you see about trading your ring for something with a lower profile, or else get used to taking it off for work. It’s possible that your hospital’s insurance won’t cover accidents that are caused by an inappropriate ring. This is actually relatively typical for industries where rings can cause problems.

    1. class factotum*

      Sort of related – my dad was an aircraft mechanic and never wore a wedding ring. I used to work for a large manufacturer – none of the men wore rings. (And I suppose if I had known any women who worked on the factory floor, they would not wear rings either.)

      Now I know that people with manufacturing and repair backgrounds tend not to wear rings as they wish to keep their fingers. So this very nice looking, intelligent, pleasant new guy at work does not wear a ring. I would love to set him up with a friend of mine. But this man used to be an aircraft mechanic. Which means he could be married. But ringless.

      So now I have to wait until I know him a little better before I broach the subject of a setup. Although I suppose I should, anyhow. Being single often is not enough in common for two people to like each other.

      1. Jenn*

        Yeah, I think there are quite a few jobs in which it’s normal to take off wedding/engagement rings. My dad knew a mechanic who lost a finger due to an accident involving an engine and his wedding band. I take off my ring before I solder.

        1. Natalie*

          Sometimes it’s a cleanliness issue rather than safety – a completely plain, smooth band is the only hand/wrist jewelry chefs are allowed to wear, and quite a few of them don’t even bother with a ring at all.

        2. Long Time Admin*

          It’s usually a rule in factories. One of the few things management and the union could agree on.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Even though my husband works in the maintenance field, he’s always worn a ring. . .and fortunately never lost a finger.

        However, sometimes he has to take it off because he has Reynaud’s and his hands will swell up. He also didn’t wear one for a couple years because his ended up at the bottom of a lake and we didn’t rush out to buy a new one.

        Point is, many possible reasons for someone to be married and not wear a ring, other than trying to pick up women behind their wife’s back. : )

        1. COT*

          My husband has an office job and still doesn’t wear a ring. He just couldn’t get used to it (he doesn’t wear any other jewelry). He does a lot of hands-on stuff (car repair, home maintenance, etc.) in his spare time and kept misplacing his ring when he took it off to do those things. Eventually he just gave up. I figure that if Prince William doesn’t wear a ring, it’s good enough for my partner, too.

          But when I’m not wearing mine I feel naked. I totally understand why OP is hesitant, but there’s nothing crazy about being asked not to wear a particularly poke-prone ring.

        2. Andrew*

          Then there are the people, like me, who cannot stand to wear a ring at all. In fact, I can’t stand anything on my hands, even including gloves.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Off-topic a bit, but as a single person who is sometimes the target of well-meaning but completely off-base matchmaking attempts, I applaud your last sentence!

    2. Rana*

      I was rather relieved when we got married, and I could stop wearing my engagement ring and just wear the wedding band – I snagged that thing on everything.

      As it is, I still need to take it off sometimes – like when I’m working in the pottery studio and don’t want it to dent the clay – and then I usually shove it in a sock or something, but only briefly. If I had to take it off on a regular basis, I’d get a chain or ribbon with a clip on it.

    3. Anonymous*

      This was my thought as well. When I worked in a hospital I wasnt even in patient care and we were still discouraged from wearing rings; nails had to be cut very short, acrylics weren’t allowed, etc. Your hands have to be clean and with no possible snagging bits or bacteria traps. Hell, you’re not even supposed to wear rings in a commercial kitchen for sanitary reasons.

  7. Jamie*

    “my husband was very upset about the situation.”

    #1 – I’m curious about this. Why is he upset?

      1. fposte*

        Wouldn’t the wedding ring on its own do that? Or is it only an engagement stone that has the power to repel?

      2. Rana*

        Or the OP herself. I don’t need a ring to tell would-be suitors that I’m not interested, and my husband doesn’t need me to wear a ring because he knows that.

        That said, I do understand a person’s emotional attachment to something like a wedding band; I like wearing mine, as a symbol of our commitment to each other. It’s just that wearing it is not the only way to fend off unwanted attention.

        1. Amanda*

          Yeah, I don’t get the whole “I need a ring so men don’t hit on me” thing.

          If he’s reasonable, a simple, “Sorry, I’m not interested” will do.

          If he’s sleazy, he’s not going to care whether she’s married or not.

          1. Ellie H.*

            It’s not really this, I don’t think, which seems relatively shallow – it’s the intangible emotional attachment that Rana mentioned above. Of course nobody “needs” a ring or any other object to symbolize his or her connection to a spouse in order for that connection to exist, but it is one of those things that humans tend to attach important meanings to.

    1. LMW*

      I would just assume that he’s upset that he spent a large amount of money on a piece of jewelry assuming (or perhaps because) she would wear it all the time, and now she won’t wear it most of the time, so it’s kind of a waste.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        My mom’s engagement ring disappeared when she was in the nursing home. I always loved that ring (it had a very pretty setting), and wanted it as a keepsake. But since it’s gone, I’ve come to realize that basically, it’s only a stone mounted on a piece of metal. The value is all emotional.

      2. some1*

        If it bothers him that much he can trade it in for something set lower. It’s understandable why he’d want her to wear it, but ultimately this is not his call.

        I used to work for a govt dept, and we had to pay for our own holiday party (actually the professional staff paid for the support staff), which meant employees only & no significant others. I had two serious boyfriends while I worked there who didn’t like that, but I attended the party (it was held during work hours and if you didn’t go, you had to stay & work).

          1. Jamie*

            I think this is like Bigfoot. I hear people like this exist – some people claim they’ve seen them…but I won’t believe it until I meet one myself.

            I’m convinced most people don’t want to go to their own holiday parties.

          2. KellyK*

            Eh, for certain values of “want.” I’m making it a point to go to my husband’s party this year because his dad, who works for the same company, is getting recognition. And it’s not any more painful than going to my own.

            For my company’s holiday party, I usually want to be there for an hour or so, and then I’m done. I usually stay through dinner and leave when dancing starts.

          3. Anonymous*

            I would pay NOT to have to go to a holiday party at work! Can’t really skip it as they hold it right next to my desk.

          4. some1*

            I’m with you; I’ve never had fun at a BF’s work party, but both these guys really wanted to bring me to theirs. I think they were annoyed about being excluded from something they normally would have been invited to, like if I got a wedding invitation only addressed to me.

  8. Kiribitz*

    #1 – I completely understand how strange it feels to not wear a ring you’ve gotten used to, and how you feel singled out for something which apparently hasn’t been an issue up to this point; but as mom to a preemie, I would have been seriously pissed had she been injured by a piece of jewelry worn by a nurse during her time in the NICU.

    Other reasonable solutions have been offered – put the ring on a chain, wear just your wedding band, wear an alternate band. Please figure out something which works for you and doesn’t have the potential to harm your patients however slight of a chance you think there is for that to occur.

  9. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Miserable at the movie theatre: Unfortunately, I think Alison’s right on this one. This sounds like roughly every service industry job I’ve ever worked. Yes, you have to upsell items (that, as another commenter pointed out, people can choose to buy or not), you have to do as you’re told by your manager, and you have to deal with the fact that your manager wants business done in a certain way. Even if you disagree, you have to suck it up, or quit.

    You say you bristle at having to “follow the leader,” but you were hired to do so. You were not made part of the management team, and I suspect (though certainly correct me if I’m wrong) that your “being treated like a child” really means that your managers and co-workers treat you exactly as they treat any other co-worker at your level, and that bothers you because of your age.

    But age doesn’t matter. The quality of your work does. When I supervised people in fast food, heck yes I treated some people other than me like they were children… because they consistently refused to do their work, or did it so incorrectly that they needed extra training, monitoring, and follow-up just to get them to perform at the same high level as the 17 year-old new hire.

    It’s fine if this isn’t the job for you. But it would be a good idea to reflect on how much of that is your employer’s fault. If you’re miserable every day at work, it shows. If you’re being treated like a child, check to make sure that you’re performing at the level of other employees you think are being treated better before you assume that this particular workplace is out to get you.

    And consider the entire experience valuable training for when you obtain your degree and join the workforce in your chosen profession; chances are, you’re going to have to “follow the leader” for several more years.

    1. fposte*

      Oh, Kimberlee, I thought of you as soon as I read the question. This is a really useful and pragmatic view.

      OP, I’d also like to make even clearer something that Alison and Kimberlee touched on–that any other new job is likely to require the same kind of you’re-here-to-work-by-the-rules approach as the one you’ve got now, because that’s where you are in your career trajectory. So think carefully before leaving if that’s your primary source of dissatisfaction. Like Kimberlee, I think there’s a possibility that some of your frustration is actually being at this stage at an older age than you expected to be, and that’s not something that’s likely to change if you swap jobs.

    2. Anonymous*

      Putting things around another way, I would have thought a job which required no initiative and actively required any and all problems be dumped off onto someone else would be quite ideal for someone in college. You can use the spare brain cycles to think about coursework and the like.

      1. Flynn*

        Yes! It’s amazing how much more boring my job became after I’d finished off all my degrees. I’ve been actively trying to find new responsibilities, but it doesn’t offer much scope for that.

    3. Nichole*

      My husband worked in various areas of the service industry for a long time, and we almost appreciate a well executed up-sell. Maybe the OP can make it more bearable by reframing it as figuring out what the customer *really* wants and getting it to them in as little time as possible without making them feel “sold”?

      I agree that a “this is below me” attitude may be coming across, even if that’s not the intention, making the OP come across to the boss as someone who needs to be micromanaged to keep him/her from going rogue and causing unnecessary headache. Falling in a little bit may, in its own weird way, provide the autonomy the OP wants while waiting to get out of there.

    4. Emily*

      I work two jobs. My day job is a full-time, white-collar office job with generous benefits and salary, lots of autonomy, and lots of flexibility. My night job is delivering sandwiches for a sub shop at a sub-minimum wage +tips. I’m 27 years old and my oldest manager is 19.

      I love my night job because it’s low-stress, easy, and because I work with great people, it’s fun. (Yes, they’re all half my age, but we have our shared work in common and that’s enough to make light conversation. It also helps that I can pass for a younger age and I rarely bring up my age or my day job unless directly asked about it because I don’t want to seem like I look down on them.) But I have to approach it with the right attitude.

      It’s important not to feel too proud to follow instructions. Challenging my 19-year-old manager’s instructions in front of the other employees undermines his authority, and makes me a difficult employee that he won’t want to work with. This job is easy, which means I’m replaceable–regardless of how educated I am and how skilled I may be in the professional office world, that doesn’t make me any more valuable in a sub shop. I could easily be replaced by a 16-year-old who will be easier to manage.

      So instead of suggesting a better way to make the sandwiches, I clean the thing I know they’re going to want me to clean before they have to ask me to do it. Instead of pointing out inefficiencies I see in their business model, I never call out sick and always pick up extra shifts when the younger and less responsible employees call out hungover sick. Instead of questioning my manager’s instructions, I try to set a positive example for the younger employees by being cheerful, hard-working, and compliant.

      The managers openly refer to me as their favorite employee and “fight” over whose shifts I’ll work on, give me preferential scheduling, will send me on special errands to buy coffee or frozen yogurt for the staff on their dime while I’m clocked in, and even started giving me “special projects” (still very basic things like organizing the back room) after a few months. Not because I’m smarter or exercising judgment and autonomy, but because I am really, really good at following instructions and I set a positive example for the other employees. Pride might be my biggest vice, but I don’t let my pride keep me from performing the job I was hired to do. My pride is what motivates me to do what is asked of me. There’s no shame in honest work no matter how unskilled.

      1. khilde*

        Oh man, you’d probably really like this book: “Does Waiting Tables Make you Weak?: Character Building through Service Positions.” by Wendy Schamber. You can get it on Amazon or BN. You sound a lot like the author (being older than the rest of her coworkers, going above and beyond, really strong integrity, etc.) and probably would really get a kick out of stories you could have written yourself, I bet (some of the stories are about delivering pizzas). The book is a quick read and entertaining.

      2. sara*

        I’m curious and I’m very very sorry if this comes across as nosy, but if your day job is very admirable, why are you working at a sandwich shop?

        I admire your work ethic though!

        1. Emily*

          I lived beyond my means while pursuing a graduate degree and racked up a considerable amount of high-interest debt. At some point I sat down with an Excel sheet and calculated that my options were: 1) spend 3-4 years paying it all off at my regular salary* and current spending habits, 2) spend 1-2 years paying it all off by living frugally and curtailing all my “fun” spending for 1-2 years, or 3) pay it all off in about 15 months with my current spending habits if I picked up a part-time gig on the side. I really enjoy traveling so I decided to get the second job rather than rein in my spending.

          And although this wasn’t a deciding factor, it was also appealing to me to expose myself to a different environment. As a sociologist by training I know all too well the tendency we have to surround ourselves with people like us–people who come from similar backgrounds as us, do similar work to us, have similar beliefs as we do, etc. and that can tend to make us start to dehumanize people who are different and believe differently than we do. Regularly interacting with people from outside of my own socio-political-economic bubble (young people, people who aren’t on the academic path in life, people of diverse political opinions) reminds me that people who are different from me are complex humans just like me. It’s likely that I’ll keep this job after my debt is paid off, to do some aggressive savings before I hit 30 and to continue my exposure to different people.

          *I work for a nonprofit, so while my salary is great by nonprofit standards, it’s at the low-middle end of what I’d be earning using my advanced degree in a for-profit setting.

  10. danr*

    #5… if the autoimmune disease involves a major organ, side effects can affect the brain. It’s slow and not noticeable until it’s gone on awhile. Ask your doctor about this. And read up on the disease yourself, so you know what other questions to ask.

    And, as Alison says, mention the problem to your manager. You don’t need to go into detail, but she should know. You’re going to have doctor appointments and tests, and they usually don’t conform to business hours.

    1. Anonymous*

      Also talk to your doctor in case your work is being affected by your medication (eg, steroids – commonly used in autoimmune disease – can affect sleep, mood, concentration, memory). He/she may be able to adjust the dose or timing.

  11. Diane*

    #5: Talk to your boss, and talk to HR about FMLA to cut back on your hours each week. I went through this some years ago with an autoimmune disease that just made me physically and mentally exhausted. My doctor limited my hours to six a day, which really helped me conserve energy and focus while at work. My boss and coworkers were great because they knew I wasn’t slacking off, and it was temporary. FWIW, I found it took me about six months to get back to mostly-normal. Good luck.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I agree with this. Also, I’m not sure if auto-immune is covered under ADA, but it’s worth noting that you can’t get accommodation under either FMLA or ADA without asking for it! (well, in most cases).

      1. fposte*

        To clarify a little–your job can’t suggest ADA accommodation, but it can and is obliged to swing FMLA into action where appropriate. But–and I know this is what you were saying, Kimberlee–they have to know it’s appropriate first, so you have to open a mouth.

        I’m glad that Diane brought up intermittent FMLA, because I think that’s less well known than the continuous leave type. You’ll likely need a doctor to give some clear guidelines, as Diane suggests, but if you’re eligible, that’s definitely worth looking into while you’re sorting out management.

  12. Your Boss*

    #1 – Safety comes first. I would ask to remove a personal item if it interferes with a job performance or puts someone at risk (even potential.) There is nothing wrong with it. I don’t understand why she is so upset. No one asks her to get a divorce. Just remove the ring, put it back after your work hours. Why such a big deal? Really how old are we? A long time ago I asked my husband to remove his wedding band after it fell into one of the shipping boxes he was preparing to send away. He doesn’t wear his wedding band since. Does it bother him? Nope. Does it bother me? Hell no.

  13. Zee*

    #1 – My mother has told me that she stopped wearing her engagement ring for a few years while I was a baby and then a toddler. She did it so she wouldn’t scratch my face; it was bad enough when the cat nearly scratched my eye out.

    Maybe a parent raised concern when they saw the ring. Maybe you did leave a mark on a child – unintentional of course. But I can fully understand your manager’s request, and I think you should comply with it. You have your wedding band. Have you considered possibly wearing it on a chain around your neck while you’re at work and wearing it on your finger when you’re not?

    1. Another Emily*

      Considering this ring has scratched another person it does seem pretty reasonable not to wear it while at work, since you work with kids.

  14. curious*

    #2 Stay motivated and do the best handover documentation you can do and stay on good terms with everyone. Working off my notice period after resigning, I was tired and really ready to go but I kept my performance up. A year after I left my previous position, my old company approached me with a role which was a much better fit for me that I am now really happy doing. I don’t think that would have happened if I hadn’t made sure I wrapped up everything to the best of my ability in the previous job.

    1. Anonymous*

      Great advice, curious! I think I sounded pretty whiny in my note to Alison. My boss was actually kind of surprised when I told him I wanted to leave, so I think this is all happening on good terms, I am just ready to move on to other things. But leaving on a high note is important, as your example shows!

      1. fposte*

        You might actually find creating documentation, manuals, etc., kind of an interesting way to reflect on what you’ve achieved and quantify that for your own records, too. I think it’s kind of cool to know that things you did will help people after you work better.

        1. Rosemarine*

          I found this to be the case in a recent contract job. Once I had completed the work I was hired to do, I had to document the process. Although one of the folks I worked with told me that no one would look at any of it again, I found that the process of describing what I had done and why as precisely as possible was an excellent mental exercise. As fposte says, I’m glad I have a copy of that for my own records so that I can refer to it in the future (and so remember specifics if I apply for similar assignments in the future). Writing real documentation was also a good thing to add to my skills as a writer.

          By the way, I’ve been in your situation, OP; a temp assignment was supposed to turn into something longer-term, but they hired another person for that job (she was a much better fit for the job than I would’ve been, so I think it worked out in the long run). At the time, I was unhappy but I did manage to line up another job before I left, and I didn’t let my performance at the first job suffer. Knowing I could move on made a big difference. If you focus on good future possibilities that you are moving towards, that can be a big help. Good luck!

  15. Anonymous*

    #1 – It could be a lot worse – in some countries (I think Great Britain is one of them) they are implementing rules to be “bare below the elbows” where rings, watches, bracelets, and ties are banned from being worn by all health care workers during work. They’re doing this to help stop hospital acquired infections (tho there’s not much evidence showing this helps, but they’re still doing it.)

  16. Esra*

    #1 – I’ve got a scar on my cheek from being scratched as a newborn. At first it just looked like a normal little scratch, but it didn’t heal quite right.

    As mentioned above, putting the rings on a necklace or pin will still make them apparent, without putting anyone at risk.

  17. Good_Intentions*


    I’m terribly sorry about the scar you have on your cheek. Your story certainly proves the need for preventative measures, particularly for staff working with a vulnerable population like infants.

    The one issue I’ve not yet seen addressed by either Alison or in the lively comments section is how the LW #1’s supervisor addressed this matter.

    Would it have been more tactful for all medical staff to have received a directive about removing any rings or bracelets with the potential to scratch or snag people and/or things while they on shift? This would have alleviated any feeling from the LW that she was being called out while others were not, and it would presumably reduce the likelihood of anyone getting scratched by a ring or other piece of jewelry.

    The nursery where the LW works has every right to ensure that its young patients and their family members are in a safe and sanitary environment free from potential accidental marks. However, management could have saved the LW and her husband much anxiety or frustration by exercising some consideration and thoughtfulness in the request.

    Just because a manager can pull a subordinate aside and make a request with little explanation does not mean that it’s the wisest course of action.

    1. Lady, For Pete's Sake...*

      No offense, but really? The OP admits that her ring sits “quite high”. What more explanation from her manager does she need? Take off the damn ring and get on with your job. Yeesb.

    2. fposte*

      Actually, I think it’s better for a manager to be direct, rather than to send a message out to everybody to change the behavior of one employee. It might, however, be good to include information like this in orientation in future, since the OP might be less startled if she’d known about this going on.

    3. Rana*

      Plus my experience is that people who most need to correct their behavior also tend to be the ones least likely to perceive such directives as aimed at them. It’s too easy for people who are part of the problem but clueless about it to think “Oh, goodness. Well, I knowI’m fine with regards to X. I’m glad they’re finally cracking down on those troublemakers who aren’t.” and continue on their merry way.

    4. Kou*

      No, it is never a good idea to give a directive to all employees when you really just want to give it to one of them. It’s passive aggressive and sets an uncomfortable tone. If the OP feels she is being “singled out” for being asked to change something that only really applies to her, she needs to overcome that herself.

    5. Zee*

      A few people disagree with you, but I agree.

      Yes, the OP should be spoken to specifically since her ring is in a higher setting and may present a scratching hazard. However, now that this has come up in the work environment, I think the dress code should be changed to include most jewelry should not be worn while on duty. But for all we know, it could already be in the rules.

    6. KellyK*

      Only if it’s an actual rules change. If the policy is going from “sure, wear jewelry unless it’s super high or pointy” to “plain bands only,” then everybody should be notified of that change.

      But if her ring is the only one that’s a problem, then talking to her individually is the best way to handle it.

  18. Karthik*

    #7: I don’t know what part of the country you’re in, but you’d probably have some good luck meeting with entrepreneurs and networking through them. You could take the skills you gained starting your first company (and with a successful exit, too!), and leverage that either to start a new one or mentor those who are starting on their own path. Here in the Bay Area, there are many dinners a week (advertised on, for example, where like-minded people can eat and you can build your network. Sounds like you don’t want a traditional 9-5 job…

  19. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Congratulations! Having recently been dumped, I would give anything to have this problem. :P :(

    Many other posters have very valid points about safety. You can’t predict young children’s movements and it just seems like an accident waiting to happen.

    I’d also be worried about knocking the stone out of the high setting. I lost a tiger eye from my all-time favorite ring that way. One bonk and it flew out of the setting, down a sink drain and was gone. :{ You’re probably better off doing as your manager suggests. I would either leave it at home, or wear it on a chain around your neck under your shirt, if you can’t bear to be without it and it’s allowed.

    #3–if you’re that miserable, try and find something else. Not all low-level jobs are that draconian. I would try and look for something before you quit, if you can. If you do something proactive to help your situation, it will help your attitude too. Right now it seems like you feel trapped. You’ll feel better because you’ll feel like there is a way out.

  20. HR Anon*

    #7 – references from another country (that speak English fluently) would not be a problem. I’ve had people list references for US jobs from all kinds of places, England being one of the least troublesome to get a hold of. I wouldn’t worry about listing people overseas as references, although you should give both an email address and phone number to make it easier to contact them.

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