tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions.  Here we go…

1. How do I make employees stop playing online when they’re supposed to be working

How do I politely tell my employees to stop being on I.M. and Facebook all day? They lose focus. I’ve told them to stop, but they continue to be on Facebook and iChat all day. They say they use iChat to talk with other business associates, but they are lying.

You’re their manager, right? You need to lay out clear rules and consequences, and then stick to them. If you’ve clearly told people to stop playing online during the day, and it’s continuing, then you need to get more serious (such as telling them that you’re giving them a final warning, and then they risk losing their jobs — which might seem severe, but if they’re ignoring warnings and lying, that’s a big deal). Based just on the way you’ve framed your question here, I suspect they can tell that you’re not going to do the tough parts of managing — like holding people accountable, disciplining, and firing — and so they have no incentive to comply. Stop requesting, and start requiring. (And take a crash course in your responsibilities as a manager too — start here.)

(Also, because I know someone is going to say that you shouldn’t care what they do online as long as they’re getting their work done, I’m assuming for the sake of this question that you are seeing a difference in their work, per your comment about losing focus.)

2. Why are salaries so low?

In my job search since March, it seems that all professional level jobs (outside of the IT industry) are offering extremely low salaries across the board. They are asking for five years of experience in associate level positions yet only offering entry level salaries, that were entry-level ten years ago! How can a major corporation get away with offering $40,000 for an experienced Supply Chain Planner position (usually goes for between $56 -$70k, according to all the salary websites) or $32,000 for a crackerjack Customer Service Team Lead (goes from $45 – $54,000 in my personal experience)? Are they really using the economy as an excuse? It’s too great a disparity. And how can a professional who needs a job to keep a roof over their head accept such a poor salary and expect to keep their career on track?

Supply and demand. If they can find good candidates willing to do the job for less, that becomes the market rate for the work.

By the way, be wary of the information on salary websites. They’re notoriously inaccurate, partly since they generally don’t account for the fact that job titles frequently represent wildly different scopes of responsibility.

3. Responding to a job rejection by phone

I recently was contacted by phone by an organization to let me know that I wasn’t getting hired. While I appreciated the personal touch, the immediacy of a phone call meant that I couldn’t just *not* respond, and so I stammered through an awkward “thank you for letting me know.” It’s hard to thank someone for rejecting you, though, and I worry that I sounded insincere. What would you recommend as a response if this happens again?

Yeah, this is why I think all rejections should come by email, not phone. But if you get one by phone, what you said is perfect: “Thank you for letting me know, and good luck with the position,” or anything along those lines. Of course, while you have them, you could take the opportunity to ask for feedback — but you’ll be catching them off-guard (ironically) so you might not get anything especially useful.

4. I want a promotion … after three months on the job

I’ve been working for a new company for about three months now. While I am enjoying the company and my current role, I feel that I could be qualified for other positions that require a BS degree and come with a higher pay grade. Since I am so new, when is it acceptable to apply for an internal job? Can I make my case to HR that I feel somewhat overqualified for my current position? Should I just leave it alone and keep making a name for myself with my performance?

In a year. No. Yes.

You agreed to the job when you took it. If you thought you were overqualified for it, the time to decide that was before you accepted it. Asking to move on now — after you committed to do this job just three months ago — will make you look naive and unreliable. Stick it out for at least a year and prove yourself before you start making noises about a promotion.

5. Offered a position I didn’t interview for

Two weeks ago, I interviewed for one type of position out of two entry-level positions the company was looking to fill. Last Friday, I received an offer — for the position I did not apply for. I admit the two positions are closely linked, and that the hiring managers were interviewing for both positions on the day I interviewed. I’m wondering if the hiring managers thought I was a better fit for the second position. If so, is this normal? Did the company make a mistake, or just did they just decide that they wanted me for the second position over the first position and my preference was negligible? Is this a red flag?

It’s not unusual to interview for one position but be offered a different one if the employer thinks it would be a better fit. But why not just ask them? Say something like, “I’m very interested, but since I interviewed for the X position, can you tell me more about this one and why you think it might be a better fit?”

6. Company is ignoring my emails

I had a phone interview with a company about a month ago, at the end of which my interviewer said if I had any questions I should feel free to contact her. I sent a thank-you email a few hours after the interview, and about three days later, I sent an inquiry regarding some of the responsibilities of the position that weren’t addressed during the interview. I waited over a week, and didn’t receive a response to my question. A week later, I sent another email, reiterating my interest in the position, and asking if my interviewer could provide me with any kind of time table regarding the hiring process, to which I again received no response. It’s been about two weeks since I sent that message, and I still haven’t heard anything back. Should I send another email, asking if I’m still under consideration for the position, or continue to wait?

Nope, move on. You’ve reached out twice with questions and been ignored. They’re either busy with other things or moving forward with other candidates. Either way, it does you no good to continue to follow up — and potentially hurts you if you continue to email without response. (And yes, it’s rude of them, but you can’t force an answer.)

7. What does OP stand for?

I’m a new reader (about six weeks), enjoy your site and find it useful. Obviously you have many long-term readers who use many acronyms/abbreviations, which is great. Many are self-evident, but many, not so much. For example, I see “OP” often but have no idea what it means (possibly Other Person?). Do you have a page that explains what these shortcuts mean? And could you please tell me what OP means (it’s driving me nuts)?

OP = Original Poster. It’s a blogosphere term that refers to the person who wrote the original letter that the post is answering. If there are others you’re wondering about, let us know in the comments! (Also, with nearly all of these Internet acronyms, you can usually google “what does X stand for?” and get the right answer.)

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    #7 – what do you do if you have received a formal written offer, and have followed up via phone, but was told there is a “slight delay,” and will be contacted by the company if/when anything changes? Should I continue following up via phone? If so, is it okay to follow up more than once per week?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm. So they made you a job offer then said there was a delay but that they’d contact you IF something changes? Those are contradictory messages, but the upshot is that there probably isn’t a job offer to count on there anymore. I’d follow up with them in a week or two, and ask them for a sense of their timeline for when they’re likely to know more. Then let that be your guide. Checking in more than once a week is too much, and do it by email rather than by phone (less intrusive, and it’s not something you need an answer for that very second).

      And meanwhile, act as if there’s no offer (because there may not be), and keep job-searching.

      1. Anonymous*

        I don’t recall exactly if they said “if” or “when,” but when I inquired if there is anything I should be concerned about, they very strongly said that there was nothing I should be concerned about. Is this something they would say regardless?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Depends on the person — but keep up your job search regardless; don’t count on this offer coming through. Until there’s a current, existing offer, there is no real offer.

          1. Anonymous*

            Well, there is still a current, existing offer. They didn’t say that the offer itself was delayed, just that the process is. Unless you’re saying that those two are the same thing. Regardless, I will continue my job search.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m saying they’re the same thing. Too many offers disappear in situations like this, so you shouldn’t count on it reemerging. Keep in touch but keep up your job search. And ask them for an estimated timeline for moving forward; it’s not reasonable for them to expect you to wait around indefinitely, when you’re presumably talking to other employers.

            2. Josh S*

              So they’re telling you, “Here’s your job offer, but we can’t tell you a start date”?

              That’s not a job offer. You could accept it, and that start date could (conceivably) get pushed back, and pushed back, and pushed back, until eventually it vanishes.

              It’s kind of like being engaged to be married, but with no ring and no date–the commitment is really just so much empty noise until you have something backing it up.

              1. Anonymous*

                No. It is a job offer. They gave me a written job offer (email) WITH a starting date, position title, base salary, and health/dental/vision benefit information. I immediately followed up with them, and that’s when they told me “there is a slight delay.”

                1. Josh S*

                  “There is a slight delay” means “we no longer have a firm start date for you.” Which means you no longer have a valid written job offer.

                  Or, if you *do* still have a written job offer, accept it and see what they tell you. “OK, we’ll see you on MM/DD for your first day” means that the slight delay vanished. “Um, but we have a slight delay” means that you don’t know when your first day is, ergo, no firm job offer.

                  A job offer without a firm start date is a job offer that is tentative.

                2. Jamie*

                  I have to agree with Josh – for me if there is no start date there is no job offer.

                  That doesn’t mean it won’t be an offer again, when they have a date – but I would act as if I had nothing and keep looking.

                3. Anonymous*

                  AAM, I did, but unfortunately was told that she did not have any new information. She told me that the delay came from some higher-ups, and would contact me when she receives any new information from them.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Okay, then yeah. If if was something close and definite, like “we need to push this back by two weeks,” that would be one thing (although I’d still be wary). But at this point, there’s really no job offer currently. Not until/unless they come back to you.

                5. Anonymous*

                  AAM, if it turns out to the be the case where there is no longer the job, what would be the best way of finding out from them the reason for the offer being taken away? Also, is it often the case that they will simply just stop contacting me, leaving the potential job offer out in the dark somewhere?

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s no way to find out, often. You can ask, but it sounds like it was internal changes, which they might or might not fill you in on. And yes, sometimes it does just disappear in situations like that. (However, it’s also possible that this will work out just fine — that they’ll contact you in a month with a start date or something. You just can’t count on it.)

                7. Anonymous*

                  AAM, there is a bit more information that may or may not be helpful in this situation. The lady I speak with seems to just simply relay the information she receives from the hiring manager. But she is my sole contact, and also who I received the written offer from. Regarding the starting date, she said I could “expect to start one week after the original start date.” However, in the past, she has given me expected times when I should hear back from the company (regarding various other matters), but would hear nothing from them past that time. So my question is, should I take her word with the dates I should hear back from the company (again, regarding various matters)?

                8. JohnQPublic*

                  More accurately, there is no job until you’re filling out your W-4 and benefits paperwork. Any time up until then, you don’t have the job, you have a bunch of words. A really good lead, in sales-speak. But a lead is not a sale, and an offer is not a job.

      2. Kimberley*

        Always remember this: A job offer is not real until it is received on paper (or e-mail).

        I received a verbal a few months ago from a very reputable organization. At first the letter was delayed due to the “holiday”, then because the team was on “training”, after about a month I was told that the position was on hold.

        They called me last week and said that they are again interested and that they will send me the offer letter ASAP. I still haven’t seen it.

        1. JohnQPublic*

          Makes you want to call them and say you need another interview- where you’re interviewing them to find out if you still want to work for a company that engages in these sorts of shenanigans.

    2. Xay*

      Keep looking for a job. I work for a government contractor and we may hire someone for a proposal that we recently won but encounter a delay with the government office. That delay may just be a matter of waiting for the right people to be in the office or the funding may have been reduced, requiring a reduction of staff that will be hired for the proposal. My rule of thumb is to keep looking for work until there is a concrete start date – if you receive a job offer once the job you are waiting on has started, you can always turn it down.

  2. Jill*

    For number 6. I am in a similar situation. Would 2 emails be the max you recommend reaching out to them before letting it go? In short, they told me that they wanted to move me forward in the interview process after a short phone interview and if I didn’t hear from them to reach out to them which I did last Wednesday but I still haven’t heard anything from them.

    1. Fool me twice*

      Ugh. I am in the same situation x2. Made it to the second interview twice with two different companies and now they are both ignoring me. I.hate.interviewing.

      Really, though, it seems like a total waste of time. I spend hours prepping, spend at least an hour on each interview, and they cannot spend 5 minutes to update me. Very rude. But now it is the standard, and NOT the exception.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        Unfortunate, but true. And as job seekers, we are still expected to be excruciatingly polite, overwhelmingly prepared for the interview, and painfully patient when they treat us badly.

        It was a bit better in the old days, when we would receive a post card or note telling us that they went with another candidate “whose qualifications more closely matched the job requirements”. I had enough of those to wallpaper my living room (not that I ever did it; I was depressed enough).

    2. BW*

      This happened to me on my last search. On the phone they told me they would set up an in-person interview. I heard nothing, and followed-up by email, was told they were working on it, and it was tough to coordinate people’s schedules. Another week or two went by without any word. So I followed up again and got the same reply back, then nothing. Eventually, the person admitted they had decided to move forward with another candidate they thought was a better fit. Okay, that would have been nice to know rather than being told for a month that there were scheduling issues. It would have been better even to get no response. A no-response in this case would have been more to the point. No response is pretty typical when searching, and if I don’t get a response to one email, I don’t send a second one, but this I just found bizarre.

    3. A Bug!*

      One communication might reasonably be lost in the shuffle, so if you have reason to expect a response and don’t get one it’s good to follow up. But after the second try you can’t really follow up any further without the implication being that you think they should be operating differently than they are (in other words, it becomes nagging). Probably not something you want if you’re trying to get hired!

  3. Eric*

    Studies show that allowing workers to take “Facebook breaks” makes them more productive.


    Problems come from those who consistently choose to use Facebook instead of work. They should be easy to root out and either be corrected or eliminated because they have poor results.

    If ALL your workers spend more time than what you think is appropriate on Facebook, then it may benefit you to challenge your employees or delegate more work to them. If you are busy and your employees are not, then that is your fault.

    1. Ivy*


      Facebook isn’t the problem, it’s lack of motivation. Eric, I like your suggestions of increasing work and challenging employees. And of course, hold them accountable if they do not perform well.

    2. Anon*

      Yes, I think that taking small breaks does increase productivity. Even if an employee is very dedicated and motivated, it’s just to hard to work non-stop at a consistent level.

      But I wonder how many breaks it’s okay to take. Where’s the line between taking a quick rest and slacking off?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        When you can see the impact on the quality or quantity of work. As the OP says that it’s affecting their focus, I’d say it’s at that point.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, I want to change what I just said, because plenty of people slack off and think it doesn’t impact their work, when in fact it does. I’m changing my answer to this: When you’re at work, you’re there to focus on work. The occasional short break is fine, but the vast, vast majority of your time should be focused on work. If you wouldn’t want a reasonable manager/company owner to know how you’re spending some of your time, that’s a signal that you should be focused more on work.

    3. Rana*

      Agreed. The only times I’ve surfed when at work and not on break were periods when there was nothing to do, and I’d already cleaned my desk and organized my files several times. Otherwise it would just be a quick check-in when I was taking a break or over lunch.

      When you’re deep in a project, stopping to play on the internet is the last thing you want to do.

      1. Sara*

        “When you’re deep in a project, stopping to play on the internet is the last thing you want to do.”


      2. Anon*

        I think to a certain extent it depends on both the person or the project. I’ve found over the years that I usually – not always, but usually – do better with micro-breaks scattered throughout what I’m doing (30 second here, a minute there) instead of longer breaks at opportune times. Fortunately, I’m salaried – and do routinely work more than 40 hours a week – so I can work how it works best for me and still get my work done. But I’ve had a very hard time in jobs that expect constant focus for four hours, then a 30 minute break, then constant focus. It just seems to not be how I’m wired.

    4. Rachel*

      Amen! In a past job, I answered phones, and did nothing else but answer phones. When the phone rings about 7 times a day, there was a lot of time of me just sitting there. After asking for more work to do from my boss and she was unresponsive, I started reading newspapers online. One day she saw me browsing the web and she told me to not do that!

      My current job is really not much different. Many days I just browse the web because I have nothing to do (and my managers all know this yet do nothing). Thankfully they don’t get on my case that I use IM and facebook all day long but still, it can be frustrating.

      So bottom line, please make sure your employees have enough work to do throughout the day! If they have loads of work to do that’s one thing, but you can’t blame an employee for browsing the web when there’s nothing to do.

      1. EM*

        This. I got called out in a performance review for being online. I was really annoyed because I didn’t have enough work to do, had asked for more work for so long and none was forthcoming, that I eventually gave up and stopped asking. I guess I was expected to do everything slower and stare into space when work ran out. :/

        1. Rachel*

          Ugh, that is frustrating, because you feel like a slacker when it’s really poor management that’s the issue. I gave up asking too. I have suggested being more involved in projects, I have requested that managers make a list of goals to work on for the next 6 months, I check in with my managers regularly if they need anything, I even mentioned in my review that this is not a full time job and I need more work to do to fill my day, and STILL nothing. So I gave up. If they ever do get on my case for being online all day, at least I can tell them I tried. It’s such a waste of everyone’s time.

        2. nyxalinth*

          Pretty much it right there. In some call centers I’ve worked in, there was nothing allowed between calls except staring at the screen waiting for a call. Well, at least no one can monitor your brainwaves to see that you aren’t thinking about work yet :P

        3. Spreadsheet Monkey*

          EM – did you work at the same place I did? I had this exact same issue, including getting called out on it, but my supervisor and his manager absolutely refused to give me more work, since I hadn’t “proved” I could be “trusted” with it (because I was goofing off instead of working, because I was finished with what they assigned me and everything else I could find to do). In fact, I came back from a week’s vacation one time and was completely done with everything that had piled up on my desk by lunch. Most hated job of my career.

          1. Rachel*

            Same with me! I would take off for a few days for vacation, and I’d come back to 3 emails, one voicemail and zero work to do (if I’m lucky I can put away files that my managers used). My friends are envious, but it actually really sucks. After a while it wears down on my confidence. It amazes me how many full time jobs really need to be made part time.

            1. Anonymous_J*

              Yup, yup, and yup again!

              My managers know, and they don’t care so much that when I go on vacation, they don’t even bother to get a temp. I’m gone a WEEK when I go on vacation, but they don’t feel the need to cover me.

              THAT’S how valued my position is.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m not sure that’s a fair argument — there are plenty of positions where an employer can make do just fine if the person is away for a week. It says nothing about the overall value of the position. (I don’t think I’ve ever had a position where a temp was hired to fill in for me when I was gone.)

      2. Anonymous_J*

        This. Story of my life.

        When I get work-which is rare–I get it done quickly. My group does not utilize me. When someone does, I’m on top of it, I’m efficient, and I’m good. Getting any work is the exception, rather than the rule, though.

        Yes, management knows about this. No, nothing is being done.

    5. fposte*

      Okay, I’m having trouble finding the actual study (really, business blogs? If you don’t link ’em I’m assuming you didn’t read ’em), but even in the summation the study just allowed people to surf the net during their work breaks. That’s not the same thing as letting people Facebook their way through the work day.

      1. perrik*

        Here you go, in proper APA format:
        Lim, V. G., & Chen, D. Q. (2012). Cyberloafing at the workplace: gain or drain on work?. Behaviour & Information Technology, 31(4), 343-353.

        The authors make a distinction between web surfing, which they concluded had a positive effect on employee stress (it’s mindless fun), and personal emails (which require much more active involvement by the individual) which have a negative effect. The respondents in this study believed that a certain amount of cyberloafing was acceptable at work – the average “okay” time was 75 minutes a day. Men were more likely to cyberloaf, and for longer periods of time, but women reported needing more time to shift gears from cyberloafing back to productive work.

        Another relevant article:
        Liberman, B., Seidman, G., McKenna, K. A., & Buffardi, L. E. (2011). Employee job attitudes and organizational characteristics as predictors of cyberloafing. Computers In Human Behavior, 27(6), 2192-2199.

        This one looked at job involvement (the degree to which you are engaged with/concerned about performing your job) and intrinsic involvement (the degree to which you perceive your job as meaningful to yourself and meaningful to the success of the organization) as factors which influence cyberloafing. The less job involvement or intrinsic involvement, the more likely you are to surf instead of work.

        There’s more research that linked cyberloafing to the perception of organizational justice (“the company treats me like crap and promoted that d-bag, so why should I work hard?”) and to group norms (“everyone else is doing it, so…”).

        (sorry, both articles are from academic journals so I can’t link to a free source)

          1. perrik*

            The study didn’t get into time increments, just daily totals. The average reported time spent cyberloafing was 51 minutes per work day. I assume this was time spent actively surfing/emailing and did not necessarily account for those who leave a site like Facebook or Twitter open all the time.

            The authors noted that respondents drew a line between acceptable internet usage (like email) and unacceptable usage which could get them in trouble (job searching, shopping, online games, and porn). They still shopped and looked at porn, just not to the same extent as they did “safer” things. They felt that the unacceptable stuff was detrimental to productivity and thus not fair to their employers. They didn’t think the other kind of cyberloafing was detrimental and therefore was perfectly fine as a little break from work.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Wow. I can’t imagine any high performer I’ve ever worked with spending nearly an hour a day playing online. Of course, most people aren’t high performers, by definition, so maybe that explains it.

              1. K*

                I work with a few truly brilliant and very accomplished lawyers who I’m sure spend at least that much time a day goofing off on-line, or wandering around the halls talking to people, or doing the crossword puzzle, or similar (though they’re also all working more than 8 hours a day, so maybe that changes things?). I’ve come to the conclusion that some people’s minds just work that way – bursts of really awe-inspiring creativity followed by fallow periods.

                (I, on the other hand, am more of a grunt, so I think it’s just an individual thing.)

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked in nonprofit advocacy, where the stakes are quite high and there’s a moral/ethical issue with wasting time when you could be advancing your mission.

                2. K*

                  Well, the lawyers I’m talking about operate on a billable hour model and would never bill time to a client they weren’t working. So that might particular ethical situation might actually work itself out the other way – it doesn’t really matter when they’re working as long as the work gets done and the time billed is accurate. Makes doing it in fits and starts something of a non-issue.

                3. Bobby Digital*

                  Maybe it’s because I’ve always worked in nonprofit advocacy, where the stakes are quite high and there’s a moral/ethical issue with wasting time when you could be advancing your mission.

                  Actually Alison, I think it’s mostly because you’ve got a good work ethic.

          1. fposte*

            I’m with you on MLA, but then I’m on the lit side. I’m always going to care more about the first name of the author than the year of publication.

            And yes, perrik, thanks so much for finding the actual cites.

    6. Ellie H.*

      I really don’t feel this way. (The fact that I am at work, and clearly on the internet, notwithstanding.) I’m an abstainer: http://happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2012/10/back-by-popular-demand-are-you-an-abstainer-or-a-moderator/ and definitely function better without small distractions throughout the day.

      One caveat is that I find Facebook, Craigslist, some other blogs, etc. very inane, shallow and distracting whereas something with a more intellectual content (e.g. this blog, writing a non-work email to a friend, researching graduate programs I’m applying to and so forth) won’t distract or un-focus me to the same extent. If I do something like that that for a short break, I can go back to work without as much of a risk of breaking my productive streak. I think the quality of your attention matters. To me, it’s better to turn your full attention to very discrete things in sequence than to focus intensely on something and then sort of idly half-focus on it while doing something mindless and then try to go back to it.

      1. Rana*

        That’s interesting. For me, it’s exactly the opposite. I avoid sites that require thinking deeply while working on an intense project, because they use up mental energy I need for the work. Little bites of Facebook and blogs allow me to take a break while not competing with my deeper attention.

        But then, I’m also not half-thinking about the main project while doing that; I’m either focused on the work (and thus not on FB) or I’m letting it percolate in my unconscious while doing something radically different like walking or tidying, or I’m not thinking about it at all. I may do two things at once, but I don’t kid myself that I’m capable of thinking about two demanding things at once. (Which I’m not saying you do; I just mean I’ve seen some people who think that’s what they do when they multi-task.)

        1. Jen in RO*

          I work best with lots of small breaks during the day. My brain would fry if I had to focus on my work for 4 hours straight (I do that sometimes and I feel exhausted afterwards). I would honestly refuse a job if they blocked internet access. I often get great ideas while I’m doing something entirely unrelated to my job, like checking FB or Google Reader… my unconscious processes things while I’m not focusing on them, which I think is cool.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wait, really? I’m going to push back on this one — what would you have done before the Internet, after all?

            I can see turning down a job on the basis of not wanting to work someone that treated you like an irresponsible child though.

            1. Anon*

              But people did plenty of things to take short breaks before the Internet! (Hence the phrase “watercooler” conversation.)

              I’m the same way as Jen. I can’t prove it, obviously, and for all I know if I managed to rejigger myself, I’d be more productive. But I do know that I’ve always worked this way and have been consistently successful academically and professionally. On a regular basis, I get much more done working in short intense bursts with short breaks rather than longer, sustained periods with longer breaks. I know it wouldn’t work for every job, but for the kinds of work I’ve always done, it hasn’t been an issue.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I didn’t mean she wouldn’t have needed breaks before the Internet — I just question turning down a job without Internet, because it’s clearly not a necessity, given that we all existed just fine without it until very recently.

            2. Jen in RO*

              I’m young enough to not even remember a time when I didn’t have internet at work. Wait, I do, I didn’t have internet at my first jobs, but they were part-time. When I ran out of work, I read actual dead tree books. That’s what I’d probably do without internet, but having an employers who blocks internet usage without a good reason (state secrets and the like) would be a deal breaker to me.

              (The problem with the books was that I was on a Stephen King binge back then and I couldn’t just stop after 3 pages!)

              1. Julie*

                In my first corporate job (1992, so no Internet), I pretty much constantly didn’t have enough work to do, so I tried reading paperbacks as discreetly as I could, but my boss didn’t like it, and I had to stop. So I started doing miscellaneous things in Excel, PowerPoint, and Word so I could learn them better. I also played around in the application that was used to look up balances, stop payments, etc. (it was in a bank), but it was a long time before I was allowed to actually speak with customers and do stop payments, etc. Now that I think about it, I was really overqualified for that job, and I wish I had had a mentor or someone who would have told me how to get a different kind of job (or even that I could/should look for something different). Oh well… I finally figured it out!

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            I could actually see this. Sure, it’s not necessary to have the Internet, but I’m similar, in that I prefer to be doing many things at once, and oddly I feel like this can help me focus on them better (CAN help me; I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t backfired once or twice, and there are definitely projects where I just need to dive in for a few hours, but my brain definitely feels fried afterward!)

            Especially with the level of freedom I have at my current job, and how productive I am in part because of that freedom, it’s hard to imagine taking a job that wanted to take that all away from me.

            I have Facebook and Gmail open all day… because I have practically every application on my computer open all day, and I have about a dozen tabs open at any given time on my browser. Checking email or Facebook when it’s just an open tab takes literally 3 seconds, and if there’s an email or something new to read, it takes about 30 seconds (I get really boring emails). I don’t feel bad about doing that throughout the day. :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I want to challenge everyone who believes this to actually remove themselves from the Internet for one or two full work days (other than for any use actually needed by the work you’re doing, of course).

              I say this because I’m someone who will sometimes work the way you describe here, and I’m certainly getting done everything I need to get done. But when I turn off all those distractions (or when they’re turned off for me, like because my wireless is out), I am noticeably more productive. I am faster, and I get more done. (And I’m pretty fast normally, so I was surprised there could be an improvement, but there was.)

              I just don’t want people to kid themselves about this, and I don’t think you can really know for sure unless you test it for a day or two.

              (Also, back when I had a real job, I never went online for fun during the day, and I was able to basically do three jobs at once. I was often out of breath, but I got a ton done. I used to see coworkers claim they could multi-task Facebook, etc. while working, but no one who claimed that ever matched my level of productivity. I’m not saying they had to, but the self-delusion bothered me.)

              1. Anon*

                I’ve done this. I can definitely get more done this way. What I can’t do is sustain it over any length of time. I end up burning out after a couple of days and then having a week of much-less-productive days than usual (regardless of whether the Internet is involved; it’s like I’m thinking through taffy). Working in the manner Kimberlee describes, I get a fairly steady amount of work done without the peaks and crashes. It means I’m not a perfect worker certainly; if I was someone who could sustain a breakneck pace constantly, I’m sure employers would love me more. But I’m reasonably successful and well-regarded at work, and happy, so I settle for it. (And much like trying to train myself to live on 5 hours of sleep a night or 1400 calories, I’m not sure it’s something my body is capable of anyway.)

                1. Rana*

                  I’ve done this. I can definitely get more done this way. What I can’t do is sustain it over any length of time. I end up burning out after a couple of days and then having a week of much-less-productive days than usual

                  Agreed. I’ve noticed that, regardless of what else I’m doing in my day, that the amount of time I’m able to concentrate on a task goes down incrementally over the course of the day. (That is, I can start out able to focus intensely for 2 hours before needing a break; then later only for 1; then half hour chunks; then 15 minute chunks, etc.) Being able to reward myself with micro-breaks on Facebook or blogs means that I stay at my desk much longer, and get more done. If I turned off the internet entirely (which I couldn’t, anyway, given that I sometimes need to fact-check while working) I’d burn out at the same rate, but would have no incentive to stay at my desk. Since I work from home, it’s incredibly easy for a simple stretch break to morph into some other activity that may need to be done, but which takes me away from paid work.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I would love to know if this is the result of our brains being used to working in these chunks — because we’ve trained them that way due to modern-era distractions — or whether so many people would have said this 50 years ago too.

                3. Jamie*

                  I think maybe some of it is the cultural shift so that some positions expect you to be available for work all the time.

                  I would think 50 years ago when you were home you were home, unless there was an emergency and they tracked you down and I would think that would only be for select positions.

                  Now so many are expected to be available to answer email around the clock, stop what they’re doing to remote in on weekends and vacations etc. that it’s blurred the line between personal time and work time.

                  I think it’s a combination of the lines being blurred between work and home as well as the other cultural shift some people have made to being in constant contact with everyone they know due to social networking that a lot of people have a hard time drawing the line.

                  I don’t do the Facebook or social networking thing, but yes – sometimes I check the AAM RSS feed more often than I should during the day. My job has a lot of peaks and valleys regarding activity and when things are calmer I try to work more moderate hours/regulate my stress in an attempt to avoid burn out – which I wildly careen toward a couple of times a year.

                  I’m not justifying it – I’ve just been thinking about it wondering why, for myself, I do sometimes come here too often during the day. I think (and again, I’m only speaking for myself) it’s a reaction to checking my email and answering some before I get out of bed every morning at 5:00 am. Pulling over at the side of the road to remote in to reboot a server when I’m on the way to have lunch with my sister on a Saturday. I think I would have more resentment about the encroachment on my time if I didn’t feel I could hit this site during the day.

                  That doesn’t excuse it – but the ease of access blurs the line for me as well (apparently I’m all about blurry lines today). I’m on-line a good percentage of my work day for 100% legitimate business reasons. So it’s easy to just check the RSS more often than if I had to go online just to do that.

                  I am not going to pretend that makes me more productive – that’s silly and of course I know that even the time spent typing this post is better spent doing something else. But I have found a weird collateral benefit in that I think the little breaks do make me less tense.

                  I have gotten a lot of really useful knowledge from here, that I’ve used to make me a better employee and better manager – absolutely. But I could get that by checking once on the weekend. The payoff is a the little mini mental breaks where I’ll smile or laugh at something someone said – and sometimes in the midst of a lousy day it helps to know other people are going through the same crap.

                  I can also honestly say that more than once – during my periods where I’m fighting burnout by clawing the sides of the cliff, hanging on by my fingernails – coming on here and seeing real life examples of how hard the market still is out there has kept me from making a rash and impulsive choice. I’ve had a fairly easy time of it, career-wise, and I have a pretty isolated work environment and it can be easy to idealize what else is out there. Sometimes the concrete proof that anywhere I go someone/thing will make me roll my eyes on a regular basis and that even finding something isn’t a sure thing…it can help keep me grounded.

                  But that doesn’t make it right and posts like this that cause people to evaluate how they spend their time are really helpful, if humbling.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Jamie, that seems totally reasonable to me. It’s when people say that it doesn’t impact their work that I want them to come to terms with reality :)

                5. Emily*

                  I think I’ve observed a shift just within my own lifetime! I notice that my concentration and productivity diminishes more quickly, from task to task at work, from task to distraction, and even from distraction to distraction. It’s not work ethic—I think it’s cognitive. I just hope that means that if my brain has changed, I can change it back!

              2. The IT Manager*

                +1 for sheer self-awareness.

                I acknowledge I goof off on the internet at work too often and that it must reduce my productivity. I have trouble believing people who claim that personal web surfing at work has no impact to their performance.

                I also disbelieve most people who claim they can multi-task. Unless one task is completely mindless, they’re actually switching between tasks and that switching is reducing productivity. Or for example in the case of teleconferences, they’re not actually paying any attention to the meeting so they’re not actually doing two things at once.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  For the record, I don’t think people claim in good faith that goofing off doesn’t have *any* effect on their performance. I would be more productive if I didn’t surf or chat to my coworkers. Then again, I’m fairly productive now too (i.e. I get done all the stuff my boss tells me to) and I’m much happier and relaxed this way. Like Kimberlee upthread, I get a lot of freedom to manage my own time as I see fit, as long as I finish my tasks… if that means I stay an hour later, but I get to slack off for an hour during the work day, it’s a fair compromise for me.

                2. Anonymous*

                  I agree with Jen. It’s not that I am more productive when taking micro breaks – I know I’m less productive. Over a period of one or two days, my productivity would go up if I was barred from all internet except the sites I need for my work. However, over a sustained period of time my motivation and enthusiasm for the work will diminish. Micro facebook breaks are trade off between slightly lower productivity in the short term versus burnout and demotivation in the longer term.

                3. Julie*

                  I agree with all points, IT Manager. When I focus completely on work, I’m much more productive than when I don’t. Also, I feel good about being so productive and getting a lot of stuff done by the end of the day.

                  I also don’t think it’s possible to multi-task and not do a half-*ssed job on at least one of the “tasks.” I try to do one thing at a time because otherwise, things tend to get screwed up. I think this is true for anyone, but I’m not going to insist on that because I don’t feel the need to argue about what other people feel they can/can’t do. For myself, though, I don’t want to make the kinds of mistakes I’ve made in the past when I’ve been trying to “multi-task.”

              3. JessB*

                Wow. Righto, Ask A Manager, you’ve never steered me wrong yet.

                I have just one full day of work left this week, so I will abstain from all non-work related Internet use for that day, and see how I go. If I need to/ feel like it, I’ll continue that for a day or more next week.

              4. Eric*

                Many many desk jobs are not simple widget making. The amount of work that gets done is not equivalent to the amount of time you put into it. For instance, spinning my wheels on a project I’m waiting for feedback on is not productive. It is work and I feel like something got done, but the reality is that there is a good chance the work will go for naught. The phrase work smart and not hard comes to mind.

                Those that have indicated a short term gain but long term loss are, also, absolutely correct. Job satisfaction is a key ingredient to productivity. Being able to follow Facebook from work (if that’s your thing) has a definite positive effect on that.

                OK, so it really sounds like I’m defending my lazy work habits. However, I can assure you that my performance reviews are glowing despite nearly 20% of the actual work day spent online. The times I get “caught” online, I’ve been told, “You’re not the type I have to worry about being online.” I’ve actually considered a more high pace environment place of employment because of this. I think I could keep up and really accelerate my career.

                I guess my point is that you really really need to pay attention to outside indications that you are not getting your work done. Things like missed phone calls, manager asking for updates all the time, piling up emails, etc.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  If you’re spending 20% of your time not working and you’re doing a fine job, yeah, I’d bet that it says something about the pace of where you’re working, and that you might consider going somewhere faster-paced.

                2. Rachel*

                  Exactly the case with me. I work for a government agency and the pace is SO slow. I’m also looking for something that matches my energy level a bit more. Although I like that my job has zero stress, at some point I need a balance and would like something to do!

                3. Eric*

                  “If you’re spending 20% of your time not working and you’re doing a fine job, yeah, I’d bet that it says something about the pace of where you’re working, and that you might consider going somewhere faster-paced.”

                  Uh oh…

              5. books*

                But when you work somewhere where productivity is measured as seat time not output (or where you cant go home early when everything’s done) it’s not worth it to work faster. Then I get to the end of the day/week and sit at my desk following up on the New York Times.

                1. Rana*

                  Working as a temp killed most of my efficiency skills, for that very reason. My preferred mode is to be very efficient and work hard in in short bursts, so that I “earn” free time for myself. If you’re being paid hourly – especially in a position where you’re there only to cover some very limited responsibilities – that mode doesn’t work.

                  I actually had to teach myself how to spread out an hour’s worth of work (for me) into eight hours’ worth of activity, and, man, it was hard. It was hard in the days before the internet (I brought books, usually, after begging for more work and not getting any) and then by surfing until my eyes bled.

                  It sounds fun, but, really, it sucked.

              6. Suz*

                I’d be interested to see a separate post about this. You could use survey monkey or something to tally everyone’s results.

                1. Suz*

                  My response landed under the wrong comment. I was responding to AAM’s suggestion to test going w/o the internet for a few days.

              7. Anonymous_J*

                As a part of my current spiritual practice, I once had to go a week without ANY oustide distractions (at work was the exception, but I did not use the internet at all, except for work that week.) It was fine! It even felt good!

                When I go home from work, I sometimes don’t even turn my computer ON–except to complete some task at home.

                I could easily do without it, and on those rare occasions when I’m busy at work, I do.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m like that too. When I was in college, I read a lot of kids’ books for pleasure, because I had to read so much heavy stuff for class that it drained my brain. The kids’ books were like a break–I could zip right through them without much concentration.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            If you’re still into this, I recommend Christopher Pike books. He writes young adult horror-type fiction (think RL Stine, but much more talented). Books are super engaging and incredibly interesting, but written for teenagers and a zip to read through. Very relaxing, while still being interesting. :)

    7. Hari*

      I feel the same way. Although I have been reprimanded for surfing the internet too much by a boss but it wasn’t because I was slacking off it was because they just wanted me to “look busy”. I’m the type of person who when I get a project I dive in and complete it right away so its hard for me to spread it out just for the sake of “looking busy”. Also before I would surf the net I would, ask my boss or other co-workers if they needed help with anything else, tidy up the copy room, kitchen and shoot space, etc. Not to mention in my industry you are either really busy trying to make a deadline or have nothing to do at all. I spoke with them about this and eventually they agreed work related news sites and blogs were appropriate for down time.

      But that reminds me of my first job on campus in college at a cafe, even if the place was empty, everything was cleaned and stocked, we couldn’t just “stand around talking” we had to visibly look busy. So this meant always having a rag in hand to wipe down the already pristine counter top while holding coversation.

    8. Anon for this*

      The problem with Facebook and iChat also are that people tend to leave them up all day long, and depending on the settings they “ding” or popup whenever someone sends a message. So they easily become lots of tiny little distractions. I would say – taking a 10 minute break = ok, leaving Facebook & iChat running all day = not ok.
      Also, I know for me that “10 minute internet break” often spirals into click this link -> read this news story -> google this random thought and next thing I know I’ve fallen down the internet rabbit hole for an hour, so I save my internet breaks for lunchtime and other clear “off the clock” time.

      1. Ellie H.*

        That’s the kind of seeking behavior described in this Slate article: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2009/08/seeking.html Seeking behavior is one of the most compelling human motivations and the internet is really great at providing it. It’s a great explanation for why we do all kinds of things, from checking our email every five minutes, to the totally hypothetical example of someone who will go out of her way to ride her bike past the street of someone she went out with a few times and is really hoping to run into again.

        1. fposte*

          Ooh, Ellie, you are absolutely linkalicious today–this and the one you posted upthread are really interesting. Thanks!

        2. The IT Manager*

          Seeking behavior = visiting and refreshing AAM’s comments page dozens of time throughout the day looking for new insightful content. And because there’s often insightful posts and comments, I just keep refreshing.

          I don’t even know if I can get to Facebook from work because I don’t want to expose that much of my personal life at to work computers. I rarely go to my personal webmail for the same reason – also it’s not likely to be interesting.

          AAM seemed safe, but unfortunately its addicting.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        As someone who leaves Facebook, Gmail and others open all day, I object (I left a comment upthread). Having them open does not mean they’re automatically distracting you, and in my case, it means less downtime navigating to the page, waiting for it to load, etc.

  4. Crazy for TEAPOTS!*

    #4 – This. I’d check with HR though… my company says you can apply for any open position after just 6 months. That being said, just because you are internal doesn’t mean you’d get the job (or even an interview). Your company still wants the best fit for them.


    I am a big fan of open communication not only from manager to employee but also employee to manager so what I may do instead is go to my manager and say, “Hey, I am really enjoying my time so far and can absolutely see myself here for a while because of (reason A), (reason B) as well as because of the opportunities I’ve learned about since coming on board. Specifically there’s this teapot inspector position that just opened up and I can see myself doing that kind of work someday. Do you have any suggestions about what I can do IN MY CURRENT ROLE to position myself or be prepared should something open up later on?”


    1. Janet*

      I love this. Check in with them, show your interest, see what they’d say. Because while the “wait a year” advice does seem logical, I also have a few friends who have been promoted to different positions within a very short time at jobs. If you wait a year, that opportunity might not be available again for 5 years so sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns – but you know, gently, like Crazy for TEAPOTS suggested.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I love this approach. If they’re open to promoting that quickly, you’ll be encouraged to apply, and if not, you get points for ambition and decorum. Win/win!

  5. Ivy*

    OP1 I find this super frustrating. Frustrating from your employee’s perspective. While you might not want to be a hardass, that’s your job. As a manager it’s up to you to lay down the law and stick to it… not to make friends with everyone. The managers I’ve had who let people walk all over them and chaos reign are the ones I always remember as disliking. The ones that knew how to keep control and inspired respect are the ones worth their managerial title. Long story short: put your foot down because you’re not doing anyone any favours by being slack…

    OP7 (see what I did there OP ;) here are the things I can think of that are AAM specific stuff:
    AAM = Ask a Manager (referring to either Alison or the blog)
    Chocolate teapot maker: a made up job used to prove a point

    Google is everyone’s friend when it comes to internet acronyms

    1. The IT Manager*

      I personally think LW, for Letter Writer, is more accurate than OP since these questions don’t come from blog posts, but the OP habit is hard to break.

      By the way (BTW), FWIW (for what it’s worth) was baffling me this last week. I couldn’t for the life of me recall what it meant and someone or multiple someones was fond of it in the comments. Then my brain kicked in last night and I figured it out/remembered.

        1. Parfait*

          The meaning of FTW has changed since I was a young punk rock teenager, too. The new meaning completely eluded me the first, oh, hundred times I saw it.

          1. Josh S*

            “For the Win” or “F*** the World”, depending on context. That one had me for a while too.

        2. Ellie H.*

          Me too re. FTW though I am probably not old enough to be legitimately confused.

          Adam Gopnik has a wonderful and very sweet story about confusing “LOL” with “Lots of Love.”

          1. LMW*

            Because if you don’t know you guess–and most people use LOL with no rhyme or reason. Like my high school friend on Facebook: “OMG, I have swine flu. LOL” Huh?
            FTW: For the win? Fabulously tastey waffle? Could be anything.

            1. Ivy*

              At this point LOL is used to lessen the seriousness of a statement. It can pretty much be replaced by :P
              I’m mad at you
              I’m mad at you lol
              I’m mad at you :P

              1. Blinx*

                For some reason I loathe LOL. It takes no more effort to actually laugh by typing “hah”, or haha.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              We have a couple of flea markets here that are called (I am not making this up) STD.
              They had a series of radio ads a few years ago making fun of the acronym and what it could stand for. My absolute favorite was “Spanking Tommy’s Dalmation.” I nearly wrecked the car when I heard that one.

              1. Blinx*

                Very similar to the commercials I see in the afternoon for UTI — Usomething Technical Institute. Was no one thinking when they named that place?

              2. RJ*

                Wesley Chapel Toyota’s jingle goes “You’ve got to see the WC, Wesley Chapel Toyota.” It seems they’re not aware that WC has a more common meaning than “Wesley Chapel.”

    2. Bobby Digital*

      I’ve been reading for about five months and I really like these:

      Special Snowflake = someone who thinks they’re above the rules of normal workplace/hiring customs

      Ideas Guy = a job applicant who wanted to basically get paid to brainstorm; see also: Special Snowflake (I could be wrong about the meaning of this one; if so, help me out)

      Can any experienced readers comment on the origins of these two?

  6. some1*

    #1: Allison’s advice is good, just make you’re applying the enforcement to everyone, including yourself. I had a former boss who warned me about the evil of being on Facebook during work time, but every time I walked into her office she was looking at houses online. (not part of her job).

    #3: It’s also good to be asked to be kept in mind if anything similar opens up.

    #4: This is another way job-hunting is like dating. If you had a great date and called your date twice and got no response whatsoever, while your former date may be rude &/or to cowardly to reject you openly, no answer = no, and s/he’s just not that into you and it’s time to move on.

    1. Anonymous*

      There’s nothing more annoying than a boss who hates it when you take breaks by browsing online, but you can hear him down the hall cheering on his team during sports games…

  7. Doug*

    Ugh, employers like the one in #6 are the bane of this job seeker’s existence. I would love to see them get their comeuppance when the market improves.

  8. Sara*

    A couple of other useful acronyms:
    AFAIK – as far as I know
    IANAL – I am not a lawyer
    IM(H)O – In my (humble/honest) opinion

    1. Patti*

      YMMV is another one that had me stuck for a long time… “Your Mileage May Vary”, to mean that everyone’s results/experiences will be different in a given situation being discussed.

      1. Natalie*

        I use “your mileage may vary” in face-to-face conversation all the time. It’s such a useful phrase.

    2. Ellie H.*

      Also: ITA = I totally agree. For some reason this one is always hard for me to notice.

      I was just about to ask what TIL means, because I see people say it on facebook and I’m not sure if it’s an in-joke or a legit acronym. I think the context is you say “TIL” at the start and then share some fact or link or something, but I’m not really sure. Then I was like, “OH. I’ll google it” and I now know it stands for “Today I learned.” (Is this comment an onomatopoeia, now?)

      1. Josh S*

        Um, onomatopoeia is actually a word that sounds like what it is, like “whoosh” or “boing” or “hiss.”

        I think you mean an acronym or initialism, which is a word where the initials are pronounced as a word-unto-themselves, like scuba (Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus), NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), or radar (RAdio Detection and R-something).

        TIL about “TIL”, and refreshed my memory about initialisms, while thinking about some fun words to say!

        1. Ellie H.*

          Josh – That’s not what I meant. I was making a joke about how “today I learned” (“TIL”) what “TIL” stands for, so my comment about TIL exemplified its own definition. But, I guess it wasn’t a very good joke because nobody got it. I know what an onomatopoiea is. I also think there is an actual literary term that refers more precisely to a word or phrase which exemplifies that which it defines, without reference to the sound of the word. (If anybody does know this, it would be helpful, not pedantic. :)) However, I was going crazy trying to remember this possibly apocryphal literary device, and went with what I thought was the next best joke option. Sorry to confuse.

          1. Josh S*

            You could go for the colloquial use of ‘meta’ in this situation.

            “I’m so meta, even this acronym…”

            And forgive my pedantry. It sometimes gets in the way of me treating others like people. :/ But yeah, I totally didn’t get your joke.

          2. fposte*

            Late but still pedantic, I dive in—that’s recursion. Like recursive acronyms–the mail program PINE whose name stands for “PINE Is Not Elm.”

            1. Ellie H.*

              Fantastic, thank you! That is great. I have not heard of PINE before but that is totally what I was trying to indicate.

  9. Andy Lester*

    #1: Whatever you do, don’t go and have your IT department block Facebook on the network. Yours is a human problem, not a technological one.

    I remember when Windows was just gaining traction in the workplace, and oh the wailing and gnashing of teeth in my office about Solitaire being on the Windows machines, and how the IT guys had to go and delete it from every computer.

    If people are going to goof off, they don’t need Facebook, Solitaire or anything else to do it.

    1. Tater B.*

      Agreed. There are people who love to get on their high horse because they “don’t do Facebook,” but are goofing off on other websites. Or taking four-hour lunches (no exaggeration). Or pretending to be at very important meeting when in reality, they were at the beauty shop or the golf course (again, no exaggeration). Being unproductive is being unproductive, period.

    2. danr*

      In the early days of Windows, many of our folks did not know how to use a mouse, but most of them knew the basics of Solitare (card version). So we used Windows Solitare to teach the mouse. And it worked. Most people didn’t abuse the games either. Then Bookworm came out… that was a killer in a words oriented company.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I disagree. I think it’s fine to block some sites or categories of sites for your whole organization. Although you will not be able to block all distracting sites, Facebook seems to be a particular time waster for some people. You’re right , though, if people are allowed to bring phones into the office they can now do all kinds of goofing off on them avoiding the company internet to include watching tv shows and movies.

      I think it’s a fallacy for someone to show up here and say I work with Facebook (or whatever) in the background all day long and there’s no impact. Like Alison pointed out above, perhaps you could be more productive without it but haven’t tried to in years. Even if you are fully enagegd and love your job, lots of people are unmotivated, easily distracted, have procrastination issues, etc and would actually benefit from having distractors blocked.

      Note: I am a abstainer, though, (great link Ellie H.) and would prefer to not have access to my temptations at all. I think that would be fine for everyone. I mean if someone had to check Facebook they probably already have a smart phone and can do it from there.

      1. a*


        And you can set up ‘time’ blocks as well. For example our ‘content filter’ at work will allow us access to FB and other totally not work sites during breakish times and lunch but blocks it from start to finish time otherwise.

        It won’t stop people goofing off as they will find other ways of doing it. But it will enable the distracted types to help self police themselves.

  10. Demoralized!*

    Re #2: Supply and demand is it. I finally found a job after a long period of unemployment. They wanted qualifications I have only after working abroad and attending grad school, but I am being paid about what I made in 1988, before I did either. My salary is less than half of what I made before I was laid off from my previous job. It’s a very difficult blow to take.

    However, my plan is to do a kick-ass job here and then start looking for something that pays better. I am looking at it as an investment in my future. In the meantime, it’s an interesting job with good people.

  11. Elise*

    For #1 – Don’t you have an IT department? They can very easily restrict access to certain sites either across the board or just for specific people/computers. Open internet access is a privilege, not a right. Employees who lie don’t need extra privileges.

    This is coming from someone who works in a place with high internet screening — they even go by certain content keywords, so they sometimes catch other sites with the filters in error.

    And politeness is irrelevant. You are a manager, so manage things.

    I can still get my job done just fine. I can do other things to take a break. And, if I must check my FB during the day–I can look on my smartphone during lunch. If someone’s life is crushed for lack of FB access for a few hours, they have some issues they should work through.

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s a bit of a silly option to take, when such blocks are readily bypassed with a trivial piece of ssh magic (or a few other means, which require some pre-planning). As others have pointed out, this is a human problem, not a technological one. Trying to use technology to solve it is unlikely to work.

    2. Vicki*

      Once upon a time, back when people read Usenet on breaks, someone asked why IT didn’t block access to the “alt” groups.

      And we were told that the problem with blocking access to A, B, and C, is that (legally) it implies implicit permission for X, Y, and Z.

      Andy Lester is correct (look him up online; he usually is. :-) Don;t ask your IT department to make these decisions for you. If your people _really_ are “lying” (ouch. How are you sure) and _really_ using FB or Chat all day (again, how _do_ you know this) then you have a people problem, not a technology problem.

      And before you start cracking the Get Off The Net! whip, please read some of the above posts and ask yourself “Is there a root cause I’m missing?” Because, if these people had work to do, perhaps they’d be doing it. Maybe they’re like the posters here who truly have had jobs where there was Nothing To Do. (I had a job like that once; I found another job. Being paid to stare at the wall waiting for a request to come in is _not_ a fun way to spend your day.)

  12. Aunt Snow*

    Yikes!! Just returned from an interview and I don’t feel good.

    I work for a public agency, and my division is being closed. HR has procedures to create a transfer list; they also have made some job openings for internal candidates only.

    I applied for one such job and also applied for the transfer list for future openings. I got an interview notice from HR; then a week later got a notice from the division where the actual opening is with a notice that I will be contacted to schedule an interview.

    So I called the HR person for clarification – was this a reschedule or two separate interviews? She said the interview notice from HR was a qualifying interview for the transfer list, and that the division could choose someone from the transfer list if they wanted to.

    OK – so at the first interview, it was a panel of people all from outside public agencies. No one from my agency or my agency’sHR division.

    The questions were what might be asked for an Open, not Promotional position – like “why do you want to work for this organization?” But, of course, me and all the other candidates already ARE working for this organization. And “why are you leaving your current position?” – Um, we’re all leaving because our jobs are disappearing!

    I had to ask for clarification whether this was specifically for the open position or for the list, because I feel that my HR colleague had somewhat misled me. I feel conficent about my qualifications and hope I answered the other questions well, but this starting confusion really put me off my stride and rattled me.

    I did ask if they could tell me how many people are being interviewed and they said 10 – so that’s a lot of people to compete with, and I fear I stumbled at the beginning.

  13. Suz*

    Regarding #5 – A similar thing happened to me but it was for an internal promotion. Once I was on the job I was able to see that the responsibilities of the position I interviewed for were nothing like the job description. I would have been miserable in that job. The other position turned out to be much better fit for me.

  14. Meghan*

    2. Why are salaries so low?

    Also keep in mind that cost of living varies greatly in the US. So 40k in Texas might very well be equivalent to 60k in Connecticut or 75k in California.

    Those salary websites tend to average or worse take the ‘highest’ value.

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s not been the case in my (limited) experience – when searching for my job title at my company and in my city, the numbers which came back were actually noticeably lower than my current salary.

  15. LL*

    My sympathies to #2. My field has seen a similar trend and it’s not pretty, especially for some of the more experienced workers who have to go on the job market and take 20-60% pay cuts for the same exact job they previously held. Here’s an anecdote: Last year I was offered a job that required graduate education and a min. 5 years of experience, but paid the equivalent salary of an entry-level food service job. Like AAM said, it’s all about supply and demand. Companies can get away with offering these insulting salaries when literally hundreds of applicants are lining up. My own strategy was to reposition myself in my field for one of the few career tracks that still pays well.

  16. Elizabeth West*

    #2 low salaries-

    I can only go by what I’m seeing, which may not be the same somewhere else, but yeah, companies are NOT paying a decent wage at all. I’ve run into several jobs that didn’t even pay enough to live on. It might have been so eight years ago, before the recession, but now? Not so much. I”m not physically capable of working two or three jobs, but I’m beginning to think that is what I’ll have to do. :(

    1. Blinx*

      I know I’ve seen ads for freelance work where the rate offered was identical to what was offered 15 years ago. By the same agencies. And for positions that require higher skill levels. Ugh.

    2. Steve G*

      NYC is creating jobs, but while financial services jobs are dissappearing, there is an increase in food service, retail, etc. Too many jobs that pay nothing. My dad made $140K in the 90s to afford a regular middle class lifestyle and family in the suburbs of NY. No vacations, etc. and me and my sisters worked to pay our expenses at our commuter colleges. Yet our post office has job openings – $14 and hour! And my friend was desparate for a job so took one for $45K, even though his house taxes alone are $8k/yr. I have no clue who is setting wages these days, and why people are taking these jobs (except desperacy). Very sad. I know the above $$s may sound good to somewhere in other parts of the US, but they arent when you are overcharged for absolutely everything. You’d need to make in the low 40s to afford to live alone even in the worst housing, and then it would still be hand-to-mouth.

      1. Jamie*

        I understand the frustration – but no employer is going to set pay based on what your bills are or how much you need to live.

        Pay is based on the value the position adds to the company, and yes, often how little they can get away with paying for it.

        Not always – because it’s shortsighted of an employer to pay below market for key positions since turnover costs money and underpaying good employees builds increased turnover costs right into the system.

        People do need to understand, though, that the market sets itself and when it’s an employers market it’s lower…it will also correct itself in a good economy and even sectors of the bad economies where the need for personnel is greater than the number of candidates.

        The scarcer your skill set and the better you are at it the more money you’ll make in any economy. I know it sucks – but it has never been and will never be about how much people need to pay their bills.

  17. bob*

    #6: Sorry for the rant but this is just another jackass HR and/or hiring person/department thinking that since it’s a buyer’s market for talent they can treat people like crap and still have all the candidates they need. Between a good friend and myself we could write a small book on companies and recruiters that ignore you, don’t bother to respond when they ask you to contact them, follow up when they say they will or even make any contact AFTER a full day long interview!

    I’m looking at you GeoEye, Digital Globe and Intrado.

  18. De Minimis*

    #1 I tend to agree with the comments to just block Facebook and maybe a few others, and I freely admit in the past I have done a lot of web surfing when there wasn’t enough to do. Facebook is blocked at my work, as is other social media, streaming media, and games. They have a system where someone can get access to a blocked site if they can show why they need it for work.

    Then again, I work for a large agency funded by tax dollars. I don’t know if the above policy would work as well for small business. It is somewhat arbitrary what sites are chosen to be blocked, too…ESPN is not blocked, and it probably should be.

  19. The IT Manager*

    All other arguements about productivity and Facebook aside , LW#1 manager up and tell your employees directly and straighforwardly to stay off Facebook (and non-work related web sites) during work hours or else. You do not have to be polite about it. Just make sure your “or else” is not an empty threat.

    It’s not easy, but that’s why they pay you the big bucks. You probably only make a tiny bit more money but you do because managing is more responsibility and will require you to do unconfortable things like enforce rules that people won’t be happy about. Do it because if those problem employees have hard-working peers, those peers are probably pretty pissed about their poorer performance and the fact they they get away it.

  20. OhYouKnow*

    #2: It seems like a losing situation for both parties. Why would an employer want a candidate who doesn’t have the character to stand up for their own value? Wouldn’t it reflect on their character in the workplace, especially on team projects? And how would the employee feel accepting such an insulting wage with their tail between their legs and starting a relationship knowing they’ve been taken advantage of? That’s a great way to plant a seed of resentment and watch the employee try to claw back every inch of self-respect they have, whether by taking advantage of sick days, internet access, free snacks, passive-aggression, etc. I would use any tuition reimbursement I could to get credentials and get the heck outta there. Losing situation. You reap what you sow, employers!
    One reader said he/she would take the job and continue looking for something else. That’s the writing on the wall that it’s not the right partnership. I was in the running for a job that paid very low and I realized that I would be taking the job and using my free time to keep looking. Might as well keep my 40 hours a week to look for the right thing.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, the thing is that your monetary value isn’t some intrinsic thing; it’s set by the market. So if the market says that your skills used to be worth $X, but now they’re worth 80% of $X, that’s what they’re worth.

  21. Anonymous*

    During really busy times, I do best working intensely for an hour and then taking about a 15-minute break. There are some very busy times, however, where I just can’t do this, so I take micro-breaks and get up for a cup of tea or something instead.

    Also, as my BF is deaf, we keep an IM window open all day, and that is how we communicate. When I start a new position, I always bring this up and ASK if my managers have any objection to this. None have had a problem thus far, because they understand that it is an accessibility issue. Besides that, he and I don’t “chit chat” all day. We use it to communicate: “I’m stopping at the store on the way home” …”Your package from such-and-so arrived today”…”I have a meeting after work”…etc. If a manager ever said “no,” then we’d just use texting. The IMs are more convenient, though, and it’s not a distraction.

    I think it’s very important to establish YOUR MANAGER’S rules about Internet use right up front. (It may be stricter OR more lenient than company policy.) It’s just the professional thing to do.

    I agree with others who have said that OP#1 needs to lay down the law with his/her employees, though. They are over the line, for sure.

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