my favorite posts of 2012

2012 was the year that we learned about the employee who wouldn’t stop hugging people, the coworker who used flatulence as a weapon, the pushy dietician who wouldn’t stop harassing the body-builder, and the former coworker who wanted to throw a party for some coworkers but not all and have the CEO pay for it.

With a year like that, it’s hard to choose, but here are my top 10 favorite posts of 2012.

10. how long should you wait to move on when you haven’t heard back from an employer?
Because if you take this advice, your quality of life will go up immensely 

9. when a candidate sends you a framed photo of himself
Because WTF?

8. how has your parents’ level of achievement influenced you?
Because the comments were fascinating and the topic more important than we sometimes realize.

7. 10 ways to appear more authoritative at work
Because you’ll be more effective, and probably happier too.

6. what does it mean to “be yourself” in an interview?
Because it’s part of how you end up in a job that won’t make you miserable.

5. I don’t want to have a boss
Because getting really clear on your bottom line and what trade-offs you’re willing to make in order to be happy are themes that I love. 

4. impostor syndrome: when you might be a fraud
Because it’s not just you.

3. “do what you love” is not great advice
Because it’s not.

2. what your interviewer says / what you hear / what they mean
Because even though many of you hated the message here, believing it will significantly help you.

1. how to be an awesome hard-ass
Because this is my manifesto. At least part of it.


Want more? Here are last year’s.

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    “be comfortable with silence” is probably the most useful thing I read on here this year. I mean, I knew it before I read it here but it reinforced it and made me look at the times I was saying something because it felt like someone needed to say something. It’s painful at first!! There are times I’m on a conference call and I say something and there is no response and it KILLS me but I let it hang there. I realized when that has happened in the past, I assumed “Ok people must not have understood what I meant or didn’t think I was finished so let me keep talking”. I try not to do that now and instead assume if people have questions, or want more info, they will speak up.

      1. Neeta*

        I really wish I had read that before this year’s negotiation. Not that it went badly… but now I feel like seriously hitting myself.

      2. Rana*

        This was one of the first lessons I was taught when I was learning how to lead classroom discussions: count slowly to ten at least before saying anything if you pose a question and no one answers right away, instead of freaking out that you asked a bad question and trying to fix it.

        People really, really want to fill dead air, so if you’re comfortable with waiting silently, you’ll almost always have the upper hand.

        Plus letting go of that anxiety with silence is itself a nice thing.

        1. Jamie*

          My first mentor prepped me before a meeting with the owner of the company and told me how he uses silence to make the other person babble and to meet silence with silence.

          One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned and i got to the point where I wasn’t uncomfortable with it sooner than I thought I would.

          It’s an invaluable tool…I learn so much from what people say to fill the void.

    1. FreeThinkerTX*

      I’ll add that this “trick” is effective in personal relationships, too. I also suffer from the mindset of , “People must not have understood what I meant or didn’t think I was finished so I’ll just keep talking to make sure they understand.”

      It’s amazing the changes I’ve witnessed when I state my case, and then shut up. The silences are long and painful, mostly (I think) because I’ve trained the people around me to expect lengthy soliloquies. They’re stunned when all they get is a succinct statement. :-)

  2. Jamie*

    I don’t know how you narrowed it down – but excellent choices all. All worth a re-read.

    For pure entertainment I doubt anything will top the framed photo post for me.

    As I sit here in my office alone in track pants and baggy sweater, no makeup, barebones ponytail, neglected eyebrows, a smear of Vick’s across my upper lip, and my spare glasses which make me look like “an ugly scientist” I want to take a picture of myself at this moment and frame it…what a lovely gift that would make when all my co-workers return from shut down.

    Oh – and I just moments ago discovered the brilliance of cranberry green tea and honey. Cranberry tea – whole worlds have opened up to me.

    1. Kelly O*

      Hands-down that is one of my favorites, although I will always have a soft spot for anything pepperminty. (Personal preference.)

      You should come see my Beverage Drawer – coffee, tea, Emergen-C, sugar-free hot cocoa mix. I am totally prepared for any Beverage Emergency that involves me sticking with this whole no-coke thing.

    2. Lore*

      If you’ve got any kind of upper respiratory/congestion thing going on, Stash’s Darjeeling green tea is absolutely magical. I can’t tell you how or why, but I swear it’s a better cough remedy than any cough syrup. (You also might love their pomegranate raspberry green if you like cranberry.)

      1. Jamie*

        Yum – there is a pomegranate something in the tea box. That’s next. This illness is making me very adventurous – I don’t usually like to venture outside of the 30 or so things I will ingest.

        We have a Keurig and the Office Manager will not be happy when she comes back on Wednesday and sees I’ve been through almost all of the tea.

    3. Ellie H.*

      Vick’s is the greatest. The problem is that when I am sick I end up with Vick’s stains on my shirts from putting it on my chest. I did this to my favorite pajama shirt when I had pneumonia this fall. It comes out eventually but only after many, many washes.

      1. Rana*

        You know, this makes me think that perhaps I’ve finally found a use for all the old t-shirts I have saved up! :)

        (T-shirts: the clothing equivalent of mugs…)

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I keep green tea around all the time–both at home and in my drawer at work, along with a jar of honey. Because on a dark, cold, nasty day, a tea break in the afternoon makes me feel better, sick or not. :)

  3. Kelly O*

    I actually copied the “How to be an Awesome Hard-Ass” to my Google doc of AAM articles. I had missed that in my copying, and it was one of my favorites.

  4. AdAgencyChick*

    Oh, that framed photo…loved reading that again.

    I love cake so much that if it came from a reputable bakery, I’d probably eat the cake and then never call the person for an interview. Does that make me an EvilAdAgencyChick? (I suppose it would serve me right if the candidate had poisoned the cake…)

    1. JC*

      I don’t think anyone could be called evil for eating a cake that’s right there in front of them. This theoretical box doesn’t say “eat after you’ve arranged an interview” does it? (At least, I hope it doesn’t…)

        1. fposte*

          I saw recent commentary somewhere from her that suggested she’s still struggling but doing better and is working on the book rather than the blog. So fingers crossed–I think a lot of her fans have been really anxious about her.

  5. Ali*

    Two of my favorites didn’t make the list…the one about crushing someone’s dreams without being a jerk and why employers won’t hire someone based on potential. (I think the latter was from September.) I also liked the one about sending a fruit basket to your interviewer for entertainment purposes.

  6. Neeta*

    My favorite was the one about not wanting a boss.
    A lot of it was so me, only I reacted completely opposite because my parents were always telling me I had to suck it up.

    Just finished rereading the comments on that article, and they’re awesome. :)

  7. nyxalinth*

    Sort of ties in to #3…I hate being told that if you don’t have X education, Y job, and Z pay, you have no ambition. Well, what if I don’t want to deal with all the BS? I am NOT a corporate type, not even a little. To some people this makes me lacking in ambition.

    If I’m supporting myself, my family, paying my bills, etc, then whose business is it what I do for a living, be it for 8.00 an hour or 80k a year?

    1. Jamie*

      It’s no one’s business – people should live the lives that will make them happy.

      As long as people are self-supporting (or willingly supported privately) then it doesn’t concern anyone else.

  8. Steve G*

    Out of this list, the one on Imposter Syndrome was my favorite.

    Working Girl is one of my favorite movies; I feel like I’ve dealt with similar glass ceilings and lack of support from managers for their employees to succeed, until I finally made it.

    I feel like Working Girl deals with all of the aspects of Imposter Syndrome, in fact, when she leaves the boardroom in the finalee scene, she doesn’t even fight to stay there, because she is so convinced she is not worthly to be sitting in the room. She wants to move up, and has on-off crises of confidence, with periods of extraordinary daringness (such as crashing a wedding to get close to the key contact in her dream deal).

  9. Senses*

    Thanks for posting this! I just re-read the “how to be more authoritative” post. :) One (possibly tangential) question on this –

    I work in technology. A key function of my role is to explain to both business and technical people the products we need to build and their requirements. I’ve adopted the practice that, when I’m done explaining a lengthier, more complicated point, I’ll ask my audience if what I said made sense – to see if everyone’s on the same page and to elicit questions/feedback.

    My question is – is it ever okay to ask “Did my response make sense to you?” in job interviews, when you’re discussing more complicated topics (e.g., approaches to hiring, project/portfolio management strategies). Some interviewers always wear a blank expression and don’t engage in conversations (just asking questions one after another) so it’s hard to tell. Does the question make me sound less authoritative (or condescending, on the other extreme)? Or is asking this question entirely pointless in interviews?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it depends on how it’s asked and when it’s asked. (And also how often — you wouldn’t want to ask it repeatedly — no more than once or twice.) But if the issue is really just blank interviewers who don’t give cues, and you’re always hearing “yes” in response to the question, then I probably wouldn’t ask it in an interview context — in that case it might be more a matter of just needing to get comfortable with that style of interviewer.

  10. Ry*

    Hey Alison? Just to reiterate, you are awesome. You’re super personable and entertaining, and you give down-to-earth, useful advice. I feel like I’ve become a more professional person since I started reading your blog. There are some questions I haven’t even asked you because I kind of know what you would say (and your responses-in-my-head help me figure out what to do). I also like the high quality of the commentary (ahem, Jamie, fposte, Elizabeth, Wilton, et al). So thank you and happy New Year from a future employee of the Chocolate Teapot Co., LLC!

    (Yes, Kelly O, you can now laugh at me for my fanboy-dom right back! In fact, I expect it!)

    1. twentymilehike*

      I feel like I’ve become a more professional person since I started reading your blog. There are some questions I haven’t even asked you because I kind of know what you would say (and your responses-in-my-head help me figure out what to do).

      So very true for me, also! I swear, my workplace is so dysfunctional, that I can spend an entire day thinking up AAM questions! Thankfully, the plentiful archives have guided me to sanity day after day :)

  11. MW*

    Great list! I’d make one other recommendation – the body builder who was harassed by a seriously misguided nutritionist as part of his company’s wellness program. I actually work in public health and stories like those make me cringe because it’s NOT was workplace wellness is really about!

  12. Sara*

    Yay my post made the list! :)

    I started reading/posting when I was looking for advice on interviewing for nonprofits…I didn’t get the job, but I got some valuable advice. This blog is a great resource and I pass it on to all my friends/acquaintances.

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