short answer Sunday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Processing trauma, while you’re at work

I work for an education company, and many of our customers are elementary schools. Subsequently, all of us here are shocked and deeply troubled by the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. I’m sure many others working today, even those not in education, feel similarly. What advice do you have for dealing with mass trauma like this in the workplace? I feel like if there’s any time to break the “no crying at work” rule, it’s today. How can I best stay focused on my work? How can I help my reports stay focused as well? How should I manage the political discussions that have already emerged?

I wish I had a good answer to this — I’m not sure there is one. I’m a big believer in letting people know they can leave early if they can’t focus, if at all possible. And it’s also helpful to simply remember that we’re all humans processing this stuff, and proceed accordingly; i.e., it’s not a day to expect people to be unaffected. I know this is a terribly inadequate answer, and I’d welcome better ones in the comments.

2. What to say when you resign after two months

Back in the middle of September, I was recruited by the company that I now work for. After thinking the offer over and discussing it with my professional mentor, I accepted the position. It seemed like exactly the type of company I wanted to work for, doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. Upon arriving and working here for a little while, I started to realize that things weren’t as the higher ups led me to believe when I interviewed…in fact they were much much worse. They promised me a lot in regards to what I would be doing and the culture I’d be working in and way under-delivered. Then a few weeks ago, I got word of some unethical practices that the company has and I decided it was time to bail.

I’ve been interviewing heavily for the past 2 weeks and finally received a really fantastic offer from a great company. It’s way above my salary requirements and working in the exact environment that I want to be working in (everything I thought I’d be in where I am now), so I’ve decided to accept the offer. Now that its time to write my resignation letter, I don’t want to burn any bridges but I do want to let them know why I’m leaving so that they can hopefully improve things for those that are still here if they choose to. How do you write such a letter? Or is it just implied that if you leave after 2-1/2 months you’re going to burn the bridge no matter what?

Well, first of all, don’t do any of that in a resignation letter. Resign face-to-face in a meeting with your boss, and simply let her know that the job wasn’t what you had thought it would be when you were interviewing for it. If you hadn’t raised your concerns earlier and given her a chance to address them, be prepared for her to be pissed off that you didn’t do that. I would limit your explanation to that, though — I wouldn’t get into larger issues about the company to try to fix them; that’s not really your place as someone leaving after a couple of months, and it’s unlikely to have an impact. Certainly if you’re asked if there are additional reasons you’re leaving, you could consider more candor, but really, leaving because the job isn’t what you were told it would be is sufficient reason on its own.

You only need to supply a resignation letter if they request one, and if so, it should just contain a line explaining that you’re submitting your resignation, effective ___ (date). Don’t put complaints in the letter; that’s not generally done.

3. Asking about a job with a company you’re blogging for

In August, I contacted a company that I have admired and followed on social media for awhile. In an email, I explained what a fan I was, why I’d be a good fit, and that I would love to be considered should a job open up. By October, I still hadn’t heard from them, but by then I thought of an alternate way to connect with them. I contacted their general info email address rather than the jobs one and pitched a blog series. They emailed back and said they liked the idea, and since November I have written weekly blog posts for their company. I am not paid, but I am benefiting in other ways, including having my writing seen by a well-established and large readership. I am thrilled with this relationship and it has been all around positive.

Rewind: shortly before being approved for the blog, I was contacted by the CEO (from the jobs address) saying she apologized for taking so long to get back to me but that I seemed like I’d be a great fit for their team. She also said, “you never know what may happen in the next few months, so certainly feel free to follow up in a month or so to see where we are.”

The woman I’ve been sending my posts to has told me that the CEO likes my blog series, but I’m still not sure the CEO knows I’m the same person who asked her about employment back in August. Like I said, I am very appreciative of the opportunity and am happy with how it’s turning out. I’m just wondering if they consider my blogger role my “job,” or if I am within my rights to reach out to the CEO and ask about any paid positions. It has been over a month since she emailed me. Would that seem ungrateful or greedy?

The CEO specifically told you to feel free to follow up with her in a month, so you should; it won’t seem greedy or ungrateful! When you do, mention that you’ve been writing weekly blog posts for them and that involvement has made you more interested than ever in a full-time role with them. That’ll help her connect the dots if she hasn’t already on her own. Good luck!

4. My company’s goals and procedures change from day to day

I work for a company with fluctuating goals and procedures. The way you’re told to do something Monday may change by Tuesday, and so on. It’s “always been this way” and from my discussions with colleagues, I am far from the only person plagued by this. To compound this problem, I report directly to a senior VP with a very full plate. I realize this and do my best to a) be as autonomous as possible and b) be the main communication facilitator in our relationship. The problem is that I think there are things lost in translation between whoever needs something done and my boss before the project even reaches me. So, as much as I email with questions and confirmations like “to be clear, you’d like me to do x and the goal is to accomplish y and here are the steps I plan to take to get there, using this data,” etc. and receive affirmative responses, there have still been countless instances where things are not done to the expectations of someone involved, be it my boss or the project starter.

I began worrying that I appeared inept and to think I was a bad fit for my position, and started seeking feedback from more experienced colleagues. To my surprise, they reported feeling the same way about working with my boss and assured me my work is excellent. When I try reminding my boss of previous instructions to explain why I did something, he says I’m being defensive (which I probably am at this point) and any discussions I’ve tried to have about better communication are met with agreement, but then it doesn’t really change. I can’t think of a way to be even more communicative; I’ve recently started quietly skirting my boss to deal directly with the people who need the work done with some success, but that’s not always possible. I’m tired of explaining myself and trying to prod information from my boss. I am starting to think I need psychic powers to do my job effectively. Is there anything you would do/do differently in my shoes?

You could try one more thing: having a conversation about the big-picture problem with your boss and how it impacts the department’s work. Don’t make it about your job satisfaction (even though that’s obviously impacted); make it about the negative impact on the work, and not just your own. Come prepared for possible solutions … but also be prepared for the fact that nothing may change, even after this — especially if the problem is company-wide. At that point, though, you’ll have taken all reasonable steps to solve the problem, and then you can decide whether you want to (a) stick it out, accepting that this comes with the package, or (b) look for a different job somewhere else. Unfortunately, there aren’t really other options if this doesn’t work — you can’t make your boss change if he’s impervious to reason.

5. Unsure if I should tell a recruiter the job is my first choice or not

I’m going to be graduating this June with a technical degree and have been actively attending recruiting events at my school this year. Through these events, I made contact with a recruiter from a large well-known company that I didn’t think would be interested in me but it turns out they are. I’ve had several informal conversations with the recruiter and he has put me in contact with current employees to help me get a better feel for the company. He has very strongly hinted that he wants to bring me on the team but has resisted going into specifics about how the hiring process will progress.

The problem is, while I’m absolutely intrigued by the possibility of working for this company, I don’t know if it would actually be a good fit since it’s rather far from the field that most of my training is in. From conversations with the current employees that I was put in contact with, it doesn’t seem like this recruiter will offer a formal on-site interview unless I express that this is my top choice job. I’m not comfortable doing that since I don’t feel I can make an informed decision until after an on-site visit. Is there a way to express this honestly without ruining my chances to be offered this job? Should I tell him it’s my top choice to see if he offers a site visit, knowing that it might not be? If I do visit the site and it turns out the job isn’t a good fit for me, I’m not likely to pursue a career in this field so I’m not terribly worried about burning bridges but I don’t want to act in bad faith.

Just because a job might be your top choice at one point — or you say that it is — you’re in no way obligated to accept an offer if you receive one. You’re not committing to anything by expressing interest or accepting a site visit, so don’t worry about that at all. After all, part of the reason for visiting in person and continuing to interview is to determine if you want the job — it’s not just for them to decide if they want you. And no sane employer will consider you to have burned a bridge simply for turning down a job offer.

6. Should I go over my boss’s head?

I have been working for 8 months with my current employer. After 4 months, I arranged a meeting with HR to discuss that what I was doing was not what I thought I was employed for. Imagine employing me as a chef for a restaurant but instead I spend all day being the porter — not exactly motivating.

HR blew me off, saying that things will get better and that they are looking to hire someone else to do the “porter” position, but nothing happened. A month or so after, I went to the technical director (below the managing director) and I got deflected and told that I always knew what I signed up for, so I should live with it. But I am not doing anything that the job description says I would be doing. Where does this leave me when HR nor high-level management don’t listen?

Shall I go straight to the top — the managing director — and give my reasoning? I have proof of the work I have been doing, so is not like I will be making it up.

You’ve already talked to your manager and HR and nothing has changed. Unless you have reason to believe that the managing director operates totally differently than they do, you’re not likely to gain anything by going to her (other than pissing off your boss for going over her head).

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie the Fed*

    For #1, I would have someone senior acknowledge the event and that they understand the impact this might have on the workforce. Remind everyone that the Employee Assistance Program is there (assuming you have one) and tell them you’ll allow them time from work to utilize the program. And encourage managers to be liberal with leave – if workers feel the need to go home and spend the day with their children, they should allow it if at all possible.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m truly curious, and hope this doesn’t appear insensitive….but would you apply this for every tragedy? 9-11, local incidents, incidents in which an employee has a loved one or other close involvement, of course. But where do you draw the one with the other incidents – just as horrific but with no immediate impact.

      My husband is a cop, I wince and pray whenever I hear of a cop being shot in the one of duty anywhere…but if I needed time for every inicdent that would really disrupt business. I’m a mom, ditto for every indcident involving a kid the ages of mine.

      Where do you draw the line?

      1. Sandrine*

        It does not appear insensitive at all, Jamie! It actually looks like a very reasonable question to ask oneself, especially in a business context.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Can’t we just use our best judgement sometimes instead of relying on a hard and fast set of rules? If it’s affecting a lot of the workforce, then allow them to take some of their leave if they need to. The EAP is there for a reason. If employees can’t function at their jobs that day, why force them to put in the hours if you can be a little compassionate?

        1. Jamie*

          I agree in theory, but not every workplace can withstand a significant portion of the workforce leaving abruptly.

          In production environments it could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

          And yes, there are definitely people who would see others leaving and go as well, even if they did have the same emotional need.

          It is important to be compassionate and umderstamding…but it’s also important to keep in mind that what may work in some office only environments don’t necessarily work in manufacturing, retail, etc. if you lose customers it can be tough to get them back. A company in financial trouble isn’t in the best interest of the employees.

          It’s a complicated issue.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            That’s true. I was thinking of an office environment. I guess it just goes to the judgement of management as to how to handle each situation. I can’t imagine a strict policy of X body count in Y proximity = Z hours off. I suppose this is one such case where we have to rely on judgement and discretion.

          2. KellyK*

            Allowing people to use whatever pools of regular time off (vacation, sick, etc.) they normally have, rather than getting a “freebie” day might limit those taking off to the ones who really need it (depending on how generous the leave policy is).

            I think that if you’re in an environment where you can’t issue a blanket “Take the day if you need it,” then you can still say the stuff about the EAP and encourage managers to let people go if they ask or visibly need to and it can be accommodated.

            And I think if you can’t let people leave because of production quotas and customer needs, you can be upfront about that too and make allowances where you can. Maybe I’m just a sentimental softie (wait, there’s no maybe about that), but I would appreciate an email from a manager that acknowledged the tragedy and basically said that they’d love it if they were in a position to give everybody a day off to go hug their kids–unfortunately they’re not, but here’s what they can do.

            Maybe you can’t send people home, but you can let them know that nobody’s going to hold it against them if they’re not working at 100%. Maybe you can try to arrange coverage for people who really need it. (For example, it might be a good idea to call up people who aren’t scheduled that day and ask if they’re willing to fill in if needed.) Maybe there are some things that can be pushed back or reshuffled.

            For example, when I was teaching, I know I wouldn’t have gotten the day off, because the kids still need to learn and it’s not like substitute teachers would be in any better emotional position to deal with the situation. *But* it would’ve been reasonable to waive the “You have to stay til 4:00 for kids who need homework help” requirement and let anyone who didn’t have conferences or other scheduled commitments leave after the last period.

      3. Henning Makholm*

        Is there a need for the employer to draw a specific line here?

        If whatever happens that actually hits one or more employees so hard emotionally that they wouldn’t be effective at work and need to go home and cry, or go to the park and shout at the sky, or whatever they do to cope, then it doesn’t seem productive for an employer to attempt to judge if what happened is “worthy” of needing to be coped with. Give your workers the time they need, if you can spare them at all, or the cost in mistakes, resentment, and so forth is probably going to be more than the lost work anyway.

        … unless it starts happening so frequently that it looks like some employees are deliberately faking devastation in order to get a day off. But it would take a rather callous sort of employee to actively set out to capitalize on tragedy in that way, and one shouldn’t have as a starting assumption that one’s employees are that horrible human beings.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s definitely true in terms of individual employees, but still leaves a question mark about when it’s appropriate for an employer to address the staff as a whole about it. I think Katie’s right that you can figure that out case by case, but I also think Jamie’s raising a valid question that a lot of employers do grapple with (same with the OP).

        2. Anonymous*

          Eh, I wouldn’t fake devastation, but I would probably leave work for the day if given permission due to some tragedy that didn’t directly impact me. I can understand why an employer wouldn’t just give a blanket “you can go home if you’re not feeling up to working” after a national tragedy (especially if, as Jamie notes, you work somewhere where you need bodies on the floor, so to speak).

      4. AnotherView*


        Forgive my bluntness, but I believe that your comment really misses the point of OP#1’s question.

        The letter writer is asking about a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 kindergarten students, 12 girls and 8 boys, as well as six women who worked at the school. This is a such a shocking and horrifying event that even President Barack Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii and spent much of his early career in Chicago, was brought to tears during a press conference Friday afternoon.

        An elementary school is one of the few areas in our violence-obsessed culture where no one expects to ever see a homicidal rampage such as the one Adam Lanza brought up Sandy Hook Elementary. People who work in elementary education justifiably had their very foundations shook to the core by seeing and hearing about this heinous tragedy.

        I would also ask that you refrain from falsely equating your experience as the wife of a police officer and a mother of college students to people working with children under 10 years of age. While you may have adjusted to hearing about violence, many people who don’t have close associations to it have not and don’t believe that they should have to focus soley on business rather than begin to process the knowledge that nearly two dozen children ages 6 and 7 roll were gunned down in their classroom by a mentally unstable man.

        This killing spree is different than Sept. 11, the Fort Hood Shooting, the numerous mall shootings, the Aurora, Col. movie theater shooting and others. It involves the most innocent and most defenseless among us.

        We are likely to find ourselves respectfully agreeing to disagree on this matter, but I wanted to respond as your comment caused me much consternation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I appreciate your sentiment here and think I understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t want us to get into comparing tragedies or telling people that one traumatic event is more traumatic than the other. All senseless killings are horrifying. No one is in a position to tell others how they should or shouldn’t feel about Tragedy A relative to Tragedy B.

          These are very difficult issues, and to the extent that they’re being discussed here, I’d ask that everyone proceed with respect for that.

          1. AnotherView*


            I agree with your statement. However, I firmly believe that comparing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, as Jamie did, sets up a very dangerous idea about grieving.

            Also, when someone writes in about a specific situation, can we avoid making generalizations and basing the responses of other people on our own. Not everyone deals with death the same way, particularly when it affects so many children and their families.

            Honestly, how do comparisons between tragedies help anyone who’s trying to process a mass murder at an elementary school?

            OK, I will end my contribution to this discussion now as I don’t want to derail it any further.

            1. Forrest*

              “how do comparisons between tragedies help anyone who’s trying to process a mass murder at an elementary school? ”

              Then why are you saying 9/11 doesn’t compare to Sandy Hook?

              You’re saying we shouldn’t compare but in a way, you’re evalting this incident above the others.

              1. Heather*

                Yes, this. You said that everyone deals with tragic events in a different way, yet you’re criticizing Jamie for dealing with this differently than you would.

                I personally reacted with absolute rage, which I tried to funnel into taking action to push politicians into increasing gun safety and access to mental health care. Would you say that my reaction is somehow less valid than the person who cried all day, or vice versa?

          2. Sandrine*

            Alison, I have to admit that while I’m not Jamie, I really, really don’t appreciate the tone of AnotherView’s comment. Way to dismiss someone’s opinion/feelings!

            Comments come in all shapes and sizes, and I do agree that everyone should respect everyone else. And I can assure you (the general you) that I know at least one person in my friends/family/acquaintances that wouldn’t bat an eyelash at this tragedy we’re speaking of.

            Not because it’s not tragic, but especially because of the fact that there are so many tragedies going on every single day in every single country that some people can’t just pinpoint one to be sad about. If I did that myself, I would be weeping everyday until the day I die, I guess, because I have the luxury to live in a country with a certain standard of living that many, many people do not have access to.

            But, as Alison says, I have no right to wave this around in anyone’s face, because it could be offensive or insensitive to someone who just went through something difficult.

            Hence why I understand why a business may or may not put certain policies in place, whatever their reason is.

            And let’s face it, it’s not all sunshines and rainbows in the business world, and not every boss/company/coworker will be sympathetic. I guess if they were AAM wouldn’t thrive so much, right ;) ?

            It would therefore be quite reasonable for a business to think about those things as well.

        2. Jamie*

          My point was not that people shouldn’t be able to leave or that grief isn’t valid and highly individual.

          My point was that it’s a complicated issue I how management handles it, especially with regards to people leaving early. In many cases that may very well be the best course of action, in others…unless customers are also doing this it can be logistically impossible in some industries. I would hate to be a restaurant manager where a significant portion of the staff needed to leave. Or in manufacturing where customer trucks are pulling up and the product isn’t on schedule.

          The question of the logistics is valid, because we don’t live in a perfect world where we can attend to very real and very important responses to crisis without serious impact to work.

          The inference that I don’t understand the tragedy or impact of the slaughter of children is insulting and I have no intention of responding beyond this – but meant to clarify my point that I understand businesses should be compassionate but knowing when and under what circumstances this should result in time is complicated in some industries and positions.

          1. KellyK*

            I thought you brought up a good point and didn’t see you as in any way minimizing the tragedy–just pointing out that there are logistical concerns involved and that not every business can or should react the same.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Events resonate differently for different people. When our Ambassador to Libya was killed, I was a total mess, because I’d been heavily involved in Libya issues for a while, and I know a lot of foriegn service officers. I walked into work and saw on the news that he was dead and I about lost it. I hardly made it through the day.

          I didn’t go home early but I didn’t really talk to many people that day because I thought I would lose it at any given moment. I would expect at State Department the reactions were pretty similar. It depends on your own background and circumstances how things might affect you. It’s reasonable to assume that people who work in elementary education are going to be strongly affected by a story like Sandy Hook.

          Also, your tone strikes me as a little condescending – we’re all aware of the tragedy involved and don’t really need it explained.

          1. fposte*

            Absolutely. And there were also tragedies the day before and the day after, because every day contains tragedy for someone somewhere, and, as you note, your own personal history has a lot to do with which ones hit you hard and which ones don’t. And that’s one of my reservations about singling out particular events for organizational notice–it makes it seem like somebody devastated by Oregon or Syria or Las Vegas or their own home somehow doesn’t rise to the bar. Far better to have an overall policy, not prompted by a particular event, where we acknowledge that people are affected by all kinds of things in the world and that we try to acknowledge and make room for that in our work life.

            I also think Henning is underestimating the complexity of people and the situation–it’s not just people are either unmoved, really upset. Not that I’m going to make this call for them as a manager, but people generally deal better with tragedy when they’re involved in their routine and finding ways to make contributions; there’s also the psychological weirdness that makes people tend to genuinely suffer more when it seems to be expected.

            1. Katie in Ed*

              An overall policy that “people are affected by all kinds of things in the world” seems reasonable enough, but I’m not sure how we translate this into effective, consistent management practice. If someone is greatly incapacitated by a tragedy, how much room should we make for that tragedy? I’m not sure how one determines when human productivity becomes more important than human sensitivity, or how to take into account the myriad incidents that can affect unique individuals. It strikes me as an unhappy decision to make.

              In an ideal workplace, employees should feel empowered to take care of themselves, both mentally and physically, so they can perform their duties well. But there’s a lot of controversy as to what counts as legitimate time away from work, and not everyone has the privilege to make decisions about their work in this way. Some employers might not be willing to embark on the patient and restorative path of allowing a traumatized person to work for them on his/her own terms, even if that’s what the employee may need for a time.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                I have to wonder then what the point of programs like EAP are. Are we just paying lip service to emotional/mental health?

                I think in a lot of cases, we are. Where I work many people are still too afraid that seeking mental health treatment will cause them to lose a security clearance that they don’t take advantage of it. It’s an unfortunate reality.

                I’d really like to see employers take this stuff seriously. That doesn’t mean overreacting to every public tragedy, but it does mean emphasizing at the highest levels that you support employees taking the time and steps they need, including the EAP.

                1. fposte*

                  We’ve definitely had some home-grown tragedies here, but as a university we tend to focus on students and not staff in such cases. However, we often have individual flexibility (and quite a good EAP), which means we can cut ourselves some slack. But on the other hand, there are deadlines that don’t stop because of tragedy, and I don’t think my emotional state gets me out of meeting those. So I guess I come back again to individualizing; being understanding and flexible without necessarily telling people to go home.

              1. fposte*

                You say give them time until it looks like they’re faking. My point is interventions will affect how they feel, too, and the way you treat the situation can affect their need to take more time without it being faking– you can, in fact, increase the likelihood of their being genuinely upset enough to want to go home. They’re still not faking, but I don’t see that it’s a helpful outcome.

                1. fposte*

                  Sorry, I didn’t mean that’s the only other possibility; it’s just a particularly recognized one.

        4. Anna*

          While you may have adjusted to hearing about violence, many people who don’t have close associations to it have not and don’t believe that they should have to focus soley on business rather than begin to process the knowledge that nearly two dozen children ages 6 and 7 roll were gunned down in their classroom by a mentally unstable man.

          In the last 6 years, more than a thousand innocent civilians have been killed in drone strikes instigated by the United States government. More than 200 of them were children. I find this absolutely devastating, and I am literally stopped short several times a day thinking about the fact that, as we speak, a soldier in a bunker somewhere in America is gearing up to drop bombs on innocent people halfway around the world. We are killing “the most innocent and most defenseless among us” every day, and each and every one of us are a little bit responsible for that. However, I don’t think that my grief and need to process the atrocities being committed on a daily basis by my own government in my name means that I no longer have an obligation to “focus soley [sic] on business” when I’m at work, being paid ny my employer to perform needed services for them. My grief is mine, and if I expect to continue to be paid, I need to respect both my own feelings and the needs of the business that employs me.

      5. Job seeker*

        Jamie, I really appreciate the job our police officers like your husband face on a everyday basis. I have been so upset by the shooting that happened at the elementary school. There was mention of this in our church service this morning. I used to work at a elementary school three days every week volunteering when my own children were there. Those innocent people. I could not imagine having something like that happen and dealing with this horror.

        Again, my appreciation to every police officer and their families for all the courage they have. Also, the brave and wonderful teachers who rose to the occasion.

      6. Elizabeth*

        Hospital here.

        In a patient care area? You suck it up and deal, unless it was one of your loved ones, in which case management will find someone to replace you, you give report, and then you leave. Anything that isn’t immediate to you, you have a legal & ethical responsibility to the people you’re caring for that overrides your personal feelings.

        In an area that isn’t direct patient care? It depends. We had one computer on streaming audio news on Friday afternoon, the same as we did on 9/11. I work in a basement off-campus, so a radio wasn’t an option. One of the other people whose wife is a police dispatcher & substitute teacher called her to see how she was doing, but she was so busy that she didn’t have time to talk to him. If someone had asked to leave, our boss would probably have said yes, but we all left a little early, since it was a Friday afternoon in December, and we all were trying to get a jump on the weekend.

        When we had a colleague brought in unresponsive, Administration made it a point to visit all of the areas she worked with to notify them of her death before word got out on the grapevine. They also made sure to answer what questions they could about her without violating her privacy or that of her family. And, they reminded us that we had access to the Employee Assistance Program if we needed it.

      7. Joey*

        You draw the line at the business. The way I’ve always handled tragedies is to be more empathetic with my actions with the goal of minimizing the impact on the business. This can mean being more flexible with attendance policies or consciously allowing more discussion (which means less work). Obviously theres a point where it starts impacting business too much. The cue for me to step in and say or do something is if its consuming people at work. So I’m consciously watching folks closer to see if its business as usual or not. When its obvious that its going to affect your business significantly and you cant stop the train that’s when you make a more encompassing business decision. I know all this sounds cold, but all employers who show empathy couldn’t do it if in the end it wasn’t good for their business.

  2. Frances*

    OP #4, we have a similar problem at my workplace (although it is less focused around just one person, it’s more an issue of a complicated org chart making certain projects fall under several different managers). What my coworkers and I have found helpful is to try and get all expectations for us on a project in an email (if we are given instructions verbally, we’ll often email the person who told us later with a “I just want to clarify, X and Y are what you want me to do, right?”).

    When someone “moves the goalposts” on a project, so to speak, we can now point to older emails as “this is what the original instructions were” or “I’m not done with that yet because two days ago I was given new specifications.” It doesn’t prevent upper management from changing their minds, but it does give you a record that they did, which has been instrumental in heading off frustration from the managers as well as preserving our own sanity. (I will caution that in some work environments this may still come across as defensive or making excuses, but it’s worked very well for us since as I said we often have multiple mangers interested in a project and they don’t always know who has given what instructions.)

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is what I was going to suggest. If it’s in an email, it’s easier not only to show what someone said, but to refer back to certain instructions that may end up being retroactive. Like if one manager said “Do this,” and another said “No, do this,” and later it turned into “Maybe the first thing was better.”

  3. Michael*

    Sounds like a theme of employees realizing their jobs have a difference between “on paper” or in the interview, and reality. Could be a good topic for more posts.

  4. Not So NewReader*

    OP#1- I wondered what people here have been seeing in their workplaces that IS helpful/supportive in times of crisis. Hopefully, TPTB, are realizing if they make workers stay and continue working stuff is going to get messed up.
    I firmly believe that the company leadership does need to step up and say something to their employees. During the events and aftermath of 9/11, I saw a variety of responses. One friend’s company acted like nothing happened- no mention. Another friend’s boss (different company) sat with his employees and wept openly. They talked about how to proceed with their workday. Then they (anyone who wanted to) went together to give blood.

    OP#2 Actions speak louder than words. Sometimes it seems that it is best to let the people IN the situation work on fixing the situation. You are leaving, so it is up to them to figure out what to do. Put it in a peaceful place and move on. Think of it this way- if you see HR or former boss on the street, you want to be able to say a pleasant “hello” and let bygones, be bygones.

    OP#6 Just curious. Are they giving you chef’s pay and porter’s work? If this is the case, I might be tempted to invest in myself a little bit. How can you use this position to get something for yourself/your career that you would not have otherwise had?

    1. OP#6*

      I believe that salary is market rate. I’ve only just started my career with a few years experience. I guess I could use this to self develop, get certificates and then move on.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t know if this applies to you– I had a situation where I was hired to X work. After a while I was doing only Y work. Both tasks paid the same and had the same job title. I decided that Y work wasn’t that awful, so I stayed. After about a year and a half, X work was GONE, and there was only Y work to do! What looked like a bad situation worked out well because I was able to keep working.
        This might not apply to your setting, but it could be that for some strange reason you landed in a better spot than you imagined. Every day at work- look around with fresh eyes. See what you see.
        Hang tough, it’s not fun, I know.

    2. Elizabeth*

      I’m a teacher at an elementary school, so Friday’s events hit me very hard. I found out in the middle of the school day, too, about five minutes before a bunch of third graders were about to show up in my room for class. I had to call their teacher and ask for an extra ten minutes so I could compose myself.

      Once the kids got to my room, though, I think that having them there was absolutely the best thing for me at that moment. None of them knew anything had happened that day that was worse than a bumped head at recess, and we didn’t tell them – nothing would be gained by them knowing immediately, and at home each child could have all the hugs she needed while their families told them the sad news. Still, I knew that I could spend the day reinforcing for these children that our school is a safe, loving, and joyful place. And that helped me go through the rest of the day.

      Sorry… I guess that’s not really very helpful, and doesn’t really answer your question. I’m still processing a lot myself, and I’ve needed a lot of hugs from my own loved ones. I guess one transferable thing to non-teaching professions is that it helps me to focus on helping others when a crisis occurs.

      1. Good_Intentions*


        Thank you for sharing that moving account of how you learned about and handled the situation at Sandy Hook Elementary School as someone who works in the education system.

        Although it doesn’t change this terrible event, I am somewhat heartened to read that you were able to continue through the day and share lots of hugs with your loved ones. Please also rest assured that many, many people worldwide are still processing this act of inexplicable violence against some of our most vulnerable.

        You and the millions of teachers and other education professionals are in my thoughts, along with the family and friends affected by the mass shooting, are in my thoughts.

      2. EM*

        My son is a kindergartener, and my reaction was to basically block my reaction and not think about it and not read about it so I could be functioning at work. :( I’m still not able to read much about it.

        I’ve been hugging him a little tighter, but no way am I going to tell him. He can learn about it when he’s older. I know the school district will be doing some drills this week.

        1. Job seeker*

          I agree to hug him a little tighter and not share this with a kindergartener. They are so little and so very sweet and young and innocent. When my youngest was about 4 he became friends with the pharmacist ( a very nice lady) when I went into the grocery store. She would give him pictures to take home to color. Well, she ended up passing away unexpectly and when he went to the store she was not there. I knew what happened, but I never shared it with this precious, sweet little boy. I always got his attention somewhere else. He always said when we went to the store he was going to see his friend. He would run to the back of the store. Life’s hard knocks can wait until they are older.

    3. OP #2*

      Thanks for the perspective. You and Alison have great advice and I’ll take it. I don’t want to burn bridges so I’ll just give them my notice and say that its not a good fit for me and that its not working out. I hope they ask for reasons, I’ll be the second person to quit in 2 weeks. Thanks for the advice everyone!

  5. Anon*

    #6 You MUST present these things to your manager in terms of how a change in your responsibilities will help HER, not help YOU. If they are truly compensating you at a high level for doing low-level work, consider why, and what could improve the situation for the company.

    1. OP#6*

      These have been presented to my manager but I was told that I knew what I signed up for from when I was interviewed.

      The managing director follows a different path and doesn’t necessarily listen to other management, which is why I am thinking of making an approach. But then again, going to the director I go above everyone’s head and that could possibly affect my job. :/

  6. Sdhr*

    #6. Curious if OP is getting paid commensurate with a chef or a porter. Either way, think you have a decision to make.

  7. Elizabeth West*

    I think it’s okay to let employees take a few minutes, or a longer lunch, etc. to compose themselves after a tragedy. An event that happened way out of our monkeysphere, as called the circle of people we are actually in contact with, may not affect someone the same way as if they were there. But there’s no telling from person to person what is going to make them upset. I don’t even know what will upset me on any given day.

    I was temping at a former workplace when 9/11 happened. Basically, everything that day just stopped. I went to work at 1 pm and someone had brought a television in, and we were watching the news coverage. About 2:30, I went out and got cookies and a special supplement to the newspaper and we just ate, watched, and read. The bosses didn’t say a damn word. I think the phone rang twice that whole afternoon. No one cried, but they certainly weren’t their normal, jolly selves.

    1. Good_Intentions*


      Your story about 9-11 is completely different than any other experience I’ve heard about the fateful day.

      I know it’s cold comfort, but I’m relieved that you and your colleagues were able to support each other throughout the afternoon. It was considerate of your bosses to leave well enough alone so that you could begin to process the event.

  8. Treece*

    #2 – I would love to know how interviewing is going for you since you have only been in your position for 2 months. I am in the same type of situation where I am looking for a new position after only 6 months in a job and I am finding it difficult to get past the stigma of wanting to leave so soon. Are you having any difficulty in explaining why you are moving on after 2 months? How are you handling this?

      1. OP #2*

        Surprisingly it hasn’t been difficult to address/answer the question about why I’m leaving after 2 months. I simply go with the honesty method – that I was lead to believe that the culture and work would be one thing (I give 1 or 2 specifics) and then say its not. I also mention that I uncovered unethical practices that I cannot get behind and the interviewer has pretty much always completely understood. Culture is everything to me in a job and the place I’m working now has none, I think combined with the questions I ask about the culture of the company it seems to go over well.

        One other thing to mention about the situation. Since starting I have no idea who my direct supervisor is. The closest guess I have is the CEO who is rarely in the office long enough for me to catch him for a meeting. One of my coworkers (who is also leaving) suggested just sending an email, but that doesn’t seem right to me.

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