mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Coworker’s loud calls are distracting

I work for a F100 company and I was recently promoted from a union to a management position on a new team. Since the promotion, I was moved to a new office floor that is somewhat vacant. There are about 5 union employees and the rest of us are management on varying levels. Everything is great, I really like the position, growth opportunities and I still have a huge window overlooking the park!

My dilemma is one of the managers (who was sitting over here before me) who sits in the back talks extremely loudly. We do not have doors that we can close, so I am stuck listening to her all day. Sometimes I put my headphones on and listen to jazz, but even then she can still be heard. I dread having to listen to the conference calls that are on speaker phone and every detail of her work that she is discussing. Everyone else manages to talk softly and discreetly. Since she is on the other side of the office and I can still hear her, she must be talking pretty loud. I assume no one has brought this to her attention since there are very few people over here. As I type, she has got on another call and she is ridiculously loud.

I have heard her speak to other people and she can be very brash and almost rude and condescending. How do I politely bring this to her attention without confrontation? I want to specifically address her volume and the fact that every call is on speaker. My work is important too and I need some concentration. My boss is in another state so I can’t (and wouldn’t) rely on him to fix this. I’m not “scurd” as they say, I just want to put an end to this and retain an otherwise pleasant office atmosphere.

“Jane, I hate to ask, but I wonder if you could keep your voice down when you’re on the phone? I’m finding that it really carries and make it hard to focus on times.” Or, “Jane, could you avoid speaker phone when you’re on calls? It makes it hard for me to concentrate.” You can probably only ask one of these for now, so pick it carefully.

I’m assuming she’s a peer, by the way. If she’s significantly above you in the hierarchy, you might need to just suck it up or find someone else to talk to her.

2. Adding a spouse or friends on LinkedIn

Is it appropriate to add your spouse on LinkedIn if you have no major professional ties? What about friends?

Sure, that’s fine. Lots of people add social contacts on LinkedIn and don’t confine their networks only to people they’ve worked with or know from a professional setting. (Part of the value of LinkedIn, after all, is gaining access to your circle’s network — something that doesn’t require you to know them in a professional context.)

3. Interviewing with the CEO

I’m super nervous about my upcoming second round interview. I’m interviewing for a junior position on a communications team. I’m meeting with a panel for the second round that includes the CEO of the organization. I’ve never had an interview with the highest ranking person at an org before–my question is, what will he be looking for? I assume they wouldn’t waste a CEO’s time with asking behavioral interview questions. What do you think he will be looking for ? More examples of my experience?

It could be a completely typical interview, with behavioral questions, etc., or — somewhat more likely — he might just want to talk more informally with you. I’d prepare as if it’s going to be the former because most people don’t do well at that type of interview without preparation, but don’t be thrown off it’s the latter.

4. Interviewer asked what my husband thought of him

I was at an interview, and the main interviewer knew my husband from a previous job. He asked me what my husband thought of him. The more I think about it, the weirder it seems. What are you thoughts?

Yes, that’s a weird question. He might have been joking, or he might have just been a weird and maybe awkward guy. Who knows?

5. Employer thinks I’m over-stating how difficult my work is

Ten years ago, I was hired at a church because they were starting a communications dept. and I had some Quark experience. I’m self taught on Photoshop. I’ve improved tremendously over the years with my design work. It’s solid and competent — for our demographic — but not inspired. A true graphic artist who I respect has judged my work to be quite on par with our church’s needs, for most things.

One of our pastors has decided that all three of us need to be cross trained. I was shocked yesterday when he told me that “due to my insecurities, I’ve over dramatized how difficult my job is.” Yes, I am insecure, yet I’ve been honest about the complexity for people who have never used these programs. I’m discouraged and distressed to hear this, especially after all these years. But worst of all, is that my word has no value to them. What is the best way to deal with this low opinion they have of me? How do I convince them that insecurity doesn’t equal liar? And why is it so hard to believe that people who have never done this kind of work might, possibly, find it a touch difficult?

Well, first, people are notorious for thinking that graphic design doesn’t involve as much work as it really does, so that comes with the territory.

But it doesn’t sound like anyone is accusing you of lying — just of perhaps being overly dramatic or overly anxious about the work that your job involves. Yes, it’s easy to be insulted by something like that, but it’s not going to be particularly helpful to you to take that stance. It’s not crazy to want some degree of cross-training in a small department, so that if you’re out some day and they need something changed in a document before you’re back, someone is capable of at least basic updates. I’d just look at it from that viewpoint and give up on trying to convince them that they’re wrong, since I suspect that will be fruitless — and frustrating.

6. Sent home for being in a bad mood

A friend of mine who lives in North Carolina just told me that his sister that works for a company on a commisson basis was told not to come in for a week because on this particular day she was in a bad mood because the windshield of her car was smashed. Is this legal?

Yes. If her position is exempt, she needs to be paid her full salary for every week in which she does any work, but if they sent her home for the full week — or if she’s non-exempt — they can absolutely suspend her without pay for a week. I’m assuming that if was at the point that she was sent home for it, that bad mood must have been pretty disruptive — that’s generally not a good idea at work.

7. Will a master’s hurt my chances of getting an internship?

I am finishing up my first year of grad school (it’s a 2-year program), and I am now applying to internships for the summer, when I will be on break. My field is communications/journalism/PR, and I am finding that a lot of people in my industry, even those at the top, don’t seem to hold advanced degrees. As a matter of fact, I was often warned in undergrad that in my field, experience is valued a lot more that a master’s degree. So my question is, do you think a master’s degree can hurt my chances of getting an internship for the summer? I am already having trouble even finding internships to apply for that accept grad students. Will I seem overqualified, un-experienced, or (at the risk of sounding narcissistic), I have even heard that some employers are intimidated by candidates with master’s degrees. I would love to know your thoughts!

I don’t think I’ve ever met a professional adult who was intimidated by someone with a master’s, so I’d drop that worry — or you risk coming across as thinking that it counts for more than it does. In most fields, most employers value work experience far more than graduate degrees (with the usual exceptions, like academia), and that’s certainly true in journalism, where what matters most is your ability to write and your published clips. (In fact, had you written to me earlier, I would have advised you to skip the graduate program and start writing. Much less cost to you, and a bigger pay-off.)

Anyway …being in a masters program, or having a masters, may or may not harm your chances of getting an internship. Some internships are specifically designed for undergraduate students, and those obviously won’t be a good fit. But your school should help you find internships that you’d be a good candidate for; that should be part of what your program does for you, and if they don’t, I’d think really hard about what exactly you’re getting out of the program — it should be helping you become more marketable, not less, right?

{ 119 comments… read them below }

  1. Just a Reader*

    #7–you don’t need a master’s degree in PR/communications. However, nobody’s going to be intimidated by it. The bigger red flag is going to be whether you’re happy starting at the bottom, because experience is what counts and you don’t get to skip steps because you went to grad school.

    The couple of people who held master’s degrees when I worked in an agency came in at the entry level and didn’t last long, because they thought they should be able to forego grunt work due to the advanced degree.

    If you want to be paid more and recognized for your degree right out of the gate, PR/comms is not the right field.

    1. Anon*

      This is true. The degree is not necessary and just a nice to have. I know from personal experience. And yes, you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

      And I got the PR internship that got me my first real job in PR while a grad student. I ended up dropping down to part time grad school when I was offered a full time position. I did finish the degree program, but the on the job experience is what counts.

    2. Lisa*

      You do not need it, but the big companies always want a masters for everything so if she wants to work for a large pharma company or university it will help her by having the masters. Will it help at a agency, one cares that much. Will it help for a small – mid size biz, prob not. But for those that want to work for the big conglomerates, then yes it will help get you in the door.

    3. TRB*

      I agree. I’ve know quite a few people who got their master’s and did an internship in the summer between their two years. It seems as though they still started entry-level for awhile but were able to move up a little more quickly. This could be because they had more skill from other areas or were just in the right place at the right time.

      The places you want to intern at (with?) won’t be intimidated by your master’s and as long as you come across as humble and willing to learn, you’ll be fine and have a great addition to your resume.

      1. Sunshine DC*

        I’m curious about what field would allow people to work at an “internship” when they already have the degree (i.e., not currently in a degree program.) Are these like informal programs? For every internship program I’ve ever seen for arenas relating to my type of work—international relations, government, NGOs, economic development, etc.—one of the key requirements is “must be enrolled in a degree granting program” (which can be any degree level appropriate to the role.) If you graduate in May, let’s say, you can’t even get a summer internship starting in June. (I learn a lot about other fields on this blog board!!)

        1. CoffeeLover*

          I’ve actually seen some internship postings that only accept people that have already completed their degree. Also, I’ve seen even more postings asking for graduate students.

  2. AnotherAlison*

    #7 – grad student seeking internship

    Am I the only one here who thinks it’s late to be applying for summer internships, or is this the norm in other industries, such as jounalism for the OP?

    Our summer 2013 internship openings were posted in September of 2012, and one of the students I knew who got hired received his offer before the end of 2012. Just wondering if the recent internship-seeking question askers are possibly having problems because they’re looking late in the season.

    1. Just a Reader*

      Our program is timed that way too–everyone was locked down by Thanksgiving. It is late to be applying for summer, in my experience, but maybe the LW will get lucky.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on the field. Some lock down early, but others are hiring for summer right around now. (A lot of nonprofits, for instance, do their summer internship hiring right now.)

    3. KayDay*

      My general experience has been that larger organizations, with highly structured internship programs and huge cohorts of interns, tend to hire much earlier, where as smaller organizations (of all kinds) with fewer interns tend to hire mid to late spring. I’ve actually seen a lot of internship announcements being posted in various places (I’m not looking for an internship, I’ve just noticed them around).

      1. Nan*

        Yep, we’re a small company and we’re just now starting to think about posting for summer interns.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        I agree with this. All of the big companies hire around February in my area (which means applications happen in January or December), while the smaller ones with only one or two posting happen now. I have seen some large companies do last minute postings now with extremely sped up processes though (i.e. they post the job 5 days before the deadline and interview the following week).

        I would agree that if these people are just starting to look now, they are starting late in the game and have missed out on many, many jobs. Though I assume most have been looking since about January or February and haven’t found anything yet.

    4. Neeta*

      It really does depend on the industry/company I guess.

      The company I work for, starts advertising in March/April but actual recruiting process doesn’t begin till late May. Internships, being geared towards students, happen during the students are on holiday (here, it’s July, August and September).

  3. Joey*

    #3 Most executives that I know don’t focus on whether you can do the job. They assume that’s already been screened. In my experience they mainly look for 3 things:

    1. Strategic thinking
    2. Knowledge of industry trends
    3. Fire in the belly

    1. Jamie*

      This – and fit. Especially if you will work closely with them.

      IMO the smaller the company the more concerned owners and upper management are with the fit and how the team works together…because there’s no buffer.

  4. The Editor*

    #3–Just a thought, but it seems like you feel intimidated by the CEO. I know the feeling. A former boss mentioned to me, however, that CEO is one of those titles that every company has, like a receptionist. Yes, it’s a not quite the same, but when you realize that there are millions of companies around the world, there are also millions of CEOs. Most of them are pretty normal, down to earth people with the same problems you and I have.

    Now, if this were a Fortune 100 CEO, I would feel a bit different, but in my experience, CEOs don’t jump into interviews unless they are either a pretty small company (meaning “normal guy” CEO) or the position is pretty high up, in which case you shouldn’t be intimidated anyway, right?

    Plus, just think how easy it will be to get to the core of the culture and managerial styles with the CEO right there!

    1. AnotherAlison*

      +1 – When I applied at my current company, I had 5 yrs experience and had to interview with the #2 guy at the company. (Even then, it was technically a division of a much larger company, but it operated more like a stand-alone business than it does now, and in my eyes then this guy was THE guy.)

      I was as intimidated as hell, but I got the job, and after starting my job I realized he was much more accessible than people in his position at Former Company. I was on a small team that met with him monthly, so it made sense that I had had to interview with him. (Unfortunately I have no memory of what the questions he asked were.)

      In my current position, I deal with big dogs all the time and never really think about them being different than us little guys. . .until one of them says he has to catch the private jet to head home for the weekend. : )

  5. Kou*

    Alison is spot on here, people assume anyone could do your job if they had an afternoon to spend playing with Photoshop. My mother is a graphic designer and she always put it this way: “They think a trained monkey could do my job.”

    Cross-training isn’t a bad sign, some skill redundancy is necessary. Coupled with the comment about your characterization of your work, they may be hoping someone else’s aptitude will cover some of the things you’ve struggled with in the past. This is actually happening where I work now, and it’s not a slight against the person who was in charge of that area initially. What they do *is* difficult, they are just quick to become flustered when there are issues, and more so now that issues are frequent. Our hope is to give them some relief by having someone who can pick up these tasks sometimes so it doesn’t leave it all up to them when they have other more important things to do.

    1. Lanya*

      OP #5, try to see the cross-training as a way to get some free design education from your peers. Your employer is trying to help you improve your skills. Don’t let the way they said it to you hurt your feelings…just make the most out of your training. You might also want to examine how you are coming across to your employer because they might not have used the word “insecurities” if you were not acting insecure in some way about your work. Take pride in it and don’t verbalize whether you feel your projects, or your skills, are inferior to the other designers’. ( In other words…’Fake it ’til you make it!’)

      1. Mina*

        Alison, I’m really honored and excited that my question got posted and answered! TY so much for that. I know you’re right, it’s just hard. My integrity matters to me a great deal, so this situation hurt.

    2. Mina*

      The monkey thing is so right, especially here. But it’s not just the design work, it’s getting it all to print, and solving all the technical issues. Why isn’t it printing, why isn’t it crisp, why won’t it center on the page? These are all issues I’ve had to solve, with the help of the outside team I’ve put together.

      1. Neeta*

        Ah welcome to the world of IT, where everything should be done for free if you’re a freelancer, or at least cheaper by someone’s friend’s high school aged son who’s glanced at Photoshop twice in his life.

        It’s a new industry, and most people have no idea what it’s about. I totally get your frustration, because I’m the same way. Just know that you’re not alone (see

        1. Anonymous*

          And the world of libraries, where everything is free because it’s all on the Internet now.

    3. Laura L*


      Interesting. I am definitely one of those people who knows I could not do the job of a graphic designer! My sense of what looks good is much looser than other people’s and I’d end up creating something that only I like!

    4. Miss Displaced*

      Ugh! So true! EVERYONE wants to “BE” the designer, yet so few realize just how much we really do and how long it takes to learn and use the tools of our trade.

      That being said, take any cross-training you can get. Especially with web, social media, video and writing.

      Graphic designers are being asked to do a whole lot more than just designing nowadays, so try to think of this as a great learning experience.

  6. Grace U.P.*

    LW #1

    Is it possible she’s a bit deaf/hard of hearing? I have a hearing loss that can make it very hard judge how loudly I’m speaking, especially on cell or speaker phones. Also, is she talking to people on bad cell connections? While I’m not minimizing your very real problem, the cause of it might be more than being brash or loud by nature. It might be a blessing to treat the cause, not the symptom.

    1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

      I never thought about the fact that she may be hard of hearing so thanks for that insight. Maybe that’s why she has those conference calls cranked up so loud. IF that is the case, I can deal with it (even though it would be nice if she would get a headset). It seems like to me……I’m judgung………that she likes to hear herself talk based off of the rants she goes on. When I say brash, I mean it appears that she doesn’t know how to talk to people. She puts people down and is always saying someone doesn’t know how to do their job and she’s the expert. She actually lost her direct reports so now she is more of a self contributor manager.

      1. Grace U.P.*

        If it’s a constant rather than an occasional thing, I’d be even more likely to think it might be hearing loss related. When you have a hearing loss like mine, hearing is Very Hard Work, especially when I’m trying to handle multiple audio sources at once, like on a conference call. At work, we try to practice silent workplace, which has been wonderful – very rarely are there two people talking at the same time, so I can focus without feeling exhausted.

        1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

          It is constant so you may be right. I hate to judge folk (thinking she is just a loud talker) when her situation may be like yours. It’s hard to tell and like I was saying to AAM, I can be very direct so I don’t want to come of as rude when she may not be able to help it or realize she is loud. What got me was on day when she told hubby to be quiet bc he was on speaker. It just made me feel like she was aware that we could hear her and her convo.

      2. Vicki*

        If she is hard of hearing, a headset would be a much better choice than shouting into a speakerphone.

        Speakerphones are notorious for causing people at both ends to lean forward and raise Their VOICES!

    2. Jamie*

      My husband is a warm and charming guy, but holy loud talking speaking voices if his ears are stuffed up (which he will never admit is the case – how weird is that? Like a mild ear infection is a moral failing. Sigh)

      I can hear him on the phone clear on the other side of the house – I can only imagine the person on the other end is holding the receiver at arms length and wearing ear muffs to protect their hearing.

      IME people who do this aren’t aware of it, and kind of don’t believe you when you tell them they are louder than other people. If you find a solution that works for the home version of this problem please let me know.

      1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

        I understand, my husband talks loud sometimes. I’ve learned it’s b/c he grew up in a household where they talked very loud, yelled across the house or someone was arguing. When I ask him why he is talking so loud, his voice drops. When he’s on the phone in another room, I’ll just come in and say “Babe I can hear you in the other room.”

        On the flip side, another woman over here talks verrrry low. She says that if she can hear herself talking then she thinks it is too loud to others. I’m just happy to have been promoted into the IT dept so I’m trying to not let it get to me.

        Maybe I can write a program that auto adjusts people’s voice LOL

          1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

            Working on it right now as I look out the window at the 12+ inches of snow we just got *sighs* In the meantime, let me know if you find a remote control that I can use to mute people!

              1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

                I’m working from home today and maybe tomorrow but I will say something to her this week if she comes back from vacation.

                Also, I was hesitant when I first arrived b/c I was new on the floor and I rarely talk to her. I was trying to get a feel for the culture and dynamics before I said something.

                1. Jamie*

                  I agree with this – no matter how right you are (and quiet always trumps noisy in my world) when one of the first interactions you have with someone is a personal criticism it can color the whole relationship.

                  It doesn’t need to wait weeks – but a couple of well places conversations where she can form the opinion that you’re a lovely person might make her more receptive when you ask her to change her behavior.

                2. Jessa*

                  Yeh, unless you’re hearing seriously confidential conversations on speaker, it’s really good to figure out the dynamic first.

      2. Rana*

        This is a bit of a digression from the main topic, but… Jamie, has your husband ever seen a specialist for his infections (assuming they are a regular, recurring thing)? I ask because my husband’s been dealing with some off and on for about the last eight years, and finally agreed to go have someone look at his ear. It turns out he’s got a hard-to-detect growth in there, which will need surgery to remove before it destroys his hearing entirely. Regular doctors kept missing it; apparently it’s the sort of thing that’s really hard to see if you’re not looking specifically for it. Just a thought…

  7. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

    Thanks for answering. We are both in the IT department and she is just one small notch above me. All of our leadership works in different states so there really is no one else that can talk to her on my behalf and I’d rather deal with her directly. I know she can be quiet b/c I have heard her whisper and tell her husband to “be quiet b/c I have you on speaker.” They were talking about something personal and he was on a rant. She also frequently blurts out a curse word loud enough for us to hear. I wish she would retire.

      1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

        Sure I will. I’ve read your blog enough to know how you’d answer. I just wanted to bounce my delima off on your readers. I can be a little too “straight to the point” so it helps to hear other view points. One reader said she may be hard of hearing. It was nice to see my own question posted while I was on lunch!!!

        1. Liz in the City*

          My 2 cents and YMMV, but when I was at OldJob, they moved this guy who was way above me on the totem pole (and used to having his own office) out on the floor with the rest of us peons. (He was not pleased.) He frequently took calls on speaker, which was rude since no one else did. I had enough one day, so I went over to him, and just said, “Wakeen, can you please pick up the phone when you make calls? It’s really disruptive to the rest of the us. Thanks.” And walked away. I’m sure he shot me a dirty look, but four people thanked me afterwards. The other people on your floor may be hoping this woman comes down with laryngitis or something so she shuts up.

          1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

            Good for you! There are only 4 of us over here and I think she use to be the only one over here so she is use to being able to talk loudly. But how hard is it to just get a headset or something???

        2. Anonymous*

          I don’t know how AAM feels but personally I wouldn’t appreciate spending my time answering questions that the asker “already knew how she’d answer”. She has said before that she doesn’t have time to answer everything she receives.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Ha, well, yeah, I do have more letters than I can answer, so ideally if you don’t want my advice but you want to ask the commenters, you’d use the LinkedIn group or an open thread.

            1. Jamie*

              Actually you answer stuff for me all the time in my head…WWAD.

              Having to deal with a difficult situation, or negotiation, or want to run away and become a milker on a goat farm I think what would Alison do…and then I behave like a grown up and get shit done.

              I probably actually owe you money for all the good you’ve done my career.

                1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

                  So have I. I’m always telling people to go to the blog for work realated advice.

            2. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

              No, I wanted your advice as well as the comments of the readers. My reply was taken literaly/at face value which I can understand. I wasn’t a member of the LinkedIn group at the time. Def not here to waste your time AAM.

          2. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

            What I meant to say was that (and anyone with common sense) would assume that’s how she would reply, to just politely ask them to stop or deal with it. I wasn’t shocked by her response. I wanted to confirm with her AND hear from other readers. I know she can’t reply to everyone and if she didn’t reply to me, I would have been fine with that. She took the time to answer and I got some good insight from others that I hadn’t though of. I can see where you are coming from but that’s not how I intended for it to come off.

            1. khilde*

              Sometimes you do want some confirmation from someone whose advice you highly esteem. I think it was a good question. Plus, I’m so confident in my own advice and gut instincts because I’ve heard the same advice repeated over and over.

              1. Anonymous*

                Right! Thank you, you summed it up well. I don’t normally post questions but since I’m new to the office and just got a promotion I wanted that professional confirmation. Thanks

    1. Jamie*

      Hmmm…the curse word thing may be cultural in that they aren’t verboten in a lot of IT departments…in fact if you count what I mutter under my breath while staring at my screen they may count for as much as 47% of my vocabulary.

      Agreed that if they are offending others or loud then that’s a little off – but if this department is all IT I would be surprised not to ever hear the occasional bad word.

      1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

        Yeah you’re right. I guess I can’t be too mad since I haven’t told her that her cursing is a little offensive.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Why tell someone to “be quiet b/c I have you on speaker” instead of just taking him off speaker? Is her handset broken?!

      1. Jamie*

        I’m actually wondering if she doesn’t know how to work her phone.

        I hate the phone so it was months after we got new ones that I finally learned how to even use the speaker phone. I have my own office and can shut the door and even then I HATE the speaker phone and will only use it if it’s a group call and others are in the room.

        It’s harder to hear for me, even on good equipment, I have to work harder at listening which diverts my energy from the useful purpose of trying to figure out how to end the call. I really do hate the phone.

  8. Anonymous*

    #5 – Alison is correct that many ignorant people undervalue the skill set required to use graphic applications. Don’t take it personally. Simply cross-train your co-workers, and they’ll let everyone know whether it’s a difficult as you made it sound. Of course, if you’ve simplified or perfected a process that was difficult to create you won’t get the proper credit. They’ll have to hope they never have to reinvent that wheel after you’re gone.

    Just today my boss–we’re accountants–looked at me like I was nuts when I said an Ad Rate Schedule on a single piece of paper would likely be difficult to re-create. It might be easy if we can get the original file from the designer, but since we probably don’t own the application the creator used it’s most likely to be next-to-impossible for us. Even if we have the app, the question, then, is “Does anyone on staff have the skills to do it more efficiently than the original designer? Probably not.”

    For laughs there’s at least one website that gathers hellacious client stories from designers.

    1. Esra* I’m guessing? As a graphic designer you have to laugh while reading it, otherwise you will cry because it’s all painfully true.

    2. Mina*

      I’ve created – with outside help – processes to get my job done. A lot of work arounds, too. There are so many problems and conflicts that arise, that I’ve dealt with. Now I will pass this on to someone else, and gets the benefit of having the answers handed over to them.

  9. Jubilance*

    #1 – I can relate as people taking conference calls on speaker phone in an open office/cube farm is a pet peeve of mine. Not everyone wants to hear your conversation! Is there a quiet room or conference room she can use for her calls? Maybe you can offer that to her as a suggestion when you mention to her that she’s being loud to the point of disruptive.

    1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

      We do have multiple hi-tech video/phone conference rooms. I assume since she is on so many calls that it is advantageous for her to sit at her desk so she can multi task while talking (even though you can log into your desktop in the video conference rooms). It is a pet peeve of mine too but I’m I’m just going to deal with it head on and see what happens. But you are right, it is very disputive and a bit rude.

      1. Vicki*

        My sister has suggested to me that I take dictation for some of the calls I overhear. Then if the the other person doesn’t believe it was “really that loud” you can say “Well, I made a transcript…”

        I’ve never gone quite that far, but then, the noisy person has always been close enough that it’s been obvious they could be overheard. Except for the guy at the end of the hall who had an office with a door. I’d just walk down the hall and close his door.

  10. Jamie*

    Won’t the fact that any monkey can’t do graphic design come to light as soon as the cross training starts? It’s not like everyone is going to take to it and start creating professional work overnight. That stuff is a freaking art – I personally hate it because I have zero aptitude for the aesthetics and I don’t work for a company with a baby pink, dark blue, and deep purple color scheme…which are the only colors I like selecting from the pallet.

    It’s hard – they’ll find that out soon enough. However, I’m pissy and ego driven enough that I’m not sure I’d get over being told I was being over-dramatic and exaggerating my job. I can absolutely be over-dramatic about trivial stuff, in fact it’s kind of my default – but never when it matters. When stuff is important I am literal as heck and chose my words with exceptional care. Even if they felt that was true they should have let that come out in the cross-training and not been so combative to call you out on that.

    I would have issues there.

    1. Esra*

      As a designer, I don’t mind cross-training for editing etc, but I inwardly cringe when people want to be trained so they can make things themselves. Rather than see how hard it is, they tend to crow about how easy it is. Why, all you have to do is use is apply outer glow and drop shadow and a nice stroke or three and see?? I can design too!

      1. -X-*

        About design…

        It’s hard and it’s easy. It’s hard to just know it from scratch. It’s easy in that for 80% of design tasks, if you can learn core principles about type, contrast, hierarchy, consistency, alignment, color, etc etc, you can make huge improvements in things and have them look good. Learning all this will take time – maybe a long time for some people – but it’s very doable.

        I’m speaking as a self-taught designer who read tons, worked tons at it and after a few years am competent for most tasks. I do in-house design in a small organization, and have dome some freelance work – mainly web but also print for clients.

        There are still tasks that are beyond me to do well – particularly related to illustration, photo retouching and complex infographics, though I’m learning the latter. So for a few things, I need help that’s external to my organization.

        But text-focused design including stationery, newsletters, brochures, email announcements, etc – it’s the same as becoming a better writer or editor. It takes some focused learning and practice.

        Read about it, practice it, look at good (and bad) examples and think about what works and what doesn’t, practice some more. And fundamentally, understand that design is for communication. It’s not (mainly) about decoration. This is about design principles.

        For software, is supposedly good. I learned Quark Xpress in a two-day class and then self-taught on InDesign and PhotoShop with books and online examples. Ilustrator is hard for me, but I can use it for basic stuff. Learning still.

        Not sure whether my comment means it is hard or easy. It is work or a craft that can, for good quality (not brilliant quality, but good quality) be learned. It can’t be learning in a few day, but it can be learned.

        Brilliant design is beyond me – might require school and, probably, more innate talent. But day-to-day work needs good design, not brilliant design.

          1. -X-*

            One other thing – the initial focus of crosstraining for the OP should having co-workers be able to open up material he’s designed to tweak – a small edit here, change a date there. Including understanding the right way to do it (with styles) and how to create outputs for various uses (generally PDFs I imagine, but maybe other stuff).

            So they should get an understanding of the basics of the software plus any “house style.” That way they’re backup if she/he isn’t around or is swamped, and can get a sense of what’s involved.

            They can then advance to creating new material from templates or examples she/he created, with more substantial changes. Emphasize consistency of appearance and also of file conventions (type, color, naming conventions, etc).

      2. Stacie*

        Ughhhh hugeeee pet peeve. I just want to snatch it all back and fix everything wrong…or more likely throw it out and start over.

        1. Esra*

          Right? We launched a big campaign recently and I had to do exactly that for a bunch of collateral. It was just unuseably bad and would’ve taken me longer to fix than to just make from scratch.

      1. Jamie*

        My daughter bought me the lamb and the bunny kitty for Easter…I’m not bringing them to work since I’ve been grown up and kitty free in the office since the new year….so it’s just home and here that I let my inner 5 year old have free reign!

    2. Anonymous*

      I don’t know, I’ve tried that in the past (letting someone take something over in the hopes they’d go HOLY CRAP I NEVER KNEW etc) and it rarely works out that way. Usually what happens is that they take over the task, do an absolutely craptastic job and/or fall madly behind…and don’t even know the difference. And sometimes it’s done just badly enough that others notice, but not enough for them to complain.

      We lost a bunch of clients once when a manager took over a certain communication and suddenly it was like reading a spam email from the Emperor of Nigeria, but none of them complained directly so he just assumed it was a huge coincidence. Ignorance is bliss.

    3. Mina*

      This is part of the problem. We’ve just started, and one co worker is (I think) already telling him it’s no problem to learn this. She’s kind of an overachiever and still new, so wants to look good by trying to do everything, and not saying she can’t do anything. The other co worker knows better.

    4. Vicki*

      I keep thinking back on the fact that it was the _pastor_ who said she was overdramatizing. Aren’t they supposed to be, well, more gracious in their feedback?

      1. Who am I?*

        You’d think, but no. One of my worst jobs was an office manager at a church. When I tried the AAM trick (years ago, before I read here) of “I only have so much time to get these things done. I think A and B are priorities, but please let me know if I’m wrong,” I was told instead, “No. A, B, C, D, E, F and Z are all priorities [where those were all the tasks I had to do anyway]. You should pray about how to effectively manage your time, so you do not fall behind. Oh, and our last office manager often volunteered her time on Saturday and Sundays to complete her work that she was unable to get done during normal office hours.” In effect, they knew that there was more work than could possibly be completed during my normal hours (as an hourly worker). In addition, they had decreased my pay by a little more than $4/hr less from the previous worker to “create more room in the budget” for other things (which ended up being the pastors’ end-of-the-year, Christmas “bonus,” I found out after leaving). And I was well versed in what was legal and what wasn’t, having previously done hiring and payroll myself in another job. I think they were very upset that I wouldn’t “volunteer” to do my job unpaid on the weekend. (Is it volunteering if it’s an expected part of your job? And I certainly didn’t think they appreciated the previous worker’s volunteering her own time on the weekends anyway, because they consistently badmouthed her work and said she was so adverse to any change that they were just glad she was gone — even though she was, and still is to this day, a very active member of the church.)

        I obviously didn’t last long there as a worker and quit attending very soon after that. So much mismanagement of time, money, and resources/supplies! I can’t even begin to go into all of it here, but that is definitely my #2 worst job of all time. As can be imagined, not many of the people stay in the office long. Their turnover for almost all positions except the two senior pastor ones (a married couple) have changed many times in a short period of time.

  11. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

    LW 5:
    In addition to IT, I also work on graphic design projects at work (use to be an inhouse graphic artist). I use all of the Adobe suite……mainly Illustrator, Photoshop and InDesign. Sometime people think you can smash a bunch of stuff together in a few hours. I also use to use Quark in my previous position until we converted to InDesign. If they are training you on Abobe applications, most Quark files can be converted to InDesin easily and edited from there. There will be a few kinks but they will help teach you ID quickly. I don’t even use MS Word to type anything, I always pull up ID.

    Graphic design isn’t easy. Often times people give you half of the ingredients and you are expected to make a gormet cake.

    1. -X-*

      InDesign is so superior to Word for most design tasks, but there is something to be said for learning to layout decent-looking simple documents in MS Word. It forces attention on the basics – type and position. And it can be very useful in making good templates that other people in your organization can use.

      I made some great templates in Word and PowerPoint for staff, with nice vector logos built in (as EMF files – a hidden gem for Office documents that Illustrator can create) and it’s really raising the bar for the appearance of stuff our staff produce.

  12. Lizabeth*

    #5 Since the advent of the personal computer, EVERYBODY thinks that they are a designer and that it’s easy. That’s fine…let them think that! You know different and you’re doing the work.

    Personally, I would offer to cross-train the person who suggested it to begin with and let them “see” how easy it is. :)))))))

    Kudos for training yourself!!!!!! Another suggestion: I keep the Peachpit Press “Quick Start” books on various design software programs for quick look ups. The books are some of the easiest to read, understand and most importantly, FIND what you want to know.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Everyone also thinks they can write. They took high school English, and what more is there? But good writing is rare enough that it must not be THAT easy. (This is another reason I like AAM.)

      1. Jamie*

        I’ll just follow you around agreeing with you today.

        I’m not looking for freaking Jane Austin or Mary Roberts Rinehart but ffs it seems like it considering how hard it is for some people to write a simple cogent email clearly explaining a computer problem.

        I’m not talking about tech stuff. I’m talking about “when I did X the computer did Y. The last time it was working properly was yesterday morning, and then it exploded into a million bits when I tried to download Scooby Doo/Josie and the Pussycats fanfic which was NSFW. You can pick up the box of still smoking circuits and plastic in my office.”

        None of that was technical but it told me what happened, when it happened, and what they were doing before it happened and it’s far more helpful for troubleshooting than:

        email 1: My computer is broken

        Followed by a series of emails where I try to pry information one fact at a time from people who would be excellent secret keepers for the CIA or KGB because they are reluctant to give up ANYTHING besides the fact that it’s just “not working the way it was” and they “weren’t doing anything ever at any time” and “no, I don’t know what it’s doing differently – it’s just not as good as it was” and “no I don’t know the last time it worked properly.”

        And then pop my my office when I’m busy working on something else so I have to drop what I’m doing so they can explain something to me in person. If you can SAY it why can’t you TYPE it? I do not get that. If you can look me in the eye and tell me it’s slower, or the screen is freezing, or when you run X then Y is much slower then why, for the love of God, can’t you type those exact words into an email?

        Seriously – I need someone to explain that to me because the frustration is taking years off my life and it’s a pretty common phenomenon.

        Sorry – rough morning.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I’m a tech writer… and sometimes the emails my coworkers send make me cry. How do you think anyone will take us seriously if you can’t even explain something in an e-mail?!

          1. Jamie*

            TBH I do resent people over a certain level being allowed to get away with the inability to send proper emails – IMO it’s inexcusable.

            1. Jen in RO*

              I find it pretty depressing honestly (when it comes to my team). People won’t think “oh it’s Wakeen”, they’ll think “oh it’s the documentation team”. And where we’re already the lowest team on the totem pole… this doesn’t help.

              I am willing to cut a lot more slack to people who weren’t hired for their writing skills. I do get angry about it on a daily basis, but seeing as most of them are not native English speakers, the language barrier does play a part in my having to read bug reports 3 times before I can understand what the issue is.

              1. Jen in RO*

                (But making grammar and spelling mistakes when you’re writing in your native language, whatever that might be, is absolutely inexcusable in my mind.)

        2. Lynne*

          Jamie, I do a certain amount of tech support too, and I LOVE people who clearly say “when I do X, Y happens” in their initial email to me, without me having to pry that info out of them. Bonus points for copy/pasting any error messages they’re getting.

          Shouldn’t that be, like, the minimum info anyone would think to include when sending an email like that? Apparently it is not, and I find this puzzling. (But then, I’m more logic/process-oriented than a lot of people.)

          Partly in reaction, I try to be very clear and thorough when I submit bug reports myself. It’s like being part of a secret fellowship of Good Bug Report Submitters. And Good Bug Report Receivers…it’s awesome when I get someone on the other end who has good reading comprehension and good tech skills, and doesn’t just send me a canned response of “did you try this?” when that was the first thing I said I tried. There are a couple of tech support people at our vendors with whom I have a mutual-fan-club thing going. :)

  13. Anonymous*

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a professional adult who was intimidated by someone with a master’s, so I’d drop that worry

    Seriously?? Look, I’m not saying all, or even most, hiring managers are going to see that on a resume and crumple it up in a fit of rage, but there are absolutely plenty of people, even in the professional realm, who wouldn’t want to hire someone with more education than they themselves have. It could be jealousy, or contempt maybe–one of the managers in my office loves to talk about how she worked her way through college (in the seventies when it cost 1/4 what it does today and a dollar went much further in general) and never had a dollar in debt and these damn kids need to get off my lawn with their 50K loans yadda yadda…And this is a senior manager.

    In a perfect world the OP could say she wouldn’t want to work for a company if anyone there has that attitude, but for her first couple jobs she just can’t be that picky, unfortunately.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not saying they don’t exist. I’m saying they’re the exception, not the rule. It would be like worrying that you might run into a hiring manager who hates people from California. They’re out there, but they’re not something worth worrying about, because it’s not typical.

      1. AB*

        Yeah, in my experience they are indeed the exception and not the rule.

        In my last job, I was hired by a very talented manager who hasn’t even finished College. I have an MBA and often report to people without a Master’s degree (because I don’t want to manage people and they do), along with other subordinates with PhDs. I never had an issue with jealousy / contempt / etc.

        In fact, I often forget I have an MBA because it never comes up in interviews. The same way I don’t care how educated my new boss is or isn’t, but rather how competent she is to perform her job, that’s what my employers care about too.

  14. Bluefish*

    I am a loud talker and it stinks. I try my hardest to keep my volume down, but no matter what I do, my voice is booming. Working in a cuberhood leaves me perpetually(sp?) embarassed and feeling bad for my neighbors. Throughout my life I have had several co-workers addresss it with me and I am always grateful. It gives me a chance to apologize, let them know I am aware of my volume problem, and that I will try harder to keep it down. This will help me talking in a softer voice for a few months. But eventually, I kind of forget and don’t think about it as often. Then I’m right back to my loud talking ways. Sorry to everyone I have annoyed over the years!!

    1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

      Thanks Bluefish. I know I most likely do something that irks other people. I just think she likes to hear herself talk about how no one knows their job but her. I’m going to say something to her when she gets back and see how it goes.

    2. Hannah*

      I am a loud talker too, and agree it sucks.

      I try to be very mindful of my volume when I’m at work and make a conscious effort to speak quietly, but I inevitably will forget at times and creep back up to my normal, loud volume. :(

      I do feel badly and embarrassed about it.

  15. Jamie*

    I’m a little surprised #6 isn’t getting a bigger response. My thoughts are if you can get sent home for being in a bad mood then why am I still at my desk?

    Also it totally sounds like a 5 day suspension which is usually for a pretty severe infraction. It’s often the option rather than firing someone outright and for that to be invoked for mood…or attitude? Either they have a very harsh criteria for that or the attitude was really bad.

    Seriously I’m in a bad mood at least once a day, and my windshield is fine…maybe if I stopped keeping that to myself I’d have more time off.

    1. perrik*

      We’re a bit removed from the primary source here so we don’t have details or a hint of the other side of the story. I’m thinking that a full week suspension means the friend’s sister wasn’t merely channeling Grumpy Cat (“Your deductible is higher than the replacement cost? GOOD.”), but was taking her anger and frustration out on co-workers. Or a customer/client. Yeah, I’m going with “yelling at client.”

      1. Esra*

        Business Cat and Grumpy Cat, together at last!

        But yes, really rotten day + mood, I could see someone being told to go home. Getting a suspension though? There has to be more to it, or the manager is a little nuts.

    2. Rana*

      It may depend on the nature of the job. For example, if one’s in sales – particularly retail – where you’re supposed to present a cheerful, friendly face, having a visibly bad attitude could indeed be a problem.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          That’s what I was thinking.

          Being sent home for a week also sounds like a serious infraction was committed. At my former place of employment, if you were sent home, you were also told to think about if you want to stay with the company or not. Kind of a mild threat that if you didn’t perform as expected, you’d be fired.

  16. ExceptionToTheRule*

    RE: Communications Masters degree. I have a masters in communication leadership. It’s a hybrid of Communications and about half of an MBA and I got it because it covered the areas I was never going to get trained on by my employer that I would need as a manager: management vs. leadership theory, finance, corporate governance, communication in management/leadership. Things that you definitely don’t get in journalism undergrad and you are expect to learn the hard way (and at the expense of your employees) as a manager in journalism.

    Masters in communications fields aren’t worthless, but I would highly suggest investing in one that has a large business component.

    1. jesicka309*

      Seconded. I have a comms degree, and nearly went out and got a journalism degree…until my Dad knocked some sense into me. Now I’m doing business one and can definitelys ee where the gaps in my knowledge were. You’ll never regret a business degree, they’re so much more versattile and useful in any industry.

  17. Kj*

    Hi, I wrote question 7. Thanks for answering! Maybe I should’ve included that I have a full scholarship for my grad program because I also serve as a TA. I’m glad I’m not paying 50,000$ for my masters like a lot of my friends are! I don’t mind starting from the bottom and putting in the required work, I’ll just be happy to get my foot in the door.

  18. DA*

    Regarding #7: Alison, you never met my former boss. She was intimidated by me (I have a masters degree) because I was running circles around her in the business we were in. Of course, she was highly incompetent and was doing everything she could to make her boss not aware of that, but by me just knowing how stuff ran, it made her look bad. Unfortunately, before I could get out, I got fired.

    Everyone knew it was wrong of her to do that and she was the one who should have gotten fired, but I just look back on it and chuckle. The one takeaway from that situation is to work harder to get out of a bad employment situation like that instead of take my time like I did that time – so I can go out on my terms, not theirs.

    1. fposte*

      It also sounds like she was intimidated by your performance, not your degree–that if you’d come in with an AA she’d have been intimidated by you as well.

  19. Aimee*

    A degree in journalism helps but even a bachelor’s degree isn’t necessary. I have an associates and bachelor’s in journalism, and a masters in political management. I work in PR and the industry doesn’t care if you have a masters. They also won’t be intimidated by you holding one either.

    I started off in journalism. To get your foot in the door most newspapers want someone with at least a bachelor’s degree. However, that isn’t even the case all the time. A former coworker of mine didn’t have any degree and he got into journalism. He didn’t even go to college. He was a good writer who did stringer work and landed a full-time job.

    I’m glad I got my master’s degree but did I need it, probably not. It’s something I always wanted which is why I wanted to get it. I didn’t get it because I thought I would make more money or jump ahead of everyone else.

    Experience does count, and being a great writer far exceeds needing an advanced degree.

  20. anony*

    Re 1. Coworker’s loud calls are distracting

    My office is an open space cubicle all I hear all day is my co-worker across from me on the phone all day talking about how drunk she got the night before. On the other side of me is the co-worker who is on the phone with her husband and kids even though she sees them after work in like an hr. And next to me is a guy who uses the speakerphone for his conference calls and speaks in his native language all day. I can never seem to get away from it no matter where I work,

    1. Rana*

      Technically, drunk co-worker and all-kids-all-husband-all-the-time are talking all day in their native language, too. ;)

  21. glennis*

    Regarding the loud conversation on speakerphones – I had a colleague once who, when he had first arrived in our office, didn’t know how to operate his phone, and somehow managed to take a call from a very angry client when he was on speakerphone.

    The poor sap was afraid to mess with the controls for fear of cutting the client off and angering her further, so the entire office was treated to listening to her tear him a new one. Poor fellow!

  22. Amy*

    As to #7, I’ve been in that same boat. My undergrad degree is in journalism and my master’s is in marketing. I was fortunate to get a job just out of grad school with the organization I interned with during that degree.

    I think they key is what TYPE of internships you’re applying for. I’d look for ones that are more like temporary/part-time jobs in the field, instead of more academic unpaid internships (which tend to have a lot more tedium.) The communications internships I held in graduate school were a lot more strategic and research-heavy than the internships I had as an undergrad; I worked with smart companies that took care of interns and gave them real work.

    If someone’s not going to hire you just because you’re a graduate student, they may think you’re overqualified for the work, which you very well may be. But don’t see that as a bad thing; when you find a company that’s interested in what you can do, you’re going to fit better.

    And, as always, build that portfolio! My degrees give more credibility to the quality work I showed in my portfolio.

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