open thread

LucyIt’s our May open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about.

If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

{ 796 comments… read them below }

  1. Laufey*

    How does one talk in italics and bold on this site? I see people do it in the comments all the time.

      1. Laufey*

        In the middle sidebar,there’s a greyish-purple box that says “how to comment.”

        Ah, yes, reading the directions usually helps. Ooops.

        1. tcookson*

          Ah, yes, reading the directions usually helps.



          (pardon me while I experiment) . . .

        2. OneoftheMichelles*

          Oh for heaven’s sake! I’ve seen that little box lots of times and it just never registered that it’s an icon to click for info…D’oh!

  2. COT*

    I just want to see that I love the cat pictures that accompany every open thread. Now I’d be disappointed if there were an open thread without one.

    1. Heather*

      I was waiting for this thread since Alison teased it on FB yesterday, but I realized we needed a cat picture.

      1. Chinook*

        She must have taken her theme for the cat picture from yesterday’s comments too because that cat looks like he patiently planning to take over the world.

      2. TheSnarkyB*

        Oooh I was wondering if there was any advance warning. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll get a letter saying “My manager found out I took a sick day in anticipation of an AAM thread and they fired me. It was legal. :(“

    2. Jessa*

      Oh yes, we need cat pictures. Totally. And perhaps nieces (posts not pictures, you shouldn’t necessarily put out pictures of minor children.)

  3. Kerry*

    Perfect timing!

    My question is – has anyone else ever felt massively guilty about leaving friends behind in a bad job? I’m on a team of 10 (down from 14 eight months ago – the company has just stopped replacing anyone who leaves) and I know my workload is going to be shared out among my already overworked colleagues. I’ve formed really strong working relationships and friendships with nearly all of my teammates – there’s been a lot of ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling over the past year or so – and although I’m really excited about my new job which starts in three weeks, I also feel massively guilty for leaving my teammates behind in a bad situation we all know is getting steadily worse.

    1. KAS*

      I feel like that is one of those situations where you have to balance your own life and well fare vs that of not wanting to let anyone down. I don’t think you should feel guilty for getting out of a bad situation that is only getting worse mainly because your teammates have the same option to get out and it is what is best for your overall happiness. Be excited for your new position and let your teammates know you will miss working with them. Don’t let unnecessary guilt overshadow that.

    2. KarenT*

      I always feel guilty for that, but it’s amazing how quickly it can fade!
      Honestly, after a few days at your new job you’ll be over it :)

    3. Mike C.*

      I know what you’re feeling.

      The best thing you can do for them is to keep in touch, and encourage them in their job search, We all know how difficult it gets, and knowing that there’s someone on the other side of the tunnel can help.

      Also, if there are other openings that you think they should go for, let them know. I did this for a guy I worked closely with at the lab, and now we’re working at the same company and he loves it.

      Look, don’t ever feel like you’re abandoning them. You’re not, and there’s always someone who leaves first. But if you care about them, keep in touch!

      1. KellyK*

        I love this advice. Keep in touch, and help them with their searches.

        Also, a good friend, while they might be upset that they’re getting stuck with your work and you’re not being replaced, will be happy for you rather than upset that you’ve left a crappy work environment.

      2. Evan the College Student (now graduated!)*

        I completely agree with this advice. Several years ago, my dad was in a quite similar situation. One of his coworkers who escaped before him kept in touch and encouraged my dad to apply at Smaller Company where he was now working. (“Apply here! We actually turn off the lights at 6 PM!”) If you could do something like that, I’m sure your former coworkers would be really glad.

      3. Kerry*

        That’s good advice about helping them with their job search – I have a dream of us all getting out to better, happier places and I’d absolutely work with any one of them again in a heartbeat.

      4. BB*

        I was working in a highly toxic environment, but had grown close to 2 of my coworkers. We were each others source of sanity. I was more aggressive in my job search, while they were more reluctant and trying to justify staying there. When I got my new job, I encouraged them to intensify their job searches and I continued to pass on opportunities that I came across. Eventually they were each able to secure new jobs and leave that place behind. It was difficult at first, but we all escaped from that negativity. We stay in touch and still get together and we are all much healthier both physically and emotionally since moving on.

        Moral of the story: you will all be ok! It does get better.

    4. badger_doc*

      Yes! I just left a job 6 months ago with some coworkers who I had very strong friendships with. We had 4 of them leave before me and we all understand that people need to move on. If they are good enough friends, they will want what is best for you. Some things that helped in my situation: don’t brag about the new job; don’t say that the grass is greener; don’t bash your old boss or way of doing things; be supportive when they need an ear; tell them if they ever need a recommendation or reference, you will gladly serve as one. If you were that unhappy to leave, you can assume they are too and are probably looking for jobs as well.

      1. some1*

        All of this. If they are really your friends they will miss you but still be excited for you.

      2. Kerry*

        Those are great things to keep in mind – I’ve been doing a bit of low-key group kvetching at the pub after work (to clarify: we all have been doing this as a little group therapy session every few weeks) but I think it’s a good idea for me to scale that back now.

    5. Rob Aught*


      Actually, I felt guilty about leaving my team behind. They had been in a rough patch before I got there and were not happy to get me as the new boss. I worked hard to fix a lot of problems on that team, which were mostly external. The actual team members were great but abused and morale was horrible.

      I turned the situation around in six months, which was what I promised. A year after that we went through layoffs and I had a falling out with my new supervisor so I decided to take a different position at a competitor. It was tough breaking the news to the team and I actually stayed in contact with most of them.

      In the end I had to make the best decision for my health and family. Watching my boss get laid off did a number on my own morale and working for the guy who made the decision, which I thought was all the wrong reasons, was just too much for me.

      On the bright side, once I was no longer “the boss”, I ended up becoming good friends with a few of my former employees. So it wasn’t all bad leaving. I like to think it worked out for everyone in the end.

    6. Liz*

      Yes I sure have. A couple of years ago I left a job that I hated but where I was very close with the coworkers I worked directly with. It was definitely a “we’re all in this together” kind of situation where we were all miserable but supporting eachother helped. I knew that leaving was going to make their work harder for a while but that it was the best decision for me. I felt so guilty making that decision, so I gave them lots of warning about leaving and found that they were very supportive. I think with most situations, as long as you don’ completely blind side them, if you have a positive relationship with them, they will understand.

    7. LMW*

      Yes. I felt really bad about leaving my awesome boss at my last job, especially since I knew she wouldn’t be allowed to replace me. But, you know what? She understood and was happy that I found something better and we’ve kept in touch (in fact, I’m having lunch with her today). It’s good that you have such strong relationships, but you can’t let that hold back your career.

    8. Trixie*

      I had two great friends/coworkers at my last job. We all hated it, and one day we went out to lunch together and talked about how awesome it would be if we all quit within a short time of one another. One of my coworkers was already planning to leave at this point.

      Fast forward a couple months, and we all left the company within a couple weeks of each other, all for much better jobs! It still makes me grin.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ve felt VERY badly about leaving colleagues behind. I was the supervisor and had very strong working relationships with everyone and in many ways served as a buffer between them and TPTB.

        In my case, my departure was not by choice, as my contract was not renewed. I had to keep this to myself for a month while working out the details of the separation agreement before I was allowed to tell the team (they were smart–they figured something was up). I suppose I could have stayed on an extra 3-4 months until the end of my contract, but it was mentally and emotionally very difficult to focus, especially since I would have been a figurehead. So, I opted to take a lump sum payout and leave early. I felt incredibly guilty about leaving them in limbo because

        a) there was no permanent replacement for me for over a year
        b) although they were high-performing, upper management didn’t like them, so they were without an advocate
        c) their own employment situation was increasingly precarious and they were in denial about it

        Usually survivor guilt is felt by the ones who remain. However in retrospect, I feel like a survivor because I got out of the environment while they were still working in it, but were beyond my ability to assist.

    9. Jenolen2161*

      I know how you feel. I left a crappy job situation in November. There were three of us all trying to get out at the same time, and I was the first to leave. When I voiced guilt over leaving, the other two told me to stop it immediately, to not feel bad, and to just send them stories about my new job so that they could keep their hopes up. I also forwarded them job postings and offered to read resumes and cover letters — whatever I could to help. Four months later, both of them also left (leaving the company in a well-deserved lurch).

      Do the same for your colleagues. And know that if they were leaving first, they’d do the same.

    10. Vicki*

      In my case, I was leaving friends (and clients) in a good job. (I was pushed out after a division reorganization). I felt terrible but not guilty. After all, I would have stayed if “they” had let me.

      I still feel bad for all of those people I left behind. The management didn’t think my role was worth having, even though the employees need it. (I did high level support on a tool everyone uses.)

    11. Joey*

      There are two kinds of friends at work:

      Convenient friends are only your friends at work and because of work. These are the ones who fade when you leave a job. I don’t feel guilty about leaving these friends because they’ll be fine once your replacement is hired. They’ll likely be “friends” with the new person just as much as they were with you.

      Real friends are the ones you’ll connect with outside of work after you leave. I don’t feel guilty about leaving these friends because:
      A. I’ll still connect with them; and
      B. They are genuinely happy for me and would be pissed if I passed over a great opportunity out of guilt.

    12. anon in tejas*

      I did. I compassionately listened when friends called to vent about work. I tried to keep my happiness down. I also told them that I missed working with them, and helped with other job opportunities (forwarding over postings, offering to be a reference).

    13. W.W.A.*

      I started a new job 6 months ago and I still feel guilty for leaving my friends behind. I had a very outward facing job and not only do I miss my coworkers, I miss all the other people I worked with in the course of my job! It all came down to a bad boss (who is getting steadily worse). In retrospect the job was even better than I gave it credit for at the time, which was already a lot. But I have no regrets. I had to get out.

    14. CathVWXYNot?*

      Yes! But now, five years after I was the first of my work friends to escape a bad situation, I’m once again working with two of my favourite people from that job, in a department and organisation we all much prefer. One person came straight here from the former organisation, while the other one and I both had a stint elsewhere before coming here, but we all survived and now regale our other awesome colleagues with all our horror stories!

    15. Windchime*

      I felt guilty when I left my previous employer a couple of years ago. We had just undergone a massive conversion of our medical billing system and everything was a huge mess. Claims were piling up and we had a horrible, incompetent manager. My current employer recruited me and made me a great offer, and I bailed. Yes, I felt guilty, but guess what? The woman who replaced me is doing a stellar job and things moved forward just fine without me. Other things are still crappy there, but my former co-workers have the opportunity to also move on if they want to, just as I did.

      Move on without guilt. As others have said, you need to balance your personal and career needs and do what fits best with your life.

    16. Flynn*

      Yup, sort of in that right now. But I justify it by going “well, if I leave, maybe that will give X and Y the kick they need to start proactively job hunting”

  4. Lisa*

    My mentor was let go last month. I miss him. Every day this place gets a little sadder.

    1. RLS*

      Mine left for greener pastures a few months ago. The place is just…not doing so hot without him around.

    2. Chinook*

      If your mentor left, you may want to investigate how solid your job is. The reason I was let go from my last job was the my mentor left and there was no one left who could/would mentor me.

    3. Jazzy Red*

      I know the feeling, Lisa.

      My company has had layoffs over the last 18 months (the last one in December), and half our staff is gone. I keep seeing all these empty cubicles, and I just want to cry. I miss some of those people more than I ever thought I would.

  5. KarenT*

    I have a question about applying for a job when you are brand new in you current position.

    I’ve worked for the same company for 7 years, and have been promoted 3 times. My newest promotion came in April, so I’ve been in my job for less than 2 months.

    However, my company is currently in the midst of massive, massive layoffs. I need to get moving, in case my department is cut. On the one hand, being promoted recently tells me they value me, on the other, these are such large scale cuts I think they may just cut the whole team.

    So, I think I should be looking for a new job. My problem, however, is the resume. I don’t have any accomplishments in my new job. I’m still learning it! In this case, does it make sense to list the job duties on my resume?

    I don’t want to leave the job off entirely, because I want to show the progression of my career to new employers, and am hoping for something equivalent to my new job.

    1. KayDay*

      If (and only if) it makes sense with your jobs, I would list the titles all at the top and bundle your accomplishments. This doesn’t always work however, so see if it makes sense with your specific accomplishments.

      Chocolate Teapot Industries, Borington, MD
      Director of Chocolate, April 2013 – Present
      Manager, Chocolate Acquisitions, June 2010 – March 2013
      Assistant Manager, Chocolate Acquisitions, September 2008 – May 2010
      * Led team of five chocolate scouts
      * Streamlined supply chain system to reduce chocolate waste
      * Improved internal communication between headquarters and field offices
      * Ate 15 tons of chocolate

      1. Jessa*

        I’d take that especially if it was “ate 15 tonnes of chocolate and did not gain weight.” Chocolate teapot chocolate is magic you see.

    2. LisaLyn*

      Oh, I’d put the new job on the resume. They will see the dates and understand that you just got there. Good luck!

    3. evilintraining*

      This is why I love skills-based resumes. What you’re trained and experienced in stands out, and places of employment are simply listed with name, dates and title.

        1. evilintraining*

          Actually, the last time I submitted one, the interviewer commented on how much easier it was to read.

          1. fposte*

            Actually, we might be talking about different things–I was thinking about functional resumes rather than chronological resumes, whereas you might be talking more about a skills section.

  6. Anna M.*

    I would like to hear stories from people who had jobs they were truly horrible at. I’m in need of perspective today.

    1. the gold digger*

      I was horrible at corporate finance. It’s very detail oriented and you have to care about the imaginary numbers involved in strategic planning.

      I am not detail oriented and I don’t care about made-up numbers.

      I also do not have fond memories of updating a powerpoint presentation, trying to get the check boxes to align. I didn’t know about the “align” function, so I was holding a ruler next to the computer screen, trying to drag the boxes to the edge of the ruler.

      I didn’t last long there.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        “care about the imaginary numbers involved in strategic planning”

        Just. . .Thank you! This is one small part of my job, but you’ve nailed exactly what bothers me. I develop a number, with a specific forecast basis, and the HMFOC says I don’t believe that, let’s change it to XYZ instead, and XYZ has no basis in anything. If we’re going to just pull stuff out of the air, why do I bother doing anything?

        1. the gold digger*

          Exactly! That’s what I hated about it! Don’t ask me to come up with numbers based in reality if you’re just going to ignore them.

          And – why are you making me do a pro-forma of what the stock price would have been if the company hadn’t sold the aircraft engine division ten years ago? Why on earth does that matter? Are you thinking of buying it back? If so, why are you having a brand-new analyst do this analysis?

          1. Joey*

            You’d be surprised how many companies want the decision to guide the data instead of the other way around.

            1. Jessa*

              Would not be even a bit surprised, it’s like writing the outline you have to turn in to the writing class professor after you’ve already written the paper.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              I’m not even against changing numbers if it doesn’t jive with your mental picture of what should happen, based on your company or industry knowledge. But, it should be done through reconsidering your model, not by arbitrarily changing the output.

      2. Chinook*

        “I didn’t know about the “align” function, so I was holding a ruler next to the computer screen, trying to drag the boxes to the edge of the ruler.”

        Could be worse – you could have been using whiteout to get rid of some of the errors!

      3. JR*

        When I first moved to Toronto I worked for a Monster (with a capital M), and my job was to cold call people to get them to use his insane job board of postings. I hate cold calling and I was just so awful at it. He brought me to his office and just screamed at me for like 10 minutes. I ended up laughing, because, well he’s insane and then he lost it even more. I just didn’t come back again. As a side note, he’d make contracts and then leave them in front of his open door, and made my friend (female) BEND OVER and pick them up off the floor. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE.

        1. Lindsay J*

          When I was 17 I got a job as a “Market Research Assistant” at a theme park.

          While it sounds like a cool job title, it was awful. I had a giant PDA and had to stop every 5th person coming in between the gate where you buy tickets and the gate where you go through the turnstile and ask them to take a survey.

          Most people do not want to be stopped on their way in to a theme park and answer stupid questions. Especially since I could offer no compensation (seriously, a coupon would have done wonders in getting people’s good will). I was told to say “All I can give you is a thank you and a smile” when people asked.

          I was also supposed to ask whoever the 5th person was, even if it was a very small child. This got weird looks from parents.

          I was an introvert at the time and did not like bothering people. Getting cursed at, accused of being racist, and flat out ignored did not help.

          I never had as many surveys as I was supposed to because after awhile I stopped asking people who didn’t look receptive. So I just stood there for a lot of the time. I got coached on not getting enough surveys so I would have friends come and answer the surveys for me, or I would make up answers.

          I was miserable just about every second I was doing that. I don’t even know why I thought it was a good idea, since, like I said I was a shy introvert.

          1. Anne*

            So much sympathy. While I was finishing up college and for a few months after, I had a job cold-calling people for market research surveys. I made my numbers, barely, but oh my god was it thankless, and so many people either were pissed off that I somehow called (“We’re unlisted an on the TPS!” Yes, but the computer generates numbers, and as we’re not selling anything, we can still call) or were willing to do the survey but the system would randomly select someone else in the household, who would be pissed off, and managers would listen in to calls and give you a serious dressing-down afterwards if you did anything wrong.

            Plus it was incredibly boring, and we weren’t allowed to have anything at our workstations, no drinks, newspapers, phones. I can knit without looking at my hands, so I brought in my knitting one day to do while the phone was ringing – nope, not allowed.

            I came back off my break one day to find a note on my keyboard saying that I’d logged into the system 90 seconds late that morning (bus was delayed), and they would let it slide this time but don’t ever let it happen again.

            I ended up starting every day by drawing up a grid with the whole day blocked into 15 minute sections (8:00, 8:15, 8:30…) and as I went through the day I would doodle the boxes in. It sucked.

        1. Chinook*

          “There’s an align function? Crap.”

          I was also shown how to draw a random straight line and move that on the page instead of using a ruler. Just remember to delete said line when you are finished.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t know if I would call myself “horrible” at this job, but definitely not good.

      I worked in a grocery store for about 7 years. Started off as a cashier, then went to the cash office/service desk. I was part time. There was no possibility of full time unless I wanted to try the bakery or the health & beauty section. Tried the bakery first and hated it. So then I went to the health & beauty section. One of the things I had to doevery week was order inventory. I was supposed to note what was running out on the shelves, then go to the back room and see what we had in stock. Week after week I would order items which we already had in stock in the back room and not order items that were low on the shelves. So by the end of two months I had boatloads of maxi pads and shaving cream of every scent in the backroom, yet very little deodorant on the shelves. My supervisor’s nerves were wearing thin by then. Yeah, I asked to go back to the cash office.

    3. Briggs*

      I was once the project manager for a small non-profit. I was the only employee, and answered to 9 board members who couldn’t agree on much of anything. I was great at a few things: managing the internship program, running the ad campaign and re-doing the website … but ultimately horrible at both fundraising and managing the construction of the campus they wanted built.

      It’s easy for me to blame it all on the unreasonably enormous workload or the dysfunctional management, but honestly I was the worst person for both of these things. I am not a sales person, and ultimately that’s what a fundraiser is. I was also fresh out of an interior design program, and thought that qualified me to manage the design and construction of a small campus. Ha! No fun.

      I left because they ran out of money to pay me … which was pretty much the fault of my lack of fundraising. The couple buildings I managed to get started are still standing … but nowhere near finished. I wish so badly I could go back and re-do some of it. I try to remind myself of all the invaluable lessons I learned: about my strengths and weaknesses, and being organized and clear with expectations. I guess that’s all you really can do when something goes so badly and it’s at least mostly your fault: look on the bright side, brush yourself off, and try something else.

    4. Rachel*

      I was a terrible administrative assistant. It didn’t help that I was working in crazytown, but I was just terrible at it because I could not bring myself to care about the work at all. I was totally capable of it, but my lack of caring meant that I didn’t pay enough attention to the details and things would go wrong. Like, I booked shuttle vans to go from the airport to a location instead of from the location to the airport, when people had flights to catch. That was fun.

      I ended up getting laid off, which was the best thing that could have happened because I got severance & unemployment, and now I’m in a job that is a much much better fit.

      1. Anonymous*

        Cheers from another terrible admin assistant! I deeply admire people who can excel in those positions – I absolutely could not.

      2. dejavu2*

        I was horrible at being an admin. My first job out of college, I was hired to be a legal assistant. Just had no clue what I was getting into. Though it was going to be like a research and writing oriented position, but unfortunately it was all about being hyper-organized so that the lawyers didn’t have to be. Once we filed something with the court, only to discover I had left the check in the xerox machine. Whoops!

        1. Anonymous*

          Yeah, everyone needs to have some basic organization skills and attention to detail to survive office life, but the constant multitasking and unexpected demands of admin work requires you to be preternaturally organized, and not everyone (successful business people included!) have the right personality and skills to excel in that kind of work. It’s kind of a shame that it’s seen as a “stepping stone” role. I think it should generally be left in the hands of the very capable admin professionals, as opposed to the smart English majors or equivalent who really want to move into, say, marketing or research or something.

          1. Rachel*

            That was me! Smart English major who really wanted to be doing non-profit communications/marketing at a mission-driven non-profit, ended up in an admin assistant role for nearly a year at a university instead. Now I’m a communications associate at a progressive think tank- it’s a much better place for me, and I never have to fill out other people’s expense reports again!

    5. Sascha*

      When I was 15 I was hired at a restaurant to do basic kitchen duties and sometimes serve, because my parents knew the owners. It was a nightmare. The owners and staff were nice people but I am definitely not server material. I forgot things, mixed up orders, couldn’t handle the lunch rush…just awful. Of course being 15 and clueless didn’t help much.

      1. Receptionist*

        Each restaurant position definitely requires certain personalities or niches. I was a server for 5 years, and a rather good one at that, but the one time I helped a restaurant out as a hostess, I completely failed at it. I could be rotating just 2 servers back and forth, and manage to screw that up, but somehow could memorize complicated orders from 8 simultaneous tables as a server. Weird. “It takes all types…”

      2. Liz in a Library*

        I never had a chance to be terrible at my server job (although I would have been awful). I was hired, saw that I would be making something like $1.50/hr before tips (back before the slight minimum wage boost), saw how miserable everyone looked, and just never showed up for my first day. I promise I was a stupid kid, and that place had problems, but I know I could never be a server because I would fail so completely. I am extremely introverted and don’t multitask well at all. Plus I’m a klutz and my memory is completely shot…

    6. Chinook*

      I have the perfect true tale for gaining perspective on having a bad day at work:

      When I was a teacher on a small northern Alberta reserve, I had a special needs grade 7 class with 7 boys with fetal alcohol disorder and 1 dealing with the death of both parents the year before by a drunk driver. Well, the junior/senior high kids were going to a day long conference an hour away but we made 2 fatal flaws – no one had money to buy them lunch (because the principal wrote us a cheque but there was no place to cash it) and there was a dance afterwards that we had no idea about and, as a result, we had to make all these teenagers leave before it started. Needless to say, it was not a fun bus ride back.

      About half way home, there was a commotion and suddenly the orphaned student of mine was strangleing another kid. Bus driver stopped and all the kids evacuated the bus. We eventually got everyone calmed down and it turned out that mys tudent thought the other student made a comment, in Cree (all our adult Cree speakers were in another vehicle), about the dead father just as they passed the accident stop. The other student denied this but no one could verify what really happenned. We got everyone calmed down and back on the bus. About 10 minutes later, someone yelled that there was problem at the back of the bus, bus driver stopped and everyone got again. This time, 2 grade 9 girls were panicing because a 3rd one had passed out and stopped breathing. Other teacher started mouth-to-mouth and she restarted after 1 breath. Meanwhile, I am on a cellphone with 911 operators frmo 2 different dispatch centres because we happenned to be right between the 2 areas. We decided to stay put as the ambulances were coming from the neighbouring town and would take 20 minutes to get there (vs. an hour to get to the reserve). While we waited, 1 more girl passed out and one of my students had his first ever asthma attack.

      Eventually, we got everybody back on the bus except for on of my students who was on his first ever field trip, was 2 hours past dinner/medication time and pacing furiously. I asked what was wrong and he said he really needed a smoke. One of the other kids on the bus offered him one and I told them they were all too young to smoke, so I bummed one, and a lighter, off another teacher. I gave it to the student and said to the others “you didn’t see me do that” and they all agreed.

      Lesson of the story: good organization before an even is key, mass hysteria is a real thing, any day that doesn’t include calls to 911 operators or sirens is a good day and sometimes the “bad kids” can really shine when things get rough and they are needed (based on seeing all my kids taking orders from adults without question even when the directions include “watch your friend and come and get me if he has trouble breathing again” or “hold her head loosely so that she doesn’t bang it against the pavement when she has her next seizure”).

      1. Christine*

        Wow…you have my utmost respect for handling that day so well. Why was there not a Cree-speaking person on your bus?! (Not blaming you, I’m just curious).

        1. Chinook*

          Why no Cree speakers? It was poor planning on everyone’s part because they were all in the van with the high school students and no one thought it was a big deal. It was a lesson learned on everyone’s part, including theirs. The other lesson learned was that cheques are useless if there is no place to cash it.

      2. A Bug!*

        It doesn’t sound like you were horrible at that job; it sounds like that day went as well as you could have made it go, all things considered!

        1. Chinook*

          Yes but nothing makes you feel more incompetent then having a day fall apart in front of you due to a bunch of mistakes that are obvious in hindsight.

          1. A Bug!*

            Oh, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to be dismissive. I probably would have felt the same way! Actually, no, I wouldn’t have, because I would have had a mental and emotional breakdown long before I’d have made it to the field trip.

            You, and all reserve teachers, have my respect.

          2. Rob Aught*

            Everyone makes mistakes. I understand feeling bad but at least you admitted you made a mistake and corrected it. I’ve made some doozies myself. We learn more from failure.

    7. Rob Aught*

      I worked as a business analyst for a few months. I don’t know why anyone thinks that it an easy job. For someone in technology it is really difficult to think from a purely business perspective. I kept wanting to design the solution but I didn’t have all the requirements!

      I was so happy when they finally hired a new business analyst and let me go back to technical design!

    8. Amanda*

      I was horrible at my first job. It was retail and I couldn’t find the happy medium between not paying enough attention to customers and following them around. I almost got fired (and I’m sure I would have if it had been more than a summer job), barely got any hours and even got yelled at by my manager in front of customers.

    9. Christine*

      I was a terrible receptionist on two separate occasions! One was at an eye doctor’s office. They told me my clerical skills were excellent, but that I was lacking on the other parts (I don’t remember what they said exactly, but it was probably related to my ability to handle the phone and in-person interaction with the patients. Second one was at a manufacturer. Same issue….handling multiple things at once and interpersonal communication.

    10. Anlyn*

      I am terrible at training and documentation. I can write, but technical documents are a completely different type of writing. I suck at it. And my training ends up being, “so you take the thing here and move it to that thing there, and then click this thing here”. Yeah, not helpful.

    11. Lora*

      Today. This job. Right now. I suck at it. Frustrating to me, I have been telling my boss that this is just not the job for me and that I need to transfer or leave somehow since I was about three months into it, and for six months he kept saying, “you haven’t really given this job a chance, hang in there, I’ll get you some different projects and it will get better.” Now he’s saying, “wow, you really do suck, I’m going to put you on a performance improvement plan if this keeps up.” Yes, dude, I did mention that this was not really my thing. I am sending out resumes like mad.

      I’m an engineer. All my previous jobs–ALL of them–were designing, testing and building a particular type of biology-related system. This particular job was sold to me as, “more executive work on how the various systems fit together and troubleshooting within your tiny region of expertise when things break down, working with vendors to bring in upgrades to systems.” In real life, it’s trying to untangle insane, recursive paperwork snafus and navigate the most Byzantine bureaucracy I have ever seen. It apparently does make some sense to some people, but I am definitely not one of them, because I spend most days and just about every meeting wondering why on earth most of it even exists and why we don’t just buy a software package to deal with it.

      1. Chinook*

        Lora, you are not incompetent at your job because you see how it could be fixed – new software. The issue then is with the system and not you.

        1. Lora*

          Thanks, it’s very sweet of you to say–but there is no way on this earth that they will get the software to fix it, or even simply make the current system less insane, within the next five years.

          Depressingly, when I had been here about a month and I realized that they had bait-and-switched me, another place that I had interviewed with finally came up with an offer for a job that was much more in line with what I really enjoy doing and am awesome at…and I turned them down because the director begged me to hang in there and give it a chance.

          Important lesson: When you are bait and switched, run like the wind. The manager who knowingly does this to you, is not a good manager. I am tempted to add, “or a good person.”

    12. Regina Bee*

      I had a job at a company that made copies of engineering and architectural plans – lots of huge machines that had to be fed paper manually sheet by sheet. I was lousy at it; my hands simply could not keep up with the machines. Turns out there was a good reason for it; I have a mild form of a neural condition called dyspraxia, which limits fine motor control. I felt like a complete idiot the whole time I was there.

      1. Jessa*

        I totally get this. I was diagnosed with a major processing disorder when at 20 something we found errors in a transcribed ledger sheet. I now have coping strategies to fix that but man, typing those things up on a wide carriage selectric was hell especially before we knew why we were getting errors on things.

      2. Anonymous*

        I have something very similar, and it really bit me in the behind when I was an admin. Being an admin assistant who (literally) cannot use scissors properly generally doesn’t go very well! Wasn’t my only issue, but it didn’t help. A fine motor skills disadvantage doesn’t impact my life very often, but at work it can really be a pain sometimes. I don’t exactly make friends with other employees when they have to double their manual labor because I (again, literally) can’t cut a straight line.

    13. De Minimis*

      I did a career change to accounting in my mid-30s, went to grad school, was recruited by a major firm, only to find out I had zero aptitude for public accounting. I couldn’t hustle for work, I was bad at the software, and I just had no interest in the nuts and bolts of the work [all the problem solving and defining of tax issues was work that was done at higher levels, so I was basically doing data entry work.] I was let go after the first year, enough experience to earn my CPA license, but I know that I have no business actually practicing as a CPA. My license is currently inactive with the state and it’s unlikely I will bother to reactive it anytime soon.

      It was a really painful time….I could tell that people did not want to work with me and the last few months I spent surfing the web and looking for another job.

      Found a governmental accounting job last year, and that appears to be a much better fit for me.

    14. excruiter*

      I was not a good industrial temp staffer. I was good at the HR paperwork, training, payroll, and data management side but actually recruiting and staffing just was too much to deal with. I never got the rhythm of how many people to keep ready for how long, I couldn’t anticipate “emergency” rushes, I hated firing people with no first hand feedback to give them, and I struggled with the workload. In my defense, I was new to the industry and my equally as new boss provided no training or support (mostly just screaming and threats and impossible promises given to my clients….)

    15. dejavu2*

      I got pulled off a project at a job once, and it was super demoralizing. For some reason, the powers-that-be at my non-profit decided to give me a grassroots program to organize even though activism had nothing to do with my skill set, my job, or my department… and there was an entire activism department. It sounded like it was going to be fun, but then instead of 30 or 40 volunteers signing up for the program, we had over 500 people sign up from around the country. I had no idea what I was doing, it was my first really professional job out of college, and I was totally overwhelmed. It began to consume so much of my time that parts of my actual job had to be delegated to others in my department. After two months of begging, they finally told one of the actual grassroots coordinators to help me out. That’s when everything hit the fan. She made a huge error, then lied to me about it when there was still time to fix it. I found out about it because, well, basically this horrible thing happened that made the org look horrible in a very public way, *and* cost us over $1000. We went into a meeting with our supervisors to discuss what happened. She lied through her teeth about everything, and her totally awesome supervisor had her back 100%. My supervisor, only weeks away from being fired, totally sucked and threw me under the bus because she knew she was on thin ice and didn’t want to cross the other supervisor (who had way more clout in the org). They took the project away from me, and my incompetence became a hot topic throughout the entire non-profit. It was so frustrating and humiliating!

    16. Jobseekerhelp!*

      I was terrible at being a lawyer. I enjoyed law school and am proud to have gotten through it, but the actual practice of law was just not my thing. I struggled to figure out all the nuances of actual practice and it seemed like every day something new came up that I didn’t know. I constantly felt like I was being blindsided. Of course, I also worked in a small firm where the guy who was supposed to be mentoring me was a HOT MESS (capitals needed to convey just how bad he was). So that didn’t help.

      I left the law for a different field entirely and enjoy it a lot more. Now, if only I can get an actual job in this field, all will be well.

      1. Anna M.*

        Thanks for sharing your experiences! I’m a few months into a new job that – even though it’s the same job on paper as my previous job that I did well at – is just nothing like it. No support or training, terrible communication, my boss (who is quite kind but a total oddball) changes my goals willy-nilly, takes over my accounts without telling me, sometimes leaving me with nothing to do. For some reason, I still want to do really well, because there is so much to learn and my boss is really quite brilliant, but I realize that I may end up getting fired if this doesn’t come together soon (I’m working on a project that finishes in about a month, and if that doesn’t go well, I can’t see him keeping me around). But it’s nice to see that others have bounced back from “bad fit” situations. Perhaps there is hope for me, too.

    17. Ophelia*

      I was fired from a hair salon after about a month because my performance was so awful. I was doing my best but my natural skill set just didn’t align with what the salon owner wanted. Afterwards I felt like such a loser… I mean, I was a college graduate who couldn’t perform as a salon assistant. However, now I am happily employed as an event coordinator which is a much better fit.

    18. saf*

      I just left a job that I was truly awful at. And the bosses begged me to stay, because they thought I was doing a good job.

      But I couldn’t keep up. And I didn’t have any support, because we were so overwhelmed.

      I could have learned it, but it would have taken a very long time, and I was already seriously ill over the job, and just could not get over it.

      I was dropping balls all over the place. I hope my list of where the dropped balls are is enough for my replacement to pick them up.

      I feel awful about it, but at least I had the sense (finally) to leave.

    19. AdAgencyChick*

      I was very bad as a trainee marketing manager for a company that made overpriced crap collectibles. I stunk at analyzing media to make appropriate advertising buys, I wasn’t good at projecting sales, I really wasn’t good at anything but writing copy for the marketing materials (“Why stop at just one overpriced Hummel figurine? GO FOR THE SERIES!”).

      Thank goodness THAT was only about eight months of my life.

    20. Elizabeth West*

      Sales. Oh my GOD I suck at sales.
      Reason? I don’t care if you buy it or not. If I’m really excited about something, I can talk it up, but it’s never something I’m selling. I especially hate it when I have to lie.

      I don’t know what I’m going to do if I start publishing books. Throw them at people? Give a free cookie with each one? :(

      1. Jobseekerhelp!*

        +1 I am horrible at sales also. I just can’t do the fake enthusiasm that seems to be required. I’m too much of a straight shooter for that profession.

      2. Jen in RO*

        I worked in sales for a few months during college and I didn’t manage to sell one thing. I sucked at it so bad. Good thing it was just a short term job and now I know I should never try to do it full time! I’m always amazed by good salespeople, it’s such a difficult job.

        1. Anna M.*

          My job is actually mostly sales. And for a few years, I had a great track record. But it is really hard to sell with zero support, limited information, no accounts. Different beast entirely. No matter how I communicate to my boss, I dont think he understands whats wrong with this picture.

    21. Caffeine Queen*

      I had baby-sat and occasionally walked dogs for years before I had my first “real job” (as in, a place of employment where you have taxes taken out of your paycheck and whatnot). That job was at a big, retail chain where I would be doing everything from stocking to sales to cashier work.

      It brought out a lot of my flaws. I hadn’t yet mastered the ability to BS and recommending products that I had no use for (for Google purposes, let’s just say I was not their target audience) didn’t come easily to me. I was clumsy and slow at the register. And, even though I’m gregarious by nature, I felt extremely out of my element, leading people to believe I was quiet and shy. To be fair, I had only been on the job for a couple months so I cannot assess what I would have been like if I had stayed.

      It was a summer job for when I was home from college. I did transfer to a location near my university but found out that it was much harder to get to than I realized. I ended up being late no matter how early I left so I quit before my inability to be reliable got me fired. However, I did learn quite a bit in those months and used that to get a restaurant job, which I kept for the rest of my academic career.

      After that, I’ve been told that I’ve done well at my other jobs, but I certainly have days where I feel like I’m dropping the ball incredibly. Of course, I also struggle with impostor syndrome as well. I hope this helps!

  7. Anon-Mouse*

    I declined a position with a company that I really really wanted to work for because it required relocating to the opposite coast. They weren’t able to budge on flexible work arrangements or PTO (they actually kept offering salary bumps, but that’s not what I was looking for) so I just couldn’t swing the move given my family responsibilities, especially since I have a family member with a chronic illness.

    When I called the recruiter declining the offer (“Thank you so much for the opportunity and all of the help you’ve given me, and it was so wonderful meeting such incredible talent”…etc etc…” but unfortunately without flexible work arrangements, my familial obligations makes a relocation to the west coast difficult, so I unfortunately have to decline.”). At the end of my shpeal, she commented on how ‘disappointing’ it was. When I followed up with “I hope we can work together in the future,” she responded with a curt “best of luck to you” and hung up.

    I’ve never dealt with a recruiter that showed audible disappointment (it honestly felt like annoyance). Now there’s a position that’s popped up with the company on my coast in a newly opened location, and I’d love to apply, but I don’t know the etiquette. Should I avoid this recruiter and just go through the regular application process and hope they don’t ding me for being flakey or something? Should I contact the recruiter about it? Should I give up the ghost and just assume I’ll never work for them?

    Argh, this is frustrating. Maybe I’m just reading into this, but I got the sense throughout my conversations with this recruiter (when I was trying to negotiate flexible work arrangements or better PTO, which I preferred over bumping up my salary) that she had the kind of assumptions that people have about single/child-free candidates. Sort of like “that shouldn’t be a problem for you, since you don’t have to worry about switching schools or selling a house” that sort of thing. Maybe she thought I was lying when I said I had familial obligations??


    1. periwinkle*

      Ah yes, the “you don’t have children, therefore you don’t have any family or other obligations whatsoever” mindset. The recruiter is a nitwit.

      Keep in mind that this company wasn’t willing to offer flexible work arrangements or better PTO. You’ll still be dealing with the family obligations if you stay on the same coast. Can you handle them without needing that flexibility? If so, is there someone else in the company you can talk to about the new location? Maybe a higher-level person you spoke with during the interview process?

      1. Anon-Mouse*

        I can handle it. It’s not ideal, but being on the right coast (in the same city, really) means that I can wrangle my personal schedule and still meet my obligations. It’s the traveling across coasts that would have been impossible without flexibility.

        Unfortunately, there’s nobody else I know that I can talk to. She’s a fairly high-level HR recruiter (internal). I just don’t know if I should email her and just explain (or if by emailing her, she’s just going to shove my application in the ‘denied’ pile). I never told her that I had a family member with a chronic illness (I didn’t feel it was any of her business) but now I wonder if she would have been more amenable to my declining the offer if she understood.


        1. Jazzy Red*

          Sometimes people can be much more flexible and understanding when they know the reasons behind your concerns. When you don’t explain (“its none of her business”), she thinks you’re a prima dona.

          If you do chose to contact her for the new position, you might tell her that it would work for you because your family is close and they sometimes need your help.

        2. Charlotte*

          Email her. You have nothing to lose by doing it. And sure, it’s disappointing to not fill the job you’ve been recruiting on for a long time…but the potential of filling this job may be enough to make her change her mind about you. And if you interviewed so well that they were willing to just throw money at you, you should be worth looking at. :)

    2. Rob Aught*

      This is a tough one. I almost hate to start this way, but I have to admit that most of my interactions with recruiting firms have been negative. Both as a candidate and as an employer. They are used car salespeople and you are the car. At least that is how most of them act.

      It might be worthwhile to reach out to them about this position just to see how they respond. If they act professional and enthusiastic, game on! Otherwise, do NOT give them permission to submit you otherwise you may get disqualified. Gauge their reaction and go from there. It might be better to go through the normal process than deal with a recruiter who won’t represent you.

      Really, it would be their loss because if they only get paid if they place you. If you’re a good fit it is in their best interests. If they’re not professional enough to work with that, they deserve to lose the business.

        1. Rob Aught*

          Then you absolutely should approach them because they’ll probably find out anyway. No reason to pass on a position, at least give them a chance to be a butthead first. It might yet work out.

    3. Chriama*

      If she was an internal recruiter I would probably still reach out to her. Let her know you saw this other position that looks like a great fit, and since it doesn’t involve relocating it’s even more ideal than the last one. There could be a lot of reasons she seemed annoyed, but just let her know you loved the position and weren’t being flaky and most reasonable people will be ok, or at least professional

      1. Elle D.*

        Agreed – I’d still apply through their online system but send the recruiter an email along the lines of Chriama’s suggestions.

        You really may be reading into it. There are any number of reasons the recruiter may have come off as frustrated or less than empathetic – maybe she has a lot of top candidates turn down job roles because of the poor PTO policy, or maybe she was just having a bad day and didn’t feel like being overly friendly to a candidate that had rejected her organization. If you were truly a top candidate and the PTO/flexibility issues won’t affect you in this job role, I’m sure she’ll be happy to hear from you. If not, at least then you’ll know going forward that this isn’t the organization for you.

        1. Jessa*

          Agreed there are a lot of reasons she might have been snarky that have nothing to do with the OP. However, it was hugely unprofessional to take it out on the OP if that was the case.

    4. Wilton Businessman*

      When you declined the offer, that took money out of the recruiter’s pocket (assuming third party recruiter). Nobody is going to be happy about that especially since they thought you were a slam dunk. The cynic in me says they kept bumping up the $$ because the recruiter gets paid a commission based on your starting salary.

      Be that as it may, I could see going at it either way. You could touch base with the recruiter and say “Hey, I saw a similar position open up closer to my current location. Are you recruiting for that position?”. If they are not recruiting for that position, you apply via the regular channels. Unless you’ve gotten totally turned off by that recruiter (which, I think you’re reading a lot into their reaction), then you can go the direct route.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        Oh wait, I see it’s an internal recruiter now. That’s a little more touchy as your “direct” route brings you right through her (probably). I’d still touch base with her about the new position. She might be your biggest advocate…

    5. 22dncr*

      I would email her and slip in something like “I so appreciated the way you tried to work with me on the salary(or whatever – lots of praise) previously. I just could not back out of my obligations to my Father’s care (or whoever it is without going into lots of detail).” Then go on about the current opening. I think by slipping the reason in very slightly she might realize where you were coming from and not be as peeved with you. It’s all about the subtlety.

  8. Susan*

    I was fired/voluntarily resigned this morning from my job and from the reactions of my bosses, it seems that the circumstances that surrounded it were just as much of a surprise and upsetting to them as it was to me. One of my bosses in particular has been a mentor and, at times, friend to me over the past five years. He is one of the people who decided to let me go and, in general, takes work situations extremely personally, so I’m sure that he feels that my mistake personally embarrassed him, as well as the company in general. I would like to send him an e-mail apologizing not only for my mistake, but for also being a mentor all of this time. I didn’t get to speak to him before I left the office this morning and I would like the opportunity, but is this the right tactic to take? Is it appropriate to apologize for one’s error, even after being let go, and to thank a boss for their help?

    1. fposte*

      I think a thank-you note is really nice. I would play down the apology aspect, so that it’s clear that this isn’t a “please forgive me” or “please take me back” email. That doesn’t mean it can’t be in there–just move past it quickly and get on to the gratitude part.

    2. Penelope Sims*

      Wouldn’t your “mentor” boss have given you a heads up if he wanted your apologies? I know you’re doing it to be nice/maintain network connections to a “friend/mentor/boss” but it sounds like if he decided to let you go that morning, without consulting your other bosses (you said they seemed surprised), he didn’t want your apologies/excuses and it may seem like a contrived and desperate move later on.
      Or maybe he’s a nice guy that fires a favorite employee for a mistake, and then accepts an apology after the fact?

      Good luck with everything!

      1. Susan*

        Oh, I didn’t mean that the firing came as a surprise to the others involved- the circumstances of my mistake came as a surprise to everyone (apparently an outside agency that we have a contract with was unhappy with me for some time but just expressed it last week, which started the ball rolling). It ended up being a warning and termination offense all in one go, given the other agency’s unhappiness with me. (I pointed out, calmly and without blaming, that I was surprised that I wasn’t being given any opportunity to correct my behavior even though this was the first I had heard about it being rude or offensive to the other agency.) The other agency’s reaction was a surprise- not my firing.

        I apologized to the assembled group as a whole when they disciplined me first on Tuesday and then again this morning when they gathered for my termination. That said, this would be a personal aside to the boss I worked the most closely with- and the one I know would take my behavior personally. Everyone else, I am confident, does not see my mistake as a personal slight against them, but I’m fairly certain he would.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          I wouldn’t apologize, I would just thank him for his guidance over the years and maybe something about reconnecting in the future.

        2. Lisa*

          Wait a min, what exactly was your mistake? It sounded like you cost the company money at first (single big mistake), but then you reference correcting behavior specifically rudeness. Did you go all Rutgers coach on the team / other agency?

          1. Susan*

            I haven’t lost them any money (that I know of- in fact, the other agency is giving my former employers a new, updated contract worth more money, so regardless of anything I did, they were pleased enough overall to not only continue business with us, but upgrade us as well). They apparently have found my tone/attitude to be rude in the past- however, the only specific example that they have given is the one from last week that lead to this all coming out. (That is why I said my bosses and I all seem surprised that this happened- not that I wasn’t in the wrong on the most current incident, because I was, but because apparently there have been other instances that they have not made anyone at our agency aware of.) And of course, I’ve never said anything intentionally insulting or offensive- no cussing, slur words, etc. Anything that I may have said or done has been unintentional, which is why I wish that they had spoken sooner so that I might have had the opportunity to change. Though, since it is a high dollar contract, I completely understand my bosses’ decision to let me go- I’m not claiming that I shouldn’t have been disciplined; far from it. I just wish it hadn’t come to termination level without sufficient warning.

            1. Lisa*

              You can’t change the past. And it sounds like the other agency wanted you off their account, and there was nothing that was going to change their minds about it. You will however have to come up with a reason why you were let go.

              “A major client of mine that I worked with in 80% of my job for x years, asked that I be removed from the account due to a single incident in which I was admittedly unprofessional. I was let go one week after this incident since it was decided that a PIP did not make sense if I was not to work with this client anymore. I’ve since taken a business communications class in order to learn conflict resolution tactics to avoid similar situations in the future.”

  9. Anonymous*

    Any suggestions on how to encourage entry level employees who expect to be promoted after 2 years, when there aren’t any promotions available? I’m told that is preached in college these days – no more than 2-3 years in a position or you’re not moving forward. In this group of entry level employees – some are good at their jobs and some are rock stars, no one is lacking. How do you retain and motivate when there isn’t a promotion to be had? Especially if they all assume 2-3 years is the timeframe for said promotion.

    1. KellyK*

      Start by flat-out telling them that there aren’t promotions to be had. Or, if there are promotions 5 years or more out, let them know that. Be as honest as possible rather than stringing anybody along with false hope.

      As much as it’s in your power to do so, pay them what they’re worth and provide bonuses for going above and beyond.

      Provide them with opportunities to learn new things, develop new skills, and take on more/different responsibilities if they want them, even if those don’t come with a pay raise or title change. (I think these have to be truly optional to really serve as a morale boost and retention tool–otherwise it looks like you’re just trying to get more for less.)

      Honestly, though, I think you have to accept that in a role with no room for advancement, you will lose a certain number of people. In the future, be really realistic about the options when you interview people, and you should get more people who are looking to stay in the same position for a while.

      1. Cat*

        Or specifically design it as an entry-level job that people do for a couple of years and move on from. That’s more or less what we do with our paralegals, and I think it’s mostly a win-win. Yeah, we have to train new ones every couple of years, but we get bright young people who are eager and willing to learn, and they get some experience in the legal field as they decide whether to go to law school or pursue something else.

        1. Bee*

          Thank you thank you for doing this. There are far too many jobs that will only hire people with experience or people who are expecting to stay for a long time, and not enough jobs that hire specifically for entry-level people to get their entry-level experience and then move on. It’s a needed niche.

    2. Sascha*

      Give them raises and provide professional development. I’m in a job where promotions are incredibly scarce. I know that promotions don’t come often, but we don’t get raises or development opportunities either, so it’s very discouraging. We get sent to a conference every now and then, but I don’t see those as really rewarding.

    3. Rob Aught*

      I have this problem right now.

      Honesty is key. If they’re going to be unhappy I’d rather they pursue other opportunities if they fill the company is not meeting their expectations. Hey, we make employees put together a yearly performance plan, it seems only fair if they hold the company to some goals as well.

      However, I’d rather be honest and let them know that if the promotion were available I’d pursue it for them. Unfortunately, with budgets being tight and the company in transition it’s just not an option right now, but things could change.

      In the end, at least have a conversation to make sure they know their work is appreciated. I wouldn’t throw the company under the bus entirely. Keep the conversation positive.

      If they ultimately want to leave, that may be for the best. I’d hate to see one of my top performers become one of my worst.

    4. KayDay*

      First of all, don’t expect people to stay in a position if they aren’t growing. Think about typical career paths in your industry–is it normal for someone to stay at an entry level job for 5 years?

      If it is normal for people to stay in entry level jobs for a long(ish) time, then you need to tell them that, and expose them to people who have done well in the industry by following that path, and hopefully they will adjust their expectations accordingly. If you provide them with professional development and less formal opportunities for growth they will feel like they are valued and want to stay.

      If, however, you just want to retain them even though at other companies they would be moving up you need to adjust your expectations. Explain to them that it is a small company (if that’s the case) and there just aren’t many positions at the lower-mid-level. Work on developing them and encouraging controlled transitions. If you show that you care about their careers they will probably be more willing to help train/recruit new their replacements. But don’t expect them to stick around to the detriment of their careers.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks everyone – I’m making some suggestions to upper management to create some room for progression within the position to help them feel challenged and provide opportunities for new skills, etc.

        The downside is, sometimes that stuff takes a long time to develop. In the meantime, I don’t want to lose some of our top performers just because the calendar hits two years and they have the same title as when they started.

    5. danr*

      Good pay raises can go a long way to reducing the need for a promotion, and as others have said, being honest about how promotions are handled at the firm.
      If there are smaller perks available, use them. A nice one that my old firm used was to allow the staff time to attend industry conferences and trade shows that were held locally.

    6. Joey*

      You tell them there aren’t any opportunities at your company but over the next few years you will prepare them for a promotion even if its at another company and you’ll be happy for them when they leave. The market will decide how long you can retain them.

    7. Jessa*

      I hate the idea that every single job has upward mobility. They shouldn’t and not every person should want it either. Some companies you do a job for x years and if you want more you go somewhere else.

      But the idea that every single person in every single job wants to be or is suitable to be moved forward. Or that every company needs to have some kind of military system of promotions. At some point even in a promotion rich company you hit a point where you have to leave. Incoming people will be more frequent than outgoing ones at far higher levels.

  10. Anonymous*

    Due to personal circumstances, I need to leave my job after 6 months — and my notice date is rapidly approaching. Unfortunately, I can only give about 2.5 weeks because, while my work has generally been decent, my manager tends to be unstable and I’m not sure how she will respond. And frankly, I need at least one of my final paychecks.

    Does anyone have experience leaving a job so soon? If so, how has it gone? I’m leaving because I have to move for my spouse’s work (a much better opportunity for both of us in the long run – just made our decision last week). I have a lot of connections lined up luckily, but I still recognize that this is going to be a huge imposition – I feel like I just finished training and they’re even doing a huge restructuring, partially for my benefit. Should I acknowledge/apologize for the short tenure? How should I respond if I get some sort of “you’re really screwing us over” reaction (which isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility)?

    1. Anonymous*

      *note: where I say “my work has been decent”, I mean the work environment. Except for the moody/unpredictable nature of my boss.

    2. Name*

      I left a job after six months, and it wasn’t a huge deal, but this was in a high-turnover field.

      1. Anonymous*

        Unfortunately, mine isn’t.

        My husband’s offer is just SO wonderful for us ultimately and we’re not the sort of couple that is willing to do long-distance for career reasons, period. Our priority is each other and time with each other, even if that’s not the most progressive career attitude to have. I also have plenty of cool projects to work on in my new city and this will be my only (hopefully!) short term job.

        So even though I’ll be fine, I’m still concerned about how to get through the actual resignation conversation (and the notice period, if it happens) without completely destroying the relationship.

        1. Chinook*

          I have left jobs numerous times to follow DH with his career. The conversations weren’t too difficult because they knew that this was a possibility because they were hiring a military wife (which I had to disclose to explain frequent moves as shown inmy resume) and they knew, from my references, that I tried to make the transition as smooth as possible. But, i have never had a boss who fired me the day I gave notice, so I am nto sure how that would work.

          I woudl defintiely mention to you your boss that you are leaving to be with your spouse and that, if things were different, you would have preferred to stay where you were. Also have a plan on how to smooth the transition, whether it be your “won the lottery” manual that describes how to do your job or a priortized task list along with people who you think might be able to handle them until your replacement starts and what can wait. By showing that you are doing your best not impact the businesss, this may help with the transition and with getting a goood reference for your next job.

    3. some1*

      I really don’t think this is a big deal. 2 weeks is standard notice, and this employer (as well as future ones), understand that people have to move to be with spouses.

    4. KellyK*

      Definitely acknowledge and apologize for the short tenure. I would explain that an opportunity for your spouse came up kind of out of the blue, and you weren’t planning on moving, but you have to.

      If they say you’re really screwing them over, note that you want to make the transition as easy as possible, mention the specific things you’ll do during your notice to accomplish that, and ask if there’s anything else that will help. (E.g., I’m going to get the teapot order backlog cleared, and write up a short SOP/handbook for my position so that whoever takes over has as much support as possible. Is there anything else you want me to do over the next two weeks to help with the transition?)

    5. fposte*

      If there’s moodiness involved, be aware of the possibility that your resignation may be accepted immediately, which means not getting that last paycheck. Unfortunately, your short-terming it means that it’d be particularly egregious to quit on the spot, especially since you don’t have another job lined up.

      I think a calm and professional apology is fine–a family move is beyond your control, but you’re very sorry for the circumstances, you had expected to continue longer, and you appreciate that this is difficult for them. (Don’t switch these around and do the “but…” justification after you apologize.) If she really is temperamental, you may need to take your victory in the form of being the one who stays calm and professional here–just say “I know it’s difficult, and I’m sorry.”

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks, this really sums up what I’m nervous about. And you’re right, I may have to go without the final paycheck – and we can afford to go without one. My second-to-last paycheck is the main reason I’m not giving notice now though, even though the Ethicist in my head has been screaming at me. I especially like the phrasing of the apology – I’m going to use that!

        1. Anonymous*

          Well, actually, I’m also nervous that she WILL let me work my notice period…and it will be passive-aggressive hell. But anyone can deal with that for a little over 2 weeks.

    6. Wilton Businessman*

      Sometimes these things just happen. I’d ask for a meeting with your manager and let him know your situation. If that means resigning, then so be it. Maybe they can work out a telecommute deal for the short term?

      1. Anonymous*

        Unfortunately, my current work is not well equipped for telecommuting, not to mention that my boss in particular dislikes (to put it mildly) when employees work from home. So asking for telework opportunities would only really be beneficial to me, and I don’t think I’m in any position to ask them for favors. I’m mostly concerned about preserving the relationship (since I have some substantial projects lined up already), so if telecommuting won’t help them, I’m not going to offer.

        But you’re right – these things do sometimes happen!

  11. khilde*

    {This got really long; sorry in advance} I’m not sure if I’m just venting, looking for advice, or wanting to commiserate with others about my in-laws. But gold digger’s comments about her in-laws earlier today made me start thinking about mine again and I don’t want to. But I am going to have to face them again sometime so maybe someone has some thoughts or has had a similar experience. And where to begin….my husband and I have a really solid marriage (been married 11 years) and are a really great team. We both feel the same about his parents, though since they’re his parents he’s willing to cut them a bit more slack than I am. He still has hope they can change and I do not. While I should have recognized the signs of them being overbearing earlier, we always lived far away so it wasn’t quite as obvious. But we moved closer to them (still 3 hours away) about five years ago and had our first child three years ago. That’s when things just got worse. They had expectations of us that we didn’t have of ourselves. Namely, visiting every damn weekend, being available for every single family holiday or family gathering they deemed necessary, behaving as though my husband was still their child and not a father and husband of his own family. Having a kid changed our desire to travel and be gone on the weekends—we just want to do stuff with the three of us now. They are extremely passive aggressive people and I don’t speak passive aggressive, so I have a difficult time knowing how to communicate with them. I’d almost rather they were just the screaming type cause then I could scream back! But they are so incredibly sensitive and are terrible communicators. That is to say, they don’t communicate about thoughts, ideas, feelings. They just ignore it like it doesn’t matter, but their continually hurt feelings are the things that cause these problems! They lack the emotional intelligence to recognize what’s going on and then be able to talk about it in a mature way. They punish with the silent treatment and then once they are over it they go on as if nothing happened and expect everyone else to do the same. I am a completely different person in that I’d rather talk about it if the other party is going to be decent. I can’t be fakey and I hate just sweeping things under the rug when it’s still obviously an issue. However, I am also the type of person that doesn’t always need a confrontation – I’d rather avoid them, truthfully. So I’m sure I’m not helping myself in not having been direct all these years. My husband’s parents are weak individuals in that they let his bully sister run the show. She has a child that they have really helped raise and I suspect they don’t want to piss the sister off because she’s the type that would use the kid as leverage. She feels the need to control and dictate everything to us and his parents and his parents are just too weak willed to put her in her place. The sister is really a huge problem, but she’s so entrenched with his parents that they are all a package deal.

    All of this culminated Christmas Day of last year. To make a long story short and to hopefully keep this from being even more confusing and convoluted, while we were at church on Christmas Eve, my sister in law was back at the house and snooped through my cell phone. She read some text messages between me and my brother where my brother jokingly told me to have a fun time in hell with the in-laws. Of course, I didn’t realize she did this until later. Christmas morning husband and I are packing up to head out and we’re getting the really immature cold shoulder and silent treatment from his mother. As we were literally walking out the door, his mother says with a bit of snark, a bit of hurt, and a bit of matter of fact, “Well, khilde, I hope you had a fun time in hell. I heard you talking on the phone the other night.” I was totally floored cause I do remember to my brother the night before, but I am sure I never said those words! I am also not the type of person to be really quick and witty in a situation like that. She said something else in a patronizing tone about “I know it’s so hard for you to come back here, but the {nephew} really appreciated seeing you guys.” I don’t really say things to be nice – I say stuff if I mean it. So the only thing I could think of in response was, “yeah, it is really hard for me to come back here because I never know what sort of mood everyone’s going to be in.” My husband scooted us out of there and that was it.

    The whole rest of the day I was just obsessing over it and about 6 hours later, it hit me out of the blue that SIL must have snooped through the phone. I know this because after church my phone was powered down (and I NEVER turn it off) and it was put in the “family” location where most of them keep their cell phones (I usually put mine in a different spot in the kitchen). I am 100% positive this is what happened. But no, we didn’t call them up and confront them. It just didn’t seem like it would help anything at the moment other than make us feel better.

    We haven’t talked to them since that day, which is quite unusual for my husband and his parents. I’m thrilled, of course, we haven’t had to deal with them. But I’m having a baby in 2 weeks and naturally we’ll have to see them/talk to them again once baby comes. Now as I’m typing this out I feel terribly petty and I know the right answer here. Be direct, be firm, confront with facts, etc. But…….these people just don’t get it. They won’t be honest brokers and have a mature discussion about what happened. They NEVER have (we had a much smaller dust up along these lines a few years ago and we did have a discussion, but it turned into a huge beat down of my husband how he has turned his back on the family and they don’t know who he is anymore, etc0. Plus, I have absolutely no desire to have a relationship with any of them so I don’t even have the desire to try to mend things. I am ok with them not liking me, I’m even ok with the ass hattery of his sister (I try so hard to do the AAM trick of pretending I’m in a Jane Austen novel and have to deal with these characters – that’s easier said than done). I tried for several years to care, but I’m at the point where I don’t. I can endure them for a few days. But……

    I think I’m at the point where I just dread holidays with them. I think my husband has gotten to the point where he also desires to limit holiday gatherings with them, but says that we can’t just avoid them forever. I genuinely wondered why we can’t, but I guess that’s not entirely an option here. So – my overall question is this (and man, I’m sorry this is so long. I don’t blame you if you’ve stopped reading or have no idea what the hell I’m talking about at this point): For those of you that have to endure holidays or family gatherings with problematic in-laws, how do you get over the feeling of your holiday memories with your children being “stolen” by having to spend it with people you don’t like? I mean, my kids won’t know any different, but I am having a hard time getting over the fact that for some Christmases we have to be around them I’m going to have MY memories of my children’s early Christmases overshadowed by the bullshit I have to deal with. Does that make any sense? I’m desperate for a perspective check so can someone shed some light on that?

    I also promise in the future to never bring up personal situations on an open thread again! Amen.

    1. majigail*

      Either you have to put your foot down or your husband does (preferably him, it’s his family.) You don’t have to spend every weekend with your in-laws or attend every event or holiday. You’re three hours away and that’s not reasonable. It’s time to make your own family traditions. Put limits on the number of times a month you can get together, plan weekends with your side of the family, and plan weekends just the three of you.

      1. khilde*

        Oh, I am so with you on this!!!! I have felt the exact same way as you stated here for a long, long time. We (namely, my husband) is slowly getting to that understanding/position but it’s taken him a bit longer. He’s a much slower moving person than I am in terms of decision making and making sweeping changes. To my husband’s credit he has been much more obvious about setting limits in the past year or so and I think it’s working. My main problem, I believe, is that I just want to cut them out totally, 100% but I also realize that’s not realistic. So I’m trying to get my heart in line with my brain on this one.

        Oh and my family? Well, my folks are recently retired and did the hippie-RV thing for the first several years. I have tried to get it through my husband’s mind that his family doesn’t need to be default just cause mine isn’t around (we live almost exaclty three hours from each side of the family; opposite directions). But now my folks are easing up on the RV thing so they’ll be around more and you better believe we’ll be doing more get togethers with them. Thanks for sharing your perspective with me!

        1. TheSnarkyB*

          Hi khilde!
          I know this is from yesterday, but I also wanted to add my voice to all of this! So I know you have been married for a while, but hopefully you can still use your own parents as a resource to show him a sort of corrective experience. Maybe with the baby/ies, your husband will see your parents being even more awesome and realize just how toxic his family is. If not to separate from them, at least to nudge them in a more positive direction.
          Best of luck!

          1. khilde*

            Thanks SnarkyB! I have thought many times that each of our parents are presenting a pretty opposing picture of how things should be. So we really can judge for ourselves how each of those behaviors impacts and adult child’s marriage and family life. And yes, my folks have shined lately because they are not overbearing and have really helped out a lot in the past few months when we’ve needed help because of the kid (s). Thanks for commenting : )

      2. Kelly O*

        Yeah, you do need to be able to put your foot down.

        This is actually one of the main reasons I have an ex-husband. I mean, I am close to my mom and I love my family, but they don’t give us guilt trips about not being places. My ex’s family were so weird about making you feel like you had to be there.

        Every other weekend, every holiday, every special event at their little church… we HAD to be there. And when I just didn’t want to, or when my Dad was sick and I told the ex, you just go to your family’s and I’ll go to the hospital, it was “not how our family operates.”

        I will say that your husband really needs to step in here too. Because his standing with you is going to be absolutely necessary. My ex didn’t, and that was (again) one of our issues.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Read the book Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and implement as directed.

      Fortunately, (or really unfortunately), my husband really doesn’t like his mom. 12 years ago, she tried to show up on Christmas Eve to stay the night after we told her no. She had asked, and we said no because it was our first Christmas in our first house and that she could come Christmas day. She booked her flights anyway, and when she called for directions to our house from the airport, DH told her it wasn’t happening. You have to draw the line and then not cross it when they push you.

      (Side note: I have a very difficult situation with my parents, and they only live 10 minutes away, so be glad for 3 hrs space. Due to circumstances of my parents’ making, my husband doesn’t want to see them, and my mom shows up for every baseball game, etc. and badgers me for the schedule. This ruins all the events for me because my husband gets up and goes somewhere else to stand when she shows up, so I know what you mean about “stolen” memories. I haven’t been able to follow my own advice with them, yet.)

      1. khilde*

        I’m sp sorry you’re dealing with the yuck, too. And I’m glad that someone else understands what I mean when I say “stolen memories.” It just sucks the happy and joy and fun out of those events. I (should be) am grateful that we do live far enough away for it to be a bit of a trip to do visits (they NEVER come out here, which I’m ok with. But it’s just more context for everything being about them and the script of my husband and I needing to adapt to them).

        I think many of us in these situations know the right thing to do (or the thing that would be most straightforward and mature), but it’s so so hard to actually do it where family is concerned. I think it’s a bit easier in the workplace where there isn’t likely to be the history, dynamics, entrenched family scripts and values, etc. It’s just flat out hard.

        I have read that book! I need to re-read it. Another one that someone referenced below is Toxic In-Laws – I”m working my way through that one and it’s excellent.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          You and your husband and kids have a family now, so if they want to spend holidays with you, it’s on them to travel to you — not the other way. Let them know they are welcome to visit (with appropriate boundaries as needed), but that Christmas is going to be in your living room with your kids. That’s not mean — it’s just fair that the people with small kids don’t have to do the travelling most of the time.

    3. some1*

      & explain what happened about the text from your brother. Right now your IL’s have every reason to be believe your SIL’s version of what happened. Even if they don’t believe you now, at least acknowledge that you can understand why they were upset.

      1. khilde*

        some1 – I know, you’re totally right. And I fully understand that his mother is under the impression that I’m still the one that caused this whole mess (and I can see how they’d think that). I am quite certain his psycho sister has not fessed up to what she did. In hindsight, we should have probably cleared the air on that right away with his mother…but for whatever reason we didn’t.

        I think my husband said he wanted to talk to his sister about it first and give her the chance to either take responsibility or tell us something else happened and then talk to his mom. But I think he’s just as weary of the potential drama as I am and wants to avoid it. I don’t really blame him. The sister called about a week or so after Christmas and left a message on my husband’s phone gushing, “I don’t know what happened, but you’re still my brother and blah blah blah.” The problem is, I would have responded to that several years ago and tried to work it out – but she is a classic manipulator and would have used our communication as a potential weapon. I have learned that now. I’m cynical where they are concerned and I am decidedly NOT a cynical person. It’s easier to avoid her entirely. Sorry, I’m rambling now. I don’t really expect you to respond to all my points here. Just wanted to say thanks for weighing in :)

        1. OneoftheMichelles*

          Hi Kilde,
          Not sure where to jump in on this big thread. I read most of it, then went back to find a spot where this will make sense:
          “we should have probably cleared the air on that right away with his mother…but for whatever reason we didn’t. ” You didn’t because she set you up. She waited until you were distracted, then verbally sucker punched you.

          And I’d have written a note to my in-laws by now (because you Can’t have a fair discussion with people who are busy using 5 kinds of manipulation/avoidance in any given sentence) saying that 1) I NEVER SAID IT-that was a joke I *received* from another person, and 2) going through my phone without my permission is akin to stealing my mail and do not ever do it again. period. (maybe I’d add that if they got their feelings hurt by misunderstanding part of a conversation they weren’t a part of, it’s their own darn fault.)

          These aren’t even my relatives and I’m ticked off at them!

          When I was in a really sick “friendship” last year, I found it helpful to google “manipulation” in various phrases. I found lots of explanations of HOW I was getting jabbed emotionally. (The books I found were rarely specific enough to help, but this is another resource.) Good Luck!

          1. khilde*

            Michelle – thank you, I could hug you! You said she set me up and that’s totally how it felt. That’s why I don’t trust them to be honest brokers and to actually deal maturely with this. Cause is she wanted to be mature about it then she wouldn’t have ambushed us. Plus, to make this more complicated, I believe his mother also lied to me. I don’t believe she overheard me on the phone. Number 1 -because I didn’t say those words to my brother. That came from his comments to me in a text! Number 2 – they are so thin skinned that if she did hear me say it in person the cold shoulder, immature behavior would have commenced immediately. We had a pretty decent visit up until the time my sister-in-law ratted on me. I also believe that my SIL didn’t tell my MIL that she snooped on the phone. I believe that the SIL told MIL she overheard me talking on the phone and then MIL just told a little white lie when she was attacking me.

            I have always up to this point been able to give the MIL the benefit of the doubt. When she and FIL are on their own and away from SIL, they are actually pretty fun to be around. SIL is just the crazy one and everyone knows with it, they just don’t deal with her. I can see clearly now that MIL will always take SIL’s side without even giving me the benefit of the doubt or trying to address it with me first! So this is why I have become quite cynical about these people. I rather feel like I’m just retreating inward and circling my own wagons because people that behave like this are always right (in their mind) and aren’t willing to see reason. Especially when they’re willing to lie to you in the first place!

            Well, I do so sincerely people reading all my drivel today. Honestly didn’t expect to have so many comments on this because this reads like some of those drama filled forums that I just roll my eyes over. I really needed perspective and the people that read AAM are smart so I knew I’d get some thoughtful responses. Thanks :)

      2. ElinBlue*

        I suggest reading some posts at . There’s a lot of good suggestions about setting boundaries. The high level take aways I would apply to your situation are:
        1. You are not responsible for other people’s emotions. If your in-laws are upset because you won’t let them come over, that is their problem to deal with.
        2. You need to have an ally in your husband when enforcing boundaries. Come up with a plan together for how much is an OK amount of time for them to spend over.
        3. These are your husbands parents. That means it is more his responsibility to enforce boundaries than yours.

        1. khilde*

          Thanks – I see people reference Captain Awkward a lot – I’ll have to look into that. Thank you for the list – that’s exactly the kind of clear headed objectivity I need. :)

    4. Allison3*

      I really feel for you. I completely understand the tension, the drama, the faking niceties to keep the peace, the dreading of family get togethers… I don’t have any children, so I’m afraid I can offer any advice. However, kids are on the horizon, and I’m TERRIFIED of how it will change the dynamic. Like you, I am also not a fake-niceties person, and I cope by avoiding the Mother in Law (going to a different room when she walks in, going outside, no eye contact, basically pretending she isn’t even there…). But, when kids get involved, I know I won’t be able to hold my tongue. Also, they live about 2 minutes from me, and drop by on occasion, unannounced. I can’t imagine what it will be like when we have kids… however, the easy answer is to set boundaries and be firm, but my MIL has increasingly bad mental health problems, so it isn’t quite that simple.

      I’m looking forward to the comments you get.

      1. khilde*

        Oh, Allison3, we could be the same person!! I am a very authentic and open person. I truly cannot be fake just to keep the peace, exactly like you said. I’ve explained it to my husband this way: have you ever been in a situation or with people that violated your core values? That’s what it’s like to be with them. Of course, I don’t expect them to change – it’s all me, I know. But I mean this is what it feels like. To be around people that behave and believe everything that’s contrary to what I do. And being authentic and open is a major value of mine. This has caused me to be quite forgiving with them in years past, but I have too much history with them and they have done too much damage. I just want to be done.

        And how you cope when you’re with the MIL – that’s how I am!! I have always known about myself that if I have a conflict or tension with someone that I will avoid eye contact. Not to prove a point or anything, simply because I physically cannot look at the other person. I think I must think that if they see my eyes, they will see my tension and I don’t know how to deal with it. However, I do hold my tongue. Probably more than I should. A few years ago my daughter was fussing in her high chair during lunch. I knew exaclty what was wrong with her–she was tired, wanted me to hold her, etc. I got that and it was ok. I was trying to scarf down my lunch so I could take care of her when my SIL walks over and says in a really condescending, babying tone to me, “Don’t get up, I’ll get her.” I think finally all of that kind of treatment of me like I wasn’t her mother got to me and I stood up, calmly walked over to her, gently physically put myself in front of my daughter and calmly said to the SIL, “I don’t take orders from you.”I had absolutely no idea where that came from but God, I was proud of myself. However, that launched WWIII – SIL goes storming from the house (actually drove away). MIL and FIL got real quiet, told my husband and I to sit down and then proceeded to harangue us for a few hours. My husband and I had NEVER been treated that way by anyone, particularly his parents, so we did just sit there and take it. I think we were too dumbstruck to know what was happening. But we vowed never again would we let them do that to us. I have never seen my husband so mad (and he’s a quiet guy anyway – his angry is that quiet, scary kind!).

        Wow, again, I am yakking an awful lot. I wish you the best as kids come on scenes. I recommend that Toxic In-Laws book that Frieda mentions just below. Might give you some things to think about as you prepare to set those boundaries in advance.

        1. Anon*

          Seriously…. we could be in the same family, LOL! If you want to connect and rant about in-laws, I’m open for emails anytime! Not sure the best way to exchange that info here though…

            1. khilde*

              We can go through Alison, I think. She’s been really cool about doing that for us.

                1. khilde*

                  Doh. I was going to say that too but got distracted and left it off. I’m glad you said that – thanks.

            2. khilde*

              I’ll go to LinkedIn group and post a message for you to find me so I don’t have to use my full name here (though it’s not like my screen name here is too hard to crack once you know my name. I’m not that original :)

    5. Frieda*

      I highly recommend the book “Toxic In-Laws” by Susan Forward. It’s a little self-helpy, but there is a lot of good advice. She also has a book called “Emotional Blackmail: When the People in Your Life Use Fear, Obligation, and Guilt to Manipulate You” that your husband might want to read. I also have overbearing in-laws, though they tend toward the “everything is worth fighting to the death over” variety. Good luck with dealing with yours!

      1. khilde*

        Thanks for the book suggestion, Frieda! I have in my possession right now the Toxic In-Laws book. It’s the closest I’ve found to being relatable to my own situations with my IL’s. I’ll definitely check out her emotional blackmail book. I’ve long thought to myself that my sister in law is an emotional terrorist. I have no idea if that’s a legit phrase, but I just made it up. Seems to fit. I know I’m not alone with the in-law drama. It helps to have others chime in and say they deal with it, too. Thanks :)

        1. Frieda*

          I should also mention that “Emotional Blackmail” is great because it describes different ways people are manipulative and then gives you sample scripts for how to respond–very specific advice (kind of like AAM!).

      2. Hummingbird*

        Those two books are great! I would suggest looking at the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers (or Mother in Law in your case)
        Both you and your husband might find it helpful. There is such a thing as an Narcissitic Family. So much of what you have described , such as the boundary issues, fits.

          1. khilde*

            Huh! I never thought of that. Thanks so much for suggesting it. I’ll definitely look into it.

    6. Chinook*

      I am floored that your SIL went through your phone. I mean, if you are going to snoop, be prepared to see things you don’t like!

      I had a real dust-up with my SIL and her mother a couple of Christmases back that culminated in my telling her mother to get her hands off me and my normally passive brother telling them to leave me alone. I literally left their home and was prepared to sleep in my car if I couldn’t get a hold of my sister to stay at her place (I was out of town). I then skipped the opening of presents with everyone because I didn’t want to ruin Christmas memories for all the kids under 6 with drama (because my family does NOT do drama).

      Turns out that this type of behaviour was typical (I had been away for a long time, so never had the pelasure) and, since then, my brother has made the effort to visit family with the kids when SIL is working. When she and her mother are there, I treat them like colleagues – professional but distant – with the realization that my brother needs all the family support he can get. It helps to know that my brother will stand up to her when it comes to family but I don’t want to put him in a situation where he has to.

      It sounds like your DH is the same way. He probably saw reading your cellphone as a step too far and has actively made the choice to not contact them (atleast when you are around) because he is on your side.

      That being said, new babies can sometimes create a clean slate. If they offer an olive branch, be the bigger person and take it but also remember the line you are not willing to let them cross. As I used to tell my students, “don’t give me a reason to remember your past mistakes and all will be forgotten.”

      1. khilde*

        Chinook – yes! your last three paragraphs were so spot on. It’s so hard to convey the subtleties of personalities and dynamics and past history here, so I know it’s hard for readers to understand the people involved. But I so appreciate you understanding why my husband hasn’t gone in guns ablazing with them. Truth be told, I don’t really want/need him to. But I know that a lot of this falls on his shoulders cause it’s his family. And I understand him not wanting to deal with them.

        Good point on the baby and the olive branch. You know, his mother did actually send our daughter a little gift at Easter and I wrote a noted and thanked her for that (because no one is going to accuse me of being ungrateful!! I really do appreciate the gesture). However, my husband totally ignored all three of their birthdays this spring. I did gently ask him if he thought he should send a mother’s day card? He did but it was pretty sparse (which is rather not like him). I really am actively trying not to feed any drama or put ideas in his head. I think their behavior has spoken for itself. But I also don’t want to be a wedge between him and his family.

        What was I saying? Oh yes. I’m sure we’ll be nicey-nicey once the baby comes and I probably have to accept that they don’t know another way to behave. However, you’re damn right that we will be setting boundaries going forward that will hopefully help avoid future problems. Thanks so much for your thoughts!!

        1. Chinook*

          khilde, congratulations on your husband standing up to them for you and your family because that is what he is doing by not interacting. I have a brother and father like that and their staying silent when they normally participate or saying anything when they normally let it slide off their back is more powerful than any arguement or shouting could be. He has had a lifetime of dealing with them and knows best how to make his point.

          1. khilde*

            “He has had a lifetime of dealing with them and knows best how to make his point.”

            So true, and it took me a long while to understand that. It has been very hard for me to fall back and let him have the leadership in this particular scenario (because of course I have my own brilliant ways of dealing with people!) And I don’t understand it when he thinks we should do X or shouldn’t say Y. Though I think what you said is true: we are finding out that a normally talkative, easygoing son that suddenly drops out of their life sends a stronger message than sitting down with them and trying to have a conversation.

      2. Catherine*

        My husband and I both grew up in physically (me) and emotionally (both of us) families. When we had children, at first we “parented by negatives”; everything our parents did, we did the opposite. But the problem was, one of the things our parents did was poison our relationships with extended family, and make us children part of the drama.
        We decided to try to do everything we could to let our children “be children”, that they had the right to an unclouded, uncomplicated relationship with their grandparents, aunts and uncles, that they should be protected, as much as possible, from the adult’s drama while still having a relationship with those people.
        _I will not pretend that this was easy_or that we were always successful.
        At one point I got an answering machine so that I could screen calls from my mother. One time my MIL re-arranged my furniture and replaced all my food with her own while I was upstairs dressing the children for a baptism. (I had to be forcibly restrained that time!) I could go on and on and on. We drew boundaries, mostly emphasizing that these were our children, thank-you-very-much, and you will not discipline our children.
        We carved out , maintained and balanced nuclear family time against extended family time. Sometimes we left family gatherings when things were getting out of hand, always making some innocuous excuse like “Mommy’s tired.” And as the children got older, and we thought were ready to know and judge the drama for themselves, we told them. For example, I had to tell all my teen-aged boys at about 16 that, “I was beaten as a child and when you get angry and start thumping around or yelling, it makes me afraid. I don’t think I should be afraid in my own house, so if you need to be physical, please go outside.”
        My MIL actually lived with us for her last years; ten years later, I’m still ambivalent about whether that was a good idea or not, but it was that or a hell-hole of a retirement home since my BIL kicked her out of their shared home when he got engaged. (Nice, huh?)
        We did all this partly because we felt it was the right thing to do, that we didn’t want to continue the drama of generations, and partly – selfishly – because however we treat our parents would likely be how our children will treat us.
        This website encourages us to take a long view with our careers; I offer this as advice that we should try to take the long view with our families as well.
        FWIW, I was married at 18 (37 years ago), have six children now aged 35 to 23, and fair-to-good relationships with most of the extended family, including my mother (tho if BIL doesn’t come to DH’s 60th this summer, that may change!)

        1. khilde*

          Catherine – thanks so much for commenting! I’m sorry for the hurts you have endured, but it sure sounds like you made it through with some good perspective. And perspective is what I’m seeking – cause what a butthead I am to think I have it so hard when neither sets of our parents are abusive or addicted. We both had really good childhoods, so we are both very lucky. I have little to whine about.

          My dad didn’t have such great parents and I often heard him say that he was changing his family tree in the way he raised my brother and I. I guess I was the great beneficiary of a dad that wanted to “parent by opposite” as you said. Because he could have very easily perpetuated the parenting he got.

          I also like what you said about letting the kids judge the drama for themselves when they got older. My husband said it before I ever did, but he’s not thrilled with leaving our daughter with his family (versus we ask my folks to help out when we need it and are totally comfortable with it). So he doesn’t even want them influencing her too much, which I’m ok with. I have long thought that my kids will see their aunt for what she is when they’re a bit older. The balancing act of over- vs under-reacting when they’re little is hard, I’m finding out.

          So have your kids judged for themselves and seen your family dynamics for what they are? I’m curious if that works out in real life cause it sounds like it should! :)

          1. Catherine*

            I work from home tomorrow – I promise I will answer then. (I wrote the first comment on my lunch break.) Short answer is “Yes.”

            1. Anonymous*

              Yes, our children have judged the family dynamics for themselves and maintain contact with some family members, and/or are polite to others when they meet at family gatherings. But (on the whole) they have a much more balanced view of their family, we find, than we do or we expected. They have a better perspective and are more understanding and forgiving than those that they understand and forgive.

              Of course, this is after an initial period of betrayal and disillusionment, indignant on our behalf kind of thing.

              For example, they all help, support and visit my SIL, a recovered alcoholic, who terrorized the family for years while drunk, but who once sober apologized for her behaviour and made amends. They invite her for dinner and do heavy chores for her.

              They get along well with my mother, the reigning queen of guilt trips. Sometimes she exasperates them but they are loving, polite and respectful of an old lady. One daughter even bluntly tells her to knock it off when the poor-me-ing gets out of hand.

              I agree with you when you say that you’re not comfortable leaving your child with some family members, neither was I, so we didn’t. There was grumbling about it, but I just apologized and explained that the kids were more comfortable elsewhere. That made us the bad guys for a while, but we weren’t going to sacrifice our kids to family (dis)harmony.

              And we did the three Christmases thing too. And alternate Thanksgivings (not as much of a big deal here in Canada anyway), and two birthdays and so on.

              We found that as long as there wasn’t screaming and yelling the kids were pretty oblivious to the family drama anyway. They’re pretty -rightly – self absorbed before the age of 10-ish. After that, if they noticed something and asked, we tried to give them some simple, non-judgy kind of answer. It mostly wasn’t an issue; as the children matured and became more aware, they were able to observe and draw their own conclusions, because they weren’t dragged into it and be forced to take sides.

              There are still some major rifts but they have a much healthier and happier relationship with their siblings and extended family that we ever did or do.

              So we think that taking the long view, looking towards what our kids would be like as adults and what the extended family would be like and would need in 10, 20, 30 years was worth it even if it meant frustration, being dumped on and ranting at each other in private in the mean time.

              Good luck!

              1. khilde*

                Sounds like you raised a great bunch of kids there, Christine. My mom and dad have always said that kids should be smarter than their parents (well, once they get to the appropriate age! haha).

                Someone else talked about taking the long view and putting up with it for the sake of the long term, like you mentioned in your last paragraph. I’m going to have to let that marinate in my head because I can understand the reasoning for it. It’s hard to take the long view when you’re so angry. But thanks for following up – interesting to read how healthy and smart your kids are about the whole thing.

    7. fposte*

      Congratulations on the upcoming new baby!

      I don’t have in-laws, but here are my questions to you. Assuming your in-laws will never change, what do you want to do? Same assumption–what does your husband want to do? Are those close enough that you could just do it?

      I personally don’t see any reason why holidays have to involve anybody but you, your husband, and two small children or why you have to visit every weekend if you don’t want to. I think if you feel the same way and you want to make this work, you–really your husband–need to be proactive and offer your own visit dates. Don’t make it into a yes/no battle about visiting the upcoming weekend, make it about what you’ll do when you visit in June. Don’t engage with “why not” conversations. The answer to “You’ll be here Friday” is “We’ll be there on June whatever, and we’re looking forward to showing you Monster’s new tooth!”

      To be honest, I think your husband may need to let go of his desire to please his parents, which is tough. They would definitely see what I suggest as him turning his back on his family, and he would have to to deal with that. But more distance may allow you to feel less invaded by them and to be able to appreciate them more as slightly crazy people who nonetheless raised a man that you love and who adore their grandchildren. (If they’re abusive or hate the grandkids, that part’s void.)

      1. khilde*

        fposte – thanks!! I’m actually on bedrest, which is probably the reason I am writing these novellas today. Perhaps I win an award for most dominance in a single comment thread? :) I’m so glad you weighed in because you always ask good, though provoking questions which I have been incapable of doing with myself in this situation. That’s why I need help getting my thinking going in a different direction.

        His parents are not abusive and lavish on the grandkids, which makes me feel like an even bigger jerk for not liking them. They are generally good people…except when you are family. What I mean is that they have the perfect family facade for the outside world, but no one knows HOW exactly they accomplish the perfect family picture (lots of guilt, blind obedience, etc). (I would suspect, though, LOTS of families are like this- facade for the outside, all messy on the inside). And yes, good perspective that they raised a good man who is a great husband and father. I marvel a lot at what a good communicator he is. Somehow he didn’t let their way of communicating affect him too much.

        I think we are moving toward interacting with them in the way you mentioned above. More about telling them what we’ll be doing, rather than allowing them a lot of say. It’s probably something we’ll be battling until the kids are gone!

        1. fposte*

          There’s a lot of writing about the fact that one key marital task (at least in much Western culture) is separating from the family of origin to create the new marital family, moving the nucleus of your nuclear family. It’s tough, and the family of origin tends to particularly struggle with that. But it’s generally an important part of making a marriage successful, and that often does mean accepting that leaving your own parents unpleased can be the right thing to do.

    8. Anonymous*

      I have similar problems with my in-laws. We live just under 4 hours away in excellent traffic (and I live near DC to give you an idea on often I encounter excellent traffic.) Before we had a kid, they wanted us down for every little event, no matter how insignificant. It’s weird for me because in my family, when one leaves the nest, you LEAVE, and you come back every three Christmases or so or for milestone birthdays and things like that. And the visits are reciprocated, too. So growing up, I’d have one Christmas with paternal grandmother, one at home, then one with maternal grandparents, one at home, and occasionally the ones at home will feature a grandparent or two but not often.
      Now my son is 7 months old and we’ve only been down a few times. We have a lot of family in the area do when we go, we usually have to do the rounds and budget our time so we can see everyone. Both sets of parents are divorced and all but one remarried. This last Christmas I “caused drama” because we could only see my MIL during a large family event, and not have a private, more intimate Christmas event with just her as well. We’d already seen her several times during the trip and I had only one day I could see my own dad and step-mother (who had a minor stroke the day we originally planned to see them. We had to reschedule OBVIOUSLY and MIL’s intimate event got the ax since we were seeing her already at the large gathering.) I spent almost that entire gathering listening to her bitch about the fact that “You shouldn’t make plans with someone and cancel them because you think something else better came up!” Even though that’s not how things went down. Because, you know, MY STEP MOM HAD A STROKE. A step mother that’s been in my life since I was 9. Sorry, she trumps MIL, and I wanted to work with HER schedule.
      I honestly don’t know what to do this Christmas. We’re buying our first house (also pissed off his family because it means we don’t plan on moving back any time soon) and I want to spend Christmas at home. Hell, we’ll have room for guests, with more to spare, so if everyone comes up that’s perfectly alright with me, but I’m so tired of dealing with a MIL who throws a mini tantrum every time we can’t do things by her “tradition.” Kids grow up and have their own lives. That’s the actual goal of raising kids.
      And don’t get me started on my FIL. Not quite as passive aggressive, but he keeps threatening to move in and I’m actually scared he’ll try to. Because why else will we need that extra bedroom?

      So yeah, I feel you. Sounds like your problems are worse than mine, but I can soooo relate! Sometimes I wished we lived even further away because the 3-4 hour range is JUST far enough that they don’t want to visit you, but close enough that they don’t understand why you can’t “come home” every other weekend.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Sorry, this was me.

        I wanted to add that post-child, logistically we couldn’t make the trips any more. It took us 7 hours in the middle of the night to drive down for Christmas because my lovely child decided he wanted to eat every 5 minutes, so now if the trip is less than a week, we don’t travel. They still ask us, but at least we don’t get much push back when we say no, and they’re finally making the return trip on a more regular basis which is much better for us.

        Still don’t know about Christmas, though :/

        1. khilde*

          Oh VintageLydia – you and I are so in the same boat. My situation is definitely not worse than yours – they all equally suck becuase they just shouldn’t have to happen. I think yours is more demanding of you because you have many different sets of parents to please! That has to be a hard pull.

          But man, you were so dead on with a lot of what you said – about the goal of raising kids is to go and be a productive adult and cleave to your new young family, if you will. That’s why this is double hard because my parents get it. They are overjoyed to just sit back and watch my husband and I raise our family and make our own life. They want to be included, of course, as much as we want them to but they don’t push or guilt. And what effect does that have? We are so happy to spend time with them- we want to!! His parents? They never really left the nest, in my opinion. They got married, lived minutes from my husband’s grandparents’ family farm and never really separated. I think they expect us to do the same thing, particularly as his sister has done that. She came home and her entire life revolves around what mom and dad are doing and what they should be doing “as’ and “for” the family farm (both of which grandparents have now passed. But they still have to go up and do things at that damn farm. BTW, I’m not disparaging family farms or family legacies! It’s just when it becomes such a Thing that no one has an identity outside of it and expects the grown son to value it the same way they do…well, that’s a problem).

          Man, I’m off track today. Ok, yeah, I hear you on Christmas. It’s so hard to know what to do. Sometimes I think the best thing to do is endure for a few days and know that the majority of my kids’ memories will be made by the little things we do together the rest of the year.

        2. Chinook*

          VintageLydia, can I recommend that you mention to all the inlaws that, with your child, you want to start your own family tradition of opening presents at and they are all welcome to join you and that you will visit them in the future when the traffic/weather is not so unpredictable (because of the baby, of course ;)) And then you stick to your guns and not budge on your plans.

          This is what my parents did with us and, as a result, we children got 3 Christmases a year – one at home, one at one set of grandparents 3 hours away, then another hour down the road for another grandmother with my cousins (who were 2 hours farther in another direction). Everyone was then able to get their special time and even us children learned to recognize that it was the gathering and not the date that mattered.

      2. LPBB*

        Absolutely stick to your guns about staying home for Christmas!

        Once my niece turned 3 or 4 and Christmas became a big deal for her, my sister said “That’s it! We’re staying home for Christmas instead of schlepping the kid and her presents 4 hours away and coming up with convoluted explanations about Santa’s record keeping. If you want to see her open her presents on Christmas morning, you have to come here.”

        The first year both families made the trip to NJ, but the novelty wore off pretty quickly for my side of the family. Her MIL was a little more tenacious, I think she made the trip once or twice after that, but realized she preferred having Christmas in her home state where the rest of her family was.

        It didn’t stop any of the snide comments or complaints from the MIL, but it made Christmas so so so much less stressful for my sister and her family and allowed them the chance to build their own traditions.

        1. khilde*

          Yes – I’m so showing my husband this tonight. Those words your sister said are exactly what I want to say!!!

      3. fposte*

        I know this is just a random vent, but I’m struck by how much this leaves your spouse out of it, and how much “things they want” are treated as “things you have to do.” Is he down with all this? Is he willing to push back, or is that all your job? Because really it’s the task of the offspring, not the offspring-in-law, to set those boundaries.

        I mean, you want them to be more understanding and it’s annoying that they’re not. Given that they’re not, though, can you and yours start running your own show and letting the hissies fall where they may?

        1. Chinook*

          “Is he willing to push back, or is that all your job?” I think he is pushing backl but in a subtle way that works well for his family dynamics. Khilde is venting so of course she is saying what she wishes she could but I see, in her story, that her DH has drawn a line, his family has crossed it and he is no longer engaging in the drama with them. In some families, not sending birthday cards and sending a very “light” mother’s day card speaks volumes about how you feel about them and the drama.

          1. fposte*

            I was actually responding to Vintage Lydia’s post (under Anonymous), not khilde’s.

        2. VintageLydia*

          Oh he’s definitely the one that handles his parents! Doesn’t stop my MIL from cornering me occasionally, but my husband definitely takes the lead on dealing with these issues and he feels like I do.

          1. fposte*

            That’s excellent; I’m glad to hear it. I’m a little overvigilant on these because I know so many couples that farmed out the “bad cop” job to the non-offspring partner–and many of those are no longer couples as a result. As long as you two have each other’s backs, stuff like this is mostly just limited to being an incredible annoyance.

            1. khilde*

              And I”m jumping in on this one because you put it so eloquently, fposte. I agree that this would be terrible if husband and I weren’t on the same page (like KellyO talked about above). My husband basically sees the same things I do, but I think the fundamental difference is in our own personal approaches to stuff. He is a very slow mover and I’m pretty quick and decisive. My slash and burn approach has gotten me into trouble in the past for sure. But then again, so has his slow as molasses approach. :)

              1. fposte*

                Sometimes it’s good to have definitive proof that neither person is absolutely, totally right :-).

                I wonder if there’s something about changing eras and generations here. I hear a lot more default assumptions now about adults, even adults with their own children, being with their parents on holidays than I did when I was a kid. Some of this may be because people are farther apart and limited vacation time minimizes visiting opportunities, but I knew a lot of people with distant grandparents when I was a kid, and they didn’t haul out of their own houses every holiday. Is it some boomer thing where we never really gave up the focus-on-us theory even when we became grandparents? I actually think even single people (such as me) should be able to spend their holidays how they wish, but surely the default would be that the people with small children get to stay put because they’re the most logistically inconvenienced.

                1. VintageLydia*

                  You’re comment about the Boomer generation reminded me of something. That all the so-called “traditional” Christmas songs all came out when most Boomers were little kids, and now we’re all trying to recreate their childhoods every Christmas ;)

                2. Rana*

                  That’s interesting. When I was a kid (Gen X) Christmas and Thanksgiving were normally events that happened at home; my grandparents and godparents would come to visit, usually in alternating years, but we never went anywhere much ourselves (and if we did, it was usually camping). My husband’s family, on the other hand, has expectations about the holidays happening a certain way – and usually at the same location, year after year – so it’s been interesting adapting to that way of thinking.

                  (In practice it means that Thanksgiving is always with his father’s relatives – it’s a huge, catered reunion weekend thing – while we trade off between his mother and my parents for Christmas. This may change if we someday buy a house, though.)

                3. khilde*

                  Yeah, that is a really fascinating question. And what Lydia said about recreating the Boomers’ childhoods….well, I can believe it :) :)

                  And I totally agree with you and a few others that the people with small children (or kids in general) should get to stay put. I’m lucky in that my parents have said often – “we’ll come to you. It’s a lot easier for us to travel than it is for you guys.” It just makes sense!

      4. College Career Counselor*

        I’m so tired of dealing with a MIL who throws a mini tantrum every time we can’t do things by her “tradition.”

        I have some of this with my MIL, too. Several years ago, we moved about 1400 miles away (took her grandchildren away, too). Ironically, the three hour flight was much better than the 9+ hour drive before (which we would make several times per year to accommodate family holiday traditions). Nope. She didn’t like to fly. She also got really ticked when we had some renovations done on the house because it meant that we were “putting down roots” and wouldn’t be returning any time soon.

        As for “coming home” to the in-laws’ place, t’s not MY home, it’s yours. My spouse, kids and I have our own home. We’re not “coming home,” we’re visiting. Because frankly, I didn’t grow up there, neither did my kids, and my spouse hasn’t lived there in over 20 years.

        All that said, I actually get along very well with my in-laws, but this is one area that absolutely drives me nuts. However long we stay, it’s not long enough. However many times we visit, it’s not enough. Wherever we move, it’s always too far away, etc.

        1. fposte*

          Which is sort of a blessing, though, because you can drop pleasing her as a goal and do what works for you :-).

        2. Job seeker*

          I am going to be a mother-in-law soon. My son is engaged and believe me it is hard. You want the very best for your child but you still want to be needed. My own in-laws sometimes did not treat me the best. I remember this and want to establish a good relationship with my daughter-in-law to be.

          My father-in-law was kinda mean to me at times and it was hard. They lived far away from us so that helped. But, you do not want to have regrets either. God blessed me and gave me the chance at our last visit to Virginia to go to him and hug him and tell him I loved him.That was our last visit and unknown to me at that time my last chance. He passed away a couple of months later and was not sick at that time we visited. He did not tell me that he loved me then or anything, but I got to make amends for myself.

          I believe we need to remember family are imperfect people. We each have a opportunity every day to reach out and just love them anyway.

          Just love them anyway. I know in every situation you cannot always be close but forgiveness goes a long way. You don’t want to live with a lifetime of regrets.

          1. khilde*

            Good things to remember, Job Seeker. Your posts always have such a tinge of compassion in them. I am largely over my anger at my ILs and what they did, and I have gotten a little sad for my husband lately that his mom and dad are behaving this way. I’d be really hurt if my mom and dad acted this way toward me and my husband. He’s not nearly as emotional and sentimental as I am, but I would think it would sting him a bit. So in some moments my heart swells for them and the relationship that my husband used to have with them. And I am normally a pretty forgiving, forget-about-it type of person. However, right now I’m struggling with the question of: at what point do you have to protect your heart and your stress level from people in your life who aren’t willing to change?
            I am a pretty new believer in Christ, never having growing up with that in my family. But I came to believe about 4 years ago right before my daughter was born. I can fully attest to how much God can soften your heart toward things you have previously hardened them to. So I do struggle with the call to forgive, love, etc. balanced against the feelings of the flesh, if you will. How I want to rant and rave and scream and shout over how they’ve hurt me. I have never, ever had to deal with people like them in my life before. It’s hard. So I appreciate your gentle reminder. :)

            1. Job seeker*

              I really understand how hard this is. I lived some of it. I married the only son in the family, so I was/am the only daughter-in-law. My sister-in-laws (my husband’s three sisters) sometimes were OK. I always wanted to be a part of them but never could quite have that relationship. I tried so hard for years. You seem like a sweet person and just continue to do your best. Congratulations on your new baby. Sometimes, time can help change things. Stay a team (you and your husband) and hopefully as time goes by they will be able to make adjustments.:-)

    9. Anonymous*

      I lie. I know it isn’t something that most people think of as a really great thing but it makes my relationship with some really potentially toxic family much better. “No, I can’t spend all day with you today, I have plans at 2 but we can get together for an hour for lunch.” Plans are generally be home, play games, read, bake bread, maybe go for a walk. But I will lie and come up with something else because all of those things are unacceptable to many people as a no I don’t want to do whatever. So I have plans. In this kind of case I think lying is much easier than trying to get someone to understand that you just don’t have the time/interest/emotional capital/desire to spend time with them.

      1. khilde*

        I agree with you 100% I have told my husband that – let’s just tell them we have other plans, etc. But I think lying overall doesn’t sit well with him (guess I’m not such a conscientous person! haha). I think it’s an excellent tactic when you have to deal with unreasonable people that sort of force you to lie to them because they can’t handle the truth. I’m happy to see that works out in real life and it wasn’t just be being a snot!! :)

        1. Anonymous*

          It absolutely works. For me the real problem is I get emotionally exhausted after even a couple hours with someone. When I try to tell people they get upset and think it means I don’t like spending time with them and dig in heels about the issue. No I like spending time with you that’s why I’m choosing to be exhausted and spend 2 hours with you rather than not. But this answer hurts lots of feelings. Oh I have other plans so we can only hang out for 2 hours doesn’t hurt feelings. So if you really want the other person to accept then sometimes lying is the way to go.

          If your husband isn’t willing to lie and isn’t willing to stand up and say NO this is NOT OK then I don’t know know what to tell you.

          1. khilde*

            I guess in fairness we haven’t had the chance/reason to lie lately since we haven’t seen them or talked to them for 5 months! Perhaps after this last straw we experienced, my husband will be more willing to act in one of those areas (lying to avoid the drama or just telling it like it is). But yes, at a certain point that’s pretty much all a person is left with so better to pick from the lesser of two evils! (which I like lying) :)

      2. Not so NewReader*

        “I lie.”

        It took me a VERY long time to realize this is NOT a lie to say “I have plans”.
        This is what unhealthy, toxic relationships do- they distort reality.
        Reality IS that we need down time- to recharge ourselves, recharge our marriages, spend one-on-one time with the kids while they are STILL kids. In this fast paced world we HAVE to plan our time outs. We have to make dates with our spouses, set up a play time with the kids, etc. We have to be deliberate or these things just don’t happen.
        The fact that the in-laws make you feel guilty or make you feel like you have to explain that (get out your Captain Obvious hat), shows how far down the road this relationship has gone.

        This was such a difficult concept for me to grasp but once I started getting it I switched to being upset with myself for allowing things to go so far awry in the first place.
        Never, ever again will I be soooo drawn in. Oh yeah, I still stumble now and again- there is a learning curve to this- but I nip it much sooner than I used to.

        1. fposte*

          “It took me a VERY long time to realize this is NOT a lie to say “I have plans.”

          Absolutely. And you do not need to quantify or identify those plans to other people, because your decision about them is the right one, and that’s all that counts.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            In fact, it’s better to stop at the “I have plans” or “I’m not available then”. It’s not a lie at that point. When you give reasons, then they start evaluating if those reasons are good enough. You don’t need their approval for your life, so let them know when you are available, and don’t give reasons for when you are not.

        2. khilde*

          NSNR – do you think that your knowledge and clear ability to see and set boundaries is something that just has to happen as a result of time, experience, and age? I’m 32 and my husband is 35, so we’re young in the sense that we’re in the middle of a life transition from becoming childless adult children to parents and heads of our own household. I suppose his parents are going through the transition phase, too, as they are dealing with changing life roles.

          I know that when I look back on my 22 year old self, I was not capable or aware of things that my 32 year old self is. I wonder if that’s the way it is with toxic families – sometimes you don’t get clarity until you’ve lived through the onslaughts and only then could you get the lesson?

          1. Not so NewReader*

            I was about 30-35 when I started realizing something had to give. I got pretty sick, and I realized I had let go of so much of me that my health was in the latrine. So, yeah, a brick wall had to fall on my head.

            I am 52 now. I see other 30 somethings going through their own awakening. It makes me feel relived. I think it is pretty normal to throw the brakes on negative stuff when we get into our 30s. I think that I was coming into my own- setting goals/following dreams. And yeah, life experience showed me that there were different ways of approaching life and relationships. And reading helped- The Boundaries book was a big help but there were many other books. I was a “Chicken Soup” book addict for quite a while- because I needed to just soak in good stories and good role models. No one thing- just a combo of things.

            My rule of thumb is that when a person losses their temper they are actually saying “I do not have the skill set to handle this matter.” When I found myself losing my temper I would try to pick a topic to read on that related to my current upset. My goal is to widen my skill sets. That seems to be something that will take a life time. I think each decade (of age) brings a new awakening.
            It’s a good thing- a relief.

            1. VintageLydia*

              “My rule of thumb is that when a person losses their temper they are actually saying “I do not have the skill set to handle this matter.” When I found myself losing my temper I would try to pick a topic to read on that related to my current upset.”

              This is excellent. I’ll try to do the same.

              1. khilde*

                Ditto – that’s really insightful. I am thinking of my three year old melting down this morning as well as other adults in my life (me included!) that lose control. And that’s exactly what’s going on. Good food for thought.

    10. SerfinUSA*

      I just spend my holidays with people I like, related or not.

      My grandmother was a real mean biddy for part of her life, and we grandkids decided to boycott her. She eventually improved enough to be tolerable for the usual family gatherings. I did feel bad that my mom and aunt were left running interference, but even they limited interactions as much as possible then.

      Your in-laws may or may not come around if you boycott them, but you might at least get some relief. Just cut them off. You don’t need passive-aggressive phone snooping hell. Your kids don’t need to grow up thinking bad behavior is acceptable if it’s from relatives.

      Let your husband take the kids for visits, or maybe he’ll get on board too. Pick a time period, maybe even write up a ‘declaration of intent’ with expected behavior, and see what happens. Either they’ll snap out of it, or you’ll get some healthy distance.

      And take back your family time!

      1. khilde*

        Serfin’ – your comment is so full of win I have nothing else to add. Amen and thanks for saying it. :)

      2. 22dncr*

        AMEN Serfin! That’s what I’ve done. Life is just too short to waste it on toxic people! Why put up with crap from family that you wouldn’t put up with from your friends? When you’ve been listed as the black sheep by your family there is no win so just cut it. They think they have power over you because they would never have the guts to cut all ties. So, have the guts!

      3. Mo*

        Yes, this. For whatever reason, my paternal grandma didn’t like my mom. She made every trip to visit my extended family awful for my mom. Eventually my mom stopped going. Then my grandma decided to take out her dislike of my mom onto me and my brother… Well, I stopped going to visit when I was 13, and then years later my brother stopped going at about the same age. I totally support boycotting toxic family members!

        My mom kept us in the dark about all of the stuff she had to put up with until we were older. But around 10, I was at an age where I could start recognizing how my grandma used to treat me nicely, and how she suddenly did a 180 and treated me like garbage. Now as an adult, all I can think of is I wish my mom hadn’t subjected herself to all that harrassment and drama just so I could see family because it was the “right thing to do”. Because it wasn’t, not if they were going to treat us horribly.

        1. khilde*

          This sounds like something my dad could have written. He moved our family to be closer to his mother when I was in grade school because he thought it would help us get to know her better. But I don’t think it worked out the way he thought and I think he has regrets over doing that. I think he sacrified a lot to move us there. However, I had a really happy childhood during those years so it wasn’t all for naught. But your last sentence is spot on. I often wonder how the parents in-law to child in-law problem affects the children (grandchildren) eventually.

    11. Ali*

      So first time commenting but I’ve been reading for awhile. I am the now adult child of parents who have a strained relationship with a grandparent. Mine was awful, one of my earliest memories is my grandmother yelling at my mom about us taking too long to get to their house at christmas. It was an eight hour drive that took ten with two toddlers. So My parents set up the rule that Santa could only find us at our house and that has stuck for over 20 years now.

      1. khilde*

        Ali – welcome! so glad you commented because I have often wondered what the effect on the kids is. You’re living proof of how that can go. This past Christmas before Armageddon hit, our daughter (3 yrs) was extremely clingy, whiny, and more difficult than she normally is. I couldn’t figure it out, but my mom later asked me if I think that our daughter could sense the stress and tension. And that totally made sense. Kids are so sensitive to stuff like that. And that made me tell our husband tearfully after we got home – “why the hell would we want Brooke’s memories of Christmas to be mommy and daddy all pissed off when we left?!” Or all tense and weird while we’re there. Because my husband and I both act very differently when we have to be around his family – we’re much more stifled.

        I feel pretty positive that we are moving that direction with Santa. That he comes to our family home on Christmas Eve and people can either come and be part of it if they want or we will get together with them at another time. But Christmas Eve is for the four of us now. Thanks for giving your perspective!

        1. Ali*

          I’m actually super grateful for the close relationship I have with my nuclear family and Christmas just us I cherish. Other holidays can be invaded by extended family but just Christmas with my parents and siblings was wonderful. In all honesty I think presents and Christmas foods are enough stimulus without drama.

    12. Anonymous*

      The children may well know differently. My family made duty Sunday visits to my “difficult” paternal grandmother throughout my early childhood. Limited though those visits were, my sister, who was younger and quite sensitive, suffered intensely from the charged atmosphere over the teacups, while I kept my head down, then and later, lest I attract my mother’s repressed rage.

      1. khilde*

        Oh exactly!! Why put anyone through that let alone the kids? Cause then everyone’s just mad and yucky. Some might argue that it might be good for kids to be exposed to that since they’ll likely have to deal with dysfunctional people later on. Meh, I think there will be time for those lessons when they’re older.

        1. OneoftheMichelles*

          But doesn’t knuckling under and cooperating with the rotten treatment get them in a habit of tolerating being mistreated? That’s what my rude upbringing taught me. :’P

    13. LMW*

      I don’t think that there’s a rule that you have to spend the holidays with blood relatives. Or trade off or be “even” with different sides, etc. I already know there’s going to be a war between our mothers if bf and I get hitched over who gets us which holiday and I’m not looking forward to it (although in my case, everyone involved is lovely and communicative and lives within reasonable driving distance, which makes it easier to work something out).
      That said: My dad does not get along with my mom’s sisters at all. And they are sometimes really rude to him (political differences). But my mom is really close to them, and my sister and I are close to them, and I appreciate that he put up with their bs at family functions for years and kept a level head because it let my sister and I grow up without being put in the center of strained relationships. And now that I’m a grown adult, I can see the head-butting (which, to be fair, is also my dad’s fault) and have a clear view of who is responsible for which disagreements, but I have the benefit of a loving, solid relationship with all of them and don’t have to choose sides. My dad could have just decided that we didn’t need to do family things with them. They lived far, far away and his family isn’t much closer and it would have been much easier. But I’m glad he didn’t, because that’s the foundation of my relationship with them.

      1. khilde*

        I appreciate this perspective, too, LMW. It was very big of your dad to put up with it all those years, particularly because your mom had a good relationship/wanted a relationship with her sisters.

        I won’t go so far as to say my husband hates his sister, cause that’s not entirely true. What’s one level down from hate? He’s just very much not interested in a relationship with her. I can’t tell if that’s the way they’ve always been or if it’s just recently since she’s shown herself to be so overbearing. It’s all weird for me because my brother and I are about as different as we can be, but we’re super close. Family dynamics are just weird, aren’t they?

        1. LMW*

          They are, aren’t they. I think my mom’s relationship with her sisters was the key here. Also, no one was ever intentionally malicious (as it seems your SIL is being).

      1. khilde*

        Thanks, Victoria :) I wasn’t expecting so many people to actually comment on this one. Thought it might be too much to try and tackle. But I really appreciate everyone coming on and offering a nice word or some perspective.

    14. Not so NewReader*

      Khilde, I am so sorry you are going through all this nonsense.
      I get into stuff like this with family and I just want to shake them- don’t they know there are real issues out there- why create stuff where there is no need?

      About the phone- they got what they deserved. Sorry- that sounds cold. I forget which advice columnist that says it- if you snoop and you find out something you do not like- that is a problem YOU created. I am really short on empathy for their upset here. I supposed they have never once said any thing the least bit negative about any one, right? Their behavior is exemplary?

      My in-laws vanished from my life after my husband died. In that moment I learned more about my husband, than I did in all my years of marriage.
      I learned:
      1) This is not personal- it is a WAY of LIFE. For example: Why should I be treated better than the blood relatives– they a distant/aloof with each other- why would they be close with ME?
      2)I can tell you, from personal experience- your husband married you because he saw an opportunity at a different way of living. He instinctively knows there is a better way of taking in the world but he is not sure how to find it and use it. This is how you are his strength to him. He is your strength to you in other ways.
      3)Encouraging my dad and my husband to spend time together was one of the best moves I ever made.
      4) The time we spent NOT talking about family issues was the time the most healing and re-weaving went on. Why? Because topics were about moving forward with our own lives. We talked about jobs, houses, puppies etc. The way to escape a toxic dynamic is to build a positive dynamic of your own. Like you are saying my husband gradually moved away from his family, he grew.
      5) Big picture perspective helps so much. It helps to understand why a person is the way they are. I read books like “Motherless Daughters” and other similar books. The authors stress looking at the way our parents were raised. If their parents did not teach them X or Y- chances are our parents did not learn it on their own. Unless they deliberately chose to learn X or Y, of course.
      Interesting, one book quoted women as saying “I have a terrible relationship with my mother (or MIL) but my kids get along fine with her. And that became a coping tool in my relationship with her. She is good to my kids and I get to see the good side of her.”
      6) Nothing stays the same for very long. In the moment, it feels like centuries of in-fighting. Looking back, I now see all the twists and turns in the story line- births/deaths/marriages/illnesses all brought about shifts in how the relationship was. It will not be this intense forever.

      Going back to the phone which seems to have triggered this how thing: “Gee, MIL, I am sorry you feel that way. But I cannot control what others think or say. This is why it is important not to go through other people’s things. You don’t know the context of that conversation so, of course, it would be upsetting to you.”
      That’s it. Say nothing further.

      And about that three hour rant- I would have sat there and listened to it too. But through reading these advice books, I learned that I must set my limits. I will not deal with shouting. I will not deal with being cussed at. I am not five years old any more. I can drive. I can walk out of the house, get in my car and LEAVE. I am an adult now.

      Learn to look them in the eyes. Stop looking away. Hold your ground. Don’t worry about what they see in your eyes- they will fill in the gaps with whatever they want to anyway. But, to me, eye avoidance means a mis-balance of power. Don’t give that up.

      Everyone here has added some really good ideas, so this is just my two cents. Again, very sorry- this so sucks. Hug your hubby.

      1. khilde*

        Oh, you always have such good stuff to say! I seriously want to be your mentee in real life :)

        I’ll be sure to go back over your points and absorb them. But your last few paragraphs especially hit hard about looking people in the eyes (they’ll just make up whatever they see anyway!). If I could master that tendency to be the first to back down then I might feel more confident about going into the snake pit.
        Oh, and I loved point #2 – this is Truth!

    15. Lindsay J*

      Can you establish your own family traditions that mean that you will be able to have some memories without the problem in-laws?

      For example, for my family we always had Christmas Eve dinner at my mom’s mom’s house, where we would eat, have dessert, and then do a family gift exchange between all my aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side.

      Christmas morning was reserved just for my parents, me, and my brother, where we would have breakfast and open gifts from Santa and from eachother.

      After opening presents on Christmas morning and after my Dad’s Mom was done with church we would go over to her house and exchange gifts with her.

      Then my mom would cook Christmas dinner at our house and we would have both sets of grandparents over.

      This way we got to spend significant amounts of time with everyone. However, my parents still had Christmas morning alone with us without all the potential drama that extended family can bring.

      1. khilde*

        Lindsay – that’s what my husband and I have been trying to do in the last year or so. We figure the other dynamics are too hard to tackle at the moment, but we’ll start experimenting with and finding the traditions/moments/time we want to reserve for just our little family. So far we’ve deferred to doing our thing on the 23rd or the night of the 25th. But I’m thinking that needs to stop. We’ll do our thing on the actual damn holiday and then we can do extended family in the other days. We have a bit of a challenge with everyone being 3 hours apart – it’s hard to bounce from family to family within a day or two of each other. But still, we could work out something. Thanks for the good reminder.

        1. Caffeine Queen*

          I am fortunately very lucky with my own family and soon-to-be in-laws but I will say that getting a new set of family has proven to be very overwhelming for me. Planning my wedding in general has been quite overwhelming.

          Let me explain. I’ve always been the super-independent, somewhat aloof one in my family. I went far away to a major city for college, supported myself while I was still in college, and traveled really far away for study abroad, to a country that isn’t commonly thought of when people think of “studying abroad.” I even chose my own faith as a teen, with their support. My family is also used to me making my own decisions without needing to consult them-they know that I don’t always ask them for advice but that I might run it by someone else and they’re OK with that. I’m a gregarious person but when I want to keep things private, I expect that to be respected and I make it clear that I have the right to not explain myself. My family knows I’m responsible-I always was the “good kid” in my family-and I expect to be trusted because of that. Even with my crazier decisions, my family knows and trusts my rationale for them, as well as that they usually turn out to be the best decisions for me.

          This system worked perfectly until I got engaged. Then, all of a sudden, everything I wanted to do for my wedding now NEEDED parental input. To add to it, I always had more of an unconventional view of my wedding, incorporating some traditions that showcase my beliefs more, and they took it like I was trying to insult the family. Thankfully, I’ve found a way past it, by incorporating my family into some of my unconventional ideas. However, I chose my own faith and my family does not have a lot of traditions to begin with. To say this all was shocking is an understatement. I honestly had no idea where it all was coming from. I naively thought that choosing a religion would showcase that I would follow my own traditions and no one would get crazy. I do understand that weddings are a big occasion and maybe my family was realizing how much it mattered to them to be involved in my plans. But I wish they would have said that and said, “hey, we totally respect you want to do your own thing, but just remember, it’s a big day for us too and we are hoping you’ll involve us in this”. Instead, it turned into months of them throwing fits and me trying to figure out how to explain what I wanted without feeling like I was the bad guy (and I didn’t explain myself very well, but I was legit taken aback). It felt like they truly didn’t understand me or what I wanted and instead were putting me in a box, which I was never fond of and I naively thought they should have known that.

          On top of it, my in-laws are used to being super involved in my partner’s life and it makes them feel they have a right to tell me what to do. To add, they are all well educated and have held great careers , so they think they can tell us how to run our careers, not realizing of course, that our fields are completely different from theirs and they really don’t understand what’s normal for us. And they want us to visit them all. the. time. Not to mention, my partner and I haven’t even taken a vacation by ourselves yet and they’re already asking us to commit to long vacations with them. They’re great people, but I don’t want family to be that involved with my life. Thankfully, my partner has been standing his ground with them and they’ve started understanding.

          I know that I’m lucky and I’m sorry for venting about the things that seem silly at the end of the day. I’m still pretty young , myself but I thought my family was above family politics. And, when I first met my partner’s family, they seemed a bit involved but like they realized he and I were adults and were starting to ease up. You see, I always heard that families get crazy around weddings but this is the first time I really experienced it. That, and crazy extended family, but please don’t get me started.

          I know my story’s not that bad and I have it pretty good. This was just a very rude awakening for me. To add, I have been dealing with something that happened to me a long time ago, and started a new job a couple months ago. New job is awesome but I’m still learning the ropes and it’s a very fast paced environment with a lot of deadlines (they’re good about balance though, they don’t want me to stay late on Fridays because, “It’s the weekend, go home” and they were encouraging me to take more vacation, not less, around my wedding-still, it’s pretty busy). Needless to say, the wine has been flowing in my household.

          OK, sorry for writing for so long. Thanks for letting me vent!

  12. Ag*

    I work in a small-ish company (25+/- people) and many people have been with the company for a number of years. Most people have been here at least 5 years, some 10, some more. I’ve been here for 6 months.

    The office manager, who has been here 17+ years, often makes snarky and unprofessional comments about the CEO and about changes happening with the company…in front of a group of 10 or more people. (Like, complaining about duties within her job description that she just doesn’t want to do, making comments about how dumb she thinks a new initiative is, or comments directly about the CEO and his “stupidity.” I find this really unprofessional and demotivating, especially since she is at a higher level than those she is speaking to and since we are making lots of changes, I feel being positive is important.

    I know she has been spoken with before. She has been here much longer than me, obviously, but we report to the same person (I’m a manager also, we report to a director).

    Should I talk to her about it? I’m afraid she will have a vendetta against me if I do, not only because I’m new but also because I’m much younger than her, and she seems to take things personally. Should I talk to my boss?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Chinook*

      Are you working at my last job? We had one toxic employee who insisted nothing new would ever work, undermined any attempt at new ideas and procedures and actively dissed anyone below her on the food chain unless they could help her do stuff. I tried to have her mentor me, tried to explain new ideas to her (because that was why I was hired) and eventually realized nothing was going to change (especially since she was related to one of the VPs). I then became grateful I didn’t work in the space as her, wsa a polite and professional as possible to her face and asked everyone else for help before I went to her (partially because her help was so condescending).

      I would be careful about talking to your boss unless you suspect the other person is bad mouthing you to her. If you do mention it, I would frame it as asking for help on interacting better with this person so that you could do your job more professionally and competently. Maybe there are tricks to help getting her onside that those who have worked with her for ages know that aren’t obvious to you.

    2. Beth*

      I work in a similar environment where there’s a trust person who bad mouths upper management. You have two choices 1) it’s really not your problem. Ignore it and distance yourself from it. If you can leave the room when the conversation turns this way. I’ve stopped eating in the lunch room so I won’t be attached to that behavior. 2) pull her aside “I know I’m new here, but I think there’s a danger in badmouthing management to those who work for us. I’ve always been encouraged to not complain down. There’s a danger in your reputation being ruined if these people repeat what you’ve said.”

    3. 22dncr*

      Never, never, NEVER forget how long she’s been there. They know what she’s like and have decided to (because of the one talking to that did no good) deal/live with it. This is not your battle. You can never win against someone with that amount of tenure. You need to manage your reaction to this and decide if it’s a deal breaker because it is not going to change. Remember: People will not change until the pain of the change is less than the pain of not changing.

      1. Annie*

        Agree with this! Everyone, I’m sure, knows of her attitude and if she still allowed to behave this way then leave it be and just try to block out her negative behavior for yourself.

    4. Anonymous*

      Hope she retires soon. That’s apparently the solution that my company is going with. If you get enough people to retire you don’t really have to worry about the issue of change because you have new people.

      I’d try to be a positive force, I know it is hard but show excitement about the changes and keep walking them forward.

  13. Anon*

    Anyone out there with mild ADD or ADHD?

    I would love some attention focusing tips – I am in sales, which I quite enjoy, but find it hard not to lose focus. What tips and tricks work for you all?

    1. Anon-Mouse*

      It took 20+ years of my life (therapy and a mix-and-match of antidepressants and diagnoses throughout) before a spot on an MRI and a shrewd neurologist figured out I had mild ADD and treated me for it. All of that suffering and frustration, and he fixed it in five minutes. :/

      ANYWHO: Tips!

      First, make sure you’re on a medication that works. I’m on Adderal XR and I’m quite happy on it. However, I’ve managed to stem the constant dosage bumps by not taking my meds on weekends or basically any days that I don’t work. My family teases me for being a space-cadet on those days, but I’ve found that being on this regimen (and especially after the holiday season, where vacation time means a solid chunk of med-free-days) makes the meds FAR more effective. And I’ve stabilized on my dosage.

      Second: Lists, and schedules. So many lists and schedules! You’re going to lose focus occasionally–the best way to mitigate mistakes is to always know what the ‘next step’ is, so that you know where you’re going. Eventually, these lists/schedules become habits, and you’ll find your work so much more manageable.

      Finally, make your deadlines more flexible without affecting other people. The best way to do that is to jump ahead, if possible. For example, I was having trouble meeting a monthly deadline. To fix that, I jumped ahead two months. Now I know I have 30 days to get this done (rather than a week or so). It doesn’t affect the other departments that needed the data at all (except that now they always get them on-time) and I’m able to do it at my own pace.

      1. A Bug!*

        Anon-Mouse, it’s heartening to hear that you were able to find a solution to your problem, even if it came decades later than it should have. I always hear stories about how ADD/ADHD is over-diagnosed as an alternative to discipline, but it seems to me that it’s also under-diagnosed, so that there are people on unnecessary medication but also many people struggling with the effects of an undiagnosed disorder.

        If you don’t mind my asking, how long did it take from the diagnosis to finding the right medication, and that medication having an effect on your work?

        1. Anon-Mouse*

          It was definitely a relief to hear that my problem was such a simple one. It’s frustrating too, because I went through a lot of heartache to get there, but at least I got there. I was diagnosed with everything from severe depression to bipolar 2 and was put on a bakers dozen of different drugs (from anti-depressants to stabilizers). Then one day, after going over my history, a neurologist gave me one narrow-eyed look and say “your psychiatrists are seriously over-medicating you. ” The rest is blissful history.

          I only tried one other ADD-specific medication before Adderal (I forget the name, but it was a relatively newer one. I think it started with a Q? Regardless, it had a side effect of severe nausea, at least for me, so I only lasted on it for about two week). My doctor switched me to what I’m on now, and I’ve never been healthier or more balanced. As for how soon I saw an effect, it was basically immediate. Adderal (like I think most ADD meds, though I could be wrong) isn’t the type of medication that needs to build up in your system, like antideppressants do. You should feel differently immediately.

          My particular brand of ADD manifests in severe lack of energy and lack of motivation (in addition to minor focus issues), so within 45 minutes of taking my med, I see an immediate up-tick in energy level, and I’m able to focus that energy to do what I need to do (unlike, say, caffeine). The trade-off is that even the XR versions clear out of your system eventually, so you usually hit a slump after 7-8 hours or so. The way I know I need to address my dosages (or take a med-holiday, which is my preferred course) is when I see the slump creeping up earlier and earlier in the work-day.

          1. A Bug!*

            Thanks! I appreciate you spending the time to share that. And also I’m glad you’re on something that works now!

          2. fposte*

            Additional thanks. I’ve always vaguely wondered if I have mild ADD–maybe I’ll ask my doctor next time.

        2. Chinook*

          “hear stories about how ADD/ADHD is over-diagnosed as an alternative to discipline, but it seems to me that it’s also under-diagnosed”.

          I think we have to remember that, for a certain generation, all those disorders that are now being diagnosed were not even thought of. As a result, we adults who grew up with behavioural/psychological/medical issues would learn to accept that we were different and create work arounds that never really solved the issued.

          Case in point – I look at the current discoveries they are making about concussions and mental illnesses. Back in the 70’s, in northern Alberta, I had a concussion so bad I lost my eye sight. There was no air ambulance, no MRIs and once my eye sight came back the next day they sent me home to recuperate and figured out everything is okay. If that had happenned now, there would be a flight to a pediatrics hospital, a cagillion tests and a treatment that would prevent the mental issues I have now. Just having the knowledge that the concussion may have caused permanent damage no one knew about back then changes my treatment (i.e. the depression is not going to go away in a few months and I will be on some type of drug for the rest of my life which is not typical for most people with my symptoms).

          My rambling point is this – if you are over a certain age (maybe 30’s) and you wonder if you have the same problem kids today are being diagnosed with, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about it. It may not change your reality but it is a relief to know that it is’t “all in your head.”

          1. Jessa*

            Absolutely. Also it’s harder for adults, because there are a lot of practitioners who are still “ADD/HD is a kids problem.”

            I hope you’re doing better now that you know there’s an organic origin to what’s going on with you. A friend of mine found out that there was a birth injury she was never told about (she was over 55 when she was told.) That stuff totally changes the treatment plans.

          2. Christine*

            I sometimes wonder if my issues have been misdiagnosed. I do have a congenital condition, but the effects are on the mild end and just all kinda overlap, making me wonder what my life would be like if all of the technology and services in place today existed 20-30 years ago. Oh I don’t mean to say that my life has been horrible–far from it–I just think I would be in a much better place career-wise.

            Anon-Mouse – Glad to hear you’ve found a treatment that works well for you. Sometimes it is trial-and-error.

      2. Jessa*

        Totally lists and schedules. Pick something that you like and will look at a lot. Because if you don’t remember to look at it, it’s useless. I happen to have a desk with a metal frame, so I have bitty (4×4) whiteboards. They come with magnets on the back and I have a stack of them across the top of my desk.

        If you like a device, Google “best task managers” for your style device. And try them all and pick the one that you like best. It’s worth it to pay for one if it does what you need. But try a bunch of them because they all work differently and every ADD/HD person manages differently. The one that works for one person might not work for another. Also if you’re a paper person, one of those organiser notebook things (Filofax, etc.) are really good things. Don’t go tech if you don’t want to. Paper also lets you make doodles and stuff on it.

        Colour coding helps a lot, they teach that to ADD and ADHD kids in school now because it’s so workable. If you can make a system that you can look at and immediately go “okay that’s a red thing, must do now. Must complete and not do anything else til that red is done.”

        Build in breaks. Build in time even if it’s 5 minutes an hour to go run around and be whacky inside your head. If you need to fidget, build in fidget time. If you need to walk around, find a task that you need to get up for and schedule it at your “OMG if I don’t move now I’m going to die,” time. You’re allowed to be fidgety and “gotta run now,” it’s just mature to do it in an adult and not “kid” manner. IE controlled. But in no way is it obligatory for you to sit and be still and quiet and controlled 24/7/365.

        Yes the right meds help. Some people do amazingly on meds and there are very good new studies about ADD/HD in adults. It used to be a big stigma because “only kids are ADD/HD,” BUNK!

        1. Anon-Mouse*

          omg yes color-coding! I’ve become a spread-sheet goddess, keeping track of every step and using the fill tool to make it completely clear what’s complete, in progress, needs immediate attention, needs attention w/in 30 days, etc.

          Spreadsheets and lists and basically logging/tracking your work progress is not only hugely helpful for ADD, but a really valuable work skill (aka ‘metrics’).

          Also, added bonus, checking things off makes you feel accomplished.

          1. Jessa*

            Totally it does make you feel awesome to get things ticked off your list.

            And yes it’s a valuable skill. I guess my “adapt this stuff,” mentality comes from being a former Special Education Teacher. There was someone who did a study maybe 15 years or more ago, that giving kids in school, colour coded stuff for their subjects made it easier on them.

      3. Lindsay J*

        Mental checklists I have found are the most important thing. It is inevitable that I will be distracted at some point during the day, so at the end of each task I have a mental checklist to go through to ensure that each step was done. This way when I am checking I realize “Oh, I didn’t do *whatever* and go back and do it rather than allowing it to slip through the cracks.

        I also have mental checklists to ensure that I have all my items and everything is done before leaving the house in the morning, and before leaving work at the end of the night.

    2. Anon*

      Have you thought about neurofeedback? I work for a neurofeedback clinic, and while it sounds a bit hokey, seeing these people come in with severe problems and then a few weeks later walk out finally able to be “normal” is absolutely crazy and awesome.

      Insurance usually doesn’t cover it, and like I said I didn’t think it really worked until I saw it first hand. ADHD is a common issue they deal with.

  14. Jubilance*

    I need help with figuring out what I want to do next in my career.

    I’m in my 3rd position, at my 3rd company. In my 2 previous moves, I was trying to escape, either to a new geographic location or from a horrible job. So now I’m at a company I love, in a role I enjoy, the corporate culture is great & I see myself staying longterm. My company’s culture is one that values people having lots of varied experiences, so it’s common for people to stay in role 1-3 years and then move to a new dept, functional area or role. I’m 9 months into my role and I’m already getting the “what do you want to do next?” questions, from my manager and other senior leaders. Not in a pushy way, more in a “how can we help you develop and link you up with the right people?”.

    I’ve never thought longterm about my career in this way and I have no idea where to start or what I want to do next. I meet a lot of people in my current role, and I’ve learned about some interesting roles/depts but they are extremely varied. How do I start narrowing down what I want to do next? How do I plan my career longterm, realizing that it’s probably going to be similar to a crab walking (more side to side) than zooming up the corporate ladder? Any suggestions?

    1. Colette*

      1. Pick a few things you’ve accomplished, things you’ve done well.
      2. For each one, list what skills you used (analysis, organization, problem solving, creativity, design, etc.)
      3. Make a list of things you like to do.
      4. For each one, list what skills you use.
      5. Figure out where 2 + 4 overlap – i.e things you’re good at that you enjoy.

      Once you know that, start thinking about what kinds of roles use those skills. (Or share them here, and get suggestions, which is very helpful and is what I did on the last open thread.)

      I actually went through this process the first time I was laid off, and it really helped me focus on what came next.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        That’s what they need to do for career counseling, instead of listing potential jobs and seeing what people think they’d like.

    2. fposte*

      In addition to Colette’s excellent advice, you say you really like the people where you currently work and the culture is very open to movement. Are there people there already following some of these paths that you can take out for an informational coffee and chat do about how they got there and what they do and don’t like? What about leaders in the field doing things you might like to do some day–do you know what kinds of knowledge prepared them?

      1. Jubilance*

        I was, but for this new role I’ve switched careers. I’m now a supply chain analyst at a large retailer. But still lots of data analysis and process improvement, which I enjoy.

        1. Lora*

          Well, getting a broader experience in operations certainly helps senior management see you as “big picture thinker”. I would recommend trying to get some experience in Lean Management. It is basically the whole Toyota management thing, but with more buzzwords, stats and a set format for certain kinds of workshops.

          (Fair warning: It’s easy to sign up for workshops and seminars and all that, and do some Operational Excellence type projects. It’s harder to make it work in organizations that do not have a culture of achieving consensus in their leadership.)

    3. Joey*

      I think you can better select where you want to go if you first prioritize what’s important to you: money, prestige, work/life balance, pressure to perform, having a bigger impact, etc

    4. Anonymous*

      Go visit any department that you might be interested in, talk to the people. Find out what they like about their jobs. Find out why they think they are good at their job. You’ve got time to figure out where you want to go, go ask questions!

    5. Not so NewReader*

      I would suggest making a list of things you are good at. What types of projects/tasks have you done where you said “OH BOY! I really nailed this! I got it!”
      Sometimes we can figure out what we are good at by looking for common threads in our cohort’s questions. Is everyone asking you computer questions because you seem to be the go-to person? Or are people asking you to trudge through piles of numbers because you are the one who can figure out why there is a shortage of item X?

  15. Anonicorn*

    I was waiting for one of these! I’m curious about something I haven’t seen brought up on AAM before.

    Does anyone else work in an office where the janitor/cleaning staff comes by to collect the trash in the middle of the day while you’re at work? And if so, how do you deal with the interruption?

    My trash is collected every day, usually when I’m right in a “sweet spot” and it interrupts me every day. It feels rude to completely ignore their presence in my office – I at least say “hello, good morning.” Sometimes if I have a tight deadline and I absolutely need uninterrupted concentration, I’ll just close my door. But closed doors are not the culture in my workplace.

    I feel this is something I just have get over and deal with. But I was mostly curious if this happens elsewhere and what other people do.

    1. VictoriaHR*

      You could leave your trash can outside your office when you know they’ll be coming by soon. That way you won’t have to interact with them.

    2. Sascha*

      I also vote for leaving it outside your office. I worked in a place once with a similar situation and I hated to just ignore them. But if your door is pulled and the trash it outside that makes easier to prevent the interruption.

    3. Anon*

      Are you in an office? If you know the schedule and you know it’s a deadline kind of day, could you put the can near the door with a sticky note that says “Thanks!” on it and have your headphones in when they come by?

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Outside the door seems like a good solution – and if you usually say hello, an occasional downgrade to a nod or event just maintained focus on your work shouldn’t be offensive to the staff. And even if it’s unusual in your office, do you think a closed door (used judiciously) will negatively affect your standing? It certainly may, but sometimes people really don’t care as much as you might think.

      I have the opposite problem – my office is in a secured area that our cleaning service doesn’t have access to. I don’t prioritize housekeeping, so it can get … pretty gross.

      1. Anonicorn*

        No, I don’t think judicious use of a closed door would negatively affect me, but what is intended as judicious use can become “my door is closed all day” because I forget. Oops!

        I also used to have the opposite problem in my old workplace for the same reason (secure area). We just took turns taking out the trash once a week, as best we could remember.

    5. Jessa*

      You can also ask if the staff can change the order they do the offices in.

      On the other hand, it’s not actually inappropriate for cleaning staff to be “business invisible,” you’re not required to break your work concentration to acknowledge them. Now of course this doesn’t mean ignoring them when you see them in the hall or treating them badly. But cleaning staff should be unobtrusive and be understanding if you don’t look up and pay attention to them. That’s part of the job.

      The other thing you can do (considering other people may have the same issue) is ask if it’s possible (if lunch hours are kind of standardised) for them to do trash over the office lunch hour. Ot at some other neutral time for the workers. Because honestly, cleaning staff should be neutral and unobtrusive. There shouldn’t be an interruption for these tasks.

    6. PJ*

      Have two cans. Put the full one outside your office every night before you go home, and train your cleaning folks to empty only the one outside your door. Bad things will probably not happen if you forget to put the full can out for a day or two.

    7. NBB*

      I feel ya. Not only does our cleaning person take the trash, twice a week, it’s nearly an hour of sweeping, mopping (with some sort of cleaner that smells horrible), dusting (all of this right around my desk!) and vacuuming. One time she picked up my coffee mug and asked if it was fresh coffee. The look of horror on my face, oh my.

      /I have a strong aversion to people touching stuff on my desk. Especially things I eat or drink out of.

  16. VictoriaHR*

    Kitteh!! *snorgle*

    So I make handcrafted soap and perfume and sell it at craft fairs and online and such.

    When I’m thinking to order new fragrances to try, I usually go by what people ask for at the craft fairs. But no one’s asked for anything new recently.

    What is your favorite bath/body scent?

        1. Jessa*

          + a zillion for vanilla. I also like amber. Also pomegranate – but JUST pom. I hate pom mixed with stuff. Finding actually real plain pom is hard.

    1. Anon*

      I’ve always been curious about a pumpkin-lavender after that study came out a few years back about the scents that people find most attractive.

    2. KayDay*

      rose, mint, ginger, sandlewood, organge, sage (not all together, however). I like sweet smells mixed with sharper scents, like mango-ginger (or like Sascha, Mint and vanilla), for example.

      1. Sascha*

        Oooh mango ginger sounds awesome.

        I’ve been on a vanilla kick lately. I love to simmer lemon juice, lavender, and vanilla extract on the stove. It fills my house with such a magical scent.

    3. Anonymous*

      I like soft, clean scents. One of my favorites (Breath of God by Lush) has notes of sandalwood, cedar, lemon, rose, ylang-ylang — a really good sweet/fresh/cool/warm combination. Jasmine and lemon. Violets!

      1. VictoriaHR*

        That does sound really good! Lush has some great scents. Too bad they add all those products to the soap to preserve it for the stores and stuff!

    4. Frieda*

      I had a LOVELY bottle of massage oil that was Bergamot and Coriander. When it ran out, the original place I got it from didn’t make it any more and I was SO SAD. It was relaxing without being too flowery, earthy without smelling like dirt. THE BEST.

    5. Claire*

      I tend to favor sweet scents like peach and cherry blossom and sweet pea, but sometimes invigorating ones like pomegranate and cucumber.

    6. LMW*

      Personally, I really dislike food-type scents (fruit, vanilla, etc.) in body scents and soaps. And it’s really hard to find non-fruity or vanilla soap (I know a lot of people love it, and I don’t mind it on other people). I also don’t like overly floral. I do like lavender, and some “spicy” scents that are out there…. I guess my point is that it’s nice to find something different when you are shopping for soap.

      1. Chinook*

        LMW, I am with you about it being hard to find something non-fruity or floral without it smelling manly. Have you tried Bath & Bodyworks Japanese Cherry Blossom line? It has the right balance for me.

      2. Rana*

        I’m with you on that. I like the herby-piney-woodsy scents best.

        So my list would be lavender, mint, rosemary, vetiver (mixed with something else – it’s a bit strong on its own), and sandalwood.

      3. EM*

        Yes! Me too! I like herbal/green scents the best, woodsy, clean, and mild floral. Vanilla is the worst. Ugh. (Sorry vanilla lovers)

    7. Chinook*

      Jasmine, sandlewood and japanese cherry blossom (there is a difference between the Japanese and “regular” cherry blossoms, atleast at the store I buy it at) are all my favourites. My body chemistry must be weird because most scents smell like horse urine on me (it was a good friend who went perfume shopping with me that pointed this out) but the exotics blend beautifully. They are also harder to find in my experience, so you could fill a niche with them.

      1. 22dncr*

        Same here with the chemistry. I find I have to buy only perfumes made from real oils/scents – not chemically created ones. That’s why I’ve been wearing the same perfume for about 40 years.

        1. Jessa*

          Yes, my mother could only wear those scented oils. Perfumes just were horrible on her and would fade in 10 minutes too. That’s not such an unusual thing to need real oils and all.

    8. Ellie H.*

      Grapefruit – it’s my ultimate favorite scent. I love grapefruit everything. Soap, candles, lotion, and I love actual grapefruits and grapefruit juice too. I’m wearing grapefruit essential oil on my wrists and back of my neck right now.

      If you ever end up making grapefruit perfume (or if it is something you already make!) I would buy it immediately, assuming you sell through the mail. :) I have tried the Body Shop’s but it’s too sweet smelling for me.

      1. Windchime*

        Me too, I absolutely love grapefruit scent. I’m in the minority as far as lavender; to me, it smells too strong and sharp so I really don’t care for it at all. I like peach and vanilla as well.

        I really don’t care for actual “perfume” smells. Maybe I just have an unsophisticated sense of smell, but it all smells like bug spray to me!

      2. EM*

        Depending on your market, maybe you could do cocktail-inspired scents. Mojito- mint and maybe a touch of coconut, manhattan- something smoky, maybe musk and sandalwood and cherry, margarita….

    9. Karyn*

      Almond. ALMOND ALMOND ALMOND. And oatmeal. Seriously, these two things are my favorite soap scents ever. Marshall’s carries some amazing soaps that are almond scented and I never want to use them, just keep them in their boxes and huff them in secret! LOL!

    10. 22dncr*

      Bath and Bodyworks used to make a Basil Lime scent that I LOVED! Basil is used in lots of perfumes. I also like Sandlewood. Your Rose Sandlewood sounds nice!

    11. jubileejones*

      For spring/summer, I love citrus scents: grapefruit, orange, lime and lemon. For fall/winter, I love spicy exotic scents: ginger, sandalwood and clove. Mixed scents are also good: orange/ginger or lime/basil/coriander.

      My favourite scent of all time was a perfume from the Body Shop that was discontinued many years ago. I think it was called Indian Rose Pepper and it was spicy with a slight floral notes…I think it was pepper, clove, sandalwood, rose…not sure. I’ve been trying to find something similar for years.

    12. A Bug!*

      I suspect it’s being discontinued, but I am very fond of the “Deep Sleep” line of products that the Body Shop offers. They have (had?) essential oil, body mist, bath bubbles, and lotion that made use of a variety of calming scents like chamomile and lavender.

      I also like a few of the Demeter fragrances; they specialize in perfumes that recreate a specific smell. I have one called “wet garden”, and sure enough, it smells like a garden after a rain. They have some really out-there scents like “dirt” and “brown paper bag”, but also have plain floral scents like rose or lavender. They’re formulated to wear off more quickly than standard perfumes so you don’t walk around leaving clouds of fragrance behind. After about fifteen minutes, anybody more than two feet away from me can’t really smell it.

    13. RLS*

      I really mostly like “clean” and herbal scents…sage, mint, “linen,” things like that. I like fruity scents or sweet floral ones but they are usually way overdone, IMO. One of the best scents I ever came across was a “beach” one by Yankee Candle (it was a car freshener). I was spending the summer at a beach resort as an intern…and my car smelled way nicer than the beach, I’ll say that! It was subtle but very inviting.

      1. VictoriaHR*

        Oh yeah that’s Sun & Sand by Yankee Candle. I’ve got a dupe of that in my online store, I call it Myrtle Beach LOL. My boss recommended the fragrance to me.

    14. A fellow crafter*

      I love foodie scents, especially autumnal ones. Pumpkin, spice, apple cider. Vanilla is always good especially in combo with something spicy. Villainess makes a great chocolate/raspberry/sandalwood one that is probably my all-time favorite.

      1. Windchime*

        Oh, I forgot about Pumpkin Spice. That’s one of my favorites. I have many versions of candle in that scent! That and something called “Christmas Cookie”. I don’t know whether to light it or lick it, it smells so good!

    15. A Reader*

      I’m a fellow soap maker and my favourite scent is called Beau Brummel. It says the scent is black tea and tobacco with hints of fruit & spice. It’s a more masculine scent, but I love it.

    16. Shuvon*

      I used to make melt and pour soaps and prefer a light scent (1 tsp or 100 drops per 16 oz base).

      Lavender + orange = awesome

    17. ThursdaysGeek*

      I don’t know if these are available as scents, but these real smells are some of my favorites: lemon verbena, wild blackberry, apriocot ginger, mock-orange, sage brush (not sage), violet.

    18. HB*

      Coconut! Also things that smell “fresh.” Grass, clean cotton, aloe, things that smell like fresh laundry and spring days. Also, I really like body washes that smell like traditional “man scents” – (woodsy, mountainy, old spice-y)

  17. Name*

    So…I work in human services (read: high turnover). I’m applying for grad school internships, and have a couple questions:
    1. One of my references is an ex-supervisor; however, she left right after I did. However, she got married and changed her name thereafter. On the job applications, I list her as a reference as her married name: Elizabeth Darcy. However, who do I put as my supervisor under the job (human services uses retail-type forms)? I’m worried that if I put Elizabeth Darcy, my job will say “who?’ if they call HR, but if I have Elizabeth Bennet one place and Darcy the other, is that a problem?

    2. Two years ago, I stayed at a horrible job for six months. It is not on my resume, but thanks to the applications, I have to list it. I usually write that it was a poor fit. A huge scandal is going on there (see also: fish stink from the head down). I don’t need to think about that, right?

    1. Anlyn*

      For #1, I would put Elizabeth Darcy (nee Bennet). Not sure if that’s correct, though…

    2. Alicia*

      Loved the Austen reference.

      I would list it as “Elizabeth (Bennet) Darcy”. I feel like that’s pretty standard fare for a maiden/married name change. Perhaps I am wrong. If you need to go fancier go “Elizabeth Darcy, née Bennet”?

      1. fposte*

        Or you could but “Elizabeth Darcy (then Elizabeth Bennet).” That would be particularly useful if we’re talking somebody who reverted to a maiden name, since the maiden-name conventions could be confusing there.

          1. fposte*

            No, you didn’t miss it–I just extrapolated to another situation where sometimes people need to clarify on a name change.

  18. JustS*

    I am currently seeking a new contract/consulting position and have a question about interviewing. In my previous positions, I’ve had a lot of flexibility – working from home several times a week, flex-time (come in early or stay late to make up time for appointments), etc. In my latest assignment, I was surprised to find they don’t allow contractors any flexibility (you can’t make up time, work from home, etc). During the interview process, I was told the environment was relaxed and informal, but it’s been the opposite – at least as far as contractors are concerned. As my contract winds down, I want to ensure I get a better fit for my next gig, so I need to figure out some good interview questions that I can ask they will give me an idea regarding the workplace culture and flexibility for my next position. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Anlyn*

      Be specific. If you just asked what their culture was like, and “relaxed and informal” was all they answered, then that doesn’t tell you much.

      Questions I have listed:

      “What is your work-from-home policy?”

      “How do you define flex time, and how is it handled in your organization? Is it subject to change?”

      “What is your inclement weather policy?” (important for me, because I will not drive on ice)

      “If time cannot be made up, then how is it recorded? Do you require we use sick days/personal days/vacation?”

  19. Sascha*

    I just need to vent that one of the managers in my office yesterday told a pregnant coworker that she was going to be peeing a lot more than usual as she was going into the bathroom, and she better get used to it. He knew this because his wife peed a lot when she was pregnant. EW. EW. EW.

    1. Eric*

      Sometimes you have to wonder how people that never developed a “crazy wall” between their brain and their mouth get promoted to positions of authority…

    2. Leslie Yep*

      Ugh. Just. Don’t talk about bodily functions at work! What compels people to do this?!

    3. Marina*

      Ugh, pregnancy was just a magnet for inappropriate comments at work. Seriously, we do not need to be standing in the middle of the office kitchen discussing cervical dilation! And yet somehow my coworkers thought pregnancy was a free pass to bring up things they’d neeeeeever bring up in any other situation. I became a master at the “Oh, how interesting. I’ve got a phone call, gotta run!” conversation ender. Which actually became even more useful when people started giving me baby advice…

      1. Sascha*

        Yes! There are 2 pregnant coworkers in my office right now, and it’s been one awkward comment after another from this one manager. And then because I am the only other female within child-bearing age around here, people have been throwing out all the “You’re next!” and “Do you have news for us???” comments, and I hate hate hate it. Anything regarding pregnancy should be OFF LIMITS in the work place! (Unless of course the pregnant person brought it up herself – but that’s her choice.)

        1. Nikki*

          This is why I hate people….
          Similar to Anonicorn below…”Do I have news? Yes! The MYOB filter needs replacing”
          But I’m a terrible snark and lay really really low around here, so not much interaction with coworkers on a regular basis.

          1. Leslie Yep*

            “The MYOB filter needs replacing!”

            I am laughing so hard at this right now! Brilliant.

        2. TheSnarkyB*

          I really hope that when I’m in that position, I can work up enough gumption to say, with a “FYI” tone of voice, “You know, you’d be surprised how many inappropriate questions and comments people have when you’re pregnant!” (Huge smile, waddle out of the break room).

      2. EnnVeeEl*

        That’s just gross. I was at Disneyworld recently and overhead a woman loudly talking on her cell phone about having her membranes stripped. I retched.

        People, really? Really? Stop!

  20. Chriama*

    I have a question: where do people go to hire specialized admin?
    I know a lawyer who’s looking for a paralegal. Craigslist jobs aren’t legit in her town (Calgary, Canada if that helps), and she’s used to hiring by word of mouth, but that hasn’t worked so far for this position.
    Any suggestions?

    1. Anonymous regular who doesn't want her real name attached to her alias for google purposes*

      Being in Calgary, I would receommend going to one of the temp agencies. You are paying upfront for them to find someone but she needs to think about is outsourcing the effort to look for someone, especially since they do the prescreening and the good ones will give you a free replacement if things go poorly. I am hesitant to mention specific companies here but you can contact me through Linked In (I am a lurker in the AAM group) as Celina Curtis.

      1. Chriama*

        Thanks! Having never dealt with temp agencies before, what’s the standard procedure? How do you evaluate an agency and the candidates they send you?

        1. Chinook*

          I am not sure of the procedure as I have always dealth with them as an employee and not an employer, but I would think that you would deal with a temp agency the same as you would with an contractor. Maybe have them bid on your project? I would also have her ask around with other professionals to see if they have any the recommend or warn off from. I know that some of the accounting firms in town use temps, so if she uses one she may want to ask if they have anyone they recommend.

      2. Anonymous*

        I am a Recruitment Consultant in Calgary for a major international agency. I work on permanent roles, but I have colleagues who work on temp roles.

        Just wanted to clarify – you don’t always have to pay upfront! My agency does not require any kind of payment unless you choose to place a candidate we connected you with. This means you’ll have the opportunity to meet the candidates we’ve pre-screened and selected for you without paying a fee unless you’re 100% satisfied. Personally, I think this is the best way to go for everyone involved in the process, it puts much less pressure on the client to make a decision just to get their money’s worth.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      Check out the Calgary Chapter of IAAP – the International Association of Administrative Professionals ( They have contact information on their “Executive Board” tab. Just ask if they have any members who might be interested in applying for this job. Admins who join and participate in IAAP are usually higher-reaching admins who are professional and highly trained.

  21. anonymous*

    Has anyone had to break up with a best friend? My former best friend did something unforgivable that I am still not over. She has a reputation for being volatile. Do I explain to mutual friends what happened? I don’t want to turn people against her, and it also would involve revealing something personal about myself if I told the whole truth. How do I deal with her when thrown together for social occasions? (I.e. birthday parties for mutual friends)

    1. Colette*

      I have.

      I’d just say something neutral like “we drifted apart”, or “we haven’t seen each other for a while” to people I wasn’t close to. If there was someone I was particularly close to, I’d probably share the whole story – not to try to get her on my side, but to make sure I wasn’t the one who was out of line.

      I guess it depends what the former friend did. Your options for social occasions are either to choose not to go or to be polite (but not friendly, and to avoid the former friend as much as practical). Other people’s social occasions aren’t the place for confrontations/drama.

      1. anonymous*

        As in most best friendships, we confided our misdeeds to each other over the years. Things we would both be ashamed to have our mothers or our bosses know about. I made a really bad decision a couple years ago, and she outed me on social media by name, even though what I did had nothing to do with her. She went public with this because she was angry that she found out I her husband had confided in me about a rough patch they were going through.

        1. Colette*

          That’s pretty low – but it seems like the kind of thing you could get past to the point where you could be in the same room without trying to hurt her, if you needed to. So if you’re at a mutual friend’s party, you could nod and go talk to someone else. If you’re not at that point, though, then you skip the party until you are. You don’t want to be the one to start any drama, you want to defuse it, because that’s better for you in the long run.

    2. Chriama*

      Silence is your friend. People are going to speculate no matter what you say, but if you refuse to comment they can’t make the drama stick. Be polite if you see her, and don’t respond to any baiting she or anyone else tries to throw at you

      1. anonymous*

        Thanks! this has been my strategy so far, but sometimes the anger still hits me in waves.

        1. Chriama*

          I know what you mean. My head tells me to feel one way but my heart feels differently. I would try to remember that allowing them to make you so angry you act out gives them control over you.
          I would also try to cultivate other relationships, possibly outside your current social circle. Not to “replace” her exactly, but because pretty much the only thing that will dull your emotions is time, and you might as well try to take your mind off things in the meanwhile.

    3. Claire*

      I can’t get to the site right now to get you a specific link, but has a LOT of great advice about friend break-ups, both for interacting with the ex-friend and how to manage mutual friends. If you look at the tags/search for “African Violet” you should find some relevant posts!

      1. anonymous*

        Thanks for the suggestion! I remember reading a post on there I really liked, I will pore over it this weekend when I have more time.

    4. RLS*

      (note: chrome is annoying the four-letter-word out of me today and keeps telling me I’m double-posting! Ugh, sorry in advance. IDK if I actually am or not)

      AND THEN IT ATE MY COMMENT, omg Chrome I hate you today (how do you stop it from “backspace-means-backpage-and-delete-everything-you-just-wrote?”).


      Last year, I broke up with both of my best friends. In one of the situations, I knew her well enough to know that, when recounting the story to other friends that she would be fair and rational, and that it wouldn’t be finger-pointing. I simply decided to tell people that “things didn’t work out.” If closer mutual friends pressed, I’d add on that we couldn’t reconcile a disagreement and decided to move on…because that’s exactly what happened.

      I live about 250 miles away from our mutual circles, so we haven’t seen each other in the time since our breakup, but remember that if a mutual friend invites both of you to an event, it’s because she still values both of you as individuals, and the event is about the host, not your ex-friendship. Just be cordial and polite. If she starts drama, don’t fan the flames. If you think she WILL start drama (and, being “volatile,” it sounds like she might) and you’re afraid she’d push and manipulate until you gave in, you may have to decline…but I’d still go.

      My other best friend that I broke up with last year…good lord. It was hard. He was very hurtful and truly broke my heart with the way he treated me. It took me most of the year to recover from it. Somehow or other though, oddly enough, we ended up reconciling and our friendship is the best it’s ever been, and I’m actually kind of glad we put each other through the ringer the way we did (I’m no peach either, sometimes).

      Best friendships, IMO, are just as emotionally intimate as romantic relationships, barring marriages/life commitments…they hurt when it’s over. A lot. If you don’t think you’ve healed enough from it to see her in public right now, that’s something to really consider.

      1. Al Lo*

        (how do you stop it from “backspace-means-backpage-and-delete-everything-you-just-wrote?”)

        That happens if you backspace with your cursor outside of a text box. If the cursor is just out on the page in general, not active in a text box, it’ll use backspace as backpage.

    5. Charlotte*

      I’m struggling with this myself right now…being an adult sucks some days. I haven’t gotten to the point where I know for sure I’m ‘breaking up’ with her, but it’s definitely not the same relationship. I’ve known her for ten years, and I remember my mom talking about growing apart from friends, but I guess I just didn’t think it would happen to me…stupid, young, naive invincibility…I know, I know. I miss the relationship we had like crazy, and I miss having her as a confidant. She’s still one of the greatest people I know though, and I know that if we do ‘break up’ that it will be as drama-free as these things can be. Her family is like my family though…no doubt it would be tough.

      1. Colette*

        And maybe the answer is you don’t break up – maybe your friendship just changes forms for a while. It’s still a loss, and it’s OK to miss what you had, but it’s also OK to move to a different form (coffee twice a year instead of daily calls, for example) if you’re both happy with that.

        1. RLS*

          This. Best friendship doesn’t mean that they’re with you 100% of the time…but that they’re the ones that never ever truly leave you.

          My best friend from childhood and I had a big falling out when I was 15. We didn’t really talk for a few years, but we’d still send cards and the like. Along the way, others filled in the spots where she let me down, and vice versa. She’d always been like another sister to me, and nowadays that’s where our friendship is…like long-distance siblings. We get together and have a great time a couple times a year to reminisce and catch up…but that’s it.

          The other BFF I mentioned before; the one who was especially vicious to me (and I to him) have to have our distance. Our friendship has always been long-distance (we met at a summer job and have always had to roadtrip to see each other since then), and while we Skype every so often, we have little contact until we make plans to visit each other every few months…it sucks having to leave, but it makes our reunions my favorite days of the year.

          Some friendships are better with space between them!

    6. Anon for this*

      I’m in the process of breaking up with my best friend. I’ve been using silence too — on both ends. I don’t talk to her, I am cordial when she initiates contact (I’m not sure she knows we’re breaking up, but whatever), and I’m not telling any of our mutual friends because I don’t want to badmouth her or have people choose sides. It’s hard, but I’ve been confiding my frustrations to my BF, who thankfully is not saying anything to anyone.

      What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? Have the nerve to say I wasn’t “there for her” last year, even though I had a near-death medical emergency that required hospitalization followed by an extensive recuperation period. She felt that I wasn’t around enough to hang out whenever she wanted.

    7. Windchime*

      I second the recommendation for Captain Awkward. Lots of good advice there on this type of thing. Having said that, a good friend and I broke up about a year ago. She was the kind of friend who was very social and constantly pressuring me (a homebody who doesn’t need a lot of social interaction) to go do things that weren’t my style (fashion show? Um, no thanks). She finally got mad and sent me a nasty text, then de-friended me on Facebook. (We are middle-aged ladies with grown kids, not teenagers!) So she initiated the breakup, but I have been cool and polite to subsequent overtures on her part. Captain Awkward would call it the “slow fade”.

      We were good friends at one time, but our paths have changed course and we really don’t have much in common any more. Life is too short to spend it avoiding phone calls and feeling like a social failure every time you’re with your “friend”, which is how I was feeling. So I’m good with how it worked out.

  22. Anlyn*

    Long-distance job searches have been brought up before, but I can’t remember anyone tackling my issue:

    I’m in a very niche market. There are jobs available, but scattered across the country, and none in the city I live in currently. I’m very willing to move, but I do not (usually) care where.

    I will not move until I have a job offer. I can’t afford to put my house on the market and move to another city without a firm offer and start date. I know long-distance job searches can be done, but for the most part, I won’t have family or friends in whichever city I apply for, so I can’t use their address, and I can’t use the reasons that have been given here for why I’m looking to move.

    I have been in my current job for 15 years (it’s been a constantly changing environment, so I’m not worried about seeming static). How can I reassure interviewers that I really don’t care where I live? I have preferences, of course, but overall, location doesn’t matter to me.

    1. KAS*

      I just asked a very similar question– how to sell yourself as a solid candidate without the friend/family link to that particular area.

    2. Amanda*

      No advice, just commiseration. I had an “anywhere that hires me approach” to my job search and it was hard going. I finally got a seasonal position out of state so hopefully it will help me get my foot in the door. My only thoughts would be maybe narrow in on cities where you do know people-like if you have a brother in Chicago and an aunt in Houston, focus on searching in those cities. Doesn’t mean you can’t apply for jobs in other cities, but it might help you focus.

    3. fposte*

      If it’s really niche, you may not have to explain. I wouldn’t in my field. If the issue is that people don’t usually relocate until they’re in a higher pay grade, I think you acknowledge the unusualness of the field and say you’re fortunate that you can be flexible in following this career.

      However, you’re doing this after fifteen years in one location, so it would help to emphasize how fine you’ll be living in a new place. Include whatever’s true and relevant to indicate that you have some sense of the location and that you’re likely to find your surroundings satisfying there as well.

  23. Anonymous for this question*

    I need crisis damage control with an interested employer who called but my phone never received said call.

    A good friend of mine who works in the industry I want to break into (I am a couple years out of college and still looking for that first “professional” job,) emailed me saying that somebody she knows was looking for a role to fill and that she (my friend) mentioned to her that she knew someone who might be interested (me.) She asked me if she could send my resume to her, and I said yes. About a good three or so weeks pass, and I am conversing with my friend to give her an update on an internship I just accepted. She then asked me if I called the employer back, to which I asked if I should have. She said that she said she tried to call me, but I never got the call from her or a voicemail. Granted, it could be a wrong number or it probably is my service provider (hi, AT&T,) but more than likely it is my provider (I double-checked my resume to make sure the number I gave was accurate.)

    How do I go about repairing this? I asked my friend for her office line and I called her leaving a message two days ago apologizing, but I have not received a call back yet. I just don’t want her to think I was ignoring her and I don’t want my networking contact and friend to look bad.

    1. evilintraining*

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a “repair” to offer, other than giving her some time to cool off, but there’s a big lesson here about following up. I wouldn’t do it for every single job I applied for, but in this case, you had been given a direct link to the employer, and that’s a major reason to follow up.

      1. Anonymous for this question*

        The thing is I did not have the contact info for the person that she sent my résumé to. The only reason I knew about it was when I told her about a new internship I accepted, in which she brought up that the employer attempted to contact me. I didn’t want to be too aggressive or pushy with either the employer or my friend.

        1. fposte*

          I think evil’s point still stands, though–if somebody’s sending your resume on, get the contact information of where it’s going.

          Not that this is anybody’s fault but AT&T’s (and maybe the contact’s, depending on what she actually called), but it’s a good idea to have some control over your contacts.

          I don’t think this needs crisis control, though, because it’s not a crisis. I think you called, explained, and apologized, and that it’s covered and done; I wouldn’t necessarily expect to hear back from her. Move on, and good luck in the internship!

  24. Jules*

    How do I explain leaving a job that was a horrible fit? I was immature and didn’t have the patience to buckle down and work where all I do was pushing papers all day. I didn’t have any achievable goals, was told that it was ok not to meet goals and I felt insecure in that position. When I was offered elsewhere, I left.How do I explain this?

    1. Anonymous*

      How long were you there? It sounds like you were offered a job and I’m assuming you’re still at that job (instead of you quitting without anything lined up). Or are you actively searching for a new job? Are you concerned about references? I would focus on what you achieved at your current work as much as possible, and if the previous work comes up simply say that you learned a lot and focus on the positive, while maybe mentioning that it wasn’t necessarily the right fit for you (and explain how/why you’ve improved since).

      Though if it was not only a bad fit but also a short term job, you’re probably better off just leaving it off your resume.

      1. Jules*

        I was there for about 5 months? Eventually my whole team left. I am still friends with my manager and she is my reference. She herself told me that she left off that part of ‘nightmare’ out of her resume.

        I left since I was headhunted for a position. But now I have moved on from that due to family circumstances. Now I look like an airhead for having 2 short term jobs in my resume. I sound so lame explaining it in interviews. I wonder if anyone has some perspective to share.

    2. Rana*

      It sounds like you have the bones of a working explanation, already.

      “I was pretty immature then, and didn’t know how to handle the responsibility of that position. At the time I needed more guidance than they were able to provide, and that meant a lot of insecurity on my part.” ::rueful shake of the head:: “Since then, I’ve become a lot more confident in my skills and have learned to appreciate managers who encourage me to take on additional responsibility (examples).”

      Or something like that.

  25. SaltWater*

    Any advice on how to tell when a company really stands by their work/life balance line? All say it, but I just left a company where it was all lip service and want to avoid that situation. I interviewed at a company who said that. A coworker had given them my name so when they called me I went. It turned out to be a start up company. When they laid out their proposed timeline I withdrew my name from consideration. I don’t have a great “gut” instinct and tend to believe what people say. If the start up hadn’t been more detailed about their plans I would have believed they meant it. Thanks!

    1. ms*

      I’m curious about this too. What are some good questions to ask in an interview? My joke is that my company’s work life balance policy is to ensure that pesky personal life doesn’t get in the way of working all the time.

    2. ArtsNerd*

      In an interview, I once asked specifically : “How many hours a week does the person in this role tend to work during the busy period? Slow period?” and mentally added 5 hrs/week to their answer. You also want to find out how long the crunch time is – 2 months of the year or 10?

      I was in a position where I was happy enough in my current job, and a strong candidate, so I had the luxury of probing without worrying too much about ‘selling’ myself to the hiring manager.

      Another good question might be to ask their threshold of what’s an urgent issue requiring an immediate response vs. what can wait until the next business day.

    3. Anonymous*

      How about specifics like when was the last time someone in this position worked over the weekend, or when was the last time you stayed late at the office and how late was it?

    4. Long Time Admin*

      You pretty much have to know someone on the inside who can tell you the truth. It’s hard to put much credence in everything the interviewer tells you.

  26. KAS*

    So I have been doing LOTS of research for my resume and cover letter and how to conduct long distance job searches. A great deal of advice for conducting these searches is using a local address or mentioning family and friends in that area. Well, unfortunately most of the places I am searching for positions I don’t have family/friends there. I am looking in those areas because they suit my interests and demographic( young single professional all about the arts) and my current location doesn’t suit. I relocated from California to Alabama for my first career level position out of college and now I am hoping to relocate out of Alabama. Since I am still in a lower experience range I know this will be difficult. I am able to relocate myself, I just need some help figuring out how to appropriately explain wanting to relocate. Any tips on how to sell my wanting to relocate to these areas in my cover letter/ resume?

    1. KellyK*

      Well, if you ‘re looking at going back to California, you can mention that you lived there before and really liked it for X and Y reasons and are hoping to move back.

      For someplace else, I think what you said about wanting to live somewhere that matches your interests is good. It shows that you’re interested in that area specifically rather than just going wherever there might be a job. (Not that there’s anything wrong with going wherever they’ll hire you, but it does make you seem like more of a risk to hire in the first place.)

    2. Kristi*

      Maybe something about how you like/admire the work the company does in the area and community.

  27. TRB*

    Anyone have advice on what to do if your manager does your work? It’s getting annoying and I know I’m not doing anything poorly. I just think he’s bored but now I’m bored because he keeps doing it! And behind my back. I’m not doing anything late (if anything I get stuff done early). Sometimes when I noticed him working on something I’m supposed to work on, I’ll ask if I did anything wrong before or if a deadline has been moved and he’ll say “No, I just felt like doing that today.” How do I tell him nicely to stop?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would ask him to meet and discuss how you want to divide responsibilities. Frame it in terms of you want to avoid duplication of effort. Are there certain things he would prefer to do? Then those can be his.

      He’s probably a new manager and still transitioning to that role.

    2. Chriama*

      This is probably one of those instances where you need to have a “bigger picture” discussion with your boss about what are your tasks vs what are his, and what his expectations are for your work (as in, if he needs it done ahead of schedule can he let you know instead of doing it himself). Also, you probably both need to come up with some ideas for more work. Maybe come up with a side project that streamlines process x or documents process y?

  28. AnotherAlison*

    I have been in my position 5 years. I got a promotion (in name only) over a year ago. I was extremely positive about this job up until January-February 2013, because following the INO promotion, there was a lot of talk with my manager and his manager about the new things I would be doing. At my Dec. 2012 review, Boss told me how he appreciated my patience during 2012 — the “transition” year — and I would have more responsibilities in 2013.

    2013 has been much worse than 2012. The responsibilities haven’t materialized. There were a lot of things I wanted to hand off to a new hire so I could move up, and Boss’s boss wouldn’t approve a new hire. So, I’m stuck doing the stuff I’ve done for 5 years and mastered 4 years ago. I can tell I’m going nowhere by mgmt’s actions, even though their conversations are still positive about my future.

    My husband thinks I need to talk to my manager. I feel like I spent most of 2012 talking to my manager about what I wanted to be doing. It’s just not happening. Do I really need to bring it up again? Structurally, I just don’t think this role can be what I wanted. My boss is also gone a lot and has ~10 VPs as direct reports, so he is very busy with other things that are more important to *his* boss than worrying about me. If I’m doing the things he needs done, he’s happy.

    I think it would be better to talk to Boss about next opportunities rather than yet another conversation on how to develop in this role, since the other major conversations haven’t yielded changes.

    The complicating issues are personally really liking my boss – the best ever – and my dept., while not really being excited about anything else that I could do.

    What do you guys think? Try to make it work, or move on?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Also, other options on the table. . .

      – stay where I am, manage my boredom by getting a company-funded MS in Data Analytics
      – start freelance fitness marketing on the side (because my gym’s crossfit affiliate website is absolutely terrible & I can write for business and am a fitness junkie)
      – live off the money I have in the bank for 6 months and then worry about my future : )

    2. fposte*

      What would it hurt to look around for something else while staying where you are? I don’t really think freelance marketing on the side is going to satisfy you if you’re spending 40-50 hours a week being bored. I think you need this job to grow or to find something else.

      Talking to your manager would kind of be a strategy call at this point. I think the conversation has shifted from “When will the job expand as planned?” to “I’ve outgrown what this job is and see no opening for growth here.” That is pretty much an announcement that you’re starting to look, but if you like your manager and your organization and think it would be more worthwhile than risky, it still might be worth trying one more conversation.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        “What would it hurt to look around for something else while staying where you are?”

        I do agree with this. . .I’m in the “golden handcuffs” of a short commute through a low traffic area, great coworkers, a flexible schedule (where if I want to leave at 3, work a half day from home, etc., I just say “hey, this is what I’m doing”). Even internally, it would be hard to have such a cushy position.

        I know you’re right, and I know what I need to do. It’s pulling the trigger that’s hard, so I daydream about other things instead.

        I’d say the “itch” probably game around 3 yrs, and then there was 1 year of “this is what we’re gonna do with you” coupled with some managerial changes, followed by the year of you’ve-been-promoted-but-not-really. I’ve put in at least 2 yrs beyond what I should have because I believed changes were imminent. I’m so overdue now that I have a lot of worries about what’s in the market for me.

        If only I weren’t so dramatic.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, there may not be a have-it-all job. But if you have a look, you may have a better idea of just how grateful you should–or shouldn’t–be for your current situation.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    I wish I could bring my dog into work.

    I know I can’t, but it would be so much nicer here with her laying at my feet. Or in my lap (she’s 65 pounds and thinks she’s a lap dog).


    1. Anonymous regular who doesn't want her real name attached to her alias for google purposes*

      I thought bringing my dog to work would be great until I did it one Saturday and spent more time coralling my normally quite dog and cleaning up after his messes. Turns out that, in public, he is out to make me look irresponsible and now gets to stay home instead.

      1. Staying anon to avoid flames for touchy pet subject*

        This! I have a beautiful, sweet, well-trained, gentle beast, but he’s getting older and is not neutered. He is housetrained, but has gotten extra-attached to Mom and our “den” and also has colitis. Let’s just say that my dog + offices = bad. He never started lifting his leg in a strange home until about a year ago, and it’s really frustrating because he only does it in new “territory.” Vets tell me at his age there’s no point to neutering him now because his behavior is ingrained.

        1. Chinook*

          I don’t know why people say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks because my very senior (14) dog has learned all sorts of new ones in the last 3 months – how to open the cabinet to get to the cat food and the trash, how to get on top of a cabinet to eat the cat food, how to wait 5 minutes until after he hears the door lock before doing any of those 3 things (because I have been trying to catch him)… It is like he is reverting back to being a puppy without having the big eyes to bat for forgiveness.

        2. nicole*

          I thought marking was also driven by hormones which would be reduced if you had him neutered. It might be worth looking at a 2nd opinion regarding that.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      She also happens to be a pit mix, so despite being a total lovebug, she looks rather fierce. I think it would give people pause before stopping by to annoy me. Think of how many office problems could be prevented by having a pit bull at your side!

      1. Sascha*

        Yes! I have a super mutt who has some pit in him, and though he’s only 30 lbs, people think he’s a full bred pit and won’t come near him. Even though he’s a sweetheart and loves everything and everyone.

        I’d love to have my dogs, and one of the cats, at work with me. The other cat does not like large crowds, so he will have to stay home. :)

      2. RLS*

        People don’t know what they’re missing. Pibbles are the most loving dogs, ever…hands down. I love them! I wish I had one.

        1. ANON FLamer*

          I guess I’ll be one of the “flamers”. I google “2 year old attacked by pit bull” and find a story from as recent as April where a toddler was mauled to death by one. I google “lhasa apso attack” and only get a story where a lhasa apso was attacked. . .oddly enough, by a pitbull. Lhasa apso’s are pretty darn loving, too, and also low-risk to own.

          Now, all dogs have their place, the wrong owners shouldn’t have pits, etc., but I’ve been afraid of pit bulls since my cousin’s girlfriend was attacked by one. Her dad tried to help her and got attacked, too, and both were seriously injured.

          1. KellyK*

            A lot of that is media perception, though. If a lab mix or a cane corso or any short-coated, blocky-headed mutt bites a kid, it will be reported as a “pit bull” attack. When a dog bite is reported in the media, the breed that’s given is someone’s guess.

            There are also a lot more “pit bulls” around than Lhasa apsos.

            1. Chinook*

              While I do admit that if a pitbull attacks, it will almost always be deadly, media/public perception does have a lot to do with pitbulls getting a bad rap. The other part of this is the the type of owner a pitbull can attract (which is probably in the minority of owners but they seem to be the ones who get the press) and how they train their dog. Any dog is capabale of hurting a human but pitbulls and other large dogs can do much more damage. That doesn’t mean they won’t make good pets if they are raised and supervised correctly.

              I speak as a co-owner of a wolf (from a wolf-dog sanctuary, spayed and originally thought to be only part wolf). DH and I are very aware of what she is capable of and she is never off leash outside even though she is the most timid creature going. She is so well behaved that when DH takes her into work (when he is off-duty) everyone in by-law (i.e. dog catchers) ask her to come over and give hugs (where she leans into you). Her favourite thing to do is to lay on the couch and watch Mario cartoons. DH got her as an extra layer of security for the house but has trained her to not go near someone unless called because, frankly, the sight of her is enough to make any person walk the other way.

              1. KellyK*

                Also true. (Both the ability of any large, strong dog to kill you and the effect of how dogs are raised.)

                Pit bulls are *way* over-represented in the population of abused and neglected animals, both in their use for fighting and as a general “tough-looking dog” for someone who wants a status symbol to prove how much of a bada$$ they are.

                Dogs being “resident dogs” rather than family pets, and dogs and kids being left alone together are both much greater predictors of bite risk than breed.

                Your wolf sounds awesome. Some friends of mine used to have a wolf-dog, and he was a sweetheart. I have read that wolf-dogs are harder to train than dogs in general, because they’re much more independent, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case with yours.

                1. Chinook*

                  The key with wolf dogs is to act like a pack leader and not an owner. It took a long time to realize that she didn’t want to please but she did want to obey. She would get stressed out when she couldn’t understand the command and pace back and forth until we showed her what to do. We also couldn’t reinforce behaviour with treats because we couldn’t tell what she actually liked. But tell her she is a good wolf and I her tail wags (somethign she learned from my dog). While she was growing out of the puppy stage, DH would have to exert dominance over her when she would disobey by wrestling and pinning her but it seemed to give her comfort that it wasn’t her job to be in charge.

                  The most adorable thing is she looks at my old dog as her hero because he is old and blind and yet gets whatever he wants. As a result she will walk away from anything he wants and let him win when they wrestle even though he is half her size.

                2. Anon to Chinook*

                  (sorry, it won’t let the thread nest any further!)

                  I also own a wolfdog and have been raised around them. Spot-on behavior! Mine looks a lot scarier than he is. It’s the best of both worlds, because he is rather timid. Pack/alpha behavior and communication is key with them.

            2. KellyK*

              I should explain why I’m using scare quotes around “pit bull.” “Pit bull” as it’s usually used is a generic term for American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, sometimes also including American Bulldogs, any mixes that include the above breeds, and frequently, any blocky-headed, short-coated, muscular medium-to-large dog, which might actually be a lab/boxer mix but “looks like” a pit bull. (People who are seriously into APBTs tend to prefer that the term only be applied to purebred APBTs, but that’s not the common usage.)

              That’s one of the reasons that comparisons between pit bulls and other breeds are flawed–because it’s not a breed. It would be like saying that “retrievers” or “shepherds” are dangerous because there are more instances of bites from all retriever or shepherd breeds than there are from pugs.

              1. fposte*

                Though it goes the other way, too–shelters will deliberately call clear pit-bred critters “boxer crosses” or whatever to minimize the stigma.

                Generally larger breeds are disproportionately represented in dog-bite statistics because their bites are likelier to be deemed reportable by the victim (or the victim’s parents); after that, stats get a little muddied because people often report frequency as likelihood without taking the breed’s population ratio into consideration (and, as noted, breed identification is not exactly a science). Basically, though, the more of a kind of dog there are, the more bite reports they’ll have, so Labs feature prominently in bite lists as well, and as long as there are a lot of pit bulls they will too. And of course news reports like a conforming narrative–a Lab mauling a child will be “Dog Mauls Child,” while a pit bull mauling a child will be “Pit Bull Mauls Child.”

                I do think some partisan defenses of pit bulls are blinkered about dogs, but then people are foolish about dogs in all kinds of ways that certainly aren’t limited to pit bulls.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            It’s ok, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’m not on a quest to make pit bulls popular. I just happen to have a rescue dog who happens to be awesome and happens to be a pit bull. But I also would never leave her alone with a child – she’s very playful and energetic and could easily cause some damage.

            Then again, children really should never be left alone with dogs. They’re animals.

            But she should be with me here at work. Cause she’s awesome.

      3. KellyK*

        Haha, yep. From what I’ve seen, pit bulls are far more likely to be lovebugs than mean or aggressive. (At least with people—a lot of them do have aggression toward other dogs.)

        I’ve never had a dog who would actually do well in an office environment, even if I had been allowed to bring them. My previous foster–the fawn and white dog in my Gravatar–is enough of a social butterfly that she would have *enjoyed* it, but she was hyper enough that I wouldn’t get any work done. I’d be too busy keeping her from racing up and down the halls and licking every face in the building.

        And my shy dog, Diamond, would be terrified and try to find somewhere to hide.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Oh hey, that is a dog in your gravatar! And now I can’t see the superhero mask face anymore.

          1. KellyK*

            Yep…two dogs…the darker, brindle one is Diamond. (And now I’m trying to see the superhero mask face.)

    3. EM*

      My office is dog-friendly. One of my coworkers has the best dog on the planet. I go give him snuggles when I’m stressed. :)

  30. Flustered*

    I’d love to hear advice on how others manage staying calm under an impossible onslaught of work. My managers are off-site and mostly out of contact, so it’s entirely up to me to triage the incoming requests (until they swoop in with something more urgent, which will happen on occasion.) The busy nature of the position won’t change, and it’s just not possible to get everything done.

    But external people don’t know that context, and the flood of phone calls and emails (particularly from people who are agitated by my slow – or lack of – response) makes me just want to hide under my desk some days.

    Tips for coping?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Can you set aside an hour or two a day where someone else fields the calls and you turn off your email, so you can focus on catching up on your work?

      1. Flustered*

        I’m the only one in my department, so no one else is able to field calls. However, you give me an idea – I bet I could figure out how to turn off my ringer for an hour or two …

    2. Laura*

      I occasionally get people who think I should be handling their issues faster than I am (because of course, their issue is the only one I have to deal with! Ahem.). Unless it truly is urgent, I let them just build up emails in the queue until it’s their turn, and then I lead with, “I’m sorry for the wait. I do work through questions as quickly as I can.” As far as phone calls, again, unless you know something is a priority/urgent, answer or return calls on YOUR timeline. Do let people know you’ll be doing this: “In order to be fair to everyone and deal with requests in a timely manner, going forward, I’ll be checking messages every 30/60/90/whatever minutes and dealing with issues as I know about them. Please be patient and know that I *will* get to your issue as soon as I possibly can.”

    3. Marina*

      Set expectations. My voicemail says “I will return your call within one business day” and I try really hard to stick to that. If your response time is routinely closer to a week, make that clear up front. “Slow” is just a perception, it really means “slower than I expected.” If you set their expectations that you’ll return their call within two weeks, and then call back in four days, suddenly you’re not slow, you’re fast!

    4. Alicia*

      Not so much tips for coping, but commiseration. I am one of two people at a remote location (half-way across the country) with our bosses and CEO constantly assessing (incorrectly) how long it takes to do certain things. I should note I work in a laboratory setting and we run time-course experiments – not much you can do to rush those…

  31. ThursdaysGeek*

    There are a lot of bad managers out there, and one of them is over my husband. It seems to me that if an employee is bad, then a good manager will resolve that problem, in one of several valid ways. If the problem isn’t resolved, then part of the problem is the manager. Doesn’t that mean that if there is a bad manager, then her manager is also partly to blame? And so on, up to the top?

    At what point is upper management NOT to blame for their bad managers below them? At what point is a CEO or President not to blame for their upper management not dealing with their bad managers below? And how should they recognize a bad manager below them?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      You know, just because the problem employee is still there, doesn’t mean the manager hasn’t addressed it. Sometimes there is a very long and detailed disciplinary process, and the coworkers won’t be aware of what’s going on.

    2. Rob Aught*

      It is the direct supervisor’s responsibility, but sometimes the rot goes all the way to the top.

      Unfortunately, some good upper management may protect a bad manager for a plethora of reasons. Sometimes it is as simple as they don’t want to look bad by admitting they have some bad leadership or sometimes it is because it doesn’t affect them directly. The person above them may never even be aware of the problem.

      A decent middle manager should have some contact with their direct reports’ employees. Not enough that they break chain of command, but they should have the occasional contact. Really, the best thing to do is to walk around the office and not be stuck in their own office. If it is a remote location, they should go visit and make an effort to drop in on some of the team members.

      However, what I typically see is middle managers don’t want to deal with anyone that isn’t directly below them.

      It can be touchy to, because if a middle manager (or whatever role) appears to be too involved it can undermine the authority of the manager’s who report to them. The situation is rarely simple.

    3. Colette*

      I agree with Katie that the problem may have been addressed.

      It’s also possible that the manager has other, more critical responsibilities, and that her manager has a more balanced view of how she’s doing than her employees do.

    4. Another Reader*

      I agree with the earlier comments that steps may be underway and you don’t know. I spent a lot of time working with someone on my team on how they were handling certain issues, but folks on his team had no way of knowing that –because I couldn’t tell them and he didn’t have to…. On the other hand, it could be that management is not responsive or someone up the line is protecting the bad manager or they don’t see the problem or…. The only way to tell I think is to look at the broader picture and not that one manager to see how responsive they are. Is there a pattern of bad management? Bad performance being tolerated in general?

  32. Sumac*

    Should I sacrifice my life/sanity for a year to earn resume creds?

    The school I started working for a year ago restructured my position and had me reapply. The new job description has an absolutely ridiculous workload- I mean, six or seven days a week, ten to twelve hour workdays minimum. It’s not set up for success. This isn’t just my opinion, but also my mentor’s and several other people I trust who work closely with the administration. The salary will likely not be great either. However, if I stick it out for a year, it’s a very impressive title and would mean that I’ve been promoted. I’m an arts professional and this is the first place I’ve worked for a full year, full time with benefits since graduating, so two years would be even better. I’ve applied elsewhere, but nothing’s happened yet.

    Help, guys!

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Six days a week, 10 hours a day sounds like a short week. Where do I find one like that?

    2. TRB*

      I would stick out until you do hear from something else. The application/hiring process is long as we’ve learned here at AAM and you might make it to the 1.5/2 year mark just on your search. I know it’s hard to stick out but think of the experience you’re getting and also you know exactly what you don’t want in your next position.

      In the meantime, can you speak to anyone about your workload and hours? Maybe only 5 days a week with 10 hour days? If not, I’d use a vacation day once a month just for your mental health while you continue to search/stick it out.

    3. Kat M*

      I just relocated to another state when my husband was promoted/transferred for work, and due to a lack of reciprocity between states, it’s going to take several months for my massage therapy license to transfer. I’ve still got an income (my part-time copywriting job can be done from anywhere, thank goodness), but any suggestions of what I should do with myself while I wait for the government to hash out my credentials? I’d love to volunteer, but I’m not sure my liability insurance will cover me in this state while I’m unlicensed. Maybe volunteer in a non-massage capacity with an organization I’d love to work with later on? Get more involved with my professional association chapter? Focus on continuing ed? What do you guys think?

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        If you want to stay in the massage business, I’d invest the time into continuing ed or start working on your marketing for your new business. Start pressing the flesh (handshaking, in this case) with local trade organizations and others making a name for yourself while your credentials get transferred.

        Not knowing anything about massage licensing (but a little bit about government BS), is there a possibility you could get new licensing in the new state quicker than transferring?

        Hope this works out with a happy ending! (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

      2. fposte*

        If you can do continuing ed, that sounds like a great opportunity. It doesn’t have to be limited to official programs, either–are there core texts or new writings you’ve wanted to read? Have you scoped out relevant blogs and identified which ones are really useful and which, if any, might be interesting to clients? (Don’t you blog as well? So some of this could provide blog fodder, too.)

        Nothing against the other ideas–I just really like continuing ed!

      3. Rebecca*

        Does the new state have any workarounds? My husband practices as a deep tissue bodyworker rather than massage therapist due to liscensing requirements. Others work at a spa as a technician under someone else’s supervision. Good luck!

        1. Kat M*

          I would lose my professional association membership and my liability insurance (as well as my reputation in the field) if I tried to work without a license.

    4. Chriama*

      If the role isn’t set up for success, how will your references pan out when it’s over? There’s no point in getting a higher title/promotion if you can’t put it on your cv because your former manager will destroy you. Also, if the role is poorly designed despite the better judgement of so many people, is that really the only thing that will be dysfunctional about that workplace?

      I don’t think I have enough context to persuade you one way or the other, but think about all the possible outcomes of taking this position vs taking your chances in the job market.

    5. LCL*

      Does this job pay by the hour, or is it salaried?
      If it pays by the hour, what would happen if you started working 8 hour days?

      If it is salaried, offer a counter proposal of a 4-10 schedule, Monday thru Thursday. Because there is very little happening around campuses on Fridays, everyone who can take off will, and 4-10s will have you there putting in the long hours when the most people are there without killing yourself.

    6. Coco*

      Titles are important. It will help you garner a higher level position and a better salary in the future.

      I say spend the next 1-3 months or so devising a plan for your future by investigating all types of positions in your field. Then begin the job search in earnest. In today’s world, a job search can easily take over a year. You’ll still be in your current job but at least you’ll be taking steps to move forward.

      It’s less stressful looking for a job when you are not worried about your finances and money.

  33. Frustrated*

    /rant on / sorry this is so long
    I am a head cashier in a busy home improvement store, I really enjoy my job, the only draw back, I am a part time employee, who is able to work any shift at any time. In January they cut all part timers back to 29 hours a week. In the beginning I was okay with this as its January, we are always slow and it happens every year knowing in the back of my head come the middle of Feb hours would pick up again.

    Those in the Ivory Tower have deemed that all part time employees can only work up to 29 hours and no longer pick up extra shifts. I should mention that I am on Development plan to become a department head, and I have been asking for full time for a while now.
    In the end of April they lifted the 29 hour rule and there was much celebration. I was finally able to get some of my other mods done and actually feel like I was moving forward.
    Now as of May 27 we are back to the 29 hour rule.
    I find it very frustrating that I can not work more than that and if I go over I have to find time to cut the time from my other days.
    Its almost impossible to find a second job that will work around the flex hours I am required to work at my job and with only working small amount of hours every day I have just enough time to finish my daily duties and not do anything extra.
    We have a big push to give outstanding customer service, which I would love to be able to do, if I was actually working.
    I have gone on some interviews for other positions in other companies but the pay cut that I would take doesnt make it worth leaving.
    So I stay, and hope that I can get full time sooner rather than later.
    /rant off/

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      I’d either find another part-time gig or find a new job.

      Yes, I know it’s not easy finding two part-time jobs that fit with your schedule. But sometimes life is hard.

      Alternatively, I’d figure out what I need to do in the long term to get where I want to go. Maybe working one PT job and going to Community College is the next step?

      You are in control of your own destiny.

      1. Frustrated*

        Ironically I have a college degree, I just have always found customer service jobs enjoyable. I do still hope to make a career with this company but I have my doubts. I think its time to move on but I think after 5+ years its a little scary to do so. I guess on the other side of the coin I only have about 20 more years to retirement. :)
        Thank you Wilton Businessman for your input.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          So this is kind of a little different story. I took it as you were a well-written teen writing about how his hours were cut. With the added information, yes, it’s time to move on.

        2. fposte*

          Frustrated, I suspect this is related to the issue discussed in a recent post about the recent law change leading companies to keep a tight ceiling on part-time hours to avoid being on the hook for employee health care. If that’s the case, be alert to the possibility that you might just replicate this problem at a new place. I think part-time is going to be really limited in these retail-type industries for a while.

        3. Coco*

          What career are you hoping to make with the company? Seriously, is this just wishful thinking?

          It’s been 5 years and they still consider you to be a person they can cut at anytime via cutting your hours).

          What are your career goals? There are companies out there that can help you meet them. Time to move on.

  34. Greytalker*

    Hi everyone, I have a couple of questions about referee etiquette:

    1. Should I just ask once, at the beginning of my job search, for permission to offer the contact info of my references? I’ve been asking before each interview, but I suspect that’s likely to get annoying soon…

    2. After an interview, should I email my references to let them know I didn’t get the job? I worry that this would come off as passive-aggressive, no matter how I phrase it…

    Thanks for your help!

    1. Katie the Fed*

      1. Let them know that you’ll be using them during your job search, and skip the inidvidual notifications.

      2. Let them know when you get the job, not when you don’t.

    2. COT*

      I do think there’s some merit in letting your references know about each specific interview IF the jobs you’re applying for are quite different from each other. If your references know who’s calling them and what skills the position requires, they’re in a better place to really speak to those specific talents.

      Why not just ask your references which approach they prefer?

  35. Jberry*

    I have a question about adding high-level client feedback to a resume. In the last three years, I’ve received some very amazing and affirming praise about projects I’ve worked on and led, including one client who said my project was one she will be “most proud of” when she looks back at her time at her agency. I’d like to somehow include this, and other praise, on my résumé or at least in my cover letter. My dad said I should print out these emails and provide them during interviews, though, of course, the emails also have project information in them, so I don’t think I can actually do this. Any suggestions on how to brag a little?

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      eh, a little pretentious IMHO. Maybe you could ask them to be a reference in the future, but that stuff doesn’t belong on a resume. On a cover letter you might be able to get away with something generic about others praising your XXX skill, but even that is a little hokey.

    2. Chriama*

      Alison has talked about using quotes before. I would take the most meaningful parts of their praise and work it into your cover letter.

    3. Evan the College Student (now graduated!)*

      Hmm… maybe you could black out the confidential information?

    4. KimmieSue*

      You might ask each of these happy clients to write a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile.

  36. KNA*

    My question is this: I started a new job about 4 months ago, and am feeling massively swamped. I’m both an assistant to a C-level executive and am a part of the marketing team (my boss didn’t have a marketing person dedicated to his area and I have marketing experience). Before I started my boss was adamant that if I had an issues where the workload started to feel like too much to tell him and he would work with me to figure out how to redistribute it. A few weeks into the new job, I was already feeling a little overwhelmed, and now I’m swamped. Things are starting to fall through the cracks because I simply don’t have time to do due diligence to everything. I’ve brought this up to my boss several times, but he simply hasn’t listened. I’ve tried several approaches, including printing out a list of tasks and projects that I’m working on, the time it takes me to do them and the timeline in which they are due.
    I have been very blunt with him explaining that I cannot keep track of everything. I have explained how my days are overbooked and if he expects me to work on marketing project A, B and C, and they all have a similar timeline, I will not have enough time to devote to scheduling his travel, cleaning up his e-mails and keeping track of his appointments and meetings at the same time. I have asked him to help me prioritize, asked him to help me redistribute tasks, and asked him if there are tasks that can simple be taken off the table (can he please schedule his own haircuts and tee times). When I talk to him, he is very sympathetic, smiling, nodding and telling me he’ll take a look at it, think about it, get back to me. But then he turns around and tells someone else that I can be the lead on marketing project D, and leaves me notes on my desk that he needs dinner reservations for him and his wife and to call the dry cleaners about his suit.
    I don’t know what else I can do. I have tried talking to our local HR person to get them to help moderate a conversation, plan or anything, but the local HR person is very noncommittal. He has continually put off any attempt to schedule a meeting with the 3 of us.
    I love this company, and the job plan laid out by the company is to transition me into a full time marketing person within the next 18 months. But, I’m not sure I can last until then without either exploding or at the very least getting a bad reputation as unreliable.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, you can’t fix this one single-handed. They’ve overloaded the position and aren’t going to undo it. It doesn’t really sound like a good combination of work directions in the first place, and it’s really not working out.

      I’m not really seeing a way you can get the clarity you want without ticking people off, unfortunately. You could hammer the priority issue a little further (“As we’ve discussed, workload is requiring me to identify priorities. I can keep project A on schedule or handle your personal tasks this week. Unless you tell me the personal tasks are the priority, I’ll keep with project A”), but people really don’t like being hammered, and being the assistant is actually part of the job so it’s tough to just jettison it.

  37. Mary*

    Recently I was offered a very good job. I had provided the company with my info in order to run a background check and gone through the medical screening in which the doctor said I was in perfect condition to work. Today is 2 weeks after the company called to confirm they received my info for background check and I haven’t heard back from them yet. They haven’t given me a start date. Does that mean that my offer is already withdrawn?

    1. LMW*

      I wouldn’t think that. Have you reached out to them to confirm a start date? I’d start there.

      1. Mary*

        Thanks for your reply! My background is very clear and not much to delve into at all so I don’t know why it takes so long. I have only one almost maxed out credit card since last year due to a family emergency but I’ve been trying to pay back. Could that be the reason I might lose the offer?

        1. Katie the Fed*

          My security clearance background investigation took 8 months.

          Keep in mind it’s been a holiday so things might be a bit slower.

          1. Mary*

            Oh my job is not super top secret or anything so I don’t think my background check would take that long. I’m very concerned about my credit card though (I had gone through some really difficult financial time the last two years). However, if I get this job I can pay everything back in a month. I wonder if I should I contact them about my financial situation and let them know. I’m afraid they’ll withdraw the offer after credit check otherwise :(

            1. LMW*

              I wouldn’t do that. I know it can be nerve-wracking to go through a background check (I just had to do that – complete with drug test – for my current job), but I suspect that they are just slow. Sometimes employers just are. And an almost maxed-out credit card probably isn’t going to really register on this type of check (unless you are deliquent and have gone to collections and even then it might not).

              1. Mary*

                Thank you very much! I sent the HR person an email following up and asked for a discussion of a start date. If she does not reply, then I think you’re right, they haven’t finished the process yet.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Even very basic background checks can take awhile. The last one I had was done in a week, but they told me to give it two. My fiance has applied for many federal jobs and those take months even though he is squeaky clean.

          I would get back in touch with the company and ask them for a time table, and only worry if they do not respond to you in a reasonable amount of time.

          A maxed out credit card will almost definitely not disqualify you. I have significant amounts of debt and am on a repayment plan with several companies and have passed every background check I have ever gone through, even for banking and other sensitive cash handling roles.

      1. mahmadiqbal*

        Not to sound like a downer, but from my experience, nothing is final till you receive your first paycheck. Before that anything could change.

    2. Ann*

      Hi Mary,

      I had something similar happen to me. The job used a 3rd party background check company, and the company was having trouble getting in contact with a previous employer. If they’re using a third party source, and you know who they’re using try contacting them. I ended up being able to send my W2’s to verify that I was employed where I said I was.

  38. Rebecca*

    Anyone else in this situation? My company was purchased over 2 years ago by a much larger company. Turns out this company doesn’t give raises, either merit based or COLA. My manager thinks we should be enthusiastic, trying to make improvements, suggestions on how to collaborate with other team members in other offices, ad nauseum. She continues to volunteer us for extra work and projects so “we get good exposure” with the home office. It’s resulted in a lot of overworked, stressed people with no hope of additional compensation, so you can imagine the attitude here.

    I have a job, and everyone says I should be grateful that I have one, but I have lost any motivation to do anything past coming to work, pushing the buttons I’m told to push, and collecting a paycheck. Why should I (or any of us) go out of our way to do anything extra when it won’t result in a reward of any kind?

    I feel so discouraged. Employment options are so limited in our rural area, so it’s not like I can just go get another job with decent pay. I hate just going through the motions.

    1. Chriama*

      You should probably talk to your manager about your concerns. I don’t know how I would phrase things exactly, but I would probably focus on the workload, and how you would love to get good “exposure” but you need to set up certain priorities. I’m not sure I’d mention the lack of raises in the same conversation, but I would totally tell her that you’re concerned about the compensation philosophy of the new management.

      1. Rebecca*

        Many of us have done this. When we bring up the extra work, she just waves her hand and says “I told my boss we could do it, so make it happen”. Discussions about increases are met with “you are paid very well for what you do here, if you don’t like it, quit. There are hundreds of unemployed people out there”. Yes, she is generally nasty and rude to us.

        Needless to say, almost everyone here is looking for another job.

        1. SW*

          I think finding another job is the best you can do (either in your area, or you might consider relocating), since there’s obviously no reasoning with this manager.

          I wonder if she gets bonuses for making you all do the extra work…

  39. Emily*

    So I have my Master’s in Social Work and have been hoping to focus my career in the eating disorder field. I don’t have any professional experience with eating disorders, however, I am personally recovered from one. When applying to jobs such as residential eating disorder treatment centers I’ve mentioned it very briefly (one sentence or so) that I have recovered from an eating disorder and tie it back to the job by saying that it gives me a unique perspective on clients.

    I’m wondering if this is something I should be disclosing or not? I can’t tell if it’s helping or hindering me. I had an interview yesterday at a residential treatment center for eating disorders and I would really love the position but I felt like she focused a lot on making sure I wouldn’t be triggered personally by working with this population rather than on how I could contribute to the position.

    So I guess my question is should I stop mentioning my own recovery? I don’t know how else to express why I have an interest in the field and by not disclosing it makes it seem like I have no knowledge of ed’s, which I do.

    Any thoughts/suggestions would be appreciated :)

    1. Claire*

      It can see how it would go both ways, though I would tend to think that it’s more of a help (but I’m not in the field, so I could be wrong!) Maybe it would be possible to vague it up and mention a personal experience with EDs without necessarily disclosing that it’s PERSONAL personal experience?

      (Congrats on your recovery, btw!)

    2. Katie the Fed*

      You could say you have experience with loved ones suffering from eating disorders.

      It’s technically true.

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      First off, congratulations on your recovery from one ED survivor to another, and so glad to hear you’re looking to work in the recovery field.

      I would mention your own recovery, as you’ve been doing. While I understand your interviewer’s concern about triggers, I agree with you that your personal experience is relevant to your interest in the position. If a question of triggering comes up again in an interview, try talking about how you understand how to respond to triggers due to your recovery, and how your experience can help others in the treatment center do the same.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I am always leery about advising people to mention medical/health challenges they have as partial justification for their interest in a particular field. Can it be helpful to do so? Sure. Does it also have the possibility of coming across as TMI or giving the interviewer pause about hiring you (trigger behavior)? Yep.

        Which one it does is going to depend largely on the person interviewing you, of course. (And I have to think, you wouldn’t be the only person working there who ever dealt with an eating disorder.) However, I tend to agree with Claire and Katie the Fed, who advocate a more oblique approach. I would say something like “I have known people who have struggled with–and recovered from–eating disorders, which informs my interest in working with this population.” That then gives you the opportunity to discuss what you know/understand/have read about challenges, treatment options and other issues specific to eating disorders, even though you don’t have any professional experience (yet!) in the field.

        1. fposte*

          I’m curious now, though. Does anybody hire in this area? Would you be concerned if you found out that an employee shared the disease they’re treating and hadn’t mentioned it? It seems to me like that might be worse. I think investigating to make sure that you’re in a place where you can treat rather than being the patient seems pretty reasonable, so long as they’re doing that and not just holding past ED against therapists, which would be foolish. And I guess I just hate to model a behavior of suppression when shame and denial are such a big part of disease generally.

          But this is not my field, so I’m just shooting from the hip here.

          1. Emily*

            Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions! I’m happy to report that I just heard back from the woman I interviewed with and I got the position!

            I guess disclosing didn’t hurt at least in this case but I can see both sides of it where some may see it as TMI. I agree too that it may depend on the interviewer. Either way, I’m really excited :) Yay for being employed!

            1. The Snarky B*

              Emily, congratulations!!
              I’m training to be a counselor, and there’s been a lot of discussion about being “too close” to an issue and I fall on the side of supporting it – I think that people who have suffered through something have more perspective on it than others, oftentimes.
              However, I do think that for future positions you should try, as an exercise, to write a cover letter about how important the treatment of EDs is, and I bet you can explain your interest regardless. I think having one has likely given you an insight on their vast impact beyond just saying that you’ve had one. Perhaps that’ll help if in the future you decide not to disclose.
              All the best! Thanks for fighting the good fight!
              – B

          2. Christine*

            I see it a lot in the mental health field; some agencies actively recruit past or current (but stable) consumers of mental health services.

            Congrats, Emily, on getting the job!!

          3. Anonymously Anonymous*

            It’s actually becoming more of the norm than the exception in the human service and mental health field.

    4. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Are you applying to treatment centers that offer peer recovery support? These are the treatment centers that will be your best bet. Also be prepared if you have to take some additional classes to become certified to be a peer recovery support specialist.

  40. mahmadiqbal*

    I recently had a weird experience and I just wanted to find out what happened here. Just for reference, I have since moved on to another position, but for my 15 years of experience, this was a first.

    I interviewed for a state job (contractual) recently. They approved, I gave them my time period of joining which was 7 working days. They sent me the contract, I signed it and send it back to them. 2 days after and 4 days before I was suppose to join them, I received a call from them, telling me, they apologize, but they have decided to hire a local candidate instead. I was aghast. I asked the reason, and they said, they wanted a resource 2 days earlier than the date I gave them to join, which by the way they accepted it earlier and was part of the contract. I asked to discuss this, but they said, they just decided to go with the local candidate. Just for reference, there was no relocation involved in the package. Thankfully, I had to delay my resignation as my manager was out, else, I was royally scr#$ed.

    1. fposte*

      They suck. They also would have sucked to work for. Their justification is both crazy and utterly insufficient.

        1. fposte*

          Joking aside, this is something that could actually get them in civil trouble for detrimental reliance, because they did breach an already signed contract. It’s just that it’s not worth it to pursue something like that for under a kajillion.

          1. mahmadiqbal*

            I agree. I also agree that, if they can do this at this stage, how worse would they have been if I did end up working for them.

  41. Claire*

    How is it best to approach your manager about working from home? For background, my job was originally advertised as potential for FULL work from home bc it was intended for a former employee. When interviewing, my manager told me that he would rather have someone in office, but that we could revisit the possibility. My job is 100% doable remotely. I guess my question is really whether it would be best to meet with him “officially” about generally working from home in the future (it’s very possible that I’ll need to put in additional hours as the busy season starts, and I would much rather do them from home) or if I should approach about a specific time (for example, I could make up some hours this week since I won’t be paid for Memorial Day).

    1. Claire*

      Oops, just to clarify, I’m not going to ask/try to get full work from home, would just like to have a little flexibility for a few hours now and then and potentially work up to one day a week.

      1. Chriama*

        If you’ve been there more than a year and have good performance I’d approach him about overall flexibility, because you have enough of a track record.
        If it’s under a year, I would ask for a specific time so that after a year you can point to success in working from home on occasion as part of your argument for more flexibility built into your role

  42. Katie the Fed*

    I’m going to rant about one of my biggest pet peeves in the office. If you’re doing this, please stop:

    People who send me an email and then stop by to tell me they sent me an email.

    If you sent the email, I will read it. It might not be THIS MINUTE, but I will get to it.

    If it’s time-critical, then fine, stop by and tell me you send me something that needs to get done in the next hour (and flag it sparingly). But I really, really don’t need you to stop by to inform me that you sent an email. I get about 600 emails a day. I get through all of them, usually at the end of the day.

    1. Lore*

      I have a coworker, who sits literally four inches away from me on the other side of a cubicle wall. If we stand up, we can have a face-to-face conversation. Yet she calls me on the phone every time she has a question, and then after leaving me a voicemail will, within five minutes, follow up with an email and/or another phone call. If these were always mission-critical questions, or infrequent, it would still probably annoy me, but…it’s like nine phone calls per task with the teensiest queries that probably didn’t need to be asked in the first place. Ugh.

      1. fposte*

        I love that you let the calls go to voicemail. I’d be tempted to call out “I’m not here.”

        1. Chinook*

          When I would be at work an hour early due to a light commute, I would often tell people that I am a hologram and the real me will be in at 8 am.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            I need about a half hour to settle into the day every day, and I get in early just for that purpose. I drink my coffee, read emails, read things that came in overnight, etc. It sets me up for the day, and I do NOT like interruptions.

            I had an employee who would always ambush me the second I walked in. He reminded me of a puppy, just waiting to jump on me and lick my face (note: he did not actually lick my face). I finally told him to please pretend I’m not there until 8am, because I need that time to quietly prepare for the day.

            About 5 minutes to 8 I can sense him dancing around and getting ready to tackle, but I’m properly caffeinated by that time and ready to deal with him.

        2. Lore*

          Sometimes I kind of have to duck down so she can’t see my shadow on the frosted glass partition between cubes. Sometimes I answer just because it’s faster.

    2. Natalie*

      Argh, completely agreed. I have a coworker who sends me emails and then walks down to my office and just repeats whatever was in the email. Dude, relax!

    3. Colette*

      Mine is more general – people who follow up within 24 hours (for something non-urgent).

      It does not raise their priority in my eyes, BTW.

      (I’m not talking about quick yes/no answer questions, but ones that take more time & thought.)

    4. Just Me*

      Answer the phone on speaker phone so it echos. They may get the idea that they could really have this conversation in person. For short snippet convo’s though, I prefer IM on the computer. I would do this much more with coworkers who are in the same room, but not next cubicle. It’s more private than a phone call, and quicker. Then you can also put a busy note on your IM.

  43. Christina*

    I am trying to read more books geared for professional development. Besides Alison’s book (which is at the top of my list), what other suggestions would you all make? Thank you in advance!

    1. Cas*

      I like Women Don’t Ask — very helpful if you want to overcome your hesitations about negotiating.

      1. Christina*

        Good suggestion- this is probably another area where I could use some more education. Thank you!

    2. Another Reader*

      Crucial Conversations is very good on communication techniques and effective conflict resolution. There’s a second book, Crucial Confrontations, which is also good, but the first book is the best imo.

      1. Christina*

        Awesome! Thank you! You answered my other question too without even knowing it!

    3. khilde*

      I like to recommend Bruce Tulgan’s stuff. He has “It’s OK to Be the Boss” (if you’re a manager, obviously), or another one “It’s OK to Manage Your Boss” or something like that. The boss book is yellow, the employee version is red. He has another one about working with Gen Y folks called “Not Everyone Gets a Trophy.” I really like his approach.

      1. Christina*

        What? No trophy!?!

        …In all seriousness, thank you for the suggestions! I can’t wait to read them!

    4. Kate in Scotland*

      I got more than I expected out of ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ which I think is now ‘Strengths Finder 2.0’. I recommend Anne Dickson’s ‘Difficult Conversations’ for interpersonal stuff. One book that had a massive impact on me personally though I only read one chapter was ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’ – I had read several leadership books but this was the only one that led up with asking whether you actually wanted to be a leader. I answered ‘no’ and now I have a much more suitable career path! I think that’s really important actually, it sounds a bit flippant but it took me a long time to see that I was a square peg in a round hole.
      Another book that’s not obviously a business book but I’ve found tremendously useful is ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’. It really got me thinking about how to switch modes in thinking and which mode to use in which task – for example, when you need to stop working away at a tricky problem and let your subconscious get on with it – I deliberately build that time in now and I’m sure it has made me more efficient.

      1. Jessa*

        Okay, since this is open thread – what books would you all recommend that every job seeker or manager have on their bookshelves (we already know anything written by Alison should have pride of place.)

  44. Liz in a Library*

    On being a reference…

    Recently I’ve had a spate of colleagues asking me to be a reference for them. Most I’m thrilled to do, because I know they’ll be great! However, I have one former colleague who has remained a friend who asked, and I just don’t know what to do.

    This person was miserable to work with. Our work conditions were bad, but my colleague just…stopped working completely, made tons of additional work for coworkers, was passive aggressive and sometimes outright mean. But this isn’t who they are in real life; as a person and friend, I really value them, and I want to maintain the relationship. I think their bad behavior was driven by some terrible circumstances at work and in their home life at the time.

    What do I say? I can’t in good conscience recommend them knowing what I experienced. If I say no and explain why, this person will be truly, deeply hurt. I worked very closely with this person for several years, so I can’t use the excuse that I’m not familiar enough with their work.

    Ultimately, I think I have to say know, even though it will be hurtful and probably kill the friendship. I just need a kick in the pants from someone else to do it.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Can you say that because the work conditions were so bad you don’t think you can fairly evaluate her as a reference?

      1. fposte*