being chronically sick during a summer internship, how far back should your resume go, and more

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How to explain that I left my last job when the owner had a violent outburst

I’m a young woman working in the trades, and for the past 4 years I was working for a male acquaintance, who runs a small company. Unfortunately, my male acquaintance has a bit of a temper, and a few days ago he unleashed it at me, worse than I’ve ever seen. (It was not about a work issue, not that it matters.) He made numerous violent threats, cornered me alone on a jobsite and refused to let me leave, and eventually started cutting himself with a work knife. It was very frightening, and I ended up contacting the police and getting a restraining order against him. I feel good about the way I resolved the situation and I’m ready to move on, but I’m not sure how to handle my job search. Obviously I don’t want to just leave the job off my resume, since it’s my most recent job, the longest term job I’ve had, and the most relevant to my career. But since it was such a small company and the only other employees are family members of my scary ex-boss, I don’t have any references I can use for it.

How should I handle this topic when a potential employer asks for references or about why I left? I feel like in most fields it would be obvious that my ex-boss was the problem, but in such a male-dominated field I’m worried that I might be seen as just another emotional girl causing drama.

How awful. Can you use one of the other employees as a reference, even though they’re family members of this guy? Customers who might vouch for you? Regardless, I think I’d say, “After four years, the owner had a breakdown where he became violent.” As long you seem sane and credible through the rest of the hiring process, most interviewers should give you the benefit of the doubt on something like this.

2. My team isn’t following the policy I trained them on

I work in a call center environment, and my team deals with a variety of stressed out callers on a daily basis. For a long time, there was not a clearly articulated policy regarding deliberate swearing/prolonged abusive language from callers. When my manager asked me to create new training materials for my team, this is something that I brought up. We devised a policy for callers who use extensive profanity in a deliberate manner (e.g. an angry tirade as opposed to an accidental swear word); the caller is warned the first time that the call will be terminated if the abusive language continues, and the second use of profanity is the team member’s cue to end the conversation. I conveyed this point to my team once this policy was finalized, and I did not receive any indication that my team had an issue with this policy.

A few days ago, I found out someone on my team chose to disregard this policy during a call. I was surprised, and she explained that it was her call. This actually made me quite angry, as it was the latest event in a day full of moments when I witnessed evidence of my training being ignored. I tersely told her it was department policy and emailed my team lead about it soon after. My team lead was somewhat non-commital in his response, which concerns me because if I’m training these people, I want to make sure I’m conveying the correct information and that my team members aren’t willingly letting callers abuse them. I know that due to my official job title (merely a processor), I am in no position to enforce policy myself. My concern lies in the callers getting the impression that they can treat my team in such an unprofessional manner because someone decides it’s her call whether or not to follow the profanity policy established for the team. If my team lead is waffling on enforcing this (somewhat new policy) for handling abusive callers, should I bring this up with my manager?

Yes. Not as a complaint, but as a request for clarification: “We’d created a new policy on this, but it’s not being followed. When I spoke with the team lead about it, he was non-commital about how to handle it. If this isn’t going to be the policy after all, I want to be aware of that so that I don’t train people on it. If it IS going to be the policy, I think the team as a whole needs clarification on that. What’s the best way to proceed?”

In other words, your fight here isn’t to enforce the policy, since that’s not your call. Rather, it’s to bring the issue to the surface and get it resolved.

3. Being forced to take a vacation day for a company-wide closure

With the 4th of July upon us, a lot of people have requested the day after off (5th of July). My company decided to implement a company-wide closure for the 5th. Now they are making us take a vacation day or take an unpaid day off. Are they allowed to make us take our vacation time for a company-wide closure?


4. Employer wants to interview me on the same day that I have a major work event

I am currently employed. I have a good job, one that I actually like. But a fantastic opportunity came along and I just had to apply. I’ve made it to round 2 of interviews, and they are at the organization’s office, which happens to be 400 miles away. No problem–they will fly me in. The catch? The interview date is the same day as a major event at work, one in which I am integrally involved. Is it too much to expect the interview committee to allow me some flexibility? I really want this job, but I’m not willing to lie or scheme my way out of this work event. Help!

It’s completely reasonable to say, “I’m sorry, but I have a work event on that date that I can’t miss. Is there another date that would work on your end?” In fact, most employers are expecting that you’ll speak up if the dates they propose would be a hardship for you. (That said, there are some circumstances where they can’t be flexible, but they’ll tell you if that’s the case; you should absolutely still ask.)

5. How far back should your resume go?

I have a question about resume depth. How far back should your jobs go? I have 3 jobs outside of college (graduated in 2006), but I don’t know if I should include them all in an effort to shorten my resume to one page. All 3 are relevant to my career. I know you say going to 2 pages is fine, but I feel like there is still a stigma against it. Do you have a rule of thumb for how many years or jobs back you should go on a resume?

Typically 15-20 years, so you should include them all. You should be able to get three jobs on a one-page resume, though; if you’re struggling, that’s a sign that you need to be more aggressive about editing it down.

6. Reference checks when employers know you with a previous name

I was married two years ago and happily bid farewell to my difficult-to-pronounce maiden name in favor of my husband’s last name. Now that I’m job-searching, I’m wondering if this will be a problem if/when employers verify my work history, particularly for some of the jobs I had during my college years (not that long ago). While my most relevant employers know about my marriage, there’s a couple of jobs listed under “other experience” where I haven’t kept in contact. Some of my friends have sidestepped this problem by using both names professionally — “Jane MaidenName MarriedName,” but I don’t want to do that unless I absolutely have to. What is the best way to address this with potential employers?

When you supply them with references, let them know what your maiden name was; they’re used to encountering this.

7. When you’re chronically sick during a summer internship

I’m a college student interning at an NYC financial firm this summer. For the past year or so, I have had undiagnosed stomachaches, sometimes accompanied by nausea. It’s not bad enough and happens enough that I can’t take time off every time it happens, especially during an internship. Any tips on how to deal with being “off” all the time at work, working while feeling terrible, etc.? On the other side, tips on what to say to people if they ask why I’m constantly feeling sick? I am trying to take care of this medically as well and as quickly as I can.

I’d talk to your manager about it so that she’s in the loop on what’s going on and doesn’t attribute any off-ness to bad work habits or anything else unflattering. You can simply say, “I want to let you know that I’m dealing with a health condition that makes me feel sick about X times a week/month. I’m concerned that there may be times when I seem off as a result, and I want to let you know that this is what’s going on so that you understand why I might sometimes seem tired or otherwise off. I’m working on getting this resolved quickly and and not letting it affect my work, but I felt it was something I should mention to you so that any symptoms aren’t misinterpreted.”

{ 95 comments… read them below }


    #5 There is no way to get my last 3 jobs on one page. Add in header summary, job accomplishments, and education. No way.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      You might want to rethink that. I have 30 years of experience and yes, I now go onto 2 pages. But my most recent jobs would still fit on one page. You should be able to distill your major accomplishments into just a few short lines. If they are powerful enough they’ll work better than several lines.

      1. Lisa*

        I’ve been at 2 companies over 9 years with 3 job titles at the first one and 2 at the second one. I use 2 pages, because i want to show my progression. Maybe that is what OP is dealing with. 3 companies, but more than 3 titles.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          Nope. List your current title. If you want to list “hired in at title”, OK. But they care what your skill set is now. Prior jobs are mostly to demonstrate other skill sets.

          1. Lisa*

            I disagree, I started as customer service, became office manager, then director of marketing in only 3 years. for the latest job, i was a jr. and now a sr. teapot maker.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          What I meant to say is that showing job progression might best be shown as a single sentence in your cover letter. “In 2010 I was hired at Cheese Coasters as an assembler, professing to team lead and ultimately manager. While there I increased thermal stability by 10 degrees C. I believe my experience with thermally dynamic materials can help Chocolate Teapots with thier new Hot Teapot Line.”

          1. concise resume*

            Yep, EngineerGirl is right. And if you really want to show career progression in your resume, you can add a bullet at the end that says something like “In three years, progressed from customer service representative to office manger to director of marketing”.

            I have over 20 years of experience on just under two full pages, with plenty of room for education, including two graduate degrees, professional associations and development, and volunteer work.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              Exactly. Call it out specifically instead of hoping they will see it themselves through your many words.

              Keep it short and sweet. Otherwise the hiring managers eyeballs roll into the back of her head and you’ll find your resume in the reject pile.

      2. WWWONKA*

        If I was only adding one job I could do it on one page but that will not show any progression form one job to the next.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Try listing all the titles and their dates, but only do one list of bullet points of accomplishments underneath them (rather than separate lists for separate jobs at the same company).

    2. Marmite*

      Are you in the US? I’m in the UK and have a CV that runs into a second page because the education section takes up half of the first page. It’s partly due to the qualifications required in my field but also because the way degrees are classified here takes more space to list than the US equivalent (and many people also include high school exams on their CVs, although I don’t unless the person specification mentions them).

        1. A Teacher*

          Even with multiple degrees. In my fields, I lists BS, Ms, and MA. With the MA I have to list the teaching endorsements

          1. Marmite*

            Part of it for me is that my job (and similar ones I’d apply to) requires a degree plus a bunch of other non-degree level qualifications, all of which need the relevant dates and education provider listed.

        2. Marmite*

          Yeah, that’s why I was wondering if the OP was outside the US, because otherwise it would seem easy to fit only three jobs onto one page.

    3. forrest*

      Im confused by what you mean by “my three jobs wont fit” and then you add job accomplishments? Shouldnt that already be a given?

      I have four jobs and they vary between three to five bullets each, which the bullets under the two most revlant positions being about two lines each.

  2. Jessa*

    #2 – there’s a difference between a policy to help your employees deal with rude customers and a policy that REQUIRES them to do certain things if a customer does something. And your employees might think it’s the first thing not the second. Most companies do not require reps to hang up, but permit them to if they need to. If yours requires it you probably need to make this clear.

    1. Elsajeni*

      That, and: how exactly does this policy describe the circumstances where the rep can/must hang up? It seems like, by necessity, it’s probably a subjective description — “If the caller uses profanity in an abusive manner,” or something like that, as opposed to “If the caller says the f-word three or more times” — which means that the rep who chose not to hang up on the caller could quite reasonably say, “Yes, he was swearing, but I didn’t feel that he was being abusive, so I didn’t think the policy was relevant.”

      OP #2, have you shared your thoughts on why this policy matters, and especially the idea that you might be ‘training’ customers that abusive language is okay, with your employees? If not, I think it’s worth doing that: “I worry, when one of you puts up with this kind of treatment from a customer, that we’re giving them the impression that it’s acceptable. I also worry that you might be putting up with it because you think you have to. I want to make it clear that I don’t think it’s acceptable, I don’t want our customers to think it’s acceptable, and I don’t expect you to put up with it. You are not only allowed, but encouraged, to hang up on someone who talks to you that way.”

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        It’s very subjective. I once had a collection company representative threaten to hang up on me for being threatening and, while I was upset with both him and the slimy company he was representing, I stayed polite and did not use any profanity nor abusive language. I did claim that their business practices were duplicitous, at best (perhaps with that wording), but I was surprised that he considered that a threat.

    2. FiveNine*

      There’s also the issue of … call centers firing employees who hang up on customers for any reason. And call centers notoriously enforcing policies and rules that are constantly changing and not in writing. I worked at one for two years; the woman who trained my intake group said if a caller is abusive we can politely tell them we’re going to hang up and then do so. About a year later the call center in one fell swoop fired more than 25 people, some of whom had worked there more than a decade, for hanging up on a customer. There was no warning, there was no written policy, and the management acted like these workers were insane — of course no one is to ever hang up on a customer, what kind of customer service is that they asked, the customer is always right, the customer is how the company makes money.

      1. KM*

        This. The motto at my call centre was basically The Right Hand Doesn’t Know What the Left Hand Is Doing (But Both Hands Are Trying to Slap You). It was this crazy Orwellian world where all of the supervisors at every level would tell you completely different things — even things that blatently contradicted what they, themselves, had told you before — and act like the latest thing they said, whatever it was, had ALWAYS been true (of course! can’t you read? don’t you listen? up means down and down means east and east means thrice-stamped parking permit. everyobody knows this!).

        While I totally applaud and agree with the supervisor from #2 for trying to introduce a “Don’t let the customers act like assholes” policy (because too many companies have trained customers to act like assholes, and that’s how you get someone trying to kill you over Chicken McNuggets), my guess is that the employees aren’t taking this seriously because they’ve seen a thousand policies come and go within as many days and they want to err on the side of not getting fired. (My centre also had a policy that you could never hang up, literally, no matter what — even if the customer ASKED YOU TO).

        The AAM advice is still right, though. The only thing for #2 to do is talk to the managers about whether they’re going to take the poilcy seriously… but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for a clear, committed answer.

    3. Marmite*

      Some employees may also prefer the less confrontational route of just continuing with the call, particularly if they’re not easily offended by certain language.

      1. Soni*

        My concern with this is the bar it sets for the customer, who may get a different person the next time they call. If one employee allows them to cuss a blue streak without consequences, they’ll feel that behavior is tolerated (rightly so) the next time they have a problem.

        1. A Bug!*

          I agree that a customer should be able to expect some consistency when they call, and some things should be on a firm rule (like using a language that’s not offered by the service you’re fulfilling) but when it comes to using profanity, I believe that some discretion on the agent’s part should be warranted.

          When I was in a call center, the employees were permitted to hang up on a caller after giving them one warning about language. But you weren’t dinged if you didn’t; it was up to you, because the “consistent” part is that once the caller is placed on notice about language the next use will be a disconnect. If someone happened to call back and say “Hey, I’ve never been disconnected for swearing before, why did I get disconnected for swearing?” the answer can be “It is up to the agent’s discretion. You were given a warning and the opportunity to continue the call.”

          So for me, I just ignored profane language that wasn’t directed at me. It made my day less stressful and kept my numbers low; if I were required to warn and disconnect for “benign” profanity, it would have made my day harder, not easier. I would not feel protected by that policy in the slightest because it would actually cause me to have to escalate a situation more often than it would allow me to remove myself from an escalated situation.

    4. Del*

      Agreed! As someone else who used to work in a call center…

      Sometimes the callers are simply abusive and nothing you do will change them. But sometimes they are venting frustrations, and you can ultimately manage their anger and bring a positive resolution to the call. Things like that, I feel, should really be left up to the discretion of the individual rep — is the call beyond saving, or is there something they can do to really provide stellar customer service and end up with a satisfied customer?

      The call center I worked for did not permit reps to hang up on anything but a “ghost” or nonresponsive caller. If someone was really, truly beyond helping we were permitted to blind transfer them to a manger’s voicemail, but we were supposed to make every effort to resolve the concerns first, and I had a few that I really successfully turned around, and got bonuses and commendations for that.

      Employees shouldn’t be punished for really going above and beyond for customer service, so long as they don’t actively harm the company by doing so. Allowing them to hang up on abusive customers protects them in terms of morale, but allowing them to stay on the line if they feel up for it allows them to shine.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Right, give them the opportunity to hang up or not and support them in either choice. Treat them like adults whom you respect, rather than kids that have to follow your rules for their own safety.

    5. Kou*

      That’s my feeling, as well. If I worked under that policy I would assume it meant I *could* not that I *had to* every single time.

      And I agree with the employee, honestly– I think this should be their call. If I think I can resolve the issue if I push through the tirade, I’d do that. Fear of the customer or of my supervisor wouldn’t be the motivation, but rather which would be more productive: Ending the call, or trying to finish it?

  3. HR Abnormal*

    #2- It’s very common to be met with resistance to new policies. The best, and often the only remedy, is full management push and support.

    1. Cruella Da Boss*

      I would not look at this as a policy but more as a guideline.

      Since what is considered offensive speech is subjective to each individual, I would see this as a means to protect the operator from reprocussions should they believe they are being verbally abused by a caller and end the call.

      I have been around call centers for a very long time. Callers can get very nasty, especially on the telephone when their physical attributes are taken out of the equation. They then must rely on their tone of voice, meter, diction, etc.. to establish their dominance. This can be very intimidating. I have thicker skin than most of my newbies, so I can take a little more salty language than they can. I can still handle a caller’s complaint and move on, while the newbies tend to get upset at the slightest offense. See…subjective.

      If a caller curses at an operator, the caller is asked not to use that type of language, as the operator is there to assist them. If they continue, they are warned that the behavior will not be tolerated, and any further incidences may result in ending the call. Usually that is all that it takes. I prefer that anyone who is more aggressive be connected to a shift supervisor before being disconnected, but the supervisors also follow this guideline.

      Unless I’m reading this all wrong and the OP is wanting the operators to hang up on all offenders rather than trying to de escalate the situation.

      Is the OP training everyone to hang up after the warning, regardless?

  4. Molinnj*

    OP 2: I think it’s great your company put a written policy in place to protect your staff from overly abusive situations. Maybe the “Why” needs to be better articulated to them so that they truly understand it’s coming from a good place and is meant to protect them. Also, i think people may tend to have different tolerance levels for what they consider an abusive caller. I wonder how the need for the polciy came about, and were the employees asked to provide input prior to the policy being written so that perhaps some general consensus or trends could be taken into consideration? I actually think the policy is fine and could not imaging swearing once at a customer call center. Sure, I may have use stern language or raise my voice on the very rare occasion, but I could never imaging swearing at a poor call center rep once, moreover twice! Not cool and not acceptable behavior. So sorry you and your colleagues have to deal with that on a daily basis, and glad to see the company is doing something about it.

    OP 5: I agreed with Alison and EngineerGirl that it is possible to fit 3 jobs on 1 page. I have done it and it is more impactful, and I have gotten really positive feedback on my résumé.

  5. Marmite*

    6 – I go by a nickname to the extent that many people don’t know what my full name is, but I have one previous employer who insisted on full names in the workplace (like you couldn’t even shorten Nicholas to Nic or Samuel to Sam) and wouldn’t necessarily know who the reference checker was asking for if they referred to me by my preferred name. When I list references I just make a note next to that one saying, “This employer knows me as (full name).”

    Odd as some of their workplace rules were that employer gives me a great reference so I don’t want to leave them out!

      1. Marmite*

        It was a small employer where the CEO just made up whatever crazy rules suited him. He didn’t approve of nicknames. He also believed Fridays should be half days, so ya know, there were perks!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          My brother’s full first name is Terry, not Terence, and my bro-in-law goes by Dan, but his full first name is Danny. (And both object if you try to give them a name that isn’t theirs.) Your former boss would have a hard time with those who got official nicknames from their parents. :)

          1. RLS*

            When I tell people what my full name is, they either a) don’t believe me or b) insinuate it was a made-up name (“Oh, your parents sound, uh…creative.”) when it actually a somewhat common name in my family’s country of origin. And then they tell me that my spelling/name/pronunciation is wrong. Huh?!

            I used to go by a monosyllabic nickname, and most of my family and close friends still call me that. However, I stopped and changed to my full first name because I hated people assuming that my full first name was something else entirely.

            /awesome name problems.

  6. JenR*

    #2 – policy or not by the company. In many states in the US, it’s actually illegal to use threatening, abusive or obscene language on the phone. (Fortunately, when I had to do the call center thing, my bosses were adamant that this policy be followed. Thank goodness, job was painful enough as it is.)

    1. Anonymous*

      Oh, the irony. You will never hear more abusive, threatening or obscene language on the phone as you will from people who are calling to report other crimes (911 callers). And we don’t get the reprieve from a nice policy letting us hang up unfortunately (though for good reason).

      1. Chinook*

        Why oh why would you threaten the only person who is directing the police, fire trucks or ambulance to you? That just seems counter intuitive (though I understand swearing when under stress). It isn’t. Like you called them.

        1. Soni*

          I can totally see my neighbors abusing 911 staff while calling in a crime or incident: “Where are you $%^#$@$% people when we need you? As high as our $%@# taxes are, we shouldn’t have to wait this #$#@ long. I don’t know why y’all $%@!#@$ haven’t thrown this $%#$ in jail by now. You stupid ^%$#@$@#%^ ‘ers know what he’s like, you’ve been here often enough. $%#$ no I’m not going to tell you my name. Why? So you can put it on a $%@#$ FBI list? $%#$ you! Just get out here and do your job.”

          Yeah. *sigh*

          1. Anonymous*

            I kinda get it. It’s not nice, but those people are in extremely stressful situations and people don’t always act with perfect civility when they’ve been traumatized or their lives are in danger.

            1. Anonymous*

              Absolutely. However, imagine Soni’s comment pretty much verbatim over a parking/loud music complaint. Yep, I deal with THAT all day. Sorry to hijack the comments a bit – I did not mean to.

            2. Chinook*

              I get that people are under stress and thigns are said in anger, but I guess the Canadian in me can’t understand why you would be rude to the people trying to help you. Don’t they know that we don’t have the budgets for transporters and that travel takes time (DH’s patrol territory can take 1.5 hours at highway speed to get from one end to the other and there are only 2 of them covering it (though others are availabel if need be) so yellign won’t get him there any faster)

              And don’t they understand that they aren’t the most important people on the planet and that there are limited resources and the first responders will get there when they can? Um…nevermind…I think I just answered the question.

              1. Jamie*

                I see what you’re saying and it’s logical – and I’m certainly not excusing threatening someone trying to help you…that’s counter productive…but if my husband was having a heart attack, or my kid was bleeding profusely, or someone was trying to break into my house and I was huddled in a closet praying I had enough battery on my cell to stay on the line logistics and budget restrictions would be the last thing on my mind.

                In a state of panic the only thing that matters is that the immediate need be address and a return to safety and normalcy happen as soon as possible. And yep – in a state of crisis I absolutely will think I (and my situation) is the most important on the plant. Survival instinct.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          All the masks drop off when people are really stressed. You’ll see them for who they truly are. If the person is a patjological liar or manipulator it is one of the few times you’ll get the truth out of them.

  7. Elise*

    #7 – Medical issues when you are trying to work on your career is tough. Your symptoms sound like how my IBS started out. I’m glad you are getting it taken care of now. I waited over a year and it only got worse–a lot of tests, several doctors, and a dietitian made the difference.

    I hope you feel better soon!

    1. evilintraining*

      Yep! My daughter has Crohn’s disease and went through a similar situation with her clinical assignment last summer. This is something that cannot be ignored. Your health should come first, and hopefully the employer will understand any missed time for testing and physician visits. If you end up having to bail on the internship altogether, don’t sweat it; it happens, and you have a perfectly valid reason for doing so. I’ll say it again: Your health should come first.

    2. KayDay*

      I know multiple people who have had similar issues–it took all of them a couple of years to get it figured out after their first doctor’s visit!

      I hope the OP is able to get their problem resolved faster than that, but I would also add that there is a really good chance the manager knows someone who has experienced this sort of thing.

      1. Anonymous*

        I have Crohn’s, and pretty much any internship supervisor I’ve told when I was having problems were very sympathetic and said they knew someone who had Crohn’s or IBS/IBD.

    3. RubyJackson*

      A few years ago the doctor thought I had Crohn’s disease and so I went on the “Specific Carb Diet.” You might want to try this. It takes effort to find certain substitutions (like almond flour in place of wheat flour), but even if you don’t have IBS or Crohn’s it’s still a healthy diet and settles the stomach.

      I wish you luck, it’s not easy dealing with gut issues. Hopefully your manager is compassionate. Focus on your health first. It’s important to get this under control, then the rest will fall into place.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My sister does the Specific Carb Diet, and it’s kept her Crohn’s nearly entirely under control. It’s VERY restrictive, but by following it religiously, she’s gotten a lot of quality of life back.

    4. Liz in the City*

      #7 No specific advice (other than +1 on what Alison said) but I hope you feel better! I have a chronic illness and it was rough going for awhile during diagnosis + my initial treatments + learning to live with a disease. If your internship manager doesn’t understand, then they aren’t very nice (and seriously, you shouldn’t stress about it. There WILL be other opportunities for you down the line after you feel better / get your situation under control.) In the meantime, I hope your doctors get things figured out!

    5. Laura*

      I hate to be the debbier-downer, but an internship in a NYC financial firm sounds like it could be one of those SUPER competitive internships (investment banking, for example), where its up or out and no-nonsense. If this is the case, I am a bit worried for you. Do tell your manager, and follow AAM’s advice, but also make a personal work- plan. Perhaps work double hard and long hours on weekdays that you feel well and on weekends that you feel well, to make up for future days where you may be off. No one can fault you for illness, but they can give full time offers to those who are “on” more of the time.

      If this is the type of internship that turns into a full-time offer, and you really like the place, do what you can to not let this drag you down. Feel better!

    6. OP*

      Hi! I’m the OP for question #7

      Thanks for all the support! It’s not an internship that leads to a full-time offer – I’m not at the stage/age yet, so that makes it better.
      The hard thing is that it also led to some weight gain, so that discouraging. I just hope to get it decently under control by the time I go back to college.
      Some of the diseases mentioned above are the main ‘suspects’

      1. Elise*

        If you want, I have some good recipes that are free of gluten, soy, corn, and dairy (the 4 things I need to avoid). No corn and no soy basically eliminates anything processed, as soy lecithin is a common ingredient and corn is hidden under its many derivatives.

      2. IronMaiden*

        Hi OP, good luck for getting the gut issues under control. FWIW I think Alison phrased it very well in her original response. Her words make it clear that there is an issue without divulging too much personal info and lets your manager/co-workers know that you have an awareness of the impact on those around you. I’m sure once you get your health sorted out, the weight will come off.

      3. Kou*

        I hope you find a way to treat it. I’ve been struggling with chronic infections for a few years now and I’ve exhausted every medical path– I even had surgery –and I’ve only ever had a slight improvement on my symptoms. I’ve actually been considering writing into AAM about it, even: How do you work full time when you’re sick all the time? It’s not like I’m seriously ill, I just frequently feel completely exhausted and it makes it a struggle all the time.

        1. Rae*

          Seconding this as a requested topic. I have migraines (an ongoing neurological condition, not just a “bad headache”), and they’ve definitely affected my ability to work, to the point of using FMLA.

          Back to the topic, and to the OP: Without getting into details, I sympathize so much. If you don’t already, keep any medications for symptoms with you, just in case. Make a little emergency kit, and stick it in the bag you take to work, so you’ll always have it. (From experience, I know it’s miserable to be stuck at work without something you know might have helped.)

  8. Jazzy Red*

    OP #6 – you could have your name on your resume as Jane (formerly Smith) Jones. Or you could say (nee: Smith) but that isn’t used much these days, except in newspaper crosswords puzzles.

  9. Jazzy Red*

    OP # 1 – I’m so sorry that you had to go through something like this. Calling the police and getting out of there was absolutely the right thing to do.

    I think Alison’s reply is the best way to go. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that people in the industry know about your volatile ex-boss. Some of them might marvel that you lasted four years there.

  10. K-Anon*

    #2) I think you might be missing the point on why the policy could be ignored. While I agree a rep doesn’t have to sit there and take the abuse, you also need to empower the reps to make this decision for themselves, within some guidleines. (they can’t just hang up the
    first swear word obviously.) If this rep is ok putting up with a little swearing to get to the root of the customers problem and resolve the issue, then that’s a great thing and she should be commended for doing a good job. You work in a call center, the job is to resolve customer issues, if you hang up on a customer they’ll just call back, which makes it someone else’s headache and costs the company more money.

    (I manage in contact centers, I’m not advocating that people have to put up with bad behavior, just that hanging up has its own repercussions)

    1. some1*

      I was a receptionist in a govt dept and I dealt with people swearing from time to time. There is also a big difference between, “I’m so %^&*ing tired of this!” and “I’m so %^&*ing tired of this, you @#$%!”. In other words, people who used swear words as intensifiers didn’t bother me, it was using a swear word to call me a horrible name where I drew the line.

      1. A Bug!*

        Yeah, exactly. If it’s not directed at me and it’s not a slur, I don’t have a problem overlooking it to get this person’s issue dealt with and move along.

        1. Felicia*

          I hate it when swear words were directed at me, but at my former company, I wasn’t allowed to hang up for that, so I’d be really happy with that sort of policy. Another thing I would have loved to be able to hang up for was people who were yelling really really loudly. So loudly in fact, t hat it hurt my ears to hold the phone normally, and when I put the phone away from my ear I could hear them perfectly, and they were so loud that even though it wasnt on speaker phone the rest of the office can hear them too. Being yelled at was worse for me than being sworn at, which is why I didn’t last long there.

  11. Runon*

    #2 ignored training

    I completely understand the frustration with training being ignored. There could be several things going on.
    People don’t get training the first time. They don’t, brains don’t instantly rewire themselves. Making sure that you are doing highly interactive training sessions can help. Making sure that staff get the why they should be doing it differently. Having them implement it immediately, etc can all help. Reading up on some training methods might help with this.

    But this won’t make a bit of difference if there isn’t total support from the leadership and management. They need to support it at the start of the training, the why of the training. And most important, the follow up later. If your team lead doesn’t want to enforce it then you need to just let this training go. It can be extremely hard when you’ve work to make sure that the policy was written well, had the approval from all the right people, etc… But when the training is done, it is up to the leadership to enforce or not enforce.

    Try to not be angry about it. While that might be really difficult it is important to not get too personally invested in things like that. When management doesn’t care that’s a decision they’ve made and it isn’t a problem with your training that is causing staff to not follow policy. It is that management doesn’t care.

  12. Anonymous*

    I have a similar situation with 3 actually. I’m a contractor and I’m supposed to average 40 hours per week, but my company is closing the offices on the 4th and 5th, and we’re having a pary on the 2nd that might cut into my work hours. I’m probably not gonna get to 40 that week, nor will I be able to sufficiently make up for the hours lost, so I wonder if I should work from home for at least a few hours on the 5th.

    I kind of want to. It’ll show dedication to a new job as well as of course earn me some money (I’m finally moving in September, wanna make sure I’ve got some savings put away even if I can’t rack up 6 months of income), but my parents warned the company might get mad if I invoice them for hours worked on a day they didn’t want people working.

    1. COT*

      Yeah, they might… though contractors might be different. If in doubt, check in with your supervisor.

    2. Chinook*

      Definitely check to see if your customer/employer is expecting to be invoiced for actual hours worked vs. what you would normally work. There is a chance they might surprise you and give you your normal 40 but, speaking as the person who also double checks all contractor invoices before they are paid, it would raise a red flag if you charged for hours I knew the office was closed and there was no written explanation, with approval, for it. At the very least, it would cause a delay in payment while I verified it because it is my job to make sure we are are charged as per our contracts.

      I am not without empathy, though. My current employer shocked me because they offered, in writing to my agency, to cover my hours as a temp even though the office was evacuated for 2 days and public transit closed for a 3rd. I had already reworked my budget to be short 3 (and potentially more) days without pay when I was notified of their generousity. There was a delay in realying this info to me because the agency was also without power.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’ll definitely mention it to my boss next week, but the only reason I think it’ll be all right is they’re pretty lenient as to when/where I work. they’re fine with me, for example, working from home at night or on weekends, as long as I average 40 hours a week.

        Since this is contract-to-hire, and the tax situations with contract work is nuts, I want to make myself invaluable to them so they bring me on as an employee as soon as they can.

  13. nyxalinth*


    I can handle swearing in general if the person isn’t being abusive to me (still, I would follow the policy) but when they start in with the “You em-effing bee-itch, fix my goshdarn cable right now, or are you too stupid of a ‘see you next Tuesday’ to do one simple effing thing? Blah blah personal attacks blah blah.” I am more than happy to follow policy, because when they’re that riled up and abusive, there’s no helping them anyway. And the issue they’re calling about is the least of their issues when they’re like that.

    I’m glad your company allows this, though. some companies don’t give a damn enough about their reps or even pretend to enough to have a policy like this. and what’s worse is I have friends who work for the satellite companies. They get skeevy people calling them and wanting them to read the titles and plot (hah!) synopses of all the porn…slowly…and they aren’t allowed to hang up.

  14. PPK*

    OP #2 Have the call center employees been burned before by new policies that sound good but you get in trouble for following? They may not believe that if they terminate a call with an abusive caller that they will be supported by the company and not yelled at for not turning the call around before the yelling/swearing got bad.

  15. pidgeonpenelope*

    OP #1: I worked in a call center as well and our abusive caller method was called, “help, stop, help.” It was up to us individually whether we would let the occasional swear word slip (depending on the severity like if it was the word, “shit,” it was mainly ignored).

    Mainly when the caller was being abusive we would start with, “*name*, I understand your upset about this situation and I want to help you however the *specific behavior* has to stop.” The second time you say the first phrase again but add, “if this behavior continues, I’m going to have to end the call.” And the third time, you say “*name*, at this time, because the *specific behavior* has not stopped, I’m going to have to end this call.”

    Not that it helps resolve your situation of non-compliance but I wanted to give you a method that works and is used by a major telecommunications company.

  16. Beth*

    #1 – What a scary and weird situation! I don’t want to read too much into it or in any way blame the OP, but I am just wondering if there is any more to the story. Did this guy just have some sort of mental breakdown, or was this the result of some sort of romantic relationship? Again, I don’t want to make it sound like I just assume that because the OP is a woman, there was at any time a consensual romantic relationship, but this behavior is much more common when romantic relationships go bad and one person can’t handle it. OP does say that the argument was not work-related. The issue of this guy starting to cut himself with a work knife is perplexing when looked at any other way, as is the issue of getting a restraining order, which suggests there is some valid fear that the boss may attempt to contact the OP outside of work. Perhaps, if there was never any consensual relationship, there was some sort of obsession on the part of the boss? Even if there were a consensual relationship, that obviously would in no way excuse the boss’s behavior, but it would introduce another relevant fact into the equation.

    In any case, the problem of how to explain one’s departure still exists. In my experience, as soon as anyone starts saying anything remotely negative about a former employer or employment situation, even if said in a very matter-of-fact and unemotional way, that person starts becoming suspect. Saying that the man had a violent breakdown, even without any details which might make someone suspect a relationship, just sounds unlikely… even though it’s really NOT that unlikely. I think a lot of people experience terrible workplaces (though that bad is rare) and yet when listening to others’ stories, they tend to be skeptical. I don’t know what the culture is in this particular industry, but I think I would try to avoid addressing it head on unless absolutely necessary.

    1. mel*

      I was wondering about it as well… though if this is about a man who is used to being in power (I mean, he’s man-boss in a world of mostly men here), a full blown relationship wouldn’t even be required. A one-sided pining and reasonable rejection could be enough. Even then, I don’t think a simple “he had a breakdown” would be terribly misleading because it’s really nobody’s business.

      Even then, it could have been a simple Sneaky Hate Spiral.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit*

      I think this is a real concern for the OP, that a lot of people will respond like Beth – not necessarily assuming what happened, but having suspicions about the situation. Alison, any thoughts on how to ameliorate that?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I actually don’t really see Beth’s take on this as likely to be common — I think most interviewers will give someone the benefit of the doubt on that statement as long as the person seems sane and credible and her other references check out. (Plus, whether the OP had any involvement with him or not isn’t the issue — and there’s really no reason to assume that she did.)

  17. Beth*

    I just want to clarify my comment in case someone gets upset, thinking I am blaming the victim. Nothing the OP did or did not do could be considered responsible for this guy’s actions – his actions are totally out of proportion to ANY kind of situation, and totally unacceptable. It’s just that if there had been a relationship it would change the situation from one in which a totally uninvolved employee is being harassed and threatened out of nowhere, to one in which the OP was intimately involved in a situation which gave rise to the drama. These are two very different situations. In the latter case even if the boss’s behavior is totally unacceptable, it’s not completely random unprompted abuse. Employers prefer not to hire people who engage in behavior which brings in drama but a simple explanation like “after four years he suffered a breakdown and became violent” would be misleading.

    Oh, one other thought – the restraining order may come up in a background check. I’m not sure whether the details would be disclosed or not, though.

    1. annie*

      It does not matter though – just because you have/had a relationship with someone does not mean you “engaged in behavior which brings in drama” or “prompted” abuse, and it certainly does not give someone the right to harass, threaten or abuse you.

      When I was a sixteen I took a guy who was awkward but nice enough (I thought) to junior prom – he ended up being a bit of a stalker, as in he still tries to contact me every few years, or if he showed up at a public event I was at, I would not be surprised. I would hope a potential employer would not hold my prom date against me, almost twenty years later.

    2. Runon*

      So his actions are totally not ok in any way at all, it’s just that they are if she was asking for it by having had a relationship?

      They are not different cases. Boss engaged in random unprompted abuse. Unless you think there is a case where the op was provoking the abuse?

  18. Loryn*

    #5 – I’m the one who asked about the resume. I have 2 masters, 1 bachelors, and 2 industry certifications. That alone takes up 8 lines. I find it a challenge to put job duties and accomplishments for each job and fit them all. It’s at least 6 lines per job (3 duties, 3 accomplishments). Maybe that’s too much?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The school stuff shouldn’t be 8 lines — you could get that on to 3-5 lines if you put things next to each other instead of all in one column. (Even if it was 1 line per, it would only be 5 lines, so I have a feeling you’re including way more info than you need to.)

    2. RLS*

      I kind of feel the same way. My particular situation is just kind of odd and my resume never feels completely right.

      In particular, because I only have 1 degree, I list my other training and certificates separately on the 2nd page (that I cut half the time). If I’m supposed to include everything from the past 15 years (I’m 26) that means I’d have to list EVERY job, which is probably around the double digits. I started working in my field in 2005 and now I only include relevant jobs on my resume, because there’s simply no way for me to fit everything. And I still have to edit it every single time to get it all to fit on one page. I don’t even have room for a summary or profile. It’s very frustrating.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Past 15 years, starting with the start of your professional career. If you’re 26, you don’t need to go back to age 11. You’d just go back to college, and even then, only include college jobs that were really relevant.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit*

          How would you handle part-time, semi-relevant jobs held during graduate school?

          I’m not job searching right now, but I just took the plunge and deleted my grad student gigs off my LinkedIn. They were great jobs, relevant to my studies (and semi-related to the work I do now – I studied policy and work in civic and political engagement, and my grad student jobs were research assistantships/fellowships with a major policy think tank and a professor).

          1. fposte*

            If space is tight, either pick and choose or lump by relevance: “Research assistantships 2010-2012: assisted Professor Brilliant with shrimp splicing and helped craft shrimp compensation policy at the Seafood Institute.”

  19. Anonymous*

    I really like your answer about training. Best to find out from management how to handle it.

  20. Lily in NYC*

    #2 – Are you a manager to these people in any way? Because if you aren’t, you need to back off. I also feel like getting angry about it is a red flag about your work style. If someone isn’t bothered by the swearing, why is it an issue? It’s good to give someone the power to hang up on an abusive caller, but it shouldn’t be mandatory if the person is able to deal with it.

    1. Augustus Steranko*

      Exactly this. I get the impression from the letter that the OP is a coworker and not in a position of authority. I worked with someone who often provided “helpful” training and guidelines for anything from how to write an email to filing things properly to how to process work. The irritation and resentment created was insane. It appears that she was never asked by management to develop these training modules, she just relentlessly and continuously offered to do it “for the team”. Management would give in so she would leave them alone and then roll their eyes about her to the rest of the team.

      I’m not saying this is your situation but if you aren’t being asked to develop training and policies you should consider how doing so comes across to your team.

  21. Anonymous*

    #7: This happened to me a couple of years ago! This happened during an internship and I didn’t handle it particularly well. It turned out to be GERD, which doesn’t always feel like heartburn, weirdly, and some other stuff not related to the nausea. Learn from my mistakes. :)

    -Don’t travel for work. You might get sick during the trip. That will be Very Bad for everyone. I went on an important trip when I thought I would feel better. Big mistake.
    -Let your boss know what’s going on. It will be helpful for them to know what’s affecting your work and if there’s anything that could be done to help.
    -Feeling sick does affect your mood, and stress affects your health, and your health and mood both affect your performance at work. Take care of yourself.
    -Make plans for this. See what you can do with your schedule or your workplace to make it easier for you to complete your work – not to make your work itself easier, but to let fewer things get in the way of it.

  22. EC*

    #3. if you are salaried exempt, and the business decides to close up for a holiday or other day that would otherwise be a day they normally operate, you should still be paid full salary for that week.

    The terms of the company vacation policy should dictate whether they can require you to use your vacation time for a day the business is closed. But they cannot reduce the weekly salary total for the closure. The crux is whether the employee chooses to stay home or the business takes work away from the employee by closing the business. This is when there is a case of inclement weather, if the business is open, but the employee can’t get there, they can be docked (provided vacation policy doesn’t supplement pay for the absence) but if the business closes as a whole, the employee would get their usual salary without reduction.

  23. Spindi*

    Regarding no. 7: I struggled with this exact same issue for a year during an internship. I was torn between really wanting to impress and get a job at the end, not wanting to be labelled ‘the one who’s always sick’, wanting to hide my condition, and feeling seriously ill. Eventually, the stress of hiding it made me so ill I ended up in hospital. (If it’s any use to you, I turned out to have Crohn’s Disease, not that that means you have the same thing).

    After diagnosis, I was honest with selected people (my manager, my close colleagues and my relevant HR contact) about what I had and that I had been in hospital. Turned out, unsurprisingly, that everyone had noticed me getting ill and had assumed I had an eating disorder. I now have a permanent job at the same company and have been nominated for an award in recognition of the good work I did on my ‘well days’.

    My advice is to be honest. Let them know you’re having a health problem, tell them it’s worrying you and that you’re doing everything you can to get it diagnosed and fixed, but that you may seem a little off. Don’t talk about it constantly, but update them in a clear way about what’s happening: for example, “I’m going to have some tests on X date and need the day off.” You don’t have to give details if you want to keep your health private.

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