being told you’re lucky to have a job at all, helpful HR people, and more

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Creating a development plan when I’m hoping to leave my job in a year

In my department we have semi-annual check-ins with the boss to discuss individual goals. The mid-year meeting is coming up, and the boss wants everyone to fill out an individual development plan to discuss during the meeting. It includes a list of leadership competencies, and you choose a few competencies and describe what steps you can take to improve in those areas. You also have to describe your “ambitions” for the next few years. I feel like the whole thing presupposes that the employee will be doing the same or similar work at this large company forever.

I am planning on going back to school and making a career switch to a completely different field in the next few years. (Let’s say that currently I work in marketing for medical supplies, but I want to design and build eco-friendly houses.) My partner and I will likely be moving in a year, and while I’m happy to be at this job for now, I’m excited to get out of here and start doing what I really want to do. I have not shared my plans with my boss and I’m not comfortable telling her the truth now when I’d like to stick around for another year. I just want to do my work well for as long as I’m here, but that’s not good enough for this conversation. What can I say when I have plans and ambitions that have nothing to do with my current job?

Assume that anything can change between now and the next year, and answer the questionnaire as if you’re staying with your company. Anything can change, after all, and even if you had an ironclad guarantee from the universe that you’re going to leaving this job in precisely a year, this would still be the practical way to handle it if you’re not ready to reveal your plans yet.

That said, I wouldn’t invite any major development steps that would require significant energy that you wouldn’t otherwise be spending … unless you’d be kicking yourself for not including them in a year if your plans do fall through or get delayed.

2. Should HR prep candidates before interviews?

I found my latest phone screen with the HR manager for a prospective company different than most I’ve encountered. When he asked me what I was looking for in terms of compensation, he immediately interjected before I could answer and told me the salary range “…in an effort not to pigeon-hole yourself with your answer, in case we were out-of-sync.” I told him I was fine with the range he quoted. Then at the end of the screening, he asked to set up an interview, gave me the name of the hiring manager who I will be interviewing with and advised me to check out her LinkedIn profile an suggested certain questions in addition to my own, all the while advising me to keep the interview more conversational with her.

Is it normal for the HR rep of a company to give this much help to a candidate? In the past, I’ve got nothing more than a series of questions from them before scheduling the face-to-face interviews.

It’s not unheard of. Most of this — not all — is the sign of a thoughtful HR person: Making sure that you don’t feel lowballed on salary is in the company’s best interests (if they want to retain good employees in the long-term) and suggesting you keep the interview more conversational is pretty basic guidance.

But I do take issue with him suggesting questions to ask the hiring manager, who will be assuming that those questions reflect your own thought process — I’d be pretty irked about that part if I were the hiring manager. (Unless the questions he was suggesting were designed to get you more insight into things he felt it was important for you to hear more about.)

3. After mistakes, should I tell my manager I’m having some personal issues?

I am usually a top performer at my job and pride myself on submitting great work. However, recently I have been a bit distracted by personal issues outside of work (my parents are getting divorced — it’s very messy and I am in the middle of it, as well as problems with my long-term boyfriend who I live with). As a result, in the past two weeks I have made two very small (read: easily fixable) mistakes.

I feel really silly – they were mistakes that never should have happened. I have a great relationship with my boss and he has assured me that both instances were small mistakes and told me not to worry about them, but I can’t help feeling like he may be questioning my work. I have apologized and made it clear I understand the mistakes and neither will happen again.

I know I shouldn’t dwell on the past, but I’m wondering if I should tell him I’ve been dealing with outside issues, or is that TMI? I guess I just feel horribly because both mistakes happened within a week of each other and I want to be sure he knows I’m not just being careless.

If they were truly very small mistakes, then there’s no need for that — not unless you’ve gotten the sense that your manager is concerned. But if it will bring you peace of mind and if your manager isn’t the type to punish people for occasionally having stresses outside of work, there’s nothing wrong with tipping him off that you’re going through a difficult period and that you’re trying to make sure that it doesn’t impact your work.

4. When a manager tells you that you’re lucky to have a job at all

What is meant by “you’re lucky you have a job” as stated by supervisors and managers in response to employees who complain about unfair treatment by management/supervisory staff?

It means “you should be grateful that you’re employed during this bad job market and not complain about the circumstances of your employment.” It’s usually said by bad managers who don’t know how to deal constructively with staff feedback.

5. Bringing a heating pad and seat cushion to a new job

I’m about to start a new job that I am very excited about. However, I am really concerned because I have some pretty intense back pain. My colleagues at my current company have always been open about their health issues (we had a company Advil bottle) so I have always felt comfortable bringing in my heating pad and seat cushion. The company that I’m about to start at is a bit larger and I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to bring out my heating pad. What should I do?

Don’t feel weird about bringing it in. There’s nothing inappropriate about it, and it’s a medical accommodation.

That said, if you can get by without it your first few days, I might do that, simply because every data point someone gets about you when you’re new looms far larger than it does once they know you. Not that there’s anything wrong with being known as the heating pad person from the start, but you might prefer to avoid it until you’ve first established yourself as something else.

6. What message to leave when someone doesn’t answer our scheduled call

I’m job searching and find myself often doing informational interviews or other interviews by phone when I’m responsible for being the caller. Sometimes, even when I confirm, the person forgets or doesn’t answer. When I call, I want to leave a message to show that I haven’t forgotten to call them. But I always struggle with what to say in the message — “Hi, remember me? We had plans?”

“Hi, it’s Jane Smith, calling for our 3:00 interview (or “appointment,” if it’s not an interview). If you get this in the next hour, you can reach me at ____; otherwise, I’ll email you about rescheduling for a better time.”

7. Listing four jobs in the same timeframe on your resume

In the year after I got my bachelors, while searching for a job that fit with my career goals I worked 4 part-time jobs concurrently (every day of the week; my sole time off was on Monday evenings and Sunday mornings). The job market wasn’t in my favor, and I had massive student loan bills, so I sucked it up and worked my butt off. For some context, three of these were hostess jobs at restaurants, one was office-based, as a loan processor at the mortgage branch of a bank.

I’ve started a 3-year grad program to get the degree that I’ve come to realize is necessary in my field (MDiv). When preparing my resume for my field education internships, would it be a red flag in any way for hiring managers to see 4 jobs listed in the same timeframe? If asked, I can explain very well how the skills I developed in these jobs translate to the positions I’m looking for, plus I have a few significant accomplishments at the mortgage office job that I can include, but I worry that just seeing 4 concurrent jobs might weed me out as a candidate.

Four jobs in the same timeframe isn’t inherently a red flag, but it’s an awful lot of information to take in — so since three of them were hostessing jobs, I’d combine those under one listing, like this:

Restaurant hostess, 2012 – 2013
Los Pollos Hermanos , April 2012 – May 2013
Bluth’s Banana Stand, February 2012 – May 2013
Merlotte’s, March 2012 – January 2013

{ 131 comments… read them below }

  1. Noah

    #2 – I wonder if the HR rep provided the candidate with questions so she could feel out the job better. Like HR knows there are stumbling blocks with either the position or the manager wants to ensure the candidate is aware without coming out and saying so. For example, maybe the manager dislikes flex time and prefers to have everyone in the office from 9-5 or maybe the position requires periodic travel that has caused a problem for some employees in the past.

    1. Jazzy Red

      That’s the first thing I thought of, too. The HR person knows that others have had a problem with this particular manager and is trying to give a subtle warning to the OP. This is not a bad thing at all, as long as the OP is aware that there is something that could potentially be a problem (or not, who really knows?).

      1. OP #2

        For further clarification, the questions were more geared towards my skill set, job expectations, etc. In talking with the rep, I didn’t pick up any red flags in what he was saying and found the exchange to be less nerve-wracking than I thought it would be prior to the screening. He also mentioned how awesome the hiring manager is and that it should be a pleasant conversation when I go to meet her. I’ll take it at face value for now, prep as much as possible and see what the outcome will be.

        1. Cat

          I wonder if they’ve had previous problems with candidates not feeling out whether the job is a match with their expectations. This might be an overreaction to that.

    1. Heather

      “Dear AAM: My son burned down our family’s banana stand. It turns out that my father never told me the walls were lined with cash. Is this legal? Can I take action against him for not telling me this? (If it makes a difference, he’s already in jail.)”

  2. Jessa

    With the hostessing jobs this is the ideal thing for the cover letter – I was a restaurant hostess from 2011-2013- Mondays and Tuesdays at La Pollo Loco, Wedsnesdays and Thursdays at Sam’s Steakhouse, Friday and Saturday at Pierre’s, with Sunday’s off. And a bunch of how you got loads of different experience in a Mexican, American and French style set of restaurants with differing clientele and different price points of cuisine. Or whatever fits for you.

    Because I got the opinion from the OP that unlike the way Alison wrote it you meant you worked every week for four different places, part time for each one.

      1. Soni

        Would you still do that for something that was separated by several years? In my case, I served two terms in Americorps, but with two different orgs and two different programs, the first from 2000-20001 and the second from 2006-2007. If you would combine these, would you put it in the earlier time slot, or the later?

  3. Jessa

    Regarding number 5, the other reason I’d wait to bring stuff in, is new people often don’t get their permanent seating/office right away, depending on how the company trains their incoming people. You might share space with someone training you (if it’s a large company they may have dedicated training sites, and then move you to your office or desk.) You don’t want to be carrying around your stuff.

    1. Loose Seal

      I would agree except that if OP has back pain, she may not be able to last the day without her seat cushion. Better to lug it around than to be in so much pain by 11am that none of the training is sticking with her (or worse, that she has to leave early).

      OP, have you looked into those heat patches that go directly on your body? They work really well and and are unobtrusive. They may be too expensive to use daily for a long time — compared to your heating pad, which you already own — but they might get you through your first week or two as you suss out the place.

    2. Twentymilehike

      I just started a new job and I was worried about bringing my personal desk things in the first day … So I left them in my car just in case. Turns out I was barely at my desk all day anyhow. I ended up bringing them in in day two when I was able to have a little more free time at my desk to personalize it and wasn’t being herded around by trainers all morning.

      1. Elizabeth West

        That’s what I was going to suggest, that the OP might put it in her car so she has it if she needs it. Sometimes the first couple of days are a lot of running around, and sometimes you end up sitting forever, which can be hard on you if the chair isn’t that great.

        I like the idea of the heat patch–that might get her through the first day or so until seating is established.

      2. Elaine

        I wonder if her seat cushion would fit in a nice, professional tote bag? That way, she could bring it in unobtrusively but not whip it out if there wasn’t the occasion too. Maybe extra Advil breaks?

    3. Schnauz

      Also, some offices (mine) require you to get permission to plug in anything that isn’t expressly provided by the company. Waiting a day or two would let you see if they give you any particular guidelines for organizing your space.

      1. danr

        Yes, find out which sockets are safe to use. My old company was in an old building and was specially re-wired for the terminals, and later, computers. There were sockets that could be used for anything (within reason) and sockets that were reserved for the terminals and computers.

      2. Vicki

        Again, please note that the OP has intense back pain. Waiting a day or two could mean she’s going to be out “sick” a day or two later. Better to be prepared on Day 1.

        In my case, for example, I need a different kind of chair than company’s provide. I also need a trackball (I can’t use a mouse for more than an hour or my wrist “goes”. For the first weeks in a job, I bring a “Fit ball” to sit on; if the job is “permanent” I bring a Balans “back chair”. My trackball comes with me on the first day.

  4. Brian

    Experience as a hostess at Merlotte’s would be a significant red flag, though. I would be worried she was a half-unicorn warlock demon hunter or something.

    1. long time lurker!

      Ha! I’d also be worried that they’d no-call no-show all the time. When was the last time Sookie actually went to work?

    2. Felicia

      I wish I worked at Merlotte’s! :) Arlene works there and she’s 100% human . I actually have a Merlotte’s shirt, which I wore with black shorts and a name tag to a local fan convention. I suppose at Merlotte’s you get experience serving diverse clientele from all supernatural races.

    3. junipergreen

      surviving for more than two episodes, er, weeks, would be a significant accomplishment!

  5. Laura

    #4 – I would probably get into trouble with a manager like that, because I would likely respond with something like, “Well, then doesn’t that mean that you’re also to have a job?”

      1. Kelly

        Our entire department was told that by our HR VP once during a meeting. “I have people lined up around the block for you jobs.” She is the worst.

        GOOD TIMES.

    1. Rebecca

      I’ve heard this from my manager. And yes, the answer hits the nail right on the head. She’s manager in name only; bullying and waving your arm like Captain Picard and saying “make it so” does not a leader make.

      1. Jazzy Red

        I had a supervisor tell me that once, long looong ago. I was a clerk/typist and did a hell of a lot of work, and he didn’t want to lose me to a better job. I was very young and insecure, and I believed him. He was the worst manager I ever had, for this and other reasons.

      2. Laura

        Ah yes, I’ve had managers like this too. One guy was shocked – SHOCKED – that I suggested that he spend a little time performing the duties of his direct reports after he started to get a feel for their jobs and what they were responsible for. He thought I was suggesting that he do this permanently.

        His response was classic: “I’m a manager. That means I manage.”

        1. Not So NewReader

          This is something I have never understood. I believe that good managers do (or have done) the work their subordinates do.
          But so many managers believe this is not necessary.

          I can understand if a corporate VP does not know how the copier works. Technology changes and their job does not require them to be on top of copiers. However, managers closer to the front lines need to have a closer familiarity.

          I am always wary of statements that start out “Oh, just do ____.” I know right away 9 times out of 10 I will not “just” do this one thing. Because of unforeseens it will involve ten more steps than expected, fifty minutes later I am still not done with the five minute project.

          My father worked with someone who said “Well if the job takes 100 man hours, and if we put 100 men on it then they will be done in a hour.”
          Uh. No, that’s not how that works.

          I think you have to put your hands in the work in order to understand the work.

          1. Laura

            Exactly! During that exchange, when he said, “I’m a manager. That means I manage,” I told him that I wasn’t suggesting that he take on everyone’s account reconciliations (it was an Accounting department) forever, but to do them for a month or 2 so he could get a feel for what the accounts were used for, the types of transactions they got hit with, what takes awhile to clear and why, and so on.

            I told him, “Well, I don’t know how you can manage people if you don’t know what they do. And I don’t know how you’re supposed to help them improve their skills, and find more efficient ways they do their jobs, if you don’t know HOW they do what they do.”

            It was a stormy relationship that did not last long.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              It’s worth noting, though, that you can manage functions that you don’t know how to do yourself — look at a COO who manages all functional areas of the organization, for instance. Not saying that was the case in this example; speaking more generally.

              1. Not So NewReader

                I agree- there is a difference between day-to-day and company overseeing.
                For example- I think that a direct manager of sales clerks should know how to ring up a sale.
                I would not expect the regional VP to know how to ring up a sale. If a serious problem came up, the VP should be able to listen and follow along. However, the manager should be able to explain “We have a flaw in our register program when you do X then Y (undesired action) happens.”

                But I agree that the higher up the ladder a person goes the less likely they are to understand every single aspect of what they are overseeing.
                When direct managers do not understand this can be a huge problem.

              2. Laura

                True, but I think there’s a difference managing at a strategic level than at a departmental level. But even then, that person should have at least a general idea of what’s going on.

                The former COO at my company was very well-respected. One of the reasons why is because he would walk around and randomly stop at people’s desks and ask them how their jobs were going, what types of problems they had, and he was genuinely interested. That’s not to say that he would pull up a chair and start keying in invoices, but he really wanted to know what challenges people faced, and what he could do to help.

                I really respected him for doing that. He spent quite a bit of time talking to one of my direct reports one Saturday, and she voiced her frustration about headcount restrictions. He actually did talk to the CFO about hiring some temps or interns. Then he just randomly bought her lunch one day when they were both in the cafeteria at the same time. He was a great guy.

    2. some1

      I had a supervisor tell me this once, as well. She was a managing people for the first time, and seemed to make that rookie mistake of thinking you have to bully, I mean, over-manage your employees or they will walk all over you.

      Part of it was also that her husband was getting laid off, which of course is unfortunate, but I think when you are going through something like that, it’s easy to think to yourself, “It’s so unfair that my husband is being let go when he works so hard, when I manage people that I can’t get rid of [this was a Union job]” But she should not have brought her personal family issues into discussions with her employees.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Really good point, some1. It could be that OP’s manager had a similar thing go on.
        Projecting other people’s misfortunes on to employees is never going to be a motivator. I hope the OP’s manager develops more tools.
        A while ago, a boss said something like that to me. I simply agreed that we all are fortunate to have jobs. I walked away from the conversation. In my head, I said “Yep, I am lucky to have this job and I will get luckier and find a BETTER one. One that has professional managers.”

        It baffles me why the boss needed to say that. In my setting, I kind of felt that he was telling himself that more than he was actually telling me. He needed that affirmation for some reason.

        Going forward, OP, try to find a part of a remark that you can agree with. It helps to take the sting from the condescension away. A general statement such as “we are all fortunate to have jobs ” just gives a nod to the big picture focus and tends to distract from whatever the boss was targeting with you.

        (Added bonus- using the big picture focus can help the boss not to say that again!)

  6. The IT Manager

    Answer #2, second paragraph, you’re missing a “take.

    But I do take issue

    Also the answer to #4 is absolutely perfect in my opinion except maybe you could have used a term stronger than “bad.”

  7. ImNotMeToday

    For #1 I had to do the same thing recently. I’m about to finish school and am looking for something in my new field. But I still had to go over goals and competencies, etc. I’ve never been good at coming up with goals but it’s even harder when your real goal is to leave. I ended up going with taking some classes since that seemed to satisfy the boss. Though the problem with that is I feel like I’m wasting their money.

    1. Not So NewReader

      You did it anyway- good for you. My former job offered me training at XYZ. Foolishly, I said no. I had around ten very good reasons! Years later I was looking for new work. I saw a job that would be great for me and the ad read “must be able to XYZ.”

      Sigh.

      Moral of the story: Take the free trainings no matter how irrelevant the training seems. Put more tools in your collection.

  8. Another Job Seeker

    OP #5,

    Have you thought about wearing a heating pad (for the first few days, anyway) under your clothing? I have not seen them lately, but I have, in the past, used a heating pad called “A Little Comfort”. They were small pads that can be attached (using adhesives that are part of the pad) to the outside of undergarments. I’ve used them before, and they are not at all noticeable. As I recall, they would stay warm for a few hours. You also might be able to find something similar at stores that have heating pads designed for people who are doing outdoor activities in cold weather . REI and Gander Mountain come to mind). A doctor might have some ideas – not sure. Unfortunately, I don’t have any similar suggestions about the seat cushion. Hopefully, someone else will have some ideas that might be helpful.

    I’m sorry about your pain, but I’m happy for you about your new job.

    1. Judy

      Yes, what I was going to say. There are these heating pad things that look like huge bandages, I think they’re Therma-Care. Wear those under your clothes for a while, until you see the lay of the land.

    2. Andrea

      Ooh, yeah, those stick-on heating pads are the best. I used them when I had my first IUD put in, and between that and ibuprofen, I was good to go and barely needed any lying-on-the-couch recovery time. (I mean, I still did that, but the heating pad made it much more comfy.)

    1. LV

      “I worked as a personal assistant to a very influential businessman in Albuquerque…”

    2. Jen

      I might leave that one off my résumé out of fear someone might think I am a meth kingpin.

          1. Jessa

            Papa Stellan has 7 boys and a daughter, papa is ALSO gorgeous btw, and is now 62 years old (most recently co starred in the Avengers movie) his youngest child was born in 2012. Yes he’s still that good. The boys are all actors the daughter is a model. They’re ALL gorgeous. Seriously he has beautiful kids. And smart and talented. The whole lot of them.

            And yes I admit to being a squeeing Papa Skarsgard fangirl so…so there! giggle.

            1. Alicia

              Oh, wow, I never clued in that Stellan Skarsgard was the father…

              He mega-creeped me out in the American version of “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”… but then I think of him dancing in Mamma Mia and it is all okay.

              1. voluptuousfire

                I’m a fan of Gustav Skarsgard in Vikings. Yum. :)

                He’s the second oldest boy of Stellan’s , btw.

  9. Michelle

    1. Creating a development plan when I’m hoping to leave my job in a year
    While you are planning to leave your job, create your plan assuming you will still be in it. If you can find some sort of development action that would benefit you in your current role and might be helpful for after you leave (if you actually do) then that would be win-win. Maybe focus on planning or communication skills – something that is easily transferable.

    3. After mistakes, should I tell my manager I’m having some personal issues?
    I recommend you let it go unless you think this is going to be an ongoing issue for you. At one point in my career I was going through a very difficult time and let my manager know what was going on as I was going to need some time off and would be taking more personal calls than normal. She held this against me, frequently mentioned it and told others about my personal business. If I had to do it over, I would have kept my personal business more private.

    5. Bringing a heating pad and seat cushion to a new job
    I completely agree with holding off for a few days if you can. At my company we had an individual bring in a big white fluffy bed pillow on his first day of work to sit on (and continues to use it several years later) and it was definitely a subject of conversation. :) Now, if not having the cushion and heating pad will cause you to be in extreme pain, exasperate your back condition or cause you to walk with a limp, etc. you should probably just bring it in as your health is what is most important.

    1. the gold digger

      a big white fluffy bed pillow on his first day of work to sit on (and continues to use it several years later) and it was definitely a subject of conversation.

      Even if he had waited, I think this would be a subject of conversation.

    2. Brett

      We have an employee who has been here over 30 years who recently brought in a bed pillow and bungiecorded it to his chair.
      Even though he’s been here 30 years, it is still a topic of conversation.

      1. Esra

        Seriously, obusforme.

        No one would look twice at someone bringing in chair or heating pads here, but our office is notoriously uncomfortable.

    3. myswtghst

      This is exactly what I was going to suggest for #1 – focus on skills which are transferable whether you end up stuck in your current job or find your new dream job. Things like time management, leadership, and effective communication can be useful in the majority of jobs, and will benefit your current employer in the short term, as well.

  10. Construction HR

    #5 “we had a company Advil bottle”, jeez I hope that’s an euphemism for “a box of of individually wrapped dosages”.

    +2 on the adhesive heat wraps for a couple of days, Thermacare or equivalent.

      1. Construction HR

        So, a person comes out of the bathroom without washing their hands, has a headache & helps themselves to a couple of Advil out of the “company bottle”.
        Except that they are a little jittery this AM & they dump half a dozen into their hand, and promptly put the other 4 back in the bottle…….

          1. the gold digger

            My immune system is stellar after two years in South America, much of it without access to any place to wash my hands. Guess what? You can survive not washing your hands as long as you don’t pee on them.

            1. AnonForThis

              I just attended hepatitis education training. I used to think that it was okay not to wash your hands. Not any more! Sure, *I* don’t have HepA, but it can live outside the body on a dry surface for 8 DAYS. And for over 60 in liquid. Ew ew ew ew EW!

              1. Xay

                Technically, unless you are very young or elderly, it is highly unlikely that a Hepatitis A infection would kill you.

                1. anon...

                  Just because something may not kill you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions against getting it!

              2. Chinook

                Gold Digger didn’t say she would choose not to wash her hand, just that it is survivable. Having been camping where your toilet is the hole you dig for that purpose, I can attest that you are also much more aware of where you put your hands when you don’t have the ability to sanitize them (this was a time before hand sanitizers) and that clean sheets and water that doesn’t need to be boiled first is something that is truly wonderful.

              1. fposte

                Sort of–urine is sterile absent infection, and even then that’s only when it’s in the bladder, as it picks up microorganisms from the urethra and the skin as it’s voided. It’s not the rich bacterial source that feces is, but it’s not sterile outside of the body, either.

              2. E

                Don’t people pee on themselves on purpose to combat sea urchin stings?

                …way off topic…

                1. Loose Seal

                  Joey peed on Monica on Friends, so I’d say yes.

                  And that’s more of my knowledge brought to me by TV…

        1. some1

          No workplace is required to provide pain relievers to employees, individually wrapped or otherwise. The LW’s old co-workers know there’s a chance someone else touched a pill or two in the bottle, and they can choose not to take them.

          If my boss brings in bagels and I’m squeamish about reaching into a paper bag that my co-workers have reached in, I just wouldn’t have one. I wouldn’t suggest that she bring in an individually wrapped bagel for me.

        2. Meg

          The vast majority of immune systems are tough enough to withstand touching something that someone else once touched at some point. If yours isn’t, then you probably know enough not to use a communal pill bottle in the first place.

        3. Y

          And what disease do you think you could catch from that? I alwas wonder that when people worry about these things…

          1. Emma

            Your run-of-the-mill fecal-oral transmission diseases, I’d say – e.g., hep A, shigella (oh my, does it spread like wildfire among poor hand-washing communities – I really feel for my state health department counterparts who’ve had to deal with recurrent outbreaks), cholera, cryptosporidiosis (your immune system is typically nuked for you to get this particular bad boy), C. diff, and a few more.

              1. Jessa

                And you’ve never accidentally gotten anything on you in the bathroom? And how do you know that there’s no minute contamination from others who are not so clean with the way they look after themselves?

    1. Laufey

      My company has a company aspirin bottle, and none of us have died from them not being individually wrapped.

      1. Windchime

        Yeah, we have a company bottles of Advil and Tylenol, and nobody has had any ill effects from using them. When I’ve seen people use it, they are very careful to only shake out what they need.

      2. fposte

        I think you’re likelier to die from the medication than the germs on it.

        I can understand squeamishness, and I’m not insisting people not be squeamish. But I don’t see how this is more of a risk than company snacks.

        1. Not So NewReader

          “I think you’re likelier to die from the medication than the germs on it.”

          This times ten.

    2. Schnauz

      I’m pretty much in the “this is why you have an immune system” camp, but I do appreciate the aid cabinets hanging on the walls at my workplace. 3 different pain killers (off brand tylenol, ibuprofen, aspirin, etc), bandages, tums, neosporin, etc etc – all individually packaged.

    3. Anon

      I’ve never seen anyone have trouble shaking out more than they needed. The general method is hold the cap and shake what you want into it and then shake back what you dont want into the bottle.

      I do that with my own pills as well because I don’t like introducing any oils from my hands to the pill container.

      Yes… there could be something on the outside of the container but I don’t go through life avoiding touching other surfaces – so I just don’t worry about it.

  11. Joey

    #2. I’ve seen recruiters that make commissions do that all the time- give candidates too much help in an effort to get them hired.

    1. SevenSixOne

      I had a recruiter brief me on the exact questions the interviewer was likely to ask AND the best ways to answer those questions. When I got to the interview, the hiring manager didn’t shake my hand or even look me in the eye, he just pulled out a sheet of paper and monotoned those same questions verbatim.

      The company website really emphasized their commitment to Hiring Quality People… they’d probably do a better job of that if their interviewers didn’t suck like a tornado!

  12. Anonicorn

    #3 – Considering your boss doesn’t seem bothered, I wouldn’t mention the personal problems unless you continue making mistakes (for maybe a month?) or make some pretty egregious ones. Everyone has difficult times or, heck, makes mistakes just because of human error.

    1. TheSnarkyB

      I agree. I think it could also signal to your boss that when they say “It wasn’t a big deal”, you don’t take their word for it. You don’t want your boss thinking that you don’t understand what’s important and what’s not, and you sound a little like that from your letter. (Have you ever had a friend apologize for something so much that you end up getting annoyed and being mad at them for it all over?) I’d just try to take their word for it, respond appropriately, and only tell them your personal business if it’s likely to continue to be an issue.

  13. Jubilance

    #1 – I was in this exact same position in my last role. I was job hunting for 2 years, but still had to put on my poker face & talk about my longterm development goals in the position I had currently. Until you’re ready to hand in your resignation letter, you should keep going with everything at your current job. You never know how things were turn out, and you could very well end up being there longer than you expect. In my case, I was in role a year longer than I planned to be.

    1. LisaLyn

      Yes, excellent point. Until you quit, you are still working there. I understand it can feel a little false, but plans are not reality yet and sometimes you have to just go with what is in place at the moment. This is one of those times.

  14. Del

    #3 – I would consider your manager very carefully with this one; it’s pretty situational. I definitely feel where you’re coming from — I’ve been in the middle of a very stressful six-month moving and health saga, and there has definitely been a toll on the quality of my work performance as a result. My first manager was very sympathetic and encouraged me to moderate my workload to maintain quality standards, sacrificing quantity if need be, but she was let go, and her replacement is much less sympathetic to the situation, and has made it clear that I’m expected to not let outside situations influence my work, no matter what.

  15. Yup

    #1 – Choose a few professional development areas that are interesting or useful to you broadly, like conflict management or presenting/public speaking or a technical skills (ie, becoming an advanced Excel user). Then make your written ‘goals’ for these areas things that are relatively low cost and flexible. Examples: joining Toastmasters, signing up for free or inexpensive webinars on Topic XYZ, reading 2-3 books about Skill ABC, or taking a few free classes on lynda.com. Professional development is a broad umbrella. The idea truly is to develop skills that you’ll carry forward in your career, not just stuff that relates to your right-now job or that benefits only your current employer.

  16. Contessa

    For #3, I would not mention the personal problems to your boss at this point. If he told you not to worry about them, don’t–especially if you already told him how you will avoid making the same mistakes again in the future. If you make another mistake, then it might be helpful to put the mistakes into context, but gauge his reaction to the mistake first. If he raises something like, “you know, you’ve made a lot of mistakes recently,” you may have a natural opening to explain further (“I tried not to let it affect my work, but my parents’ divorce has been very hard for me. I am going to do X thing(s) to ensure that I continue to do my best work for you”). I wouldn’t mention the boyfriend problems, though, as they might sound too gossipy (or maybe not, but use your judgment).

    However, there is a chance, depending on his personality, that your boss will consider personal problems a sign of weakness or incompetence, so seriously consider how he will react. My boss actually recently tried to fire me for bringing up a personal issue (as the reason I was requesting a transfer to another department), so it’s something to keep in mind. (since I was requesting an ADA accommodation, I was not actually fired, but it was a huge shock to me to get that kind of reaction)

  17. QualityControlFreak

    #4 – at one place I used to work, our managers regularly told us “there are a hundred people standing in line waiting for your job.” At team meetings, absent of any complaints from employees. They just wanted to make sure we were all good and scared of losing our jobs to those looming hordes. The same people were shocked – SHOCKED! – when people actually left on their own volition.

    1. Ruffingit

      Managing through fear never works out well. I’ve had people try to do that too. What generally happens is that, at first, people might be scared for their jobs. But the more they hear “You’re job is on the line…” the less they care. No matter what they do, they will continue being threatened so many people don’t work harder to stay in their jobs, they start doing the bare minimum to keep the job as a “f**k you” to the management and they look for other jobs.

      That’s how I’ve always seen the management by fear thing play out. It’s just a bad strategy for so many reasons.

    2. AB

      “There are a hundred people standing in line waiting for your job.”

      Huh. If I heard that I’d be thinking “yes, and there are hundreds of companies right now looking for someone with my skill set and complaining about the lack of qualified candidates among the hundreds applicants. Let me go and apply to them.”

      Anyone who is employed (unfortunately, the unemployed need to play by different rules) should be reevaluating their options from time to time. I get a lot of unsolicited emails from VPs and even CEOs of smaller consulting companies via LinkedIn, as well as from recruiters with roles similar to my current one to fill.

      Right now there are plenty of jobs out there (for people with the right skill set), and every time I start a new project, we have to hire additional people to help. If I were in an environment when the organization expected me to accept anything, from bad management to long hours without compensation without complaints, I’d have no problem with start aggressively looking elsewhere.

        1. AB

          Exactly. This type of strategy is sure to backfire with any top performer. Glad you didn’t play their game :-).

    3. Not So NewReader

      I laughed out loud when I read your comment about being shocked by people leaving. YES! That is exactly what I have seen on this end, too.

      “You can be replaced!”

      “Okay, Good-Bye!”

      Whoops. The bosses were at a loss trying to figure out why no one stayed.

  18. OP #5

    Thanks for the feedback! I’m going to try to hold off on bringing my heating pad for a few days and will just invest in ThermaCare for the first week.

  19. Kacie

    #4 – I worked somewhere where the HR director would say this on a regular basis. Staff member has a complaint? He should be happy he has a job! Similar statements were to remember that we’re all replaceable and none if us that special. You can guess our staff moral.

  20. A Disillusioned Employee

    #4 – I suspect that every employer that treats workers like dirt thinks alnog those lines. They may or may not say it directly.

  21. Not So NewReader

    OP#3. It really sounds benign to me. Perhaps you are not used to having a boss speak to you because you are used to being on top of everything.
    This happened to me. I was shocked and disappointed in myself that life could distract me to that degree.
    Unwittingly, I developed two problems. I had the original problem. And I added a new problem where I absolutely fretted about mistakes at work. Don’t let this happen to you- don’t let your worries multiply exponentially.

    Trust the boss at his word these mistakes are not a problem. You want him to trust you, right? So trust him.

    Make up your mind that people make mistakes and you will be responsible for your mistakes. Be the first one to say “I will fix it!”

    And finally, promise yourself that you will work on the at home problems. Just keep working on things as you can- try A, if no, then try B and so on. There is no greater let down than when we let ourselves down, so promise yourself and keep the promise.

    Both my parents were in the hospital dying. They had enough medical bills to wall paper every room in their home. To say I could not concentrate at work would be an understatement.

    My fatal mistake was I let my boss’ words eat at me. That unraveled that job for me. Trust, take ownership quickly and promise yourself.
    Think of your at work time as “time out” from all that other stuff, a mental reprieve.

    1. Ruffingit

      I am so sorry about both of your parents dying at the same time. It’s incredibly difficult to deal with the death of one parent. Having to handle both dying and working must have been incredibly difficult. My sympathies.

  22. SarahMarie

    #6) I encounter this a lot in my current position. I deal with a lot of folks who are out of state so the first step is nearly always a phone interview. Due to the nature of my industry and the type of positions I am usually recruiting for (outside, national sales people), it is not unusual for applicants who are working to get caught up on a client call and not be available for our interview. I just leave them a message asking them to give me a call back to reschedule when they are free. If they call me back and act sincerely apologetic, then I am find with rescheduling.

  23. Anonymous-2

    Number Two: I actually give my candidates helpful interviewing advice. I don’t tell them what specific questions they should ask, but I do give them some insight into the interviewer’s communication style, culture of our office, dress code etc… Just helpful hints, such as if an interviewer gets irked if candidates don’t bring a copy of their resume with them… then I would suggest to the candidate that they bring a copy of their resume with them. I do this out of my desire to be helpful to the candidate, especially if it is a candidate I really like and feel could be a great fit.

  24. JenTheNiceHRGirl

    #4) I absolutely loathe that statement “you are lucky to have a job”. I read an article online once that was titled “6 Things that Bad Managers Say” and this was one of the statements.

    1. Elaine

      Absolutely. I had one, just one, boss say this to me during my grad school practicum. Actually it was, “You’re lucky I’m paying you. You should be paying me for this experience.” She was a shouter, and degraded me constantly. I quit and found another practicum.

      Unfortunately, she was an old school friend of my program director, so though I went on and successfully received my degree, I think the director wasn’t a big fan of me after that (I told her I needed to leave because her old friend was verbally abusive, and I’d rather find someone who wasn’t). I don’t think the director believed me.

      1. Therapist

        What is it with psycho practicum managers? I have heard so many stories from people about crazy practicum managers and I had two myself. The first one was tolerable because she was just a workaholic who needed to settle down a bit. The second one was horrendous, she was disorganized and crazy in a number of ways.

        Anyway, just wanted to share some sympathy with you re: practicum freaks. Seems to be a common problem unfortunately.

  25. Marcos S.

    My boss said i am lucky enough to be Mexican, so that i am able to even take certain calls that none of my co-workers are able to take and that is why i am not able to have a raise in pay. is this considered discrimination?

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