food mishaps at business lunches, defensive coworkers, and more

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

1. My coworker got defensive with me when her boss compared her work to mine

This is actually something that happened to me at my former employer, so I can’t act on your advice, but I am curious what you think about it. I worked as an administrative assistant in a hospital unit and my bosses were always very happy with my work. One of the things I did while I was there was create a database for unit employee information. It was a pretty big project and involved looping in other departments to get the up-to-date data I needed on a regular basis. Anyway, one day I got a call from the AA in another unit. She told me that her boss had said in her annual review that she kept important information in too many different places. Then she said that I had created this database (she mentioned me by name), and why couldn’t this AA do something similar.

I didn’t really know what to say and she started defending the way she did things to me. I tried to be reassuring and also explain to her why I did things my way and how it might benefit her, but it was just generally super awkward. I really think it was inappropriate for her boss to name me, and also inappropriate for her to call me and tell me. I was mostly just glad that I was leaving soon so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. What would a good course of action have been in that situation? I was pretty flabbergasted.

It actually doesn’t sound awful that her boss mentioned you. While it’s true that something like “Jane is so great; why can’t you be as good as her?” is inappropriate, it sounds like the manager said something more like “Jane created a database to keep this information organized. That would be helpful for you too.” And that’s a reasonable thing for a manager to say.

What was inappropriate here was the AA calling you and defending herself to you. The only thing you really could have said was, “Well, I don’t know much about what your needs are over there, but if you’d like to take a look at how I’ve set up the database over here, I’d be glad to show you.”

2. Should I withdraw from a hiring process in another city?

I currently work in a industry that has rapidly changed in the last five years, and finding work with my specific skill set and experience has become difficult. I’ve begun interview for a position that would require my family and I to relocate to a place where we don’t know anyone. At first, I was excited about the prospect — living in a new place, a job at a big firm with potential for advancement — but now that this process has become more serious, I’m starting to balk at the idea, and my family is very apprehensive about moving away.

Should I continue to with the process even though my heart isn’t in it? Or should I write the recruiter and manager I’ve interviewed with and let them know that after further discussions with my family, relocation is not a option?

If you’re absolutely sure that you wouldn’t accept the job if offered to you, then yes, email them and let them know. It will save them time and possibly money (if they were going to fly you out), and it could keep an interview slot open for another candidate. However, if you’re not positive, I’d stay in the process and try to visit the city before you make up your mind.

3. Should I pass contacts at my full-time employer along to my part-time employer?

I’m an entry-level engineer working in the aerospace/manufacturing industry at a mid-sized company. Recently I picked up contract work with a small company in the same industry with the potential of hiring me full-time next year.

The VP of the small company has asked me if I could provide contact to my current company’s purchasing department, hoping to get some contract jobs. Should I give him the contact? Would it create problems with my current employer?

Does your company know that you’re doing this contract work? If not, I’d pass entirely. But if they do, I think it’s fine to do; people share this kind of information all the time with contacts. But if you’re wary about it at all or think that it might be inappropriate at your particular company, you could instead offer to pass his information along to your contacts.

4. Accidentally winding up on an adult website at work

If you’re searching for legit info at work and accidentally wind up on an adult website (nothing major, but definitely NSFW), should you go ‘fess up to someone? I don’t want to draw attention to something that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, but I also don’t want to look like I did it on purpose. If it helps, I was on there for like one entire second, and it would be the only sketchy thing in my history.

Don’t worry about it. It’s happened to plenty of us, and since there’s no record that you browsed around the site, there’s nothing to confess. You were there for a second, by mistake — there’s no issue here.

5. How can I tell my new manager I want to leave without making her feel she’s wasted her time with me?

I was a marketing director when the company I worked for closed. I was out of work for 2 years (interviewing is not my strong suit). I took a much lower level operations position (almost entry level) and a huge salary cut. I was with that company for 14 months and then I was recruited via LinkedIn for a similar operations position for a high-end organization. I started with this new company this past June. I will be meeting with my manager for a review (this is a company initiative and not at my instigation). We’re suppose to talk about career advancement and overall performance.

I really like my job and my manager, but how do I tell her I want to go back into corporate marketing since I’ve only been there 3 months without sounding like I want to get the hell out of dodge? The biggest factors for my desire to go back into corporate are prestige, compensation, and a Monday through Friday work week. My plan was to stay at least a year in my current position before I pursued a corporate job and I’d like to let my manager know that.

What’s the best way to convey my goals without making my manager feel like she has wasted time teaching me because I want to leave so soon after?

Well, you probably can’t. Telling her after three months that you don’t like the work and want to leave but you’re willing to stay a year is fairly likely to result in you being pushed out earlier. After all, why invest in training you when you’re going to leave after a year and might not be particularly engaged during that time? I respect that you want to be honest with your manager, but unless you know her well enough to know that she would be just fine with this (and you probably can’t know that after only three months), I’d proceed with caution.

6. Is a traditional henna tattoo unprofessional?

I have been in India for a few weeks and got a very traditional henna tattoo on both sides of both hands. I just found out that I have a couple professional events when the henna may still be visible (It generally lasts 1-3 weeks). Is a henna tattoo very unprofessional? Do I need to say something to avoid racist or negative assumptions?

I am of south Asian descent, if that’s unfortunately relevant. The events are a career fair and possibly some company events. I am a sophomore as an undergraduate.

Expect to be asked about it, but I don’t think most people will find it unprofessional. (People who know what it is may just assume that you’re a practicing Hindu and not think about it beyond that.) I’d be more wary of having it for a formal job interview, but for a networking event, even a career fair, you have a lot more leeway. If you notice anyone looking it, just explain what it is — people will be more interested than anything.

7. Should you say something at a business lunch if someone has food on their face or in their teeth?

If you’re at a business lunch with someone you don’t know well/at all and they get food on their face/in their teeth, should you say something? What’s more embarrassing: realizing this on your own and knowing the other person had surely noticed it, or having someone point it out to you?

Say something — just make it casual and not like a big deal. Say, “Oh, you’ve got something on your chin there,” and keep on talking.

It’s far more mortifying for someone to sit through a whole meal and then discover afterwards that they spent much of it with food on themselves.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

      1. Ruffingit

        Thanks for fixing it. I need something to read. I’m sick with a cold and can’t sleep and I’ve maxed out my Facebook reading since all my friends have gone to bed now so thanks for putting up the new post early :)

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Actually, the short answer posts go up at midnight every weekday, and 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. on the weekends. (I don’t know why I change the time on the weekends. I guess to give my auto-publishing software the chance to sleep in?) But you can always find a new one here at this time of night during the week.

          Wait, didn’t you elope yesterday? You should be honeymooning.

            1. Female sam

              It’s around 6 am in the UK – means I get my hit of AAM with breakfast first thing. Perfect way to start the day!

          1. Ruffingit

            I did elope on Wednesday :) No honeymoon in the near future, I start a new job on Monday. But we did go to Mexico in June so we had the honeymoon before the wedding in a way.

              1. Ruffingit

                It’s the way to go. I did the big white wedding thing once before and that was enough. A lot of expense, a lot of trouble. I have nothing against that if someone wants to do the big wedding, but eloping was the right thing for us.

                1. Elizabeth West

                  Congrats!
                  If a miracle happens and I get married, I want a wedding. A small one, granted, like REALLY small. Tiny, even. But I’ve waited all this time and I want a cake and a dress and some flowers, dammit.

                2. Ruffingit

                  Nothing wrong with that Elizabeth! I support people’s right to have whatever kind of wedding they want. And I’m not sorry I did the white wedding/flowers/photography thing. It’s just not something I wanted to repeat this time. Too expensive at the moment.

            1. Jamie

              Get out!! YAY – I was skimming and almost missed this…congrats!

              New job, new husband…that’s so exciting! And there is never a bad time for a honeymoon.

              1. Ruffingit

                Thank you Jamie! It’s not my first time around the marriage track, but it’s my last. He’s wonderful and we both feel so lucky to have finally found each other.

                We’ll plan a honeymoon for sometime next year. We’re both scuba divers so it will probably involve that in some way. In the meantime, we’re hitting up the local water park next week to enjoy the last days of August :)

                1. TheSnarkyB

                  Ruffingit, I am so excited for you!!
                  I have a friend (marine biologist) who scuba (dove? Scuba dived?) all around Australia- I think 6 points total, circumnavigating the continent and he said it was the most amazing thing. But he’s fascinated with brown algae… so take the recommendation with a grain of salt!

                2. Ruffingit

                  Thank you Snarky! I’ve only ever been diving in Mexico (Cozumel and Playa Del Carmen), but I would love to dive in Australia. I’ve heard it’s amazing!

            2. OP #5

              Congratulations. Ruffingit! I eloped, too 12 years ago and we didn’t have a honeymoon at that time but as the years went along, we’ve gone on trips that were like many honeymoons, so you had one before the wedding and may you have many throughout your lives.

              1. Ruffingit

                Thanks OP #5! Both my husband and I love to travel so we have many ideas for trips in the future.

            3. Jean

              Congratulations! Just go on enjoying each other! I’m always happy to hear about other people finding the right partner.

              1. Ruffingit

                Thank you Jean! We’ve been having a wonderful week together since the wedding on Wednesday even though I’ve been under the weather. After surviving a not-so-great (read, horrible) previous marriage, this partnership is a breath of fresh air in so many ways.

  1. Jessa

    #3 makes me nervous. It just feels to me like some conflict of interest. If your larger job does not know about your smaller one, I’d talk to them first. And honestly I’d ask them before giving any information to the smaller job. I mean you have a vested interest in smaller job doing well because you work for them the contact is not being made in a vacuum and that needs to be factored into any decision your main company makes.

      1. Jamie

        Mine too. I can’t imagine working as a contractor in this capacity as not being immediate grounds for dismissal due to conflict of interest.

        If the OP’s employer knows and allows this…they are certainly more lenient about this than any company I’ve ever heard of.

    1. JenniB

      I agree that this is a conflict of interest and actually would make sure that even having a second job is ok before you do anything. I also work in engineering, and it specifically states in our company ethics code that we cannot have a second job with any competitor or suppliers – so basically any other company in the industry. Every other company I’ve worked for has had a similar policy, so I think that it is not out of the norm for this to be policy.

  2. Chris80

    #7 Thanks to a cringe-inducing incident when all the cheese came of my pizza with the first bite during a lunch with a respected senior coworker/mentor, I have a major fear of food related mishaps during business lunches. (I also eat pizza with a fork now.) So, yes, please tell people about any potentially embarrassing food issues – I’d think most people would rather know about it so it can be fixed!

    1. Jessa

      Exactly, I’d be worried if you didn’t tell me and something happened like that. I mean what else would you be afraid to say in a work situation?

  3. Audrey

    #1 – I can’t imagine why the manager waited for the annual performance review to raise this. If the manager likes what’s being done in another department and wants something similar, why doesn’t she just ask her admin assistant to do it?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I can imagine it coming up in all kinds of ways! For instance, the manager is talking about how the employee needs to be better organized, the employee responds that there’s no possible way to stay on top of so many things with no mistakes, and the manager says, “Actually, Jane in Dept X uses a database to do it and it seems to work really well. Why don’t you try that?”

      1. Ruffingit

        I find it bizarre that the other AA called the OP to begin with. What does she want the OP to say? The OP is not her boss so the AA defending her work methods to the OP is really weird.

        1. Liz in a library

          Yeah, I also couldn’t figure out what she expected to gain from the OP. I truly don’t get how the OP could have responded in any way that would have been useful to her.

            1. AB

              “Sorry, I’ll be sure to suck in the future.”

              LOL! I so could have used this phrase this week. Will think of it next time :-).

          1. Leslie Yep

            I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation, and the person clearly wanted me to say that my way of doing it wasn’t worth the additional time and effort.

          2. TheSnarkyB

            I mean, if they’re somewhat friendly, she could have expected her to say, “Oh haha that’s awkward…” Or to somehow make light of the comparison, thus easing the AA’s possible sense of inadequacy. Not the OP’s responsibility in the slightest, but if they’re friendly and AA felt insecure…. I get why she’d try that.
            I kind if read it as being similar to when, as a kid, your parents would say “Sally’s mother said she started on MUN to get extracurriculars on her college application… Why can’t you do that too?” And if you and Sally are friends, you call her and laugh about it together.
            The example kind of illustrates that the AA’s behavior isn’t particularly mature, but I think she was aiming for something like that.

        2. Goosey Lucy

          I can imagine if the boss told her to ask the OP about her program and do something similar, but that should have been the limit of the conversation. “Hi! I’ve been told you have a great employee database – mind if I get some tips?”

        3. Nichole

          Agree. The only way this would be a logical next step is if she wants to get some help implementing a similar system (which is why I assumed the boss brought OP’s name up at all).

    2. Judy

      I guess it’s just the continuous improvement environment in engineering teams, but we get suggestions like this all the time.

      We’re in a matrix organization. Manager from the HR perspective is technology driven (spout design, handle design, lid design), but we have a strong tie to our product line (teapots, coffee pots, water pitches). I, as the teapot spout design leader, hear from my spout design manager that Wakeen in coffee pots has implemented a new concept to reduce splattering, I should talk with him. It’s all about sharing a best practice.

      1. Meg

        I feel like any good work environment should have that “continuous improvement” aspect to it! It obviously depends on how the AA’s boss phrased this, but as long as it was done professionally and not accusatory, the AA calling the OP and getting defense is so bizarrely strange, and honestly kind of immature.

        1. Cassie

          I agree about “continuous improvement”. I work in a public university and if we expect our students to engage in lifelong learning and continuous improvement, us staff (and faculty) should too!

    3. Oops

      I have to admit. #1 kind of confuses me. Is there something missing? The exchange doesn’t seem unusual, or out of the ordinary at all. Didn’t AA just call to ask about what the boss told her to ask about? Maybe it was the being defensive part that made it awkward for OP? In any case, It seems like the best response would be something like, “our department finds the DB to be a great solution. If you’re interested in doing something similar, and you would like me to walk you through it I’m happy to help. Just let me know”.

      1. Ruffingit

        It’s the defending of her work part that makes it weird. It’s one thing to call the OP and ask for tips on how to implement OP’s database, it’s quite another to call and say “Well, my boss told me I should do it your way, but my way is just fine because….” The OP has no need to hear that, she’s not in a position of authority over this woman so the defense of her work is unnecessary and weird in this context.

      2. Pussyfooter

        Maybe there is more to it. Snarky B suggested they might have a relationship that includes friendly chats w/more personal info than other coworkers. But the Post actually doesn’t say what their general relationship was.

        I interpreted it as OP’s analog in a different department (who she’s not close to) called her up, blamed the OP for criticism received in a private discussion w/boss, then started justifying her ways of working to the OP as though OP had been part of a three way discussion in the first place. If this is right, why would the upset coworker treat the OP as though she was part of a conversation that happened with an entirely different person? That would seem weird to me.

        1. Oops

          That would make this whole thing make more sense, pussyfooter. The actual narrative didn’t give much detail, but your scenario seems to fill in the blanks nicely :)

          On a separate note. What is with people being so defensive about things!! I’m the total opposite so I’m always taken a back when people get so defensive about things.

          1. Ruffingit

            Same here. Life is too short to freak out over stuff. If it won’t matter a year from now (and most things won’t), then let it go.

          2. Pussyfooter

            Life is so complicated and we all accumulate these (stupid, frustrating D’:< ) random insecurities. I go about my business being responsible and helpful and then someone sets off my Insecurity Booby Trap and my heart races and I do something dumb–usually involving a doomed attempt at human speech :'P

      3. patchinko

        #1 was my question and the call was not at all about getting information about how I do things. I tried to steer it that way because i didn’t know how else to react, but she was 100% defensive and just explained repeatedly that she likes to keep all of her unit’s info in a million different places (and I think with redundancies that don’t all get updated) because people have deleted important files of hers in the past. I tried to explain backups to her but she wasn’t having it.

        As far as our relationship goes, I’d say we were friendly but not friends. She is definitely an odd person.

        1. Ruffingit

          I figured that was the case from the info you provided. It’s so weird that she would defend her work to you because you’re not in any position to do anything about her work habits. That’s her boss’s purview. Given that she refused to even hear of the beauty of back-ups, I’m thinking this is a person who just wants to do things HER way and to hell with efficiency and reasonableness.

  4. WWWONKA

    #5 I would keep my lip zipped until you have an set in stone offer. If the corporate jump is at your present company then do it when you have something in the works.

    1. Ruffingit

      Yes, definitely keep your mouth shut. I don’t know why anyone would think it’s a good idea to tell your current job that you plan to leave them in about a year’s time. Current job is not going to say “Oh sure, no problem. We’re happy to provide you employment on whatever schedule you need.” What they will say is “There’s the door, don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out.” It’s fine to have a plan to change jobs in a year’s time or whatever, but it’s NOT fine to tell your current employer that. That knowledge will only make them want you to leave ASAP. When you have an offer in hand with a start date settled, THEN you tell Current Job. Not a moment sooner.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Plus, who knows how long it will take to find that other job? You may have plans to change jobs in about a year, but it could be two years before it actually happens.

        1. Ruffingit

          Yes, that is a definite consideration. As we’ve all learned here, the job search takes awhile sometimes. Best laid plans and all that…

    2. Another Reader

      Absolutely! I’ve had friends get terribly burned even telling people a year in advance about a retirement — cut out of projects they were involved with, not included in group PC training (11 months before their departure), etc…definitely I would not give them notice this far in advance. At best you help them a little; at worst, you hurt yourself tremendously.

      1. tcookson

        Exactly . . . once you mention that you’re gone (however far in the future that might be), you start to be “gone” immediately in the heart and mind of your boss and whichever co-workers know.

  5. OP #6

    Thanks for the insight and the quick response! This is very reassuring to hear. I think my mehndi (the traditional temporary tattoo) is very beautiful, and I’m glad it won’t be held against me.

    Just realized I forgot one detail – its in a more formal law/finance type industry. Does the answer still stand?

    1. Anonymous

      It’s likely to be noticed, and I probably would have advised against it if you had asked before getting it, but there’s not much you can do about it at this point.

      I would suggest that you remind yourself that evaluation for cultural fit goes two ways. It’s not enough that a company thinks you will fit into its business environment – you should also be evaluating whether an environment is one in which you will feel comfortable. If everyone you meet at the career fair from the Chocolate Haters Teapot Company is obnoxious about your tattoos, use this information to cross them off your list of possible employers. The kind of person who think these are cool or interesting is not going to be happy in a place where they are verboten.

    2. Lanya

      I think mendhi is beautiful and if it did draw any etra attention, it would certainly make you more memorable.

      1. Jazzy Red

        I checked the link, because I’m not familiar with mendhi, and now I want one. Or several, but not all at the same time.

        I’ll have to check into this and see if anyone in my area does henna.

        1. Zahra

          If you do, make sure they use fresh, orange-to-brown henna. Never go to an artist that does “black” henna. Black henna is usually made with hair dyes which are not recommended for prolonged skin contact. The reaction can be quite awful.

          Real henna comes from a plant and the color, depending on body chemistry, temperature, etc. results in a tint from orange to red to chocolate brown. As time goes (and your hands exfoliate), it will turn paler until it looks like yellow blotches on your skin and then will disappear.

          As henna colors the top layers of dead (and almost dead) cells, the best place to get a dark tattoo are the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet. The worst is probably the heavily pregnant belly.

          1. Jazzy Red

            Thank you for this advice. I wouldn’t have known any better, and hair dye would have left me with oozing sores. Not the look I want.

    3. Sascha

      I had some lovely mehndi done on my hands during a trip to India I took during undergrad, and when I returned to work – at a conservative religious nonprofit – most everyone I met thought it was interesting and were genuinely curious, including clients who did not know me (I was working as a receptionist). I don’t remember encountering anyone who thought it was tacky or bad taste. It’s a great conversation starter about your trip. I agree with Alison that for a job interview it might be a bit much, but for networking or career fairs, I think it would be fine.

      1. TK

        I am a state employee in the Deep South (though in a relatively liberal city for the region). One of the section heads in my division is originally from India and is (I think) a practicing Hindu. She came back to work with mehndi one Monday after attending a weekend wedding. I heard nothing but admiration and interest from everyone who noticed it.

        1. Waerloga

          I agree. When I see henna tattoos I think the lady in question attended a wedding (so exotic!).

          Take care

          W

    4. B

      If you see anyone looking I would explain to them you got it on a trip, what it is, etc. Then evaluate them for how they react. Is it awkward, are they interested, do they not seem to care, etc. I say this because you want to make sure you are also happy in the environment.

      Also, do not dwell on it. You already have it, it is beautiful, and that is that. The less you dwell and wonder the less others will as well.

    5. P

      I hope this doesn’t sound insensitive (and please tell me if it does! not my intent at all.) but I think that with henna, the fact that you’re of South Asian descent will actually help you. To a random person off the street, it will almost look like you have “authority” to have henna, much more so than someone with pasty white skin and blonde hair.

      Not to mention that if you’re dealing with tons of white people, they may hesitate to judge you for it because they don’t want to sound racist/xenophobic – just like sexism and whatnot, many of the same people who are just subtly racist are very careful about not coming across that way and would vehemently deny it. With your henna they may avoid the subject and open judgement of it so as not to out themselves as bigoted in case you are indeed Hindu or it’s otherwise part of your culture.

      TL;DR – you should be fine, even in law/finance.

      1. TheSnarkyB

        I came here to say something similar. OP, you said it would be unfortunate if your ethnicity were relevant, but I actually disagree. As a woman of color too, I have a very different reaction when I think somebody might be adorning themselves with something from a different culture than if I see it as being their own. Of course, it’s not necessarily offensive to wear things from other cultures (far from it), but if I was at a networking event and met a black woman with cornrows vs a white woman with cornrows who had just come back from vacation… I would judge those two people differently, to be completely honest. For me, it’s a matter of what might be culturally real to you- for all they know, wearing henna regularly is part of who you are culturally and thus is not for them to judge as unprofessional at a corporate event. Just like I would expect them to keep their opinions of my natural black hairstyle to themselves.

        1. Chinook

          This is why I have never been able to wear my formal kimono to a formal event here in Canada (DH’s last job actually gave me an excuse to buy a formal gown and wear it more than once. Our rule was that, if he had to wear a box tie and cuff links, I got to wear my floor length gown). The reality is that it is a formal dress and I have worn one in Japan (have a portrait of me in it) but I know that I will be judged because I am the white chick wearing something not of my culture.

          It is a shame, though, because nothing that beautiful should be wrapped up in a box somewhere. It is emant to be worn!

          1. TheSnarkyB

            I know what you mean :(
            I bet you’ll find the right time for it one day- here’s hoping that’s soon! :)

        2. tcookson

          I used to babysit a pair of twin little girls from Bangladesh, and they would get their hands hennaed for Eid, and they would always proudly show me as soon as they walked in the door. There is a henna parlor in town, and I’ve always kind of wanted to try it, but haven’t been comfortable being the white chick wearing something outside my culture. So I always just enjoyed it on them!

    6. Elizabeth West

      I think those are really neat. I’ve always wanted to try them, but I’m of the pasty white variety…it might look weird on me. Maybe one of these days I will. I know to stay away from the black stuff that isn’t really henna (and is poisonous).

      I don’t think most people think of mehndi as tattoos per se; they’re temporary and it’s not like you have a visible anchor with the word “Mother” or a flaming skull or a teardrop near your eye or anything.

      1. Shelley

        Just to clarify, Hindu’s are not the only Indians who wear Mehndi (Henna). It’s something all Indians wear to celebrations or just for fun. I got married in India (I’m not Indian) to a Muslim Indian, and I had Mehndi (henna) covering my arms up to my elbow (traditional for brides). My friends and husband’s mom and sister also had it done though only on the hands.
        When I came home to Canada after my wedding, I got a lot of comments/questions about it, but in a positive way. It’s beautiful. Just tell people while you were traveling in India you had it done.

        1. tcookson

          Yeah, the little girls I babysat were Muslim. They got the palms of their hands done to celebrate Eid.

          They were two years old the first time they showed up with the hennaed hands, and the work was perfect . . . I don’t think either of my kids would have sat still for that on the palms of the hands, especially not at age 2!

    7. annie

      Guessing you were there for a wedding? I would just explain it as part of the traditional wedding activities. I participated at my best friend’s (she’s Indian-American) mendhi party and people definitely commented at work afterwards, but it was more out of curiosity. People love to talk about weddings and traditions, so I’d just use it as an opening to share some of the fun stuff Indians do at weddings!

    8. anon in tejas

      Im a lawyer in a large city. I had beautiful menthi done for a family friend’s wedding. It stayed a week. I went to court with it (state court), and work. People asked, I explained that it was part of the wedding celebration, and the bride/bridal party/family had it done. One of my bosses asked if it would fade/go away/permanent. I also started tacking onto my answer that it’d fade away in about a week. No issues.

    9. Ade

      OP–since no one seems to be mentioning this, you can absolutely speed up the fading process for henna. The more you wash your hands, the more it disappears. You can also use baby oil and scrub it off. Yes, henna is beautiful, and yes, people will notice and may comment. If I were going to a job interview, I’d take it off. Networking–maybe not as much. Know your industry.

  6. Pussyfooter

    If needed, how could someone in OP #6’s situation explain that “these are just temporary”? Or am I over thinking this?

    1. Anonymous

      A henna tattoo is made of plant dye which basically stains your skin. After a few weeks, it just starts fading and disappears. I live in California and they’re not that uncommon here, even among people who do not appear to be of South Asian descent so I doubt anyone would blink an eye here.

      1. Pussyfooter

        I understand henna, ok. (Love the Link!) But I’ve always seen it used by belly dancers, SCA-ers, people in costume at Ren Faires, and at “ethnic” events.

        Having gotten really odd reactions to historical costumes from people outside those social circles, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if an American was unfamiliar with henna and reacted badly.
        So I was really asking how the OP could best speak up to put people at ease in that kind of situation?

        1. Colette

          I’m in Canada, and we had someone doing henna at our work picnic this year. I am in high tech, though, so that might be a relevant difference.

        2. Meg

          I think it definitely depends on where in the U.S the OP is. I live in New England and I don’t think people would judge her negatively for it, especially since I live in a diverse area. If she’s writing this from a cornfield in the Midwest somewhere, it might be a different story.

          1. RG

            Just FYI – those Midwest cornfields have some pretty diverse immigrant populations of their own. We’ve even heard of henna out here.

          2. A Teacher

            That’s a pretty bold statement–Midwest girl from Illinois here–downstate fairly large city that’s really diverse. Even as a kid that grew up in the middle of farm country Illinois from a town of less than 20,000 and knows the saying “knee high by the Fourth of July” I’d seen henna tattoos as a kid as well.

              1. Meg

                That actually is where I was going with that, but it obviously didn’t translate well. I grew up in eastern MA, which is actually extremely diverse, especially the particular town I lived in.

                For what it’s worth, I’m not suggesting that Midwesterners don’t have running water or internet, or are uneducated bumpkins. I made an obviously false generalization that they may not know about henna, and I do apologize. For what it’s worth, my comment was mostly a defensive reaction against Pussyfooter – not all Americans are xenophobic bigots, and yes, we do understand what henna is.

                1. Pussyfooter

                  “my comment was mostly a defensive reaction against Pussyfooter”

                  Why? I explained that I’ve received what I considered innapropriate criticisms for body ornaments in the past (tried to give examples for context) and *asked for everyone’s advice* on how I might positively respond to such behavior.

                  “not all Americans are xenophobic bigots”

                  I’ve been going about my innocent business before and been harshly criticized about similar (neutral) things out of the blue. It’s “out of the blue” behavior because, indeed, most people *don’t* act this way in the US.

                  “and yes, we do understand what henna is.”

                  I’m not the one who explained what henna is. That was “Anonymous.”

          3. Lynn

            As another person who hails from a cornfield community, I can say that yes, thanks to media, rurals know what henna is, and most would not assume it is permanent, though it might be considered somewhat exotic.

            We also have running water, internet, and and (mostly) paved roads.

            1. Jamie

              You have paved roads? In Chicago asphalt isn’t guaranteed on any road…how are you guys fixed for IT out in the fields?

              1. fposte

                I wouldn’t say pavement is *guaranteed*–just that it exists.

                There was an ISP out here that used grain elevators–if you were within line of sight of a grain elevator, you could get internet from them. How do you feel about climbing?

                1. Jamie

                  If I don’t have to dodge pot holes big enough to swim in on the way to work I can climb.

                  A nice pleasant work fantasy on a Friday – getting back to basics …IT in grain elevators as it was written so shall it be done.

            2. Meg

              I apologize – I really didn’t mean to make it sound as if all Midwesterners were country bumpkins. My mother grew up in the Midwest and has commented on occasion that the area she grew up in was mainly white – I really didn’t mean to offend anyone. I do apologize if it came off that way.

              1. Chinook

                Mainly white, though, doesn’t necessarily mean homogeneous. There is a lot of cultural variety even when we look similair. Frankly, Norwegians, Irish and Poles didn’t have a lot in common until they moved to N. America.

          4. Anonymous

            Yeah, out here in the midwest we’re very diverse – the largest population of Muslims outside the Arab world is just a few miles down from a major Midwestern city (Detroit).

              1. Pussyfooter

                I suspect Anonymous was referring to Dearborn, MI.
                It has the–or one of the–highest percentages of Islamic population in the United States.

        3. the_scientist

          Mehndi is far more than a historical costume or fashion statement. It’s considered an art form and plays an important symbolic/traditional role in wedding ceremonies; many brides will have a mehndi ceremony before their wedding. Now, perhaps the OP didn’t get it for a weddding, but does it matter and does she have to explain that? Maybe I’m being overly sensitive, because where I’m from there is a very large South Asian population and people are exposed to this from childhood, but I’d think someone who had a big concern about a temporary piece of art with spiritual/cultural significance is hugely xenophobic and possibly racist.

          please note: I am not interested in arguments comparing permanent tattoos on the hands/neck/face to mehndi; they are not comparable at all.

          1. fposte

            I think that’s going a little far, actually. It’s not xenophobic for people to simply lack familiarity with some global and cultural customs, and a behavior or adornment can have cultural significance and still be an obstacle for hiring (Maori ta moko would need a lot of explanation in the US).

            However, I don’t think the OP’s mehndi is likely to be much of an issue. Mehndi has the advantage of being obviously intricate and artistically performed, so people unfamiliar with it aren’t likely to mistake it for a casual thing that indicated somebody didn’t care about their professional appearance; the fact that it’ll be old enough to be fading will clue people who’d be concerned about permanent tattoos in to the fact that this isn’t permanent.

            1. the_scientist

              Right, but ta moko is (traditionally) on the face, correct? And it’s permanent? I think that’s a bit different than mehndi. It’s certainly not xenophobic for people to lack familiarity with customs or adornments of other cultures, but I’d give serious side eye to anyone who makes a big deal (i.e. “we don’t want you going to this event while you have that on your hands”) about mehndi once they know that it’s something temporary.

              1. Pussyfooter

                This was meant for fposte’s “It’s not xenophobic for people to simply lack familiarity with some … customs, and a behavior or adornment can have cultural significance and still be an obstacle for hiring”

          2. Anonymous

            The thing is – if someone was unfamiliar with it, they could easily assume it’s a permanent tattoo.

        4. Elizabeth West

          I think all she’d have to say is that she got them on a trip to India, that it’s a traditional temporary henna ornamentation, and that would be fine. She might get questions about her trip after that. Vacation talk is a great ice-breaker for a networking event. :)

          If someone reacts badly (they need to get a life!), she can just smile and nod and move away.

          1. Pussyfooter

            Thanks for addressing my question, Elizabeth.
            I found yours and B’s upthread very positive and helpful
            :)

  7. Anonymous

    I am in a similar situation to #5. I’ve been in my current position for about 4 months and I can already tell that it’s not a good fit. I plan to stay for a year, for the sake of my professional reputation and not being a jerk, but I have no intention of telling anyone my plans. I know my boss is tired of hiring new people and I think she will still be pretty disappointed if I leave after only a year. So what do I do in the meantime? Just pretend that I’m happy and planning my long-term career in this office? Do I bring up some of the problems and hope that they can make the situation more tolerable for the next 8 months? I’m pretty sure that they cannot change enough to make me want to stay, as that would involve significantly restructuring the job duties, changing the way the entire office communicates and probably a new boss. So if I bring anything up, then don’t I just risk exposing the fact that I’m unhappy, with no productive results for anyone? Is it better to keep quiet and wait it out?

    1. Ruffingit

      My take is that if what is required to make you happy is significant job restructure, a significant change to interoffice communication and a new boss, then what you’ve just described there is a new job. It’s unlikely Current Job is going to change in those ways so your options are to begin looking now or suck it up and deal. Well, there’s also the other option of trying to make some small changes that may help the current situation. Perhaps you can take on a different job duty that you might find more interesting (such as doing the company newsletter or whatever) or you can find ways to improve on what your current job duties are.

      In general though, with the list of things you’ve said would have to be different to make you happy currently, it all points to another job. I don’t think you’re going to see the changes you’re wanting in the job you have now.

    2. Jazzy Red

      Honestly, if you’re planning to leave in one year (or so), decide now to leave the place better than when you came. If you can improve even just one thing there, it will make your time with this employer worthwhile.

      I wouldn’t tell anyone at work that I’m planning to leave, though. A year is a long time, and anything could happen.

    3. Anonymous

      I’ve been in my current job for 14 months. I knew right away that it wasn’t a good fit. I worked the whole time knowing I would leave around the 1 year mark; I did not share that with my boss. The one time I made a suggestion for change my boss let me know that it was not appreciated. I did my best every day and I bit my tongue a lot. I just got the new job offer and I’m excited to be moving on. I’ll tell my boss Monday when she gets back from vacation. And I will tell her thank you for the wonderful opportunity even though this was not a great job. I do not want to burn a bridge.

      1. OP #5

        Absolutely! Be gracious and thankful. I have learned that it’s really a small world and you never know who you will cross paths with again. I have run into many old bosses (and recruited by one for my dream job in my dream city) so always leave a trail of roses. Scorched earth may feel good for a moment but it may hinder your future.

  8. Pussyfooter

    OP #1:
    That woman was “cu-RA-zeeeee”–but you probably already know that.

    I’d probably try to sympathize with her hurt feelings (without agreeing with her assumptions or badmouthing anyone) and then say something like “well, I imagine our needs are a little different from yours. What about our database do you think you might be able to use?”…if she calmed down and started being practical, then I’d suggest we get together so I could show her my system.

    I’d be concerned that going straight to offering to show her how to do her job better, when she’s already defensive, might rub salt in the wound.

    1. TheSnarkyB

      I think calling her crazy is going far, as well as a bit unnecessary. Sounds like a couple people were in situations that they weren’t totally comfortable with and maybe reacted oddly, but that’s it.

  9. vvondervvoman

    My follow-up question for #7 is whether or not the same thing applies for open flies. With women I know pretty well, it feels comfortable to say something. But men, I’ve always shied away from mentioning it. Am I just being too cautious?

    1. Chris

      Just be very professional about mentioning an open fly (male or female). I’ve told people before, male and female, and they are typically thankful to be saved from potential embarrassment. Only one time was there a guy jittery enough to start joking loudly about checking him out- just act politely and walk on. It’s not a big deal if you don’t allow it to be one.

      1. Ruffingit

        It’s not a big deal if you don’t allow it to be one.

        Great life advice in general right there!

      2. Editor

        And be careful about zipping the fly. My brothers had a clueless science teacher, and one of their stories about him was the day he was unzipped. One of the guys in the class signaled him that he was unzipped, so he sidled away from his desk to stand behind behind the lab table, and proceeded to zip himself up — not behind the cabinets that held up the table at either end — but behind the open gap in the middle where every teen in the room could see the proceedings.

  10. Chocolate Teapot

    A former male colleagues was about to meet a client with a button on his shirt undone (about the 3rd or 4th one down, so it wasn’t as if it was casual dress) so I did say something, but it was a bit uncomfortable. “Have you lost a button?” is probably the most diplomatic way of handling it.

    If he hadn’t been going into a client meeting, I might not have said anything.

    1. abc

      I don’t like the “Have you lost a button?” phrasing. I’d rather someone just politely tell me that one of my buttons is undone and move on. The phrasing you used sounds kind of snarky to me .

    2. Chinook (who works in Calgary)

      Having been to one too many military parades with DH and his buddies in dress uniform, I have to stop the habit of brushing lint off the back of people’s jackets and pants, but I can say that I have never had a poor reaction to pointing out potential clothing issues (as long as I don’t touch them ;). If you are casual in tone and don’t let it be a conversatio stopper, it should be a non issue. Heck, I once stopped a woman crossing the street ahead of me and told her about a bar of dust or dirt on the back of her suit jacket and then continued on my way and she appeared appreciative.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I once stopped a woman on the street and told her that she’d tucked the back of her skirt into her pantyhose. She was obviously mortified — and I’m sure wondering why the hell no one had already told her.

        1. MF

          Just a few weeks ago I stopped a woman on the street to let her know that the bottom layer of her dress (the top layer was sheer) had gotten tucked up on one side and was exposing part of her underwear. She was mortified but so grateful – and remarked that she was wondering why people had been giving her odd looks. And she was about to go on a first date, so extra grateful that she wasn’t walking into the restaurant like that!

          1. Layla

            That happened to me too omg. Person who told me just tapped me to draw my attention to it & walked on. Yea I was mortified & not much chance to show my gratefulness

        2. Ann O'Nemity

          I once stopped a lady who came out of the restroom with toilet paper trailing out of the top of her pants like a long tail. Probably the most embarrassing appearance mishap I’ve ever seen.

        3. Elizabeth West

          On behalf of wardrobe-challenged people everywhere (and being someone who has actually done this), THANK YOU.

        4. anon

          That’s so nice!

          When I was in college I was wearing a new pair of jeans and a girl in the cafeteria at breakfast noticed that I still had the size sticker down the leg. Phew!

      2. A Teacher

        Worst dress fau paux…once I had the toilet paper get stuck to my shoe in the bathroom–like from the toilet paper roll itself. I walked out the door of the bathroom with the toilet paper stuck to my shoe and I didn’t realize it until I was 2 rooms over with a long trail of toilet paper behind me. Why didn’t someone tell me? I’m not sure–its funny now but was embarrassing then.

        1. A Bug!

          Why didn’t someone tell me? … its funny

          There is your answer. And I am very sorry but depending on our relationship and my perception of your personality, I might not have told you either. Because it would have been hilarious and I would have wanted to see how long a trail you could get before it broke or fell off your shoe.

          1. A Teacher

            fortunately it was at church so I wasn’t in a professional setting and I was a college freshman but man was it mortifying at the time. I also get bright red which probably made it better

    3. Mallorie, the recruiter

      Ugh- once I totally missed a button and NO ONE TOLD ME for hours and you could literally see my bra. I was mortified. But oh, not as mortified as the customer who complained to my boss about my “inappropriate dress” and how dare I do that in front of her husband (gasp!). I wanted to shout, “Look lady, no one just walks around with one button in the middle undone for fashion!” I think I was red for a week. She made it seem like I just miss buttons for fun to seduce people’s husbands! Morale of the story- always tell someone they missed a button!

      1. Jean

        Oh, my! I started to split my sides laughing at your comment about being red for a week. Thank you for the levity. I am now having fun by creating witty replies to the rude customer:
        Reversal: “Lady, if I want to seduce somebody, I take my shirt completely OFF.”
        Mock seriousness 1): “Thanks for reminding me that my original plan was to leave only one button _buttoned_.”
        Mock seriousness 2): “Haven’t you heard? This is one of the most important details for the new fall fashions.”
        Dignified denial: “I beg your pardon, Madam, but this is a high-class establishment.”

  11. Sophie

    #1 It’s a shame that the other AA took the advice of their manager to be like “call so and so and find how how their database works, as it may benefit you” but instead got on the defensive and inappropriately called you to defend herself. A good confident employee would take the advice/criticism and call you to find out how she could perhaps implement your system into her work and make her own life and her bosses life easier..
    It’s a shame like that but sometimes people don’t always act rationally

  12. Jenna

    #4, if it makes you feel any better, a few months ago I was in a weekly meeting that was also a teleconference and the project manager accidentally called a sex line instead of the teleconference number. The funny thing was that this guy was a bit spacey so he wasn’t really paying attention and let the message go on and on while he was waiting for the part where he was supposed to enter his meeting number and passcode. He didn’t really notice until he saw that we were all killing ourselves laughing at this and then hung up the phone!

    1. Hous

      I have misdialed and hit a sex line at work before, but not at a conference! Definitely makes me feel better :)

    2. Nichole

      Haha! Our old helpline number was very close to a sex line number (think 1-888=help desk, 1-800=”hang it up, HANG IT UP!”). One time one of the staff members dialed the wrong one on speaker in front of a roomful of students. She caught it pretty quickly, but she was mortified.

  13. The Other Dawn

    #4 Accidentally winding up on an adult website at work

    Don’t worry about this at all, OP. I review our users’ internet usage every month and once in awhile I find a hit in the porn category. Unless I see multiple hits to one site, or a bunch of sites, I don’t care about it. I’m looking for multiple hits to adult sites and malicious sites, among others, and people who are spending an inordinate amount of time surfing the net or hogging the bandwidth by streaming Pandora and the like.

    1. LV

      I’m a bit of a luddite in some ways, so forgive me if this is a silly question, but can you track how much *active* time a user spends on a webpage?

      In other words, if I have AAM open in a browser tab for a few hours, during which I’m actually doing work in other tabs/documents, is it going to look as though I spent hours reading AAM?

      1. The Other Dawn

        The way ours works is that it records the number of hits or visits to a page. I can’t see how much time is spent, but if the top five usage categories for a user contain online shopping, streaming media, or social networking, it’s usually a good indication that they’re spending a lot of time on the web. But I also look at the bandwidth they used since someone can spend maybe an hour a month on the internet and those categories are still in the top five. If the total bandwidth used for the month for 20 users is 25GB and one user used 8GB of it, yeah, they’re doing a lot of surfing. That’s almost 8 times what a regular user might use in a month.

        1. The Other Dawn

          Meant to add that there are probably programs out there that track time. Ours is pretty basic.

      2. Sydney

        We use ActivTrak and it keeps track of how much time you spend on active browser tabs (as well as other things). It will tally up the total amount of time spent on any websites, and it only calculates when it’s the active tab. It also knows when you’ve gone idle so it’ll stop counting.

        I’ve had more than one employee claim, “Well, Facebook was just open as a secondary tab, but I wasn’t using it! I was actually in the CRM the whole time.” Nice try.

    2. tcookson

      We were all talking about something at work one time, and I went on-line to look up something about it . . . I wish I could remember the phrase I typed into the Google search bar. It was completely innocent, but the sites that came up in response to it were very adult.

      The next time I spoke to everyone, I just laughingly told them, “DO NOT google up [such-and-such phrase]!!!”

  14. Anonymous

    6 – A friend of mine (family from India) got married last year and had very elaborate henna on her hands. She works at a pretty conservative private school in a small-ish town and no one said anything negative. In fact, everyone (faculty and students) loved it, if that makes you feel any better. Honestly, I feel like henna tattoo is common enough that most people would know that it’s temporary and likely tied to a special occasion.

    1. Anonymous

      And just to clarify, it’s not exclusively of Hindu tradition. Many countries and cultures use henna, or mendhi, in weddings and cultural celebrations.

  15. Del

    #4 – I’ve never landed on a flat-out adult website (we have a pretty stern filter at my job) but for actual job-related reasons I’ve wound up on some pretty sketchy websites, usually with a good story to go with them. It’s always awkward and I find myself composing the explanation I’ll give up the chain if I get called on it. (“Why were you on a site selling fake marijuana?” “For work, I swear!”)

    1. WorkIt

      Once, my old employer emailed employees a list of the websites everyone had visited. A lot of people were embarrassed that day, including a manger who insisted he hadn’t viewed an porn site.

      1. Ruffingit

        That was a really shitty thing for your manager to do. Public humiliation very rarely gets the results necessary especially in the workplace. It just makes everyone angry and bitter.

    2. Chinook

      Fake marijuana? Is that like the stuff my elementary classmates tried once when they heard about “grass”? They went out into the field, cut some blades, rolled and then lit. They couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

  16. LeeD

    #7 – When I’m with family or friends, I’ll just hand them my compact and indicate on my face the area where they need to look. This saves us from having to have all of those, “Did I get it?” conversations. I’m not sure whether I’d be comfortable doing that with in a business setting, though.

  17. Colleen

    “(People who know what it is may just assume that you’re a practicing Hindu and not think about it beyond that.) ”

    Henna artist here. Just wanted to clarify that henna is traditionally done in dozens of cultures for both purely aesthetic as well as religious reasons, from Sudanese henna to Jewish henna traditions – the oldest record of henna is actually on an Egyptian mummy. Most people know henna because of the Indian bridal tradition but henna itself is not a reason to make assumptions about religion. Tattoo inspired henna is gaining traction in the U.S. as it’s own distinct tradition as well. I would say there are more non-religious henna traditions than religious.

  18. the gold digger

    #4 Accidentally winding up on an adult website at work

    For a while, I was the top forbidden website offended (the red hand of STOP!) at my company of 100,000 employees because if you look online for information about how to treat a UTI without going to the doctor, you will end up on sites that use the word “sex.”

    The IT guy who told me about it thought it was hilarious.

  19. Steve

    #4 Accidentally winding up on an adult website at work

    I recommend clearing all your internet history from your computer (especially cookies), just to be safe.

    1. Chinook

      My understanding, though, is that if you clear your internet history, all that does is ensure that anyone who logs on to your computer doesn’t see you history. It will not affect what the IT department saw you doing.

      1. Anonymous

        But you do avoid potentially embarrassing future incidents. For example, if your boss is looking over your shoulder as you type an URL, having the adult website come up on autocomplete is going to look bad.

    2. Sydney

      That doesn’t erase the network logs or logs of whatever tracking software your IT department uses.

      This will only clear up the “proof” if the way you’re going to be found out is if your boss comes and looks through your browser history, or happens to type something in the address bar and get a suggestion.

  20. Brett

    #1 The first thing that struck me about that letter was that expecting an AA to be able to execute database design and do database maintenance is extremely unreasonable. (And having a database project without proper design, maintenance, backups, and tuning is unacceptable.) There is a reason we pay people six figures to do that. It’s great that the OP could do that, but it was really unfair for the manager to put that expectation on their AA. There is a reason our IT staff no longer allows people to purchase Microsoft Access….

    1. fposte

      Huh? It doesn’t have to be SQL or Oracle–you can slap it together in Excel. We’ve run for years on a simple FileMakerPro database that anybody who can operate the Microsoft suite can operate, run, and query.

      1. P

        Yeah, I’m going to second this. I “maintain a database” as part of my job, but it’s really just an excel spreadsheet kept in the shared drive that I periodically update. And that’s just fine for our needs.

        1. Anonymous

          You can’t make a database in Excel. You can make a spreadsheet, even an incredibly robust spreadsheet, but that doesn’t make it a database. If someone at work told me that he has a database in Excel, I would immediately assume (fairly or not) that he knows much less about computers than he thinks he does.

          1. Ruffingit

            I think that’s why P used quotes to say “maintain a database.” I think he/she’s aware that Excel is not database software.

            1. Anonymous

              No, I get that, and I didn’t mean to convey otherwise. What I meant was, be careful if you tell people that you “maintain a database” when you’re really using Excel. They may be like me an make assumptions about your knowledge because you casually called a spreadsheet a database.

              I was in a situation where I took someone at her word that she was familiar with databases, when she really meant Excel and didn’t even understand the concept of relational databases. Now, when I hear someone talk about a database in Excel, it’s a red flag that s/he may be inadvertently mis-representing his or her skills.

              1. P

                Oh, yes – I would never put that on a resume or anything like that, that’s just what we call it around the office. E.g., “can you throw this contact into the database?”

          2. EA

            I have made an excel tool that acts like a database, but I know better than to call it a Database. (the users, on the other hand, well, who knows what they call it). (I would’ve preferred to do it in Access, but not everyone that would be using the tool has Access, so I had to use Excel)

          3. Anonymous

            So is there a term for “body of information (ie, not only numbers) maintained in a structured and updatable form”, which is what the vernacular “database” seems to mean, without getting into the definition of its actual form?

              1. Layla

                Wikipedia is not the absolute truth for everything but here’s what it says for database :
                A database is an organized collection of data. The data are typically organized to model relevant aspects of reality in a way that supports processes requiring this information.

                Spreadsheet it says , refers to a program , strangely.
                Then it goes on to talk about spreadsheet programs….

      2. Ruffingit

        This. I’m getting the sense from the OP’s letter that the database in question is of the Access or FileMarkerPro variety. I seriously doubt it’s a complex IT operation.

        1. patchinko

          Yeah, it’s an access database and it’s fairly simple. It’s also already made, pretty user friendly if I do say so myself, and odds are she could import her unit’s data into it (which can be easily gotten from hr in spreadsheet form) and use it as is. I designed it so it could be picked up by my replacement and anyone else who wanted to use it even if they weren’t as computer savvy as me.

      3. Jamie

        I had the same thought as Brett for a second, but then assumed the OP meant something far more simple.

        It takes specialized skill to be a DBA and maintain hundreds/thousands of tables running an ERP or even homegrown Access apps depending on the difficulty (ow – I think I just dislocated my shoulder by patting myself on the back) but “database” can be anything even as simple and a spreadsheet or two in excel.

    2. Leslie Yep

      Maybe it depends on the kind of information. The AAs on my team manages a database of our team information without problem (and use it to report on several things from upcoming birthdays to team structures).

    3. Brett

      These are poor practices for an organization the size of a hospital. When team members leave, computers crash, proprietary software goes off maintenance, you end up with lost information. (Kudos to P for putting the spreadsheet on a shared drive, but it would be much better off being stored as a sharepoint table.)

      We actually have a project going on right now where we are trying to cleanup an issue with employees in one unit creating an adhoc database for a certain type of information, and sharing that practice with other units. It seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea, until someone realized that the adhoc databases violated records retention laws and information security policies (turned out anyone in the organization was able to access and modify this confidential information if they knew where it was). Last estimate I knew was several hundred hours and high five figures in cost to clean it all up.

      1. Ruffingit

        It’s quite possible what is being done is not best practice, but I think that’s a separate issue than saying the AA shouldn’t be tasked with what the OP is doing. I get the sense that the database is of the simpler variety so I’m thinking the AA could likely do it with no problem. Is that a good idea or best practice? Perhaps not, but given that it’s likely pretty simple in the grand scheme of things, it’s not outrageous of the boss to ask the AA to do something similar.

        1. fposte

          And “best practice” often isn’t, unfortunately. It’s a notoriously inflexible and situation-blind concept. There’s a legitimate reason why most databases *aren’t* run by somebody being paid six figure a year–they don’t need to be and aren’t worth it (a lot of workplaces don’t even bring in six figures extra per year–doesn’t mean they should keep everything on cards in a shoebox). If an office wants to, say, keep track of contact info, birthdays, and schedule details for all the ophthalmology staff, they’re fine with a computer app and an AA.

          1. Layla

            +1
            I do hospital IT and god forbid that users need to go thru us to get every little darn thing done

          2. TheSnarkyB

            doesn’t mean they should keep everything on cards in a shoebox

            And this is why you’re one of my favorite commenters.

          3. CEMgr

            Agree totally.

            A simple custom Sharepoint list would qualify as a “database” in my eyes. It shares the qualities of having the ability to define fields, limit operations that can garble data (like sorting ineptly in Excel), present filtered and grouped views easily without disrupting the data, and allowing edits on a per-record basis (thus allowing simultaneous use by many people).
            Such a list is simple for many users to create and manage and is also far better than a spreadsheet for 96-100% of multi-user applications.

            1. Jamie

              It just really depends on context. If we were hiring for an Office Manager who talked about setting up databases I’d expect to hear about sharepoint, excel, maybe access, etc. I wouldn’t expect that they would necessarily know how to write a sql statement or append a table or the difference between and inner and outer join.

              If hiring for my department if you talk about databases I expect you to mean architecture for ERP/CRM, creating Access apps, sql queries, creating tables, BI reporting, and actual maintenance – rebuilding and maintaining hundreds of tables.

              Words have different levels of meaning depending on context. I.e. I’m a driver in that I have a DL and I drive a car. If I were at a Nascar motorway I shouldn’t call myself one of the drivers…because that would be overstating. :)

              1. fposte

                My favorite example of this was on an air travel newsgroup years ago. An arrogant poster talked smugly about the kinds of commercial aircraft he’d flown versus the kind of aircraft another poster had flown. But the arrogant poster meant flown *on* and was pontificating to a commercial pilot.

                1. tcookson

                  HA! That reminds me of a family dinner, where my husband’s maternal aunt (who had just taken a psychology 101 course) was pontificating on and on to his paternal aunt, explaining basic psychological concepts to her, etc. Paternal aunt listened very patiently and politely, nodding and smiling; Paternal aunt is a psychiatrist.

      2. Anonymous

        And yet, the bosses were fine with her doing it. What was she supposed to say: “some guy named “Brett” on the Internet says I shouldn’t be doing this?”

      3. patchinko

        None of the information in the database I made is unavailable elsewhere. If it gets lost (which is unlikely because it’s pretty thoroughly backed up), we lose the organizational system but not the data.

        I agree with what everyone is saying in this thread in general, but I know what I’m doing!

    4. Observer

      To the person with a hammer everything looks like a nail.

      It’s quite possible that the database in question is perfectly appropriate to the situation. Also, when people talk about “maintaining the database” they don’t generally mean that in a design sense, but in the sense of keeping the data up to date. For that you don’t need professional database design or admin skills. Subject matter expertise, and possibly good work relationship skills are what is needed.

      If the issue for the calling AA was technical – ie she doesn’t know how to use a basic database tool to set something like this up, or believes that the initial design is more than she is trained for, she should have either brought this up with her supervisor or asked the poster how she managed to work around that issue.

      1. Leslie Yep

        Exactly. “Database” is colloquially used to talk about organized collections of data, and that’s the usage I almost always hear (including in a prior career in a professional research setting.) If someone is speaking of an Access database (or SQL or CRM or…) they’ll usually be explicit about that and bring in an expert. But most internal team data of the type the OP seems to be describing are perfectly well-managed in a spreadsheet.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Maybe a better way to put it would be “maintaining XYZ information in the database.”

      3. Brett

        This situation, though, was not just maintaining a database. It was actually creating an application of some sort. I would think most administrative assistants are quite comfortable with a spreadsheet, so it very much sounds like something implemented in Access, FileMakerPro, etc.
        That is the sort of thing that leads to, down the road, “Well, someone created this a few years ago, but he no longer works here and it stopped working after the last updates were pushed out….”

        1. Jamie

          And that is why when interviewing for an IT job you want to make sure you get a look at the back end of any homegrown legacy apps you’ll have to maintain.

          There are some hot messes out there built for the sole purpose of job security for the mad scientists who wove those spiderwebs of crap.

            1. Jamie

              It’s because I say things like this that I’m never asked to help decorate for Halloween.

              That and I’m the one who keeps taking the batteries out of the moaning welcome mat they put out in October. Shhhh….no one knows that’s me.

              1. Jean

                Moaning welcome mat? That would be intriguing…for the first five seconds. Battery-ectomy? Perfect.

                1. Jamie

                  I also remove disable the signing snowman at Christmas and any battery operated air fresheners I find.

                  I don’t take the batteries – just flip them around so they don’t work.

                  I consider it my secret public service. I’m just like Batman.

          1. anon

            Ugh welcome to my company. Instead of having proper CRM we have this horrible jankety system that it takes way too many people to maintain.

        2. fposte

          It can, but it doesn’t have to any more than any other. And the problem is that it has to be a pretty damn significant database before it’s worth investing the kind of labor and facility money you’re talking about, and I suspect that those databases are in the minority. It’s also not like your $100k person never leaves a database behind either.

          For some databases, asking the AA to make them is going to earn you a post on The Daily WTF; for some databases, you’ll earn that by paying somebody $100k to “manage” them.

  21. Steve G

    #3 and engineer at my company got fired for the same thing this year because when they found out this was happening they didn’t just assume he was sharing the contacts, but was actually working on the PT job at the FT one. And that somewhat made sense to them, because that person never did OT, so they also assumed he wasn’t really committed to FT job anyway.

  22. OP #5

    Oops! Sorry I wasn’t clear. I would be talking to my manager about a corporate position within the company I’m currently working for. When she made the announcement about these reviews, she gave examples of what we could discuss in terms of advancement (and going to corporate was 1 of them) so my question was more about how to tell her, convey my gratitude, and to ask if the the 1 year timeline was too soon. (Re-reading my question from someone else’s perceptive clarified how my question seemed so thanks for your comments. They were helpful).

    1. Another Reader

      Thanks for the additional clarification. Speaking as a former manager, I’d recommend that you ask her how she would see the timeframe for a switch vs. asking if 1 year is realistic. Open ended questions can yield more information; also, if a new employee came to me within 3 months to say they wanted to go somewhere else in a year, I’d be disappointed that the hire didn’t work out (from my point of view). Here, a year is minimal in terms of the training etc we invest in people, so leaving after a year would translate as a hiring mistake and a re-hire/re-training from my point of view.

    2. MovingRightAlong

      That definitely changes everything. Perhaps you could avoid giving your own timeline and ask for her opinion. She may be able to give you some examples of previous employees who took a similar path or put you in touch with someone in the company who is more knowledgeable. That way, you would get a sense of how (and how quickly) people move up in the company without giving the impression that you just can’t wait to leave your current position.

      1. OP #5

        Thanks, Another Reader & Moving Right Along,
        Your advice is excellent! The crazy thing is I used to manage a group but I seemed to have forgotten my “Management Perspective” so reading your input is like a refresher course. It’s helping me to create an outline of discussion points whereas before, I felt all-over-the-place.
        (As I always thought (and truly not to be a suck-up), AAM commenters are the most helpful and constructive posters I’ve ever read compared to other career sites).

  23. MrsG

    My boyfriend interviewed and was accepted at a position in another state for a substantial raise, but a step down in title. A couple of days after he came back from his interview we drove down and spent an entire day looking for an apartment. After tallying up moving expenses, the executive job title loss, and the anxiety we felt about moving out of our home state, we decided not to go.

    Definitely tell them as soon as you know you’re not going to take the job and move. We regret it now and feel like we’ve burned a bridge in a large company.

  24. Ed

    #2 Issues like this are the reason why out of town candidates are often moved to the bottom of the list. I was in your position at one time and found myself changing my mind at the last minute too. I went from being mad at not being given equal consideration to realizing “oh, it turns out I’m one of *those* people that screws it up for everyone else.” That changed my perspective and I accepted the fact that I was automatically a weaker candidate because of the distance. I eventually got a job but it was with a local branch of a company in my destination city so neither of us was taking a big risk.

    On another note, after making the move, I LOVE the new city and having things to do in a bigger city. But I’m a rolling stone type of personality and go a little crazy staying in the same place for too long.

  25. MR

    I used to work in the aerospace/manufacturing/defense contractor industry for several years, and what the OP for #3 is describing is not cool at all. Based on my experiences in the industry, if the OP does speak up about this, s/he can expect to be fired relatively quick.

    If I were that person, I’d decide which company to go with, and then go exclusively with that company. This is one industry where unless you are a consultant, playing in two separate sandboxes is not approved of.

  26. Miss Displaced

    #4 made me laugh. I used to work for a manufacturing company and had to do a lot of web research on things like “pipes,” “suckers,” “drill,” “tubing,” “O-Ring,” and other such jargon that often came up to porn sites that sometimes even hijacked the browser. Yikes!

    Don’t worry, you won’t get in trouble for it if you get out fast.

    1. HR Competent

      Our company had a vessel working off Naked Island in Alaska.

      My search for travel options brought up a variety of interesting choices.

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