nose-picking interviewers, calling in sick for insomnia, and more

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

1. My boss gave my assistant a raise without discussing it with me

The executive director of our organization gave my assistant a raise without discussing it with me. I am very conflicted about this because on one hand she totally and completely deserves this raise but on the other hand she is my assistant! I feel that I should have been consulted (or at least notified). Our organization is fairly small (less than 50 employees) but only 20 of us work in the admin building. We all work very closely and I am sure the ED has noticed how hard my assistant has been working and what a good job she has been doing. As far as I know, no one else received a raise.

I asked the director of my department if he knew anything about it and he didn’t either. I only found out when I was cc:’d on a memo that got included in my assistant’s paycheck. Luckily I got the memo before she got the paycheck so I was able to tell her in person. Am I being unreasonable for being upset about this? Is this normal?

No, that’s problematic. You need to be in the loop on things like this — first, because you should have input into the decision and the timing (what if her performance had been slipping recently and your boss didn’t know about it, or what if you’d promised her a raise in X months if she met specific benchmarks?), and second, because if it looks to her like you didn’t know about it, it undermines your authority as the source of consequences (including good ones) for performance.

Talk to your boss and explain why you’d like to be part of the decision-making process on things like this in the future.

2. Is insomnia a valid reason to call in sick?

Do you consider insomnia a valid reason to take a sick day? I don’t mean “I’m a little tired” or “I stayed out too late last night,” but legitimate “I’ve been lying awake for the past 6 hours and now I have to get up in 2 and I’m still not able to fall asleep” insomnia.

I have been dealing with this since I was a kid and usually have it under control enough to function the next day, but sometimes there is nothing I can do. (I do have a prescription for Ambien, but it really knocks me out for 8+ hours and sometimes I don’t know I need it until too late.)

Yes, I think it’s a perfectly legitimate reason to take a sick day. You’re going to have just as much trouble functioning and be just as miserable as you would be if you went into work with a “real” illness. That said, there are some offices (and some managers) where I wouldn’t be that specific about it and would instead would simply take a sick day without getting into the reason.

3. Should I tell my boss that I hope to start my own nonprofit at some point?

I recently started working for a large nonprofit. My supervisor has regular meetings with me and puts a lot of emphasis on both long-term and short-term career goals for me as a person, not just for me in my position. She often asks me to share my career objectives.

The truth is that I hope to one day open my own nonprofit in a similar field, in the next five years. Is that too much information to share with my supervisor? While I feel that she could help me to take classes in nonprofit management and the like, I also feel that it could backfire on me and they could write me off as eventually planning to leave. Should I just pretend that my aspirations are lower and tell her that I look forward to moving up the ladder and becoming a director, etc?

I wouldn’t lie and say you have aspirations that you don’t have, and I think it’s fine to tell her that one day you’d like to start your own nonprofit — but I might not share the five-year timeline, because that’s very soon and it will make you sound like you might be more committed to that plan than to the nonprofit you’re currently working at. (And if I heard someone wanted to start their own nonprofit in the same field as mine in the near-ish future, I might be concerned about them having access to my donor lists and other proprietary information.)

It can also sound a little naive, for whatever that’s worth. Starting a successful nonprofit is a huge amount of work (for very little pay for the first few years, in most cases), requires a huge amount of fundraising, and often fizzles out unless you have a real donor base to draw on. That’s especially true when there are already organizations doing similar work and you have to credibly show how you’re going to get better results than they do.

4. My boss has a social clique at work

My department was merged a couple of years ago with one in which the boss and small staff of three employees were pretty tight — they had been coworkers before the boss was promoted. Now the boss has lunch every day, behind closed doors, with three coworkers and definitely treats them differently than the other staff. Sometimes she even ignores her other staff members from the new department if she’s in a bad mood, but has her “friends” to fall back on. She gossips about people throughout the organization, but gets upset with her staff members don’t feel comfortable telling her anything in confidence. You advice on handling this situation?

She sucks as a boss, in a big way. All you can really do is accept that she operates this way or find a new boss. But if you happen to have a good rapport with someone above her who has good judgment, you could consider mentioning it discreetly — no competent manager would be okay with a manager below them doing this.

5. Recruiter wants not only my Social Security number, but also my city of birth

I just had a call with a recruiter who had a position that sounds like I’d be a good fit for. My concern is that he said in order to proceed he needs my city of birth and the last 4 digits of my SSN in order to submit me to the client’s system. Is this a normal request? I’m not crazy about sharing this information without an actual job offer in hand and even then I don’t know why they would need my city of birth. Any thoughts?

My thought is that when a recruiter wants the same information that identity thieves want, there’s a problem. I can’t imagine why he wants your city of birth. They might need it at some point for a background check, but they sure as hell don’t need it now. I’d tell him that you’re concerned about giving out that particular combination of information because of identity theft concerns and ask what the company will be using it for. If he says it’s in case they need to do a background check down the road, tell him you’d be glad to supply it at that point but don’t want it sitting in a database somewhere unless things progress to the point where it’s needed.

6. Nose-picking interviewer

I’m currently job hunting and had a very strange interview experience yesterday. I’m not usually one for describing any bodily functions or related habits, so I apologize to you and your readers for the potential gross-out factor of my story.

I was sitting at a table with the person who would be my supervisor across from me and her supervisor to my right. The interview started with the usual questions, both ladies were very friendly and immediately put me at ease. About three quarters of the way through the interview, the lady to my right (The Big Boss) scratched at her nose and then got a tissue. I didn’t pay much attention, but she then proceeded to pick her nose for the remainder of the interview. I’m sorry to be so graphic, but first she used the tissue, then she put the tissue down and picked her nose with her finger (non-stop) for more than seven or eight minutes.

I was so thrown off that I just couldn’t look at her, I tried to stay focused on the lady in front of me. I thought perhaps she might give me some visual cues that she was slightly uncomfortable with what was going on, but it was hard to read her. Although I was still answering the questions, I spent the rest of the interview fretting about how I would get out of shaking the woman’s hand after she’d been digging for bullion in her nasal cavity.

How would you read into something like this? Is it a massive red flag or just a potential quirk (perhaps a nervous habit, or something that should be written off)?

Sometimes I wonder if you guys think that every incident of weird behavior is a hidden signal about what a job would be like, but it’s not. This woman is gross and picks her nose in public, for a sustained period of time. I don’t know how to interpret that any more than you do, other than that some people are just gross, and she’s one of them.

7. I was told I’d earn a salary, but now I’m being paid hourly

I recently started a job at a nonprofit as an administrative assistant. During the interview process, they told me the annual salary and then in my offer letter they told me my monthly salary. However, when I arrived at work, they told me I had a time card I needed to fill out, and so now I’m being paid hourly. This seems deceptive to me, that they can advertise an annual salary but pay me hourly. What are your thoughts?

That’s not uncommon. If you’re non-exempt, which you probably are as an administrative assistant, it’s common to calculate your salary hourly, even if it’s formally stated as an annual salary. Many people who make, say $45,000/year actually make $21.63/hour. (The assumption is that you’ll work 2,080 hours a year — 52 40-hour weeks, generally with some paid time off in there.)

{ 190 comments… read them below }


    #4 My olRegional Director (above my boss) asked me if I wanted to join the “good ‘ol boys club”. I told him I would rather earn my pay and position.

    1. Vicki*

      Your city of birth provides a good chance at the first three digits of the SSN.

      Also, birth city is a common security question for web sites. Say no.

      I have heard of recruiters who ask for birth date (month and year only) and last 4 of ssn. But never birth city.

      1. SM*

        Um, it’s not. This is my friend’s letter; she called me right after her interview very surprised at what went down, and asked if she should write in here with the question.

            1. A Bug!*

              And please, I know it’s not your habit, AAM, but if you do this please consider hiding the… content… behind a jump, because yuck!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Good idea. Some people really get sickened reading stuff like that.

                They don’t bother me that much; in fact, I usually find myself giggling over these even if they are disgusting. Of course, I’m not there!

          1. Joey*

            You want gross? Read no further if you get grossed out. Otherwise……

            How’s a colostomy bag busting (or possibly leaking) in the interview? This was a boardmember who was on the interview panel. Talk about awkward and gross. How in the world do you smooth that over?

            I’ve also sworn someone I interviewed farted when a disgusting rotten something engulfed the room. I didn’t really remember much of the conversation because I was so fixated on trying to act as if nothing happened.

            I had a custodian report that multiple times she found something gooey and white in an employees trash can if you know what I mean. Nothing will prepare you to follow up on that!

            A long time ago when I did valet work on the night shift at a hotel I caught a maintenance guy polishing his tool in the parking garage.

            I’ll stop there.

            1. Louellen*

              Please don’t be too hard on the person with the colostomy bag. My husband has a colostomy and the one thing he hates about it is the awful smell when it leaks or comes loose. No one with a colostomy purposely ignores a pending problem. Even if the appliance is freshly changed, it can come loose or leak without warning. Fortunately, this is unsual and doesn’t happen often. I’m sure this person was mortified.

          2. Mary*

            I don’t know if this is as gross; to me it is. It now seems perfectly acceptable to crack your knuckle in meetings. I think is is not showing good manners. It seems like one person starts and the rest go along. I worked with one group and this would happen time after time. My boss would then start bending her head from side to side and crack her neck. Between that and the guy sitting next to me cracking his knuckles and also having nervous leg syndrome, I was pretty much a basket case by the end of the meetings. I have had knuckle cracking in the past three software firms I have worked at. Is this normal?

            1. Noah*

              I don’t think it is gross, but it is definitely uncouth. I also hate the sound, ugh.

              However, I also think there are various circles in the workplace, starting with your department peers and the furthest out being clients, with mangers and applicants somewhere in between. Some things I would find acceptable with co-workers seem wrong in front of clients.

  2. Lillie Lane*

    #5: Unless I’m mistaken, the first 3 numbers of your SSN are usually assigned based on where you were born. It sounds like once they have your final 4 digits, and can infer the first 3 from possibly your age/place of birth/SSN registry area, they are only 2 digits away from figuring out the whole enchilada. I could be wildly off with this theory, though,

    1. Josh S*

      Yes, that is correct–the first 3 digits of the SS# correlate to the geographic area at birth. Or at least they did until mid-2011 when the Social Security Administration implemented a randomization plan to help combat future ID theft. Not that this helps anyone who has already had a SS# issued. (As an aside, town of birth/hospital you were born in are often secondary security questions that can be figured out with a little public-records sleuthing…not to mention Mother’s Maiden Name (from the birth certificate). So this is *really* not good information to give out without a solid reason.)

      The middle two digits are known as the group #, and roughly correlate to date of birth.

      The last 4 were really the only ‘random’ numbers going, and those are the ones we commonly give out. Silly, really.

      This article talks about how easy it is to ‘hack’ a SS#, and that was back in 2009:

      1. pidgeonpenelope*

        That’s mildly incorrect. The first three digits indicated where the ssn was issued. This could be your birth place but it could also be another state you moved to later.

        1. Anon for once*

          My sister and I, who are in our 40s, were born on opposite coasts, but had our SS#s issued when we both lived in Chicago. They are sequential.

          In 1987, the IRS began requiring SS#s for all dependent children. When taxes were filed next April, an amazing 7 million children had disappeared from the tax rolls, tragic victims of never having been born in the first place. Since then, and especially since 1989, when the IRS made it easy to apply for a SS# when a birth is registered, it is much more likely that a person’s SS# matches their place of birth.

          1. pidgeonpenelope*

            Yeah… that makes sense. Mine and my brother’s ssn was issued in 1988 which was a few years after we were born and in a state we were not born in.

            1. tesyaa*

              Absolutely. Even though I was born abroad and lived most of my life on the East Coast, my SSN prefix is associated with another part of the country where we happened to be living, for a few years, when my # was issued.

        2. OliviaNOPE*

          Correct. I was born in NYC but back in those days you didn’t necessarily get your SSN paperwork in the hospital like you do now. My SSN was issued in FL and the first 3 digits are typical FL digits.

        3. some1*

          Not to mention, I think parents are getting SS #’s for their children much earlier now. My parents didn’t get my brothers’ and mine until we were 9, 7, & 5.

          1. Cathy*

            The IRS now requires SSNs for the dependents you claim on your taxes, so most people are now getting them for their infants in order to be able to take the deduction on their taxes.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I thought kids had to have a SSN by age 5. This went into effect a while ago. I could be mistaken…

            1. some1*

              I was born in 1980, and I lost my SS card at some point and had to go to the SS office and get a dup a year and a half ago; they told me the card was originally issued to me in 87 and I remember when it came it the mail back then. And I’m sure my parents claimed me as a dependent before then.

              1. P*

                I could be wrong, but I think that the IRS changed the rules at some point so that SS numbers had to be included when claiming dependents. That wasn’t previously a requirement, just name and age or something like that, but requiring people to put SS numbers prevented fraudulently claiming fabricated kids.

                1. P*

                  Redundant phrasing of acronyms is a pet peeve of mine too, Laufey. I’m always sort of tempted to be a jerk about it – “wait, what do you think the N stands for?”

                2. Felicia*

                  Here it’s SIN (which i sometimes think is a funny acronym), and I wince every time I hear SIN Number. I hear it more than I see it, I think because it always feels weird to say SIN. Which is why I just generally say social insurance number:)

            2. Still another Lisa*

              It’s also for health coverage purposes, I’ve had both of my kids in the last 4 years, I had 30 days after the day they were born to provide my job with a SS# of the new child or the insurance company would not cover them and any charges incurred since the 3rd day of their life would be denied and billed to us directly.

      2. EE*

        I have a fake mother’s name! A bank employee suggested having a fake one when I was mildly grousing about how it’s not such a hard piece of info to find.

        I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before.

        1. Rose*

          I kind of do the same thing. My mother’s maiden name was “Smith” on her birth certificate but only because the folks at Ellis Island couldn’t spell “Smithiski.” I usually put down the real name instead of the Ellis Island Cop-out.

            1. Bea W*

              In my experience the passenger manifests are pretty accurate though sometimes hard to read or the transcription for searching is off. Immigrants did sometimes adopt more American/English first and/or last names after arrival. It makes finding their documentation…”interesting”.

              I’ve seen all kinds of misspellings and differing spellings or just wrong names in other old, especially 200+ yrs, US vital records, and easy short names, but back then not everyone was literate and there wasn’t necessarily a standard spelling that was passed down through the family. Often the recorder would have to spell it how he thought it might be spelled. Still you didn’t see the shortening of names, just a wide variation of spellings.

          1. Forrest*

            I do something simaliar…my mom’s maiden originally ended in a different vowel. Its a fairly popular last night in Sicily but for whatever reason, her grandfather changed it when they arrive here.

            So now for everything – security questions, random paperwork, etc, I use the original spelling while anyone trying to steal my identify would think I put the changed spelling.

          2. dejavu2*

            One time, my grandmother had me call her bank and pretend to be her to get some info, just as a favor. I called and they were like, “No problem! I just need your mother’s maiden name.” I feel relatively tapped into my family history, but coming up with my great-grandmother’s maiden name off the top of my head caught me off guard. It didn’t help that my great-grandmother married four times, and thus has a number of family names associated with her. So, I guessed. I picked one of those family names, and I guessed. I guessed wildly incorrectly. However, both the incorrect guess and the actual answer were long, convoluted ethnic names that ended with the same three letters. After a pause on the other end, the bank employee was like, “Ok, sure. Here’s that information….” Lolz.

        2. fposte*

          Right–as long as you’re consistent enough to remember what you said, nobody cares if these questions match your actual history. I’ve called my brother all manner of things, some very satisfying, in security questions :-).

          1. A Bug!*

            It can be easier to remember if you choose a name that does belong to a family member, just not your mom. A great-grandparent, for example. Strictly speaking, not as secure as a truly random name, but still more secure than your mom’s maiden name and easier for you to remember.

          2. Elizabeth West*


            I’ve been making up stuff for the login questions on certain websites–I have a secured program where I keep them, and an encrypted drive backup so I don’t forget. They get pretty goofy: “What was your mother’s place of birth?” “Ildebeast Moor, third hut from the left, Greenleaf, England,” or stuff like that. :)

            (That’s not one of them!)

        3. Yup*

          It can be enjoyably aspirational. Mother’s maiden name? Rockefeller. Best man at your wedding? Derek Jeter. First pet? Baby velociraptor. Place of birth? Everest.

          1. Cathy*

            Yes, if it’s for “security” questions on a website, use the fake you. But if an employer is collecting this info for a background check, you do have to use the real you.

            Personally I think the recruiter is either a scammer or being scammed himself.

            1. Lore*

              I actually use the real name of my first pet because it was a dog named Jason, and for some reason I find that hilarious.

              1. Chinook*

                Considering my dog’s name is “Pete”, I totally understand the humour of having a very human name for someone so not-human. (He was a rescue who came with that name and now all the pets have “human” names like Max (the cat), Marley (the wolf) and Winston (the flying monkey)).

        4. Vicki*

          My sister suggested picking a generic answer and using it for everything.

          Mother’s maiden name: Bilbo
          Name of first pet: Bilbo
          Elementary School: Bilbo

          Of course you then need to remember what you used. I Know people who can’t access their Yahoo! or Facebook accounts because they can’t remember what birthdate they used when they set up the account.

    2. Bryan*

      I do research on people professionally and you can look up the first 5 digits of most people’s SSN (the SSN is not what I’m looking up but is a by-product of the searches I conduct). The reason they ask for the last four most places is because they can already figure out the first five.

  3. Elise*

    #7 – Unless there are also other things (like if you only work 38 hours, that’s all you get paid for), I wouldn’t assume a time card means you aren’t salaried. I am salaried and exempt, but they still want to track time. Partly just for information and partly because some time may be billable.

    1. Glennis*

      Exactly. Or sometimes just to be able to do analysis. I remember one workplace where we had to break down our work by project number and task code.

  4. Elizabeth*

    #7, being paid hourly may actually wind up being a good thing for you. When I got my first salaried job, I felt excited and kind of felt like it was more genuine or something, so I think I may know why you’re feeling a bit taken aback. Also, time cards are kind of a pill to fill out. BUT… I now get the same paycheck every two weeks whether I leave work at a reasonable time each day, or stay hours late during a crunch time. No more overtime pay!

    If you’re not working enough hours per week to make the paychecks match what you were promised monthly, that’s a problem. But if it comes out to the same amount and you still get the same amount of paid vacation/sick leave that you expected, I think you’re actually better off being hourly because you’ll get that time-and-a-half if you have to work late.

    1. Lynn*

      I worked hourly for a while, and I actually liked it. Both my job and my family would like 100% of my time, which they can’t have because it adds up to 200%. The time=money thing was very helpful in pushing back on both sides.

      “Yes honey, I can stay home with the boys on all those random no-school days. It’ll be the most expensive babysitter you ever hired in your life, but I can do it.” “Yes boss, I would be happy to get paid time-and-a-half to come in and read documentation this weekend.” Amazing how much more respectful people are of someone’s time when they have to pay for it.

      1. Chinook*

        Ironically, breaking everyone’s salary down to an horuly wage can also help convince people to delegate ebcause you can highlight the most appropriate use of resources. Ex: Is it worth having my boss, at $100/hour, type up a list of reports from the 90’s (found only in PDF form as images) or should she give it to me at $25/hour? Or how much time should 3 people, at an average of $30/hour, spend hunting down the correct accounting code for an invoice for only $250?

    2. Calla*

      Yep. I was told I would be making $XXXX/year when I was offered my current job and when I started and saw it was actually $XX/hour I was a little thrown, but it’s good to know now it’s not uncommon. And in any case, it means that when I only take half my lunch and stay a little late, I get paid (extra) for it!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yep, I like being hourly, although it would be nice to leave early once in a while when caught up instead of staying to make the hours. But then, most places don’t want to pay overtime, so they let you go at 5:00.

      1. person who wrote #7*

        Thanks for the input, everyone. I know that getting paid hourly would have it’s perked if I stayed late one day, but the one thing I was looking forward to in my new job was the flexibility of being salaried. As in, if I came in 20 minutes late one morning then I wouldn’t be paid less, but this way, unless I make up the time for it, I will. Also, it makes me want to show up to work earlier just to be here and make more money, I just feel like I have to play this game.

  5. Audrey*

    #2 – as someone who has suffered insomnia for years, it is a valid reason to call in sick, just not very frequently – I would ask a doctor for a milder sleeping tablet, so that you can take one at midnight and still get up for work on time. And I find that not thinking about work while I am lying awake really helps. Yes you’re not asleep, but you are resting. Best of luck, insomnia is a dreadful affliction.

    1. jesicka309*

      Yes! I suffer from anxiety, and get insomnia associated with it sometimes. I find the best way to help is to close my eyes, and REST. I’m not trying to sleep, as that’s not happening, and I wouldn’t be doing anything else anyway, because it’s nighttime. So I close my eyes and rest for 6-8 hours. Even if I don’t sleep, I still get up feeling more refreshed than I would have been if I’d been worrying about it all night. And half the time I drift off at some stage.

      But I completely know the feeling of being too anxious to sleep, and waking up in the morning feeling awful – or alternatively, finally feeling sleepy, and it’s 6.30 am and time to go to work. Take that day if you can, and good luck with it all OP!

      1. Jessa*

        I do wish Alison that you hadn’t put “real illness” in quotes when talking about insomnia. It IS a real illness and the results of it can be debilitating. But you’re absolutely right that it is a valid reason to call off ill.

        Also as stated by Audrey there are treatments that can be used for it. Whether regularly or intermittently. Talk to your doctor, OP. They might have some help for you.

        1. jesicka309*

          I’m with you there – it is a real illness, and sometimes has the same symptoms as contagious diseases. Just like other mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety etc. there are medical symptoms that manifest themselves in unusual ways. My anxiety sometimes sends me running to and from the toilet all day. Insomnia can have unwanted affects like sudden blood pressure drops, passing out, hand tremors etc. Sure, not getting a good nights sleep sounds like a sucky excuse, but if you pass out on the train to work, well…that’s a problem.
          I’d also recommend the OP taking a day off occassionally (esp if you’ve had a stressful period) to get one really good night’s sleep without the fear of having to go to work the next day. It’s like a brick off your chest in relief.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This. In Eastern medicine they believe that the body performs different “maintenance tasks” during each hour of sleep. This maintenance work is necessary for good health.
            Indeed, traditional western medicine agrees that the body makes certain types of blood sugars while sleeping. These blood sugars cannot be found any where else on this planet. You cannot eat a piece of fruit and take in this specific type of sugar. It is made only by sleeping.
            That is one example, there are many.

            I agree that insomnia is a serious issue. As OP, is saying, I was not recognizing that there was a problem until hour #6. It was sheer torture to try to cram 8 hours sleep into the remaining two hours. My first step, was to identify a bad night quicker. For me, the answer was if I was not asleep within 45 minutes of going to bed, I was having a bad night. This allowed me to do an earlier intervention in the problem. (I used a combo of minerals and homeopathic remedies.) It was a bit of work figuring out the right combo and amounts. But incremental improvements were beneficial- for example- five hours of actual sleep was a big improvement over two hours of fretful sleep.

            Left unchecked, insomnia will shake a person’s confidence at their very core. Judgement calls go haywire and nothing seems to make sense. (Think driving while your judgement is impaired do to lack of sleep.) Yes, OP, this is an important thing to take care of. If you need to call in, then so be it. And I agree with Alison, do not say it’s insomnia unless you know for sure you have a boss who is understanding.
            Meanwhile, learn the symptoms of a bad night and intervene earlier in the process. Perhaps check with the doctor to figure out a time frame that is best for you. Do you wait a half hour, do you wait an hour? Find out how to handle that. Intervene quicker.

            1. Laura*

              Someone at work told me that I couldn’t call in for insomnia because a colleague had anxiety attacks and the boss “had no leniency with her.” I guess she wasn’t very familiar with HIPPA. I don’t need to know my colleagues’ medical issues. Nor do you have to disclose the medical reason for absence, although you might have to prove verification of treatment. Sleep is very basic and insomnia can be a symptom of serious illnesses.

        2. Anon for once*

          It’s a real illness, but it isn’t a communicable disease. Most people with MS don’t call out just because they have MS, unless they’re having a flare-up. You don’t call out for schizophrenia or anemia or cerebral palsy.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Sure, but you don’t call in sick only when there is a concern that you might infect someone else with your illness. You would also call in sick if you couldn’t perform the functions of your job adequately that day(s), and/or if it would be likely deleterious to a quicker recovery to exert yourself at work instead of resting.

          2. KellyK*

            A night of bad sleep *is* a flare-up of insomnia, though. And if any of those other illnesses got bad enough on a given day that you couldn’t function at work (or couldn’t get to work), it would be reasonable to call in. If you pass out, or you’re hallucinating, *of course* you would call in.

        3. abc*

          You should be offended if she did NOT use quotes. she realizes it’s a real illness but sometimes it might not be perceived as one because it’s not contagious and depending on how haggard you look in the morning, has no visible symptoms.

          1. Min*

            My thoughts exactly. If Alison had written that it’s not a real illness without the scare quotes, THAT would have been cause for offense.

            1. Jessa*

              Okay I see the way you are reading it and that’s a very valid reading of the text, I parsed it the other way. But yeh, I can see where your reading does make some sense. On second thoughts okay, I can totally go with the way you interpreted this. Alison, I apologise.

          2. Chinook*

            Also, there are those who don’t see insomnia as a “real” illness because the term is used by non-sufferers to mean just a poor night’s sleep in the same way some people call in for a “mental health day” when they are not mentally ill but just want a day off to relax.

        4. KellyK*

          I got exactly the opposite impression from the scare quotes. I thought putting “real” in quotes was meant to criticize the idea that the flu is a “real” reason to call in sick but a chronic illness is not.

          1. Jessa*

            I now get that reading as well. I had to read it aloud a couple of times to understand the stress on the sentence. On a dry read I got it the other way. And you’re actually right. The scare quotes are toward the “common thoughts of illness ie: flu.”

    2. Noah*

      The best (mild) sleep aid I’ve found was actually brought to my attention by comments on this blog. Videos made to trigger ASMR are usually very relaxing for me, plus they stop my mind from just running. Doesn’t always work but now I run to YouTube when I can’t sleep. You have to get over the weird factor though.

      1. Noah*

        Probably should’ve added that I do suffer from insomnia and even have a prescription for both Sonata and Ambien but I will do almost anything to avoid taking medication unless I absolutely have to. I also really dislike waking up after sleep meds, doesn’t feel all that restful.

      2. Audrey*

        I try to avoid medication too. I turn on my bedside radio really softly as a soporific. And after years of this, I know that I can function at work despite having lain awake for hours. So this decreases my anxiety and improves the quality of the rest.

      3. SerfinUSA*

        I had no idea there was a name for that!
        I’ve always been able to induce the tingly goosebump thing by breathing a certain way. It’s very relaxing and I try to do it when I am too wound up to fall alseep.

        I also have a bracelet made of wooden beads stamped with a mantra – where you place your will, there you will prevail. When I wear it, I do a kind of rosary thing, each bead being one of the breaths that makes the ASMR happen.

        Now to keep remembering to do it :)

      4. Elizabeth West*


        One time when searching for something weird, I found some videos on YouTube of this woman who talks very compassionately about helping the dying. She has a strange accent, but her voice just relaxes the hell out of me. If I’m really tense, I’ll play one or two before I go to bed. I wish I could pay her to read me bedtime stories.

        Some of the things she talks about are a little graphic, so I don’t recommend them to anyone who is easily disturbed by death stuff.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Ugh… I suffer from insomnia periodically. It sucks. My doctor recommended using an over the counter sleep-aid to alternate with the prescription one to avoid dependency and for times when I wouldn’t be able to get 8 hours. If your doctor hasn’t suggested something, I have good luck with Advil PM. It helps with the other assorted aches and pains I have, plus it helps me sleep.

      Personally, I have to be very careful with my sleep hygiene & routine. For me, the bed can only be for sleeping and I have to go to bed & get up within about an hour of the same time every day.

      Insomnia is a real illness. No, it’s not communicable, but neither are migraines.

    4. Wubbie*

      I also suffered from insomnia for many years. Most of my life really. Calling in sick was less of an issue (though I did do it occasionally) than lateness was. Luckily, I was very open about my condition with everyone (including my department head) and they were pretty understanding. It was a problem from time to time.

      I’ve recommended this in other threads. I would definitely look into melatonin. There’s lots of good info on wikipedia about it, including what types of insomnia it is most effective for. I’ve been taking it for a few years now and not only am I rarely late, I am also quite often the first person in the office. Also, most amazingly, after typically averaging about 1 sick day a month before starting melatonin, I have not taken a single sick day in over 2 years!! Not just for insomnia related problems, but for ANY reason.

      It’s improved my entire life, not just my professional one.

      1. De Minimis*

        I have called in sick due to insomnia once, mainly because it was an industrial-type job and it might have been an unsafe condition either for me or for others.

        I probably would not hesitate to call in for it now either, I have a lengthy commute and really need to be alert. I’d probably go ahead and risk it though as long as I got at least 4-5 hours.

      2. P*

        +1 for melatonin! I’ve struggled with insomnia since childhood, and while it’s been better recently, melatonin has worked wonders. Everyone thinks they have the solution for your insomnia – Just go to bed earlier and you won’t be so tired! – but gee, that doesn’t work if you lay in bed from 9pm to 3am trying to sleep. Melatonin knocks me right out and doesn’t make me feel fuzzy in the morning.

        1. Wubbie*

          Yeah that’s a huge thing. Yes, the melatonin helps me sleep, but much more importantly, it helps me wake up in the morning!

      3. Ed*

        I came here to say this exactly about melatonin. It has changed my life. The liquid form works faster for me and I can better regulate how much I take. I have severe insomnia (my entire family does) and I usually only take a half dose. It doesn’t knock me out like prescription meds but makes me really sleepy for a short period of time. However, if I force myself to keep reading or watching TV, the moment passes and I stay awake. I’ll take it about 30 minutes before I’m ready to sleep and then lay in bed and watch a half-hour sitcom or read the news headlines to wind down.

        I would check it out but medical solutions are obviously very different for each person.

        As for calling in sick, I’m torn. I obviously know it’s a legit problem but it’s up to you to find a solution with your doctor. I understand many people (including me) don’t like drugs like Ambien but as a manager, it’s not really my problem if you don’t like it.

        1. Audrey*

          I’m in Australia and melatonin is not available here, neither on prescription nor as a food supplement. Next year when I visit the US I must buy some – people can bring in personal supplies despite it being an illegal import.

          1. Laura*

            Really? It’s non prescription. Ambien used to work well for me, but I stopped taking it when I had an entire phone on versatile I couldn’t remember.

        2. KellyK*

          As for calling in sick, I’m torn. I obviously know it’s a legit problem but it’s up to you to find a solution with your doctor. I understand many people (including me) don’t like drugs like Ambien but as a manager, it’s not really my problem if you don’t like it.

          As a manager, I don’t think the medical ins and outs should be your concern at all, and “it’s not my problem if you don’t like it” is both callous and overstepping. If the person is legitimately sick, it’s a valid use of a sick day. If the person is out sick more than what you need in that position, then you talk to them about it. What drugs they should or shouldn’t take really isn’t the manager’s business.

          Also, it sounded from the letter like the concern with Ambien wasn’t some vague dislike, but an inability to wake up in time if it wasn’t taken early enough. To me, calling out for insomnia is better than no-call, no-showing because you overslept.

    5. dejavu2*

      I’ve struggled with insomnia my entire life. Similar to the OP, I can’t take Ambien because it knocks me out cold for like 12 hours. OTC aids leave me groggy. Melatonin has minimal impact. Etc.

      This is going to sound like a paid advertisement (I wish), but for me my miracle drug has been Lunesta. I get to sleep usually within an hour of taking it, I stay asleep, and I wake up feeling refreshed at the appropriate time. I suspect taking Lunesta makes me experience sleep the way normal people do. The best part about Lunesta is that it actually resets your circadian rhythm, so even a hard up case like me only needs to take it for two or three weeks and then viola, I’m good to go for at least another six months before needing it again. The worst part about it is that it is extremely expensive! If you don’t have insurance, it’s $10+ per pill. I’m lucky to have a doctor who just plies me with free samples as needed, but obviously not everyone is so fortunate.

      In between Lunesta-worthy bouts, I have had a lot of success with meditating at night. There is a free podcast available through iTunes called “Meditation Oasis,” and one of the episodes is a “Deep Rest Guided Meditation.” Sometimes I have to listen to it three or four times, but it will eventually get me to sleep.

      Hey internet, what’s up? Here’s my life story.

    6. CathVWXYNot?*

      A sleepy shout-out to my fellow insomniacs… we’re close to a full moon right now, so hopefully things will get better over the next couple of days.

      ( – I’d noticed the correlation in myself before the study came out. Nice to know I wasn’t imagining it).

      I try really hard not to call in sick for insomnia but sometimes it’s bad enough that I am negatively productive at work. I almost did call in today though – moderately bad insomnia last night + minor cold symptoms + sore neck + sore shoulder. I wouldn’t take a day off for any one of the above in isolation, but in combination they *almost* made me call in this morning. I’m kinda regretting coming in now that I’m here.

    7. Collarbone High*

      Has anyone tried Intermezzo? It’s a lower dose of zolpidem (Ambien) that says you can take it with only four hours left in the night. I long since gave up trying to sleep without pharmaceutical assistance, but if you are trying to fall asleep naturally, it might take away some of the anxiety, knowing that you could try on your own until 2 a.m., but if sleep doesn’t happen, you’ve got a backup that will give you at least four hours.

    8. Gmac*

      I also have insomnia. It comes at periods of heightened stress like returning to work from leave or inspections. It’s so annoying that in the UK doctors just hear you can’t sleep and will automatically start down the mental health route… Like its not possible for there to be a simple stress related cause. Next step dishing out medication like their smarties! I strongly recommend sleep hygiene which focuses on busing a routine before bed.. The reason I feel it has proven to be effective is because its how we teach our children to sleep!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh, doctors here do that too. I was just reading a book about it; they call it “cookbook medicine” and give you tips to get your doctor off those pathways.

        I have shoulder impingement, and sometimes when I turn over at night, pain wakes me up. It’s almost as bad as sleep apnea some nights–a constant cycle of waking and sleeping. Ibuprofen before bed helps, but not always. I have called in sick myself once or twice because of it. I hope the OP can get some rest and feel better.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    For question 5 (and I have never worked for a non-profit) I wonder if the interviewer would think the applicant was using the job as a stepping stone. And whilst the purpose of many jobs is to advance one step further, there might be an element of “utilising” the non-profit as Alison describes.

    1. abc*

      please read. she’s not an applicant. she’s discussing her career plans with her boss – not an interviewer.

      1. Bwmn*

        As someone who works in a nonprofit, I would not say that at all to my boss. She would see me as using “her” organization as a stepping stone. Perhaps to steal donor information. There are better ways to explain the skills she wants “in 5 years I see myself in more of managerial position in nonprofit – and would love more experience in project cycle management, working with donors, etc.” – which are all true necessary to start a nonprofit but without spooking her current boss.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree. Basically, NPOs have competitors just like the for-profit sector. But instead of competition just for “customers”, there are also competitive arenas in donations, grants, employees etc.
          This is not much different than me saying “I want to work for Chocolate Teapots, Inc and in five years I am going to open Chocolate Coffee Pots Inc. I hope my bosses train me.”

          Depending on your NPO, some NPOs have a informal and unspoken non-compete agreements. Such as- no one sets up a similar NPO with in X radius of an existing NPO.
          These informal agreements are necessary for the survival of the biz. Two such NPOs in one town or even in one county might not get enough business to sustain themselves and BOTH NPOs eventually go under.

  7. pidgeonpenelope*

    #5: Don’t give them that info!! That’s exactly the info a fraudster needs to get fraudulent credit cards and other things off of your credit. I’m guessing this “recruiter” is really an identity thief.

    On that note, I encourage everyone reading this to keep your social networking sites free of information like where you were born (often your home town), your mother’s maiden name, etc. A good fraudster social engineers for answers and it is easy find that info if it’s found within social networking.

    1. Noah*

      Perfect excuse to continue avoiding my mother’s attempts to friend me on Facebook. Thanks! ;)

    2. The IT Manager*

      I don’t think my Mom has her maiden name in her FB profile, but between my cousins, aunts, and uncles with the same last name not my own someone not too determined could still figure it out.

      ** With the increase of information on the internet, Mother’s maiden name is no longer a very useful security question.

      Do you remember the days when people would have never used their real name online?

        1. Elizabeth*

          Not to mention the number of women who don’t change their names on marriage nowadays. My mother’s maiden name is her current name. So is my future mother-in-law’s. I’ll be keeping mine, too. It’s easier and easier information to find.

        2. pidgeonpenelope*

          It’s outdated in that it doesn’t provide enough security, but it is still used for credit checks and calling in to the IRS.

  8. Shawna*

    Regarding #2: I’ve actually done that before. Some companies would probably be best just calling in sick and leaving it at that. But I was working in A/R for a company and actually went to work after my young cat bounced on me all night and otherwise played and made noise and I barely got 2 hours sleep. I went in to work, but by 10am I was passing out at my desk. Went and explained the situation to my boss and asked if I could go home “sick” and she had no problem with it. But it was a very rare occurrence (in 4 years it happened once).

    1. Elizabeth West*

      LOL silly kitty.

      A friend of mine had a night like that when one of his cats discovered that springy thing that lives behind the door. *Boooiinng…booinnnng….booiiinnggg*

    2. EM*

      Ha! When I was a kid, my mother would put the cats in the basement if they were being obnoxious. Now, I put mine in the (heated attached) garage.

  9. Bwmn*

    #3 – OP, I don’t know how old you are or what field your ngo is in, but from my ngo experience I definitely would not say that in 5 years you want to start your own ngo. To soften it even beyond Alison’s advice, I would give a 5 year ambition plan to involve experience in management/fundraising/ngo administration (all things needed to start an ngo) in the hopes of eventually being able to be a director of an ngo.

    This would still be the truth but avoid coming across as naive or predatory. If you hope to start an ngo in 5 years, that might indicate that you are looking to start a volunteer organization (to eventually become an ngo that pays staff) – where you might stay on with your current job for a paycheck but be more heavily involved in your new organization. Or, it might indicate that you have some donors tucked away for a rainy day – either to poach from your current organization or who you’re hiding from your current organization. Either way, there’s a far higher likelihood of it coming across negative rather than “wow what a go getter”.

    Even if you’re working for a super huge ngo of Goodwill size, and just want to start a small local organization that also works with disabled adults (where you think competition wouldn’t be an issue) – by hearing you want to start an ngo so soon, you might end up getting yourself pushed far away from fundraising/administrative elements that would be great skills to get.

    In business anyone can ask a bank for a loan and just because applicant #1 gets a loan doesn’t mean that applicant #2,3,4, & 5 can’t get loans. For financial support, the ngo world just doesn’t work that way and lots of time new ngos are at risk of getting a bit of the stink eye from other ngos in their field until they can prove that they’re not stepping on anyone’s toes.

    1. Nonprof*

      Agree x100. Please don’t start your own nonprofit. The marketplace is already too cluttered with nonprofits and there really should be more mergers to avoid duplication of resources/services and competition for funding. This is absolutely going to be the trend moving forward and government support and grants continue to dwindle.

  10. Sarah*

    #3 – I agree with AAM. I think you’re better off saying that you want to gain more knowledge in X, Y, and Z. This additional knowledge will help you to perform better at your current job and advance when the time comes.

    As a side note: As someone that works in the nonprofit sector, there are way too many nonprofits out there. The economic recession actually eliminate some of the weaker ones and made others merge (I think for the better). It is extremely hard to start, run and sustain a nonprofit organization. I think once you gain more knowledge in the field, you may change your mind.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As someone that works in the nonprofit sector, there are way too many nonprofits out there. The economic recession actually eliminate some of the weaker ones and made others merge (I think for the better).

      YES. Too many new nonprofits are formed because the founder wants to run the show, not because there’s truly an unmet need to respond to. Too often people think “I’ll start my own group” when in reality the work is already being done well by another group, and there’s no real reason to create yet another group (competing for the same dollars and attention) other than personal ego, and when the founders simply don’t have the skills to lead their organizations to success. Then you get movements that have tons of little nonprofits that are barely scraping by and aren’t especially effective, when their goals could be better served by existing organizations.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Yes. I’ve always wondered about this when celebrities, for example, start their own non-profits (think Michael J. Fox and Parkinson’s Disease). Wouldn’t it be better to lend your name to one of the dozens of NPOs already dealing with that? Or when people whose children have died of some disease or been a victim of crime start a NPO. I just don’t get it. There’s so many of them, latch on to one that is already out there.

        1. annie*

          I agree about all the small personal charities that duplicate other efforts, but having worked with some celebrities, that’s more often a vehicle for them to manage their wealth and charitable giving than necessarily wanting to run the show. (Although of course some do want to run the show/have enormous egos.) Basically if you are rich and famous, everyone and their brother wants some money, and its much easier to manage those relationships by saying “I handle all my giving through my charitable foundation, please look at our website for information on what types of things we fund and how to apply.” I actually think this is good because it more often makes the askers accountable for the money the celebrity donates to them, and it makes the celebrity be more strategic in their giving.

      2. annie*

        Yes, it is very often about personalities/ego. And if you still want to do this, think really hard about your potential donors and even your circle of family/friends/people who would support you. Sure, I support children’s music education in urban areas, but I can’t support three different organizations all doing almost exactly the same thing, and now I’m playing favorites and someone gets upset, blah blah blah – I just want to yell, join forces you fools!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, and be realistic about how much money it takes. Sure, your friends and family might donate a bit, but it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to run just a small organization. (If you’re a one-person staff and doing very little, maybe tens of thousands — but why would you aspire to that?)

          1. Bwmn*

            This is a huge thing to think about. I know a guy who worked as a corporate lawyer for a while and has now set up a legal internship nonprofit in a certain area of practice. Basically in his previous job he saved up enough money to support himself for two years while trying to start the nonprofit, a year and a half in – he’s spending the bulk of his time fundraising (from contacts he made while in the corporate world) and isn’t yet paying himself. When he tells people about how much money he’s made – everyone agrees that he’s had a great first year of fundraising. And he’s not yet making a salary.

            None of us know what nonprofit you have in mind to start, if it’s taking a grassroots volunteer organization you already run and turning it into a professional organization or truly creating something from scratch. But there’s just no way to tell a boss this honestly and come off as naive and potentially very manipulative.

      3. AF*

        Oh my god yes! I’ve worked with nonprofits for a long time and have always hated this. Everyone’s comments are spot-on. You’re not going to achieve your mission if you spend all your time raising money just to pay staff and are competing with other similar nonprofits. And it totally is about ego and wanting to get paid for the time you spend working on behalf of the organization.

        Thank you for raising this issue!

    2. Forrest*

      I’m glad someone said it because that’s exactly what I was thinking while reading that question. You work for a nonprofit that supports something you care about yet you want to start another nonprofit doing the exact same thing, thus confusing your donor base and inadvertently spending more on overhead then needed?

    3. Lindsay*

      Yes to over saturation of nonprofits and all of the other things mentioned here. Another reason to really carefully consider if you want to start a new nonprofit is that many corporate and foundation funders will ask if you’re collaborating and working with others doing similar work. I think they see the same problem with six nonprofits, all doing the same work, fighting for donors.

  11. LisaLyn*

    OP#4, I feel your pain. I am in a similar situation with a “blended” department — like a blended family, ha ha. Anyway, one guy talked his way to Assistant Director and now he plays favorites with the people he hired. The rest of us are chopped liver, as my dad used to say.

    I wish I had some advice on how to handle it. I’m mulling it over myself. I have been keeping some documentation on the more egregious examples — like special projects going to the favorites when they don’t have the skills for them, stuff like that. I am definitely going to talk to his manager first, if things progress.

    So, good luck — I do agree (and in my case, too) that there isn’t going to be much that can really be done, I think, so I may have to decide if I want to stay in this situation or not.

    1. Jen*

      Yep, this is always a terrible thing to see. I really enjoyed one job I had and then a new CEO came on board and hired a close friend to be his second in command. The two of them decided to hang out with 4 people from the organization all the time. Lunches, happy hours, trips to the ballgame. Someone complained to HR after the clique started getting promoted ahead of anyone else. The CEO did a few half-hearted happy hours where all staff were invited but it was clear he didn’t really want to get to know anyone but the chosen few. The staff had a huge turnover in a very short period of time.

  12. tesyaa*

    A lot of people suffer more from anxiety about not getting enough sleep than from the lack of sleep itself. I don’t have insomnia per se, but as a parent of a large family, I’ve gone to work on just a couple of hours of sleep many times, if I’ve spent most of the night awake with a fussy baby or a sick kid. I’m only sympathetic to a point. If you can function even halfway at work, it’s better to be there than to take a sick day.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Actually, that really depends on your job and the individual. I would rather the guy whose job it is to drive all over town for service calls get some sleep than function “halfway.” It’s a very individual thing to call in sick when you’ve not slept. Dependent on a lot of factors that need to be assessed.

      1. tesyaa*

        Fair enough. Then there’s another question. If one didn’t get enough sleep due to a cranky baby, can one take a sick day even if one doesn’t have a medical condition – even if the result is the same as if one had insomnia? To me, that’s a no. It’s a vacation day.

        1. KellyK*

          I would say that if you’re normally allowed to use your sick days for a sick kid, then yes. Otherwise, it’s kind of a gray area. That is, calling out is definitely reasonable, but whether you get to use a sick day could go either way.

            1. tesyaa*

              Like medical insomnia, a small baby can keep a person awake for many, many nights. You’d run out of sick leave or PTO days long before the baby’s first birthday.

              1. Ruffingit*

                Again, this is an individual issue. If you have the type of job where functioning halfway is good enough and not a danger to others, then it may not be a big problem for you to go to work. If you are a chemist in a crime lab processing evidence that can put people to death…well, I’d rather you were functioning at full capacity, which means if you’re being kept up all night for a long period of time by a sick or screaming baby, you may need to assess other options such as leave of absence or whatever might be applicable to your situation.

                I’m not saying you need to call in sick or take a vacation day all the time. Just that you have to be cognizant of what is appropriate for your job and how well you, individually, can continue to do your job on half speed or whatever.

              2. KellyK*

                Sure, but that’s its own problem, which you have to consider based on how your company is about sick time and how much it affects others when you’re out versus how much it affects your work to go in without sleep.

                People with chronic illnesses or sick kids (whether that’s a child with a serious chronic illness or just a kid who catches every cold, flu, and strep virus that comes along) could easily use up all their sick days in a year too.

      2. Aunt Vixen*

        It also depends how long it’s been going on, in my experience. I can’t sleep one night and lie awake wishing I could, only to doze off twenty minutes before the alarm goes off – sucks. It’s going to be a rough day at work. By the third week of that kind of thing, when I’ve gained five pounds and my skin is crumbly and my hair is falling out – yes, not being able to sleep has made me ill.

        That was about four years ago, and until my father died it was the worst month of my life.

        1. Ruffingit*

          So sorry you went through that kind of insomnia. I’ve suffered with brutal insomnia on and off for several years. It’s a nightmare, except you’re awake during it. All. Night. Long. UGH. Also, my condolences on the death of your father. That is never easy.

    2. TL*

      Yeah, functioning “even halfway” is a problem we had with a former coworker who was constantly coming in exhausted for a number of reasons – the main one being her dogs kept her up all night if there was a storm – and it ended up with me doing or redoing 90% of her work at the last minute. I would’ve much preferred she just didn’t come in, honestly.

  13. The IT Manager*

    For #2, I agree with Alison. I am stickler for not lying about being sick and claiming a “mental health” (i.e. I’d rather not be at work) day as a sick day, but insomnia leading to exhuastion is a good reason to take a sick day.

    Obviously you can’t do this regularly any more than you could do it for any other reason because you’d run out of sick days and then vacation days. But it’s better and possibly safer (depending on your job/commute) to take a day off if you’re exhuasted.

    1. AnonAnony*

      “I am stickler for not lying about being sick and claiming a “mental health” (i.e. I’d rather not be at work) day ”

      That is incredibly dismissive of mental health issues. Your handle indicates that you’re a manager. I hope your comment was unintentionally glib, and you show more compassion to your staff than you have shown here.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t agree with your reading of IT Manager’s comment. “Mental health day” is a very specific and common term for pretty much what s/he describes; it’s completely different from a sick day taken for a mental illness.

  14. Littlemoose*

    OP #1, do you know how the issue of a raise for your assistant came up with the boss? I agree with Alison that you should have been involved in this decision, but knowing the impetus for the raise may be useful to you. Do you think the assistant went directly to your boss and asked for a raise? If so, that might be a problem with how she perceives your authority and your role in the organization. And if the boss acted completely sua sponte, then that’s useful information about how she operates too.

    OP #2, I definitely think the type of insomnia you’ve described is a valid reason for taking a sick day. I’ve done it a couple of times myself. Not only did I feel terrible, but I knew I wouldn’t be productive at all, and that any work I did get done would likely be garbage. Taking a day to get some rest and recuperate enabled me to be more productive and perform better-quality work when I returned. I know how insomnia sucks – I had a little of it myself last night – and I hope you are able to find some additional options to manage it.

    1. OP#1*

      My assistant definitely didn’t go over my head on this one, but I agree that would be worrying.

      I’ve been trying to just suck it up about this, not wanting to make waves unnecessarily, but I think it’s time I say something.

      My guess is that the ED noticed that she is getting paid less than the other assistants (although she has been here <1 year and I offered her what was budgeted for her role), but suppose I need to stop guessing and just ask.

  15. OP #5*

    Thanks for the feedback. I knew it wasn’t sitting right, it was just so out of left field. Thankfully I was able to avoid having to address the issue since I had a follow up conversation with the recruiter and we had both made some bad assumptions. The company the job is theoretically with has several locations around the area. I assumed the job was at the main location which is about 5 miles from my house. The job was actually at a new location 40 miles away and wasn’t a commute I was willing to make.

    One of my co-workers suggested just making up information, or having an “accidental typo” while providing the last four digits of the SSN, but I wasn’t comfortable starting a potential relationship with an employer with a lie. Any thoughts on how to handle the situation where an employer actually does insist on this type of information in order to proceed? Is it just a matter of standing your ground and if they’re insistent deciding whether the job is worth it or not?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Wait a minute! What does the city of your birth have to do with where you’ll work? I live more than 500 miles from the city of my birth, so there’s no way that can be any kind of criteria to determine a job location for me.


      1. Ruffingit*

        Yeah, I’m not even on the same continent currently as my city of birth (I live in the US, I was born overseas) so it really has no bearing on anything work-related in my current place. I wouldn’t give out that info either.

      2. OP #5*

        He gave me some sort of story that they needed that to develop a unique identifier in their tracking system.

            1. OP #5*

              I’m torn as to who I think is to blame here. The actual employer is a one of the largest airlines in the country. I’d like to think that their HR systems aren’t so screwed up that they need to collect personal information in order to differentiate candidates. The recruiter is a smaller company that I never heard of, but they’re claiming it’s the employers requirement. In all likelihood I’m going to distance myself from the recruiter because it just doesn’t feel right. And I don’t need a new job that badly.

              1. Natalie*

                If you feel comfortable, perhaps you should get in touch with the HR department of this large airline and make sure they actually use this recruiter.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  Good point, especially if HE called YOU. He could be lying about everything. Or, he could be working for them but using his position for personal gain through fraud. If the latter is true, and this isn’t something they typically do, I would want to know about it if I were them.

        1. Blinx*

          I had a similar situation with a national staffing agency. They needed the last 4 digits of my SSN (before I could interview) to ensure that I wasn’t already in their database. (They didn’t ask for city of birth, though). They wouldn’t take my word for it that I knew I wasn’t in their system already. As it happened, I was going to a seminar at my local employment office and asked around there. Several consultants said they had no qualms about giving up the 4 digits, as it really wouldn’t compromise anything.

          I went ahead and gave them the digits, and had a great interview! Too bad the position was never filled. I’ve also had to fill out complete paperwork at other recruiters, with full SSN. I just make sure to run my free credit check 3x/year, just to keep tabs on things.

        2. Rana*

          Oh, bah. Give each new applicant a number-letter combination. Done.

          If they’re not scamming you, they’re stupid.

      3. Chinook*

        “What does the city of your birth have to do with where you’ll work?”

        My other thought is “what does the city of your birth have to do with where you even lived?” But, then again, I was a Northern kid born in a city 400 km from where my family lived because my mom wanted to be clsoe to her mom and there was only one OB/GYN and he may have been on vacation/off hunting.

  16. Marie*

    For #2, if you haven’t already, and if your insurance covers it, I’d recommend going in for a sleep study.

    My sleep study was mainly to check for any physical or brain-related problems, which wasn’t my issue — my issue is tremendous anxiety! The sleep study was also able to show me how “off” my internal clock was — I guessed I had slept maybe two hours during the sleep study, and they showed me it was closer to five. I confirmed that later with my boyfriend, who’s more of a night owl — if I got out of bed after what seemed to be “hours” of not sleeping, and asked him if I’d been sleeping, he’d tell me, “Yep, you’ve been snoring this whole time.” That doesn’t make things anymore restful — feeling like you’re not sleeping at all is still incredibly stressful — but it helped derail the running anxiety thought train, you know, “You’ve only slept one hour, oh my god, how are you going to work tomorrow, you can’t call in sick again, sleep, just SLEEP OMG.”

    Since there was nothing physically wrong with me, I got sent to a CBT therapist who taught me about how sleep works. It further helped derail that anxiety train to know about exactly how much sleep my body needs, what the effects of sleeplessness actually are, how I can tell whether I’ve slept “well” or “poorly” (like, if I feel like it was a bad night of sleep, but I dreamed, then my brain got into the stage of sleep that I need to be able to function basically, even if I don’t feel great). She taught me some guided imagery and relaxation techniques and ways to identify and work through my anxiety, both at night and in general. She also helped me take my sleep issues seriously, freeing me up to be as picky as I need to be about my bed and sleeping arrangements, and helping me recognize that taking the extra time to make my environment conducive to sleep is WAY better than lying awake SEETHING because THE FAN IS BLOWING ON ME and I CAN HEAR THE TV IN THE NEXT ROOM and I’M TOO HOT WAIT NO I’M TOO COLD wait no I NEED MORE PILLOWS.

    She also had me keep a sleep journal for a while, so now I can identify my triggers and plan for them. Like, if I’m going to have a lot of deadlines at work this week? I will probably not sleep well all week. So now I know to turn off the TV and computer two hours before bedtime and read a very boring book while playing relaxing music, and I should get some exercise earlier in the day, and I should cut down my coffee this week, and spend some time meditating, so even if I don’t sleep well, I relax well all week, and can keep telling myself, “I know next week won’t be like this, I’m not going to never sleep again, I’ll just get through this crappy week and it’ll be fine.”

    I found this book really helpful:

    He spends a pretty big chunk of the book describing how HIS SYSTEM is the BEST SYSTEM and the ONLY SYSTEM that works, which is annoying, but it does have some very good information in it. Just learning about how sleep works did a lot to calm me down, which, since my problem was anxiety, did a lot to help me sleep.

    On the other hand, when my boyfriend started having trouble sleeping, I told him to head to the sleep clinic, and he came back with a diagnosis of apnea. He apparently didn’t sleep for more than a minute at a time before waking himself up snoring! You never know what the issue could be.

    1. Windchime*

      Thank you for mentioning sleep apnea! A co-worker recently became very upset because she was just unable to concentrate or focus on work and she kept forgetting small details, such as her zip code. She was worried that she was getting dementia. It turns out that she has very severe sleep apnea and is waking up an average of 33 times per hour–so she is sleep deprived, which is causing the memory loss. Even though she is “sleeping” during the night, it’s not restful sleep.

    2. ann d*

      I am seconding this wholeheartedly for anyone dealing with crazy insomnia. Sleeping pills are fine if you, but you are not supposed to take them every night for more than 6 months.

      If your insurance allows, look into CBT for insomnia! If your insurance doesn’t cover it, check out the book recommended above but STICK WITH IT. I thought relaxation techniques didn’t work for insomnia, but in fact they take dedicated practice and experimentation, and I was giving up on them too early.

      I had severe insomnia EVERY night for about a year and it was horrible. I couldn’t remember what it was like to sleep normally. I was dependent on sleeping pills: 2 Lunesta or Ambien a night–and sometimes even then I would not fall asleep at all. When I started taking 3 sleeping pills a night and still going all night without sleep, I knew I needed to get help.

      I started seeing a CBT practitioner, who also recommended Say Good Night To Insomnia. I practiced relaxation response techniques and kept a sleep diary. My CBT therapist helped me figure out strategies that work for me. It took some time, but eventually I stopped using sleeping pills entirely and my sleep returned to normal. I since have taken maybe 3 sleeping pills in the past 2 years.

      1. Marie*

        I used A LOT of valerian and melatonin, but eventually I started having a trained reaction to those things — like, the taking of the pills just hit the anxiety button reminder that I can’t sleep oh god oh god will I be able to sleep tonight?

        I’d read about and tried relaxation techniques on my own and they were no good at all. Doing them with my therapist, they worked very well in the office environment with her there to guide me, but still didn’t work well for sleep. Then I realized that I was only doing those exercises when I couldn’t sleep, which meant I was only trying them when I was already a mess, and they became completely associated with the anxiety/panic instead of a reprieve from it. So I started doing the techniques periodically throughout my day, when I wasn’t especially anxious, so I could get my mind and body in the habit of getting immersed in the imagery and sensations. It came a lot easier at night when I practiced it during the day, much less of me lying there stiff as a board thinking IMAGINE A BABBLING BROOK FER CRYIN OUT LOUD.

        I don’t do the relaxation techniques as much anymore — I’ve found keeping myself away from screens, work, or anything stressful for an hour before bed + a white noise machine + a body pillow + a completely dark room (meaning boyfriend with the iPad is banished from the bed) does it for me most of the time. But the techniques are there when I need them, which keeps my panic low on the nights when the insomnia beast seems like it’s coming to visit. Just knowing one night of insomnia no longer has to mean weeks and weeks of insomnia means I can let those occasional nights go by without worry.

  17. Windchime*

    Oh, and for the nose-picking interviewer? What. The. Hell. That is the weirdest, grossest thing I have ever heard. OP, how did you manage to avoid the handshake at the end of the interview?

    1. Interviewee*

      Thankfully she stayed in the room and the other lady escorted me out, so there was no opportunity for a formal goodbye.

      Although I do agree with Alison that it is not any sort of hidden signal about the job, I do think that it is worth reflecting on when thinking abou the day-to-day realities of working in that environment. If it was a huge company and I wouldn’t interact with that person much, it wouldn’t have bothered me, but this position would require interacting with that person everyday for extended periods of time. It’s just a three-person team.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Eeewwwww. I’m afraid I would not have been as discreet as you, OP; I probably would have stopped talking and openly stared at her and said something like “Do we need to pause for a moment?” I can’t even imagine what the other interviewer was thinking!

      2. Windchime*

        I’m kind of sickly fascinated with the idea of this being a secret signal, LOL. “This candidate isn’t a good fit, so I think I’ll just find a way to gross her out. Hey, I know!…….”

        If you get the job, I hope you don’t have to work with her too much. It would be hard to not picture…that.

  18. Jessica*

    #6 Every once in a while (usually on public transportation) I run into a perfectly normal looking person who apparently totally thinks it’s okay to pick their nose (or worse) in public. It’s the weirdest thing. Are there some people who just never learned it was a rude thing to do?

    #7 Unless for some reason the OP is getting paid less because of it, being hourly seems like a much better deal than being salaried, as you know you’ll rarely be expected to work beyond your normal hours and if you do, will be handsomely compensated for it. What is the appeal of being salaried anyway, apart from not having to punch in and out and it sounding a little more grown-up?

    1. Chinook*

      Maybe the person mentioned by #6 didn’t realize it wasn’t culturally acceptbale (either in a Sheldon type of way or because they were raised elsewhere). I know that I was warned, in preparation for a trip to Central America, that men there sometimes blow there nose by covering one nostril and blowing out the other one on to the ground. Eeewww!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had a cowboy ex long ago who used to do that. Seriously, the first time I ever saw him do it, I nearly threw up. I tried to break him of it and did for a while, but it’s not my problem anymore.

    2. Rana*

      You can comfort yourself with the knowledge that the public nosepickers are probably infecting themselves with all kinds of viruses in the process.

      (I’m an inveterate face-toucher who rides a lot of public transit, but all it took was one cold while pregnant to break me of the habit, at least until I’ve had a chance to use sanitizer or wash my hands. So far, it’s working – I’ve gotten sick a lot less this year.)

    3. V*

      #7 – I thought the same thing. If they did the math and it comes out to at least the same amount as the salary that was offered, I don’t see the big deal.

  19. None*

    #2- I really appreciated inclusion of this question and the lively discussion that ensued. Having suffered from insomnia for over 10 years now (currently 31 yrs old) I can say that it has indeed changed my life in every sense. While I haven’t felt comfortable disclosing my situation to other employers in the past I luckily now have an understanding supervisor who also happens to have a chronic condition.

    Most doctors don’t seem to take my condition seriously because I have achieved a high-level of success despite not being able to sleep properly.

    While I’ve never taken a sick day due to insomnia (I’ve wanted to!!), it is reassuring to know that my supervisor would understand.

    Good luck to the OP!

  20. AF*

    OP #4 – there was an episode of The Office (U.S. version) that dealt with this, and of course the issue was how stupid it was. Maybe you could make a DVD of that episode and anonymously give it to this manager. Of course, that would require some self-awareness, which most obnoxious people don’t have. Good luck.

  21. MR*

    Seven to eight minutes picking her nose? I don’t know whether to be mortified or impressed that she kept it up that long.

    Forgetting the unsightly situation, she could actually do some serious damage to her nasal passages doing that for so long.

    I wonder if this is such a common occurrence, that nobody at the office even notices anymore…?

  22. Rich*

    #5 – I used to be a staffing agency recruiter and I occasionally had to get ssn for a couple of large clients that worked with a big vendor list. This was their way of verifying that the recruiter actually spoke to the candidate since they had issues with bad recruiters slinging résumés without actually speaking with the folks they claimed to represent.

    I agree that asking for this info is crappy, but wanted to point out that it’s not always a sketchy attempt to get people’s personal info for malicious purposes. There are large companies that require recruiters to get the ssn or part of it. As for the city of birth….that’s new to me. But I’d guess it’s the same reason and this was the work around since there was so much push back about full ssn’s.

    1. OP #5*

      Hmmm… I guess I get it, but it seems that the problem is they don’t trust their recruiters. So in an attempt to keep their recruiters honest they’re over reaching in the data they’re collecting. Seems to me they are impacting the wrong group of people to address their issue.

  23. Bea W*

    #2 – Absolutely. If you feel like crap and can’t be productive, it’s the same as being sick with a bug of some sort. BTDT. Sometimes I have taken just the morning off, depending on how I feel. Luckily, I get insomnia like that very rarely, because when I do, so few things work on it. Ambien will knock me out for a few hours before causing me to bolt upright with a panic attack. OTC sleep aids just give me anxiety and restlessness that is on the level of torture, melatonin and valerian won’t touch it either. So, yeh, on the odd chance it happens, I’m likely to have to call in sick the next morning.

    #5 – Totally hinky! I have been asked for this information even by an employer – SSN, yes for payroll *after* I was hired or for a background check *after* receiving an offer contingent on passing a background check, but never place of birth, and never ever by a recruiter or anyone who didn’t want to actually hire me.

    There is no reason anyone needs your SSN for anything except when it comes to payroll, certain financial transactions, and some government things (taxes, applying for passport, etc), and some background checks (they would never ask for it over the phone – you would have to fill out a form and sign it for this!). I hope you stayed away from this recruiter.

    The first 3 digits of the SSN used to correlate to where the number of issued, not place of birth, though it is common for people to be in the same region/state as their place of birth.

    1. Leigh*

      It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has that reaction to Ambien. It’s honestly worse than not sleeping at all.

      Well, except Ambien never lead to me totalling a car. Which is another point in favor of the OP taking a sick day.

  24. oneblankspace*

    I once encountered an online job application that REQUIRED not only the date of graduation from high school, but also the date I started high school. It would not accept the application if I left it blank. When I asked their HR department about it, they assured me their lawyers had approved the question.

Comments are closed.