open thread

photo 5It’s our biweekly open thread!

The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

{ 924 comments… read them below }

  1. BausLady*

    Yay, open thread!

    I’m currently a recruiter at my company, kind of by chance. I just slowly took over the whole function when my boss left and was replaced by someone totally incompetent. I started as just the coordinator, but my new boss basically never did anything and now I do it all, from sourcing to screening and finalizing offer letters to coordinating background checks.

    My company was recently acquired by a very large organization and they now want me to help coordinate recruiting efforts for the whole multi-state organization, rather than just my little office. Unfortunately, this means I’ll go back to just doing the coordinator role. No real candidate interaction, I won’t be negotiating or doing offer letters anymore, no sourcing. It feels like a little bit of a step backwards in duties, but it’s definitely more visibility, as I’ll be handling over 400 open positions across the organization.

    I’m not really sure what my question is! But I’m wondering what anyone else thinks of this? Should I be excited? Do I get to ask for a raise?

    1. Anonymous*

      I think that this often happens. It is like I went from being a big fancy title at a tiny place to a tiny title at a big place. And the work changed and now I’m doing huge amounts of moving things around, when before it was a tiny bit of what I did.
      The upside is there is much more room for advancement at a big place than at the little place. And I get to be great at quantity and quality.

      1. BausLady*

        I am looking forward to having more opportunities available down the line. I think I’ll just have to stick it out and see how it goes. Thanks!

    2. LabRatnomore*

      As my company has grown the roles in most jobs in the company have definitely become narrower. One of the benefits of small companies is that you get to do a larger variety of things and often learn more in the process. But in Large companies you have more room to move around and find exactly what you like. It may be wise to discuss with those above you the portions of your current job you like best and would like to do in the future.

      1. BausLady*

        My whole career has been in smaller orgs where I’ve gotten to wear many different hats, so to speak. As you mention, I think this will be the biggest change I’ll have to get over. Thanks for the advice!

      2. Anonymous*

        Write a paragraph on whether this has helped you move closer towards a resolution of your conflict.If so, how has this helped you?If not,what do you need to do now?

    3. Joey*

      Roll with it. Recruiting for a large org is light years different than recruiting for a small one. Although your experience should mean that the learning curve should be short. Use that as an advantage to position yourself to move back into the recruiter role.

      Fwiw, this is what most large companies would offer you if you applied cold. They’d see you had good experience, but no experience with volume. That would likely be enough to look at you for a more junior position..

      1. BausLady*

        This is such good insight, thank you. I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge and opportunity to show what I’ve got. Here’s hoping it continues to lead to more opportunities!

  2. SweetMisery*

    What’s the ethics/morality of voice recording in a workplace, assuming you’re in a 1 party consent state?

    There was a post a few weeks about about a woman who was told she wasn’t hired because she was pregnant (would have been useful to have proof).

    There was a case where a supervisor who had a history of sexual relationship with a female who was below him in the chain of command (not a direct report). He wanted to give me advice for my career, and chose to do it at a Starbucks. I recorded the conversation to be sure that if this turned out to not be friendly advice, it wouldn’t be a case of he said she said. (while he didn’t do anything, he did say that my gender kept me from being hired as an engineer)

    1. BCW*

      I think its pretty unethical to record someone unless they have made inappropriate comments many times to you, and you just want proof to take to higher ups.

      However, if you have just heard they may have done something to someone before, I don’t think its good. Basically, it can also be entrapment, because you could bait them then doctor the tape. If I found out about it, I’d be pissed. I’m also happy I live in a state where its illegal to do without consent.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      You would need to check the laws regarding this in your state. They vary from place to place. If the recording is unlawful, they couldn’t use it in court anyway, which would make it pretty useless.

    3. Sydney*

      I am morally okay with recording someone without their specific consent, if they don’t have a reasonable expectation to privacy. So at Starbucks? You’re good. In his office? Not as good because it’s his space, but still a professional situation. Morally, I think you’re fine since he has a history of being inappropriate with women subordinates.

      You should always assume that your words and actions will be heard/seen by someone else when you’re in a public setting, such as Starbucks. Because it’s very possible you are being recorded, even if you aren’t the intentional target.

    4. fposte*

      If I were the manager in the situation, I’d be pretty displeased with finding out that had been secretly recorded. You’re not describing somebody with a track record of harassment–he dated somebody in the organization, which presumably was okay with it. He hadn’t done anything to you previously to make you consider him a threat to you. Even if he had asked you out, that’s unlikely to have risen to the level of harassment, and you could simply have said no.

      I can see a situation where harassment already exists and has been difficult to document where this might be worth doing (though you need to make sure you’re within the laws, since it’s not always simply the same as the phone recording laws). However, preemptive taping doesn’t reflect well on the taper, and I join Kerry in wondering what the purpose here was.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We were just talking about this! Originally it felt ridiculous and utterly unnatural, and I felt like surely whoever I was talking to was dubious and required explanation. (The first time I said “my husband” was at a pharmacy in Ireland, and I said something like, “I’m looking for allergy medicine for my …. husband, ha ha ha ha ha!” and the person clearly thought I was insane. So maybe they really were all dubious, since I laughed every time I said it.)

      Now it’s becoming more natural, although I kind of hate “wife.” It feels … matronly? Or something.

      1. ChristineSW*

        I see what you’re saying. I love being married (14 years!), but I sometimes still do a slight double-take when my husband refers to me as “my wife” when talking to someone who doesn’t know us.

      2. Barbara in Swampeast*

        When DH was in grad school he spoke of me as “The Wife.” The department secretaries would ask him if I had a real name. It got to be a bit of a joke and when I called and spoke to the secretaries I would identify myself as “The Wife” :)

      3. LizNYC*

        I got married 3 years ago and it felt weird to me at all stages (first, “boyfriend,” then “fiance,” then “husband”). I felt like I was “flaunting” it every time I said it. Now it’s just second nature. What I really have trouble with is remembering to use my married (not maiden) name for things. I decided to take the hubster’s name, and you’d think I’d remember after all this time :P

        1. Sascha*

          I felt like I was flaunting, too. I’m not sure why…it just felt odd lol.

          I didn’t have any problems with the surname as I very much prefer my husband’s surname, and I took it as my own for purely aesthetic reasons. I hated my maiden name! It was often mistaken for a private body part so you can see why I wanted the change. :)

          1. Jessica (the celt)*

            Now after reading both of your comments about feeling as though you were flaunting it, I can’t get that Seinfeld episode out of my head:

            “My fiancé, the poor baby!”

            “Maybe a dingo ate your baby!”


      4. PuppyKat*

        Coming in late on this, but can’t resist adding my story to the mix. I got married at the age of 27 after we had been together for almost 5-1/2 years. I took to saying “my husband” like a duck to water, and have always loved hearing him call me his wife. And we’re not a traditional couple in any sense of the word: I’m the primary breadwinner, I kept my family name, he does almost all the cooking and cleaning, no human kids.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, the terms make me feel mature beyond my years. Which I realize is a strange thing to say when I got married at 40, but until now I was never sure I even wanted to get married, so I think it’s tied into weird self-identity (and for me, self-sufficiency?) stuff. I’d love to know if that resonates with anyone, actually. It sounds like it might be gibberish.

      1. Jen in RO*

        This is how I feel about “woman” vs “girl” :)

        I’m also not sure I want to get married (ever), so the transition from “my boyfriend” to “my husband” would be very hard for me too. (Not to mention the name thing!)

        1. Observer*

          I think that there is a fundamental difference between the woman / girl thing and spouse designations. By definition, a “girl” is a child, and that designation for adults is simply inappropriate in workplace relationships (and in most casual relationships, as well.) While there are unfortunately some folks who seem to equate “wife” with “appendage” or “glorified housekeeper / provider of other services” that’s not the definition or the way lots of people see it. And, husband / wife does simplify things (something that girl does NOT do vs woman).

          1. Jen in RO*

            I was referring to “the terms make me feel mature beyond my years”. The term “woman” does make *me* feel mature beyond my years.

      2. Tina*

        Alison, I feel the same way you do. Not only did I change my mind about not wanting to get married (which I’ve been clear on for years), I proposed to him. And at 38, it was definitely an identity shift for me, and part of why I kept my own name and didn’t take his (even if his parents have started addressing our mail that way). I needed to feel like I was still “me” and not just one half of “us”.

        My sister in law posted on FB that her “brother and his wife” were coming to Thanksgiving , and I still had to stop and realize it was me.

        1. the gold digger*

          his parents have started addressing our mail that way

          I did change my name and now wish I hadn’t. Only the IRS and my job refer to me by my married name. I am transferring to a different division of my company and have asked IT to set my new email up with my maiden name.

          My husband’s parents are not happy that I am not using my married name. When I write letters to them (longer turnaround time than email), I use my maiden name. My husband’s mother has asked him why I am not using his last name. He explained to her but she still insists on addressing letters to my married name.

          By the way, my husband’s parents are ultra liberal, so it’s not even like they are ideologically opposed to my keeping my name. They are just ticked off. (But these are the people who don’t like how I eat bacon, so why should I expect rationality?)

          1. Tina*

            “When I write letters to them (longer turnaround time than email), I use my maiden name. My husband’s mother has asked him why I am not using his last name. He explained to her but she still insists on addressing letters to my married name.”

            I confess, the next time I mailed them a card, I decided to have some fun. In the return address, I used MY last name as BOTH our last names, as if my husband changed his name. Don’t know if they noticed or if they cared, but I got a giggle out of it. I don’t actually think they wrote that because they necessarily object to my not changing my name, more like they’re older and traditional and that’s what women do when they get married (though I did directly tell them I wasn’t changing it).

            1. Jessica*

              My husband and I both took both last names (so we have two last names each and both had to go through changing our names), and there are times that his family conveniently “forgets” that this is the case and suddenly I have a last name I’ve never had before (and never will). Huh, funny how that happens more and more close to a decade of being married, huh? ;)

          2. Heather*

            If they harped at me about it I would change it back to just to spite them. Yeah I’m like that. It’s so none of their business.

            1. Liane*

              Not a reply to any particular name change poster, but there were so many replies to this already, I had trouble figuring out which Reply button to click.
              This is *just* my personal experience, put out in hopes someone might find it amusing or useful.
              When I got married, I hyphenated my surname with my husband’s because I was the last in my dad’s family with the name. Since both surnames are English, when used together, it sounds like some upper-crust British surname. But, starting shortly after marriage, I ended up using just my husband’s name for social purposes–and realized I was fine with it.
              It may look & sound very cool, but it’s a mouthful and also too long for many forms, computer or paper.
              So, after 22 years, the hyphenated surname mostly sees use on official stuff, which can make finding my records troublesome, as some systems will file them under C from my maiden name and others under W for my husband’s half of my name. I have found one practical use for the whole thing: If someone, say a government office worker or a service person, is being rude to me, I will coldly insist they address me as Ms. with both surnames. (No, I do not do this when I’m the one at work and serving someone, no matter how rude the customer is.)
              Today, if anyone asked me for advice about changing their name upon marriage, it would be pick one or the other for everything, it will make your life much easier. Yes, your decision should take into account how long you’ve used your maiden name professionally; how each name sounds, feels, and can be mispronounced; and any other important factors.

              1. Jamie*

                I’m a big fan of hyphenated names and in your situation I’d probably have done what you did. But in my case I would be Jamie Hardtopronouncecorrectlyethnicsuffix – lesshardtopronouncebutevenlomgersameethnic suffix. I’m not sure how it would even fit on a drivers license.

                I miss my maiden name sometimes. It’s signals immediately which part of Poland from which my grandfather hailed and it’s fun on the rare occasion someone recognizes that – like an instant kinship.

              2. Anonymous*

                I have been married going on 32 years and I always wanted to have his name. It is our name. We are a team and a unit. It was not hard for me to say my husband at all. I love the sound of that.

            1. the gold digger*

              I didn’t get married until I was 44, so I’ve had my name for a long time. I miss my old name.

              AND I have such miserable, nasty people as in-laws that I do not want to be associated with them in any way. :)

              1. Windchime*

                I have been divorced for 18 years and I still have my married name. I originally kept it because I wanted to have the same name as my children, but they are adults now and it doesn’t matter any longer. I keep thinking about changing it back, but I have had this name for over 30 years and it feels weird to change it, even though it’s not mine. It’s all so complicated.

        2. Anna*

          I’ve been married 10 years and still feel weird saying “my husband”. I also didn’t change my last name so I get a giggle out of going to Safeway with the hubs and them calling him Mr. (My Last Name). Funny thing is right after I got married, the hubs and I visited my dad and stepmother and my dad asked me if I had changed it and when I said no, he turned to my stepmom and said, “See! I told you she wouldn’t change it!” I still don’t know what that was about.

      3. COT*

        I highly recommend reading Offbeat Bride or A Practical Wedding for great, thoughtful conversations on marriage, identity, language, etc. Both have some great archives on these topics, and the feelings are really common. I have them, too!

        1. bassclefchick*

          I agree with COT! I’m a first time bride (now a newlywed) at 43. Offbeat Bride is a great place for those of use who don’t identify with the typical 20-something person the wedding industry targets. I also wasn’t sure I wanted to lose my identy so I kept my name. But that may have also been because the thought of all the paperwork I’d have to do if I changed just overwhelmed me!

          1. Heather*

            I’m so checking these out. I’m not getting married or engaged but I just want to not feel like the only one that thinks this way. It seems like people are so crazed to get married.

            1. Windchime*

              Not me! I got married when I was 18 (I do NOT advise this for others, by the way) and once was enough for me. We were married for 16 years. I’m in my early 50’s now and I feel like I am really getting someplace in my career. I’m actually quite happily single and I can’t imagine getting married again. I try to think about someone being in my house all the time, and having input on how I spend my money or whether or not my cat can sleep on the bed and I’m like…..yeah. Not so much.

      4. Ellie H.*

        My parents got married at 40 and 44, and I think have definitely mentioned the same thing. My mom was definitively “self-sufficient” and loved doing things solo (camping, traveling, moving coast to coast, etc.) so I think it was a big shift. Although they kind of eased into it – my dad was working in a different state so they actually didn’t technically live together for the first eighteen months of my life! One of the things my mom often talks about is how given that they each had been living separately as an adult for 20 years, they had all their own stuff, furniture, rituals etc. So I think it was a big change. While my parents have a great marriage, I think they are definitely more “separate people” than a unit due to living independently for so long. They’ve never shared a bank account, neither changed last name (I have a hyphenated last name, and, for example, they each sent me flowers on my birthday because they didn’t coordinate with the other person. (I didn’t complain! :) This stuff is really interesting for me to think about; I was in a long term relationship that was 100% the opposite setup (we spent basically 24 hours a day together, he would come with me to keep me company at a dentist’s appointment, etc. and we both got a lot out of that kind of closeness – it wasn’t suffocating or anything) and the relationship I’m in now is much more individual where time spent apart is important too. Different contexts bring out different elements of someone’s personality, I think.

          1. Windchime*

            My dream marriage, if I was to have one, would be if we owned separate houses or maybe two sides of a condo. We could eat dinner together and of course have sleepovers, but then he would go home and I could surf the internet, or watch TV and knit all night and then watch Jimmy Kimmel or whatever.

            1. Anonymous*

              That would be a horrible marriage for me. Why would you want him to go home to separate houses. Don’t you think having him stay the night would be more fun? LOL.

      5. AB Normal*

        Oh, it definitely resonates to me this thing about self-sufficiency.

        I got married at 27 (over a decade ago), but to this day feel weird when my husband says “my wife” (although I’m used to calling him my husband, to make it easier for people to know who I’m talking about, especially since we have other people with the same name in our circles).

        I was always very independent, and before meeting my husband, always said I was not going to marry. My mother to this day says she regrets how independent I was growing up, as she never felt she had to do anything for me.

        But I’m glad that we both, having found the right person, didn’t let an issue of self-identity get in the way of tying the knot :-). Although, like you, I did keep my name, which would have been super weird to change just because of marriage.

      6. Camellia*

        I had a bit of the reverse situation. After a divorce (my choice) from a marriage of 24 years I discovered I hated saying “my ex-husband”. I just felt like he wasn’t “my” anything any more. I solved this by switching to saying “(daughter’s name)’s dad” and that still works for me.

      7. bearing*

        No, I think it must be pretty common. How could it not?

        I got married at 24 (15 years ago next week!) and I still remember the deeply weird feeling of being referred to as “my wife,” “his wife,” etc. I think it just takes some time to get used to, and the reason it feels matronly is just because so many of the “his wife” people that we tend to know or read about or hear about are, in fact, matrons :)

        I am pretty used to it now. It feels kind of old-fashioned, but now in a sweet sort of way. What I never got used to is being called Mrs. Husbandslastname, even though I did take his name (and used our two names together professionally, as if my previous last name was my new middle name). When I hear it I still think of his mom. Most of the people who call me that are friends’ children, though.

      8. tcookson*

        I felt the weird self-identity thing when I became a wife and mother. I got married at 26 and we had our first baby that same year, but I still had a lot of identity built up as a single non-parent. I felt like I wasn’t even myself anymore, like the expectations for who I was supposed to be had suddenly changed. I went from having a freezer full of Lean Cuisines and nothing but ketchup, mustard, and vodka in the fridge to being expected to cook actual meals (we still ate out for way more meals than we cooked at home, until we realized we were spending 60% of our income on eating out).

        But, yeah, the identity thing is a real thing.

      9. Not So NewReader*

        I can relate to that. I think my uncle gave me good insight on that one.
        He said marriage is not 50-50. You don’t put in 50% and your other half puts in 50%. No. It’s 100-100. Each person puts in 100%. If a person is giving up huge parts of themselves to be married then they are not giving the marriage 100%. Marriage should not shrink us- it should expand us.

        An extreme example but it might clarify this a little. My aunt and uncle had two children born with serious problems. Very serious. They would not have been able to deal with all the goings on if they were only putting 50% of themselves into the marriage and the family. It took everything they had. And more.

        Growth is not always caused by pleasant things. Sometimes our pain and tears is what causes us to grow. I did not understand that for many years- a marriage can be a platform where each spouse grows beyond what they would have been if they had not met each other. And it starts out with a feeling of “hey, I don’t want to go through life without you…”.

        Marriage is one of many ways in life that we grow our identity- who we are, what we stand for, what we believe. And yeah, I was so sure that I was going to lose my identity when I got married, too.

  3. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Any opinions on Rosetta Stone to learn another language at home? I was about to buy it earlier this week when they were having a major sale, but then read a bunch of unfavorable reviews online. Any advice on it or something better?

    1. Danielle*

      I’ve been learning Italian with Rosetta stone. It’s definitely more for learning the entire language, not just basic conversations for travel. I haven’t made it to the end yet but I do wonder how well I’ll understand the language only because the program teaches completely different from any way I was ever taught a language in school. It kind of throws you right in but with a lot of repetition. I actually quite enjoy it!

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m glad its different from the way languages are taught at school, maybe there’s hope for me! I took french every single year since I was six and I still can’t speak it. But I do have nightmares about conjugating verbs.

    2. MousyNon*

      Mmm, it depends, I think.

      If you’re talking about a romance language, it can be pretty helpful. The key here is that the language you’re learning shares enough cognates and roots that you can generally parse out what the word represented is, for example, in a picture they show you of a boy wearing a t-shirt in the park.

      However, for a language like Arabic (which is what I used my, thankfully company-provided Rosetta Stone for) it was basically useless, because you’re talking about an entirely new language AND alphabet. Is it the boy? the shirt? the park?? I found an intensive, immersive 5 week class much, much more helpful in that case.

      1. Leslie Yep*

        I actually used Rosetta Stone to begin learning Arabic in anticipation of taking a formal course, and found it really helpful. It’s a lot slower than for a language that uses an alphabet you’re familiar for, of course, but I found it easier to learn the letters in the context of real words and pictures, and learned more relevant vocabulary via Rosetta Stone than the major intro book for my class (which taught me both maternal uncle and United Nations in the first couple of chapters!). I’m not sure if I could really learn the language meaningfully through Rosetta alone, but as one part of a plan for learning, I found it helpful.

        1. Anonymous*

          LOL I’m assuming you mean Al-Kitaab? I had that textbook for my first couple of semesters of Arabic and when I transferred to a different school, discovered I was woefully behind everyone else and had to drop back a few levels. My professor at the new school called that book/system the cancer that is killing the Arabic language.

          1. MousyNon*

            Omg I HATE THAT TEXTBOOK. Can I ask what textbooks your professor (the one that called it a cancer) used instead? I’d be very interested in trying a different one.

            1. Anonymous*

              Ahlan Wa Sahlan. My starting point with it was after the alphabet stuff so I don’t know good that part is (I actually thought that the writing workbook that went with Al-Kitaab was pretty good; it was the rest of it that was crap) but I overall I remember finding it much more useful.

          2. Leslie Yep*

            Fascinating! I only took one semester (it was first offered my senior year of college), and I have always found it troubling that the only things I remember how to say involve umbrellas and the UN. Poor Maha.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yeah, the vocab was hilarious. I don’t know if you also had the Alif Baa book, but the vocab in that was great, too. I couldn’t wait to travel to an Arabic-speaking country and tell them all about my corpses and mulberries.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                At School I had a text book that said it concentrated on every day practical Germany, the only sentence I can remember is “of Clause is we the is is stood under a waterfall”

              2. AVP*

                I’m learning Arabic with a private tutor but used Alif Baa for the alphabet…to this day my mualima is surprised that I have things like corpses and dates covered (but not, like, “to go”).

            2. Anonymous*

              Everyone hates Maha. I’ve heard students make up songs about it. But seriously, the al-Kitab series is an improvement on the orange book series which hasn’t been updated in decades. Is it the best? No, but for it’s time it was a big jump.

        2. MousyNon*

          I think I agree! I wish I’d had Rosetta Stone when I was actively taking the class. But on it’s own, I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to somebody wanting to learn Arabic.

          1. Jessa*

            Exactly and even if the written language is similar my sister hated Rosetta for Irish because you NEED to see the spelling to get it. Or you’ll never be able to read a sign. She had one of those subscriptions so she switched to Spanish on it. I have friends who had some good luck with Pimsleur.

    3. kdizzle*

      I was using Babbel for basic vocab before a recent trip to Turkey. The app is free, and the website (more in-depth lessons) is $12 or $13 a month with the ability to cancel any time. I ended up with a vocabulary of 250 words for an investment of $25, which was completely worth it.

      I guess it depends what the end goal is.

    4. Sydney Bristow*

      If you read The 4-Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss, he lays out his system for quickly learning languages. I’m planning to try that first before spending all the money on Rosetta Stone. There is also a free iPhone app called Duolingo that I recently started using and am enjoying.

      1. Jessica (the celt)*

        Duolingo is wonderful for brushing up on things, too! I just use it on my regular laptop via their website, and I can go back and brush up on things I feel I’m “losing” at times.

        1. Jessa*

          OH yeh I forgot Mango. Also if your local one doesn’t see if there are others. Where I am in Ohio there is a separate system in Dayton that is on some kind of grant that I’m eligible to use and they have it. Also sometimes other cities near you have reciprocity for free.

    5. FD*

      It really depends.

      I find it near-useless myself, but I find I need a systematic approach to language, the way you’d be taught in school by learning grammar and structure first and vocabulary around that.

      As MousyNon said, it’s not much good for languages with non-Latin alphabets though. I tried using it to learn Japanese and had to give up. What I learned later is that Japanese has three different writing systems (two phonetic based and one symbol based), used side-by-side. I think some symbols might also be used as grammatical markers and aren’t pronounced. At any rate, it probably would have worked to work with my pronunciation and phrasing once I understood the writing system and grammar a bit better, but I would have needed to get that elsehwere.

      1. LMW*

        I just tried to learn as much French as possible before a vacation and I tried Duolingo, Earworms, and Mindsnacks. I was reasonably diligent about practicing (averaged a half hour a day for 5 weeks). Mindsnacks and Duolingo were especially helpful for learning food vocabulary. Earworms was good for very, very basic things, like telling a taxi driver where I needed to go or ordering a glass of wine. When I got to France, I realized that my speaking skills were really terrible but my reading comprehension was pretty good. (I think I really require someone to practice with before I’ll master speaking a foreign language. My Spanish skills are also much higher in reading and writing than speaking, and that’s after 7 years of study.)

      2. Jubilance*

        Interesting observation. I’ve never used Rosetta Stone, but I started studying Japanese in middle school, and still have like a 3rd grad level mastery of Kanji (the symbol based writing system). The other two systems (katakana & hiragana) were pretty easy for me to pick up. I can see Rosetta Stone software being helpful in learning to speak & listen in Japanese – verbs, counters, etc follow specific rules without a lot of exceptions, unlike English. Learning writing systems would be much harder, that’s really something that should be done with an in-person instructor, because just a small difference in the way a character is written can change it’s entire meaning & pronunciation.

        1. FD*

          I can see that. I always pity people who have to learn English as a second language, because it’s so irregular! I think I just understand things better when I learn them in a more systematic way.

        2. Chinook*

          I actually found a Nintendo DS program for learning Japanese that I use for refreshing my basic Japanese (I couldn’t pass the low level exam in Japan, so it is low level)> It is nice because the touch screen allows me to praactise teh writing along with the reading and listening.

    6. Jen in RO*

      No idea about Rosetta Stone, but I prefer taking classes in a cultural institute. I don’t know if they exist in the US or not, but in Europe most countries have cultural institutes. I’m lucky enough to live in the capital, so I can choose between the British Council (UK), Instituto Cervantes (Spain), Institut Francais (French), Schillerhaus and Goethe Institut (German)… and so on. I’ve taken French, Spanish and German classes so far, and what I like is that the focus is on understanding and speaking the language, rather than just the grammar. It is a huuuge difference from the way it’s taught in school.

      1. TL*

        I spend multiple hours a week at an argentine cultural center and I’ve just started taking Spanish classes there and they’re so helpful! (Also it’s seriously the most awesome place in town.)

    7. k*

      Rosetta Stone was a great supplement to other self-taught stuff I did to learn Farsi. But I learned the script before anything else, which I suspect made RS more helpful once I started it later.

      I really like the pictures/words aspect, as it seems like it mimics immersion more closely. If you’re learning a language that doesn’t require you to learn a new script, I think it’s a good option, and I’ll use it if/when I’m in that situation next.

      Unsolicited recommendation: I found listening to BBC news in Farsi was excellent as a substitute for a semi-immersion experience. You could also hear the many different regional accents come across, which I think was good training for my ears. BBC has tons of news service in tons of languages.

      1. Leslie Yep*

        Ah, I forgot to mention…I tried Rosetta Stone out for free first via my local public library. Might be a good thing to try before shelling out the dough, because Elizabeth is right!

    8. VictoriaHR*

      I have been using the eTotal learning system through Rosetta Stone’s website since February. I had a basic understanding of Spanish; I just wanted to brush up on my vocab and grammar, to hopefully become more fluent. I think it’s a good program.

      One nice thing is that the website doesn’t force you to do the repeat-after-me bit (which helps when I’m accessing it during downtime at work), but the iPad app does, so I can’t use that unless I’m alone.

      IMO it’s overpriced, even when it’s on sale, but Rosetta Stone always has been.

    9. Elysian*

      I tried to use it to learn German. It worked to some degree, but it is by no means a complete program. I supplemented it with a bunch of books. I think if I were to have taken it further, I would eventually have needed to join a conversation group or taken formal classes to fill in gaps.

      Is it better than nothing? Yes. Is it worth the price they charge (even on sale)? Dubious.

    10. Kacie*

      See if your public library has Mango Languages and start with that. Rosetta used to work with libraries, but cut them out about 5 years ago to go directly to consumers.

      Face-to-face classes are always your best option. Community colleges usually have affordable options.

    11. SD*

      I haven’t used Rosetta Stone, so I can’t make a comparison, but Pimsleur products seem pretty good- I’ve learned a little German using their products, and though I’m sure what I can say in German is clunky and badly pronounced, people in Berlin seemed convinced I spoke it and would respond in German. So I guess that’s a… good thing? Also, you might want to check out Mango Languages, which is often available for free if your local library is subscribed to it.

    12. JulieInOhio*

      Your local library may well offer some online tools (not usually Rosetta Stone; they don’t usually sell to libraries). But Mango Languages or PowerfullySpeaking or TellMeMore. Usually you can do them from anywhere with a library card number.

    13. Anonymous*

      See if you can get a free copy of it (like borrowing a friend’s) before you purchase it. I have the Dutch version and I went through it quickly but realized I didn’t really pick up much on it. I’m more of a traditional learner in which I need classes and exercises to figure out the conjugations and whatnot. Sometimes I watch videos on youtube to even just pick up the basics of other languages. Thanks to one youtube video, I have a working knowledge of the Russian alphabet, but in order to continue into it, at some point I want to take classes at the local community college.

      1. Elysian*

        I think they actually offer a free trial of most of the language from their website, now that you mention it. I’m pretty sure I used it before buying German.

        Oh! If you do decide to buy it, investigate their pricing system well. I found it to be confusing and didn’t end up getting exactly what I thought I was. There’s a computer download, CDs they can ship to you, and an online-only version, and they are come with different features. It’s kind of a mess.

    14. Apollo Warbucks*

      I can recommend coffee break Spanish (also French and German) it’s free on iTunes and very good also I’ve a stack of DVDs like scrubs and the Big Bang theory with Spanish audio which is a good way to get an ear for the language even if I don’t understand much of it. I also signed up for a word if the day email to start build some vocabulary, which has been good.

    15. vvondervvoman*

      I used to sell Rosetta Stone, and it definitely works, but not magically. I used to tell people that this isn’t the Matrix, you can’t just use the computer program to download the info into your head. It does require real learning, but for most people, it’s the most natural way to learn, that is, completely different than the way you’re taught in school.

      You’re in the DC area, so I would recommend stopping by one of the many retail location (kiosks in the mall) and try it yourself. The advantage to this over the library is that the sales associate will be able to show you the tricks that will help smooth over common frustrations with the program.

    16. fluffy*

      Our library gave up Rosetta Stone because the company didn’t do well with public shared accounts. We replaced it with Tell Me More and with Transparent Language Online. I’ve had at least one person tell me they preferred Tell Me More to Rosetta stone. Ifyou can use a public library version, I’d recommend checking them out before investing.

    17. Lindsay J*

      There are a couple free alternatives to Rosetta Stone that I’ve enjoyed.

      Duolingo, which you can use online, and which also has apps for iPhone and Android

      and, which you use online. I like Livemocha because there are writing and speaking portions that you do, as well as the typical matching, etc. These portions are graded by native speakers of the language you are learning. You are able to grade English language attempts as well and get points for that. There is also a chat option where you can chat with people in the language you are trying to learn.

      That being said, when I used Rosetta Stone I felt that it was a lot more polished than the alternatives. However, I didn’t feel like the additional polish was worth the enormous cost of Rosetta Stone when the alternatives are free and work so well.

    18. Rana*

      I love Rosetta Stone, because it fits almost perfectly with my particular strengths and weaknesses when it comes to language-learning. Where I struggle is with listening and understanding, and with speaking, and with remembering vocabulary; reading and writing and grammar are things that I grasp fairly quickly, and RS is weaker on those. I very much like the way that it uses visual cues, listening exercises, and puzzle-solving to teach language; I find that I remember the things I learn through those exercises more easily than through other methods.

      That said, it’s very much as “you get what you put into it” deal. I’ve used it for Spanish (which I knew a bit of before) and Japanese. The former I’ve been dipping into off and on sporadically, and so my progress is slow, but it “sticks.” The Japanese I did a crash course in which I studied it for about 4-6 hours a day for a month before a trip to Japan; I got good enough to be able to hold simple conversations with my in-laws and shop owners during the trip, but very little of it stuck later, and I had to supplement the RS lessons with kanji practice on my own.

      But if you can’t take a class with native speakers, or do immersion, for me, RS is the next best thing.

    19. Windchime*

      What language are you thinking of trying to learn? I’ve never used Rosetta Stone; just curious.

  4. Mike C.*

    Ok, here’s a question for everyone: what’s the neatest or most unusual perk you’ve ever seen a company offer to their employees at large?

    To start off, I’d have to nominate the Post Office. If you’ve ever had to wait in line, you may have seen Poster 296 – Notice of Reward. It lists a bunch of offenses that could endanger a USPS employee and a rather large reward for information leading to the capture and arrest of those involved.

    Things like robbing a post office ($10k), robbing a worker ($50k) or worse (up to $100k).

    I don’t know about you, but it would certainly inspire some loyalty from me!

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      As today it’s St Nicolas day in Europe, and an opportunity for presents if you have been good, I remember the year when all the women in the company received Hermes scarves and all the men Mont Blanc leather wallets.

    2. Emily K*

      My company allows employees with 5+ year tenure to take up to six months as an unpaid sabbatical. Although you give up your salary for the duration, all your benefits continue and at the end of your sabbatical your job is still waiting for you. This benefit/perk is very common in academia but my current company is the only place I’ve ever seen this benefit outside the ivory tower.

        1. Emily K*

          Does your company have a minimum years worked to earn this benefit? My company has many people who have been here 5, 10, or more years, and I personally find the sabbatical benefit to be strong enticement to stay for at least 5 years!

          I think it’s an interesting benefit precisely for this reason, because it seems designed to encourage people to stick around long enough to get comfortable. And of course, there will always be plenty of people who don’t stay for 5 years, and it still requires considerable savings to get through those six months without a salary, which means that the company isn’t burdened with having to fulfill this benefit very frequently but still looks very magnanimous for providing it!

          1. literateliz*

            Yup, it’s 5 years for us too. I always figured the reasoning was to avoid losing folks who might otherwise quit to go on an around-the-world adventure or do something else meaningful, and since I’m in a fairly creative industry (publishing) I think it can fuel inspiration, which is good for people’s work! I see this idea a lot in smaller things the company does too–taking “field trips” to eg a bookbinding museum for the production department or a restaurant for the people who work on cookbook titles, or providing free museum admission.

      1. Meredith*

        My boyfriend’s company does that, too! We’re just starting to plan the first leg of it in Europe, this summer. He can break his 4-week sabbatical benefit into two 2-week chunks. His company, you receive the benefit every five years you work there. It’s a medical software company.

      2. tcookson*

        I work at a university, and I’ve always wished the staff could get the sabbatical (we call it off-campus duty assignment) perk as well as the faculty. Of course, the faculty actually have to be doing research while they’re on OCDA and they have a report due within a certain time frame upon their return. But I could take off work with a six-month subscription to and come back as an Excel ninja!

      3. Anon scientist*

        For 20 years, we get a 3- month PAID sabbatical. Of course, who knows if I’ll be there for that long… Or the company will.

          1. fposte*

            I was guessing that it might be from the “badger” in your name–lot of paper products from the Badger State.

            1. Amy*

              Green Bay is the toilet paper capital of the world – not just beer, Packers and cheese! (Although those rank pretty important as well.)

    3. Joey*

      Four Seasons used to offer free meals during shifts, $1 dry cleaning all the time, and 50/night (or something really cheap like that)at any four seasons in the world when I worked there.

      My current job does 10% of the annual savings of any implemented idea (up to $10k.). The only caveat is the idea can’t be part of your normal job.

      When I worked at Pizza Hut I thought the coolest perk ever was free pizzas to take home at the end of the night.

      1. Ellie H.*

        Those all sound like fantastic perks! Did you get sick of pizza? I worked at a frozen yogurt place in high school and got very sick of frozen yogurt, ice cream etc. (That eventually wore off, thankfully.)

        1. Joey*

          Never. It was fun to try out some of the weirder stuff we could make: barbecue pizza, pizza with the crust so crispy it was like a cracker, calzones, jalepeno breadsticks, chocolate pineapple pizza, a 6ft long pizza

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            I worked at a pizza place in high school and we, too, used to get creative with our free pizzas. My favorite was pastrami and dill pickle.

      2. T*

        I was going to post something similar. I worked at a Westin. We got free meals, discount drycleaning (plus we dropped off & picked up at work — uniformed employees got their uniforms cleaned for free), and nice discounts on hotel stays. One of my favorite perks, though, were at our Christmas parties (always in January) and other events. Our sales department did trade-outs with other businesses, so we had regular drawings for prizes. I got free hotel stays, restaurant gift certificates, a free spa day, and similar nice prizes over the years.

      3. tcookson*

        I used to work at a convenience store/deli/ice cream shop, and we were allowed to eat any of the non-prepackaged items without any limitations. The coolest thing to me, though, was that the boss told us that if anyone came in and said they couldn’t afford to eat, we could let them do some small task and fix them a meal (the store was in an area where a few homeless people passed through; not in the main area of town where they mainly were, but it was en route between the downtown and some wooded-area encampments). I only got to give that perk a couple of times, but I was glad to work at a place where the boss had already considered the possibility and gave his blessing for us to be generous if asked.

      4. Chinook - Chocolate Teapot Social Coordinator*

        When I worked a Tim Hortons (a coffee chain), we got free 2 cups of coffee to go at the end of a shift and half price food (it used to you could get any extra donuts from the shift but too many people were making too many donuts at the beginning of their shift so they could take them home). When you consider that donuts are $1 or less, a 50 cent donut is a very good deal!

        And a sign of how good the coffee is is that most employees would leave with 2 cups of coffee even after brewing it all day.

        1. Jake*

          People say that Tim’s makes good coffee, but I just don’t get it. It’s very acidic and has very little rich coffee aroma/flavour. It’s just sour hot water with a dash of bitterness. Ugh.

    4. BG*

      Paid, paid vacation. The company gives employees $1,200 to use to pay for a vacation, and you still get to use PTO.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      Potatoes! I worked as a geek for a corporate farm, and we were always getting potatoes, onions, apples, and occasionally other produce. I didn’t even know that I liked apples until then, because my mum had always bought red delicious, which are mushy apples with thick, bitter skin (but have good marketing!) I also didn’t realize how nice the perks were until I moved to another job and discovered that I needed to buy potatoes.

      1. Lillie Lane*

        I get free apples, too :). And they’re the best varieties….HC, Nittany, Pink Lady, Fuji, Cameo.

      2. life's a beach*

        my Ex and his father both worked for a meat company. We got free prime rib roasts and hamburger. After my ex left the company, it was a huge shock to see the price of meat at the market.

      3. Windchime*

        They’re only mushy if they’re not fresh. Red Delicious are….well, delicious….if you get them fresh off the tree. But they don’t really keep well, so I can see why they’ve kind of fallen out of fashion in favor of apples like Pink Lady and Gala.

    6. TychaBrahe*

      Well, it’s not exactly a perk, but my sister is a art professor at a midwestern university.

      Every other year she teaches a course in her artistic discipline that is held in a major European city. Her travel and lodging for a month are paid for, plus she is paid salary, as she is working. Every time I am sent off to do training and spend a weekend doing training in some warehouse in the middle of nowhere, I am amused by the disparity of our traveling situations.

    7. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Well, the weird perk for my weekend job at a flower stand is that I get free bread. The flower stand and the bread stand are right next to each other in this indoor market where I work, and the bread place only sells bread made that day. So at the end of the shift, all the nearby stalls get free, nice bread and rolls if they want it.

      I don’t get free flowers. I do get a nice discount, though.

    8. Colette*

      The company I work for donates money to non-profit organizations their employees work for. So if I volunteer X hours for an organization (which I do), the organization gets $Y. It’s made my volunteer work easier, because we’re no longer short on funds all the time.

    9. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      My brother-in-law just started at a new tech startup. The most unusual perq he’s getting is a housecleaning service twice a month (2 hours each visit). My sister is THRILLED.

    10. Nyxalinth*

      Usually most of my perks have involved free food and the occasional free bus pass. I think the weirdest/lousiest I had was when I worked for the dreaded Video Professor (I didn’t stay long, because while their business practices were legal, they weren’t ethical) we got free copies of their crappy CDs and upsell items. Yay?

      Mind, the one for Excel was quite good. Wish I still had it!

    11. Beebs*

      I worked at Marie Callendar’s one summer and took home pies every night. Mmm, pies. The Fifth Avenue was the best.

      (Also, just spent five minutes seeing if it’s “perk” or “perq.” The interwebs mostly say perk, so I lose.)

      1. Arvil*

        Not sure if it’s a ‘perk’ per se, but one of the things I like most about my retail job is that staff are encouraged to carry out random acts of kindness.
        Throughout the year, every staff member can choose one customer per week to give any product to – telling them upfront it’s a gift or just slipping it into their bag to discover at home (along with a note explaining why they have this extra item!). It’s a really nice thing to be able to do, when you’ve established a rapport with a customer or you get the sense they’re on a really tight budget or never treat themselves and so on and so forth. In December, the frequency increases to one random act of kindness per staff member per day. Everyone starts to feel very Christmassy when they know they can do a little something extra to make a deserving customer feel a bit special.

        1. Collarbone High*

          This is awesome. My local doughnut shop sometimes slips me a freebie, and it makes my day! Plus it makes me want to keep eating there, so it’s a win all around.

    12. ThatGirl*

      At current job:
      1. Free tuition for my kids, spouse, and myself (undergrad)
      2. University covers the holiday break (Christmas through New Years) and we don’t have to use vacation/sick time.

      1. tcookson*

        That’s great! At my uni, it’s 90% off undergrad tuition for myself, 50% off for my spouse and children.

        And holiday break (Christmas through New Year’s) paid without having to use vacation or sick time.

    13. AdminAnon*

      My company is loosely affiliated with the YMCA and, as such, we get free memberships to the local Y and use of the reciprocal membership program (I think it’s AWAY or something cute like that). I’m not clear on how it works for families (I’m single), but I think it’s just a small fee to add spouses and/or children.

      A friend’s company gives her free doggy daycare and overnight stays for her dogs when she is traveling and discounts the rest of the time.

      I’ve always been jealous of companies that allow pets in the office.

    14. Lomay*

      I worked at a place where if your attendance was only at 1 percent absent days a year, you got a 1 percent raise. Also, we were closed between Christmas and New Years.

  5. HeatherSW*

    Anyone have a good LinkedIn template? One of my holiday break goals is to get the Linkedin and Resume ready for post-grad job hunting.

    1. Anon*

      What do you mean by “template”? The fields are pretty self-explanatory and you can’t change LinkedIn’s layout.

        1. Brittany*

          I have read one narrative linkedin resume that was incredibly engaging. It was for a freelance writer, so it made sense in that situation. Her explanations were very brief, no wasted words.

          If you give it a try, your narrative needs to be short and conversational, I think. If you can’t nail that, stick to bullet points. It’s a lot easier to skim bullets for necessary info than a long, boring paragraph.

  6. BCW*

    Here is a question for people who hire regularly. If you know after an interview that you aren’t going to hire them, how long do you wait to inform them? I’m not saying if they are like the #2 or something, I mean you know that if they are your best current option, then you will just keep looking.

    This is of course assuming there isn’t some kind of company mandated thing where you can’t tell anyone until the other person has signed their offer letter?

    1. fposte*

      For the hires where I have latitude, I tell them at the same time according to category–those rejected prior to interview are all emailed when the interviewees are chosen, and those rejected after interview are all emailed when offers have been accepted.

      1. BCW*

        What is your reason for that? I mean, lets say you interview someone on December 1, and you know that day you won’t hire them. If you have interviews that entire week, make an offer a week later, and they take a few days to think about it, they may not accept until December 15, 2 weeks after the first person interviewed. So if you know they aren’t getting it, why do you keep them waiting that long?

        1. fposte*

          Because I almost never will know that day–our interviewees tend to be pretty competitive, and I’m not the only one with input into the decision so we need to confer appropriately before anything is official. And also because it’s a heck of a lot more efficient for us, and because our candidates often know one another and I don’t want hierarchies of treatment to appear.

        2. Jessa*

          Unless you’re not hiring because they’re lousy (and not because you may have better candidates) I wouldn’t notify til I had a person in place.

    2. BausLady*

      I wait 2 days. I feel like letting them know too early can seem like you didn’t put any thought into it at all. But I don’t want them to sit around too long anxious about a job they’ll never get, either.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree, but if your hiring process is fairly slow and you can’t notify until an offer is made, I think you should be responsive to follow-ups. Even if all you can tell the person is “We haven’t made a decision yet,” we all know how annoying it is to follow up and hear nothing.

          Just my opinion, since I don’t do any hiring, from the job seeker’s POV.

          1. fposte*

            In general, we get a yes within 24 hours of the offer and the offer comes during the week of interviewing, so other people are notified pretty quickly. We did once have a dithering first choice and a very strong second choice, and we stayed in contact with the second choice after rejecting the others, which was good because we ended up hiring the second choice.

        2. Jamie*

          Making them wait is mean, but many wouldn’t take it well if they got a rejection letter hit their phone whilst driving home from the interview. I think the next day is the way to go if you know for sure they are completely out of the running.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      I did it during the interview once, and I told him why — I thought that his description of his past work didn’t show me a deep enough understanding of the rationale and thought process that went into the work.

      Sometimes I have had mixed feelings about a candidate, in which case I won’t say anything until I’ve discussed with other team members who also interviewed the same person. This might take a day or two to happen. If they felt the same way, then we’ll tell our recruiter to let the person know very quickly (as soon as we’ve decided). But sometimes they see something I didn’t, which is why I don’t want to tell the candidate no until I’ve talked to the other interviewers.

      1. Wilton Businessman*

        If I talk to a candidate and think there might be somebody better out there, it’s a No.

    4. AnonHR*

      We send the notices on Fridays, so once we know it’s a definite “no” the candidate finds out within 1 week.

    5. VictoriaHR*

      Usually within 24 hours. I don’t like to send the rejection right away – don’t want someone getting it before they even get home – but I don’t like to keep them waiting either.

    6. Anonymous*

      The interesting thing is that I don’t tell them, Staffing does. I tell Staffing the same day, but I don’t know how quickly they pass on the news.

      Good question – I’ll have to go find that out.

  7. Trixie*

    How can you help pay it forward once you’ve landed that new job? I like to think folks will feel inspired to help others in their search. Direct connections may be tough to offer but than there’s always helping with interview practice, offering suggestions on their materials, sharing AAM’s archive. Imagine if each of us were able to help three others, and then they were able to help three others, and so on.

    1. Mike C.*

      That’s not a bad idea actually. I think the best thing we can do is remember how much it sucked while looking for work, and make sure we don’t do the things other people did to us that was insensitive.

      1. Trixie*

        Exactly. Having been in the same market, who can better empathize with what someones else is going through?

        1. Anna*

          I had a really interesting/neat experience a couple of weeks ago. My boss asked if I wanted to attend a networking event and I said yes, since part of my job is networking for resources for our students. I randomly got in to a discussion with a young woman there who had been job hunting forever and was there hoping to get some job leads. I asked her if she had considered a temp agency and she said that was next on her list of things, so I gave her the name of an agency that specializes in creative industries (I had worked for them at one point). Yesterday I received a LinkedIn request from one of the people at the agency with a little note that thanked me for putting the woman in touch with them. Made me happy to have helped out someone on the hunt for a job!

    2. Meg*

      I try to keep connections with other developers or like to know some skill sets. When I was looking for a new gig (while employed), my friends would often forward me listings from familiar names. Or if they were approached by a recruiter, they would pass my name along too if they think I’m a good fit, or something similar.

      I don’t try to offer ads and opportunities to people whom I know nothing about their industry. But I know a handful of Java developers, sysadmins, web designers, etc in order to accurately be able to pass along a referral of interest (for example, I’m not a Java developer, so when a recruiter comes to with Java opportunities, I say “Sorry, this doesn’t apply to my skill set/I’m not looking/etc BUT I will pass this along to someone better suited for the client’s needs.”

  8. Cathi*

    I’m finally early on this one! Yay!

    I’m curious to hear people’s experiences in changing careers–perhaps especially if they’re transitioning out of one that had a) nothing to do with their education and/or b) nothing to do with what you wanted to go into. How did you do it?

    (notably, I’m a bartender with a BA in Communications. I’m thinking about going back to school so I can get a job in an accounting field, but I spent a long time trying to figure out a way to get out of the restaurant industry and into a “real” career without having to take on more school. Didn’t think of anything)

    1. Tina*

      If you haven’t already researched grad programs, there are a variety of graduate accounting programs for people who don’t have accounting undergrad degrees, and the programs include internships. My university has such a program, and the majority of students I’ve met from that program end up with offers from their internship, regardless of their previous background.

    2. Toast*

      I’m struggling with this one myself. I got a PhD in social psychology and was hoping to land some sort of research based job when I found myself miserable as an assistant prof. Now I work for less than what an entry level postal worker makes. I can’t seem to convince those that hire that I am capable of more than what I am currently doing.

      1. Lucy*

        Toast, do you have any interest in User Experience? So many companies are investing in UX designers and research.

      2. Rana*

        You might check out the Versatile PhD site, as it specializes in that sort of thing, and has some good examples of people who made similar sorts of transitions.

        (Or you end up doing what I did, which is to freelance, as I’ve mostly given up trying to figure out how to explain to hiring managers how my skills transfer to other fields. I’m sure it could be done, but that seems to be one of the particular skills I lack.)

    3. BausLady*

      I started my career in customer service/call center management with a BA in French, and I knew that’s not what I wanted to continue to do.

      I wanted to get into HR and wasn’t quite sure how to get started. I ended up deciding to go back to school and got an MA in Human Resources. I finally made the jump, based on pure luck: my customer service background is what got me in as call centers are a huge part of our business, but the MA almost scared them away.

      One thing that was really helpful otherwise were the connections I made in my MA program. While I don’t think an advanced degree is right for every situation and can sometimes even hurt your chances, I think the networking you can do in some programs is immensely helpful.

      Are there professional organizations for accountants in your area that you can tap for connections? Maybe people there would be willing to meet with you and give you tips?

    4. Zelos*

      I did this. My degree and work experience was in chemistry, and I needed to leave, because my lab job had literally busted my shoulder.

      I was interviewing for an executive admin job at the local office of my best friend’s workplace. I wasn’t the perfect fit, but the HR person (who was my age… maybe that helped) really liked me, and asked me if I was interested in any other fields the company i was interviewing for was a consulting company, sort of). I said I was thinking about law as well. She put me in touch with an immigration lawyer she knew for an information interview. That lawyer put me in touch with an IP lawyer because she figured IP would jive with my science degree… and the IP lawyer is now one of my bosses. (I was lucky in that he was hiring, I’d no expectations about that.)

      Not a very helpful story, I think, since I was just lucky.

    5. Anoners*

      I got into my current job (in my field) through a temp office agency. Not sure if that’s an option where you live/your situation but a few of my friends have also found jobs that route. Good luck!

    6. Malissa*

      First figure out what you mean by accounting. What’s the end goal? If you just want an office job then I’d look into a certificate program to go along with your BA.
      If you are looking at doing taxes, then there’s certificates and a certification for that that only takes a couple of months.
      If your are looking at going into full-on accounting, you’ll find that most graduate programs will probably have you taking an extra year of accounting classes to get up to speed. Depending on the program it could be a 2-3 year journey. And going through a certificate program first may eliminate the need for the extra classes and it will also give you an idea where you may want to head if you are unsure about what type of accounting you want to do.

    7. AB Normal*


      Never underestimate what your experience as a bartender can bring to an accounting position. If you do pursue this line of work, make sure to network within the restaurant business in your city smart restaurant owners know the importance of good CPAs / bookkeepers, etc., and having worked in the restaurant business you’ll have a leg up in this type of role (even an accounting firm might be interested in hiring you for this very reason).

    8. Anna*

      This might not be of much use to you, but I volunteered a LOT in an industry I was interested in but had nothing to do with my education, which had nothing to do with the job I was doing when I got laid off. I had the benefit of not working while I was looking and I was able to focus entirely on the positions I was interested in doing. The six month contract job I did last year, which led directly to the job I’m doing now, are all because of the time I spent volunteering.

  9. Anonymous*

    For people who work short term contracts… how do you time your job search so you have something else lined up in time? I have a contract from now until March then I’m unemployed again and its stressful.

    1. Sydney Bristow*

      Do you get your contracts through an agency? My industry may work a little differently, but if I know a job is going to be ending ill let my agencies know a couple of weeks out the date of my expected availability and then check in once a week after that.

      1. Anonymous*

        No, not through an agency. Its a seasonal job at a resort. Most of my coworkers go on unemployment when the season ends so there’s always that, but I’d like to have an actual job.

    2. Sydney*

      I helped run a restaurant in a Spring-Summer seasonal beach town where 60% of people [in hospitality] don’t work at all during the off-season.

      Most people go back to the same place when the next season rolls around. My good people would always have a spot if they wanted. Can you talk to your boss now about coming back to your job next season?

      If it’s one of those gigs where everyone re-applies each year, start applying as soon as you can, even if it’s before the season opens. Our season kicks off with spring break and we would start hiring in late February to have our new staff ready. If your current workplace is like this, look at the other resorts and see if they have a policy about re-hiring good workers each year.

      1. Anonymous*

        I was there last season which is the only reason I’m employed now. Most people there work Dec-Mar, go on unemployment, work July and August, then go on unemployment again until the next December. :( A year round job would be ideal but that’s kind of a crazy dream.

        1. Sydney*

          Talk to your boss now about wanting to come back next season. Do your job well the rest of this year, and surely your manager will want you back. I know I would. Good luck!

        2. doreen*

          I don’t know if this will help you, but I know people who basically have two opposite seasonal jobs- they drive an oil truck during heating season and a cement truck the rest of the year , or at an amusement park and a ski resort.

          1. LD*

            Exactly this…my nephew is a fishing guide during the summer months and in winter months he works as the maintenance guy for a ski resort. The resort manager put him on a “hiatus” instead of terminating him at the end of the last winter so he didn’t have to go through the hiring process all over again this fall. He’s in his twenties and enjoying his time right now while he patches together his jobs from season to season.

          2. Anonymous*

            That’s what my coworkers all do, but it works out to about 6 months of work combined in the winter and summer, and the rest of the year on unemployment.

  10. Danielle*

    When you apply for a job you think you might really want, how do you keep your mind off of it when they have a really long hiring process? I’m going a bit crazy here. The only thing keeping me relatively sane is the fact that they let all applicants know if they’re moving on or not and I have yet to get a rejection…no news is good news right?

    1. Emily K*

      This is totally place where job searching is like dating. If you’re prone to getting clingy or coming on too strong with someone you’ve just started dating, it’s often because you’re only dating that one person so you start projecting all of your hopes for A Relationship, Generally onto This Specific Person. But if you’re dating at least two people, then you’re less invested in either one because you’re still curious to see which person has more to offer and more likely to separate out, “I’m really enjoying these romantic dinners out and evenings cuddling up with someone,” from “I’m really enjoying hanging out with Jamie.”

      Likewise, you’re just getting to know this company/job, and you’re project all of your hopes for A Job, Generally onto This Specific Job. Keep reading job abs and applying to other jobs and daydreaming about them, and you keep yourself more in the evaluating mode than the obsessive/clingy mode.

      1. Danielle*

        I have been in ‘obsessive mode’ for 30 years of my life. I’m not sure I know how to do things any other way ha ha!

        I do frequently go between wanting this job, which involves 100% travel (yay!) and leaving home to spend 24/7 with brand new people (scary for an introvert), and wanting a job where I can FINALLY move out of my parents house and use all the fun stuff (pots and pans, dishes etc.) that I’ve been collecting over the years. I kind of want both at the same time but I’m aware that it’s not possible.

        I do have other applications I’ve sent out and am waiting to hear back on but the thing is I applied for those positions because I need a job, not because I have any desire to work for these people.

        I think the main problem is I’ve been out of work for 10 months and am at home with my mother all day so I’m trying to focus on something potentially awesome so I don’t become homicidal…

    2. Yup*

      Two things — keep searching/applying, and set a mental deadline for yourself. If you keep looking at postings and sending applications, it lessens the anxiety of waiting, because you have other irons in the fire and aren’t sending all your mental energy to worrying about that one application. Also, create a point in time as the most likely time that you’d hear either way. Then tell yourself, “I’m not going to hear back from them for at least 4 weeks from now” (or whatever point seems reasonable based on what you know of their timeline) and give yourself permission to not think about it before then. That way, if you get news early — it’s a bonus.

    3. Wilton Businessman*

      Until you get another interview with them or an offer, you have to assume they’re moving on. You want to ping them a couple times to see where they are in their process, but until you get a yes, you have to keep looking. You never know where your next yes will come from.

    4. AB Normal*

      What I do in these situations, is to find something unrelated I really enjoy (say, learning a new craft, writing a blog about a favorite subject, taking pictures and learning how to enhance them with Photoshop, whatever it is).

      You’ll be surprised how easy it is to forget about that “dream job” you applied to when you are in the middle of a project you are passionate about — try that!

  11. Anonymous*

    Yay, open thread! And sorry, I don’t have anything meaningful to contribute; I just need to vent about my week.

    Anyone here familiar with PC Law? It’s an accounting/bookkeeping program designed for law firms (in case I haven’t mentioned here, I work as a legal assistant in a tiny firm).  It’s very robust and has a lot of useful/sophisticated functions, but people familiar with it can also tell you that it’s a cantankerous, unforgiving POS when it doesn’t work right.

    During the past week, I have discovered the following things:

    1) One of my files (“matters”) has disappeared. Oh, it shows up in the matters list, but I can’t call it up when I query it, fees entered to the matter disappear into the void, it’s not logged in under the client it’s supposed to be logged in under, I can’t bill it or basically do anything with it, and I can’t even delete it and start over (not that I would want to).

    2) My payables entries that have been paid and cleared from the books…have shown up as unpaid again, even though another part of the database (my banking journals in another part of the program) registered payment. Also, all the references to the matters within each entry have disappeared. This is for all vendors, and while it doesn’t apply to all payables in the history of ever, it does go back to at least May.

    3) 400 matters have an AR mismatch. Yes, 400, that is not a typo. Basically payments that’ve been entered are registering in one part of the database but not in another, so all my statements and such for the affected files are screwed, and the program thinks that items are outstanding when they’re not.

    In other words, my database is completely corrupted. And yes, this happened recently (how recent I don’t know, but last time the engineers fixed my database to pristine condition was mid September).

    The last time #3 happened, it took me two weeks to fix, because the different files got broken in different ways (i.e. for some files part A of the database was right, for some parts part B was, so I had to look up each one, find out which entry was problematic and whether A or B was right, and call up the engineers so they can remote access the program backend and manually force the entries to look right again). The last time it happened, there was only 30 files. This time, there’s 400. Not counting all the other issues, none of which can be fixed automatically; if they need to be fixed, it has to be the engineers doing it manually.

    We’re looking at rolling back the database to previous dates when the data wasn’t completely screwed, which means we can’t even use the program in the meanwhile and new entries after the restore dates will have to be manually re-entered (possibly all by me…I hope not…).

    It has not been a good week. My usual method of stress reduction is swimming to exhaustion, but because I’ve had a final exam and a term project due this week, that hasn’t been happening either. So I’ve been up to my eyeballs in stress, eating like crap, and sleeping like crap. I cannot put into words how many chocolate cookies I’ve eaten this week, and it’s still not enough. We’re also looking into what part of our setup is causing systematic errors like this (because we shouldn’t be having huge database corruption every other month), but no further word on that so far.

    Ugh, sorry for the rant. I just really need some hugs :\

    1. Ashley*

      *Hugs* I learned PCLaw in school but got a job at a large firm so I have never had to use it .. but I remember it being buggy in class! I so, SO feel your pain! I hope it gets better soon.

    2. Amanda*

      In my retail workplace a “cage” wall was built to enclose a 3 wall nook of the backroom to lock overstock electronics in. It was built with plain wood and wire so it’s referred to as the Chicken Coop.

      “A member of management is needed to the chicken coop out back.” Yea, it’s always odd to say over the walkie talkies.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Aww *HUG* I feel your pain. The database we used at Horrible Nonprofit Job was like that–it was linked, and the links would break ALL THE TIME. It ate data and generally made a nuisance of itself.

    4. Apollo Warbucks*

      That sounds really bad :( sorry you’re having to deal with that load of rubbish if it makes you feel better I’ve had similar problems with the accountancy system I support, it is awful recently someone accidentally set 7.5 million fee records to zero which tools days to fix the most recent 500 fees were not on the back up and the code to fix the ran to 800 lines. The system was put in back in 1997 and there are still bugs in the system our developers are are useless only today I needed a batch of invoices clearing from the system, I tracked down the exact batch and it took 5 email 2 phone calls and a voice mail to get it fixed, it’s typical of the terrible level of service we pay a lot of money for, seriously I could buy a house for what we pay them each year.

      That last update to the software was sent out to 4,000 people with a pretty bad bug in (time sheet software, that would not let you type in a client code) it took three more versions to get it right and when I asked them to prioritise fixing the bug they said well you’ve got a work around so it’s not business critical, and then my boss chewed me out for a rather sarcastic response, which was toned down a lot from what I first wrote.

      I’d happily scrap the contract tomorrow and go elsewhere for a system but there’s a new HR system going in at the start of next year and it’s at least 18 months to 2 years until we can do that :(

      What sort of system is it (MySQL, sql server, oracal or is it nosql database) do you host in on site and have your own technical team on staff or do you out source the whole lot if so what support contract do you have? What’s your backup set up like, and do you have a dedicated development server you can restore a back up to this will allow the comparison of the last known good data to the current data . If you post answers to these questions I’ll see what I can advise.

      If you have these problems often you should but some serious thought in to how much data are you prepared to lose and how much time are you prepared to take to get back to the position you were in before the data lose. It’s critical for the business to make the decision the fact you’re losing financial data will cost the firm real cash.

      1. Anonymous*

        Commiseration absolutely makes me feel better. :) Unfortunately, I have no idea how to begin answering your questions; I don’t know anything about databases. The reason I was usually the one doing the calling is because my time isn’t billed out to the clients so the other people have better things to do; when the scope of damage was relatively small, it was just easier (for them) to ask me to do the cross-checking and phone-tech-wrangling than having time that could be billed wasted on this. Now that it involves huge amounts of corruption and databases and other technology that is way out of my purview, one of the partners (who is also our IT whiz–we’re a tiny firm so we handle things mostly in-house, although we do outsource some VOIP stuff) is on it. He’s not happy about dumping his time on this stuff, but at least it’s out of my hair.

        I did hear him grumbling about maybe switching back to QuickBooks…so I’m hoping less awful days are on the horizon. Here’s to hoping!

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Good to hear its out of your hair, and one of the Partners has picked it up. They should point out to your tech guys that the volume of data corruption is not acceptable and there should always be away to get back to a good position. It depends on what support you’re paying for, but it sounds like what you’re getting isn’t good enough. I’d be asking for money back to cover the costs incurred because of the system faults.

          The amount of data lose your firm will accept is a trade of between the cost involved in setting up a robust system against the value of the data and cost involved in getting it reenteted. But the bare minimum is an overnight back up so you only risk one days data at most (maybe a lunch time back up as well if the database is smallish)

          Sage is surposed to be a reasonable accounting package but I’ve not had much to do with it. A section of my firm used to use a product called Elite which was very good they do a legal software as well ( which might be worth a look.

          What ever product you use make sure that you nail down the provider so they detail the backup process and explain how they go about identifying and fixing data couruption, the last thing they should saying they will do, is restore the backup over the live database, if the support team knows the product they should be able to rebuild the courupt data using the backup as a reference. Identifying the courupt data should be done by automated jobs and proactive monitoring.

    5. Sophie*

      We used to have PC Law – changed to Affinity (by Lexis Nexis) which is HEAPS better but still has its glitches.

      Commiserations. The issues sound awful.

  12. AdAgencyChick*

    Maybe an odd question, but I’m curious to see what other people have come up with: What’s your favorite workplace jargon?

    My favorite (favorite term, NOT my favorite kind of person) is “seagull.” As in, the person who isn’t involved in a project at the start, then flies in, craps all over everything, and then flies away.

    1. BCW*

      I once worked for a MAJOR theme park in Orlando (I’m sure you can figure it out). They had almost their own language. But my favorite was if someone threw up, you called it a “protein spill”. I still use that term today.

      1. Lindsay J*

        We used “Natural Causes” or, the verb, “Natural Caused” for that.

        I became proficient in ten codes from working at a theme park, and I use them at other jobs now, too. Specifically 10-17 for guest complaint, sig 20 for crazy person, sig 4 for accident, 10-7 for down or closed and 10-8 for up or open.

    2. BausLady*

      I don’t know why, but I can’t help but giggle when people talk about a ‘piece’ of a project, or solution, or problem. For instance, when discussing a timeline for a performance management system implementation: “I think we can set aside the discipline-related piece right now and focus on the merit piece.”

      There’s nothing wrong with the term in any way, I just feel like it’s flooding the landscape right now. At least it’s all over mine.

      1. Ellie H.*

        That’s interesting because it strikes me as normal English usage and not at all business jargon. I think something like this came up in an earlier thread where we bitched about jargon or trendy neologisms we hate; some things seemed like standard usage to some people yet horribly clang-y to others.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I tend to agree because I am used to hearing the word “part”, instead of “piece”. It’s wrong of me, but sometimes certain words make me think that the speaker is struggling to sound like someone else that they think is uber-professional… it makes me giggle.
        But words seem to have “fashion trends”. At one point, I noticed several people who were using a certain word. I wondered if it was their “word for the day” and they had to use it five times during the day.

        1. Windchime*

          Oh, I think that “business-y” words definitely have fashion trends. Like for awhile, we had a bunch of consultants in and they started things like using the word “ask” instead of “question”: For instance, “My ask would be “. Drove me crazy.

    3. Lindsay*

      I have a couple of gross ones related to protein spill (which is awesome). I used to work in a hotel where we used walkie talkies to communicate, and you don’t want guests overhearing anything bad.

      So, MICKEY = MOUSE. “Take care of the mickey in 403!”

      Also, in the restaurant industry, there’s CROPDUSTING. As in: a waiter has to, umm, pass gas, so he does it in someone else’s section. “Dennis hates Gary, so he’s always sure to cropdust his section.”

    4. Yup*

      Blamestorming. As in, the meeting that occurs after a project failure so everyone can get together and creatively blame the failure on someone else.

      1. Elkay*

        That one was frequently used at my old job. You didn’t want to be out of the office anywhere near a deadline or important meeting if you’d so much as looked at a project otherwise the blamestorm came up with your name.

    5. PPK*

      “Peeling the onion” is pretty popular around my parts. It’s basically debugging a problem and you don’t know how big it is. You fix a few obvious things, find another thing. Fix that, get farther, find another issue.

    6. Kelly L.*

      I love seagull!

      I’m not sure this counts, but at my old job we had “Bill.” Bill was Bill Gates, and we talked about him like he was actually there in the office whenever we had trouble with Microsoft programs. “Bill’s not cooperating on this project,” etc. I really wanted to make “Steve” catch on too, for when we had Mac trouble.

    7. Anonymous*

      lol – my husband has business school professor that everyone calls “The Pigeon” for the same reason.

    8. Amanda*

      In my retail workplace a “cage” wall was built to enclose a 3 wall nook of the backroom to lock overstock electronics in. It was built with plain wood and wire so it’s referred to as the Chicken Coop.

      “A member of management is needed to the chicken coop out back.” Yea, it’s always odd to say over the walkie talkies.

      1. Chinook*

        Your “chicken coop” is a lot like my family’s “dungeon.” We lived in a 5 level (but only 2 storey) house. Two of us kids had rooms in the basement and the dungeon was one level below that and was used for storage, a deep freezer and the furnace room. Friends always gave us a strange look when Mom would ask us a to go into the dungeon to go get a loaf of bread.

        1. tcookson*

          In my family, we have the Sanford room. It is a room between the kitchen and the garage where we set — temporarily, mind you — items that are on their way out of the house (to the attic or garage or the dump). And then they just pile up in there, so it’s like the junkyard on Sanford and Son — thus, the Sanford room.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      I love seagull. I want to start using that.

      And I can’t think of any that I like. But I do have some I hate:

      –Going forward. I prefer in the future.
      –The word utilize. It reminds me of someone I don’t like.
      –Paradigm, although I think that one has fallen out of fashion. It used to bug me though. Use a 50-cent word, people, like Mark Twain said!

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Oh my god, I could make a list of corporate-speak terms I hate a mile long. But my top pet peeves are “circle the wagons” and “ask” as a noun (though, strangely, I have gotten used to “concept” as a verb).

        1. tcookson*

          How does one use “concept” as a verb? I can see “conceptualize”, but I’m having trouble coming up with a sentence in which “concept” is the verb.

          “I concept what you’re saying.”?
          “Let’s concept about this project.”?

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I hate utilize too, because there’s no reason for that word to exist. There’s no place you can use “utilize” that you can’t just say “use.”

      3. Ann Furthermore*

        I loathe the expression “right-sourcing.” As in, “We want to make sure we have the right people in the right place doing the right things.” No, what you mean is that you want to ship work offshore where wages are cheaper to save money.

        It’s outsourcing, and calling it something else doesn’t change what you’re doing.

    10. Leslie Yep*

      Seagull is hilarious.

      My favorite jargon-y thing is “around.” It’s the only preposition that exists in my company. Let’s set a goal around X. Can we have a discussion around that next week? I need to do some thinking around this. (And you always “do thinking”, you don’t “think”. What is this place.) It gives me the mental image of consciously avoiding the topic, like going out of my way to not hit that goal or discuss that topic.

    11. Tinker*

      I really like “fish truck factor” — as in the effect on the project of someone being run over by a fish truck. Seems particularly pertinent now given how many of my coworkers favor two-wheeled vehicles.

      1. Tinker*

        Come to think, it was also kind of funny — “fish truck” is a common term, particularly in software, but at my first job we’d say “… in case Wakeen gets run over by a train.” That wasn’t a strictly hypothetical statement, as we were a research facility for the railroads and testing a system in fact involved running a train by it.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, we were always talking about being hit by a bus. A fish truck is like a taco truck — just a place to get lunch.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          LOL I always say that. “I documented that procedure in case I get hit by a bus.” Which could happen on my walks in the summer, because not all the bus drivers seem to be that great. I’ve had to duck once or twice (no sidewalk)!

          1. MaryMary*

            We used to use “hit by a bus,” but another team actually had an associate who died unexpectedly, and it seemed insensitive. So now we use “win the lottery.” As in, “I need you to document this process in case you win the lottery tomorrow and never come back to work!”

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              It’s funny how an expression can suddenly seem wrong, isn’t it? I used to use the expression “drink the Kool-Aid” quite a bit. Then a few years ago I watched a documentary made to commemorate the Jonestown Massacre in 1978. That is the first big, major, tragic news story I remember that made everyone stop in their tracks. And after I watched it, I remembered how horrible it was, and saw some interviews with people who had escaped. And suddenly, the expression “drink the Kool-Aid” was no longer amusing, and I don’t say it anymore.

              1. Anna*

                I’m with you. I think I saw the same documentary. I was so turned off by the phrase that I one point at a contract job last year I corrected someone who used it in a positive way. Another person at the meeting said, “It’s just a phrase”. I left it alone at that point, but was put off.

            2. Rana*

              Heh. I once had to fill in for a colleague who was literally hit by a bus, so I know what you mean. (Luckily she healed from her injuries fairly quickly so it became a bit of a good-humored joke, but it could have gone the other way all too easily.)

              1. Jamie*

                I call it “my proverbial bus.”

                Document because you never know – there is always that proverbial a bus.

                So either the bus is going to flatten me or I’m going to jump on it and run away…leaving the verb out makes it amusingly (to me) vague.

            3. Chinook*

              I always used “hit by a bus” until I realized my latest coworkers are in the middle of nowhere (literally – the places where they work are located by GPS). Now I reference them documenting stuff in case they ever get “ate by a bear.”

            4. NylaW*

              We used “hit by a bus” until someone who worked at our hospital actually got hit by a school bus while she was crossing the street.

    12. Anne*

      Not a piece of jargon, but a Yiddish word which I find very useful: farpotshket.

      It means “completely broken, because someone tried to fix something minor.”

    13. srmanager*

      Thud factor: The sound made by a large report or document when dropped on a desk or table from a height.

    14. Claire*

      I love these. My partner often interrupts me when I talk about work at home to say “that’s not a real word.”

      There are a lot of course corrections, ideates, let’s socialize this’s, synergies, field forces and more at my office.

    15. Anon for this*

      As a writer from a British background, I call it the thirteenth fairy syndrome, after all those fairy tales in which the fairy who doesn’t get an invitation to the christening lays a curse on the baby princess.

    16. Trillian*

      Where I work – a hospital – we have codes blue, pink, yellow, white, orange, red, black, brown, grey, green, and purple. You need a scorecard to keep track.

        1. MaryMary*

          My brother was briefly hospitalized this summer, and it cheered him up to know end imagining what a code brown was.

      1. Joey*

        I remember my wife telling me there’s a color code for when someone craps during surgery and everyone freaks out.

    17. CeeBeeUK*

      I used to run conferences and slow sessions (where we needed to redirect people trying to get into full rooms) were called turtles. ‘We have a turtle in Room 101).

    18. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      My favorite ever was probably my first fast food job, where the bun warmer was called the Henny Penny. Because that was the brand name of the bun warmer, for some reason. It’s just fun to say.

      One that’s weird to me is that, pretty universally in every job I’ve ever worked that had one, large refrigerators are called Walk-Ins. As in, “go grab some lettuce from the walk-in.”

      But it’s *only* refrigerators… most of those places also had a large walk-in freezer, which was called The Freezer.

      1. doreen*

        “My favorite ever was probably my first fast food job, where the bun warmer was called the Henny Penny. Because that was the brand name of the bun warmer, for some reason.” I think the company was named for the Henny Penny we had where I worked- it was a pressure fryer used for chicken.

      2. tcookson*

        We always said “Walk in that walk-in . . . ” as in, “Walk in that walk-in and get some lettuce.”

        And yes, the walk-in was always the fridge, not the freezer.

    19. Sascha*

      I love seagull, that is hilarious! This one is not my favorite, actually it’s my most irksome at the moment: “evangelist” as a job title. Like “mobile evangelist.” Basically just trying to make “marketer” or “salesperson” sound more exciting, like they will provide you with a mind-blowing religious experience.

      1. fposte*

        Ah, to go with “rockstar,” “ninja,” and “sherpa,” I guess. Has anybody called themselves a [whatever] Messiah yet?

      2. tcookson*

        I haven’t heard “evangelist” used that way before. At my university department, the architects who practice and have some degree of renown for that are referred to as “rock stars”. And I did use the term “office ninja” rather broadly while persuading my boss to spring for a year’s subscription to for me.

      3. Windchime*

        We have some people at work who seemed to be enamoured by a certain contractor we are using. One of the managers referred to this contractor as “Justin Bieber”. So now whenever we see coworkers entranced by a concept or person, we call it “Justin Bieber Syndrome.” We’re not above sending an email (within the team) with a serious-sounding subject line, only to have them open it up to find it contains a pensive picture of Justin. It’s kind of the business version of Rick-Rolling someone.

    20. MaryMary*

      My last company used to refer to the role or department you started in as where you “grew up.” For example, “Yes, I’m the account manager, but I grew up in programming so you don’t need to simplify it for me.”

      1. Sascha*

        That kind of bugs me. Like they are the type of company who considers themselves “family” and will treat you as such, for better or worse (usually worse).

        1. MaryMary*

          I think it’s more that the company had several proprietary systems and a fairly focused area of expertise, so that all of our middle managers and nearly all of the senior managers had been with the company since they were entry-level hires. It was very difficult to bring an outside person into a manager level. People had worked at the company for 20, 30 years, and to an extent had literally grown up there.

    21. Dani*


      I’m a librarian in a public library and I find that library staff have strong views on patron v. customer. I don’t call them customers because they’re not buying anything, and patron is just what I’ve heard the most.

      The funny part is when patrons refer to themselves as “patrón”, pronounced like the tequila. I laugh every time.

      1. MaryMary*

        A lot of companies are weird about how you refer to the people who work there. Employees, associates, colleagues, etc. I had a client who referred to their workforce as “team members” and heaven help you if you accidentally called them employees.

        1. Chinook*

          I had to laugh when my husband told me that, as a police office, he has to refer to the people he deals with officially as “clients” regardless of whetehr or not they are in handcuffs.

        2. LD*

          I recall working in HR as an employee development specialist when my company decided to start referring to employees as “associates” instead. So they decided our titles needed to change to “associate development specialist.” They decided not to make that title change after some of us complained that our titles would sound like we associated with specialists who did development and not like we were the actual specialists.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I thought the definition of patron included *usage* of services, not just paying for them.

        BTW the “patrón” part is hilarious.

      3. SD*

        Heh, “patrón”! I’m also library-ish and have worked in several libraries where the accepted terminology is “user” rather than “patron”, I suppose short for “library user” or “information user”, but I still think it’s sort of awkward.

    22. Marina*

      My favorite was when I was working with a youth mentoring program and we referred to each contact with a youth as a “touch”. As in, “Has this youth had ten touches this month yet?” So. Creepy.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        The same term is used in politics… if you knock on a door and talk to a person, that’s a touch. If you call them, another touch. If they saw the ad on TV, that’s a touch. I’d bet there are many industries that use it (which of course doesn’t make it less creepy).

    23. Meg*

      Anyone who sits in on a meeting just to see the meeting and not participate/not involved = Chicken.

      Our customer servicing website is referred to as EMWE (“em-way”), which stands for Extreme Makeover Website Edition.

      We (… I) use memes all the time.

      If you say you spent the last 30 minutes banging your head on your desk, it means you were working for 30 minutes with no significant progress.

    24. Beebs*

      I love “segull!” So useful. And exactly the opposite of what you asked, but I hate “granular,” “drill down,” and “40-thousand foot level.” I don’t know why. Sometimes I accidentally use them and then I slip into self-loathing for a few minutes.

    25. ThatGirl*

      Way back in the day when I worked in a Mexican restaurant, we called the little covers that you put on the handle of the hot fajita skillets, condons (the spanish word for condoms).

      It was always hilarious when new people started working there.

    26. Apollo Warbucks*

      I look after a practice management system which is shortened to PMS. It always makes me laugh a little, especially come the end of the month when everyone is trying do things all at once and the system melts down

      My old job was in banking and sometimes cheques and credits got confused and processed the wrong way round, they were called gender benders.

      I went to an over view of some new HR software with several colleagues and when explaining the management structure the guy leading the training kept talking about units and members which lead to a lot if penis jokes.

      1. tcookson*

        I was on a new product committee for the purchasing department of a natural foods warehouse, and some of the nut oils were described as being made from “cold-pressed nuts”. We were six adults snickering like we were in a Beavis and Butthead episode.

    27. Windchime*

      We have a job-scheduling software that we are implementing, and it can schedule jobs on parallel threads. There is a GUI for each thread called a “worker”. Occasionally one of these threads will need to be stopped (or killed) if the process stalls out. So on our board where we track things like system uptime, we have a section where we also track, “Days since Worker Killed”. We get a kick out of it, but it tends to shock passers-by.

  13. Paulus*

    With resumes and applications, is it advisable to make a brief mention of why there are certain employment gaps (one for medical reasons and another having difficulty getting work after getting let go fairly early at one job [which is not listed on my resume, though I put it on applications])? The medical one, since it stretches across a year (June-April, though it is slightly more complicated than all that), is pretty unavoidable to notice on a resume and currently I don’t have anything on a resume showing a reason for the employment gap.

      1. ChristineSW*

        Especially multi-year gaps brought on by severe career confusion?? (I have been volunteering though).

        1. Anna*

          If you’ve been volunteering regularly with one or two organizations during the unemployed phase, that’s not technically a gap and should go on your resume.

    1. COT*

      Alison’s written a lot about this. In my opinion, I’d skip the explanation if the gaps were a long time ago and/or your experience overall is solid and long-term. If you do explain the gaps, I’d keep it to one sentence in my cover letter so the background stories don’t become a distraction (no one wants to hear a stranger’s medical sagas or layoff stories). Wording it well will show your discretion and professionalism.

      1. the gold digger*

        That’s what I did with my resume – I was laid off, met my husband, got married, and returned to work six years later. I just mention the layoff and then say I returned to work when my husband decided to run for state-level office.

  14. Dana*

    I know there are lots of librarians on this site, so my question is addressed to them in particular and to anyone else more generally.

    My husband has applied for a liaison librarian position at the local university – a position that will work with profs/students in a department much different than what his undergrad is in. However, he has a ton of interest/self-learned knowledge in this department’s subject matter.

    My question, then, is how much weight do university libraries put on your previous studies when hiring for liaison librarian positions? Or do they more want to know about the library jobs he’s had/what he can bring to the position? Also, any tips would be appreciated! Thanks :)

    1. Lindsay*

      I’m not a capital-L Librarian yet, but I’m a staff person in an academic library with my MLIS.

      I had brunch with a librarian last week that encouraged me to apply for liaison librarian positions that I don’t have a background in, like the sciences. He said that they would rather have a good librarian with little to no science background than a good scientist with no librarian skills. He considered the non-science librarian more “trainable.”

      If it helps, librarian search committees take a person’s cover letter and resume/CV and carefully compare them to the job posting. They give a score for each bullet point listed in the job application. Top scoring applicants get interviews. So, best advice is to CAREFULLY tailor the letter and resume to the job posting. If the search committee doesn’t see a skill on paper, it doesn’t exist, and they’ll insinuate nothing.

    2. Anoners*

      Ah, academic librarian, the “dream” job ! Firstly, congrats for your husband for getting the interview! Even getting an interview for this kind of position is rare (at least in my city). From my experience, these jobs tend to put more weight on actually having experience in an academic library role over anything else. Having a degree in the specific field would probably be helpful, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker (of course it depends on who is actually doing the hiring). He got an interview without having the applicable degree, so I’d take that as a sign that it’s not a problem. Good luck to him, I hope he gets it!

    3. Zed*

      The position description can be a really good clue! Recent liaison librarian job postings at my library have required a graduate degree in a related field. Unfortunately, in that case, your husband would have been filtered out almost right away, because in academia required means required!

      Candidates who do have the educational background in that field are always going to look more attractive, though. For example, a library where I used to work recently advertised a social science librarian position. The position required at least an undergrad degree in a social science field, but the “preferred qualifications” included a grad degree. They hired someone with an MLIS and a PhD in a social science field.

      If a degree in or familiarity with the liaison field is only preferred, or not mentioned at all, then there is a good chance they will be willing to consider someone who can show that they are a good librarian with a lot to offer and the ability to learn what they need to know. (As a liaison librarian they will be expected to master the relevant databases, conduct bibliographic instruction sessions, provide in-depth research consultations to faculty and graduate students, purchase monographs, etc, etc.)

  15. Christina*

    A follow-up question on something posted last week about pay schedules–a friend works in IT support, he’s currently in a contract-to-hire role. He’s hourly, and paid by the temp company, but they hire an outside company to do payroll. This outside company gives him pay stubs every two weeks, but he only actually gets a deposit with his money once a month. This is all in Illinois.

    After reading the comments on question 1 here, I wonder if this is legal since he is not salaried. I know IT has some particularly funny rules about defining roles, but this seemed odd to me. (also funny as they mentioned that they would hold his first paycheck, the same way the question-asker in that post was describing–turned out to be just an awkward way to explain how the pay periods are scheduled)

    1. Colette*

      Getting pay stubs without actually getting paid seems weird to me – and I wonder whether they’re attempting to get around a “you must pay every 2 weeks” law without actually complying. (I have no idea if there is such a law in Illinois, but otherwise I have no idea what would drive that.)

    2. fposte*

      From what I can see in the Illinois law, and it says you have to get paid “semimonthly” if you’re hourly unless you’re an exempt employee. You can be paid hourly and be exempt, so presumably that’s what they’re considering him–he’s just getting an extra stub in the middle for some reason.

      Whether he really should be exempt or not is another question–IT is often exempt but not always.

      1. Christina*

        As far as I can tell, he’s not exempt–he’s not a programmer or analyst, for instance, which seems to be the most common example of the hourly-but-exempt. He does front-line help desk support for other employees–troubleshooting hardware, software, building computers, etc.

        Also when I asked him what they’ve told him about overtime: “I was told that overtime was very rarely issued, and when it is, it is compensated by ‘comp time’ rather than money.”

        “Something fishy” indeed, but this is also a brand new job after 6 months of searching and I know he doesn’t want to risk losing it.

        1. Wren*

          If this is the US and it isn’t a government, comp time instead of OT is illegal. And if you are paid hourly instead of salaried, you can’t be exempt. You can be hourly non-exempt, salaried non-exempt, or salaried exempt only.

          1. Christina*

            Yep, in the US and non-government.

            If he were to take this up with anyone, any suggestion on who it should be and how to say it? I assume he should contact the contracting company/agency, not the company he’s contracted to? Should he wait until they (hopefully) hire him outright in a few months and then say something?

          2. fposte*

            You can actually be paid hourly and be exempt, I believe. It’s just more complicated, because you have to have a “guaranteed minimum” pay and can’t lose pay for time off (so basically it’s salaried work but the pay is treated in hours). I don’t know why anybody’d do it that way, but it’s technically possible.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      From the angles of accounting purposes, tax purposes, bookkeeping purposes, I cannot not see how this can be even legal. The pay stub is a fake document. No such monies were paid out.
      I wonder if they are trying to lower the amount of taxes that are taken out of people checks. My greater concern is that someone is playing with the books.
      Do the two pay stubs match the monthly deposit total?
      It sounds like your friend has direct deposit. Can he cancel the direct deposit and ask for the actual check?
      The last time I heard of something remotely similar was because the company was robbing Peter to pay Paul in order to meet payroll. Money was shuffled from one account to another as it was needed.
      My second step (after canceling direct deposit) would be to go to my own bank and speak with a manager type person to find out if this was an acceptable practice in my area. (If your friend does this, I want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.)

  16. Same Boat*

    In another posting, I mentioned having a friend I can vent with regarding unemployment. Someone else posted that it would be helpful if she could do that too. So, here’s an “Official” Unemployment Posting. If you’re unemployed, underemployed and need to get another job, need a second job to make ends meet, etc. COME ON IN!! Let’s talk.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m so underemployed I might as well be unemployed! I’m only working three shifts between now and Christmas. Yay poverty!

    2. Lillie Lane*

      Thanks for inviting us to the party, Same Boat. My vent for the day: I am underemployed, no benefits, and my disgusting pig of a boss is deathly ill and spreading germs all over the office. I have asked him to go home because my coworker is pregnant and I have no health insurance. He has refused, because he “has too much work to do.”. Never mind that his “work” involves stalking he hallways, complaining about problems he has created.

      I hope you find something soon!

      1. Same Boat*

        Your boss is an ass and then some Lillie! I hope neither you nor your pregnant co-worker get sick because of this guy.

        I have a job right now, but it’s not enough to really pay the bills. I’m staying afloat because I was able to defer my student loans due to economic hardship and I quit paying for my health insurance this month (I was self-insured). I haven’t had steady employment with a decent paycheck since April of this year, when I was laid off. So I’m needing to find something solid that preferably provides health insurance too.

        It’s hard out there. Really hard. I’m looking at taking on a second job shortly. Putting the app in today. It’s a minimum wage thing, but it’s near my apartment so I’m hoping that will come through. I also pick up some extra money each week with a small pet-sitting job I do. So, I’m not destitute, but I really need to find one job that is steady with a regular schedule that can pay the bills.

          1. Same Boat*

            Thanks Lillie Lane, I’m doing what I can as I know we all are. It’s not easy and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to start this thread. The emotional support is so important when you’re fighting the uphill battle of trying to find employment that supports you.

      2. Danielle*

        Laid off 10 months ago, 30 years old, living with parents (great for $$, not for sanity).
        Not only do I have to deal with not having a job and trying to find something (hopefully one that will get me out of here) but I also have to deal with my mother telling where I should be applying including the company that laid me off even though I said I’d rather jump off a cliff. Apparently my mental health is nowhere near as important as the monthly rent cheque she used to get before I was jobless.

        1. Same Boat*


          I am so sorry about living with emotionally unsupportive parents. That is so incredibly difficult. Unemployment is already hard, you don’t need people in your face telling you what you should be doing. :(

          1. Danielle*

            Thanks so much! It’s nice to have someone who gets it! It doesn’t help that my mother has been a stay at home mom since my brother was born (he’s 33!). So while she thinks she knows what she’s talking about, she really doesn’t. I’ve mastered the art of tuning out.

            1. Dang*

              Hey there. I’m out of work and moved back in with my folks and around the same age. Never in my wildest dreams, even though my baseline is a little more negative than positive, did I imagine I’d still be unemployed and not well on my way to moving out again.

              And while my parents are great, they can’t help themselves from being over involved and injecting one too many opinions for my liking.. So I hear you.

              1. Jamie*

                Shoes. When my mom was alive she was very conscious of not wanting to intrude or make anyone uncomfortable once we were grown …but she knew how easy it is to cross the line …so her rule was if she ever started to pry or overstep boundaries we’d change the subject abruptly to “where did you get those shoes?”

                It was our code to change the subject without having to say mind your own business in words.

                It worked even when barefoot.

    3. Tris Prior*

      This is a dumb question, but: I need to get a second job but have irregular hours at my first job. I can’t get my head around how I would coordinate that.

      Do you wait until you have your schedule for your first job and then tell your second job when you can work? What if you don’t get a lot of notice about your first job’s schedule? I know people do this all the time but I just can’t figure out how it works logistically.

      1. Same Boat*

        This can be a difficult thing. I always give more latitude in scheduling to the job that pays more. What I’m doing with the second job (if I get it) is scheduling it around the first one. I think the best thing to do with second jobs is to schedule them at a time when you aren’t working the first one at all, if you can. So for example you might have a night job and a day job. Also, someone else mentioned this in another posting somewhere on AAM, but they said something about taking a second job as a pizza delivery driver where you work nights. I think that can be a good idea because you can work a day job and the tips you get as a delivery driver can sometimes make up for the min. wage salary they usually pay. So that’s an idea too.

        1. Tris Prior*

          Yeah, I don’t want to jeopardize my actual career-job (which, though poorly paying, I really love!). But I work 10-hour days there (so evening jobs are out unless I find something that’s OK with me not starting until 7 p.m.) and it’s not always the same days each week. I am kicking myself for not picking up a holiday retail job, but since my “real job” sometimes asks me to come in on a weekend, I didn’t see how that’s going to work….

          No car, unfortunately, so pizza delivery is no good. The only thing I can think of is doing overnights? Like, stocking shelves or something? But I’m old enough that I can’t do all-nighters any more and I don’t want to be falling asleep and making stupid errors at my primary job. ugh.

    4. Briggs*

      To tide me over during my search for a *real* job, I took a serving at a nice little Italian restaurant down the road. At first, they told me I’d be getting 6-7 shifts per week, which would make me full time, ad for the first two weeks I got just that. Then this week’s schedule came out … 4 shifts. Sigh. Cross your fingers for me that I find something more stable soon!

    5. Anon*

      *raises hand* Only two interviews in the entire year I’ve been job searching (after I applied AAM’s advice), and savings that will only last ’till the end of the year.

  17. Parker*

    My small office is relocating to a new space. We found an old house around the corner for our current offices and have signed the lease. There is a parking issue at the new space and some of us will be forced to park on the street or across the street in an empty lot (jay walking required).

    Should I be worried about my car being on this busy street? What is someone hits it or breaks in? Could I hold my work responsible?

    1. Jen in RO*

      Is this that unusual in the US? Around here (crowded capital city), getting an official parking spot is a welcome perk, but most people just park wherever they can. And if someone hits/breaks your car… well, you’d better have insurance :)

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        No, it’s not unusual. Some companies offer parking as a perk (or happen to have a free parking lot, like at a retail story), but it’s something I would generally be pleasantly surprised by rather than something I’d expect.

        1. TychaBrahe*

          Depends where you live.

          In Southern California, parking was a given, to the point that when we moved our offices downtown and it no longer was a given, we were given $90 toward monthly marking costs, the same amount as the Air Quality Management District mandated reimbursement for those who used public transportation.

          In Chicago, parking is NOT a given. It costs $15/day to park in our building, $26 if you don’t make it into the lot by 8 am, and $36 if you stay past 8 pm. Needless to say, I take the bus to work.

      2. Harriet*

        Same here. The only reason my last job offered parking was because it was just on the outskirts of the city and so there was more space available. Working closer to the centre? Forget about it. I’d guess it does tend to be different in the US because their populations are so much less dense that generally, people have to drive or they can’t get anywhere.

        1. Jen in RO*

          I didn’t drive for 10 years because I was terrified. Now… I got used to it, I just put on a podcast and tune out the idiots. I might be starting to enjoy it! Parking though… I suck at it and I’m very happy that my new job has a small parking lot I can get into if I’m not late for work.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Ditto, here. I worked at a low paying job with a parking lot. It was pretty much routine to get new dents and scratches. I only ran over a nail once, so I was luckier than some of my coworkers. Yeah, I had to take it on the chin basically.
        Lock your car. Put your valuables out of sight, and all that good stuff.

    2. John*

      Many people have to find parking outside of company lots. That’s on the employee. Any really, how often do parked cars get side-swiped on the street? (Other posters may tell me I’d be surprised!)

      In fact, if your car got rammed in a company lot, that would be a matter between you and the other driver, right, no company involvement.

      1. Parker*

        I supposed I’m frustrated because we have parking spots now in a secure lot, which we won’t have when we move. I’ve seen several wrecks on this street where we’ve moving! One lately with a car ramming into a parked car. I will suck it up and cross my fingers, though.

        1. Zed*

          You said the new space is around the corner from your current office–can you not just park in the secured lot and walk over?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Almost every place I’ve ever worked has had its own parking lot. But if you’re in a house converted into commercial space in a semi-residential neighborhood, the lack of one would not be unusual. We have streets downtown here where this is the case, although some of the businesses have forgone the backyard portion of the lot and put in parking for employees.

    4. Sydney*

      Can you get to work earlier to ensure you have a good choice in parking spaces?

      That’s what I would do because I don’t like to park on the street (any street). My car’s color is kind of a blueish-green that almost looks like our sky. During the right weather conditions, my car totally blends into the background of the world and people DO NOT SEE it. At all. My poor car has been hit so many times. Parked, not parked. Driving, not driving. At a stop light. At a four-way stop sign. On the highway. One time, my beer distributor backed into my car in our restaurant parking lot.

      If you don’t have one of those accident-magnets, I wouldn’t worry as much about parking. But if you do…

  18. LMW*

    There’s a better than 50 chance I’ll be laid off before the end of the month. I’ve read Alison’s articles on it, and I have a mental list of questions to ask if it comes down to it, but I’d love to hear from those of you who have been laid off what you wish you’d thought to do before if happened. And, if I’m safe but my coworkers are let go, what can I do besides reaching out to contacts, offering to be a recommendation (assuming I’d endorse their work) etc.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    1. Colette*

      – Add your coworkers on Linked In now, so you can track them down later.
      – Make sure your finances are in order and, if you might need a line of credit to make it through a stint of unemployment, apply now while you’re still employed.
      – Clean up your computer – make sure you delete anything you don’t want left on there, and share any information that might be needed by the people who are left.
      – Make lists of your accomplishments and e-mail them to yourself at home so you can add them to your resume
      – Start networking – because if there’s a 50% chance you’ll be laid off, it doesn’t sound like you’ll have much job security even if you’re not let go immediately.

      1. Anon*

        Depending on your field (especially if you’re creative):

        -BACK UP YOUR FILES! I was laid off so fast and so suddenly that I didn’t have time to make jpegs of the work that had been published publicly while I worked there and it was extremely frustrating trying to track everything down.
        -Prepare yourself mentally. No matter how sure you are it’s coming, you’re not sure how the staff is going to handle it and it may happen in a not-so-considerate way.
        -Be nice to everyone. It helps when it comes to recommendations and references.

          1. Ruffingit*

            I’m guessing she means backing up the work you did for your portfolio so you can show that to prospective employers.

          2. Anon*

            It’s a grey area, I think. If I, say, design packaging at a retail store that I can go and just pick up the product and take a picture of it, how is it any different than using a .jpeg that’s of said design? Ruffingit has my meaning right. :)

            1. Wilton Businessman*

              In the typical employer/employee relationship, it’s not grey at all. You work for me, I own everything you do. As an independent contractor, it’s a little more grey but it depends on your contract.

              Wonder if your writing sample has proprietary information? What if your graphic design is my company logo? I own that. You show that to somebody else, I can sue you.

              That being said, that is certainly one of the things you can negotiate as your exit package – permission to use the work in a non-commercial setting such as a portfolio.

              1. Elysian*

                I mean, in some industries I’m sure this could be problematic, but in others it really isn’t a problem. I don’t think you can say “They’re not your files.” with no caveat.

                Most of the writing I do is in the public domain. It just costs me 10 cents a page to download from said public domain location, and then it is harder to redact confidential client information from. So really, I would just want a word file because it would be cheaper and easier to use. I’m sure that Ruffingit and Anon’s motives are equally benign and that most people who have to provide work samples regularly know of the sticking points in their industry for doing so.

                You’re right though that’s its always good to remember that you might need to ask for permission for some types of work.

                1. Ruffingit*

                  Yes, exactly. I’m not interested in stealing my employer’s work product, I’m just interested in being able to show what I did to future employers since many of them expect samples.

          3. Elysian*

            Right – I don’t think she means “steal your boss’s clients” kind of files. In my line of work I often need to provide a writing sample, and if I were to forget to snag a word document of the work I did to use as a writing sample before I was told to leave, I would be in a pickle. I suspect that’s the kind of work Anon means.

    2. Judy*

      If you have electronic pay stubs capture them on your own drive. A former co-worker quit to go to another job in another city. He had to request to HR for pay stubs and it took several weeks, which was an issue in getting a loan for a house in the new location.

      Gather your performance reviews to your own drive too.

    3. Anonymous*

      I’ll focus on two things.

      First, make sure you have a desk manual or work instructions or whatever ready for whoever takes over your work. That was actually my first question after (while) being laid off – Who should I transfer my work to? Amazingly, it took management a week of my 2 1/2 week notice to come up with an answer.

      This may sound like a bizarre thing to worry about, but I can’t tell you how much incredible feedback and support I received because of my determination to handle this professionally and make it as easy as possible for the people who had to pick up my workload. Your reputation really does matter, and mine is golden with this company and a large number of people (now in other companies) because of the way I handled it.

      I’m not suggesting you don’t look after yourself – but looking after the company too in spite of the fact that they just fired you is the hallmark of a true professional.

      Second, if you are laid off, give yourself some grieving time when you need it or, conversely, be considerate of your colleagues who were laid off if you are not. The first day my co-workers found out was incredibly stressful for me. We were allowed to take the day off, but that didn’t stop the incessant ringing of my business cell the entire day. While I appreciated the thought, the truth was that I spent most of the day trying to comfort everyone who called to comfort me. Most of them were shocked and very upset (this was years ago now, but I still think laying me off was a mistake made at a much higher level than anyone known to me or my boss) and the people who worked with me were unusually distressed about it. Two hysterical people on every phone call isn’t productive, so I sucked it up and tried to calm each caller down. In retrospect, I was really asking a lot of myself.

      As the day wore on, I finally hit my limit and turned my phone off for a bit, but I wish I had done it sooner. People who couldn’t reach me immediately could (and did) leave a message, send an email, or try later. I think I would have preferred a short email including “let me know when it would be a good time to call – I’d love to hear from you” rather than a phone call I had to handle on someone else’s schedule during a time of great stress.

      I guess the bottom line is to be considerate of whoever is laid off – whether that’s yourself or someone else.

      1. the gold digger*

        be considerate of whoever is laid off

        A co-worker in the Mexico office quit last year. Before she left, she wiped out all of her files and emails, even though the practice here is to archive emails for other employees to see because they have account histories in them.

        The new country manager has had to re-create everything from scratch.

        A month after the person quit, she applied for another job at my company with a wholly-owned subsidiary. The hiring manager was really excited about her, but he called the new country manager to ask about Quitting Person. The country manager just told the hiring manager the facts – that QP had wiped out all the files.

        QP did not get that new job.

        Be nice. Your reputation will follow you in ways you might not anticipate.

    4. Bryan*

      Start looking for work now just in case. You can always stop a job search. And if there are a lot of people at your organization who do what you do they will all be applying for the same jobs that you are.

    5. Hollster*

      Schedule all of your doctor appointments now, and fill any prescriptions. While you’ll soon have time, you may not have insurance.

      1. LMW*

        Thanks everyone! Some of these were things I really hadn’t thought of, like the doctors appointments and pay stubs!

  19. voluptuousfire*

    Anyone have any advice on when to remove a particular skill from your resume? I have Kenexa Brassring experience but it’s been about 2 1/2 years since I’ve actively used the program. It’s a worthwhile skill to have listed but since it’s been so long and I’m no longer looking at recruitment roles (unless it was strictly a recruitment admin position, which is rare), I’m thinking about taking it off.

    1. Anon*

      You can either: a) just remove it from your resume, or b) edit it to say something along the lines of “understanding of Kenexa Brassring” etc.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        ^I’ll probably end up putting “understanding of” in. I could easily pick it up if I had the chance to do so but it could come in handy at some point.

  20. Ashley*

    What is the general rule for a +1/guest at a company Christmas/Holiday party? Should it be spouse/boyfriend or girlfriend only? Or can you bring a close friend or best friend? Would that look bad?

    I’m a new grad and SUPER confused about how this stuff works .. (the invitation only said GUEST and did not specify at all)

    1. BCW*

      Ha, there was a post about that a couple of weeks ago. It depends on your company. Some places you can bring whoever. Friend, roommate, sig other, spouse. Other places limit it to a spouse. I’d just ask around and see what the general consensus is, although my assumption that if they didn’t specify spouse only, then you can bring whoever you like

    2. Lindsay*

      +1 means whoever you want. My boyfriend and I were +1’s of a couple that worked at a company together at their company’s holiday party last year.

      Giving employees a carte blanche +1 is awesome, and props to your company!

    3. Jen in RO*

      Ask a friendly coworker who’s been there for longer. I would assume “guest” means “significant other” (married or not) and I would feel uncomfortable bringing a friend, but workplace customs vary so much!

    4. John*

      I brought a friend once. He was a huge hit! So I would say you want it to be someone who will behave well and reflect well on you. I felt as though it created a stronger connection with my co-workers.

      1. Stanley*

        I’m an openly gay guy who took a platonic long term straight male friend to a company party once. It was nice to be able to bring someone outside of the usual “spouses only” rule since I wasn’t dating anyone at the time (and didn’t really want to be everyone’s third wheel.)

        He was also a hit with all my coworkers. Such a hit that for months everyone at work asked me if I had snagged him yet because we were a perfect couple. Just a few weeks ago someone asked me whatever happened to that awesome guy I was dating a few years ago.

      1. Karowen*

        Unless otherwise specified, “plus guest” or “+1” does mean whoever you want, but I would caution against bringing a parent, especially as a recent graduate – A few people have done it at my office over the years and, rightly or wrongly, people were absolutely talking about how weird it was. However when people have brought close friends, no one thought anything of it.

        1. Amanda*

          Why is a parent “weirder” than a friend? I wouldn’t bring a parent since we don’t live in the same state, but I’m closer to them than I am my friends. Maybe that’s weird.

          1. Sascha*

            It might be weird for a new grad to bring a parent because it might seem like the new grad was not self sufficient and had helicopter parents. That could be completely untrue, but I think some people might perceive it that way.

            1. Amanda*

              But I could see a friend reflecting badly too–like the new grad hadn’t grown out of the college mentality where you spend every day with your friends.

              1. fposte*

                It’s not a requirement to bring somebody at all, though, so it’s not like you have to choose–you can always just go.

                1. Amanda*

                  Which, IMO is probably the best way to go if you are still feeling out the culture and don’t have a spouse or long-term partner. Just curious about the reasoning behind friend over parent.

            2. Rana*

              What Sascha said. If you’re in your 30s or 40s, bringing a parent would be okay, even charming, because most people would assume you’re no longer dependent on them at that age. But if you’re in your twenties, especially on the younger side of them, you run the risk of looking like you’ve never left the nest and haven’t grown up enough to have adult friends.

              Having a socially inept adult friend doesn’t send a good message either, but there it’s more a matter of you being perceived as having poor taste in friends, rather than of you being immature.

              But the mere act of bringing a friend who is otherwise okay in company wouldn’t send up any particular flags for me, though I’d probably assume that the friend was a “friend” if you know what I mean.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Not necessarily weird; the facilities manager at Exjob had both his parents attend our Christmas dinner. His dad was invited because he mowed our lawn, and he brought his wife along with him. The manager then brought his own wife. I know it’s not exactly the same. But if you had a parent visiting and no one to bring, and you could trust them not to embarrass you, why not? ;)

    5. Anonymous*

      I think John’s comment about bringing a friend was very telling – he picked someone who would reflect well on him, and was enough a part of his life that he wouldn’t be embarrassed in future years with questions about “Whatever happened to X?”

      Even if your company seems to be pretty open, there’s a risk in being the person who shows up with a different boy/girlfriend every year. I would go alone before bringing someone I don’t know will be in my life (if not necessarily at the party) the following year.

      Actually, my brother just invited me to his holiday party – possibly because I’m reasonably presentable and can handle myself in a room full of engineers. :-)

        1. Jamie*

          Ha! I agree, but my husband would insist on going since he loves that kind of thing and my coworkers all think he’s awesome.

          Can’t leave. Mr. gregarious home, so if my company did that I’d send him in my stead.

    6. Sascha*

      I would ask your coworkers what is generally acceptable. I wouldn’t find it odd myself if you brought a friend or family member, but some places expect a romantic partner. My job expects a partner when they put “guest” on the invite.

      1. tcookson*

        My job pretty much expects that “guest” means romantic partner. If someone asked directly about bringing some other kind of guest (friend, parent, etc.) they’d probably be told that it’s okay, but it would be unusual and maybe talked about just a little bit.

  21. AnonOpenThreader*

    How do I address this in my annual review?

    I have a boss who is great in the sense that he is a kind person, easy-going, likes my work, lets you take time off with short notice, allows flexible hours.

    However, I feel stuck in my current role. Issues with performance by other department members don’t get addressed by mgmt, so it’s a frustrating work enviro. I also feel things have changed with the exec above my boss, who I work with a lot, and things are getting taken off my plate without me having a good understanding of why. The two have very different styles, so I feel like I’m in a no-win situation. (Boss says this is a fantastic presentation, his boss says this is in rough shape.) I also feel the planned advancement in this role moves me away from my strengths. . .I was quite thrilled with yesterday’s Excel thread, but that’s becoming a lot less of my job, and next year they want me to set up a lot of meetings with strategy & finance types from other companies and talk business. This is out of my comfort zone.

    In my self-review, I wrote the usual stuff about what I want to accomplish next year & I DO want to advance, so I DO want to take the new responsibilities offered (take what you can get).

    I’m on the fence about flat out saying this role is moving in a direction I am not a fit for, whattaya got in another department for me, esp with my written self-review giving no hint that I’m unhappy. I feel like I’ve failed if I move on. But, I can’t imagine wasting another year doing this. I’ve moved to completely different departments 2x in a ~15 yr career, so I’m feeling sad about the lateral direction of my life, but solo contributor seems to be my sweet spot.

    Any suggestions on approaches would be much appreciated.

    1. fposte*

      I think it’s okay to raise a question in discussion that’s scopier than what you wrote in an annual review; the consideration is really how candid you feel you can be with your manager.

      However, you sound kind of generally fed up–the laundry list of dissatisfaction isn’t a good sign. Do you think it’s worth considering whether it’s time to leave? If you’re really done with the place, that’s a different conversation than if you’d really like to crunch numbers rather than doing business to business. See if you can figure out what is is that the organization could do (they’re not going to synchronize the managers, for one thing) and whether that’s enough for you.

      1. AnonOpenThreader*

        Thanks, fposte. I AM generally fed up & I don’t know what I want. . .which makes it difficult for my mgr to help me.

        I don’t want to keep moving around laterally, where I find myself coming up against the same roadblocks of needing to take on a role outside of what I’m good at doing to advance.

        I’m half-joking and half-serious here, but I think I need to find a way to do freelance work that fits me. What I actually do isn’t something you would do freelance, but I think I could learn some neighboring skillsets to make myself marketable. It seems the only thing that can keep you as a doer rather than a manager and provide decent (if unsteady) income.

        1. fposte*

          There’s been at least one post here about how to handle a career trajectory when you don’t want to manage–if you haven’t, you might want to check that to see if any ideas there are useful.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      Consider that your current manager is a weak manager regardless of whether he is easy to work with or not.

      If your bosses’ boss isn’t happy with your work, that’s where you need to address it. Perhaps you could ask for a mentoring relationship with the skip level?

      1. AnonOpenThreader*

        Thank you for the comment. It’s an excellent point & one I’ve had a hard time admitting, the manager’s weakness. The person I reported to before was 10x worse and 180 degrees opposite (would plop himself in my office for 2 hrs a day and ramble about work stuff, vs this one I see rarely).

        The boss’ boss is one of those who doesn’t like anything and doesn’t know what he wants until he sees your first pass, so while I definitely have a performance issue at the end of the day, it’s the same issue everyone who works with him has. For various reasons, the best mentorship relationship would be with someone at a different office, and that might be a possibility worth mentioning if I decide to try to salvage this.

        What’s really happening is they’re turning my role into something that’s never existed here in our division. My manager and his boss neither one have the depth of knowledge that I need, but neither do I! I’ve tried attending outside training, but the 3-day seminar type stuff is not enough to develop a new domain of expertise.

    3. Malissa*

      I get the sense that your current role is going beyond your comfort zone. If you want to advance getting out of your comfort zone is going to be required. What I’m seeing at the core here is a training issue. You are hitting new territory and you are unsure. Ask for training in your review. Pick one or two of the areas outside your comfort zone and ask for help.
      Or if you feel that you really don’t want to go in what ever direction the job is leading you, start looking outside the company. You’ve got a solid work history that would make you an attractive candidate.

      1. AnonOpenThreader*

        Thanks Malissa. All good suggestions. I think where I’m at now is that I’m aware I need training to do a good job at something unfamiliar, but I’m not sure I want to invest the time in this particular role. I could get to where I do it well, but I don’t think I’d like it.

  22. KayDay*

    I’m currently applying for internships and I have 2 former supervisors who have already offered to serve as references. However, one internship that I am interviewing for has requested a letter of recommendation. How should I go about asking one of my references for this in a way that doesn’t create too much work for them? I don’t want to burden them with a lot of extra work.

    1. TL*

      Just ask; if they accept send your resume or a list of skills/what you accomplished for them.

      A lot of people in academia have their students write the letter for them; they then tweak and sign. That’s also an option.

    1. Anonymous*

      No advice, just – wow.

      This is a critical government function which I recognize is desperately needed and would never want to do myself. I don’t want to be on – and representing my country as I want it to be represented – 24x7x365. I would have a hard time delivering messages I don’t agree with, and would be frustrated when other political considerations from people who lacked the information I would have in country overrode my advice.

      Foreign service is incredibly regimented – do you realize that there are regulations regarding which embassies can purchase formal china and precisely how much is allowed? – and yet requires extraordinarily high levels of skill to work effectively within those confines.

      If you ever plan to marry (or acquire a partner – I think we’ve had about five gay ambassadors) you will be demanding incredible sacrifices from your spouse and family. Any perceived flaws are attributed not to the fact that we’re individual humans, but to the represented nationality. Most FSO’s don’t rise to the level of an ambassador though, so most of the sacrifices are made by and for those who do critical – but much less visible – work for relatively low compensation.

      If this is the path you take – and don’t misunderstand, this work is very important – do so with your eyes open. If you want to do good work in foreign countries, travel a lot, and work with people from different cultures, there are a lot of other options that don’t have the same down sides, so don’t do it if those were your motivations.

      1. TL*

        Thanks for the advice. :)

        I’ve considered some (most) of that before. I think I’d be okay with the downsides and fairly good at the upsides.

    2. the gold digger*

      I have a friend who has worked for State since he got his MBA. His undergrad is in chemical engineering. He is super smart and one of the few people I know who passed the FSO exam.

      He and his wife move a lot. For a while, I know she kept her corporate/MBA job, but I don’t know if she still works. I don’t know how much Coach does in Russia.

      I also have friends who have worked for the Peace Corps and another friend who works for the World Bank. Being an FSO or working for the US gov’t, at least for PC, is a sweet deal in a nice country. You get a nice house, you can afford household help – maid, gardener, cook, nanny, the pay seems to be pretty good, you get to use the APO so you can ship cool, heavy things like rugs back home.

      But a lot of the posts are crummy – someone has to work at the Chad office – and I don’t think you get much choice about where you go.

    3. Lore*

      I have a close friend who’s a lifetime FSO, and it’s literally the only job she’s ever wanted (and I met her at 17, so really her whole adult life). She was lucky enough to meet and marry a photographer for whom the life of a trailing spouse works out nicely (though who is actually taking the FSO entry exams now just to see what happens). After your first couple of postings, you actually do get a fair amount of choice over where you go–you’re applying for specific jobs in specific locations. One thing that really benefited her: she worked for the federal government for a few years before entering the FSO, which meant she started at a higher GSO level than other entry-level officers–combine that with a “hardship post” and she was actually making really decent money from the start. Think seriously about which track you want to be in (I think there are five different areas); a lot of people choose political and economic because they seem more “important” but there’s a lot more job variety in consular and I think it’s managerial?

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Yes! They had the two orange cats and adopted the black torti after they fostered her earlier this year.

  23. Anonymous for this one*

    I need to find a tactful way to handle a situation.

    I’ve just learned that my former manager is receiving a fairly prestigious award from our professional organisation (i.e., “[X career] of the Year”). I’m anticipating that, once the word gets out, colleagues might bring it up in conversation and ask my about it/him.

    The problem is that he was one of the worst managers (and “X career,” for that matter) that I’ve had. The antithesis of what Alison writes about here. (Though, as with Alison’s “Ode to Bad Managers in the Past,” I had a great model of what *not* to do.)

    He doesn’t make good decisions for the organisation. He regularly commits to equipment and software that impede the organisation’s work – either because the equipment is faulty, the software is still in beta, or the new processes take longer to execute.

    With the exception of 2-3 fellow management staff, he is not respected by any of the people in his organisation. I’ve also heard others in our profession (colleagues; vendors) talk about how unimpressed they are by him – without knowing that I have a past connection to him.

    I’m glad I heard about the award before it went public. I had an afternoon of stunned “WTF?” silence, followed by uncontrollable laughter at the absurdity of it all.

    I don’t plan on bringing up this topic in conversation; however, because many people know I worked for him / his organisation, I expect that once the news of the award goes public, I’ll have people contacting me to ask (gossip) about it. I don’t want to gossip so am trying to proactively think of the best way to respond diplomatically.


    1. BCW*

      I’d just say something like, “Yes, I worked with him. I learned a lot at that job (notice I didn’t say from him), and I wish him the best so good for him”. Its diplomatic without giving him false praise.

      1. Anonymous for this one*

        That’s pretty much word for word what I say now. :)

        Thanks for confirming I can still use this. I agree that avoiding the “wink wink nudge nudge” is important.

        I have another kind-of mentor (who’s great) who won the award several years ago. What are your thoughts on redirecting any subsequent conversation to the award itself and past recipients (i.e., moving away from talking about bad manager)?

        1. fposte*

          Is the conversation that likely to keep going? Does your workplace tend to post-mortem the award generally? I can’t imagine anything short of a Macarthur genius grant that would protract a conversation about a former boss long enough to require deflection.

          I mean, I think deflecting’s fine, but it would seem weird to me if this turned into repeated conversations about how much you must love Bob too, no really, don’t you, don’t you?

      2. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        Heh, I always use “I really learned a lot in that job” to tactfully describe a former job that I hated. There’s no need to add that much of what I learned was what to avoid in future…

    2. Chrissi*

      You need to have a planned, neutral response that nips any gossiping about it in the bud. That means that it can’t be just the right words, but with a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” tone that shows what you really think. Practice it out loud a few times to make sure it sounds ok.

      I’m trying to think what you can say that won’t come off as passive aggressive, but doesn’t reduce you to lying, and I’m having a little bit of a difficult time, so I understand your concern.

      What about something like “I’m actually really happy that one of our employees received an award that reflects well for our company” and then immediately change the subject?

      Dear Prudence on Slate always has good advice on how to respond to things like this in a short and sweet, but diplomatic way. Maybe check out some of her columns and see if you can switch it over to your situation?

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. No “nudge nudge”–this is your opportunity to be very professional, not to score points.

      2. Ruffingit*

        The thing is, she’s not happy that this employee received the award so I think I’d go with BCW’s suggestion of “Yes, I worked with him. I learned a lot at that job (notice I didn’t say from him), and I wish him the best so good for him.”

        I think that eliminates the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” tone you mentioned Chrissi, which is an important thing to be cognizant of because you don’t want your tone giving you away with things like this.

        1. Chrissi*

          I really like BCW’s wording a lot! I agree that if they say it with an enthusiastic tone, there won’t be any way to misinterpret it or read too much into it.

    3. annie*

      No suggestions, but sympathy – in high school the absolute worst teacher got a very big deal teaching award from the state. She was so unprofessional, demeaning, and honestly nowadays she would have been fired for the things she said to students. Hindsight and adulthood have only made her look even crazier in my eyes and it’s staggering to me that she continued to teach, but of course things were different back then. I have no idea how she got the award, maybe no one else was nominated that year. That was almost twenty years ago, and my friends and I still laugh about it whenever we think of this person.

  24. ChristineSW*

    Alison – I thought you only had 2 cats? I see three in that pic.

    So the post about Excel the other day got me thinking about learning more computer skills. I’ve been wanting to update my MS Office skills, but I have no idea if it’ll even be worth it. Because I’ve had a helluva time nailing down what career path to take, I’ve been bad about keeping my computer skills up-to-date. I do have MS Office 2010 and Windows 7 here at home, but I don’t really use anything much beyond the basics. I used to be really good with MS Word and have used some of the other MS products in past jobs and school-related projects, so I have no doubt I could easily pick up anything new (except Mail Merge…they change the steps too many times!!).

    As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been exploring various career options, including program evaluation, research support and grants, either in a large nonprofit or an academic/research environment. For those of you in those fields, would it be worth it to take some classes in MS Office just to have on my resume? I’m weird in that I can’t bring myself to invest money and time on learning new skills or knowledge without a specific reason (e.g. new job, volunteer project, etc), but I know that’s probably a poor approach. The only time I do take courses is so that I can have enough CE credits to keep my social work license up-to-date (about which I’m beginning to question my sanity….I’m not even doing social work!!!).

    1. Trixie*

      Have you checked out All the free online MS classes you could want, multiple versions available. Its probably relevant to include if the job posting specifically includes as a qualification. The only caveat is its one thing to take classes in a something like this, its another to say you have experience using it in the workplace. It would be nice to apply it at least in a volunteer capacity.

      1. Lore*

        I like the courses at They’re broken up into small modules so they’re good for learning particular skills (as opposed to teaching yourself a program from the ground up), and if you already own the software you want to train on, you can do their basic membership, which doesn’t include the sample/training files, and follow along with your own documents or spreadsheets. It’s $25 a month ($250 a year)–but if you just want a brush-up I imagine you could get a lot done in a month. Most of the courses are 6-7 hours if you do them end to end, but that usually includes some really basic set-up stuff that a moderately competent person can skip.

    2. Chrissi*

      I don’t work in that field, but I do work with Mail Merge and Microsoft products a fair amount and have learned most of my Microsoft skills over time in my job. If the only reason to take the class if to put it on your resume, I don’t think that’s necessary.

      I took a class like this once (on my employer’s dime, thank goodness because they are heinously expensive), and it wasn’t great. Because every participant’s knowledge and needs are different, there will be parts that you don’t need or already know, and then parts that are quite useful. Over a 2-day course, at the correct level (intermediate Excel, in my case), I really only picked up a few things, and it wasn’t worth the money.

      I’ve learned far more on my own and from friends and coworkers, but Microsoft also has really good tutorials online (like, really good, from what I’ve heard), if you’re interested in brushing up on your skills. I think some are free and then some come with purchase? If you have any friends that work for Microsoft (unlikely) or are federal employees (maybe more likely), they get all classes for free – you just need to sign up for a username and password – so maybe they could hook you up?

    3. SaraD*

      Hi Christine,

      I work mainly in programme evaluation (but in the UK, so probably in a very different context – so this may not be entirely relevant to you). I use excel every single day. For example, I need to be able to analyse survey results myself (rather than using the reports which come with survey tools).
      Excel allows you to identify how many of the people who said ‘yes’ to Q5 also said ‘no’ to Q12, for example. In some survey tool software this is only available if you pay for a ‘gold’ subscription – not worth it.

      Being able to analyse other peoples data in excel also means you can check on the figures you’re given by organisations without too much effort. So yes, I would say that being able to do good data analysis, use pivot tables, etc, would probably be very useful.

      In terms of examples of what I’ve used excel for, (which may not be transferable to your sector), I’ve used excel to track how many participants took part in x activities, which of those moved on to y progression route, etc. But I also used it to manage the monitoring for a 15,000 member incentive scheme and track the characteristics of those who moved on in the scheme. And to do that needed a bit more by way of excel skills, just some familiarity with pivot tables, integers, vlookups, etc.

      So well worth giving it a bit more time!

      1. tcookson*

        I’m impressed that they’re all lying so peacefully together. We introduced a new kitten into our household four years ago, and she and our other cat still don’t have a good relationship. Our first cat was nine years old when our daughter started begging for a new kitten. We finally let her get one from the shelter (after almost a year of feeding and cat-litter duty to prove she could be responsible), but the relationship between the two cats has never gelled. They skirt around each other and have occasional hissing spats, but they’ve certainly never piled up in a heap with each other like these sweeties here!

      2. Jessa*

        The cats are adorable. All three of em. But I admit it I’m fonder of Olive because I love multicoloured cats.

    4. Colette*

      I’m weird in that I can’t bring myself to invest money and time on learning new skills or knowledge without a specific reason (e.g. new job, volunteer project, etc), but I know that’s probably a poor approach.

      I’m completely with you on this. I’m happy to learn things if I need to know them, but don’t feel the need to acquire skills I’ll never use.

    5. Fiona*

      Eh. I wouldn’t take classes, and I certainly wouldn’t take classes just for the sake of your resume. These days, basic Office competency is expected for most office-type jobs. If it were an Admin role, you might highlight any advanced skills you have . But one of the points that came across in yesterday’s Excel thread was that just about any Office function you can think of can be googled.

      1. hamster*

        I would take classes for the sake of my resume. As a matter of fact i did it once, ( actually, i paid for a certification, i learned by myself after the books and i convinced my employer to pay for some other classses). I wanted to move in closer to field x and i took some certifications and classed and then i used previous and current experience, good will and ehthousiasm and it payed off with a new job and a career in my chosen field.
        Unrelated, a guy told me once, when i had an interview and tried to pull that ” i can google anything in the java library” and he told me : “if you don’t happen to read/be exposed to a ceirtan number of ideas/paradigms/design patterns/ you won’t google some stuff, because you wouldn’t image it exists and you will re-invent the wheel/move on with a less perform ant solution” . This interview-er attached A BOOK to my rejection mail. I was inexperienced, i knew that. But the points he made and the book i read , priceless
        However, for the particular skill of excel perhaps a book might be enough. It’s not that you won’t fin the content in help, but you can use the experience of the author on picking a structured most relevant topic list

  25. Ali*

    At least I’m in before 500 comments this time.

    I have to turn in my first self-evaluation today. Part of it (though not mandatory, but I did it anyway) was to ask my coworkers what they thought of my performance. I was relieved and happy all at the same time that they all had positive things to say for me to put in the report. I kind of hate getting criticism because I had someone rip me to shreds unprovoked some months back and it really killed me. (The person should’ve said what he had to in a more constructive tone, but he did it all wrong so that’s how that went.) But luckily, I have some good things from my coworkers that will hopefully be topped off with nice words from my manager!

    Also, I decided to not go to grad school…at least right now. I talked to someone who was honest with me about what kind of commitment preparing for my future career would entail, and it was a wake-up call. I’ve talked with people in my chosen industry (sports) before, and they’ll tell me that they work a lot and don’t get paid a lot, but then add “It’s a lot of fun!” or something of the sort. I appreciated the honesty I got from this person because if she had just said that it was a fun job and hadn’t been honest about her own career prep, I may still be starting school next month.

    Admittedly, it kind of sucked to pull out of school, but I haven’t paid anything yet, so there’s that.

  26. DebationNation*

    I’m curious to know if people have tips on weighing the pros and cons of different positions.

    For example, I’m currently working in a position about an hour away from my partner’s. We live somewhat in the middle, but it results in a 90 mile round trip every work day and roughly $450/month on gas and tolls. I’ve interviewed for a position that would put me 2 blocks away from where my partner works so we could commute together now , eventually move to an apartment that’s within walking distance of each of our jobs, and use the money I save to pay off some of my debt. If I stayed at my current position, we’d move about 10 miles closer (resulting in an hour plus drive for him) to an area that’s more expensive on an already strained budget.

    I love the people I work with and my current job, and I do think there is both learning and career potential (not to mention the work life balance- everyone leaves before 5:30pm. It’s amazing). The position I interviewed for would be an increase in responsibility as I would essentially get to run all digital marketing efforts.

    I understand that for each person it will be different, but I guess I’m curious to know how you weighed the pros and cons at your position that ended up justifying a seemingly large cost. Did your commute time/expenses impact your job satisfaction? Or were the job perks worth the extra $150/month in gas? Or were your finances require you to find a job that maybe wasn’t quite as awesome, but it was closer and allowed you to save?

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I started my career commuting 40 miles one way. It sucked because you had no evening time to yourself. Just work, sleep, work.

      We moved to where I had about a 20 mile commute, then 4 years ago, after a job change and office move I ended up 10 miles away. It’s the traffic free stretch of my previous commute, so it’s 15 minutes and I can be to my kids’ schools in 10 minutes.


      So my word of caution is don’t take a job in or move to such a sweet location that you’ll never want to change jobs, even for a better opportunity.

      (I could currently go somewhere that’s 30 miles from home, through the bad traffic area, and they require longer work hours. . .it would probably be a better long-term thing, but I just can’t get myself to give up my existing free time.)

        1. DebationNation*

          I KNOW. The mornings are fine because I can giggle my way through a morning show, but those night commutes can be so tedious. I’m also so frustrated by how I spend so much of my time sitting, sitting, and more sitting.

      1. cecilhungry*

        I live .5 miles from work… it’s great, but also kind of terrible (everyone knows I have no reason not to come into work. “The streets are bad” doesn’t really fly when you can walk to work, and the conditions at work are the same at your house. Thus why I am at work today and apparently no one else is. Le sigh.)

        1. Tris Prior*

          Agreed! I used to work 2 blocks from home. Guess who was trudging to work in 2 1/2 FEET of snow after the blizzard we had a couple years ago.

          Plus, when the client wants you to be on call 24/7, guess who got the call to go in at 3 in the morning because “you only have to walk a couple blocks.” Never again!

      2. DebationNation*

        That’s it, too- I can’t figure out what would be better in the long term. My partner and my ultimate goal is to move to DC, but that won’t be for another few years. So, do I stay at the awesome agency or do I head up a department in-house? The latter would also get me closer to an art museum where is love to volunteer and become an active member, especially as it’s where I’d like to head: doing communications/social media for an art museum. But still, big agency! Well known clients! Amazing co-workers!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I don’t know how helpful this is, but here goes.
          I read a very cool article several years ago about how to go through the decision making process. Traditionally, we make a list of pros and cons. (This was developed by Ben Franklin??) The problem with this model is a) how do you know when you are done making your lists of pros and cons and b) the lists become unwieldy if you have more than 2 options to consider.
          The new model for decision making, according to the author, is to have one VERY STRONG reason for your choice. So let’s say you decide to test drive this decision making model. In order to find that one very strong reason you will need to have a timeline for your long term goals. And you will need to have a handle on your budget and your budget forecasts for the future.
          I think that the choice you make should be because it is very important in moving you closer to your long term goals.
          As I read, I pictured me taking the job to save $150 on gas and then doing nothing else. I would forget to bank that money, because I would get side tracked by distractions. Additionally, I would probably not make a continuous effort to maximize all the possibilities of my new job. The long term goal would end up being even further in the future. These are all mistakes I have made in the past- easy pits to fall into. This is how I learned the firmer/more concrete my plans are the better I commit to the process of getting there. And I make stronger choices.
          Life goals trump nice perks. BUT, if you find yourself giving up what you value in life to get your life goals….maybe those aren’t your real goals in life to begin with. Only you can weigh that one out…

    2. Anonymous*

      Wow what kind of car do you drive where a 90 mile commute is $450 in gas?? I have a 20 km commute and thats what I spend :(

      1. fposte*

        It’s not just the car, it’s the country. American gas is cheaper than just about any others in the world save for the oil-producers (and even there’s it’s still substantially cheaper than Canada).

        1. DebationNation*

          fposte is right- we’re spoiled by our cheaper gas. Right now, the average in my area is $3.50/gallon and I’m averaging 32-35/mpg (roughly 13-15km/liter). My first car was a 1992 Volvo 240- I loved it, but it plowed through gas like a knife through butter. When it finally decided to die, I only wanted to look at cars with amazing gas mileage and safe- a good chunk of drivers here are uninsured and drive like it’s a NASCAR track. So, I landed on a 2011 Honda Civic. It’s amazing- I once managed to go about 425 miles on 12.5 gallons of gas. I average about 375-390 now, but I’m also driving that much every 4 work days,

    3. Malissa*

      Normally I can read something like this and figure out how a person has made up their mind already. But you’ve got two very different sides here. On the job side you seem to be in favor of your current job. On the home side, the new job would make things tons easier. So the main question seems to be are you more geared towards growing your career or your home life at the moment?
      For my self it was very much career for the last few years. Now that I’ve found a place where I can let my career drive itself for a couple of years, I’m focusing on home. You are facing a big choice that we’ve all faced. And there is no right answer.

      1. DebationNation*

        YES. And I so want there to be. I think there’s also an issue of my debt. I received a pay raise for this position and moved into a cheaper apartment, but the transportation costs are eating up so much of that extra income I wanted to use to pay down the debt. I wish I knew what would be better career wise long term: working and promotions at an agency with multiple clients or being the in house manager.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I’m not in your field, but it seems to me that it would be a benefit to have both types of experience, esp. if your longer term goal is in-house for an art museum. You know how both sides work, and you know what outside resources are available to a company that has a small staff and fewer internal resources. If you’ve never worked in-house, it is a harder sell to your next employer that you *think* you would love it there, even though you only worked for an agency. Helpful, right ; )

          1. DebationNation*

            It is! It’s really a conundrum. The last job I left was for good reason: it wasn’t a good fit, I was grossly underpaid, vastly overworked, and we didn’t agree on how social media was to be used. But this job… le sigh. Amazing people, awesome clients, great process. Just so far away and I’m craving more responsibility/work.

            1. Anonymous*

              Have you browsed around for bios of folks doing the kinds of work you’d like to move into? What seems to be (generally) common across them, & do you see the possible job as building your résumé in that direction? LinkedIn would be one source for info, staff bios on company websites another. DC is a pretty competitive market, so be sure to keep a weather eye on what folks are looking for/expecting there while you two look at moving there in the future.
              And, could you meet with your manager to talk about next steps in those same directions in house? Are folks telecommuting, could you do that one/three/whatever days a week/month to temper the commute?

    4. Sydney*

      I currently live 2 miles from my workplace and IT IS AMAZING. I can go home on my lunch break; I can run home if I forget something. At the end of a bad day, home is 1 minute away. So I advocate for a short commute on principle.

      However, what I think is most important for you to consider is how long you plan to stay at your current company in your current role. Let’s say you decide to stay there for now, are you going to want to move up/on next year? You’re talking about getting a promotion with a leap in responsibilities. If you’re ready for that, do it. The new commute with your SO and eventual short commute will most likely be worth it, especially if New Place also has a good work/life balance. (I would also make sure New Place actually has a good work/life balance first.)

      1. DebationNation*

        That is also part of the contemplation. I took an increase in pay when I accepted the job, but I feel like my responsibilities took a decrease. I know I need to put in the time to get to the level where I want to be, but I know I can take on the larger responsibilities now as I had them at my last position. Part of the allure of this job was the opportunity to flesh out all my communications skills, not just social media. I think I’d be able to do the same at the other position, but it would be more trial/error as I’d be leading the initiatives as opposed to learning from someone more experienced.

      2. Anonymous*

        I used to work at a place a block away from my house and going home for lunch was the best. It was hard to motivate myself to go back after lunch though, haha…

    5. Bryan*

      It makes a difference with job place satisfaction. I started a job commuting an hour each way then moved 45 min closer. When I got that 1.5 hours of my day back it was huge as I could sleep in and have more time in the evening.

      1. DebationNation*

        I think that’s what I keep focusing on, too. It’s a hard struggle with managing my weight, and the only time I’ve been able to feel like I have control over it was when I had an easy commute and worked at a gym. The other job would get me within walking distance of a gym, home, and work, not to mention being able to run home during lunch to walk the dog. As far as healthy lifestyle, I feel the second job would be better suited to helping me manage my current health issues.

    6. JBeane*

      A few years ago I decided to make the length of commute a big factor in applying for future jobs, and I’ve never regretted it. I now walk or bike to work every day and it’s an amazing experience. I’m much happier at this job than I was in my previous career. Some of that might be the different industry, but I also think I’m a happier person (and therefore a more positive worker bee) now that I don’t have a long commute to slog through each way. My SO takes the train 10 minutes to her job. We’re saving thousands of dollars a year in car/gas/registration/insurance costs and we’re able to spend our evenings doing fun things and taking our time with household chores instead of sitting in traffic.

      Quite a few studies have shown that the longer your commute, the poorer your quality of life, health, and life expectancy. That’s what convinced me to factor in commute times when weighing job offers in the first place. My SO and I are in our 30s with no children so what works for us may not work for others. At the end of the day, though, I think a short commute is a really important perk to factor in when you’re considering future jobs.

      1. DebationNation*

        Completely agree that a short commute is an important perk, especially the thought of living within walking distance. The best part about this commute is that traffic isn’t too terrible, so I’m pushing 70-80 mph the entire time. But ugh. 45 solid minutes each way, sometimes more if there’s an accident. I really am starting to fantasize about being within walking distance of so many things and being able to utilize time for other things.

        1. Sydney*

          If you’re fantasizing about it already, just do it! Do you think you’re going to be fantasizing about Old Job in 6 months after you just walked to work? No way; you’ll be feeling super pumped because your heart rate is better than ever, and Scout just loves her daily walks. Won’t somebody think of the dog?

          1. DebationNation*

            I don’t have a dog yet (T minus 11 months!), but I think I would feel better about being able to run home and let him out rather than pay someone $17-$20/day to walk him. ;)

        2. TL*

          I have that and it doesn’t bother me. I mean, I don’t do a lot of housework but I still go out to the gym and dancing and out with friends and cook when I feel like it (not very often).

          I wouldn’t mind a shorter commute, mind, but it’s not eating at my soul, either.

    7. Anonymous*

      This is my very weird advice for the day –

      If you can’t make up your mind by a certain point, flip a coin (or roll a die for other decisions with more choices) and commit to do whatever comes up on the coin.

      1 of 2 things will happen.

      The coin will come up and you’ll look at it and say “Eh. Okay.” In that case, you have saved yourself the unnecessary worry and reached a decision. Execute it and move on with your life.

      The other possibility is that the coin will come and you’ll look at it and get a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach. You will start thinking “But I don’t WANT to!” or something similar.

      This is your gut telling you what you really want. Listen to it.

      This probably seems like a really odd thing to do, but it is very useful for identifying what your gut-level reaction is when you’ve overthought something. The trick is that you have to actually commit to doing whatever the coin says unless you have that “Oh my god, NO” feeling. Flipping “just to see what it would say” doesn’t work. If you commit to doing whatever it says and the result doesn’t bother you, you’ve saved yourself some wasted energy stressing over something that doesn’t matter to you.

      Most of the time, people can figure out what they really want on their own – and I recommend it as the first choice – but this is an option when you’ve exhausted yourself going back and forth.

  27. Kelley*

    I think I found an answer to the question in a previous thread (comments in response to the employees who were expected to gift their boss a ski trip) about where the gifts in the workplace flowing downward rule comes from. This week a Dear Prudence column mentioned Letitia Baldrige’s rule: “You do not give your boss a gift.” Apparently it appears in her book New Manners for New Times: A Complete Guide to Etiquette if anyone has the book and can confirm.

    1. tcookson*

      I’ve been wondering about this for awhile; it’s too late for me to do anything about it, but my boss was the recipient of a prestigious award about a year ago (one that is a capstone of a career in the arts), and I wanted to do something nice for him on that occasion. I saw that his business card holder was kind of ratty and worn out (he goes out on the lecture circuit a lot, so he uses it a lot), so I got him a really nice new one (sterling silver and black leather). It was about $60. Did I commit a faux pas? He seemed pleased and touched by the gesture, and I included a nice card where I told him some things that I appreciate about him as a boss.

  28. cecilhungry*

    Not a question or anything, I’m just stuck at the office on a snowy day (we rarely get snow here). I’m the only person here, AND all of my friends had their offices closed and are off drinking/sledding together. I’m not feeling too motivated to work

      1. cecilhungry*

        I’m a relatively new hire (less than a month) so I feel like I have to be on my best behavior. But reading AAM counts as work-related, right?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Me too–and I had to drive 20 mph in blinding snow, on roads where you can’t even see the lines, for 45 minutes to get here. Because I was supposed to cover the front desk today. But then found out that I don’t have to because the other backup isn’t taking a break. I could have stayed home. Blargh!

      Oh well, at least I have work to do. Although I’m probably going to take my computer home because we’re supposed to get more snow on Sunday. x_x

  29. Anonymousforthisone*

    How soon should I follow up on a phone interview? I had one the week before Thanksgiving at an institution where I’d really like to work. I was given a time frame of two to three weeks. I’m on tenterhooks right now.

    1. fposte*

      Do you mean “follow up” as in a thank-you note or follow up as in asking about the process? If it’s the former, now’s fine; I suspect, though, you mean the latter, and I’d leave it till the end of next week at the earliest. Keep in mind that following up is unlikely to solve your tenterhooks, so this isn’t even delaying gratification. They haven’t gotten back to you because they don’t have anything they can tell you.

  30. Lindsay*

    General venting, but advice welcomed:

    I work in an open office. It’s a big room, and there’s three of us spaced out across it. We’re the whole department, along with our boss who sits in his own office in the back.

    One of my coworkers “Sue” is an incurable gossip. We don’t talk, because I don’t put up with her BS. When our third coworker was hired a few months ago, they spent large chunks of everyday in Sue’s corner of the room whispering and whispering and whispering. I would hear them start talking about someone (“she”) and then their voices would drop even further. The excessive whispering has dropped off as the 3rd coworker has now settled in. I surmised that a good deal of the whispering was about me, and the 3rd coworker confirmed this, unasked.

    How do you all deal with nasty coworkers that gossip about others, and about you? My boss is aware of Sue’s gossip problem but is generally useless. I feel bitter that I have to sit in a room and listen to this crap, and also feel crazy that I feel like she’s talking about me whenever the whispering starts! And whispering, to me, is SO distracting. Much more than normal voices. Anyone else think so?

    Yes, I’m job-hunting, but I could use advice on dealing with nasty people that you can’t avoid. Help!

    1. Sadsack*

      I worked in a similar situation a few years ago. A woman who sat near me was very nice to people’s faces, then she’s have something negative to say about them as soon as they left her desk. The gossip would strike up conversations with me, but I would just respond with, “Oh yeah? Hmmm,” and leave it at that. I could hear her gossip with every person who came by her desk and also knew some of her comments were about me. I ignored it and just waited for the day that I would move on to a position in another department. That day came and I was so happy. Anyway, I think the best way is to ignore the gossip, as you have been doing. Not much else you can do without engaging her and making a big thing out of it.

    2. fposte*

      That sounds like a situation tailor-made for headphones. The goal here isn’t to deal with the nasty people, it’s to make it as easy as possible for you to ignore them.

    3. Yup*

      Oh yes. I’ve been in your shoes, and it’s a teeth-grindingly annoying place to be. I managed it by showing absolutely no reaction whatsoever, and being very pleasant to the gossiper(s) in a neutral/slightly-distant-but-not-cold way. My personal experience is that mean spirited gossipers are looking to provoke: they want to see you flinch, get you to complain to the boss so they can talk about what a crybaby you are — whatever brings the drama. You win by not giving a sh*t and acting like a courteous professional who’s cool under fire.

      For the whispering, I’d say just carry on with your work as though they’re talking about the weather. Pop on headphones if you can. If it gets too noisy, turn around and cheerfully say, “Sorry to interrupt, but you could you all keep it down a bit? Thanks!” If it gets to a breaking point, step away from your desk for 15 minutes for a coffee break or filing or whatever. Treat yourself nicely with a walk etc.

      And FWIW, they sound like total a-holes. Seriously, who whispers about someone who’s SITTING RIGHT THERE? Don’t let it get you down. Think of it as mental training for dealing with rotten people — you’re growing a thicker skin every day. And one glorious day, these people will not be your problem anymore. :-)

    4. Malissa*

      Been there. I finally looked at the whisperers one day and told them if they were saying something they didn’t intend for me to hear they could move the conversation to the other room. Then I would give them “the look” every time that crap started. It got to the point they would just go outside. But then again I was also known for having zero tolerance for mean gossip.

      1. Lindsay*

        You all are awesome! Sue is the reason I started wearing headphones at work. Good music is a godsend.

        A “teeth-grindingly annoying place to be” is a GREAT description. And yeah, it’s definitely good practice for dealing with difficult people.

        I, too, am looking forward to that glorious day when I don’t work here anymore!

      2. Windchime*

        I usually inform co-workers that I have super-sonic hearing, so if they think that their conversation is private, it isn’t. I do have really acute hearing and I’m easily distracted by noise, so I can’t stand it when people whisper and giggle. It’s so juvenile.

    5. Amanda*

      No real advice on the Mean Girls, but I feel you on whispering. My freshman year roommate would whisper all night long on the phone with her BF and it was the worst! It was so annoying that when he became possessive and controlling and the whispering turned into crying fights, I found it easier to fall asleep.

    6. Jen M.*

      My solution has always been to ignore them and do my own awesome thing (and of course move on ASAP.)

      It’s too bad that some people just never group up. It’s about them, not you!

      I hope you find a better job soon!

  31. Brett*

    Just have to vent a bit because my manager has just gone overboard this week with annoying behaviors.

    Had a horrible conversation with him about the possibility of getting a raise. He skipped interviews for a new position (because he already has his pick regardless of who interviews, but the rest of us get to do three days of now pointless interviews).

    But the last straw for me this week was… the phones. The day before Thanksgiving week, he had our phones and cell provider switched. I found out because my phone stopped working. I got to spend hours of my Thanksgiving week (out of town on a scheduled vacation) figuring out how to VPN, tether, telnet, etc. with this new phone to run all the remote operations I am required to do when I am out of the office. At least the provider had much better data connectivity and the new phone was a vast improvement over my old phone.

    Yesterday, his new phone dropped a call while he was 20+ feet underground. His next call was to cancel our new phone contract. We had to turn our new phones back in that day. Today I am back on my wiped old phone, and get to spend all weekend re-configuring it. Because he had a single dropped call 20 feet underground.

    1. Ruffingit*

      GAH! All of those would make me want to punch him in the face too, but especially the phone thing. It’s not cheap or easy to switch providers so quickly most of the time. And come on now, dropped a call 20 feet underground?? He’s lucky he was able to even make/get a call at all, let alone hold on to it for any amount of time.

      And the pointless interviews? OH HELL NO! I’d be pissed off over that too just from the standpoint of those coming in to interview, thinking they have a shot. Wasting the time of someone who may be unemployed and is hoping against hope this will work out is cruel in my view.

      1. Brett*

        Fortunately these interviews were for a senior position and all the applicants are currently employed.

        Unfortunately (for us minions) his capriciousness only costs us time and annoyance. Our org has (big) standing contracts with both providers, so the providers give us new phones and port our numbers for free.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Still though, it’s a waste of everyone’s time. Even if the senior people are employed, they’re still taking time out of their day to interview and you and your fellow interviewers are having your time wasted also. So wrong.

          As for the phone contracts – again, another massive time waster trying to re-org your phone and yourself to what you need to do to make it work. Your boss sucks!

  32. petpet*

    It’s Friday, so I grabbed a donut from the cafeteria as a treat and ate it at my desk. (It’s totally allowed and common to eat at our desks in my office; I eat lunch at my desk most days.)

    When my boss saw, he made a BIG NOISY FUSS over how I brought in one donut for myself without bringing in enough to share with everybody, and that’s Against the Rules, and can you BELIEVE someone would be so selfish??? He then asked every single person in the room if they knew the donut rule, and reminded me I’m still on probation so I better not mess up again.

    He was 100% joking and being silly, but UGH. I was already feeling guilty about the donut (since I’d already had eggs at home); did he really need to loudly point out I was eating one to the entire office?

      1. Ruffingit*

        I feel for you too. I think it should be a work rule that you just don’t comment/joke/make mention of in any way what someone is/isn’t eating.

      2. petpet*

        Thanks, I appreciate it!

        I really don’t like getting ANY comments on my food. When I first started, my boss would occasionally ask what I was eating or what was in a particular recipe, which was harmless but still not something I really wanted to deal with regularly. That’s mostly stopped, so to suddenly get HEY EVERYONE SHE’S EATING A DONUT was really annoying and embarrassing.

        1. Cat*

          Your boss sounds like he took that donut thing waaaaaaaaay to far, but I think asking about recipes has to be acceptable office small talk. Otherwise people are going to spend a lot more time in the lunch room awkwardly heating up food in silence and that can’t be good. (Plus, I’ve gotten more than one great recipe that way.)

    1. Brett*

      Even if he was joking and being silly, this is also just flexing his muscle as the boss, e.g. pushing around a probationary employee just because he can.

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      A boss at my last job came by my desk with half a donut and was like, “This is delicious but I’m not finishing it, you need to eat this.” (Because I was/am very thin, something that was often commented on in that office – also a problem.) I’m assuming that he’d ripped the donut in half, but it almost looked chewed, and either way I was not interested. He got upset when he found out I threw it out and didn’t actually eat it. Why on earth would I have wanted this half-eaten-looking donut??

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Next Friday go get another donut and sit at your desk and eat it.

      Assume he did that because he likes you as a person and thinks you can take a ribbing. Don’t let it phase you.

      1. anonymous*

        …Or if he comments, lick it and then say, “Here. You can have it. I’m kind of full, anyway.” ;)

  33. Chrissi*

    I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to convince my boss to have our division take time to clean out old files and cabinets. I work for the government, and it’s important that we keep records for a certain amount of time, but nowadays it’s mostly electronic so it’s easily done and maintained. We have tons of file cabinets, and probably 75% of them are filled with old binders, ancient records that can be destroyed, and random equipment (like the rotary phone I found in there a few weeks ago). The materials that are stored in the cabinets that we actually use and need are crammed in there and poorly organized because of the lack of space. I know it’s not a high priority at all, but it would probably only take 4 hours if everyone worked on it at once. We used to have a “spring cleaning” day once a year to clean out our desks and old documentation, but that went from 4 hours, to 2 hours, to nothing (but only for our division – other divisions still get the 4 hours – TPTB set up a date for it every year, but my boss’s boss just doesn’t use it likes he’s supposed to).

    I suspect the answer to this is that I won’t be able to change their minds, especially since it’s not a high priority, but if anyone has any advice, I’d really appreciate it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I think a well-thought out discussion with him about how it can save time for everyone would be worth trying. If he still says no and you really feel you need the space, you and some co-workers could give your own time to it (lunch hour for example). Yes, I realize that is shitty and awful and I’m not saying you have to do it, just that if the boss won’t give work time and you decide you want to do it, that is an option.

    2. Trixie*

      Maybe they just need someone enthusiastic to take charge and get it going? Plus any “retro” equipment could be sold/auctioned as a fundraiser for your favorite food bank. You’d be surprised what folks will pay for a rotary phone, your’s truly included.

      I think four hours annually (among a crew) is a great way to chip away at big projects like this, so its not so overwhelming.

      1. Chrissi*

        I would enthusiastically take charge of this! I’ve actually already done a little bit of it on my own over time. One time we did discuss trying to reorganize some of the drawers and she seemed on board in theory, but mostly only in theory. The problem is convincing the boss to let us take the time to do it.

    3. COT*

      A former workplace of mine used to do a biannual “cleaning day” too, where cleaning supplies and healthy snacks were put out. Could any of your coworkers be motivated to volunteer over their lunch breaks if you had snacks, music, organizational supplies, etc.? Or could you convince the powers that be to schedule one hour of big cleanout time once a month/quarter until the task is done? Maybe on Friday afternoons?

      Also, try to make a really good case for how big of a difference the cleanout would make. Can you quantify any time/cost savings? Can you do a little portion yourself to show the results?

    4. Jubilance*

      Can you show him how much old stuff is in there and give an estimate of how much space it’s taking up & how long it would take to clear?

      I think a lot of folks assume it’s a waste of time or unnecessary until they see how much space it’s taking up and how much productivity is lost by not taking the 4hours to purge and reorganize. Perhaps some concrete evidence of all the unnecessary stuff may help him see a spring cleaning is needed.

    5. Chrissi*

      Thanks everyone! I love the suggestions. I think part of my hesitancy in approaching her is that sometimes (depending on her mood) she shoots things down without giving it any thought. The other part is that I’m worried that she’ll be annoyed that I’m focusing on something that’s not a high priority. “Productivity” is a really big metric around here.

      On the other hand, I’ll be working the week of Christmas, and most of my “clients” (for lack of a better word) don’t work that week, so it’s hard to get much done. Maybe I could approach her about starting it that week?

      1. Claire*

        Tackling it during a slow time like Christmas holidays is a great idea!

        We have an annual clean out day and it’s really great. We also use it to encourage people to clean out and organize electronic files as well.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        That sounds like a good idea to me. If she is worried about productivity costs tell her that all the unnecessary clutter is getting in the way of productive efforts.
        If you can, estimate how much will accumulate each year if this job is not done annually. (Or whatever time frame you use.) Ask her where the stuff will be stored if it is not chucked?

    6. Brett*

      We have this same problem with our government office. I finally just took it on myself to start cleaning out spaces. About once every three months I pick a new space and start tearing it apart and then put it back together cleaned out and organized. Most of the stuff that can be trashed can pretty clearly be trashed. I stuff it all in a shred box to make sure nothing sensitive goes in the trash. If I have any doubts, I ask other staff.

      Since everyone is pretty much relieved that some cleaning out is being done, no one stops me :)

      Better yet, I inspired a couple of other coworkers who have also tackled cleaning out spaces on their own. Best thing I found was the original 1960s design and construction RFP for our building!

  34. probably crazy*

    Does anyone have advice or support for someone still trying to get over a difficult work situation? It’s been 7 months since I was let go from a job I didn’t like – the expectations were often unreasonable, I was stressed out, worried about my job security, my manager was a passive aggressive jerk, it was just bad. I’m in a much better job but I don’t think I’ve shaken the stress of the old job and I feel like I should have at this point. I work with really reasonable, supportive people who appreciate the work I do, yet I still have feelings of worthlessness, or that I’m not as good as I need to be, or that I’m doing something wrong and no one is gonna tell me until it’s too late for me to realistically fix the problem, or that I’ll be fired if I say X or don’t do Y well enough – logically I have no reason to feel this at this company, but then if I raise any concerns I’ll just seem paranoid and then I *will* be in trouble . . .

    Has anyone else had this problem? And if so, how did you deal with it?

    1. Shelley*

      Not to be shamelessly self-promoting or anything, but I’m actually writing an article about this right now, should be published tomorrow or Sunday. I’ll be happy to send you the link if you like. You can email me privately if you’d like at

      Or, you can check this site with my other articles where my work trauma article will be posted over the weekend as mentioned:

    2. fposte*

      Is there an EAP at the new job? Sounds like a spot of counseling might help lubricate you past the sticky spot. (Okay, ew, but you know what I mean.)

          1. fposte*

            Sure. Sometimes it’s more of a figure of speech than a literal diagnosis (there are plenty of negative reactions that aren’t actually PTSD), but of course you can get off-tracked by a scary space you spent most of your waking hours pretty much trapped in for months or years.

          2. anonymous*

            It is absolutely a thing. I am one of the people from Shelley’s article, and I am definitely going to be hurting for YEARS to come over what’s happened to me.

            I have another friend, who left this same company about a year ago, who is still traumatized.

    3. Kevin*

      I’m in a very similar situation. I get these random bouts of oh no I’m going to be fired. I don’t have a solution but you’re not alone.

    4. Tris Prior*

      I absolutely have this issue and it’s been two years since Bad Job. It does fade with time, though.

    5. KM*

      Yes, I had this problem. Luckily (?) I was unemployed for six months before starting my next job, so some of it had faded by then, but it still comes up every once in a while. I would suggest making a list of what you learned and/or would do differently from the experience so you have some concrete things you can think about when you feel paranoid. And do you have anything related to your accomplishments that you can read when you feel doubt? You could make a list of those too (can you tell I like lists?), which might help you remember that you are doing fine. And yes, counseling is a great idea. Be gentle with yourself!

  35. Jen in RO*

    Cat update! (Background: a month and a half ago I adopted a very young kitten and Alison & commenters helped with advice about introducing him to my existing 2.5 year-old tomcat.) I leave them alone together now and they seem fine, yay! Downsides:
    1. At 5 a.m., they are both sleeping between me and my boyfriend. Big cat starts licking small cat. Small cat takes it for 5 minutes, then decides he had enough, and tried to bite big cat. Big cat gets pissed off and tries to bite small cat. I wake up in cat noise and writhing…

    2. Big cat is neutered and is supposed to eat neutered cat kibble and regular wet food. Small cat is supposed to eat kitten kibble and kitten wet food. Of course, they each like to eat each other’s food! Big cat has gained half a kilo already :( Is there a solution for this, other than feeding them separately? I’ve been doing that with the wet food (morning and evening feedings), but I leave kibble out all day…

    1. Chrissi*

      If your cat has any weight gain tendencies at all, only feeding them at certain times of day instead of leaving it out and letting them graze is your best bet. There’s a website called and both my vet and my veterinarian sister love it because it has tools to figure out the calorie needs of your cat and the calorie content of almost every brand and formulation of food out there.

      One tip I’ve read for people that CAN leave dry kibble out and their cat doesn’t scarf it all down like my cat does, is to put the water bowl in a separate room from the food. That way, when they’re thirsty, they won’t also see the food and graze even when they aren’t hungry.

      As for keeping the big cat from eating the kitten’s food – I have only one, weak suggestion. Does the kitten eat most of the wet food as soon as you give it to him? This will only work if he’s at least moderately interested in his right when you give it to him. You might consider feeding the kitten only wet food until he grows up. You can just give him as much as you think he’ll eat within an hour in the morning, then repeat again in the evening. This has the added bonus of teaching him that there are certain times to eat so he doesn’t graze when he gets older. My cat only gets portioned, wet food, because she always wants to eat everything. She gets one 5.5 oz can of food per day (which is actually about 10 calories more than she should have) split into thirds – one in the AM, one when I get home from work, and one right before bed so she doesn’t wake me up at 5AM begging to be fed.

      1. Anonymous*

        I don’t have a little kitten or cat but I do have two dogs. One is a golden retriever and the other a little bichon. My little bichon suddenly went blind this past summer and has been gaining weight. She is still kinda young (only 3) and I believe it is because she is not as active (not being able to see) as she use to be. We feed both twice a day. I can’t let my little one graze because the big dog will eat her food that way. I do weigh my small dog every week on my scales because it is up to me to keep her healthy. Good luck with your little kitten and your cat.

      2. Jen in RO*

        Big cat doesn’t seem to have obesity tendencies – he’s always looked more like a kitten than a tomcat, but I think he’s gaining weight now because he loves the kitten food and he used to be on ‘diet’ food. (I don’t even think he’s *fat * yet, just… faster. I want to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand.) Neither cat stuffs his faces with food, luckily. That site sounds great, I’ll check it out and see what it says.

      3. class factotum*

        We feed our cats twice a day. Laverne hoovers up her food and Shirley chews each kibble 30 times. So we have to supervise. It’s a pain in the neck.

        Also, the cats sleep in the basement. I am not interested in waking up at 4:30 a.m. to cats scratching at the blinds wanting to see what’s outside.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We ran into the feeding issue and discovered there’s something called “all stages” food, meaning appropriate for all stages of life, cat or kitten. We switched to that and it has made life much easier.

      The all-stages food is a bit more expensive though, and I haven’t found it in regular grocery stores; we have to go to pet stores for it or order it online. If you search online for “all stages food for cats,” you’ll find a bunch of info.

      1. Jen in RO*

        That sounds great! I googled a bit and it seems there is at least a brand imported here that offers all stages food. I order all my cat food online anyway. This brand (Orijen) is more than twice the price of what I buy now (Royal Canin), so I’ll have to think about it… but in the end, my cats deserve the best and if I can afford it…

        1. Jen M.*

          Orijen is a decent food, though. That’s what I fed mine for a year or so before I switched them all to wet food.

          Also, I will 2nd/3rd/4th controlled feeding instead of leaving the food out all the time. It will require some change up in your routines, but in a lot of ways, it will make life easier. I HAD to do this, because I have a couple who will eat and eat and eat.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      You’re going to have to feed them separately, I would guess. It’s a pain in the hiney, but if you portion it right, they won’t be too hungry in between. (I feed Psycho Kitty twice a day–morning and evening. I can’t leave any food out because she’s outside and I don’t want to feed every stray cat, possum, skunk, and raccoon in the neighborhood.)

      1. Jen in RO*

        In the morning I just feed them in different rooms, I have to get the boyfriend to feed them separately in the evening too.

    4. Sadsack*

      My understanding is that leaving dry food out all day is not good for cats. Dry food typically does not have the nutrition or moisture content that cats require. I had to put my fat cat on only canned food because she was overweight – I thought she was cute and chubby, but my vet said she was morbidly obese! Talk about feeling like a bad parent! When I researched cat foods, I found to be helpful. Not everyone agrees with this vet’s position, but it makes sense to me. When I have to go away overnight, I leave out Wellness brand dry food, and only the amount I think she needs to make it until I get home.

      You may want to consider locking your cats out of your bedroom at night. I only have one cat, but I have to lock her in another room at night. She drives me nuts in the middle of the night, jumping on the bed and licking my face, or she’ll find the noisiest thing there is to play with. Even if I close my bedroom door, she’ll bash into all night trying to get in. I felt bad when I first started locking her up, but now it is just our routine. I give her her last meal of the day in the other room, where she also has water and her litter box. I sleep so much better now.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        …she’ll find the noisiest thing there is to play with.

        I have a friend whose cats love that little spring behind the door. Boooooiiiiiinnnggg….boiiinngggg… They can’t close it because then they yowl all night.

      2. Jen in RO*

        I know that dry food isn’t great, but they’re alone from 9 am to 7 pm and I don’t want them to be hungry… They don’t eat a *lot*, I think, but I’ll have to come some research and see exactly how much they’re really supposed to eat. (Right now the big one eats 2 80-gram cans and a handful of kibble every day.)

        And I looove sleepy kitties around me, so I’m hoping that big one, who sleeps through the night, will teach proper behavior to the small one. In the meantime, I’m getting good at waking up before the fighting begins and just kicking them out preemptively.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s neat. I wish Psycho Kitty would be an inside kitty, but unless I move to a larger house where I can’t hear her bawling all night, I can’t force her. Then I could leave her nibbles all day and not worry if I’m late getting home.

        1. Chrissi*

          My cat’s target weight (my vet gave me that) is 10 lbs and to maintain that weight she only needs 165 calories a day. If she’s on a diet (which is often), she gets 150 calories a day. The 5.5 oz can of wet food has 170 calories in it (hairball control) or 140 calories in it (Light) so I feed her each type on alternating days. Cats don’t need to be able to graze throughout the day – I don’t think that’s how they’re built.

          If your cat doesn’t have problems gaining weight on dry food, then I think it’s perfectly fine to feed them that. If you ever do have problems with them gaining weight however, here’s a little anecdotal evidence. When my cat was on the 150 calorie a day diet (she was 12 lbs, so 20% overweight) on dry food, she didn’t lose weight, but when I switched her over to the wet food, the same number of calories got her down to 10.5 lbs within a few months. That was surprising to me.

          1. Sadsack*

            That’s because most dry food has way more carbs than a cat needs. It is cheaper to load the food up with carbs than with protein. The ratio of protein/fat/carbs is the important thing with cat food. They actually do need some fat, but carbs should be as near zero as possible — carbs are where their weight and food addictions come from (similar to some people, such as myself!).

        2. Sadsack*

          I am betting that they would be fine with just the wet food you are giving them, they really do not need to have food available to them all day, even with the hours you are away. I think we feel guilty about it because they cry for food, but they do that because they know we’ll give it to them! They sure would enjoy the extra food, but they don’t need it and it is no good for them, especially dry food. My cat seems to think that every single time I get up from a sitting position, it’s time for her to eat. It’s tough because I happen to think that fat cats are all the more cute!

          I wish you the best of luck with your kitties!

          1. Jen in RO*

            They are actually not crazy about food and never beg for it. They are pleasantly surprised when the can opens and that’s it. I think I’ll try the food Alison suggested and leave just a bit out every day.

      3. Dang*

        OMG. I am going to have to start doing this. I’m living with family who are not cat people and i have to watch cat baby like a hawk when she’s out and about. At night she stays with me but meows and scratches at the door between 4 and 6 am. NOTHING works. I haven’t has the heart to stick her somewhere else at night yet because I love petting her when I wake up, but the sleep deprivation isn’t helping my life….

      4. Jen M.*

        We have to shut our cats out at night, too, because my BF is a light sleeper. They got used to it. Now, they sleep in the hallway until about 6 am, THEN they start knocking and crying. (It’s close to the time I get up for work.) Luckily, he’s deaf, so this doesn’t bug him. LOL!

    5. Brett*

      There was a “my cat from hell” episode about the fighting in the middle of the night issue :)
      They solved the problem by getting a cat bed for each cat and placing the beds on opposite side of the bed in elevated places. The cats sorted everything else out from there. (It was more complicated than that, because the cats were attacking each other everywhere, but that seemed to solve the fight in the middle of the night issue.)

      1. Jen in RO*

        I love ‘My Cat from Hell’! I got small cat largely because Jackson Galaxy taught me that big cat wasn’t aggressive because he was a bad cat, but because he was bored. He seems to enjoy chasing his new friend around now. The two beds solution is interesting, but I’ll give it a few more months to get them sleeping peacefully. There’s nothing better than waking up with a cat purring on your leg.

    6. Rana*

      Can you put the kitten’s food in a box or something with an entrance hole too small for the big cat?

    7. EngineerGirl*

      This is going to sound bizarre. Find a box that only small cat can get into and put a small doorway in it Put small cat’s food in the box. Big cat can’t get in.
      That will work for a time, which is what you want.

  36. TLT*

    I’m finding myself in a pleasant predicament, one I know Alison has addressed, but I just wanted some more input! I interviewed for a job a month ago that would get me out of my current awful job, but it’s kind of a lateral move. Not a promotion in title, not a big pay jump, still a bad commute, etc. But the work would be better and the environment would be vastly better. Well, emails were exchanged, positive feedback, and a general feeling that I would get an offer, it just dragged on and on and on. Cut to last Thursday and the hiring manager emails and says we want to move forward with an offer. Great, right? Except, the day before a job I REALLY want called to set up an interview. I still haven’t received the official offer from job #1, but they want an answer within five business days of receipt of the formal offer.

    I had the interview for job #2 yesterday, it would be an amazing opportunity, awesome coworkers, waaaaay better commute and pay, overall just a better job. The interview went in the words of the hiring manager, “excellent.” Now here’s the problem. The hiring process will likely take longer than I will have as far as responding to the pending first offer. (There may or may not be a second interview, with a tentative offer, pending a background check, by the end of the year at the latest.) I’ll find our early next week if they want to move forward with me. When do I, or do I, disclose that I have another offer? I’d much prefer job #2 , but do I give up a sure bet in favor of a maybe? Or do I take the sure bet to get out of a toxic workplace and miss out on something great??

    1. fposte*

      Well, you might miss out on something great either way–you’ll never know what the job you didn’t take is really like. I think there are some questions you can ask yourself, like how much are you likely to obsess about job #2 might-have-beens if you take job #1, and how upset will you be if you wait for job #2 and don’t get it.

      Unless you’re in a really small field, I lean a little towards waiting for #2, and here’s why: #1 is moving slowly enough that you may have more information about #2 before you have to ante up on that one; you’ve been a strong candidate for two really plausible jobs, so it’s likely you’d be a strong candidate for other upcoming jobs if neither of them work out; and after a really bad job experience, it would be fantastic to have a job that really excited you.

      But that’s just my lean at the moment, and maybe you can figure out from your horror or delight at my inclination whether that’s right for you :-).

      1. TLT*

        You’re pretty much affirming my gut feelings. I walked out of job #2 yesterday and WANTED that job! It would be so great. Job #1 is not a bad job, it’s just not THE job and since I’m currently employed, I don’t have to take it. Thanks!

    2. Kevin*

      I was in a similar situation. Obviously wait for #1 to come to you, don’t move them along. As soon as you receive an offer from #1 let them know you want to think about it. Contact #2 and let them know you have a pending offer, they might be able to speed things up.

      I don’t know your situation but for me I was unemployed and had to take the first offer I got no matter what. I did not have the option of waiting for a better position. Do not make the decision on how well you think an interview went with #2. Do not do not do not. Unless you have a written offer with a starting date you are dealing with the hypothetical of getting #2. If you want #2 you have to be willing to be stuck at #1. Also don’t take #1 then leave if you get #2. I know somebody who did this to the company that fired me and I still feel like they lack character and that was a company I’m obviously not a fan of.

      1. TLT*

        Exactly, I’m not going to contact them until they contact me! When I took my current position, it was the only offer and from day 1, I’ve known it was a mistake. So I want to be really careful when I choose my next job. And you’re absolutely right. I would never take job #1 and then leave if job #2 wanted me. I guess I’m just waiting!

  37. The Architect*

    I am an architect. I work for a firm with 4 drafters, a office manager and 2 partners- Boss A is 75 and Boss B is 82. They both ran huge firms for 30 years each and merged when the economy tanked in late 2009 early 2010. I was hired in spring of 2011 at first as a consultant then made an employee.

    I am in a tough predicament with my job. First off I love my job and all the people I work with, and despite having interviews have no bird in hand yet as a fall back. Besides pay, everything is fine. I have always been paid late, but eventually caught up. I was made part time then laid off in the summer, collected 1 unemployment check, then hired back full time. The firm suddenly got a new project that made things good for a while.

    We are all now owed 12 weeks of back pay. I estimate this for the 5 employees to be at least $70K.

    The senior most architect in the office come to find out was owed wages way before I arrived, and went to the labor board. A letter arrived at the office from the state demanding the partners pay them via certified check by the first of last month over $30k in back wages for this employee alone. The company has not paid the state, this employee is still working.

    I asked the State Labor Board if they will investigate the company to see if others are owed but was told that unless each employee files an official form nothing will be done. I am torn because this could send these bosses to prison. I also fear being black listed, these are very prominent architects.

    Emotionally, it is hard to leave because they are very nice. Boss A however, despite all this went to Florida for a month to stay in the condo he recently built. I feel like any day they could skip out and literally leave. My co-worker has worked on and off for this company for the past 5 years. Before the merge, Boss A got behind in pay and this employee found another job still being owed money, got laid off and came back to the company. This co worker has told me a number of employees have left being owed money. We had a college intern hired as a contractor, who worked for the company for two months, and the company has still not paid him. I replaced someone come to find out was upset with owed pay and left which I am only now finding out. There is a pattern of non payment of employees.

    As reluctant as I am I think I should get out while I can still recover money.I am working on a project now for the bosses – actually coming in this weekend, but I don’t know if it will get the company out of the whole- he made a remark saying “I have lost $40k on this project already so we need to wrap this up.” I don’t know what that meant. With Boss A it is always – I will pay you next week, next week …. All of us have had a paycheck bounce at some point. Boss A filed for personal bankruptcy last year come to find out. Collection agencies call the office all the time – I don’t know what for if its business or personal. I was told by Boss A if we don’t produce, we cannot get bill clients, and therefore we won’t get paid.

    I know the company owes back payroll taxes to the IRS but no idea from when. The company owes consulting engineers, contractors, rent for the office, and stopped paying the health insurance for employees on it.

    Boss B is acts as if everything is fine, and expects the morale and effort to continue.

    Sorry to be so long winded – I am scared because I have read if a person files Chapter 7 bankruptcy an employee can only recover up to $10K- and I am really close to reaching and going over that.

    I am fearful to quit because my previous employment was only for 18 months, so working here 2 years only does not look good on a resume, and over all I have 7 years of experience in this field.I have contacted a lawyer to discuss a mechanic’s lien on the business in case they go bankrupt. I fear the day if I have them served it will anger them. Issue is, if suddenly some of the projects on the back burner come in- can they recover or am I in denial?

    1. Ruffingit*

      You are in total denial. You need to get out and get out now. One of the reasons people accept without question for leaving a job is not getting paid. Other employers will not look askance at you for leaving because you were not getting paid.

      The drafting on the wall here (if you will) is very, very clear: these people do not pay their bills and even under threat from the state, they are not paying. Your bosses are “nice?” Really? People who expect others to work for no pay while they go to their recently built condos in Florida, skip out on vendor payments AND are behind on their taxes are “nice?”

      I’m going to be very, very harsh here because I think you need it. GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND! You need to file a complaint with the labor board and you need to get another job immediately. You owe these people absolutely nothing at all and they are not nice. What they are is thieves. As for them going to jail, that’s likely to happen anyway if they continue not to pay their taxes.

      They owe another employee over 30k in back wages and haven’t bothered to pay her even after a complaint was filed? Why on earth do you think they’re going to do any better by you? Get out before you are forced out by bankruptcy of the business. You should assume at this point that you won’t get anything anyway. Can’t get blood from a turnip and all of that, but you need to file the paperwork with the labor board to make an effort anyway.

      For the future: the first time a paycheck bounces, you should be leery of the situation. The first time you don’t receive a paycheck, you should be extremely concerned and if they don’t rectify that IMMEDIATELY, you need to file a complaint and get out. You are 12 weeks behind on being paid now. THREE MONTHS! You should have been concerned about this at the two week mark frankly, but it is what it is so now you need to file a labor board complaint and get out of dodge. This is not going to end well for them and if you stay, you’ll go down on the sinking ship too.

      Professions tend to be small circles quite a lot and people already know that this place sucks since I’m sure their vendors are talking about them to other people. You should be concerned about your own reputation for staying with a company like this since they’ve probably already got a horrible rep within professional circles now. How will you explain, if asked, to others that you stayed so long when not being paid? It makes you look like a doormat and someone who isn’t confidant and secure in her own skills.

      So again – GET OUT NOW! And good luck.

      1. The Architect*

        OMG! I needed this! THANK YOU!
        Family, friends, etc, the few I have asked have all said stay- what is 12 weeks in the long run of your life? They can bail out. But my gut says other wise. No one has fully understood the aspect of the small circles in a profession- but you have given me a new perspective.

        Architecture psychology breeds this – and we are taught this is school- work for the team, the client, the project no matter what – expect to pay your dues and massive overtime.

        But you are correct – the doormat word is something I need to use and be real with myself. Being unemployed is better than being a doormat.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I’m glad I could help. I get why you’ve been staying, eternal hope and all that, but this really is a situation that you need to leave immediately. Speak to the lawyer you spoke to previously and file a complaint with the labor board.

          Your family/friends are totally wrong here. Could this company get their act together? Sure, anything’s possible, but think about how much work they’d have to bring in to pay back vendors, their rent, their current employees, their taxes…seriously, at this point they’d need a single contract to design all venues for the Olympics in Rio to get out of the mess they are in. It’s really unlikely that will happen. And regardless, you need to deal with what IS, not what COULD BE. What is, is a giant hole that someone keeps shoveling the dirt out of thereby causing everyone to sink further.

          Work is a trade-off: you produce for payment. Period. You are not getting paid. Stop producing. Move on.

          Please come back with an update, I really do wish you the best of luck, this is a crappy situation to be in, but you can get out and go on to something better.

          1. Update*

            To Ruffingit Thank you! I feel like I running to a safe house or something and am fearful to elaborate to much.

            How do I exit? I am not sure do I just not show up Monday? Take a personal day? Call or email and say I have resigned giving a reason ie no pay & be gracious for experience? I was supposed to go in this weekend , but have had no desire to put in anymore time based.

            Private email to contact you Ruffingit?

            1. Update*

              Sorry I am asking dumb questions. This is life changing and I appreciate the advice. I am “constructing” a plan :)

              1. Ruffingit*

                Your questions are not dumb at all! This is tough stuff that most people do not have to deal with (thank God) so it’s no wonder you’re unsure how to proceed. This kind of thing is out of the norm for the workplace.

                I can’t really answer these questions because I don’t know the best way to exit this situation. I would say contact Alison and let her know you need immediate help, I’m sure she’d be happy to answer. Go to the top of the AAM page and click “Ask a Question.”

                Please do report back on how you’re doing and what you decided. If you just need to talk, I’m always happy to listen. I can be reached at

            2. Iain Clarke*

              > How do you exit?

              You’re already unemployed, you just haven’t realised it yet. Any work you’ve done during the time you have not been paid is not theirs – it’s yours. Go in, back up all you morally can. I’d probably still carry on working, as long as the cost is minimal, as it probably will make getting a fresh job easier (AAM says it’s a lot easier to get another job while appearing employed) but I’d have no qualms about putting on my coat and walking out the door for interviews, etc.

              And get that claim in – some supplier is going to push the company into liquidation, and you want to put your claim in first. If only to stop the IRS from coming after you for back taxes on money you didn’y get paid.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Leave now. They are not “nice.” They are selfish law-breakers. Not paying employees is ILLEGAL. They know that what they’re doing is wrong, but they choose to continue to do it. Cut your losses while you can.

      If someone asks you why you left, you can tell them there were issues with employees being paid (without getting specific). That should be enough to explain.

      Talk to your lawyer about how to approach them with your resignation. But be prepared that they may walk you out right then, as with any job.

      1. The Architect*

        Better to go to labor board or pursue private litigation? Sorry maybe this is more of a lawyer question.
        A lot here is guilt and wondering why no one else has acted, but I am seeing the light.
        Anyone have experience with what happens with a labor board and how they handle things?

    3. Justoneofthecrowd*

      They aren’t nice if they can continue to go on vacation and not pay their employees, that’s about all I have.

    4. 22dncr*

      Having worked in the A&E arena for years – it will NOT GET BETTER. This is the new normal. They are still stuck in the old days where everything was going gangbusters and $$ was flowing. No one in the industry is going to hold it against you that you got out before it went much longer. No advice for you other than that as I have friends that are still looking for A&E work after being laid off in 09. The friends I do have still in it are experiencing what you are (unless they switched to O&G) and it is so not worth it. Never been more glad that my degree is not tied to this industry even though I really enjoy working in it and miss it.

      1. To 22dncr*

        What is O&G? Agreed the industry is getting worse before better. 2009 was a terrible year, I to was laid off then at the great construction crash.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      OMG. RUN. Get out of there.

      These people are playing you. Get more flies with honey than with vinegar right?
      You are not going to get your back pay. They have already said they are 40k in the hole on the project. There is no money to pay you.
      The debt collectors that are calling? It is personal as well as business debt. It is both. They have comingled personal and business funds/debt. (Think Madoff.)

      People are not who we WANT them to be. They are who they are. Eyes wide open, heads up.

  38. WWW*

    Hi everyone!

    Lately, in my small office, there have been more requests from the boss to commit to things outside of normal working hours. We’ve also had requests to give both time and money to charitable organizations. Thanks to AAM, I’ve been able to answer back with reasons not to give. (Mainly because: I already do!)

    We’re also moving offices early next year, and now I’m wondering how much extra time I should put it to moving and organizing the office. If we move on a Saturday, I don’t want to come in. Unless of course we get an extra weekday off. Sometimes I wonder if I’m being too stingy with my free time, but I don’t THINK I am…

    1. Joey*

      Something tells me you’re an exempt employee who thinks he’s only obligated to work not one minute past 40 hours per week.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, I wouldn’t want to give up a weekend day to move an office, not if my job didn’t normally involve that kind of thing. They should hire movers!

      2. Cat*

        Huh? I’m an exempt person who puts in significant time over 40 hours/week, and I would be annoyed if I was asked to come in on a Saturday to help the office move.

        1. Joey*

          I think every m-f job I’ve been in I’ve had to work a weekend day once in a blue moon. And throughout your career there are ebbs and flows to the work hours. Now I consider it abnormal to work only during normal work hours. I’m much happier ever since I realized normal work hours is more of a perk or luxury and shouldn’t be an expectation in an exempt job.

          1. Cat*

            I think having to work a weekend is one thing; but something like moving should almost always be hired out. That’s not anyone’s normal job. (Except for stuff like the IT set-up that’s noted before, and even there, I think it would be nice to give those folks a comp day or so in recognition of the fact that they probably put in extraordinary effort to make things go smoothly.)

            1. Jamie*

              Always comp IT – it’s good karma.

              To be honest though, I don’t get asking employees to move. Is this loading a truck and unpacking? They should all be responsible for their personal stuff and let the movers box and transport the rest.

              Regarding IT it needs a ton of oversight to tear down and set up, and that I would happily do…but putting the servers on a dolly and securing them in the truck? Trying to figure out how to move the massive data center? Not me.

          2. Colette*

            I’m not saying you should never have to work weekends at your actual job, I’m saying that working weekends to do something you’re not trained to do (and may not be able to do safely) is not a reasonable expectation. Unless WWW is actually a mover by profession, of course.

    2. HR lady*

      When our office moved, the IT people had to work all weekend. (My employer also hired movers, but they didn’t set up phones, computers, copiers, etc.) When we all walked in on Monday morning, the phones and computers were set up and working. It was actually really cool of the IT people to do that. We had to unpack our boxes (of files, books, etc.) in our offices, but that seemed perfectly appropriate.

      1. HR lady*

        I should have said “it was really cool of the IT staff to do that, and it significantly minimized the disruption to the business that would have been caused if we had to wait for our computers, phones, printers, etc. to be set up.

    3. Bonnie*

      The last time we moved (we did hire movers but they needed to be supervised) only management members were involved. Half of us supervised and answered movers questions at the old office and the other half did the same in the new office. No staff members were asked or expected to participate. We did this in part so that our staff would spend less time during their work week waiting around for things to be delivered or connected up. It was about a half a day for most of us.

      1. WWW*

        Thanks, everyone! For anyone following up, yes – I’m fully expecting to pack/unpack my office. But our managers did ask, “Hey, don’t you have some strong male friends to help us move everything? We can buy them lunch.” which would happen on a weekend.

        I ended up making clear that I’m not available on weekends for this task but I’ll help organize my belongings during the work week. And to Joey: I put in plenty of extra time with the projects I was hired to do.

  39. MaryTerry*

    Is there an AAM posting about setting yourself up for promotion? I’m in a position where I report to Senior Management, and have no direct reports. I’ve been trying to think on a company management level and how to improve my value to the company, rather than just reacting to issues or doing tasks. For example, I’ve found process problems that are costing us money, and have suggested ways to correct or improve them. Does anyone have suggestions on reading materials, or other ways to convert my thinking and skills and hopefully get a promotion?

    1. Joey*

      Sounds like you’re being proactive. Now its time to step it up and start implementing some of your ideas, or persuading your boss to give you the resources necessary to implement. For me that’s the key. Giving ideas is the easy part. Making them actually work is what separates you from the pack.

  40. Tris Prior*

    Yesterday I had to do a reference check for the first time ever, on an internship candidate. The reference was EXTREMELY rude to both my co-worker who was on phones when she returned my call (I was in a meeting), and was also really rude to me when I called her back.

    While she did have good things to say about the candidate, about halfway through the conversation her phone started breaking up, and she got angry at ME for this for some reason (I was on a landline). She said I was wasting her time, and also told me that my message had been way too long-winded and that “I couldn’t even tell what you wanted.” (my message was: “Hi, this is (name) from (company), (candidate) applied for an internship with us and listed you as a reference, please call me back at (number) when you have a moment.”)

    I don’t intend to hold this against the candidate (who had other good references who were not like this), but, should I let her know about this? I mean, I would want to know if one of my references was being rude to potential employers. I am brand new at hiring and was not expecting this!

    1. fposte*

      I would if I hired her (but not otherwise–it seems too gratuitous and sounds like a reason for not hiring even when it wasn’t). Internships are short-term enough that people aren’t likely to change references completely when they’re next searching. I might bring it up toward the end when you’re talking about serving as a reference for her yourself.

      The reference might be worth retaining if she nonetheless spoke well of the candidate and has high profile or other benefits, but that’s for the candidate to decide.

      1. Tris Prior*

        Didn’t think of it being a potential excuse for not hiring – thanks for bringing that up.

        I feel bad for the candidate for having worked for this person!

  41. Mints*

    I think this was in a previous open thread, but they get so buried. Anyway, suggestions for fake emergencies? (for interviews)
    Broken heater / AC and plumber is all I’ve used
    What about phone calls? I can usually just leave for twenty minutes without anyone noticing, but if something comes up, who could I have a phone date with? Far away relative, maybe?
    I’d love ideas, thanks!

    1. Malissa*

      Simple you have an appointment of a personal nature. Unless you actually need a fake emergency to get out of work.

    2. Jen in RO*

      I’ve made up doctor’s appointments (OB gyn to make sure no one feels like asking questions) and furniture deliveries (extra good because I could blame the delivery people if the interview took longer than scheduled).

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      I thought you meant emergencies you should USE in an interview – anyone else remember that one where the interviewers started yelling about a fire and the candidate called 911, only to be told they just wanted to see his reaction to the situation and there was no fire?