open thread

Olive under treeIt’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.

{ 864 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Traffic goes way down during the holidays, so I think I’m planning a lighter number of posts next week — probably no more than two a day (including an update letter each day). However, it’s pretty easy to set up “flashback posts” — posts from a few years ago that get republished now. Do you guys want that? Or does no one really care? (I do wonder if it’s bad to clutter up the archives with reposts, although at this point the archives are so large that it may not matter.)

      1. De Minimis*

        Me too. I’m probably only going to be off on Christmas Day so it’s good to have additional content here…AAM is one of my favorite “break sites” during the workday.

    1. Jubilance*

      Instead of a flashback post that’s just a word-for-word reposting of what you wrote before, I’d like to see a repost where you add to or tweak your response. I have no idea if that’s even possible, but I’d prefer to read that over just a reprint of something you’ve posted before.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oooh, that’s interesting. I may or may not do that for next week (because I’m looking for ways to minimize my work next week), but I’ll absolutely try it in the future.

        1. Audiophile*

          That’s a good idea. And to be honest, initially I thought that’s what the flashback posts were.

    2. Anonymous*

      Please post a couple new posts!! Some of us are going to be stuck at work and in need of entertainment.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m still going to do one new post a day, I think. (Except Christmas, where it’ll just be an open thread.) Plus one update. Just not the 4 posts a day we normally have.

        1. Anonymous*


    3. Penny*

      Even though I’m on vacation, I’m still checking in every day! There’s always something interesting here.

    4. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Guess I’m in the minority. To me, flashbacks feel like watching a football game that’s already over. It’s hard to get emotionally invested!

      1. Julie*

        I don’t know if this makes any difference in how you feel about them, but I used to feel the same way until I realized that what makes them new is the new comments about the old questions.

      2. tcookson*

        I like them for the new comments they generate. A big part of my enjoyment of this site is the other commenters, so I like feeling like I have a place to hang out and chat, even if we’re just talking again about something from a few years ago.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here, I like seeing the new comments because many times it will spark discussion on a new angle.

    5. Anonymous*

      I really don’t see much point to the flashback reposts. It is always a little frustrating to me when they show up, as I’m looking for new content and see a new post, only to realise it’s not really new.

      1. StudentA*

        Yeah, I’m not feeling the flashbacks. Just because archives are cluttered doesn’t mean let’s clutter them further. If, say, the advice is outdated or something, go for it. Just as the economy, social media trends, etc change, so can career advice. As long as it is well thought out, which I can always count on Alison on.

        Also, flashbacks allow people to be lazy in searching and adding to conversations. Keep it tidy :)

    1. Joey*

      Its great. Thanks for asking. It’s not a whole lot different than my previous position, I really just became my old positions boss and I have more people reporting to me. Although I’ve never had the opportunity to hire my replacement which was fun. I’m just struggling a little bit internally with keeping the expectations fair for her. Its tough trying to scale back the things I had planned on accomplishing in my old job. She’ll need at least a year to experience most of the job and be fully up to speed and I just hate waiting.

  2. BCW*

    Here is a question. LinkedIn has recently changed to where you can only attach 1 document when you apply for jobs through them, whereas you used to be able to write a cover letter AND attach a resume. So I’m wondering which of the 2 I should attach. My resume is close enough to my LinkedIn profile where they would have that general information, but I don’t know that just attaching a cover letter without a resume is enough. Any thoughts?

    1. Jubilance*

      That’s a great question – I’m not even sure how LinkedIn sends over submissions. When you submit via LI does the receiver now have access to your profile?

      I like the suggestion about putting your cover letter and your resume into 1 pdf if only 1 attachment is allowed.

    2. BCW*

      You know, I never thought of combining them into one document. Sometimes the simplest solution is the easiest lol

    3. BCW*

      Also, can anyone comment on exactly what employers or job posters see exactly when they receive an application through LinkedIn

      1. The Hello Kitty*

        You receive at html email with the users linkedin profile and the document as an attachment.

        It’s great because it comes in as an actual email vs. your application getting dumped into some kind of HR thingy.

    4. A Teacher*

      Mine are in a PDF document as others have suggest and put together. Sometimes, when references are required I will even tack that page onto the cover letter, resume, and then references.

    5. Audiophile*

      ^ That change drove me crazy when I first encountered it. I really want to write to someone to complain. I much preferred attaching a resume and then copying a cover letter in.

  3. LV*

    I just want to say I’m REALLY happy I get next week off. This is the first time I’ve had a job with PTO *and* the first time since the 2006/7 holiday season that I’ve had so much time off for Christmas. Best part is that I only had to take 3 days off to get a full week since we already get Christmas and Boxing Day off. (Although – a former colleague who’s also a librarian, but at a university, told me he gets two weeks off for the holidays. Not “requested leave and it was approve” – blanket 2-week leave for library staff. I’m so jealous!)

    Also adding to my joy is a fantastic new lipstick. I’m not a morning person at all, so during the week I’m the farthest thing from OP#4, but it’s amazing how much better I feel with just a bit of mascara and a great lipstick.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      There’s nothing like a really good lipstick. It’s why I spend $30 a year to get one tube of the perfect rose color from Lancome instead of what I usually do, which is haunt the Rimmel display at Walmart. No matter what I’m doing, I know if I put on that rose, I look fabulous. :D

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      I still haven’t ventured into lipstick (I’m trying to whiten my teeth before drawing attention), but I just started wearing mascara, and I love it! Between that and new dramatic glasses, it’s a total confidence boost.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I recommend Burt’s Bees tinted lip glosses as an intermediary step. I’m not a huge lipstick person, but I can’t get enough of those. And they have a nice amount of pigment, so you get a change in color without contrasting so much with teeth/skin.

        1. Windchime*

          Yes, this. Lipstick feels too thick and obvious to me, but I love me a good Burt’s Bees shimmer gloss. It’s like fancy, tinted, sheer chapstick.

          1. Bea W*

            LOVE the shimmer gloss! I’m not a big lipstick person. I like a nice sheer tint that doesn’t feel thick and smear all over things, and the shimmer gloss is awesome.

  4. Anonymous*

    What is the etiquette of asking a volunteer coordinator of an industry organization to be a reference when they have worked with my current company? I have volunteered directly with her. My company has also sponsored some of their dinners. Can this be a conflict of interest for the head of volunteers?

    1. fposte*

      I don’t see why it would to be unless you’re planning something really secretive or heinous against your current employer. You can say that you’d understand if her ongoing relationship with your employer means she’d prefer not to do this when you raise the possibility with her. I’d be more concerned if your current employer doesn’t know you’re searching and you’d want her not to tell them. Is that the case, or does your organization know you’re leaving?

        1. fposte*

          That’s more what I’d be concerned about. I’d certainly want to make clear to her that you’re requesting this be confidential, and I’d feel the conversation out on the way to that. In a lot of situations it’s no problem–big organizations that work together are used to this kind of thing–so I wouldn’t assume it’s an issue, but sometimes these relationships are more intimate and would make confidentiality feel disloyal.

          1. fposte*

            Actually, let me regroup and reemphasize–I was thinking of some local situations. If this is something like you work for CIGNA and are looking for your local Habitat director, who’s sponsored by CIGNA, to be a reference, I wouldn’t think twice about this. It’s if you work for Mom ‘n’ Pop’s Teapots, who sponsors the food bank Christmas every year and are friends with Mr. Food Bank, that I’d be more careful.

            1. Anonymous*

              That’s very interesting! The company I work at is smaller than the organization. They have sponsored a few of their events (not regularly) but they have a professional relationship and my manager is a member.

              I appreciate your input!

    2. Trixie*

      I think its exactly what you want from a professional reference, someone you’ve actually worked with. I doubt the prospective new company will know or care what your current company sponsors/supports/donates to. The bigger question is whether the volunteer coordinator will agree to act as a reference and if she can speak to your work and position as a whole. Good luck!

      1. Anonymous*

        Thank you! My main concern was the conflict with my current company (they are not aware that I am looking).

    3. COT*

      I’ve been a volunteer coordinator, and I like being a reference for good volunteers! It’s highly unlikely that your company’s sponsorship would be an issue at all in this scenario. I doubt it would even cross her mind. References in any field often have ties to the applicant’s company and that’s normal (and often even helpful).

      1. annie*

        I serve on the board of a nonprofit and am often a reference for volunteers, and I love it too! I always am excited when I learn one of my volunteers gets a job!

    4. COT*

      I’ve been a volunteer coordinator, and I like being a reference for good volunteers! It’s highly unlikely that your company’s sponsorship would be an issue at all in this scenario. I doubt it would even cross her mind. References in any field often have ties to the applicant’s company and that’s normal (and often even helpful).

    5. Marina*

      I’m a volunteer coordinator, and I am always willing to be a reference for good volunteers. Honestly I see it as part of my job, as many volunteers are out there in order to get work experience.

      1. majigail*

        Just be sure you’re a good volunteer that shows up on time and does good work. I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve had volunteers who are chronically late or just plain bad ask me to be a reference and that’s icky.
        My favorite though was when a guy showed up over an hour late for a volunteer interview and then as he was leaving asked if we had any paid openings… nope, not for you!

  5. Camellia*

    We all know about not assuming a woman is pregnant but I got into trouble with another assumption the other day. Based on the name used, the tone of voice, and the kissy noises, I assumed that a new co-worker was talking about her six month old dog. When I asked if they were going to enroll in obedience classes I was crisply informed that she was talking about her baby girl! Much apology, such red. Has anyone else done this?

      1. Calla*

        Ha! Agreed. Yesterday I was walking with a group of coworkers and two of them were in the middle of a (joking) conversation about how one of them just got “them” the refrigerator box as a present, and they could chew on it, and draw on it. Obviously the drawing part gave it away but it definitely overall sounded like it could have been about a pet!

        1. KellyK*

          My cats got a Lowes box for Christmas. My parents got my husband a gift from there, and it turns out that they print castles on their boxes (presumably as a Christmas thing). It looked like it was meant to be a toy box for a kid, but it also makes an excellent kitty fortress.

          1. Jessa*

            Every time we get something our cat Parker wants the box. Doesn’t matter if it’s half her size or ginormous. It’s her box. And we may not throw them away (we have to do it when she’s in another room or she gets annoyed at us and we’re suckers, you know?)

            Printed-fort/castle-for kids sounds awesome though.

            1. LD*

              I remember being amused and disappointed by my cat’s reaction the last time I bought him a cat toy, a large ring with a ball inside that I hoped would engage him and keep him occupied. The box was about the size of a large bread box. He was more interested in the box. Jump in. Sit. Survey his kingdom. Jump out. Jump in. Slink down and attempt to hide in the box. Jump out. Jump in. Ignore the actual cat toy. Repeat for weeks.

      2. KellyK*

        :) Hehe, yep. It’s sometimes scary how much dogs are like toddlers. They want to get into gross things, they want your attention nownowNOW when you’re busy, and if things get quiet, they’re probably getting into trouble.

        1. Chinook*

          My dog is definitely a toddler – he loves the snow (he snorts it), will get into trouble the minute I turn my back (or when I am no longer visible, which is often since he has cataracts) and he loves Christmas. I mean he was more excited than my 5 year old nephew when Santa came to the house (my mom has connections!) and he has to have gifts for him under the tree otherwise he will take someone else’s and guard it until he can open it. Luckily, he also has a poor memory and I have been able to give him the same stuff for the last 3 years.

        2. FD*

          and if things get quiet, they’re probably getting into trouble

          Ugh, amen. I helped raise 3 of my 5 younger siblings. It’s when they’re quiet you need to find out what’s going on.

      1. LV*

        I love the doge meme, but I also know it’s only a matter of time before I slip up and use it in regular conversation with someone who has no idea what memes even are and who will think I’m a screw loose. Such embarassed, very blushing!

        1. Sascha*

          I’ve already been doing that at work. Everyone thinks I’m weird anyway so I do it mostly to amuse myself with their puzzled expressions.

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I do the same thing constantly with my favorite Simpsons reference… “Well, UNregardless, I want to do this…”

          I think people just assume that I genuinely thing “unregardless” is a real word. At least I don’t use it in job applications. :)

  6. Anonymous*

    How do you handle your linkedin profile when you do work in unrelated fields? My actual field is hospitality (eew) but I run an ezine of short stories (this is a hobby I don’t make money for it) and sell short stories (paid, yay!).

      1. Anonymous*

        Good idea! I thought it would look weird having this random stuff on my profile. I would like to escape hospitality one day, though.

    1. Marina*

      I put everything on LinkedIn. Resumes I cut down more. If you want to highlight short stories I’d just have more info there, and just a line or two for the hospitality experience.

    2. MaryMary*

      Could you have a little fun with your headline and summary? “By day, server at Cheers. By night, editor of Ezine and author of X, Y, Z.”

  7. Anonymous for this*

    My manager has asked me to provide feedback on one of my co-workers for her performance evaluation. This person is very smart, but very, very hard to work with. When she gets an idea in her head, it’s very hard to get her to listen to input, or consider other alternatives. She is rude and condescending, and dismisses everyone else as uninformed or wrong, or will constantly challenge you. But my manager loves her. Any advice on what to say?

    1. D*

      I think that should pretty much be your response. It’s common practice for a peer to evaluate another’s work as part of a performance review. For example “So-and-so is very smart and often contributes great ideas, is hard worker (or whatever), but it can be difficult to collaborate with S&S because she is not open to other’s input to a project. She has is abrupt and sometimes condescending to peers.” Support your review with examples.

      Good luck.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Depends on how much of a favor you want to do her.

      People with the handicap you describe hit a ceiling they can’t rise above, and the ceiling is pretty low unless they do the kind of work that requires little collaboration or teamwork and no management of others.

      If you want to do her a favor, write all of the glowy things and then say that you think her weakness is collaborating with others and that is holding her back.

      If your manager loves her, then the manager will ask you for more info and try to coach her on doing better in this area.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        What I’ve run into with my manager is that she makes excuses for the co-worker, because the co-worker works in one of our European offices and English is not her first language. So often my manager will excuse her rudeness and brashness as a language/communication issue, and not what it really is: the belief that she is always right, and everyone else is always wrong.

        1. Marina*

          Ideally you can come up with specific instances where the co-worker’s tendencies held her back. Ultimately it doesn’t matter WHY she’s coming across as rude and abrupt, if the fact is that it’s affecting her work. You want to avoid saying anything that comes off as “I don’t like her” and stick with “This tendency held her back in this particular way on this particular occasion.”

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Then your manager doesn’t really love her. Your manager loves her work but if she loved the person, she’d help her with this career blocker.

          I have a direct report that is like this. I love her. I scooped her up when she was not succeeding elsewhere due to the handicap. After four years of coaching, I was able to add vendor relations to what she does, which is such a giant improvement on where we were before I can’t say.

          She still has many unguarded moments but I’ve taught her the skills sets for when she needs to be on, and she does well.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Second thought. We don’t know what your manager says to her. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to share with co-workers the work I was doing with my employee and since she is a direct report, she had no manager other than me.

            When I had feedback on my employee, I did ask more socially capable team members to work around some of her deficiencies. It might have looked the same to them as it does to you, I don’t know. But I did take on board all feedback.

    3. MK*

      I’ve had a coworker like the one you’ve described at a previous job. I tried to address it directly with her and talking about it with our manager, but the executive director of our organization loved her. So nothing changed even when other people in outside organizations criticized how difficult she was to work with. My advice is that you should be as gently direct as possible to address any problems but you shouldn’t expect change. If your coworker responds to feedback, that’ll be incredibly great.

    4. MaryMary*

      I’d phrase the feedback as “developmental” or “areas of improvement,” and be as specific as you can. Situation, action, result. I’d include positive feedback as well (coworker is smart, has a strong work ethic, whatever), so the overall picture is even handed. That way, if either the manager or your coworker react badly, you can say that you always provide both positive and developmental feedback for performance evaluations (and I hope you do, it’s a good habit to get into!).

  8. Zelos*

    I saw a reference yesterday about a poll for worst boss/coworker of the year? Is that an actual thing? If not, we should start such a poll.

      1. Zelos*

        I think any post in which Alison started her reply with “what the hell?” would be a possible contender. :D

        But do share yours!

  9. esra*

    My cat also sleeps under the Christmas tree. To ensure that no one else will go near it, or enjoy it, he made sure to promptly vomit on the tree skirt after I finished setting everything up.

    1. ChristineSW*

      I’m surprised our cat hasn’t vomited under our tree yet. But then again, we don’t have a skirt set up. Probably for the best :)

          1. KLH*

            I came home and found ornaments on the floor. Of course, it’s just a tabletop tree and the ornaments were catnip mice I nestled in the branches. I only bought the tree for their stimulation–they had tiny real ones at Whole Foods that came with a stand.

    2. Andrea*

      I have three cats. I always assumed that it was impossible to have a tree if you also have cats. I’m not really into Christmas, anyway (well, besides buying gifts, which is pretty much my favorite thing ever), so we never decorate and I never wanted to, but I definitely think my cats would destroy a tree. They would have a good time destroying it, though.

      1. esra*

        It’s just a lot of compromises. Only plastic ornaments, I have a fake tree, etc. He loves it though. He’s big into plants, even the fake ones.

      2. Al Lo*

        We have a real tree with a cat.

        My sister-in-law keeps talking about how they can’t have a real tree (or a bigger-than-4-foot tree) with little kids, and how they’ll wait until the kids are older to have a tree. It drives me nuts — I keep telling her that my family had a tree every year of my life, no matter what little kids were around, and it’s not impossible.

      3. abby*

        We have a real tree with two real and very rambunctious cats. The first day, we brought the tree in the house and did nothing with it. The female climbed part-way up the tree, the male spent all day rubbing up against it (he smelled wonderful!) and rolling around under it. After a while, some of the novelty wore off and now they just hang out under the tree and bap at the low-hanging branches. But we compromised with ornaments – none within easy cat reach and no glass ornaments. So far, so good!

    3. Anonymous*

      I bought my cat a cat bed, just for her! Naturally, she refuses to sleep on it. Actually, she refuses to have anything to do with it, and if you try to physically put her on the cat bed, she manages to rotate up and hover away from the bed, just like how two magnets will repel each other when the poles are the same. I thought it was a waste of money until I put is under the Christmas tree to keep her from playing/batting ornaments/revenge chundering. Works a treat!

  10. Katie*

    I recently applied for an internal role at work. This is in the public sector.
    It’s a brand new role in a different department, they also advertised recently for a manager (who would be the manager for the role I applied for).

    The role was only advertised internally for about a week and it’s not the type of position that I think would get many internal applicants, you need quite specialized experience.

    After applications closed I was then advised they are going to advertise the role externally. Is this common practice? I know I could do this job, have great performance reviews and I don’t think there is anything wrong with my CV as I’ve already used it to get a job here.

    They haven’t told me I’m unsuccessful, but have said they will wait until the new advert closes before making any decisions.

    Should I most likely assume this is because they weren’t happy with any internal applicants, and I won’t get an interview. If that’s the case why wouldn’t they just tell me now instead of leaving me hanging for another month or so.

    Would it be because not many people applied, or maybe I was the only applicant? What would be other common reasons for doing this?

    1. Zelos*

      It could be anything from having to fulfill requirements to have a certain number of applicants, wanting to have the best person in the role instead of just who’s the most readily available, to being too lazy to train for two positions (the advertised job and your job, if you’re the successful applicant) instead of one, even if you’re the best fit, and many others. Which explanation is the right one depends on a lot of factors.

    2. D*

      Typically, in the public sector, there is a policy for posting jobs internally for a set period of time, then externally with a set or minimum number of people selected to interview. (And, oftentimes, this is true for private sector jobs.) This is so the job search process is as fair as it can be, even if there’s a ringer already pretty much selected for the position.

    3. COT*

      It could easily be due to a lack of internal applicants. Even if you’re a great candidate, they probably want to consider other great candidates, as well.

    4. Brett*

      We need a minimum of three internal applicants. If we do not get three, we are required to advertise externally. If an internal applicant is not acceptable for the position, we tell them before we go to external applicants. If they are, they interview with the external applicants.

  11. Anonymous*

    Your paycheck was short – now what?

    We have some employees who are part-time exempt and recently, I noticed that they were paid only 18 or 19 hours instead of 20 for some pay periods. I asked the timekeeper and after she checked with her boss, it became clear that she didn’t understand the policy for exempt employees.   They assured me that it wouldn’t happen again, but when I asked about correcting the past pay periods, they told me that they aren’t going to fix it. I pointed out the fact that as exempt employees, they are supposed to be paid the set percentage, and also the discrepancies between the timesheets (which say 20 hours) and payroll ledgers.  I don’t like to throw the word audit around but we’ve had timesheets audited before so it could happen.

    Basically, their answer was *shrug* and well, what can you do? I feel if I pushed the issue, they would tell me to “fix” the timesheets which I think is unethical and also just plain wrong given their exempt status. It’s as though the timekeeper woke up one day and decided to interpret the policy differently and inconsistently (there are other paychecks which were processed correctly).

    How much should I press this issue? Since none of the students said anything, I could easily let it go, especially since it’s almost year-end and almost time for w-2s. On the other hand, everything about it seems wrong, wrong, wrong. If I was getting stiffed an hour per paycheck, I wouldn’t just let it go (and those two payroll staff wouldn’t either).

    1. Zelos*

      Did the students notice and didn’t care, or they didn’t notice?

      If the former, it might be hard for you to press it. If the latter, you could tell them “hey, check your last pay stub, there was a mistake on mine” to tip them off, and whether they want to pursue it or shrug it off would be up to them.

    2. Jamie*

      Nothing pisses me off more than disregard for payroll. You don’t short people on pay – period. Ugh.

      When you alerted them was it in email? I’d keep it so if they do get audited you can cover your own ass.

      It seems wrong because it is wrong – it’s a huge ethical breach and the fact that it wasn’t met by gratitude for pointing it out so they can correct it is a problem in and of itself.

      If words like ‘illegal’ and ‘audit’ don’t make them care, I have no practical advice. Although if one of the shorted employees were made aware they could fight this themselves.

    3. Kevin*

      Does anybody else find it odd to have part-time, exempt employees? I don’t know the situation but are they meeting all of the rules to be classified as exempt?

      1. fposte*

        I have several part-time exempt employees. I confess it seems a little strange to me too, given that the point of exempt is that it’s not time-fixed, but I don’t think it’s uncommon.

        1. De Minimis*

          This has actually happened at my workplace, they have been overpaying an employee by nearly 20% for the past 3 years!
          And it’s a doctor, so it’s a significant amount of money. What happened was our health providers occasionally get retention pay every so many years, but a mistake was made somewhere and he was getting the retention bonus every year.

          Thankfully it is no one’s fault at our facility because those transactions are done at our area headquarters, but why it took so long for them to discover it is mystifying–it should have stuck out since it made him the highest paid employee. But he’s a specialist so I guess it was just assumed he would make a lot of money. I don’t believe he is going to be required to pay it back.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        This is interesting to me as well, because the threshold for minimum pay for an exempt person is a weekly number, not an hourly wage or anything.

        I wonder if it’s legal to pro-rate that minimum for part time?

        1. Payroll Lady*

          Actually Kimberlee, you can not pro-rate that number. Even if the Part-Time Exempt is only scheduled for 10 hours a week, they must be paid no less that $455.00 for the week. I know companies have these positions, but feel they are not truly exempt positions. With the fact that these are students, I have a feeling the EXEMPT does not meet any of the criteria for exemption from FLSA

          1. fposte*

            Some of them probably don’t, so that’s a good point (and I see below that it sounds like the OP’s employer is crazily and riskily inconsistent on this). I can say that ours do–they’re professional-level positions that exceed the pay threshold.

      3. T*

        When I had a graduate assistantship, I received the same pay every week regardless of how many hours I worked. In my case, I had a contract for a total number of hours during the academic year. The average was 20 hours per week. I worked a lot more if I had a big project due at work and less during finals.

      4. abby*

        We have two part-time exempt employees where I work and they do meet all the rules for the classification. My previous employer also had part-time exempt employees. It seems hard to manage on both ends, as the employees are still expected to get the work done and co-workers generally don’t care if they’re part time (salary is prorated). One is actually working full-time plus now, but works from home with super flexible hours so doesn’t complain. The other vigorously resists working hours much beyond the pro-rated salary/time agreement.

    4. fposte*

      Oh, stiffing student staff? I would have serious issues with that even before we got into contractual and union ramifications. Is it spelled out what their gross is supposed to be a week? I’m surprised that none of them have raised the issue of the differentiation, if so. Do you know if the rate is officially fixed in offer letters or publicly within the university? I’m trying to figure out just how much trouble this could cause. I’m not clear who’s who in this mess, but have the people supervising the students and those in charge of hiring them been apprised of this? If you haven’t talked to them, I would. I would raise hell if payroll shorted my students.

    5. Gail L*

      I think you should press it all the way. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but since I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to dock the exempt employee’s pay…

      You should find the legal language, sit down with them, and explain that what they are doing is not legal and that when they are audited, they will be caught, and they will still have to pay the money. Along with whatever other legal fallout there may be.

      1. Cassie*

        I’m the OP (posted originally on my phone and forgot to put in my name).

        – I’m pretty sure students didn’t notice (or if they did, they didn’t mention it to me) – they tend not to check their paychecks closely. I feel like if they did know, they would still run into the same roadblock w/ the timekeeper. Ironically, I think I have more “pull” because I have a basic understanding of the policy. Students may not know so if the timekeeper says “nothing can be done”, they have to accept it.

        – I printed out the email exchanges between me and the timekeeper (and where she said that she checked w/ her boss and they are not going to fix past paychecks), just in case of an audit. I talked to her boss in person so I don’t have documentation of that.

        – I think they are classified as exempt because they are doing research. They are part-time because as students, they can’t work more than 20 hours a week. It is a little weird, but it’s university policy. They are not part of a union and they aren’t told (AFAIK) that they are exempt employees. I believe most students are just told to fill out timesheets based on the template (which show 20 hours per week) – this appears to be the case across many depts on campus.

        It’s a bit of a mess because it looks like some departments are classifying the students as exempt (and paying them as such), others are not and are paying them hourly, and some (like ours) is classifying them as exempt but paying them hourly. I feel that at the very least, if the timesheet they submit shows 20 hours, that’s what they should be paid! I haven’t talked to my boss (who supervises some of the students) and the other students belong to other groups. I was trying to find a way to rectify the problem without involving faculty, but that doesn’t seem like it’ll happen.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I’d talk to your boss. (We have one of those timecard/exempt categories too, and I don’t understand that myself.)

  12. Anonymous*

    I’m going to be working on Christmas and last year a lot of customers yelled at me for working on Christmas. Like full on screaming at me for being at work instead of with my family. Any ideas for polite responses?

    1. Jubilance*

      Wait – people who were shopping on Christmas instead of being home all day with their families, YELLED at you for being at work & thus allowing the store to be open so they could shop instead of be with their own families?

      I got nothing but maybe Not Always Right could give you some inspiration.

      1. Anonymous*

        Its a ski resort so they were skiing with their families, but also mad at me for being at work. I made a lot of people feel guilty about this, which was satisfying, but I want to be the bigger person this year. Not always right is the best.

        1. fposte*

          “I hope to bring Christmas cheer by helping your family come out and ski today. Are you enjoying yourselves?”

          Tempting to burst into tears and say “I wanted to, but some people decided to SKI today!” But really, what is wrong with people to berate you for doing what makes their activity possible? Too much eggnog?

          1. VintageLydia*

            I used to to get yelled at by customers on holidays like Easter Sunday (and occasionally Sundays in general.) These are often the same customers that would be mad they couldn’t shop when we were closed. It’s ridiculous and I never understood it either.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Well if responses to make them feel guilty are out, this isn’t nearly as fun a question as I thought it was going to be. :p

          Go with a version of “bless your heart for your concern” and a big smile.

          But please tell one of them that you have to work to make the installment payment on Tiny Tim’s crutches. Just one.

        3. Mimi*

          I don’t get why they’re yelling at you, though. Do they feel guilty that their skiing is the reason why you have to be there, and they get mad bc they feel guilty?

    2. esra*

      I would be tempted to smile sweetly and ask: “But then who would be here to serve customers like yourself?”

      What a bunch of jerks.

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      I used to get that question when I worked retail – “Why are you open, it’s Christmas!” – and I always wanted to snipe back, “Why are you here, it’s Christmas!”

    4. pgh_adventurer*

      Ugh. Shouldn’t they be with their families? Instead of shopping? Sorry you’re dealing with that.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        It’s a ski resort. The customers are probably skiing with their families. Christmas week is the busiest week of the year for ski resorts–no way would they close on Christmas Day! Doesn’t make it any less stupid to yell at someone for working on a holiday… when you are a customer there.

    5. Steve*

      If you just want to say something to shit them up, it doesn’t necessarily have to be true – you could say something along the lines of “my family and I were all able to all be together last week/yesterday/tomorrow so we’ll be doing our celebrations together then.” And adding an “I’m working today so my coworkers can be with their families” might make them stop their BS.

    6. cecilhungry*

      On the flip side, as a customer, what is the appropriate thing to say to employees working on Christmas? If I have to run to the store for some milk, I always want to commiserate with the employees (“Oh man, I’m so sorry you have to work today! That sucks!”) but I’m not sure it’s appropriate. I usually just stick to a sincere “Hope you have a good day” / “Happy Holidays.”

      If it’s somewhere that I can tip, I try to tip generously, at least, but it’s almost always a grocery store, so…

      (I can’t believe people would yell at you! That’s so terrible!)

      1. Steve*

        Say “Thank you.”

        Maybe they don’t celebrate Christmas. Maybe they’re happy they don’t have to take a day off when some other day means more to them.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, I noted my appreciation to a young woman working at an interstate-exit gas station and convenience mart, and she said cheerfully that she liked it–it was quiet and she made good money. So I’m hoping that’s true of most people working holidays, but I’m still very appreciative of their being there.

          1. FD*

            Yeah, I kind of like working some holidays. It’s normally a fairly easy day and most places pay time and a half.

            This year kinda sucks because I’m doing a night shift Christmas Eve and a red-eye shift Christmas morning, but whatever. Them’s the breaks and all.

    7. AmyNYC*

      “I’m Jewish and there’s no good Chinese food up here in the mountains, so I figured… might as well go to work.”

    8. Felicia*

      The only time I ever worked on Christmas I said, “I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas, and I love all the extra money I’ll get today since you get time and a half for stat holidays”. All true for me, I worked at a movie theatre at the time, so it was a busy day.

      But really, not everyone celebrates Christmas so for those of us that don’t it doesn’t have any meaning and it’s really no different than any other day,, so why shouldn’t I work if i can? I’ll take time off for holidays I celebrate.

  13. Anonymous*

    What is the general consensus of having a graphic designer do your résumé? A friend of mine is offering to do this for free. She doesn’t add any pictures, just formats it nicely. Would interviews dislike that I didn’t do the résumé myself (if they ask)?

    1. esra*

      I’ve never had anyone ask if I designed my resume myself. I think it would at least be worth seeing what your friend comes up with.

    2. Trixie*

      I would hope it wouldn’t come up because the layout shouldn’t be that unusual they have to comment on it. The focus should be on the content, not distracted by colors, fonts, shading, lining, etc. The final product is almost so minimal in design elements, it shouldn’t look like a designer touched it. You can let your friend do for free and practice, but you don’t have to use it.

    3. Elsajeni*

      I would only be concerned about it, I think, if you’re interviewing for jobs that involve graphic design or similar work, where they’re likely to assume that the beautiful formatting of your resume is a sample of the kind of beautiful work you’d be doing for them. Or possibly if the way she formats it is really out of the ordinary, to the point where anyone looking at it would immediately know, “Wow, this is way beyond what a non-design-skilled person could achieve with a nice Word template and a good choice of font.” But outside of those situations, I’d be surprised if anyone even commented on it, let alone, like, challenged you on how you made those… particularly sharp-looking borders, or whatever it is that makes it stand out.

    4. Lanya*

      I am a designer who frequently offers resume design and copy editing services for my friends as a favor. I have only ever heard back good things about interviewers commenting on how nicely-done the resumes were, never accusations that the resume reflected design skills that the person didn’t really have!

      It’s not really any of their business if you had help with your resume, anyway – people pay for resume help all of the time, whether visual or verbal help.

      My personal opinion is, first impressions are lasting. If you present a beautiful, well laid-out resume, you will be remembered as a put-together, sophisticated candidate.

    5. AmyNYC*

      If it’s free, it can’t hurt. You don’t have to take the advice.
      My boyfriend is a graphic designer and I have a more “traditional” job, so we trade off, I check his resume for content and he gives me design tips.

    6. JC*

      I had the experience of reviewing a pile of resume at once when I was a volunteer at my university’s career centre.

      It’s refreshing to read a nicely formatted, readable resume. It definitely made reviewing the resume MUCH easier.

      If you can get help editing and proofread your resume, I don’t see a problem with getting help with touching up the formatting!

  14. Ali*

    Woohooo in before hundreds of comments!

    So I’m just a little aggravated again with Disorganized Boss. It’s Friday morning…as in, five days before Christmas Day and four before Christmas Eve…and he STILL doesn’t have our holiday schedule done. We all had to get him our requests a little while ago, but he got backlogged (again) and still has no Christmas/New Year’s schedule done. So he re-requested our availability and said he’s going to sort through it hour by hour. I have plans on New Year’s Eve (as in, an event I paid for and reserved a few months ago) and I am worried I won’t get it off because it seems like everyone on my team won’t work at night on NYE. So here I am wondering if he’s going to expect me to drop my plans (which I communicated to him in September, long before he requested holiday availability) to work because some of the people who have been in the job longer than me also don’t want that shift.

    I mostly like my job, but I feel like dealing with my boss is about as pleasant as getting a root canal, especially if I’m counting on him to stay organized. He fell behind on another task he was supposed to have done the other day too, and at this time of year, I feel like I don’t need the annoyance. Oh well…

    1. Anonymous*

      I had a boss like this! His schedules were soooo last minute, one Sunday night we still didn’t have the schedule so I called him at home at 10 pm and said so am I working Monday morning or not? HE DIDN’T KNOW YET.

      Tell him that you asked for it off in September and he needs to get it together!

    2. Katriona*

      Sounds like my boss. We did at least get our holiday schedules a few weeks ago, but I had to cancel my plans for Christmas AND New Year’s because I have to work both days. This job is worse than when I worked in retail.

  15. Chrissi*

    Cat owners – what do you do (short of locking them in another room) to keep your cat from being all over you while you’re working at home? Any helpful suggestions?

    I’ve rarely worked at home in the past even though I’m allowed to either on a case-by-case basis or once a week if I want to request it. I’d like to do it a little more often for the convenience, and I’m testing it out today to make sure I get enough done. My cat LOVES that I’m at home, but would also like to be on my lap or laying across the keyboard for most of the time :) She’s hard to resist and I don’t really want to lock her in the bedroom. Of course I will if need be, I just thought people might have some practical suggestions for me.

    1. esra*

      I found that the more I worked from home, the less of a novelty it became for my cat and eventually he settled in to just sleeping on my lap or on the sofa beside my desk. If it becomes part of your routine, she’ll probably settle down a bit.

      I liked the small cat breaks though, it kept me from being glued to my computer too too much.

      1. Jamie*

        This. At first mine were all over me too – they got used to me being home all the time when I was on leave and left the keyboard alone.

        They would snuggle and sleep curled up next to me while I worked – that was awesome – I miss that a lot. But no one in the office wants to snuggle up next to me while I work!

        1. fposte*

          You’re a sitcom maven, Jamie–do you remember the Dharma and Greg where Teller was their human pet, Mr. Boots? That’s what you’re making me envision.

      2. abby*

        This, and I have a napping area for them near a sunny window in my home office. This way, they can nap in the warm sun in the same room where I’m working. Occasionally, they want to see what I’m working on, make an edit or two on the computer, but for the most part, they leave me alone. It’s routine, now.

      3. Windchime*

        I let mine prowl around on the desk for a few minutes, and then he goes to sleep on the bed (my desk is in the guest room). If he’s super pesky, I’ll fold up a small quilt next to the keyboard and let him curl up on that. We went through a phase where he was captivated by the mouse pointer on the screen and wouldn’t stay out of the way, but fortunately we are past that now.

    2. Sascha*

      Put a box near you, a nice cozy box with a blanket inside of it. My husband was having that problem in the office and he put two boxes on top of his computer hutch, and they work like magic. Cats spend most of their time in the boxes.

      1. Judy*

        There was a photo on the cheezburger site the other week, with the title “The only way I can work on my laptop at home”. It showed a cat laying on the couch on a heating pad. I was concerned about the heating pad, but we do have one of those buckwheat pads that you heat in the microwave, and I heated it and put it in a chair near my desk, and then I have a cat in reach but not on top of me.

        1. COT*

          My cat likes a heating pad (on low heat, auto shutoff, only when we’re home). It’s a good way to help him settle down to nap where I want him to. Though he’s not usually the snuggliest, so he’s perfectly content (even happier) laying somewhere other than my lap.

          Maybe you could have some special extra-fun toys that only come out while you’re home? That might keep your cat distracted for a little while, at least.

          1. Chrissi*

            I do have an electric blanket that doesn’t get too hot that she would love. Of course after asking the question, she’s completely leaving me alone because she’s asleep in the bathroom by the radiator :)

      2. Amy B.*

        I second this idea. If she continues to get in your lap or on the keyboard, gently place her back in the box. Repeat as necessary.

      3. Sparrow*

        I was thinking of boxes also. My cats love boxes and crawling into paper bags.

        One of my cats used to sit on my desk chair with me, but it usually ended up with me perched on the very edge while she was sprawled out on the entire seat.

      4. Andrea*

        Yep, this is what I did, too. If they have a comfy nap spot right on your desk, they’ll sleep there and leave you alone. I have two cat napping spots within a foot of my laptop here in my home office. There’s also a window and I keep my birdfeeders filled right outside. The cats nap while I work and then amuse themselves by watching the birds.

        1. Andrea*

          Cardboard works fine, of course. I wanted something more stylish: My office is teal and white with a lot of brushed stainless steel. I bought two of those oval galvanized steel tubs at a hardware store, and I keep a folded antistatic fleece blanket folded inside each tub for the cats. They’re good-looking beds, the cats love them, and whenever the blankets get too hairy, I just throw them in the wash. Cheap baskets could work well the same way—don’t spend a lot of money on them and you won’t be upset when the cats claw them up.

    3. Jess*

      Catnip is usually a distraction for a few minutes (or hours, depending on how fresh it is). If you can work on a laptop, try working on the couch so your cat can snuggle next to your feet instead of in your lap. I get a lot of work done on my laptop by lounging under a pile of blankets, allowing my snuggle-happy fat boy to curl up next to me.

      Otherwise, I’m just happy that I’m home with my kitties. They aren’t keyboard loungers, fortunately.

    4. Chris*

      I installed a screen door on my home office after my third Ethernet fatality. Works perfect and the kitties can still see/hear me and vice versa

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t have this problem when I work at home, since my cat is an outside kitty. But she does hear me moving around in the kitchen if I go in there for noms, and she’ll sit on the patio and cry (loudly) until I come out and play with her. Or she thinks it’s food time, even if I already gave her breakfast. She’s so weird.

      1. danr*

        Not really. We have a visiting cat who does the same thing. He comes over when his folks are out, or just too busy to pay attention. We don’t feed him, but do have water. He’ll come over and give a big meow to get attention. And it doesn’t matter that one of us was just outside with him.

    6. Chrissi*

      Thank you everyone for your suggestions! I uploaded a picture to Gravatar that I hope will show up next to my comment when I post this with the end result of your suggestions. In case it doesn’t post – I ended up putting her bed on the other end of the table I’m working at, then covering it in an electric blanket set on low. She’s pretty darn happy right now as am I!

    7. Rachel C*

      This is going to sound bizarre, but have you tried putting a decoy keyboard next to the one you use? It’s worked for me before! My cats aren’t lap cats but they do love walking all over keyboards and in front of monitors, and putting an extra unplugged keyboard next to where I was working made them happy because they could lay on it and stare at me but they were out of my way. Also heating pads (on low of course and monitored) are brilliant for cat distraction!

      1. Chrissi*

        That’s so clever! I always assumed that she walked (and laid) on my keyboard because she didn’t like something else being the center of my attention other than her! I’ll have to try that sometime with my personal laptop :)

    8. Bea W*

      My friend bought a big enough desk so a cat could comfortably lie between her keyboard and her screen. She also had a second office chair next to hers. Another cat would sit there.

    9. Laura*

      It sounds like you’ve got Alpha Cats on your hands! My kitties LOVE to have something for themselves that is similar to what I’m doing. If you’re writing, give them a piece of paper. If you’re cooking, give them a big plastic bowl to jump in and out of and maybe put a wooden spoon it in so there’s something to knock around. If they keep taking your pen, give them something similar (and safer) like a straw. Also, you might try some active play before you sit down to work – you might be able to shift their schedule by playing with them, and then feeding them, hoping that they’ll nap after that. Cats follow the “hunt. eat. groom. sleep” pattern pretty relentlessly, so you can get them start on the path to sleep with some play/hunt time and a snack.

  16. Mary*

    This is just a note to thank everyone here for being awesome. I wrote in one of the previous open threads about how to adjust to my job being reclassified, and everyone’s advice was kind and helpful. Also awesome and helpful: getting a new job that’s exempt, much closer to my house, and doing awesome work for an awesome company!

    I appreciate the support of everyone here for every kind of difficult situation in which one might find oneself.

  17. Just a Reader*

    Question for the group. How do you deal with an officious, know-it-all coworker? There is a person junior to me in my group who is constantly trying to one up me or undermine me in front of our stakeholders.

    My boss thinks that people spot expertise and insecurity and I have nothing to worry about. But I want to nip this in the bud. If she just did it to my face I wouldn’t care, but it’s an active effort in front of people whose confidence and buy-in I need to do my job.

    1. esra*

      For the undermining in front of stakeholders, is it anything egregious enough that you could take her aside afterward and ask why it happened/what her concerns are?

    2. pgh_adventurer*

      I would get her alone after a meeting where she’s undercut you, outline the situation, and ask her what’s up.

      She’s trying to boost herself by cutting you down- if you show her you’re not going to let her do that, she’ll probably bite her tongue next time.

    3. Just a Reader*

      I’ve actually just corrected her in the meeting, because she’s started to commit me to things as if she’s my superior–and said no, that’s not what’s going to happen.

      And then afterward I’ve asked her to cut out the behavior. She will stop that exact behavior and start something else.

      Most recently she tried to torpedo one of my ideas in front of my boss and when that didn’t work, she tried to take credit for it.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, I’d be leaning towards correcting her in the moment, too, if it’s something that she’s said that’s factually wrong/out of her scope. If it were tone or attitude, I would bring it up afterwards.

      2. Yup*

        Is it just you, or does she do this to others as well?

        If she does this to other people too, you don’t need to do anything other pointedly correcting her or raising an icy eyebrow when it gets majorly out of hand. She’s busily making an @ss of herself at work and people will figure it out pretty quickly what she’s made of.

        If it’s just you, then I’d go with firmly correcting it in the moment, without malice or accusation, in the moment . “That’s inaccurate, Susan. The reports went out on Monday. As I was saying…” “Sorry to interrupt, but I wrote the initial draft and then we worked on the idea together. Just wanted to clarify. Thanks.”

        1. Just a Reader*

          She always has to be the smartest person in the room, so being pompous and officious and hard to work with applies to her relationships with everyone.

          The undermining behavior is particular to me for some reason.

    4. Kaz*

      I would take the Miss Manners approach and say, “Why do you need to know?” “What makes you say that?” “Where did you hear that?” etc, in a neutral tone with a neutral face.

  18. Sascha*

    I just wanted to say things are turning around for me at my job…I found out some internal changes are in the works that will put me on another team with a new manager with whom I’ve already worked (and she is awesome and I love her), and away from my current manager, who is a huge headache. Also I’m getting a pay raise and new title…but I think I’m mostly excited about the new manager lol. Anyway these wonderful things are happening because 1) I spoke up to my director and 2) I did my best to maintain a good work ethic whilst being burned out or on the edge of burned out. I tried hard to cultivate a good reputation around my department and I think it worked. :)

    So thank you, Alison, and everyone here at AAM! I have gotten so much good advice from everyone and it’s really changed my outlook and helped me reevaluate my priorities.

  19. Rayner*

    I’m going to enjoy my Christmas all to myself. I’m not flying a thousand miles home and then back again just for a four day stop. I’d rather have the money, skype it, and enjoy having my apartment to myself without housemates.

    *wanders off to go and wash my hair, and steal someone’s car keys*

    1. Gjest*

      I spent Christmas alone last year because there was huge snowstorm and I couldn’t drive. At first I was bummed, but then I skyped my family, ate some of the treats that I had made to bring to Christmas dinner, and watched a bunch of movies and it was actually really nice. I am going to visit my family this year, which I’m looking forward to, but I also kind of wish I was having a quiet day at home, too.


    2. Chrissi*

      I did it last year for the first time and it was not depressing like I thought it would be. In fact, it was so nice that I decided to do it again this year! :)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve spent many Christmases alone, when I was too far from family or had no one else to be with. I hate it. But I’m not that crazy about Christmas either–it’s the being alone that sucked.

      Thanksgiving isn’t that big a deal because I’m usually busy doing other things (homework, ice show prep, etc.)

  20. Jess*

    Fellow workplace vegans: Do you have a strategy for surviving all-staff lunch meetings when you cannot eat ANYTHING provided? I don’t mean surviving as in being hungry; I mean the comments and uncomfortableness. I’m still new to my workplace, so my veganism isn’t known widespread yet, and I’m in Texas (but not Austin), so it’s not usual to have a vegan on staff. I don’t expect anyone to consider vegan catering options if I’m the only one, especially with the theme is BBQ. So I wasn’t bothered when I had to attend a western-themed all-staff meeting. What made me uncomfortable was the fact that lunch was served before the meeting in the meeting room, which I didn’t know was going to happen. I got to spend 30 quiet minutes sitting near the front (because I don’t want to be late!), not eating, not chatting because I’m not in a “group” yet. I of course had the usual questions (mayo contains eggs so I can’t eat the potato salad or coleslaw; BBQ beans are usually cooked with pork) and tried to throw out lines like, “It’s my choice, and I’m just happy to be here.” But it’s a mandatory staff meeting and not a party, so that kind of sentiment felt like it didn’t fit. How have you handled this kind of situation?

    1. Jamie*

      I’m not vegan, but I have the same situation since due to my own weird food issues I don’t eat at those events and there is almost nothing I can eat, even if I tried to be polite.

      And I acknowledge that your veganism and other people’s food restrictions are more valid in a real way than my own neurosis – but the end result is the same in that you’re in a room of people badgering you about why you aren’t eating.

      For me, it’s tone and repetition. I say, “No thanks, I’m good” with a smile as many times as needed to as many people as ask. I don’t tell them why I am not eating, I don’t discuss my feelings about the food, I don’t comment on what they are or aren’t eating. I’m just pleasant. After a while people who know you tend to stop asking and you just have to deal with new people.

      Now, in the case of vegans I think the person planning the meal should know so there are options for you (and others who may not have said anything.) You can certainly let the planning person know in an FYI kind of way and as long as it’s not with a tone accusing them of starving you when they didn’t know they should accommodate you.

      But the world is full of people who, for some unfathomable reason, are fascinated by what others are or aren’t eating. One of the most boring topics on earth, but some can’t let it alone. It’s their problem, not yours.

      1. Anonymous*

        “No thanks, I’m good” is how I get out of eating at work, too. I’m not vegan, but I know that any food that’s provided has been sitting at room temperature all day and EEW.

      2. Jess*

        Yes, it does turn into a discussion about food while the other person is eating said food. That is also uncomfortable. I’ll try the air of mystery next time!

        The departments here rotate hosting the all-staff meeting. Now that I know that, I’ll try to gently bring this up with the next department. I’ll also have more say when it’s my department’s turn.

    2. Calla*

      Is there a designated person who usually orders lunches (i.e. receptionist or admin)? Make sure they know you’re a vegan (and what it means) and that you would really appreciate one or two options. I think this is absolutely fine as long as you’re not sounding demanding, especially since you’re required to be there for the meal portion of the meeting! Our main admins know I’m strict vegetarian, so when they order for meetings or events there’s always some kind of option.

      1. COT*

        I’m a vegetarian (and picky to boot), and while I try not to draw any fuss about my eating habits, I do usually give a heads-up that I’m vegetarian before any big meal (work, dinner parties, etc.). Often the person who did the ordering/cooking feels bad if they discover that I can’t eat anything they prepared. They often really appreciate the heads-up so they can feed me! It’s usually a bigger deal to them than to me.

        If we’re talking hundreds of people and you’re the only vegan, then it may not be worth it to put in a special request. But if the admin is ordering lunch for ten, let him/her know. Be prepared to offer a few simple suggestions about what you can eat, since people not familiar with dietary restrictions are often really intimidated by trying to accommodate them.

        1. Jess*

          I’m actually vegan partly because being a picky vegetarian was too complicated! Suggestions are a good suggestion. Thanks!

          1. Rayner*

            How does a /more/ restrictive diet help? Not critical, just curious because vegans have fewer choices, I thought…. like, no eggs or milk that a vegetarian might have? Or am I getting things mixed up again?

            1. Jess*

              You’re correct. I’m not huge on eggs or dairy anyway (and am moderately lactose-intolerant) and am concerned about animal welfare, so instead of asking the ingredients of every dish or telling people I eat only humanely-raised eggs and not certain kinds of dairy, I just cut out the middleman. I’m 100% vegan at work (except for this bottle of honey I’m working to finish) and almost there at home.

              1. fposte*

                There’s something kind of adorable about that. “It takes too long to articulate what I do and don’t choose to eat–I’ll just go for the nearest thing that has a short name :-).”

      2. Jess*

        I’m still not sure who orders lunches here, but I do agree it’s easier to have the conversation before the food is ordered rather than while everyone else is eating. I’ll be more proactive about that. Thanks!

    3. happycat*

      Not that this will help you, but here is some things I have tried:
      lie. just say your tummy is upset and you can’t really eat much, thank you very much.
      Tell them you are full, you ate already.
      Tell them it is for ‘faith’ reasons, it might make them leave it alone.
      No one really cares much, they just want to not feel weird about it. Give them a reason that fits the culture. Dieting for offices where that matters works, whatever works for the situation.

      1. Jamie*

        I’ve tried the tummy is upset thing years ago – but if you use that too much people start recommending tests and treatments that helped someone they knew.

        When people start recommending upper gis and barium enemas you know you need to dial back the faux tummy trouble.

          1. Bea W*

            There isn’t any scientific evidence to back it up. Plus it just doesn’t make biological sense since everything in your stomach is bathing in acid and due to body temperature, cold things don’t stay cold for long. Everything ends up at the same toasty temperature in your stomach.

      2. Jess*

        I actually sometimes have a “headache” response ready (although karma bit me and now I see a neurologist for weird head/neck pain). I would have to work hard to use “faith” here because they’d be like, “BBQ is a faith in Texas!”

    4. Amy B.*

      I live in the deep south and am vegan. I am also still trying to figure out how to deal with the “why are you so weird” crowd at work.

      We recently had our holiday party and I wanted to be prepared (in case I needed to eat before going) so I asked our office manager if we were going to have a veggie tray. When she asked why and I told her I was vegan she said, “Why do you have to try to ruin everything I put together?” Um, sorry. I didn’t ask for any special dishes, I just wanted to know if there were going to be some vegetables there. I kept telling her that being vegan was my choice and I did not expect anyone to cater their menu to me. Turns out she had already ordered a veggie tray so NBD. That was a very good thing because ALL of the other dishes were meat (beef wellington, parmesan encrusted chicken, and antipasto). I was probably not the only one to appreciate that there was something other than artery cloggers on the table.

      The best thing about being vegan this time of year is: I am not even tempted by all the treats that are being brought into the office! Though I will probably make a trip to the vegan bakery before the holidays.

    5. Kou*

      Just say you don’t want any, that should be ok. You’ll have to learn who doesn’t take no for an answer and lie to them to say you already ate. Most people will be fine if you just say you don’t want anything, but there’s always someone who insists on trying to feed you. “Can you eat this? Or that? Can I get you this? Do you want to go get this?” I appreciate the concern but pleeeaaase stooop.

      And if it makes you feel better, no vegans anywhere in the country have an easier time. I haven’t found anywhere it’s easy to not eat in front of people. Even if it’s something you’d think would be easier to justify, like my food allergies– people are weird about it.

      1. Jess*

        Yes, it’s also a problem at holidays with my husband’s family. Not only did they grow up eating dishes that are super weird to me (pea salad?), but they also are the concerned type. His mother and I are meeting in the middle: I’ve learned to cook a lot of my own food to bring, and she tries to remember the things I like and make them.

    6. Marilla*

      People get used to it over time, although they will still comment. I sit and join the lunches/breakfasts/whatevers, have a coffee or a cup of juice or water, or nothing, and chat with people without eating. I just kind of smile and give non-commital responses.. No, I can’t eat this, but it looks really beautiful. Oh, thank you, no, I can’t have any… No, I don’t mind at all!

      I’m not vegan but I keep strictly kosher so the same thing is an issue for me. By now people in my department generally know I can’t eat most of what they bring in. It’s still important to take advantage of the socializing. I definitely did this little by little when I started though – I didn’t always stay for the whole thing, just dropped by for a bit to make an appearance and chat.

    7. Jules*

      I observe vegetarian diet and what I usually do is to keep my hand full. It could be salads, it could be coffee with a cookie/cake/snack. That way I don’t stand out. They know my diet and I don’t ask for special treatment. I eat what I can and call it good.

      My favorite is still holding a cup/mug with both hands and talking to people.

      1. Jessa*

        Yeh you don’t actually ever have to really eat it, but if you look like you have food/drink. Every time I end up at a party with booze, I get a ginger ale (because it looks like a mixed drink with soda water or slightly champagney.) Nobody asks.

    8. T*

      Talking to the person planning/ordering lunch in advance is a good idea. If they do a lot of buffets and it seems like a challenge to add vegan options, maybe they can get you a boxed lunch. People asking you questions may be politely curious (as I would be) rather than because they think you’re strange. I understand somewhat because I have sensitivity issues with certain foods and most food workers don’t know the ingredients in anything.

      One idea that might work for you is if you bring in vegan goodies from a bakery or that you have made yourself. That might show your coworkers that vegan food can be good and give you a chance to explain some of your restrictions in a positive way (and they may stick up for you the next time they have to order food for the office).

    9. Chinook*

      I had this happen when I was fasting on a day where we had an office lunch. I dealt with it by letting the person doing the ordering that I wasn’t eating and then showed up with a cup of tea. When asked why I wasn’t eating, I replied “religious reasons” and changed the subject. I had to repeat it a couple of times but it seemed to work though, ironically, it did trigger a discussion on religious traditions at the other end of the table (which I actively stayed away from so that I didn’t make my fasting a BFD).

    10. Lora*

      I’m not vegan, I’m just insanely picky. If people ask why I’m not eating, I laugh and say, “I’m a picky eater”. If they get around to asking what I do like to eat, I tell them green salad, dressing on the side. That is usually something lunch planners can manage, even in Texas.

      Plus, if you’re in Georgetown or near it? Monument Cafe. Lots of vegan dishes, and meat and stuff for carnivores too.

      Other options: Japanese, Chinese, Thai & Indian often have good veggie menu choices.

      I also stock my desk or work bag with snacks (dried fruit, nuts, pretzels) so even if I’m stuck in one of those “nothing I want to eat here” situations, I don’t go totally hungry.

  21. Ayeaye*

    If you had the opportunity to live in Saudi Arabia for 18 months would you? Massive professional opportunities involved in terms of what you’d be doing out there, no children or owned home but a partner in the UK who might or might not be able to go. Also guaranteed your old job when you return.

      1. Judy*

        It’s interesting to see my cousin’s photos of Saudi on facebook. It looks really neat. (She travels for business there several times a year.) But you can’t disguise that she’s standing in front of things wearing clothing much different than she wears at home (headscarf and face coverings) and that she has at times taken pictures of “our driver”. It is unclear whether she is required in meetings to wear what she is required to wear on the street, in public.

    1. pgh_adventurer*

      Absolutely! The chance to live and work abroad and have a totally new experience can be life-changing. I’d jump on it.

    2. Colette*

      It sounds like a great opportunity – but it would be a big shift.

      Questions to ask yourself:
      – Is there an ex-pat community you could turn to for support/social activities?
      – Are you prepared to adapt to local customs (clothing, driving, etc.)?
      – Are you comfortable going without your partner? Is your partner comfortable with staying without you?

      It sounds like a great opportunity, as long as you think through what it really will be like.

    3. Cat*

      Maaaaaybe. Keep in mind that working Saudi Arabia for westerners is often really different than working in others countries in terms of how much of the local life you’ll be experiencing. You may well be spending most of your non-work time in a walled Western compound; and that goes double if you’re female (or your partner is female and comes). That might make it simpler in some ways in terms of culture shock, but also less interesting.

      (But that is only about the place; the professional opportunity vs. possible long distance relationship is a whole different set of considerations.)

      1. Felicia*

        Yes, that. Personally, as a woman, and as a lesbian, I wouldn’t feel safe. No matter how safe and walled my Western compound would be, I would still know that I’m in a country that doesn’t permit me to drive and requires me to be accompanied by a man in public places. I just couldn’t live somewhere with laws like that, even if i would be treated different as a Westerner.

        1. Bea W*

          Yes same. It might be interesting to visit as a tourist, but living in this atmosphere is a whole different ball of wax, even if you are in a Western compound type area.

    4. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Before my husband became a teacher, he was an advisor at an English language school in which a significant portion of the student body was from Saudia Arabia. All I will say is that after spending countless weekends helping chaperone international students, Saudia Arabia is one of the few countries for which I did not form a desire to visit, let alone live.

    5. AVP*

      I think it REALLY depends on what you’d be doing, who you’d be doing it with, and which part of the country you’d be in. My old roommates parents (Americans, from Alaska) moved there for work and the husband enjoyed it, but the wife was a little miserable as she felt very limited socially, didn’t have a lot of mobility, and just wasn’t used to the repressive environment.

      That said I’m sort of a glutton for new experiences and would totally go.

      Read “A Hologram for the King” by Dave Eggers if you can – it’s about an American man trying to do a business deal in Saudi and he ends up staying there for the bulk of the book.

    6. anon*

      absolutely not. I am a female and I spent 4 years living in Saudi Arabia while my father was in the military.

    7. Lora*


      Had the chance once. They offered 3X my usual salary. Long term contract. Asked a colleague about his time in Saudi Arabia: “They take your passport when you enter the country, and give you papers so you can only travel within the country. When you are ready to leave, you have to APPLY to get your passport back. Had to apply twice and complain to the US Consulate to get it back. They will only let you leave when they are good and ready.”

      He said they are really, really short on professionals in certain fields. And yes, since you are living in the ex-pat compound, he felt much like he’d been taken hostage by someone who was simply very polite about it.

      1. Gjest*

        No way would I go there if I have to give up my passport and apply to leave. And also the repression of women. I am all for the experience of living overseas (I’m doing it right now) but I have no desire to live in Saudi Arabia. Also I have no heat tolerance after living in the arctic for so many years and it gets hot as balls there.

    8. StudentA*

      Probably not. The lifestyle is really exclusionary, from what I’ve heard. Can you visit first, or talk to other female team members who are doing this?

      Keep us posted!

      1. IronMaiden*

        A friend of mine went to Saudi Arabia for a year and said it was the worst year of his life. He said even the tax benefits were overstated and he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

  22. Jubilance*

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    Would love some thoughts on how to handle a situation my boyfriend is in. He started with a new company in October; he works out of the East Coast office but the company is HQed in the Twin Cities, which coincidentally is where I live. When my BF’s bosses found out his GF lived in MN, they immediately told him that he could definitely transfer or be able to telecommute so that he could be in the Twin Cities with me & still do his current job. As an aside, he reports to a VP that works remotely from AZ. This week my BF had a 45 minute status meeting with the VP, and the assurance that he could transfer was reiterated by the VP.

    So to my question – how can firm this up, so to speak? I certainly don’t want him to be pushy about it, but since his bosses have put out there that its a strong possibility, he and I are both excited at the prospect of him being here in the next 3-6 months, based on the timeline from his bosses. So far the only thing I’ve thought of was to keep casually dropping references to his frequent trips to MN. What would be the right time to bring up getting a firm deadline, sometime in the spring maybe? Would he need to get it in writing or from HR or something? This is all new to me so I’d love to hear if anyone else has been through this.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Doesn’t sound like there’s a firm policy. Because I know what steps I will need to take when I plan to ask to become full-time work from home.

      My suggestions:
      1) BF make of list of everything he can think of that must be done. (technical set up and permissions from bosses, etc)
      2) BF makes timeline for his move
      2) BF appraoches ask for permission to begin working in MN on X date. Asks for his help to make it happen.

    2. Kevin*

      Is there someone he can ask specifically about this?

      “Hey I just wanted to follow up on our/your meeting. i was hoping to get a better sense of when you thought my relocation might be possible? ” Maybe add in, I just was curious as my lease ends on this date or something like that.

  23. Elizabeth West*

    Christmas kitteh!

    We’re having a big Christmas party at work today on my floor. There will be food. There are decorations (really amazing ones–we have some extremely creative and holiday-loving people). There is/will be silliness. There is a giant Homer Claus inflatable. I love this job.

    Click my name to see my blog post about how I’m spending the time between now and the beginning of next semester. (Not to mention the kind of present I would like Santa to bring me. >:D) Urggh, there is more to be done on Current Novel than I thought–writing a list out is helpful but can also be somewhat discouraging. At least I got the reordering out of the way; I was dreading that.

    I had hoped 2013 would be better than 2012; it wasn’t. It was worse. Here’s hoping 2014 will be the year everything finally comes together–book, personal life, everything. I need good things to happen now.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I wish! I don’t get to write all day, although I have in the past (and do now) used my lunch hour for personal projects. I spent a good chunk of my lunches at Exjob writing Previous Novel.

            My company posted a listing for a different job, which I interviewed for but didn’t get. Then they posted this job and I had to audition with a little editing test. I aced it and got an interview, aced it and the second interview, and got the job. I was lucky; it happened right before I ran out of unemployment. 0_0

  24. Karyn*

    All I want for Christmas are friends who don’t expect me to mediate their divorce.

    I get that I am the only divorced person in our group of friends, so they think I have some special knowledge that I can clue them in on, but frankly, it’s just turning into each of them wanting to snipe about the other. I’m trying to maintain friendships with them both, and I want to be supportive, but I DON’T WANT TO COUNSEL YOU.


    1. Marina*

      Any way you can turn “don’t snipe to me” into Sage Advice? ;) Something like, “You know, one of the things I’ve learned is that it just wasn’t helpful for me to complain to mutual friends”?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      “I learned that everyone’s situation is so different that it is best not to get too involved. I had people offer me advice that really did not fit my setting, so I don’t want to do that to other people.”

      1. Lora*

        THIS +1,000,000.

        I had friends whose divorces were fairly amicable tell me it would not be as bad as all that, it would be very depressing for a while but then it would get better.

        Mine was not amicable. I make much more money than now-ex, and his new girlfriend was a complete and utter gold-digger AND encouraged now-ex’s coke habit to boot. It was a friggin disaster with a LOT of lawyers, fights, abuse, threats, stalking, insurance fraud, restraining orders…the works. Everything people had told me about, “it’ll start getting better soon” was utter lies. For YEARS. Because then it was also magically my fault that the girlfriend dumped him when she found out he didn’t make much money, so then the vandalism on the house, the stalking, the phone calls and texts…ugh.

        I get it that some people have nice amicable divorces and stay friends, that was just not at all my experience. Maybe recommend a counselor they can vent to if they need? Or a group therapy?

  25. CollegeAdmin*

    I’d like to share some good (non-job-related) news: I just paid off all of my federal student loan debt – $20K in less than 20 months! I still have a ton of private loans, but still. I’m so happy I could cry.

    Anyone else have good news? Share!

    1. pgh_adventurer*

      Awesome!! That’s a huge accomplishment. Good for you.

      I was just offered a new PT job that pays almost double what my current job does. So, I’ll be able to stay in the workforce while completing my MPA, and make enough to pay all my bills and even SAVE! Plus the work is super interesting. I’m very excited.

  26. The IT Manager*

    It’s Christmas season and I have a good bit of leave saved up; although, I don’t have any use or lose leave yet. And I can work from home or in this case my parents home where I will be for the next two week. (Please don’t target my house for theft while I am gone, internet friends!)

    This is the one time of year, I can take off without expecting to come back to so much work that I then have to work extra to make up for the vacation. But I am going to be working half days and 3/4 days. I could actually take more time off, but I am strangely excited by the idea of worktime that is not overloaded with meetings. I might manage to clean up my inbox and dig out from the mass of electonic information.

    Do you think this is wierd?

    ** Being able to work from home or anywhere with decent internet totally makes this possible. Yeah, science!

    1. Jamie*

      If it’s weird count me in – I absolutely looooove working when almost everyone else is gone. I get more done in a week than a month of real time with interruptions and meetings.

    2. Colette*

      I used to work stat holidays, and it was great. It just felt more relaxing – even when I mostly worked with people for whom it wasn’t a holiday.

    3. ChristineSW*

      Not weird at all. At one previous job–which was in a manufacturing environment–there would be a week-long “shut down” (twice a year maybe?). I loved those weeks because it’d give me a chance to catch up on backlogged work and perhaps some workspace organizing.

    4. Sparrow*

      Not weird. I’m off work from the 23d through the 1st and I have the ability to work from home. I’ll probably log in a few times to catch up on email so I’m not overwhelmed when I go back. It’s nice to be able to get work done without instant messages or people stopping by my desk for questions.

      Also, I love being off work but at the same time I do get a bit stir crazy without having anything to do. Even if I won the lottery and didn’t have to rely in my salary, I’d have to find something to do during the day.

    5. danr*

      Not weird… When I had a choice I always worked between Christmas and New Years. First, there is no traffic and if you take public transit, you can always get a seat. Second, as everyone else has noted, you get a lot of work done.
      And third, your office mates owe you when *you* want to take time off. (grin).

    6. abby*

      Yep, if it’s weird, count me in. Company isn’t closed, but many people are gone and I have a lot of vacation time. I’ve put myself on the company’s “vacation calendar” for the entire two-week period, but will probably work from home quite a bit and even in the office a day or two to get caught up. Looking forward to working without distractions! And will sort out the work-versus-vacation time after the holidays.

  27. Andy*

    My company is changing the compensation structure. In the past, we had a messy system that involved commissions, salary, bonuses, and some weird grandfathered exceptions. The new structure is supposed to make the compensation structure more fair. For most employees, the change works out to be a small raise. For a few of us who historically received high commissions and/or bonuses, it’s actually a pay cut. I’m absolutely flabbergasted, as it seems that the change is hurting the highest performers while rewarding the lowest performers. I plan to discuss this with my manager and ask for a raise, at least enough to compensate for the pay cut. Any tips or advice for approaching this situation?

    1. Kevin*

      Can you provide a general rule? Anybody who makes sales of over $10 is going to be earning less money than before. I’m afraid it might hurt the motivation of top performers.

      1. Andy*

        Yes, there’s definitely a line. Anyone who made over x% over their base salary in commissions and/or bonuses is looking at a pay cut. I don’t think that’s a large number of people, but it would be comprised of some of the better performers.

    2. Anonymous*

      This happened at my husband’s former company a few years ago. It was similar to what you’re describing. People had been receiving a competitive salary and very high bonuses that were tied to years of service (some formula involving company performance, multiplied by a years of service). The result was that some long-term employees were earning significantly more in bonuses than in salary (so, e.g., an administrative assistant could be paid $45,000 in salary and $60,000 in bonuses). When the system was changed, salaries were adjusted up slightly and bonuses were flattened significantly, and some long-term employees saw their overall income drop by huge amounts.

      From what we could see, it was a reasonable change. Pay had been way out of whack, and wasn’t much aligned with performance. But, damn, it must have been hard for folks who lost a lot.

      1. Andy*

        That sounds similar, but to the extreme. Wow to the example of the admin assist. Ours isn’t tied to seniority, so there’s not that multiplying effect. Though I have heard some really weird cases of grandfathered commissions for longtime sales staff. And there’s definitely a feeling that the old pay structure is convoluted.

        Still, it seems so absolutely discouraging that I’ve had a great year, exceeded my goals, and am getting… a pay cut.

  28. Nyxalinth*

    My kitteh is afraid of the new bathroom rug. Apparently she dislikes how it feels under her paws, so she refuses to step on it. she liked the old one with a nubby texture better, I think!

    She’s also very chatty, and VERY loud. Carly doesn’t know about having an indoor voice. Also, her most dire foe is…the toaster. Every time I make toast, she yells and complains and sometimes fuzzes up for good measure.

    I swear, my cat is nuts. But also very cute. Anyone else have pets with really odd quirks?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I got my cat his own cat because he was so loud and emotionally needy. It calmed him down a lot, but now I have two crazy cats instead of just one :)

      1. Lindsay J*

        Yes, we got my dog a dog for similar reasons. He was home alone a lot and got bored and lonely and upset (and barked which made the neighbors upset). Now with his buddy they can entertain each other and keep each other company when we’re not home, and they’re both happy as clams. And now I have two dogs to greet me when I get home.

      2. Anon scientist*

        That worked really well for my parents. They had a neurotic, lonely cat, and then they got TWO kittens in case she didn’t react well. She didn’t. But, she gets to be annoyed and boss them around, and Be Superior. 10 years later, she’s a very arthritic, cranky girl but is clearly much better off with them around.

    2. Sascha*

      My big puppy is scared of certain things around the house, like the AC. He has to get up his courage to walk through the hallway where the intake is. He’s also afraid of this one spot in the living room where he once accidentally kicked over a tray, and it clattered to the floor and surprised him. So he has this weird, circuitous route from the bedroom to the living room. Funny thing is, he’s not afraid of anything else – he messes with the cats all the time and seems fearless in other respects.

    3. cecilhungry*

      My cat hates it when I sneeze. He will be sleeping and purring contentedly on my lap, I sneeze, and he immediately starts attacking my face. Sometimes he will come running in from another room in order to do this. It’s gotten to the point where if I feel a sneeze coming on, I will go onto the porch to do it!

      Also, related to the person above asking about how to deal with their cats while working at home, I used to do freelance copy editing. I prefer to do it on paper with a red pen if possible. Cat LOVES when I write things, and will bat at / attempt to eat the pen whenever possible. Also, if I got up, he would immediately lie on my papers, often smudging them. I fixed the problem by no longer working from home. :-/

      Cat, you are cute but you do not make my life easier.

      1. Jess*

        My cat hates it when I sneeze! Not to the point where he attacks my face, though. He just meows angrily, like “how dare you.” Or maybe he is saying “bless you.”

    4. COT*

      My cat likes to be held like a baby and snuggled… as long as you’re standing up or walking around. Sitting or laying, he usually loses interest in cuddling quite quickly.

      His interests change a lot. He currently has a recent obsession with the bathtub. Our (fiberglass) tub has a removable front panel for plumbing access. He recently saw it popped out and now attacks it regularly trying to get it to pop out again. I’m not sure why, because he has no interest in exploring under the tub once he gets it open. Today he knocked the panel down overnight, I replaced it when I hopped in the shower, and he knocked it back out within two minutes.

      1. IReadBooks*

        My parents bathroom has a plumbing access panel in the closet of the bedroom next door. When they moved in about 10 years ago, the panel itself was missing and their kitten would sit in the closet and watch the pipes for hours. The panel has been replaced and there for 8 or 9 years, and the now fairly elderly cat still sits in the closet and stares at the pipes and will throw a fit if she can’t get in to do her inspections.

    5. Chrissi*

      My cat grew up in a lab so she didn’t really get socialized with other cats and so she can be a bit quirky. When I first got her she didn’t really understand the concept of gravity and she’d roll right off the couch or bed while I was petting her. She figured that out eventually.

      I’ve had her for 7 years and just a few months ago she “learned” how to hiss. However she doesn’t seem to understand what it’s for. She’ll be sitting on the floor and just randomly hiss at the footstool or the wall or I’ll be futzing with her paws (I know, she hates it) and she’ll look at me, hiss, then calmly lie back down on my lap. I know it’s a warning (and I treat it thusly), but it’s so amusing at the same time. Fortunately, it seems to have been a short-lived phase because she hasn’t hissed at me in about a month.

      1. Chrissi*

        Oh and she has recently discovered that she likes to lick my toes. In particular, she licks my toes when I’m standing barefoot in the kitchen to try and get me to feed her. She might be smarter than I give her credit for.

        1. danr*

          It’s what cats do to each other. They lick and chew (mostly gently). You are now a member of the tribe.

      2. 22dncr*

        OMG – you just reminded me of when my then 5 kittens (gave away 3) were learning how to hiss. They’d make the noise and then look around like they were trying to figure out where it came from! Of course all 5 didn’t learn at the same pace so the ones that hadn’t figured it out yet would look at the hisser like they were cray-cray. It was a time of constant laughing for me. Kinda wish they were still little (going on 10 yrs now).

        1. Andrea*

          I once adopted a hugely pregnant stray cat. We kept her and two of her kittens and gave the other kittens to a friend once they were 8 weeks old. But the kittens all “discovered” their own tails at once. It was hilarious to watch those teeny kittens pounce on their own tails, bite them, and then whimper because it hurt…and then do it again.

      3. Lindsay J*

        Yeah my cats were probably separated from their momma too young when they were babies (they were ferals with bad eye infections so my fiance’s mom grabbed them so they could be treated and not die) so they are really not good at being cats.

        One has always been very clumsy. I’m pretty sure they don’t really know how to use their claws (which is fine with me honestly) and they don’t hiss.

    6. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have a very shy fish. She (he?) is a yoyo loach and is about 8 inches long in a small tank. And she hides in a hollow log. If I come into the room, and she’s out, she’ll quickly hide again. She’s at least 12 years old — you’d think she’d have gotten used to the huge ugly monsters that lurk outside her safe little log.

    7. Sparrow*

      Your kitty sounds adorable! That’s so funny about the toaster.

      My older girl kitty loves shoes – especially stinky ones that have been worn all day. She will roll around on them like they are covered in catnip.

      This may be more my quirk – my boy kitty loves being outside. I think it’s b/c he was a stray the first couple of years of his life. Anyway, it’s not safe for him to roam outside on his own, so I will take him for walks on a harness and leash. He wasn’t sure about it at first, but he loves being outside so much he’s gotten used to it. I take a book with me and we both have a fun time. I’m sure the neighbors find it weird!

      My youngest girl loves crawling under blankets. She will just lay there and purr and sometimes she’ll stick her head out to see what’s going on.

      1. athek*

        We have an under the cover snuggler as well. She just had surgery yesterday, and recovery has not been easy. Poor kitty.

      2. LMW*

        I have neighbors who walk their cat on a leash and I think it’s the cutest thing ever! Sometimes they’ll go for a walk with their kid and dog and the cat will just be trailing behind them, sans leash.

        Does anyone have suggestions for how I can keep outdoor cats out of my yard? My dog doesn’t deter them, and I don’t like them attacking the wildlife (last year they raided the bunny nest in our herb garden, which was really upsetting for the kids in the upstairs flat).

        1. Andrea*

          I wish I knew. My cats are all indoors-only, and I have a huge veggie and herb garden, plus I feed the wild birds and have put a great deal of effort into making my yard a haven for the birds (it benefits my garden and it’s just good for the environment). Anyway, someone’s cat spends a lot of time in my yard, generally screwing things up and terrorizing the birds, and it makes me SO MAD. He killed two baby birds, a toad and at least two lizards in the past year and it was very upsetting; he also made a mess in my flower beds and tore apart a few pepper plants. He also likes to sit right outside and tease my cats through the window and it gets them all riled up and pisses me off. I don’t know where he belongs, and I love cats, so I’m not even mad at him, I’m just mad at the people who let their cats roam.

            1. Andrea*

              I don’t actually know exactly where he belongs. I just want him off of my property and away from the birds in my yard.

            2. Katieinthemountains*

              Actually, cats hunt for sport whether they’re hungry or not. :( That’s why they’re such a problem for native songbird, small mammal, and amphibian populations – if they like to hunt and they have the opportunity, they will.

          1. Andrea*

            I have a drip irrigation system. It doesn’t waste water. I’m not wild about the idea of spending money to install water-wasting sprinklers. Thanks for the suggestion, though! Some kind of motion-activated thing might help.

      3. Jessa*

        Parker tries to climb INTO shoes. Doesn’t matter if they’re smelly and she’s way too big now to get into them. But headfirst she’ll dive and try to get her whole catitude into the shoe.

    8. Elizabeth West*


      Psycho Kitty was not socialized to hoomans, so she is afraid of everyone but me and the neighbor who feeds her when I’m out of town. She is scared of my hair when I wear it loose. She is scared of any shoes I go outside in except Crocs. She is scared if I move anything in her little patio world. She is terrified of the broom and will run like hell when I take it out to sweep snow off the patio around her doghouse and feeding box.

      And she doesn’t understand how to play–as in when you toss a toy at her, or drag something for her to attack. She just looks at it like “Huh?” I have seen her playing with a few toys I got her. Sadly, her favorite ones tend to get lost in the yard. Her favorite ball is long gone and I can’t find her catnip mouse.

      1. Nyxalinth*

        Caly is like that, too! Broom is bad, and she was absolutely terrified of shoes at first. She’s scared of my room mate and almost everyone else, except for the building manager. I got her from a no-kill cat shelter, she’d had babies maybe two months or so prior to being in the shelter. She was being fostered, was a good kitty mom, and hell her fur was still growing back on her belly still when she was taken to the shelter (she was there for 2-3 days before I got her). All we can figure is she was semi-feral or there were Bad People in her life before she was fostered.

        She can be a real poop sometimes. She tries to chew on the laptop screen, and I yell at her and clap my hands when she does that. then she lashes her tail like she’s annoyed that I’m annoyed. Goofiest cat ever.

    9. Not So NewReader*

      I had a cat that discovered the newspaper laying on the table once. The headlines were in a very, very large font. I caught her trying to push the letters off the paper.
      Just because that did not work out for her did not stop her from trying similar things. She figured out the linoleum in the kitchen had a pattern on it. She tried pushing parts of the pattern around.

      Actually, I was very proud of her for trying ANYTHING. She came to us as a shy, fearful little critter. Time seemed to ease a lot of that and years later she would open closed doors on her own. The dog would WAIT for her to open the door for him. And the two of them would go into the forbidden area together. Sixty pound dog, ten pound cat. It was a sight to see.

    10. Tris Prior*

      You’re lucky; we had to get rid of a bathroom rug once because the cat we had at the time wouldn’t stop peeing on it. He had nothing wrong with him, we had him checked out and everything. He just enjoyed peeing on that rug (and only THAT one, for some reason??).

      Cats are weird.

    11. Mimi*

      My Yorkie must have everything in my house memorized, because if you move a lamp 3 inches to the left, or buy something new (like a vase) he starts barking at it.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    Can we really talk about ANYTHING here? Like, could I ask as a newly engaged person how to have a simple and nice wedding without going insane and/or broke. Or tips for a happy and successful marriage?

    Cause I’ve really got nothing work related. I’m stuffed silly because of our holiday party today.

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      I asked for opinions on cars a couple months ago, so I’d say anything goes. I have no wedding/marriage advice, but congrats on your engagement! I bet Alison has some great wedding ideas though :)

    2. MentalEngineer*

      You can, but you’re a DMV person, so you already know where Carolyn Hax is. :)

      (I’m not married yet, but from what I’ve gleaned there, the secret seems to lie in ignoring everyone who thinks increasing the volume of their demands makes them more justified. Pretty sure you have that too, again by virtue of location/profession.)

    3. Kevin*

      My plan is to rent a room at a nice restaurant in town, invite only immediate family and my best friend, and just have someone do a quick ceremony while everybody is already seated or do it earlier in the day at city hall.

    4. Calla*

      Have you looked at the Practical Wedding website? They have advice and even sample low-cost budgets.

      I’m not actively planning right now, but I am an expert at watching wedding shows/browsing sites :) Based on that, I think one of the biggest dollar-sucks is inviting tons of people (which increases cost per head of the venue, plus extra of everything else, etc). So if you can do 50 (or less) people instead of 250 you’re already on track!

      1. COT*

        Offbeat Bride is another awesome website for anyone who wants a wedding that’s authentically them, whether or not it looks like something out of a magazine.

      2. Marina*

        Ditto A Practical Wedding. I got married 5 years ago and still read the site for marriage (and career, and feminism, and style) advice.

        My personal advice for a sane engagement period is 1) spend some time thinking about your dealbreakers. These probably shouldn’t be things like “purple flowers” or whatever, more like, “At the end of the day I will be married” or “I will not go into debt” or “It is most important to me that I invite everyone I love” or “It is most important to me only the people who I am closest to are there”. And 2) realize that all the wedding stressors, especially around family, are fantastic practice for the rest of your life. Engagement is stressful because it’s a big learning period, you’re learning how to negotiate all your relationships as part of a new baby family of you and your partner. Roll with it. It’s tough, but worth it.

        And congratulations!

      3. Katie the Fed*

        I haven’t looked there yet – will check it out! Thank you.

        We’re planning for about 60 people, and in the daytime to make it more casual and save some money. We *could* spend more but really it’s just one day and I’d rather spend that money on a nice honeymoon.

        1. Kerry*

          Definitely checkout Offbeat Bride! The book is really great as well; it gives you ways to make sure you’re having the wedding that you and your fiance’ want, rather than what everybody else wants/thinks you should have.

          And congratulations!

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Thank you guys for all the advice so far – I have to read them in more depth when I get home.

          And I’m just going to throw this out there – a year ago I was single and perfectly happy being single, but at New Year’s I decided I was going to give dating another shot. I set up an online profile, two weeks later met this guy, and now I’m planning a wedding with him. It’s a little fast by some standards but we have absolutely no doubts.

          So for anyone wondering, I definitely recommend online dating. I don’t much believe in the “it’ll happen when you least expect it” thing. Sometimes you’ve got to make your own luck :)

          1. Ellie H.*

            That is a really sweet story and it made me really happy to read it. I too was very happy to be single a year ago, and then when I finally hit a point in March where I wasn’t as happy about it as I used to be, I decided to try signing up for online dating, for the first time ever (after dismissing the idea many times). I am with the very first person I went on a date with, also about two weeks later. We’ve been dating about nine months and I’m really, really happy. I actually feel anxious sometimes because of the thought that we wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t overcome my dumb preconceptions about online dating!

            1. Kelley*

              One more voice in support of online dating. I tried it when I lived in mid-sized city in the Midwest without much luck. Then I moved to a larger city on the East Coast and decided to give it another shot. The first and only person I reached out to turned out to be a great guy. We’ve been together for two years, and I’m so, so happy I gave online dating another shot!

    5. Jamie*

      Best marriage tip is do each other the favor of never being embarrassed on each others behalf. If you think ever boring joke or long winded story reflects on you, then partners start to micromanage each other and it never ends well.

      And don’t sweat the small stuff. His inability to hit the hamper with the towel or his socks on the floor weren’t done while he was cackling a sinister laugh and twirling mustache about how now you have to pick them up and it’s your job to wait on him. He isn’t dropping the socks and towels at you – he doesn’t see them or assumes he’ll get them later. Don’t look for insult when none is intended.

      And three – splitting the housework fairly doesn’t mean you each do half of every chore – it means overall you’re each doing your fair share. I rarely grocery shop or fill my gas tank, I never buy tires, or oil changes, or speak to workmen/repairmen in the house. He’s good at those things and doesn’t mind them – I find major cleaning especially of kitchen and bathrooms cathartic and oddly emotionally satisfying. If this were up to him my entire family would have died of cholera years ago.

      Play to your strengths.

      And last but most importantly, be careful what you say to others about the details of your arguments. Long after you’ve made up and have totally forgotten others remember and it’s much worse in their heads than reality. Secrets are bad, but privacy isn’t.

      1. Sascha*

        This is all very good advice. Especially the last part. I’d also like to add, don’t expect your spouse, or anyone, to read your mind. If I’m mad about something, I need to bring it up. I trust my husband to do the same.

    6. Sascha*

      Regarding happy, successful marriages….what works for us is viewing our relationship as a partnership, mutual respect, and having lots of fun. We try not to take ourselves seriously. Also I think developing our own hobbies has been good for us, especially me…my husband encourages me to be independent and supports me in my hobbies (like dance), even if he’s not interested in dancing, he encourages me to do it and will attend my shows.

    7. ChristineSW*

      Congrats Katie!!!

      Prepping for the wedding: Don’t try to do it all yourself; your family and close friends I’m sure would be more than happy to help. That said, don’t get bogged down in trying to make it a huge party for everyone. My favorite singer tried to do that with her recent wedding, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger. Finally, she and her fiance got so overwhelmed, they said nixed everything and went for a simple, private ceremony.

      For the wedding day itself: Just take in every moment. That’s how I was with my wedding in 1999, and I still think back to that day with much joy.

      Happy marriage: Don’t take each other seriously, laugh often, and just let each other be themselves.

    8. Ursula*

      Katie, one bit of advice – resist the urge to have tons of bridesmaids. I had my sister, and 2 other friends read some short pieces. My sister’s friend made my and her dresses and the color of my flowers was based on the color my sister chose for her dress.
      We planned our wedding in 3 months and people said that it was the most enjoyable they had attended. I had a blast!
      Have fun, and don’t stress about everything being perfect!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Seriously. We had a best man (his brother) and a maid of honor (my sister) and that was it. It cut down on soooo much stress and planning that I see other people have to deal with.

      2. AmyNYC*

        My sister is going to have EIGHT bridesmaids PLUS a “bridesman.” She claims it will be a small wedding.

      3. Andrea*

        Good call. We also had one attendant each. I let them choose their own formal outfits—my dress was pale blue, and I asked my attendant to wear black or navy. Having lots of attendants just seemed like it would invite drama and hassle. And I don’t like to be told what to wear and figured that no one else did, either.

        My parents always say that the key to a happy marriage is to move away from both sets of parents, never let your kids sleep in your bed, and don’t put a TV in the bedroom. We are childfree but our cats sleep with us and we have a TV in the bedroom, so I guess we don’t follow advice very well. Hmm. I think it’s all about being considerate—think about the other person’s needs and comfort and act accordingly. Be considerate and don’t let things fester. And congrats!

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can indeed talk about anything here. Such is the glory of the open thread.

      And seriously, pick two things you care about (venue and food, for instance, which were my picks) and don’t worry about the rest. It will be lovely regardless.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Thank you, and for the recommendations you sent. I am only having a maid of honor and he’s doing a best man. I’m 32; I don’t need to put my friends through being bridesmaids.

        1. Ursula*

          I was 32 when I got married as well. I think that makes it easier to disregard whatever “dream wedding” we may have had in mind. BTW, I second the venue and food concentration.

    10. ThursdaysGeek*

      My wedding advice is that something simple and easy is just as effective as something fancy and stressful — you still end up married. I went very simple (plain church, small wedding party, short ceremoney) and cheap (picked wild flowers, borrowed dress), and after 28 years, it seems to have been good enough.

      Marriage advice is to always ask yourself before disagreeing about something: “is my being right more important than having peace?” So maybe the salad SHOULD be made with a raspberry vinagarette, but is it really so bad that he bought ranch dressing? Even for big things — peace is a big thing too. This advice only works, however, if he has the same attitude, and will forgo his needs and wants for yours. If you put your spouse’s needs and wants above yours, and your spouse equally puts yours above theirs, then there is a basis for a long and peaceful marriage.

      And Congrats! Keep us in the loop so we can give you more good wishes as this goes along.

    11. So Very Anonymous*


      Here’s my wedding advice (snarky but serious):

      1) Decide what you really care about with your wedding. For us, it was: spending as much time as possible with our close family and friends with us; a ceremony that was meaningful to us; beauty; being good hosts; not being stressed out. Let everything else go. Which leads me to…

      2) Practice mindfulness and give up any idea of control over details. By this, I both mean committing to not caring about the color of the flowers (we went to the farmer’s market the morning of our wedding and took whatever was there), but also committing to going with the flow of the day as it actually happens. My dress got muddy. Oh well, it looks kinda cool in the pictures! The cupcakes were made wrong – there was supposed to be a “surprise” almond inside each other (long story, family tradition) but they were on top instead. Oh well, we’ll just explain the tradition before everyone eats them rather than once people find the almond inside!

      3) For budget and sanity: Let people help you with things that you’re letting go control over. If you’re like me and don’t care about the flowers? Let your aunts pick them out and pick them up for you. Don’t care about what booze is served? Send your groomsmen out to buy whatever sounds good. Your dad feels strongly that the wood table should have a white tablecloth? Cool – he can run to Target and pick one out.

      4) Oh, right, the big budget one: Have the wedding somewhere that doesn’t require a wedding package. We got married in an empty former library, and had the reception at a bed and breakfast. The library came with chairs, and we brought in flowers and that was the end of our decorating efforts (because: historic library, on an island off the coast of Maine? Needs no decoration). We catered the reception through the B&B, bought our own cakes and pies from a local bakery, got liquor from the liquor store and let people serve themselves, brought the flowers over from the library, etc.

      5) And the extreme budget advice: Run away from your problems. We had our wedding in a state that neither of our families lived in. That way, we could invite our dozens of cousins that we never see, but know that only the people who were a big part of our lives would make the trip. It wasn’t so far away that it was prohibitively expensive (for most people; we did lose some folks that we wish could have been there), but far enough that it was a hassle for Cousin June (who we’ve met twice) and her 13 kids (who we’ve never met) to make the trip.

    12. esra*

      I went to a fantastic pot luck wedding this past fall. It sounded like it might end up being a disaster, but it was at this lovely old barn in a conservation area and everyone brought a great variety of food. It was cozy and relaxed and the bride and groom did not go insane/broke.

    13. KarenT*

      My best advice (I’ve never had a wedding, but I’ve been a bridesmaid seven times!) is to not let people get in your head!
      “What do you mean you’re not serving 8 courses?!”
      “Ugh… You really need chair covers!”
      “You have to have party favours!”
      “You shouldn’t serve x,y,z! You must serve a,b,c!”

      People will never stop giving you “advice.” Drown ’em out!
      It’s your day, you only get one (hopefully), so do it YOUR way!

      The best weddings I’ve ever been to were the ones where the bride/groom’s personalities shone and the wedding felt personal.

    14. BausLady*

      I have two pieces of advice. First, do what YOU want for your wedding and reception. Everyone will have an opinion and tell you how you should handle the planning but you need to be happy with it, because it’s your day. My example: I’m Jewish and my husband comes from a very Catholic family. Neither of us wanted to convert or cared about a church/synagogue wedding. We got married at the courthouse on a Friday night and had a reception Saturday night. We loved it, and for the most part, our families were supportive. I wore an emerald green dress, because it was what I wanted (although that got almost more backlash than the lack of religious ceremony).

      Second, go with the flow. That’s harder than it sounds, but it covers a lot of ground. Have your florist use things that are in season. If you pick colors, have them be ones that coordinate with the venue so you don’t have to spend as much time and money on decorations. Things like that really add up to a lot of savings.

      1. Andrea*

        We also had a civil ceremony, I wore a blue dress, and I didn’t take his name. We didn’t do most of the bridal traditions because they’re sexist and outdated, and we don’t do things just because they’re traditional. My mean grandma and my bitchy aunt complained to everyone that they didn’t think our wedding was even legal. We just laughed. That was ten years ago. Mean grandma is dead, and we’re still married. Just do what you want, smile and laugh, and ignore the bullshit.

    15. Not So NewReader*

      Think about what is meaningful to YOU. The wedding industry will sell you anything you want. But sit in a room free of advertisements and say “what does my wedding look like?”

      Both my husband and I hated dancing. Worse, we hated loud music and overly zealous DJs. Why. Well we both felt that relationships with other people are more important, conversation and connection.
      Not only did this hugely reduce our costs but it also put is closer to the wedding we wanted. We chose an very interesting restaurant – really different. The surroundings in the place served as an ice breaker that started conversations- people could not help but comment to each other.

      Neither one of us drank much. So we provided the first glass of wine and after that it was a cash bar. I

      1. Not So NewReader*

        New keyboard and my post gets away from me!

        Well, the main point is we made choices that reflected us and what we thought was important in our lives. We approached it as learning how to budget together and learning about what is super important to the other person and what is a non-issue.

    16. straws*

      Search for things “outside the box”. Our ceremony was at a state park under a huge tree. Our reception was at a local bar that had a private room and amazing food. Most of our purchased items were from Etsy. It was affordable and a ton of fun. Our only real splurge was on the photographer. If your friends/family are the type, I also recommend using one of those free phone apps that let them take photos and upload to a group page. We ended up with over 400 photos (some better than others, but all fun to look at!) It was nice to have the guests’ perspectives in addition to the professional photographer’s.

    17. danr*

      Easy… find a few restaurants that you like and see if they do parties.
      My wife and I ate around the area when we were getting married. We’d have dinner, then ask if they did weddings. Sometimes the party planner would be available for a talk, but we always got a brochure. We ended up at a very nice restaurant/hotel with a package.
      Keep the word ‘reasonable’ in mind and everything will fall into place. You want a party where your family and friends have a good time and will still talk about the wedding 35 years later… for all the right reasons.
      Good luck….
      As for the happy, successful marriage, you need to talk and listen. Remember, you are right 60% of the time and your spouse is right 60% of the time.

  30. AnonToday*

    I have been waiting for this thread! My situation is complicated, so I’ll try to be brief.

    -I teach at a charter school. I took a HUGE pay cut, but I believe in the mission.
    -The job offer stipulated that I was an independent contractor. Initially, no taxes were taken out of my paycheck. For the past month, taxes have been taken out. I’m very confused by this.
    -Insurance was not offered to us until late October/mid-November, but we were asked to “backdate” the forms to September. I’m not really comfortable with that.
    -If any teacher was absent, 75 dollars per day was taken from our check. This was NOT stipulated in the contract and the money was not used to hire a substitute. If a teacher was gone, the rest of the teachers just divided their students.
    -Boss comes to us on Monday and says our charter is being revoked. The last day will be in February.
    -Newspaper articles comes out the next day. The article states he was contacted about the termination in November–almost a month ago. He is also being accused of misappropriation of funds. This does not shock me.

    There’s more, but I’ll leave it here. I have a few questions.

    –Is the whole independent contractor thing going to mess me up at tax time?
    –Even though I did the BEST I could with the materials I was given, should I put this job on my resume? This is the third time the school has been in the media since the beginning of the school year.
    –Do we (the teachers) have any legal recourse?

    Any advice would be appreciated. Please think positive thoughts for the students, as they are the ones who will be hurt the most in all of this.

    1. LF*

      I realize that money is undoubtedly tight, but you and your fellow teachers really should consult with a lawyer about this. All of these behaviors raise a ton of red flags.

    2. fposte*

      I’m with LF on the lawyer.

      You could also check with an accountant. Is your concern that the withholding indicates that you were initially mischaracterized as a contractor? I’m definitely not an accountant, but my feeling is that the IRS doesn’t care about your work categorization, they care that they’re getting their taxes, and that it’s not uncommon for people to have 1099 income and W-2 income in the same year (though usually at different jobs). And it’s all ordinary income, I believe, so it’s taxed at the same rate. If you’ve been keeping your 1099 stuff in order and paying quarterly if needed, I don’t think this would present too much of a tax problem (though I’d make sure you kept or downloaded a copy of the statement with the withholding, because I don’t know if you’ll see W-2s from these folks).

      My sympathies to you and your students–this sounds like quite the mess.

    3. annie*

      This sounds like something that has happened in Chicago recently with a big charter school system. My sympathies. If it makes you feel any better, I have had several friends who went from private or public schools to charters, and every single one of them – all hard working, high performing, high achievers at their previous schools – was screwed over in some way and left within a year. Charter schools are not unionized for the most part, and it seems like it is the wild west out there in how they treat their staff… and that’s not even getting into how they deal with students. I’d say if you are in a city where this is appearing in the news often, you should leave it on your resume, because it will easily explain why you left – also as I mentioned, many many people leave charter schools quickly. On the other hand, teachers from failed charters (and there are a lot of them in my area) do sometimes become “tainted” by the old charter’s failures – only you know how your local community would perceive it.

      And your students are in my thoughts as well. It’s so heartbreaking how our kids are left blowing in the wind when some of these bad charters end up closing. Really hurts their ability to get college reference letters after the school dissolves and staff scatters. I’ve worked with some low income high school seniors I’ve tried to help out on this very issue of tracking down records and references, it is hard because teachers have to maintain professional boundaries so its not like you can track them down on Facebook usually. I’m not sure the age of your students but if you have some kids you like right now, please, make a new email account you use just for corresponding with students, and give them your contact info!

    4. A Teacher*

      I taught at an alternative school or a “safe” school for my first teaching job. We were closed and all of the staff had to either re-apply or didn’t have a job. I put it on my resume because it was still teaching experience and as you know in education a lot of employers don’t see other jobs as transferable skills (ie working as an athletic trainer for 7 years in the public school sector was valued less than substitute teaching). I don’t think any school system will frown on you for teaching at a school that was closed when there isn’t anything as a teacher you could do about it. Your bigger hurdle, realistically, may be the fact that it was a charter school. I’m not against them btw, but having had a friend or two that taught in one they had a harder time finding jobs in the public school setting. If you’re going to a private school or another charter you may be just find.

      As to the other stuff, what the other posters said, I’d be contacting a lawyer.

    5. Ames*

      Re: your taxes – you say that the school has not been withholding taxes. Have you been making estimated payments? As an independent contractor, it’s your responsibility to “withhold” from yourself. Additionally – are you aware that you’re responsible for paying what’s traditionally thought of as the “employer’s” share of FICA taxes?

      I would be very suspicious about having taxes suddenly withheld, particularly in light of the rumors of misappropriated assets. I would be concerned that the “employer” is withholding but not remitting those taxes to the IRS. Call your administration and ask what’s going on.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s a good point on the remittance. I would certainly not assume that the organization is going to do anything it’s required to do at this point.

  31. Lindsay*

    I’m 29, but I look like a college student. All of my immediate coworkers are at least 20 years older. I get asked CONSTANTLY how old I am by middle-aged women, in particular. At work and in public.

    I was a finalist for a government job this past week. My references gave me the scoop on what they were asked, so I knew it was between me and someone else. When my third reference got called, she was asked about my “maturity level” and ability to work with older coworkers (!) and with eccentric members of the public.

    And then, I didn’t get the job.

    I would like to have some company in my misery – does anyone else have this problem of coming off “young”? How do I succeed in an industry vastly dominated by people in their 50s and up? (Everyone young got laid off in the great recession).

    I’m SUPER lucky to even have my current position, but the job I was rejected for would have been a great step forward in my career.

    I think that my enthusiasm and energy are an asset, and I’m very professional in dress and well-spoken. I understand that being rejected for looking young means that the job may not have been a great fit anyway. But I can’t help being a little offended and PO’d that I may have been rejected just because I look young!

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I struggle with this too. There’s just something about my round face that reads young to people. It helps to be extra professional in appearance and speech, and this can involve going above and beyond what’s expected of your peers. I also found that an older looking haircut helps; I’m currently sporting the “politician bob + bangs.” Still, I get comments about how young I look on a semi-regular basis, and it’s usually not in a very complimentary tone.

      1. Lindsay*

        Older looking haircut – good point! I used to have a bob, now I have shoulder-length straight hair. I think the bob looked a little older!

    2. Jamie*

      Just want to point out it’s not always about looking young. Some people are just rude and ask because they want to know.

      I get asked how old I am fairly often – at least once every couple of months…and I’m in my mid 40s. It usually comes up when making small talk about my kids and people hear their ages…I can tell who is doing the math to see if I got pregnant in high school. I don’t know why people care, but that social more about not asking a woman her age seems to be rapidly dissapearing.

      1. Lindsay*

        Also a good point! Maybe this is just something women do. We like to judge each other! Men don’t ask how old I am.

      2. 22dncr*

        With you Jamie! What is it with everyone (women) asking or telling how old they are? I don’t want to, or need to, know. I believe age is just a number so never remember how old I am anyway! I’m hearing this more and more. No idea where it came from.

    3. WM*

      I have struggled with this for years. (FWIW, it’s a good problem to have as you get older… haha)

      Anyway, of course the first few things you can do (and may already be doing) is to dress the part. Not saying to dress “old” but just make sure you’re keeping your style choices more on the conservative side and polished, etc. Same with hair style, jewelry and accessory choices.

      My favorite part – the “how old are you” questions: I have used, “Old enough to not answer that.”
      “A lady never tells.” (kind of old-school, but that’s the point)
      “Why do you ask?” (if you’re feeling spicy)

      1. Lindsay*

        I know I know I know this is a good problem to have. On one hand, it’s a stupid problem to complain about. On the other hand, middle-aged women run my industry and treat me very condescendingly and it has gotten really tiresome and it’s potentially holding my career back. And there’s no one to commiserate with at work since everyone’s older than me!

        I LOVE your responses to the “how old are you” questions. I decided last week I was done with that questions and wasn’t going to tell anyone anymore. Maybe being “spicy” will make me skew older.

        I already dress professionally, and nicer than everyone else in my building. The older ladies wear shorts, t-shirts, and skinny jeans to work while I always have on a dress and tastefully minimalist jewelry. One of my references and I had a laugh that maybe I should dress frumpier. Maybe throw some cat hair on my blazers, lol, and wear a wrinkled t-shirt underneath.

        Thanks so much for your advice!!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Uhh. You might say “I am 29, how old are you?”

          In other words treat as a “getting to know you” question. I am one of those frumpy middle aged women. (Although I never ask how old anyone is, but if they ask then it’s fair game.) I find that middle aged women don’t seem to mind asking each other how old they are.

          Consider this angle: You are their peer, not their subordinate. Therefore you should be on equal footing for the most part. If they feel free to ask you your age, then likewise you should feel free to ask them.

          Okay, maybe that idea does not work for you. But save it for later- you might decide that you have had enough of this question. For the moment you can take a pre-emptive strike by talking about your life. There are little clues that pop up in conversation such as:
          “When I bought my first car ten years ago…”
          “I completed my bachelors in X..”
          There are little date references that come up in conversation that clue people they are talking to an established adult, not someone who is 17.

          I am sure that not all the women mean to be condescending. Try to be on the look out for those who seem to be genuine. Those are the women that you can say “hey, I’m okay here.” And they will totally get your message and back off. These are the same women that will probably be asking you your opinion on subject Y or problem Z.

          A quick story. I am in my 50s. I now work with a woman who is pushing 70. She pats my hand and calls me dear.
          It never stops, I tell you, it never stops.

          But I laugh more about it now.

      2. Al Lo*

        My grandma’s answer was always (when us cheeky grandkids would ask her), “I’m as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth.”

      3. Katieinthemountains*

        I’m almost thirty, and as recently as two years ago someone asked if I was working on a project for school (I was in the field). The nature of my job means that I can’t just dress more and more professionally until the comments stop, but my 4′ 11″ friend makes sure that nothing she wears in a professional setting has juvenile details.
        I like to do the raised eyebrow thing, with “Seriously?” in casual settings. I think you could do, “Moving on, the Spencer project…” or try the Carolyn Hax, “Wow,” pause, and resume what you were saying. I will reveal how long I’ve been at my current company, but straight-up asking about my age is either unbridled curiosity, a dig at my qualifications, or creepy, since it’s generally coming from a man old enough to be my father.

    4. Marina*

      Yup. It sucks. Definitely a different haircut, makeup, clothes can help. I remember reading somewhere a makeup tip to look older, put a brighter shade of blush along your cheekbones and a darker shade in the apples of your cheeks. It has to be subtle, of course, but for those of us with round faces it adds 2-5 years. Also watch your tone of voice–I make a point of speaking slower and in a lower register than I do naturally. And really emphasize your experience. People assume I’m fresh out of college until I casually drop a reference to the professional job I had ten years ago.

      1. Lindsay*

        I was thinking about trying to speak in a lower register this morning!! I know I talk too fast – but I’m in Toastmasters and I work on it constantly. But I was wondering if my voice comes off as young/higher-pitched. Sounds normal to me! But maybe I’ll get some second opinions, haha.

        And I have a round face too – something else I hadn’t thought about. Thanks for the make-up tips. I’ve got a lot to think about, and you’ve given me some great advice!

        1. Zelos*

          I was in Toastmasters for two years. It was really easy to remember all those things (better posture, look them in the eyes, lower vocal register, speaking slower, etc.) for the speeches, but so easy to revert back to the default when you’re not “on stage.”

          Maybe the changes will stick more if you change them in daily life too? I still have problems with speaking quickly, but I do look people in the eye more. (My vocal register runs on the lower side, otherwise I’d probably be in even more trouble.)

      2. Katieinthemountains*

        YMMV, but… I was trying to sound professional when I started my first real job, and was apparently dropping my voice a hair too much on the voicemails. Some coworkers ran into someone I hadn’t met but had spoken to and left voicemails for. He said something like, “Ooh, you work with that new girl, right? the one with the really sexy voice?” And to their credits, they both recoiled and informed this middle-aged dude that I was 22. And it was so weird next time I had to call him.

    5. short geologist*

      This is A Big Issue for me, too – I’ve looked young my entire life. I can’t help the comments, but when I start working with someone, I always work in something that indicates that I have a lot of experience and know what I’m talking about. Examples:

      “Oh, I know that person/company! We worked together on X in 2003.”

      “I must have done (large number) of these tasks, but they always surprise you, don’t they.”

      When asked where I went/am going to school (sigh): “Well, my undergrad institution was X, and then I worked for several years and then went to grad school at Y.”

      Not everyone thinks it’s a compliment to be considered younger. I’m well past 30 (supposedly the magic number for this sort of thing) and I still hate being mistaken for a kid with a firey passion.

    6. vvondervvoman*

      I don’t have much issue with getting jobs, but rather being perceived as an adult. I’m a health educator, but not a teacher, so I’m a visiting speaker in lots of different schools. I make sure to dress super professionally when I’m going into a high school–I’ve been asked for a hall pass when my visitor’s badge wasn’t visible. I’m 25. =/

  32. Katie the Fed*

    BTW, does anyone else actually LIKE working during the holidays? I really like it – it’s quiet, nobody bothers me, there’s not as much to do, and I get caught up on my inbox and other projects.

    1. Anonymous*

      If I worked in an office it would be the best. The quiet is so beautiful. For those of us who will be seeing customers, holiday shifts drive us to drink…

    2. CollegeAdmin*

      Yes! I worked retail in high school/college, and I enjoyed it – it was busy (so I wasn’t bored), and I got to go to the *extended family Christmas party* super late, since work ended late.

      This is my first office-job-only Christmas (I part-timed at the mall last year), and my coworkers are horrified that I’m not taking Monday and Christmas Eve off. It will be quiet, my boss will not be underfoot, and the head of the department is buying lunch for the three of us who will be here. Plus, I still get to delay attending the family party. Win/win in my book.

      1. KLH*

        No, but a coworker and I have a fun project set for Monday. We are going to rearrange and make our consumer health collection more browser friendly, and then try and lure patients in in January.

    3. Parfait*

      I have no meetings between now and January 6th because at least one stakeholder will be out of the office every single day. It was so quiet at work yesterday I could hear the breathing of the guy in a cube across the room. There is no traffic and I get the best parking spot in the lot every single day. This is my version of holiday joy.

    4. danr*

      Yes, I liked it. I posted above too. It was quiet, an easy commute, got lots of work done, and nobody questioned my vacation requests.

    5. Bea W*

      This was my favorite time to work. Light traffic, few distractions, plenty of time to catch up on backlog and little things I’d left because I was too busy with more urgent things.

      Now I work for a company that closes the last week of the year, and that’s also nice because even if I could work that week, it wouldn’t be quiet like my previous jobs. We always seem to be in the middle of a build and testing. It was nice this year to be able to say, “We’re closed. Can’t even start that until Jan 2.” It’s been a rough year. I worked through almost all of the holidays. So I’m glad for the mandatory off time.

  33. MentalEngineer*

    Anyone in higher ed. (or any ed.) have a sense of how many failures in a class is too many? Apart from the kids who’ve already failed themselves out by not showing up, that is. I’m a first-time TA, and that special time of year is coming round. I’m thinking less in terms of what percentage will be acceptable to administration (although 3/8 looks pret-ty bad as a percentage), more in terms of is there a threshold where I should start seriously worrying about how well I’m getting the material across. My situation is further complicated by the fact that some of my sections are doing poorly and some are doing well, as I do my best to teach them all the same, and so I’m having trouble identifying what part of the issue might be me and what might be the students.

    1. Jamie*

      As a parent of kids in college I can tell you one teacher had 19 out of 23 kids drop at the mid semester mark because they were told even if everything else was perfect they couldn’t make a C in the class.

      This was for a 101 class. My kid dropped and retook it with another teacher – still irks me when I think about it. I want my money back for that.

    2. Adjunct*

      I’m an adjunct at a local college and have considered this question myself. I teach three sections of the same class, but I teach them differently and that may be one of your issues as you say that you do your best to teach them all the same….

      It has been my experience that you cannot teach all classes the same. The students are different in what they can handle. I try to get a sense of my students and their skill levels upfront by asking some basic questions about what they know in terms of computer skills, etc. I teach first-year college students and some of them are returning students with tons of life experience and jobs, some are right out of high school, etc. I try to get a feel for what they know and I teach accordingly. I ask the class outright if they like more papers, more projects, etc. That helps because some classes are all about the papers, some like the PowerPoint projects, etc. So there’s that – ID the type of students you have in each class and teach accordingly.

      Now, that said, you’re just going to have classes of slacker students and that can’t be helped. What I do there is pull the failing students aside and ask what is going on and if there is anything I can help with. I send a couple of reminders via email of work they need to turn in, etc. and I talk to them in person. Anything after that is on them.

      It’s hard to ID a specific number of “this many failing means the problem is with you vs. the student” but I think if you have say 33% or more failing, something is wrong and you need to talk to those students and see what is going on with them. Perhaps your teaching style isn’t working for them, maybe they have a lot of family problems, maybe they’re just lazy. But ask. That alone goes a long way to handling the problem.

      1. MentalEngineer*

        I don’t have the option of tailoring the material in the way that you suggest, as I’m just a TA and don’t set the grading criteria. I mean, I could give papers and subsume that into class participation, but since I can’t take away anything to balance that out my students would just be doing more work than everyone else for the same amount of credit. Furthermore, all the sections I teach are for the same class, and it’s my understanding from the cursory FERPA training I had that students can complain if (within a particular course) some are given different requirements than others.

        I’m supposed to be running sections where we discuss the material from the professor’s lectures, but since it became immediately apparent that the students were showing up completely ignorant of everything the professor had said, I (and the other TAs) have mostly recast our sections to recap the same material in a way that might stick a little better.

        As I only see the students one day a week, I have no way to approach the ones who are failing out by not showing up or doing the work other than emails which of course go ignored.

        Like I said, lots of factors that make it very hard to judge what I could be doing differently. The only thing that I can consider changing would be running the section as discussions, as intended, and expecting the students to come prepared – but then my failure rate would be WAY over 33%. We’ll see if the evals say anything useful.

        1. Adjunct*

          Ah, gotcha. I made the mistake of thinking you were teaching the class. I should be clear that when I say I teach differently to some students, they are all required to do the same things, but how they do them can be different. Same project, but some do a PowerPoint, others a paper. Some of this is dependent on the fact that one class is truncated into 8 weeks, while the other class is 15 weeks long. So some things are done differently simply due to time constraints.

          In any case, I think you can ask your students what they feel would be most helpful to them in terms of what you can do for them – the once a week meeting may be better served by discussions, presentations, whatever will fit the student needs.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      This depends on so many factors – your school, field, course level, whether the course is a prereq, etc. Though I would say that failing 3/8 of the class PLUS everyone who stopped attending is just unacceptable no mater what factors are in place. At that point – or preferably at midsemester when the writing was on the wall – you should reexamine your grading criteria and seek advice from your dept chair or supervisor. I’d start looking very seriously at options to curve or boost grades, especially if it seems that the issue is more about how you’ve structured assignments/tests and grading than their comprehension of the material.

      And it’s not unusual for some sections to out-perform others. I’ll never forget the time I taught a discussion session to an intro class on Fri at 8am. It was doomed from the start. (Quick tangent: this was also the class in which a student came to class drunk, threw up before making it to his seat, and blamed it on the 8am start time that conflicted with Thurs night frat rush.)

      1. MentalEngineer*

        I should note that in that section it is specifically 3 out of 8 students who are going to fail not due to attendance, not 3/8 of a larger group. It’s at noon on Fridays, so even the A students don’t want to be there.

        The course grade is based on quizzes and essay exams. The quizzes are already curved (a 1/5 will still get you 62%). I’ve discussed poor exam grades with the professor on earlier exams – the problem is that the poor answers are so abysmal that giving them more than token credit seemed laughable to both of us. (Like the student who now-infamously described Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment as “a robot trying to speak Spanish that gets offended” – and she had actually been showing up!)

        All of the structural issues are beyond my control (i.e. I’m not going to convince them to require in-class writing instead of multiple-choice quizzes or require English 101/remedial English as a prereq.), so I’m trying to come up with knobs to turn in how I present the material that’ll result in better retention and understanding.

      2. MentalEngineer*

        Oh, and all three in question finished the final exam in under 45 minutes – of a 2-hour exam period. This is how I know they have zero chance.

    4. A Teacher*

      At the junior college where I adjunct my department would like to see about 70% of the students score 70% or higher give or take a few points…that’s what our course level assessment program deems “acceptable”

    5. Zelos*

      From your handle I’m guessing you’re TAing for engineering or something else in the hard sciences?

      When I was in undergrad all the science classes didn’t have anything in the way of tutorials–we only had labs. Tutorials were at a drop-in help centre staffed by TAs and any question was fair game, so the fact that you have a scheduled once-a-week session where you can go over course material is already pretty good. (Although if you’re TAing in something other than the sciences where tutorials once a week is normal, then ignore the above.)

      If the students are showing up clueless perhaps get course outlines from the professors or students so you can tailor the tutorials from what they learned that week….which it sounds like you’re doing. Depending on the material, you can go over problem sets or theory–that can be by vote, I think, since it’d be tailoring to the students’ needs without actually deviating from the outline/guidelines. Being able to get a say in what they need help the most in would probably help your struggling students.

      IME, a failure rate of 33% isn’t so bad when it came to science courses (particularly the “weeding out” courses in first and second year). I’ve seen courses where the fail rate is quite literally close to 50%. But it sounds like your course grades are made out of quizzes and essays, which doesn’t sound like any science course I’ve seen…nonetheless, it doesn’t sound that bad to me.

      1. Sandra*

        There could be many reasons. I know at my son-in-law’s college many were failing because the test questions for a 101 class were so poorly written they couldn’t be answered correctly, kids stopped trying since they saw no point in studying and then the teacher thought the failures were due to laziness. I have an advanced degree in the subject and coached him so he could discuss the issue with the teacher. Once the teacher improved the questions (and explained to the class his mistake), class grades zoomed.

      2. MentalEngineer*

        Nope, philosophy. However, I’m at a state school and our campus is intentionally broad in admitting disadvantaged students, as we’re the major urban branch of the state’s system and have the best access to them.

        I’m required to go to the same lectures as the students; this is how I know that they’re either not understanding or not retaining anything from them. Nobody ever wanted to talk when I asked if there were particulars that they wanted to go over.

        But I like the general idea of setting up a false choice between different portions of the material and voting. That can anonymize the students’ admitting that they don’t know the material (I think the need to publicly admit failure was the stumbling block) while letting me get a sense of what they’re failing the hardest at.

        1. Zelos*

          Okay, that changes my answer a bit. My intro philosophy classes didn’t have that much in the way of problem sets, I don’t think.

          Can you make some problem sets or give homework in addition to those assigned in class (if any)? I know you said you don’t have power re: the structure of the class, but are you allowed to make or assign homework? You might have a problem with participation if the homework isn’t graded (and since you don’t have structural power in the course, you probably can’t assign more for-marks homework without buy-in from the prof), but if you can give assignments, you can expand upon material that the professor skims over or touch upon points students aren’t understanding.

          I remember when I was taking an econ class the TA whipped out this random example that totally wasn’t in the textbook but totally was on-point for the stuff I didn’t understand and it helped a lot.

    6. Sophia*

      Since it’s too late for this semester, I would suggest handing out mid term evaluations that students can fill out anonymously on what they like and what they would change about the class. Then you can tailor your teaching

    7. AnonyProf*

      One-third of my class this semester actually failed. I keep track of those students especially in case someone from the department asks for reasons. They include:

      -Stopped attending class (why these students did not withdraw is an unknown but they were sent notices through the school throughout the semester)
      -Did not take tests and/or quizzes (missing a quiz will not fail a student, but when a student does not take any of the tests, that’s missing half the course)
      -Did not write any of the papers

      In my belief, these are out of my control. I can only do so much, but at the end of the day, if the student does not do the work, I cannot give credit.

      But if your classes are failing on the content, then it might be you and your professor’s teaching styles. Make sure you meet the different types of learning styles. Have both visual and hearing. Can you put on a teaching video? Some students don’t want to hear you all the time. Change it up, ask them questions, get them to participate. If they are actively engaged, they will learn more.

    8. Gjest*

      Consider the make-up of the classes. One semester I had two sections of the same lab, but a whole group of hockey players all signed up for one of the sections. I am not saying that student athletes can’t also be good students, but this particular group did not give a cheap about class, and were also constantly missing class or late because of games or practice. So that section had a much higher fail rate.

      So, the difference in fail rates might not be you, it could just be a difference in the students in that particular section.

  34. Anonymous*

    Office gift etiquette question:

    I work at a non-profit, and today, we were all given a bottle of red wine as a holiday gift. I’m touched at the thoughtfulness, but drinking is against my religion. I’m at a loss as to what the proper etiquette is in this situation. I, of course, accepted the gift graciously.

    But now I don’t know what to do with it. I abhore wastefulness, but none of my friends/family/neighbors drink, either, so regifting isn’t really an option. And I think it would probably be rude to leave it in the break room with a note saying that anyone who wants it is welcome to it. Any ideas on what I can do with it? (Cooking with it isn’t an option, either.)

    1. Kevin*

      Are you close with any peer level people in the office?

      As a side note someone in our office (different team) gave only half my team wine as a gift (he makes his own). We could use the bottle here to sooth some wounds.

    2. Yup*

      Do you have a friendly coworker you could offer it to? They might delighted to have two, if they’re hosting etc over the holidays.

    3. happycat*

      Gift it to someone you don’t normally give to, try and think of people who you interact with, maybe retail, house cleaners, I dunno, but in the ‘help /customer service industry’ It is a thoughtful thing to do that most of us cannot afford to indulge in, but, maybe you can with your ‘spare wine’.
      Happy re gifting!

    4. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Wow, a GLASS of wine isn’t even reimbursable at my nonprofit! What do people here thinking about dropping it off at a food pantry (food bank)? Is that inappropriate?

      1. COT*

        I work for a food bank–and no, we don’t want wine dropped off. We’d have no idea what to do with it and we wouldn’t ever give it to a client. We’d probably either throw it away or send it home with a staffer.

        I second the suggestions to pass your bottle along to a close coworker who you know would enjoy it (and wouldn’t make a big fuss that you “rejected” your gift from the higher-ups).

      2. Anonymous*

        Yeah, I was kind of uncomfortable at the extravagance. I’m going to convince myself it was from one of those five cent wine sales I’m always hearing about on the radio.

        1. wine-y*

          I got a bottle of wine today too. Out of curiosity I looked it up and it cost $11… which is a far cry from the old days of $50 bottles of wine we used to get! So maybe looking it up you’ll feel better?

          Otherwise is there a nonprofit you are involved with (that’s not your church obviously)? They probably have events or fundraisers where there are drinks served or raffles, you could always donate it to them.

        2. Nonprofit Office Manager*

          I’m so glad I read your comment a second time! At first, I thought you were implying that the idea of people with low incomes enjoying a bottle of wine seemed extravagant (in response to my food bank idea) and I got all fired up! But now I see that you were saying that a nonprofit giving wine as gifts might be too extravagant. Very different!

    5. Katie the Fed*

      Does your religion permit you to serve alcohol even if you don’t drink it? Might not be a bad idea to have on hand if you’re hosting an event.

      Otherwise I agree about regifting to someone in the office. It would also be perfect for an office white elephant exchange.

    6. Anonymous*

      Thanks for the advice, everyone! I gave it to one of my colleagues who works out in the field (I’m in the corporate office) who got forgotten about.

  35. Mela*

    I thought I’d ask what the lamest holiday bonus you all ever got was.

    Mine was a “first aid kit”, that was a company-branded 2×4 inch zipper wallet with, no joke, a band-aid and 2 aspirin in it.

    This year, I got a card that said:
    “During the Holiday Season more than ever, our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our progress possible. It is in this spirit we say, simply but sincerely…Thank You and Best Wishes
    *Company Name*”

    It’s not even signed by anyone.

    1. Anonymous*

      I got to ‘first aid kit’ and thought it was one of those cool fully stocked ones, then read the rest of the sentence, and cried for you.

    2. Amy B.*

      Once got a memo that said they weren’t giving us anything because people had come to expect bonuses and bonuses were just that and we should stop expecting anything more than our pay check. Um, happy holidays to you too.

    3. Chrissi*

      My very first Christmas working at an office job, my boss got me (and all of the other ladies in the office) a jar of jewelry cleaner. I don’t remember what he got the guys, but it was equally odd.

    4. Jamie*

      Not technically a bonus – but it generated my ill will at holiday time.

      I had just been promoted from the plant to corporate office late November. I had 2 weeks accrued vacation, which I thought I had until May to use or lose since at the plant it was your anniversary date which determined your vacation time. No one bothered to tell me that on the corporate payroll it was use or lose by December 31st.

      They told me this with 8 days left in the year – so they so graciously offered to cash it out like it was a huge favor to me that I’m not just losing it. I didn’t see it as a favor as much as the only decent thing to do.

      So they cashed it out on my next check but the amount was wrong, so I asked HR…they cashed me out at my old pay rate prior to promotion and raise “because you accrued the time at your old rate.”

      Logical technicality, but since I was unable to take it (leave blacked out for me prior 3 months preparing for promotion, hiring replacement, etc) and unable to roll it over the least they could have done was generate a little good will by paying me out at current rate.

      It was years and years ago and I still get annoyed when I think of the $576.92 they shorted me.

    5. annie*

      Worst year it was a sandwich. Boss didn’t even come into the lunch room himself to say Merry Christmas, just ordered the sandwiches.

      1. Bea W*

        My first full time job we never got a holiday bonus of any kind. The company did throw a great party though, and I had one vendor that always came up with pretty decent gifts. My current employer does not to holiday bonuses either, but we are shut down the last week of the year. It’s a free paid week off. That’s pretty sweet.

    6. esra*


      I worked for a giant, household-name corporation. Our whole team was contracted out, but two of us were then hired by a contracting firm that firm hired. We weren’t invited to the big corporate holiday party, but we were invited to the contracting firm party. Before food came, the two owners went around and handed out bonuses to everyone in the room. Everyone except the two of us. So we sat, watched them hand out 100+ cheques to everyone else, watched 100+ people open said cheques, and had nothing to do but sit there very very awkwardly.

      Best (?) part, the cheques were staggered amounts between 50-100$, so the people who got 50$ felt snubbed, and the people who got 100$ still got 10-20x less than they had the year previous.

  36. AnonForThis*

    So glad it’s an open thread day! I just found out (like 20 minutes ago) that I going to lose my job… kindof. My position is being eliminated but my bosses are planning to keep me on in a yet – to – be determined role. They floated two possible roles (one on my current team, one on another that I would have to interview for) and told me to reflect on what I’d like to do over our ten-day winter break. I’m going to check out what roles are open right now, think through the two options we discussed, and get my resume in order. .. But what else should I be doing?

    1. Anonymous*

      Depending on your financial situation (savings, whether you’re a sole breadwinner, etc.), I would recommend starting to trim discretionary spending in case you’re unemployed for longer than you plan/hope.

      1. AnonForThis*

        Yes, this is smart, in case I decide to leave my organization and look for other opportunities. (I’m currently the only breadwinner in my family, so virtually any unemployment would be really tough!)

        Something I didn’t make clear, though, is that I’m pretty sure that I’m not under any threat of being laid off. The alternative job on my team that my boss and I discussed is mine if I want it; I just need to decide if I want it, or if I want to explore other options in the company, or other options outside the company.

    2. Trixie*

      Resume is a good call, plus references and cover letter in order so you’re that much further ahead of the game in any situation. Maybe update your LinkedIn connections, and gather as many notes/copies of your work accomplishments as you can. And look around to see who’s hiring in case there is something that jumps out at you.

    3. LMW*

      I posted a question like this in the last open thread and got some great suggestions – you might want to take a look.
      (BTW, it looks like we won’t know what’s happening with our positions for another two months…but I got a merit raise and good review this week. Doesn’t mean my position won’t be eliminated if they decide my project isn’t part of the new strategic direction, but at least I have more time to add to my nest egg.)

  37. Same Boat*

    Had a phone interview yesterday and was reminded of how much I hate them. Seemed to go just fine, but it just feels weird when you can’t see the person.

    1. Anonymous*

      Phone interviews are the worst. Hopefully you get the job and don’t have to do phone interviews for a while! :)

      1. Same Boat*

        Thanks for the support :) Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks phone interviews stink. I get why they’re done and that they are necessary, but they just aren’t my favorite.

    2. Felicia*

      I hate them too! way more than in person interviews. It freaks me out when I can’t see someone’s body language or facial expressions.

  38. CupcakeWithSprinkles*

    I’m in a bit of a quandary and would love some professional feedback.

    This week I received a promotion (yay!) for work that I’ve already been doing for a few months. The promotion came with a small raise, which is nice. However, I know that the range for this position is considerably more than I’m currently making (think $10,000+). I did ask to negotiate the salary, but was shut down pretty quickly by my boss.

    A few months ago, I decided to start looking for other job opportunities within my organization, for many reasons. I’m going to be interviewing for a new position at the beginning of the year. I’m excited about the position – it will be in a new area of the company (new to me) and the salary should be substantially better than what I’m currently earning. Plus, a good friend of mine works in the area and has put in a good word for me with her boss.

    At my company, we are technically supposed to tell our current supervisor if we want to look at other internal positions. I personally don’t want to say anything to him until I know I’m a serious contender for this job. Technically, my current boss could block me from taking the job, which I don’t think he would do, because that is not in his nature.

    The timing is also terrible because of the new promotion. I want to handle this is a professional way, and I don’t want my current boss to hear it from someone else other than me. Has anyone else ever experienced this and if so, how did you handle it?

    1. Colette*

      Ick. That’s tough.

      1) You have to tell your manager before you apply, because the hiring manager could pick up the phone and call him before even deciding to interview you.
      2) But when you go to do that … that’s kind of sensitive because of the promotion. It sounds like the promotion was more retroactive (i.e. you were doing the work before you got the official promotion), so maybe you could explain you’re looking to learn new areas of the company, but it would be better if there was something specific about this new job that is perfectly in line with what you want to do long term. In other words, you’re moving to something, not away from your new job.

    2. Sadsack*

      I had to have the same discussion with my manager earlier this year. Just be honest and tell your current manager what interests you about the new opportunity. If he takes the news badly or tries to talk you out of going for the new job, kindly tell him that you value the experience you have gained in your current position, but you are really excited about the new opportunity.

      How would your current boss be able to block you from taking the job?

      1. CupcakeWithSprinkles*

        @Sadsack – To answer your question about blocking, basically our company has a rule that you have to stay in a position for at least a year. They don’t want us bouncing around from department to department within the span of a year or less. Your boss can block you if there is a strong business need/case for you to stay. It’s happened to a good friend of mine twice. The only people who do block people tend to be a.) real jerks or b.) people that are too lazy to go out and hire a replacement. I don’t think my boss would do that, but you never know. I’ve already decided that if the my boss blocks me, I’m going to look outside of the company for other opportunities.

        @Colette I should have mentioned that I applied for the new job before I got the promotion. I got the promotion literally within three days of applying. Obviously, I don’t know if HR has called my current boss to ask, but if I had to guess, I would say they haven’t yet. I’ve heard that at our company so do call your current manager and some don’t.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, that’s my thought – you won’t know whether the one you’ve applied for does or doesn’t, and the news will be much worse coming from someone who isn’t you.

  39. en pointe*

    Does anyone have any ideas on how to dress for an office holiday cocktail party?

    I’m concerned that any of the formal / party dresses I have might be considered too revealing for a work event. Would dark skinny jeans with stilettos or trousers and a silk top look too out of place at a cocktail party? I feel as though I’m sort of debating which would be the lesser of two evils here – whether I wear a potentially inappropriate dress or a potentially too casual alternative.

    So are clothing rules relaxed for parties relative to everyday work? For example, I’ve read here that Alison considers exposed armpits inappropriate for the office but I’m sure some women will wear sleeveless dresses to the party and look fine.

    1. Anonymous*

      I wore pants + top to a cocktail party and lots of other women did, too. But then again I’m pretty far north so only crazy people go outside with exposed legs.

    2. Jamie*

      I wore dressy cocktail pants and a dressy blouse to a wedding and I was as formal as any other woman there. And I wasn’t the only one who went the pants route – I think it’s fine.

    3. Sascha*

      I’d err on the side of too casual and go with nice pants. Maybe not dark jeans, but black skinny pants achieve the same look. As for stilettos…well that’s dependent on the culture, but those super tall platform stilettos just look too clubbish to me no matter what, so I don’t think that’s good for an office party. I realize some women might wear them with dresses. Also I just hate how they look. There, let me get that bias out lol.

      I think plenty of people will be leaning towards the more casual side, as that is my experience with holiday parties of all types. Unless you are working at the super swanky, super wealthy law firm where my sister works, where everyone was dressed to the nines…(she’s promised to take me next year lol)

      1. en pointe*

        Thank you all. My preference was a dress but it looks like I’ll be going with pants and top so I’m glad to know I won’t look out of place.

        My concern was that it is quite similar to my everyday work look and we were told to “dress up”. However, I agree with Sascha that “too casual” is probably safer. Based on your comments, I doubt I will be the only one.

        1. Sascha*

          They say “dress up,” but as we’ve all seen far too often here, what the head honchos say and what they expect are often different things. :) Also I keep thinking about all those guys who WILL show up to the Christmas party wearing old khakis and a company polo (as opposed to a regular, non-company polo, which is considered “not fancy enough”).

    4. cecilhungry*

      Can you throw a dressy cardigan or shrug on over a cocktail dress? And/or put a cami underneath? Tights go a long way toward solving the potentially too-short dress problem.

      I would stay away from the skinny jeans, but nice pants/top and heels would be okay, from my perspective.

      1. Sascha*

        Tights are the best. For some reason, I hate hose, but I love tights. They help me save on overall clothing costs by allowing me to wear many of the same dresses and skirts I wear during the summer in the winter, usually with a scarf or cardigan.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Too short / too much cleavage. That length without the cleavage might be okay, or vice versa, but I think both together are too much for a work party.

  40. LookieLoo*

    I thought about this yesterday and I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on this. When I get an interview and I know the name of the interviewer (because they’ve told me it or contacted me via email so I have it), I look them up online to see what I can find out about them, the company, etc. The usual research stuff.

    When I see a picture of the interviewer, I must admit that it does influence me and not in the “Oh, she’s fat, he’s tall” kind of way. I mean that if I see the person is pretty young or older or has a ton of experience vs. not much, it does make me feel more/less comfortable with the interview experience. If the person is younger with much less experience, I seem to be more relaxed going into the interview vs. interviewing with someone older with more experience.

    I suppose that is somewhat discriminatory on my part, but it’s been my experience in how I feel. Can anyone relate (or not)?

    1. fposte*

      Probably everybody has some unconscious reaction to appearance when it comes to interviewers (and interviewees). If you think it’s overly priming you and thus having some bad effect on your performance, what about blocking images when you search?

      1. LookieLoo*

        I don’t think it’s having a bad effect on my performance per se, just that I am more relaxed when I feel like the interviewer is younger or less experienced. I’m a little more keyed up when that isn’t the case, but not to the extent that it’s a problem, it’s the normal interview nerves. I just wondered if other people could relate to this.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I think that is pretty normal.
          I think it could work for you, though, and not against you.
          If you are talking to someone with more experience, no matter what their age, you want to be on top of your game.

          I always found something that triggered a reaction in me. If it was not age, or experience (perceived or real)then it was the way the interviewer was dressed or something else. I am told I interview well, so it doesn’t impact me negatively- whatever it is.
          I sometimes think it is a modern day survival mechanism- just something that keeps me on my toes and thinking.

  41. ChristineSW*

    Merry Christmas (early!) and Happy Holidays to everyone here, including Alison, her new hubby and the fur babies!

    *Sigh* how do you get yourself out of inertia?? Every time I get some forward momentum in my exploration of “what I want to be when I grow up”, I hit a brick wall. I’ll admit that a lot of it is self-doubt and lack of faith in previous resources. I know I have a ton of potential and passion in my areas of interest–the problem is that I’ve never been able to clearly define what it is I want to do. It’s in my head, but I have a hard time describing it to others. This has been an issue for a few years now (I know… I know… )

    I do have one really cool opportunity in the pipeline–it’s not a job, but it could be equally significant career-wise. It’s a state-level council in which members are appointed by the governor. Yeah….you know where this is going…hurry up and wait, but I was warned about that. I’m prepared it wait it out; meantime, I’m just getting super-antsy to get past volunteering and have something more steady. Oh the volunteering is more than just envelope stuffing, and I am learning a great deal. However, it’s intermittent by nature, so there’s a lot of downtime.

    1. KLH*

      I did group therapy/mutual support group for a while, and it was very helpful for some of the members to bring these sort of issues to us, and make commitments to do particular steps and report back.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      What KLH said.
      You could try a life coach.
      Or you could try just setting short term goals for yourself. Where do you want to be in six months? Figure out what you will need six months from now and start lining it up.

  42. BB*

    So I applied for a job at my old company and heard from one of their recruiters last week. They requested five references right off the bat, which I thought was weird not only in number but because they haven’t even interviewed me, but I complied. I asked my former manager to provide a reference, and they agreed and expressed excitement that I would return (not to their department, but to the company in general). So the reference submission system this company uses allows me to track who has completed their reference submission. All references but my former manager have completed it. I have tried to e-mail, text, and call her to no avail, which is incredibly weird because they are typically very responsive. I checked in with a co-worker and confirmed that my former manager is OK, and said co-worker just encouraged me to follow up with the manager…which I feel like I’ve done almost to the point of pestering. I have also contacted the recruiter to get a sense of their time frame for these references, but haven’t heard from them either.

    Is this something worth escalating before the holidays? I could reach out to my former manager’s manager who does know me and has also expressed an interest in bringing me back to the company. Or should I let it rest until after January 1st?

    1. AVP*

      Are you sure she didn’t just speak with the hiring manager directly, if they know each other? Maybe she thought it would be okay to bypass the form.

      1. BB*

        Yes, I think this is a realistic possibility. I suppose what’s most concerning to me is that I have heard NOTHING from my former manager and this is very much out of character. Also hearing nothing from the recruiter is making me uneasy. Then again, I imagine it’s impossible to hire someone around the holidays, so perhaps communication will resume in January.

  43. Anonymous*

    Happy Holidays everyone! I’m in a bit of a dilemma. I have worked at my job for 3 years and have a variety of roles (accounting, admin, graphic designer). Over time, my assignments progressed to mainly graphic design, not something I gravitated toward initially. I haven’t done well in this aspect but have been doing very well in the other responsibilities.

    My company isn’t happy with my graphic design performance and I have a feeling I may lose my job. How poorly would this reflect on me if I’m fired (note: I have had no previous design experience). Is there a way I can phrase this best in interviews?

    Also, how can I go about asking my manager for a possible reference in the aspects I was good at?

    1. fposte*

      Is there a reason you’re not proactively looking for jobs that are a better fit? Have you talked to your manager about the fit issues and not just the performance issues and how that relates to your future?

      The more proactive you are, the more you can control the narrative.

      1. Anonymous*

        I am starting to look at positions that fit my stronger abilities. For a long time I was in denial but now realize the creative role will not just go away.

        Plus it has taken me a while to get past the “I’m a failure because I don’t excel at my job” mentality!

        Can you explain scenarios of how I can control the narrative? I don’t see this as a manager that will let me stay until I find a new job.

        1. fposte*

          No, but it’s a manager that will let you leave when you find a new job. Start looking. I mean, seriously looking.

          If you’re interviewing right now, you say “I really like the accounting but the position is turning into a graphic design job, and as you can see from my resume that’s not where my skills lie; that’s why I’m looking for a more accounting-focused position like the opening you have.” That’s not a big deal as an explanation.

          Obviously you have to be somewhat wary about conversations with your current manager and organization, but it’s not impossible to negotiate a soft landing even if you’re terminated. That’s often easier if the way forward is discussed before they’ve had it up to here with you; I don’t know what your manager’s like and what your organizational culture and atmosphere are, though, so those would factor in to any decisions about openness. Remember that you probably have more leverage than you realize, in that they likely want a smooth transition and an opportunity for you to train a replacement.

          It sounds like you’ve been going with an “action is risk” mentality (which I definitely understand), but the problem is that you’re in a situation where inaction is riskier. Use the time to make your next step a choice.

          1. Anonymous*

            Your last paragraph complete hit the nail on the head! I really see that it’s best for me to take control of the situation (looking for better opportunities) instead of just letting things happen as I did before!

      2. Anonymous*

        Also, in interviews, do you suggest I use the “looking for a better fit” line? I’m worried how the poor performance in one area may be perceived.

        1. fposte*

          They may never know about the poor performance, and if they’re not looking for a graphic designer, as long as the poor performance wasn’t behavioral, they’re not likely to care. Most people don’t hire candidates to be good at everything–they just want them to be good at what they’re being hired for. But handling this discovery and transition well will look really good for you, and I could encourage you to own it as a learning experience from a mismatch rather than slinking from it as a failure.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Your interviewer might be impressed that you even tried.
          Try not to decide what the interviewers think FOR them.
          The interviewer might be replacing an employee that would not even attempt things that were foreign to her.
          The conversation could look like this:
          interviewer:”We are not asking people to tar roofs. We just ask that they try to work with our new program X and try to learn it.”
          You:” Wait a minute. I have done X and I love working with that program. I could help people if you want.”

          What happens in our imaginations is usually far worse than what happens in real life.

    2. LMW*

      This sounds like a really odd role requiring three completely unrelated skill sets. I think now is a good time to ask: What do you want to do? And then try to find a role that really helps you focus on that.

      1. Anonymous*

        Great point! Definitely evaluating which are my strongest areas. How would you recommend addressing the one area where I had the poor performance in interviews (if they do fire me)?

        1. LMW*

          I think fposte’s suggestions above really hit it. If you are looking for positions that fit those other skills, you likely won’t even need to address the creative duties, because they won’t be part of future roles. If you are terminated, that’s something to discuss with your current company before you leave, so you are tell the same story. In this case, it sounds like they’d likely endorse your strengths, and this is just a case of a really bad fit in one area. It won’t cancel out your strengths unless you are applying for positions that also require that creative skill set. It’s about as good a reason as you can have for being let go from a position.

    3. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Oh boy. This reminds me of our last team meeting. Almost as an after-thought, my boss goes “Oh, and we need somebody to learn graphic design. We’ve been spending too much money paying designers. Who wants to take a weekend course at the local community college?” Um, (1) no one, and (2) it doesn’t work like that.

      Does your boss also not realize that most graphic designers develop their artistic and technical skills through months, if not years, of training?

      1. Ruffingit*

        God. There are so many people out there who think certain jobs require a weekend training and you’re good to go. There’s a reason your company is paying good money for graphic designers – they’re worth it! That skill set does take years to hone so it always just makes me a little wary and sad when I hear people say things like that. I’m not a graphic designer by any means nor could I ever be one, it’s not within my skill set at all, but it just pains me to hear certain professions be treated so cavalierly as though they are easy to do when they are not at all. No one ever says “We’re spending too much on legal bills, who wants to take the paralegal course at the local community college so we can nip those costs in the bud?” Seriously, no. No one would do that. And yet, other professions like graphic design get the shaft in terms of respect. Sad.

    4. Felicia*

      No advice, but this sounds absolutely identical to my last job. Had a variety of roles, one included graphic design. Eventually, all they wanted me to do was graphic design which i’m not all that great at. I actually was fired. I was actively looking for other work before that because I knew I wasn’t meant to be a graphic designer. It mostly ended up working out because I wasn’t applying for jobs that involved any graphic design at all, and someone from t hat company (not my direct manager, but i did projects for her quite often) agreed to be a good reference for me for what i was good at, adn just not mention the graphic design at all since it’s not related to the jobs i was applying for.

  44. Sabrina*

    How do I get LinkedIn to realize that even though I live in one city, I am interested in jobs in another city? Is there an option for that I am missing? Anyone know? Or should I just change my city to the one I’m looking in?

    1. Anonymous*

      I have the opposite problem. LinkedIn keeps sending me jobs in totally random places all around the country. (And always way too senior – like they want 20 years experience and I have 5.)

      1. Sabrina*

        I have that problem when searching on LinkedIn for jobs since they have that feature where you can tell it the experience level you’re looking for. I check “Entry Level” and apparently that means I can be the Vice President of Marketing for a Fortune 500. Right. I think the problem there is the person inputting the job posting.

    2. Laura*

      Go to Jobs>Advanced Search>Zipcode. When it takes you to the actual job search results page, you can limit it to be within a certain number of miles of that zipcode.

    3. Sunflower*

      Does anyone else die a little inside when they apply for a job on LinkedIn and see that 500 other people have applied? Or is it just me

      1. SevenSixOne*

        I do! I do!

        I figure I don’t stand a chance if there are more than 200 applications, no matter how qualified I am. Even if HR weeds out half the applicants and the hiring manager only looks at each resume for a minute or two, that’s half a work day reviewing resumes. What hiring manager will have that kind of time?

        1. Anonymous*

          Assuming you are hiring someone who will be with you for a few years, and the job is not super-simple, how can you afford to NOT look at every application.

          Hiring is a key element of management.

  45. Laura*

    Earlier this week I had a phone interview where the interviewer lectured me about how the salary I was asking for was too high based on my current compensation. They didn’t have a salary range in mind either.

    1. 22dncr*

      I had one of those! He was VERY condescending about how dumb I was being (this “offer” had been based on my current salary in a different industry btw – last time I’ve ever applied to one of those “salary history” kind of jobs) by refusing his low-ball offer. Not even 2 months later I got a job for way more than I’d been asking him for in his same industry!

  46. Ann O'Nemity*

    What’s the worst gift you’ve seen in a office holiday gift exchange?

    For me, it was a wrapped box that held an index card explaining that the box held “dehydrated water” and included instructions for rehydration. (The instructions were to fill the box with water.) It was funny for a second, until you realized that the poor recipient had actually received nothing at all. Then there were just awkward looks and whispered accusations.

    1. Bea W*

      That’s pretty crappy. Why do people participate in a gift exchange and then do this kind of stuff? Even if you hate gift exhanges, no reason to be cheap or jerky about it.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Exactly, it’s really shitty. If I owned the business or was the manager, I think I might keep a couple of $15 gift cards on hand for this type of stuff. That way, the person receiving these crappy gifts doesn’t go away totally empty handed. Sad to think you need a Plan B for this, but if the stories here about craptastic exchanges are any indication, you do!

  47. D*

    Quick advice from you all —

    I am waiting to hear back for a job that I had 5 separate interviews plus a writing test for over the past month. Last interview was Tuesday and they followed up with at least one reference that evening.

    I am about to leave the country for 2 weeks for my honeymoon. Should I follow-up today to at least let them know they likely won’t be able to reach me?

    I’m a so anxious about hearing from them!

    1. COT*

      Yes, let them know! As long as you don’t come across as presumptive about getting an offer, it’s really important to let them know that you’ll be away.

      I know you may want to be completely disconnected from the “real world” on your honeymoon, but could you check your email every 1-2 days and let the company know you’ll plan to do that? Even if you want to do all of the negotiations via phone, at least you can acknowledge their offer by email.

    2. Kat*

      I think it would be nice to give them a heads up that you’re interested in the position, but will be out of touch for a bit.

    3. Anonymous*

      I would. You wouldn’t want them to offer you the job, not hear from you for 10 days, then rescind it and hire someone else.

  48. Redflagmaybe*

    So in an interview I had yesterday, I had a question I feel is possibly a red flag, but I’d like some input.

    The interviewer asked me what I thought my longevity with their company would be should I be hired. In other words, how long would I be looking to stay there? I felt it was a red flag because it makes me wonder if they have a lot of turnover there. I’m a seasoned professional, having been on several different interviews over the course of my career and this question has only come up maybe twice.

    It seems odd to me because I think to myself “I don’t know, depends on whether you make it attractive enough to stay in pay, environment and so forth.” Also, life is weird, who can predict how long you’ll be somewhere? You can plan to stay somewhere a long time and then have to jump ship for whatever reason.

    So yeah. Just seems like an odd question. I can see many reasons they might ask it, but still.

    1. Kevin*

      I hate this question. It’s dumb.

      I’ve said something along the lines of I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while. I felt I got point for being honest but still being vague. It sounds fake to say you see yourself for the rest of your life there.

    2. Chrissi*

      I think it depends on the company. In my current job, it takes a lot of time and resources to train a new employee because it’s a highly technical job specific to our agency, so it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to hire someone that only wants to stay for a year. On the other hand, I don’t think my boss asks this question because everyone is just going to give the answer they think you want to hear or a vague answer. But I don’t think it’s really a “red flag”.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I agree with Chrissi that it’s not a red flag; it’s a very legitimate thing for an employer to want to know about. They’re interested in what you see your trajectory within the company being. And like most other interview questions, it’s best to just answer honestly. If you’re looking for a job that you can enjoy and find stability with for several years, say that. And you can phrase it exactly like that: “I’m looking for…”

      Then, if it turns out that they’re a horrible company, you can leave without being dishonest, because they weren’t what you were looking for. Be honest about what you want, and it’s up to the company to deliver that, or not.

      Some positions want someone who is chill to just stay there for 5 years, becoming the best ____ that that company has ever had. Other positions really only exist as one-or-two year holding patterns for people destined for bigger and better things. It’s not particularly helpful for either you or the company if you end up in either of those when what you really wanted was the opposite one.

      1. fposte*

        I also think it’s kosher to come back to them and ask about duration culture there–do people tend to stay a long time, or is it very mobile? How do you think that works for the organization?

    4. Felicia*

      I hate that question. I would probably say that I want to stay in my next position for at least the next several years. This is true, this is what I want, but doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll stay in that company. If it’s a horrible place to work, I would leave sooner than that, but I still wouldn’t want to leave that soon, I would have been forced by circumstances.

  49. Karowen*

    I’m betting that no one will read all the way down to my comment, but I figured I would throw this one out there for help from some long-time AAM readers…

    I have been in one job since I graduated college 5 years ago. I’ve learned a lot in my time here, but it’s time for me to move on and find new challenges – but I have NO clue how to deal with the references portion of applications. Of the 2 managers I’ve had, one still works at the company (and is a poor manager so would probably give me a poor reference) and the other is my current manager (who had offered me a great reference when he was my mentor when I first started and who currently rates me very well on my yearly reviews). The only other jobs I’ve had were part-time jobs in high school where the managers have probably had 100 employees come and go since I left.

    All that said – if asked for references, how do I approach it? Give co-workers’ information (which is strongly looked down upon, per Alison’s previous advice)? Give my boss’s information and ask that they not contact him until that’s the only thing standing between me and a job offer? I’m at a loss!

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Definitely give your current boss with the note not to contact until necessary. I don’t think that’s uncommon at all.

      Why do you think the bad boss would give you a bad reference? In my experience, people who are bad at their job will often just say that you were fine and seek to get off the phone as quickly as possible. It’s a lot more work to give a bad review!

      1. Karowen*

        Thanks Kimberlee – That’s the option I was leaning towards but it’s helpful to have someone else agree with it!

        Former Horrible Boss may well give me a good reference (I know that she has said horrible things about her employees to other current employees of hers and then immediately after has given them glowing letters of recommendation), but knowing how vindictive she is, I wouldn’t be comfortable with it. Plus, she rated me poorly on my yearly reviews for things that my current boss rates me highly on, and she has had no issues throwing me under the bus as recently as a few months ago for no reason other than it suits her own purposes.

    2. Marina*

      You can give a coworker’s information if they can genuinely speak to your abilities. For instance if they’ve been in charge of a project you worked on together, or can speak to your training abilities, etc.

      Also think about whether there are any non-work mentor figures in your life. Someone from church, or anywhere you volunteer… If you’ve been in a leadership role in a hobby or sport, maybe someone from that area of your life…

    3. A Teacher*

      Do you volunteer anywhere or are you in any networking type of groups? Or is there an old colleague that could be a reference? I just ask because in my original field of athletic trainer (and healthcare in general) and even as a teacher, I’ve been a reference for people that I’ve known at the professional level multiple times. As someone that does animal rescue work, I’ve been a reference once or twice for people that I met through and volunteered with in the group.

    4. MaryMary*

      Is there a more senior coworker who might not have been your “boss,” but who still had supervisory responsibility for you on a certain project?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      All of the above ideas and you can ask what they would like you to do in this instance. Explain the story and tell them you would like to get references from people who are in roles meaningful to the hiring company. Do they have preferences as to who these people might be?

      This works if you do not have to provide references right away.

  50. suziemc*

    Hi all- I just got offered two jobs this week. One’s with an awesome airline as a part time customer service agent- tons of growth potential, but only 20-35 hours a week, crazy hours, some overtime potential. The other’s a full time substitute teaching position, with a management element (overseeing the other substitutes, coordinating coverage). The teaching job pays 100- 150 more per week, but the contract would end in June. The hours would be regular. Both jobs offer full benefits.

    I don’t want to stay in teaching, but the latter job offers more stability (at least through June), and there’s no guarantee that the airline job would lead to more (though they hire almost exclusively from within). I have to have $5000 worth of dental work done ASAP, so I’ve got to take one of them. What do you think? Any questions I should ask?

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Honestly, I’d be biased toward the airline job. If you don’t want to stay in teaching, the sustitute one will probably not help you much, and a temporary job might be more difficult to finagle that kind of dental investment through (though I’m sure that depends more on the policy than on the job).

      It’s not unheard of for dentists to want to spread that kind of work out over multiple years so you don’t hit coverage caps and have to pay more out of pocket, so having a longer-term job might be better, dental-wise. For instance, I have a pretty solid dental plan, but it caps out at $1500 a year, so you could end up paying less out of pocket if you can space it out over a year and a half or so.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Tough call, but I would take the teaching job because it offers more money and the management component that will be attractive as a skill to future employers. I say take the teaching job, save as much money as possible, and continue looking for something full-time.

  51. Legal Admin Assistant*

    For anyone who is an admin assistant to a lawyer (or who has an admin assistant!) – what is the typical protocol for giving them a gift? Do you do it? Never? Depends? I am new graduate at my first ever job. I asked around this particular firm and the answers seem to vary. The lawyer I work for gave me a beautiful card and gift card, if that matters

    1. Sadsack*

      I used to work as an admin for corporate attorneys and had the same dilemma–wish I would have known about this website back then. AAM and other sources always say never gift up, only downward. The three attorneys I supported would go in together and get me a really nice gift, so I would scramble to figure out what type of gifts my meager budget would allow me to get each of them in return…it was stressful for me. Thank your lawyer/manager heartily for the gift, but don’t feel obligated to gift back. I doubt she would be expecting you to as she is probably more thanking you for your support during the year. Don’t stress about it like I did.

    2. LF*

      Just give them a card if you feel like you must give a gift — it will certainly be appreciated. My jaw almost fell to the floor and I nearly died of embarrassment the other day when I completely misunderstood my assistant and thought she had gotten me a gift — luckily she was just showing me the beautiful sweater she had purchased with the gift card I gave her. :)

    3. Cat*

      Totally unnecessary. The amount lawyers give their assistants is semi-formalized from firm to firm, and it is almost always cash or cash-equivalent (a gift card). That’s because it is in the nature of a bonus: the lawyer is either a partner or an associate who gets a bonus from the partnership, and so the gift to the assistant can be considered profit-sharing. Reciprocation is neither expected nor required.

      That said, if you feel like giving your lawyer a card I’m sure that would be appreciated!

      1. Sandra*

        As a lawyer, I agree. Thanks are appreciated (especially if you are in a firm where the lawyer gives you the gift-not the firm). I once got a thank you card attached to some roses from home to brighten my desk which was nice (last thing we all needed was more sugar in the office). I sometimes brought in home-grown flowers so my assistant knew they would be welcomed.

  52. Random*

    I usually post, but went anon for this one. I had a recent situation. My company got bought out, and it was clear they weren’t keeping most of us. However, this company basically pushed me toward interviewing for a sales role, even though I had no experience. They thought that my current position and background could be an easy transition. Since I didn’t want to have no job, I started the process. I had 3 phone conversations with different people (one being HR), and then they brought me in for an in person interview. After the in person, HR called me to set up one final in person interview and kind of alluded to the fact that the final interview was just to make sure I could be comfortable with their product, which I had to present on. Well, I did the presentation, and for the amount of time I had, I think it was good (not great). Well I didn’t get the job. I followed up with the hiring manager asking for feedback, and he told me that he thought I did well with the presentation and that I would be a good employee, but that I lacked sales experience and they wanted someone who could hit the ground running. That is fair. However, he knew my background going in. Why have me go through this many steps if my lack of experience was going to be the reason? It just seems like its something he could have figured out a lot earlier and saved us all a lot of time. Any thoughts on why someone would do all that?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Could be they wanted to offer you an opportunity – even a longshot – at a job before showing you the door.

    2. Ruffingit*

      Could be they thought you had some natural talent despite the lack of experience and they wanted to put you through the motions to see if that was the case.

      I’m not going to ascribe malice here to their motives, but I totally get being a bit miffed that you went through all of that only to be shot down for a reason they knew going in.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      1) Someone in the company thought enough of you to try to help you stay employed rather than hit the street. So they bumped you along in the process somehow. That someone had no power over the hiring decision, so in the end it looked like a waste of your time.

      2) The buyout company contractually agreed to try to keep x% of the old company’s employees. By interviewing you they can say they tried.

      1. Random*

        You know, I think it may have been #1. I initially met with one of the presidents of the company, and he seemed to really like me. However, even though he was above the person making the hiring decision, it seemed that he was going to let him make the call on his own.

  53. Izzy LeighGal*

    I have a question which I would appreciate feedback on from the group. I’m under the supervision of a manager who is new to people management (she’s managed projects and products previously), and is new to the team (she came from a different department).

    I have received feedback from her regarding what is considered offensive behavior, most notably not being the first one of us to say “hello” in the morning. She believes this is a sign of disrespect and that I should make more of effort. I have received this feedback from her previously, and got into a good habit of being the first to say “hello,” but have honestly fallen out of that habit within the past few days, prompting her to approach me about it.

    I know one option is to get in a better habit again, but how could I subtly coach her to indicate that I’m not maliciously being disrespectful, I’m just not a morning person?

    Thanks everyone,

    1. Sadsack*

      Seriously, it’s been a few days and she’s saying something about it? The fact that she ever said anything about it at all makes me feel sorry for you for having a nutcase as a manager. Maybe you could just wear a “Hello!” badge…

      I realize that isn’t very helpful, but it is hard to take this kind of feedback seriously. Or maybe I am the one with a problem…

    2. Anonymous*

      Wait, what?! She gets mad if you don’t say hello first? Can’t she say hello to you as she walks by? This is such a weird thing to get mad about.

    3. Amy B.*

      What an a$$! Unless you are in the military, there is no rule that you must be the first to salute (say hello). I could not care less if I say hello first or if one of my reports does. This is crazy.

    4. Lisa*

      I once had a co-worker who was in a funk for a week because I didn’t say Hi one morning. But everyone else who worked with me (including my manager) knew that I wasn’t a morning person and I was sociable after about 15 minutes.

      No real advice other than make more of an effort…but just know that there are others who can sympathize! Your manager is just an ass.

      Passive-aggresively I suppose you could start carrying this around (hopefully the link posts)

      1. Izzy LeighGal*

        Thanks all for chiming in. I was almost convinced I’m crazy (for being offended that she’s offended). Appreciate everyone helping to shut those thoughts down.

    5. Bea W*

      So, if you are the first one to say hello, and she is not, does she become the one exhibiting the offensive behavior? That’s some BS.

  54. Is.This.Legal*

    To the pet lovers out there, why do you let your dog poop on my front door and you don’t pickafter it? I live on 1st floor in an apt and this bugs me. I love dogs but for this reason i will not own one

    1. A Teacher*

      I don’t, we carry those little matching baggies…I hate when random dogs do their business in the front yard and don’t clean it up–or when people throw the dog’s poop bag in my trash–maybe that’s a weird quirk but seriously it annoys me.

    2. Jamie*

      I don’t think anyone should own a dog who doesn’t want one – but just out of curiosity why would other people not picking up their pups poop deter you from owning a dog?

      As a dog owner (parent, really) myself I am also annoyed when people don’t pick up after their dogs…but it’s not the dog’s fault they have rude companions.

      1. Is.This.Legal*

        I don’t like cleaning after dogs. And i hope those who love dogs don’t mind cleaning after dogs

  55. Lisa*

    Hi guys! I started a new job in March and was delighted to get a holiday bonus this year-in fact, my supervisors have all been extremely generous with gifts. It’s nice to feel like I’m settling in and that my supervisors appreciate me. However, my boyfriend of 5 years is not as lucky- his hard work goes largely unacknowledged at his job, and he is starting to look for a new job. Do I even mention the bonus to him? I’m excited, but I don’t want to make him feel bad.

    1. Marina*

      If your good fortune makes him feel bad, that’s going to keep coming up over and over again. You need a long term strategy about how you want to deal with this in your life. Ideally, people who love you will be happy when good things happen to you, and will realize that it has nothing to do with their own situation.

    2. Ruffingit*

      If your boyfriend is the type to feel badly that you received a bonus while he goes unappreciated at his job, then you may need to examine the relationship as a whole. I get not wanting to make him feel bad, but when I’ve been in similar situations (my partner got a better deal at work in some way than I was getting – bonus, hours, whatever), I was always happy for him that he was being treated well and appreciated. I wasn’t bitter with him, I was bitter with my company for being jerks. So yes, tell him. Hopefully, he will be happy for you and perhaps you can spend the bonus money on something fun for the two of you if your budget allows that.

    3. Parfait*

      If your successes make him feel bad, get another boyfriend. Your partner’s triumphs should be shared joys and cause for mutual celebration.

  56. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    I know that people on AAM have talked before about the difficulties of finding decent looking professional clothing for the more… ample? … among us. I’m a bit plus sized, short-torso-ed and well-endowed (boob-wise) and whatnot, and I have discovered an odd secret that, for me, has been a total godsend in terms of finding clothes that fit.

    Juniors clothing.

    I kid you not. When I got a grown-up job, I started buying women’s clothing instead of juniors, and have been uncomfortable ever since. Just because I don’t want to look like a 17 year old doesn’t mean I want my pants to come up 2 inches above my belly button.

    So I’ve discovered a handful of places that sell plus-sized junior clothing, and it’s wonderful. It’s like I forgot how it feels for clothing to fit properly. I love Alloy, Forever 21, and Angel’s brand in particular for jeans. It’s amazing the difference between a Junior size 17 and a women’s size 16 or 18. Harder to find, but sooo much better. And you can find plenty of professional looks that look young, but not “trying too hard” young.

    And Alloy and Forever 21 have killer sales, to boot. I just spent $45 on a new dress, two pairs of pants, some embroidered leggings and even got a pair of sunglasses for my sister in the deal. :)

    1. Chrissi*

      If you are short-torsoed – at least for tops you might consider looking in the petite section as well. I have a friend that is normal height, but with a short torso and I made her try some dresses on in petites just to see if it would work and she swears it has changed her life :)

    2. cecilhungry*

      I buy a lot of juniors dresses at Target and pair them with more grown-up cardigans, belts, and work shoes. I HATE pants because they are always, without fail, too tight and too long, so I pretty much wear dresses and skirts year-round. Juniors is almost always cheaper and fit about as well. You have to go out of your way to avoid the overly cutesy stuff , but it’s usually worth it.

      1. TL*

        Juniors sizes haven’t fit me since I was a preteen. :( There’s a huge difference, for me, in how the women’s clothing fits (well) and how the juniors clothing fits (by the time I find something to fit over my chest/bottom/thighs, everything else about me looks totally shapeless and sad.)

        But women’s sizes actually fit me pretty well, when it’s not a thin/tall design.

    3. Jubilance*

      I love Forever 21 for great basics at a great price. The jeans really fit great and I’ve gotten simple dresses, cardigans and blazers there that have all been work appropriate.

      1. KLH*

        Interesting. I am biased because I worked for them, but Nordstrom Rack has some good work appropriate clothing, between the sales stuff from full-line and the items they buy/make for the stores. I bought doubles of a particular marchine-washable skirt earlier this year, in 2 different colors.

    4. jennie*

      Ha ha, I don’t think we really have “Juniors” in Canada, I’ve never seen it in stores. (We also have abysmal plus-size clothing availability in general). I went shopping in the States with some friends and told them to check out the Juniors section and they all thought it was kids sizes! They were amazed at the styles available they never knew about.

      1. KarenT*

        We have juniors sizes in Csnada, though I agree we don’t really use the term. Forever 21, H&M, The Bay, Aeropostale, American Eagle, Stiches, Siemens, Sirens and many other stores carry juniors.

        1. Felicia*

          Another Canadian agreeing that you don’t use the term Juniors in Canada, and our stores don’t have a Juniors section. We do have the sizes though (there are soo many at Forever 21) But I feel like they either don’t have their own section, or are called something else.

  57. Kelley*

    Does anyone have advice about applying for internal positions? I’ve worked in my department since the fall as a part-time temp and now a full-time position is available! I know there will be outside candidates with significantly more experience than me. But they like my work, and I think I would rock at this job. I’ve already given my resume and cover letter the AAM makeover. Other than addressing the cover letter to Boss rather than Mrs. Boss, is there anything else I should be doing?

    1. Chrissi*

      If you feel comfortable doing so, possibly talk to someone that is currently in that position or has done it to see what the day-to-day duties are and what skills or practices are needed for the job. Then you can use that to help you come up with questions (or answers) at the interview.

      Based on previous AAM advice, I would also say to make it obvious that you are interested in the position to your higher-ups. Don’t assume that they know (although they should since you’ve applied).

    2. jennie*

      Make sure your resume is updated with your current position/achievements! I do internal hiring and you wouldn’t believe how many resumes I get that don’t even mention their time here.

  58. Anonymous*

    To make ends meet, I have a retail job. In my department, I have two other coworkers who do the same job as I do but just in different shifts. We have a manager and an assistant manager. The problem is with one of my coworkers. He is still in college and he treats this job with the non-chalance you might see from a teenager or early twenty year old (please note I do not think all from that age act this way). My other coworker and I need this job to either make ends meet or is our only job.

    The job allows for the student to make his college classes his top priority. That I can fully appreciate. But the guy also wants to enjoy a full social life of a college student on top of that. He takes off to take his girlfriend out for dinner or to go to a concert. This isn’t just a once every so many months sort of situation. It’s an every other week routine. And usually it affects me more as my other job sort of aligns with his school schedule. So I am put on the schedule without being asked, and I’ve had to cancel plans I had made for my time off.

    Finally the assistant manger told him he needed to stop making plans for when he had shifts and if it was absolutely necessary to make sure he had coverage. The manager did force him one time to cancel his plans. However, the guy still continues to put down when he needs off without following the directions of the manager. He’s already tackled the 2014 calendar and marked a couple of days in January.

    My main complaints are that he doesn’t get it. I have already said something to him and I got, “Yeah, I should’ve said something to you.” And then it continues. We used to swap so everyone could get a day off when plans couldn’t be changed. Now he takes for granted that I will do his shifts. Meanwhile a couple of weeks ago, I called out when a snowstorm hit and I refused to drive on the ice. The main boss called me back, trying to insist I come in but I refused. Nothing had been said to me since, but I do not believe they give him the same hell. That was the second day I took off – besides vacation – this year; he’s taken off about 7 since Labor Day alone and I only know this because it was me who constantly had to cover.

    So my questions are: Do I just pick and choose when I will cover for him? Do I sink to his level and take off when I need to making him work when he should be enjoying a day off? Remember I’ve already talked to him and the managers know my grievance. But it’s gotten to the point where I cannot take for granted when I have free time from both jobs and I’m basically on call – just because he can’t schedule his social life around work.

    Thank you in advance. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Can you just say “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t work Saturday because I usually have it off and I made plans?”

      How regular are your shifts, anyway? I’ve never worked a retail job where the schedules were at all regular, so it could be that this guy is treating the job the exact same way I would: requesting days off in advance that I want to make plans on. Is there a general understand that days off are regular, and that it’s a Big Deal to change those?

      1. Anonymous*

        +1 its really common in retail to book off a lot of days, otherwise how would you ever get anything done? You can do the same thing, you know.

      2. Anonymous*

        Our schedules are actually fairly regular until he comes up with a new social event. And he tells us a week in advance at most especially if he knows he shouldn’t really be skipping (then he calls out sick). We try to have regular shifts because he has school and I have the other job. We then know for 15 weeks which days we work and don’t, but he usually throws in a monkey wrench. For example, he and I alternate Saturdays, but he kept taking off his back in September and October. I had to cancel plans. My managers didn’t care just as long as someone covered (an heaven forbid no one does as the managers will be angry at both parties).

        All I want is the courtesy of him asking. So do I become less flexible or is there something I can say that will give him the message?

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think you can manage him into more responsibility when you’re not his manager. All you can do is minimize his effect on you. If he’s marked days off in January, why does that have to mean you’ll cover? Can’t you mark your own days off now? Have you talked to your manager to clarify what your short-term availability actually is as opposed to being just always available to cover short-term callouts from Slacker?

          Right now you’re approaching this as if you were his manager, and you’re not, and you’re likely not getting paid enough to be. So find a way to let him fall on his own ass and let the manager be in charge of managing him rather than accepting a system where it’s your job to make sure Slacker’s sickies are covered.

          1. Anonymous*

            Usually AAM would say that you should take up your grievance with your coworker before going to management. Therefore, I reminded him that in the past, we used to swap and everyone is happy, but he just wants to worry about getting the day off, knowing that at anytime I can say no. I didn’t yell at him. I didn’t give him an ultimatum. I just wanted him to know that it wasn’t exactly doing me any favors.

            Also, if I say no and he takes the day off, the assistant manager especially gets really ticked off. He usually works with the guy, and he prefers to always have the help. So if he’s stuck without someone, both people – the person who is taking off and the person who said they cannot help to cover – are on the you-know-what list for a couple of days; therefore, I just usually say yes, putting my plans aside, to stay in the boss’s good graces. But I can’t live my life around someone’s emotions about having assistance or not, and so I need to find the line of how much can I say no to.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Yeah, I agree with Fposte; you’re expecting to have every other Saturday off, but instead there’s some kind of calendar system for marking off days. Maybe you need to go and mark off every other Saturday, for as long as it will allow you to?

              It sounds like management doesn’t particularly care about having regular schedules, so long as there is coverage, and they seem to be OK with this guy marking off as “off” days that you think he should be working. So either start taking his off-days, or marking yours before he does. But right now it sounds like you are depending on one methodology of scheduling working (your manager telling you you can generally have X days off), when the actual methodolgy being used is different (people mark days off, and then the people who did not mark that day are presumed to be good to work).

              Maybe you could propose going to one method or the other as a permanent basis? Like, you could put big X’s through all the times you can’t work because of your other jobs, plus the every other Saturday you want off, and then he could mark off all his school days, plus the other Saturdays, etc?

    2. Colette*

      If you’re put on the schedule, are you really covering for him? Unless he’s crossing his name off and putting yours in, it sounds like you’re just scheduled during hours you’re available to work?

      I’m a little confused about why that’s a problem, but I’d say that if you need more time off, you should feel free to book it.

      If he’s really unreliable, it will hurt him when he tries to apply for other jobs, but if he’s just clear about when he can work, I think that’s OK.

      1. Anonymous*

        It’s a problem because he’s basically made it so I am on-call for his hours. If he wants to take his girlfriend out for lunch instead of working (true story just a month ago), then he tells them, “No, I’m taking Sweetheart out” and he’s off the schedule and magically I have a couple of extra hours added to my work week. They are not teaching him anything and he will eventually be hurt down the road in another job.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Try telling the boss that your activity X every other Saturday is just as important to you as his activities are to him.
          You can point out that you most certainly understand an emergency once in a while and are willing to help. Then explain “I have filled in for him Y times over Z period and I would like someone to share this with me. I have my own commitments that I must keep, too.”
          The goal here is to bail yourself out. I really doubt that fixing the guy or the boss is going to happen ever. So the second best plan is to find a way that it does not all fall on you.

        2. The IT Manager*

          It sounds like you feel that you have to cover for him or you’re being bullied into it because you fear the assistant manager being angry at you. I think you should insist on your days off as-scheduled (and go so far as to mark yourself as off on that calendar every other week).

          But it also sounds like you are operating as if you have a set schedule, but slacker and the business assumes you’re both available for certain shifts (Saturday) every week unless you mark yourself off on the calendar. So marking yourself off on the calendar well in advance resolves that problem too.

  59. Zelos*

    Any advice regarding technical writing? (Elizabeth West, I think you’re working as a tech writer?)

    I’m working towards a part-time tech writing diploma and I really enjoy the classes, and I might try some grant writing for a group I volunteer with in the new year to try to get some practice. But despite being in a tech hub (Vancouver), I have no idea how to start breaking into this!


    1. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I had some advice for you, but I just started my program and I have no freaking clue. I’m not a tech writer; I just edit reports at my admin job.

      Anyone have any advice? I probably could use some too!

    2. Jen in RO*

      Very late and you probably won’t see this, but this question is asked a lot on LinkedIn. Search for tech writing groups, join the biggest ones and look through the history. If you are in the AAM LinkedIn group, you can find me there and message me (I introduced myself in the intros thread). The caveat being that I’m not in North America and I can’t give job searching advice.

  60. Jetty*

    I have a story/question about resignations:

    So I am currently working full time at a small law office (about 30 people) and going to school full time (at night) in another field. My plan was to continue working full time throughout school, even though the two fields are unrelated, because I like my job and my salary. However, I applied for a paid Graduate Assistant position with full tuition remission (can’t beat free tuition!) that is more closely related with my graduate studies – and I got the job!

    I went to the “HR Department” (the office manager, and one attorney who handles HR related issues – neither have training in HR) and asked if there was any way I could work part-time because I like working there, but if there was nothing available that I would have to put in my notice – which was over 2 weeks. Surprisingly, the attorney flipped out and made a big scene in the meeting about how I couldn’t leave at a time like this and how it was rude of me to accept the other offer without talking to them. Then he continued to berate me for not telling them when I applied for the GA position, and he claimed that I should have told them I was doing that so they could have some notice. . .even though I was giving them notice. . .

    So they accepted my resignation and asked me to leave immediately – which was pretty surprising since it is not written anywhere that they dont let employees work through their notice period. I was also told that I would not be paid for my notice period.

    Is it just me or is it absurd that they want employees to tell management when they apply for any other position?? I’m also pretty miffed that I was never made aware that I didn’t need to give notice, otherwise I would have quit the day before my new job starts. And the raised voiced and demeaning speeches was quite unexpected and I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I was reading some articles online and a lot of them say that giving a notice period is becoming outdated since employers are increasingly asking employees to leave immediately upon giving notice. Is that a trend that others are noticing??

    1. J*

      It is absurd that your employer wants/expects you to give notice if you decided to search for other opportunities. If you have a great relationship with your manager, then I could see letting him/her know, but even then you aren’t obligated to do so. I think employers forget that at will employment works both ways.

      I don’t believe that it’s the new norm, but I do believe that it is a sign of a bad employer. If you want people to give you notice, but then ask them to leave immediately you’re sending a pretty clear message to the rest of your employees to not ever give you notice.

      Good on you for doing the professional thing, and good luck in school!

    2. Ruffingit*

      That is insane on a number of levels. The attorney conducted himself very poorly here. You do not owe them notice about when you are planning to apply for other jobs. You gave them the courtesy of the generally accepted two weeks notice. His reaction is out of line, way out of line and leaving immediately is actually the best course of action for you.

      It’s a professional courtesy to give two weeks as notice. Some companies ask you to leave immediately and some do not. You can generally gauge which your company is by watching how they handle it when others resign. Whatever the case though, you should always plan to be able to cover those two weeks financially because they may ask you to leave immediately. Be aware of that, plan accordingly, give your two weeks and go forward.

      Congrats on the new opportunity, focus on that and not the ass hat attorney you had the misfortune to have to deal with.

    3. Marina*

      The raised voice and demeaning language is completely inappropriate, as is asking employees to let them know when they apply to other jobs (especially considering their reaction when you did let them know) but it’s not unusual for employers to cut short a notice period, and they don’t have to pay you for time you don’t work, even if you offered to work.

    4. Jetty*

      Thanks everyone for your input! This is my first real job out of undergrad and I wasn’t sure if maybe that was the norm and I just didn’t know enough about the professional world. Luckily I have a savings and I’ll just think of this as a surprise vacation lol

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, that was some pretty far-out behavior. I am glad you are rid of those people.

        Hopefully, from here forward they only hirer people with very good ESP. Because that seems to be a requirement there.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Nope, it’s not you. They suck. And anyone who would throw a fit and make employees who give notice leave immediately sucks even more–it’s business, not personal.

      1. Katieinthemountains*

        This is apparently pretty common in small companies. I work at one with very low turnover among professional staff. A terrific coworker took another job, and the partners treated him horribly. They saw it as a betrayal instead of recognizing that he wanted experience they couldn’t provide due to company size (and to be managed differently, and paid a reasonable rate, too, but they don’t know how to manage, so they didn’t understand).

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        And, am I right in remembering that Jetty should have access to unemployment during her notice period?

  61. TLT*

    Any advice on how to proceed? I had a really great interview a couple of weeks ago, but the received an offer from another company. I turned down the offer in favor of continuing with the process at #1 and informed the hiring manager of my decision (following AAM’s advice and using correct protocol). The hiring manager at Job #1 told me she tried to put an offer together before I had to make a decision at #2 but she couldn’t due to office bureaucracy, So in any case, I turned #2 down Monday, had a second interview with #1 on Tuesday, sent my thank you on Wednesday and she told me she was so glad I could come in, and that they’d be in touch soon. What does that mean?? I’m overanalyzing everything and am super anxious about the whole situation. Should I follow up again (they want to make a hiring decision by the end of the year and they need to check references). Ugh, job searching is the worst!

    1. Ruffingit*

      It means they will be in touch soon. Hard, I know, but try not to read between the lines. You’ve already followed up and they told you they would be in touch. I wouldn’t follow up again, that seems to me to be overkill. They are planning to make a hiring decision by the end of the year, which is 11 days away. Give them that time. If you don’t hear from them by the end of the year, then you could follow up, but doing it now seems like too much to me.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It makes sense that you are anxious especially after turning down a job.

      She said she was putting an offer together.
      I think that means she is putting an offer together.

      Think of this as vacation time.

  62. Anonadog*

    My company just announced it is merging with a similar, larger company. I am sure there will be layoffs. I’d love some advice and good thoughts!

    1. BadPlanning*

      Gather up names, numbers and emails from any current or former coworkers (or add on LinkedIn) so you can keep touch with potential references (and they can keep in touch with you).

      Take the time to review and reflect on any awards, big projects, important dates, etc that you’ve done and record the dates, etc. If you have to polish up a resume soon, that stuff will be fresh and you won’t have to try and guess when you did things.

      If you think you’ll be let go and maybe with short notice (like they might walk people out on the same day or next day), I would start taking a personal item home every day so you don’t end up awkwardly trying to take home a big box all at once.

      I hope the merge goes well. I’m sure it will be stressful. Try to reach out to the new coworkers when they come on board so you look like a team player — I’m sure it will be easy to see them as the bad guys.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      All of what BadPlanning said, plus email yourself any files/kudos you might want to keep for your own use or anything you have on your computer that needs to come off. Update that resume right away (I typically keep mine updated every year or so, even if I don’t plan on leaving because you never know).

      Start cutting back as best you can on expenses, just in case. I did that when things were tight in 2011 and it was a real help when I was laid off suddenly.

      Hang in there; it may not be as bad as you think. But it will ease your mind to be prepared. Good luck!

  63. 7up*

    Question: I had several interviews before Thanksgiving and the hiring manager said they’d get back to me right before Thanksgiving. Then he told me they weren’t moving on until after the start of the new year. Would it be weird to send a happy holidays note to the hiring manager? I want to make sure I’m still on their radar and I think it’s just a nice gesture, but I don’t want to look like a suck-up. Thoughts?

    1. fposte*

      I’m against it. I think it’s transparent, and I think if they had rejected you you wouldn’t be sending them a note. I would feel it as a nag disguised as a holiday wish.

  64. JoAnna*

    What’s the most bizarre Christmas present you’ve ever received from a friend/family member/significant other?

      1. Bea W*

        My dad got me a collection of ice scrapers and snow brushes, but this was a normal sort of gift to expect from him. So I wouldn’t say it was bizarre. He had recently found a set that he really loved, and when he finds something he really thinks is handy, he likes to spread the wealth. When we were kids, he was known to give bulk packs of AA batteries, which we loved actually because you could never have enough batteries for your walkman or other 80s gadgets. Having your own personal 24 pack of batteries was pretty sweet.

        He gave my mother a vacuum cleaner and a microwave the same year. She was not impressed.

    1. A Teacher*

      A whisk broom from my uncle–he got it for all of the girls in the family so we could clean out our cars. My 16 year old at the time sister said to him dead pan “isn’t that what a vacuum or shop-vac is for?”

    2. Jamie*

      My ex-husband bought me a gold crucifix and said he saw it and had to buy it because he immediately thought of me.

      I showed him the one on neck which I’ve worn every single day he’d known me – about 6 years at that point.

      “Oh, so that’s why it reminded me of you.” Yeah, way to pay attention…I hate returning stuff.

    3. Anon on this one*

      A boyfriend gave me a pillow case on which he’d had his name embroidered.

      My husband gave me an oscillating fan. (A mutual friend saved it from further infamy by declaring, “because you’re a hottie!”.)

      My mother gave me a bunch of coupons in my stocking.

      My father gave me the store credit from the returned gift that *I* previously gave *him.*

    4. Kaz*

      The present itself was fine (an item that was similar to others that I collect) but my mother-in-law had had it overnighted to her and spent almost twice as much on the shipping as she did on the gift, because she decided she just had to get me an additional gift. She had gotten a lump sum payment from unemployment and blew all of it on Christmas, which made me really uncomfortable because she was going to immediately need more money after all this was blown, and could have really used the $60 or so she spent on this item.

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      Too bad you’re limiting it to Christmas. I don’t recall if the van de Graaff generator was Christmas or not, but the live tarantuala was for Valentine’s day. Both from my spouse, of course. (Now you understand my picture.)

    6. Chinook*

      I once got a roll of hockey tape from my brother. I think it was the only time I ever squealed because then I asked him where the hockey stick was (when I was 20 and playing hockey for the first time in a rec league with borrowed equipment).

    7. The IT Manager*

      Underwear from my Grandmother. Just … awkward … because I had moved into the “big kids” gift category where all the grandkids/granddaughters (don’t remember) got a package of underwear whereas my younger brothers opened some kind of toy and then immediately asked to see what I got.

      My grandmother – lovely, loving woman on no income except social security (probably) and something like 20 grandkids.

  65. J*

    I’ve been waiting all week for this thread. I don’t have a question, but I really need to let out some frustration. I work in HR and my organization conducts credit checks as part of the pre-employment process. I’m the person who reviews and assesses an applicant’s credit. I absolutely loathe credit checks. In my opinion they serve no purpose. I don’t understand what employers hope to gain by doing them. Avoid risk? What risk? Are you seriously concerned that a new hire is going to use the company credit card to pay down their mortgage? If you want to assess risk, look at an applicant’s criminal history. Most of America has at least some debt, and unfortunately some of those people aren’t current with their payments. This doesn’t necessarily mean that those people were irresponsible with their money. It stands to follow that with an increase in unemployment comes an increase in the amount of ridiculous investigations done by an employers because it is a buyer’s market. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to let this out on AAM and NOT word vomit all over my colleagues.

    1. fposte*

      Argh. My sympathies. At least it will be reassuring for applicants reading here to realize that people who are required to enact these checks really aren’t judging them.

      1. J*

        Not at all. In fact, I usually feel like I need to shower after I read a report. I love every other part of my job, however. Fingers crossed that the EEOC makes such a stink that credit checks will soon become a thing of the past.

        1. Thank You!*

          Thank you for saying this. My credit is shit. Well, actually, it’s more a compost heap that services the Greater New York City area. Did I make some mistakes financially? Sure, but I was also well on my way to paying off those mistakes and doing quite well with my credit when I was laid off and couldn’t find another job to save my life (hello there 2009 recession). Had to let go of making the credit card payments in order to pay rent and food. I was late on all payments for everything, but managed to keep a roof over my head, barely.

          So yeah, I’m totally sympathetic to how it happens that a person has bad credit. It’s not all irresponsibility.

          1. De Minimis*

            This….and I’ve never understood the leeriness some companies feel about hiring those with credit trouble. If people are employed and earning income, a lot of the credit trouble tends to go away or at least can be reduced.

            As far as potential theft goes, if a company has even a minimal amount of safeguards/internal control, the risk of theft from a single person is almost nil.

          2. J*

            Precisely. If something involving an applicant doesn’t affect his/her ability to do a job, it should have no impact on their ability to be hired.

            Thank ya’ll for taking the time to read and respond to my post!

    2. A Bug!*

      I think I read that someone was proposing a new bill that would prohibit credit checks on potential hires. Fingers crossed for you that I’m remembering right and that it happens!

      1. Jubilance*

        It was Elizabeth Warren to be exact, who is an awesome senator. I really hope this becomes law, it’s a horrible practice keeping a lot of deserving people out of work.

        1. Katieinthemountains*

          The only decent reason I know of is for jobs that require security clearances – if you have anything that pressures you (like huge debts) or secrets you don’t want known (if you don’t care who knows you’re a swinger then it doesn’t matter), you might be a security risk – but many of those people would stop being security risks if they could get good jobs. :/

    3. D*

      I’m so frustrated with how a credit check, pee test and background check are so commonplace prior to hiring. Yeah, I understand a company wants to weed out the terrorists and those who lied on their resume or were fired for egregious behavior, but I don’t understand how the rest of it really matters or why it should the company’s business.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I agree. And with the crappy economy, mass layoffs, unbelievable medical debt, and other unemployment issues, it’s become very common to have lurking bills.

      I think credit checks are bull unless the person will be working in finance or handling accounting or money. What is the point of doing that for someone who answers the phone?

    5. MissDisplaced*

      As someone with very imperfect credit, I HATE these!
      I can understand it if your company is a bank, or you are interviewing accountants, or if the employees would deal directly with money, or managing someone else’s money, but why subject everyone?

      1. De Minimis*

        I don’t think it should come into play unless the employee actually does deal directly with money or property, or if it’s a very small business to where properly separating duties isn’t practical. Even many finance/accounting employees don’t really work directly with money, I know I don’t!

    6. Not So NewReader*

      It’s amazing what is tied to the credit rating. I understand that insurance companies also run credit checks. It helps them to figure out how much of a risk you are. It seems that people with bad credit are more likely to have accidents. And yes they do hijack the company credit card.

      What I see here is that you are reading these credit reports for no reason. Ask the boss what you are supposed to be looking for and why. Maybe she will say do not read it, just file it for later.
      I would be really PO’ed if I had to sit and read something and then do absolutely nothing with it. Insist on guidelines. What are you looking for and who do you report it to when you find it?
      This to me is a story about a neglectful boss mostly. I am sure your company pays good bucks to get those credit reports. It might be a cost saving measure to cut the service if no one is using the information.

  66. OfficeBullyUpdate*

    Somewhat biweekly update on our horrid office bully…
    After a couple of months of good behavior, he is realizing that I am going to give him the bare minimum help on the project that he pushed through by claiming I approved of it. And he now knows for certain he is not getting his promotion to leader of his team.

    This has set him into overdrive with berating co-workers lately. I think people are actually taking extra days off to avoid him.

    But the really odd thing is that he has defaulted back into physical intimidation again. Last time I was in that office, he spent over an hour bragging in detail about his boxing background and how many people he had knocked out in bar fights. Every time I am around him now, he is talking about people he has beaten up and how unpredictable he can be if someone pisses him off.

      1. OfficeBullyUpdate*

        His buddy hired him… and made him the highest paid person right before said buddy retired. As I mentioned in previous open threads, he has access to virtually every system here and has probably been using that access to cover up his actions and implicate other people. The coworker he has clashed with the most prints out all electronic communications because her emails exchanges with him keep disappearing from the archives (which is actually a violation of state sunshine law in this case).

        I think the day he loses his job will also be the day he ends up under arrest.

      1. OfficeBullyUpdate*

        That office has two managers. One thinks the bully is the golden boy and puts the blame back on the bully’s victims. The other is getting constantly backstabbed by the bully too and has essentially ceded personnel management to the other manager. Their boss is expected to retire any day; the person most likely to take over for him has gone after the bully in the past and might actually be able to do something about this.

  67. Jamie*

    I have a performance review coming up Monday and I am not looking forward to it this year.

    I’m not dreading it or anything, but due to being pretty sick March – November and then off for surgery I was more in maintenance and keep all the balls in the air mode rather than moving forward for most of the year. So my list of things I’m particularly proud of is a lot shorter than it’s been in past years.

    I said that to my boss and made a joke that he didn’t know I had been sick on purpose to get out of work – and then told me to lighten up and look at the year through a normal persons lens and not Jamie-cam. So – my reluctance to do this is because I’m just used to being prouder of myself than I am this year.

    But performance is actually only a small part of my review – we also go over plans for the upcoming year and projects – approve my master budget for the upcoming year talk about any upcoming large expenses, etc. What annoys me, what I think is working, what I need…what I want.

    I just can’t get psyched about it this year – and usually I have this weird tension, excited to talk about myself, nervousness about anything surprising he might say (although I have to say – never had any surprises. We have good communication throughout the year so I’ve never had a wtf moment in one of these meetings.)

    I knew I should have won a Turing Award this year so I’d have something to talk about on Monday!

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I can understand this. I was sick for most of last month and with nothing serious, but when it came time to do periodic reports I wanted to put asterisks on everything.

      A year is just an interval–it’s the whole life that counts.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It will be fine. Everyone has an off-time now and then. It’s not your fault that you were sick, and it sounds like you have a great boss. And I’m glad you’re better. :)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I remember when I was sick off and on for about a year. Oh man was I nervous about my reviews. And no, the time off did not hurt me that much. When I was there I was doing my best.
      But I think that nervousness is tied to being sick and be out.
      I am usually at work unless there is an ice storm. So being out of work throws me. Probably this is what happened to you- your rhythm feels off-like you missed a few beats.
      It will be okay.

  68. j_e_tothedouble_n*

    Do you guys have any idea how to orchestrate an out of state job search? I would like to keep my current employer in the dark about it for as long as possible, but it’s going to be kind of hard to ask for a couple days off to travel for an interview! Any suggestions on good excuses/ways to tell them without being fired on the spot?

    1. Ruffingit*

      Don’t tell them. Take time off as you would for anything else. Schedule the days or call in sick or whatever is appropriate in your company. See if you can schedule interviews for a Monday so you’re traveling over the weekend and come back on Monday after the interview, thus only missing one day.

  69. Callie*

    Hello, thanks in advance for any advice. I am the head of the social events committee at work (in which I basically and unfortunately end up doing everything). I suppose I was wondering if I need or should put this on my resume since it is obviously not in my job description, but it does take time. I don’t have it on currently but was wondering if it would be helpful. Thanks!

        1. The IT Manager*

          I agree. It seems too easy (not technically challenging) unless your social events are way more complex than the ones in my own office.

          And also, I assume, you’re a woman and social committee also is sort of a stereotypical additional duty for a woman – maternal, mothering, cooking/cleaning up – which unfortunately conveys less professional to some.

    1. SA*

      Add to resume no but it would be good to bring up in an interview to show how you contributed to your company outside your usual responsibilities.

  70. JCDC*

    Would love advice on a somewhat superficial question. My job gets a thumbs-up in most important areas, but our physical office is rather depressing. Very maze/box-like. Overactive AC. No easy access to the outdoors. And … no windows. That last one being the worst. I have one of those bulbs that simulate sunshine, but other ideas would be so welcome!

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Pothos are nice. They like office lights. And you only have to throw water on them once a week–you’d have to jump up and down on it to kill it.

        I was also going to suggest some cheerful art or decorative things.

    1. Anonymous*

      I had a plant for a while, and it really brightened the place up. Mine was an amaryllis, and it lasted forever. I’m not very good at keeping plants alive, but it thrived under my neglect, and it grew very quickly. I sat in an inner cubicle with no window nearby, and it was fine with that environment. It got sickly when I moved near the sun.

      1. Anonymous*

        I quite like the idea of a plant! Until now, I thought that it was impossible due to the utter lack of light …

        1. Chinook*

          An alternative to a plant is cut flowers. I got some from a happy vendor and they truly perked up my office space.

  71. TL*

    I got a new job at a Prestigious University all the way across the country! I’m so excited!!!!

    (Also, thanks, Alison! A lot of your advice was very helpful throughout the whole process!)

  72. Sharm*

    Does anyone have advice for how to format a resume when your job title is really off-base from your job duties? By this I mean, my job title implies I’m in customer service, when it’s actually reporting and back-end work with literally zero client contact. I have a marketing background, and would like to get back into marketing and communications work, but fear my current title has taken me out of the running. Even on LinekdIn now, it only shows me jobs with my current title, which is not at all what I want, nor anything I’ve ever done before.

    I want to lobby for a title change at my current job, but it’s too early for me to ask for that yet (plus, I very much doubt they’ll go for it, especially given our department name itself is a misnomer, which my manager even admits).

    Any thoughts?

    1. fposte*

      I think a few things. First, if you’re new where you are, you’re probably not looking at the moment, so it’s mostly a hypothetical problem that might take care of itself by the time the resume is really being sent places. Second, you’re presumably including a description of what you’re achieving there, and you can frame the position more clearly in your cover letter as well. Skimmers still might miss the point, but skimmers aren’t going to hire well anyway.

    2. Jubilance*

      I encountered this in my first job – my official title was Chemical Engineer but I did no real engineering work, I was really a chemist. My boss agreed that I could use “Polymer Chemist/Chemical Engineer” on my cards & resume. I put the chemist part first because it truly was what I did, but I also included my company title so that if anyone checked with my company I was giving the same information.

      For your resume & LinkedIn, I would stress the work you do irrespective of your title, using industry key terms where appropriate, so that its clear you’re doing marketing even though your title may be Customer Service Manager or something like that.

  73. ES*

    Oh yay, Friday afternoon work stress! What fun!

    After a colleague left, I had to take over some of his duties (they will be taken off in February, when an outside contractor will start managing this program). Part of his duties involved managing some student payroll (I work at a university).

    So, today I get an email from a student who has not been paid yet, because he didn’t turn in his payroll forms until last week (too late to get into that payroll). Now he’s saying he’s leaving the country and needs the money by Sunday.

    Of course I feel bad, because he did the work, and it’s his money, but I also had no control over when he turned in his forms. So I had to email our payroll guy and beg him to cut a hard check, and the poor kid probably has to go pick it up at an office off-campus (they said I can’t pick it up and deliver it to him). And of course if we mail it today, there’s no guarantee he’d get it before he leaves.

    So now I’m stressed and feel guilty even though I know this isn’t my fault. But still, what a great thing to happen on a Friday before the holiday week. :-/

    1. fposte*

      Hey, I love my student staff, but this guy’s just run into “You snooze, you lose.” He’s lucky they’ll cut him a check at all.

    2. Kaz*

      This is Not Your Problem. It is very nice of you to try to help this kid, but you are not responsible for making sure his problem gets solved, and should definitely not feel bad if it can’t. You have already gone above and beyond for him.

      Also, wtf? He turned it in last week and is only contacting you today? What kind of miracle did he think you were going to be able to perform on a Friday??

      1. Anonymous*

        What state are you located in? I know for a fact that California law requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked on regularly scheduled pay days. Most states have similar laws, and this may even be a federal requirement. So it is your (the university’s) problem. It’s not really your fault, but you (the university) should come up with a system to avoid this in the future – the employer is ultimately responsible for keeping track of employee hours.

  74. Sabrina*

    I’m pretty sure I’ve asked this before, or at least in a similar vein… How do you find a job when EVERY job wants experience? I can’t get 2-3 years experience by volunteering or interning part time. I mean I need a job NOW, and a part time volunteer or intern job would give me 2-3 years experience in 4-6 years, right? I have experience, but it’s not related to what my new degree is in. I feel like I need to get my foot in the door somewhere but there’s no door gaps that will accommodate my foot size.

    1. Kaz*

      Volunteering is not just about having something to put on your resume. I work at a hospital and have several volunteers who help with various projects – and I’m actively trying to help one of them get a job here. Just being there and having someone who knows your work ethic, and can serve as a reference, is already a foot in the door.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Serious question, since you’re a recent grad changing fields are you looking at entry level job that call for experience?

      If you’re getting beat out by people with experience, who are apply for jobs they are overqualified for then unfortunately that’s the economy making it hard for recent grads.

      Is there any way to parlay your experience in your other field to something that relates to your desired field?

  75. koppejackie*

    Oh! I’ve been waiting for one of these. In a thread a loooooooooong time ago, someone posted really helpful job search resources for the state of Minnesota. (Or any job search resource that’s beyond

    If you could re-post them again (or if anyone else wants to chime in), I’d greatly appreciate it! Thank you!

    1. COT*

      Minnesota Council of Nonprofits job board is an excellent resource for jobs in the nonprofit sector (and some outside of that). The University of St. Thomas also has an extensive job board open to the public through Career Services.

  76. Nonprofit Office Manager*

    Giving holiday cards to bosses: yay or nay? Not presents, not gift CARDS, just a plain ‘ol holiday cards with short handwritten notes.

    1. D*

      I’m all for it if your group isn’t getting a gift or card for your manager. If I’ve pitched in $20 for the wowsa manager gift, forget it. (I’m so glad Alison is a voice of reason about this. Boy oh boy, do some managers love that A-list treatment. But, I digress.)

      I think it’s a great thing to do. If my team is small enough, I give everyone cards. If it’s a big group, then I give cards to the people I’ve worked with. It’s an easy gesture that received well.

  77. Seattle Writer Girl*

    Bah! Being on the west coast always means I am late to these threads!

    My dilemma revolves around my upcoming performance review. I recently discovered that I am about $25-30k underpaid (yes, $30,000!) based on job ads that I have seen for positions similar to mine that require significantly less experience (2-3 yrs vs my 8+). I want to go to my boss (the CEO) and ask for $15k more with the hope of getting $10k. (I have worked here 3.5 years and an employee #6. I have only received a 7% total salary increase during this time.)

    However, I know that my boss isn’t planning on giving anyone more than a 3% increase this year due to insider gossip I received from another manager as well as the fact that my boss “forgot” about scheduling my review and I had to schedule it myself for 12/31 (the very last day HR allowed us to have them in).

    Any tips on how to negotiate a pay increase in the face of opposition?

    1. Nonprofit Office Manager*

      Seattle Writer Girl, just want to say “hi”! I’m in Yakima, but lived in Seattle for several years after college. Can’t wait to enjoy a Victrola latte this weekend during our holiday travels!

      P.S. Are you a technical writer?

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        @Nonprofit Office Manager

        Yay for Washingtonians! To answer your question, I am a marketing copywriter for a website (although I do some project management and other random publishing and database hygiene duties to keep the website running).

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Yay for Yakima and Seattle. Here’s chiming in from Kennewick. :) I think Windchime is from Seattle too, or at least Pacific NW.

        1. Windchime*

          Originally from the central Washington region, but I’m now living in a suburb of Seattle. Raising a glass of microbrew to my fellow Washingtonians!

    2. D*

      Approach 1: If you feel that $25-30k more than your salary is market rate, you may just bring that research to your boss and say that you’re only asking for 1/2 that and explain you have more experience and so on. Depending on your boss, he may agree, he may tell you go someplace better if it’s about the money and question you about how much you really want your current job.

      Approach 2: Interview for other positions, get a market rate offer, and hopefully your boss will counter-offer. In this case you can tell him you’d really like to stay but the salary at the other company is market rate.

      In either situation, you are at risk for getting the manager to question how much you want to be there for the long term. It’s pretty lousy of him to review you on the last day of the year/last day possible. Is he trying to avoid discussion around a salary increase with you?

      1. Seattle Writer Girl*

        Thank you for the thoughtful reply. If my negotiation doesn’t work, I am leaning towards going the counter-offer route. I know for a fact that my boss has counter-offered successfully to at least 2 other employees (to the tune of $20k/year, confirmed by the employees themselves).

        I really like working here and don’t want to leave, but the $30k discrepancy really opened my eyes to how little they are valuing my contributions.

        1. Bryan*

          Rule #4 on AAM, never accept a counter offer.

          Rule #1 is after you apply assume you didn’t get the job
          Rule #2 is don’t read into hiring manager speak
          Rule #3 is you don’t have an offer until it’s in writing with a start date

          Rule #5 is never talk about Ask A Manager

        2. The IT Manager*

          See Rule #4.

          I’d start with what you’re worth (your value to company) and market value of your position/experience and forgo actually bringing in other job offers as evidence to avoid giving them the idea that you have your foot out the door (which can be a negative impact of accepting counter offers / threatening to leave.)

    3. Kaz*

      I would bet you a dollar that your boss knows quite well that you are significantly underpaid, and you have received paltry increases over the last few years. You are probably going to have to leave in order to get a job that pays market rate.

  78. Josh S*

    So after a TON of interviewing and a TON of positive feedback, I’m one of two finalists for a position at a industry-leading company, on their most prominent team, in the best-fitting position I’ve come across in my 3-year-long job hunt.

    It’s possible I’ll hear today, but perhaps not til after Jan 1.

    Wish me luck and send me positive vibes!

    1. Jamie*

      Wow – fingers crossed for you – hope you hear sooner rather than later so you can start celebrating!

  79. Mints*

    Off topic for the open thread: Did a TV show you love have a season finale last week? Did your head explode and / or were you sobbing at the end? I’m still grieving

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I know, right? :{

          I can’t stand waiting. But I have to wait for Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (not as good, but I can’t stop watching), The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and Sherlock starts again on PBS on Jan. 19th. Lots of TV to watch. :D

    1. The IT Manager*

      Person of Interest. Although my head truly exploded about 3 or 4 weeks back when the show did something I absolutely did not expect – ever – not on an American show anyway. This week’s episode had a good reveal where you realize that a bunch of minor things that seemed too be caused by something else were actually caused by thing revealed and I was oh so wrong.

      Honestly season 1 I dismissed it as a procedural with a unique premise. It hooked me in season 2 and now with its layered conspiracy, it doesn’t at all feel like the show I thought it was going to be based on its advertising when it started.

      * I have been cutting my TV viewing down and Person of Interest is the only show I have added in the past two or three years.

  80. Kit M.*

    I wanted to thank the commenters here, for helping me make a good call. I heard that a woman with whom I was acquainted at my old workplace died. She was very kind to me in our brief interactions. I was hesitating to send any kind of condolences to her boss, thinking it might appear self-seeking since I didn’t know her or her boss that well. But then I remembered a thread here a while back where some commenter(s) mentioned that work colleagues often get overlooked when condolences are being offered, but that they’re definitely appreciated. I went ahead and sent an email to her boss, and it was clear from her response that I had done absolutely the right thing. She also asked to share my email with the office. I’m somewhat shy and an over-thinker, and I doubt I would have sent anything if not for that comment thread.

  81. Anonymous*

    How do I tactfully inquire about the reason someone’s being laid off?

    I’m new at company X, working on a difficult project. Recently a colleague’s been laid off by the client, and apparently he also needs to leave X asap.

    Having clients dissatisfied with you is nothing new in my industry, and the company would generally find another project for you. So it’s extremely unusual to be laid off just because you didn’t do well on one project (his only one since he was also hired relatively recently).

    My managers have not addressed this issue at all, save for “colleague is no longer part of the team”.

      1. fposte*

        Right. The only question I could see asking here is if you were working for the same client and wanted to know if there were things that needed to be prioritized in serving them. But it’s not appropriate for that to be a disguised “Why was Bob let go?”

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If you have a trusted colleague who is more in the loop with things, ask her discreetly. She might not be able to give you specifics, but she might be able to help if you have specific concerns about how this might relate to you and your position.

      1. Anonymous*

        ^ Yeah that’s basically what I want to know.
        Meaning, I don’t feel I’m doing a stellar job, so am I next? But obviously phrased in a less insecure way.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Something similar happened where I worked, where a woman was let go and some of the newer employees got really worried. They asked me because I tend to be in the know, and I told them that while I couldn’t go into specifics about her, what I could tell them was that it was about performance, and that I know her boss gave her several warnings and chances to improve, and that if they were in trouble, they would have gotten a series of verbal and written warnings first. I think that was really what they wanted to know.

          1. Anonymous*

            It’s silly to try to keep the reason someone is fired secret unless there are legal reasons to do so.

            If it’s performance related, it will help other staff be more effective if they know the details.

  82. jennie*

    Alison, I’ve been curious whether you ever have or have ever considered doing a demographic survey of your readership. It is always interesting to hear all the varying points of view of the commenters; it’s one of the most literate and respectful comment sections I’ve seen online.

    I’m curious about reader age, gender, location, work status, industry, etc., just because I love that kind of data. Not sure whether it would be relevant to you, but if you ever do have that info I’d love to see you publish it.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I’ve noticed that too. Most of the commenters on here seem to be very much professional working people (mostly white collar, office types) with legitimate questions, concerns or advice. Rarely do you see things get overly political or degenerate into the just stupid category.

      Could be those are moderated out though.

      1. Jamie*

        The AAM Linkedin group, which has 1261 members as of today, has demographics – I’m also really curious about stats for readers in general, but for those on the Linkedin group:

        10% Greater NY area
        5% Washington
        4% Boston, San Fransisco, Chicago
        3% Greater L.A.

        9% Administrative
        7% HR
        6% Media, Operations
        5% Education
        5% Consulting

        (up until recently IT and Librarians were in the top 6 – we’ve been edged out!)

        34% Entry
        28% Senior
        13% Manager
        6% Director
        3% Owner
        2% VP

        Keep in mind this is culled from profiles so if those that aren’t complete or if they are hard to categorize won’t be included in the breakdown.

        1. Windchime*

          Washington? Or Washington, DC? People often say “Washington” when what they mean is DC, so I’m not sure. 5% from my little home state seems like a lot.

      2. Anon with a name*

        If I remember correctly, Alison only deletes comments that are spam. In the past when I’ve seen discussions get out of hand, she (or sometimes another regular) will step in and ask people to tone it down. (And I think the comments section got closed down once?) But I’m pretty sure she doesn’t just moderate out over-the-top comments. :)

  83. Bean*

    When have you been told/have you told that you were not receiving a bonus for the year? My company waits until right before the Christmas potluck event and sends a mass email out to all staff letting them know.

    1. Laufey*

      If we get them, it’s always on the last day of the year. So, we find out Dec. 31 when we either get checks or nothing.

  84. Dianamaniac*

    I think I’m being run out of my job, or my boss is just clueless. I want to go back to school and change careers, but I need to survive the next 3-6 months here. A colleague suggests involving HR (again), but I wonder if it’s worth it.

    Nutshell: I’ve had five supervisors in six years. The latest manager of almost a year has put me on a PIP for things that previous managers have praised. Obviously, I think it’s unjustified, but I would, wouldn’t I? Anyway, she seems to be asking contradictory things: do high-level analysis based on our organization’s plans (which DO NOT EXIST), but run every meeting request through her. I was hired and given authority to do high-level work, to decide who best to request and deliver information, and to make long-range strategic decisions that increase funding for our organization. She’s micromanaging how I format reports that don’t even get read and writing me up for things like delivering reports on the date she assigns (because she asked x months ago). I have zero motivation to write yet another analysis for which the instructions keep changing, which is distracting me from my actual work around generating funding. The people I work with on funding praise my work. Nobody is cross-trained in my work. It feels like she’s so caught up in the letter of an obscure process rather than looking at the big picture and interpreting accordingly.

    So . . . do I spend another few days cranking out a revision of the last stupid analysis that only she will read and criticize heartily? Talk to HR again? And can I get out of here with severance?

    1. Joey*

      It sounds to me like you don’t think she’s a good manager. That is really difficult justification to not follow her instructions. Frustrating as hell, but just as she would be fired for not listening to the CEO so will you if you continue to defy her with that reason.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Yeah, I agree with Joey.

        The PIP. Does it sound reasonable? Did anyone but your boss have any input? Like did HR sign off? Trying to figure out if your boss has any support for her evaluation that your work needs improvement.

        1. Diane*

          Great points. I don’t see her as a good manager. She doesn’t outline clear expectations, provide consistent or timely feedback, or support me when others don’t provide information or follow process. She is a symptom of broader issues of leadership. I have reached out to others to ensure my work is effective, and their feedback is consistently positive.

          I have to do the work she’s asking. I just hate that it’s an impossible task that takes time away from my actual core work. And that it shows that my boss is not able to support or understand my role.

  85. Sunflower*

    Does anyone have any stories of making a huge salary jump from one job to the next? I am in my first job which I am very underpaid for(about 30% under market value) and took to get experience. I’m looking for a new, higher ranking position and I’ve done tons of research on negotiating and not giving the company my current salary. Because I’m underpaid AND looking to move up the ranks, I feel like the next salary I’m looking at is going to be quite a jump and I’m wondering if this is unrealistic?

    1. ScaredyCat*

      I pretty much had a 50% salary jump between my first and second job. Then again, in my country for my industry, it is extremely unusual to be asked for previous salaries.

    2. Anonymous*

      It’s possible! I was in a somewhat similar situation, and my jump in salary at my current job was a little mind-boggling. It’s not that I’m making big bucks now or anything, just that my previous salary was obviously below market rate. Basically, I looked for jobs that were equivalent or even a tiny step down, but at much larger/established organizations. And while interviewing, I didn’t discuss my previous salary and didn’t ask specifically about theirs until I was well along in the process. (Sorry, this isn’t too helpful! My main point is that this can happen.)

  86. Becka*

    I recently applied for another position/promotion within my company.
    This is the first time I’ve done this, so I’m not sure what the etiquette is. My boss is on leave for a few weeks over xmas so I haven’t been able to let her know I’ve applied. I also can’t find any policy that says I have to advise her before applying.
    Would it be bad to just email her the job ad to let her know I applied, (incase shes notified by someone else) or should I just wait until she returns in a couple of weeks and let her know in person. I don’t think interviews will be held until January sometime. I’m also not sure if she checks her work emails while away.

    1. The IT Manager*

      IMO, email her now. To avoid her being blindsided when she returns before you can inform her in person. Just my opinion, though.

  87. Ren*

    Hello! Thanks for all of the interesting stories here – keeps into perspective how good a job really is! Mine doesn’t seem so bad after reading some of these!

    I am having a bit of trouble at work with two coworkers (it may very well be with me, who knows). Maybe my usage of the English language is too picky, but whenever we have meetings with our bosses, each other, or other company sites or visitors, they always like to use the “I” pronoun when referencing anything they do or will do, when it is really “we” who have worked on a project or will work on it. Then, when my project lead gets mentioned, they always use the term “we”, even if they did not do anything. I am not sure if I am being too picky about this, but I fear it lessens the impact of my work in the view of my manager and other colleagues or clients, who may think I am working under them.

    These past couple of weeks I have realized that one coworker has been consistently emailing other sites about my project and not ccing me on them but ccs the other coworker, who does not know anything about it. He then asks for my input without telling me what it is for. Additionally, on my past performance reviews, I’ve heard my boss say that they have gotten higher raises because they’ve completed X project, even though I worked on it and solved issues that would delay product launches. But perhaps these items are not really related!

    Am I being too picky on the language? I’m not sure what to do if that’s not the case!

    1. fposte*

      It doesn’t sound so much like a language issue as a credit issue. You’re not going to change the bosses, so I’d encourage you to let their use go; I also use “we” for the activities of my team, and I think that’s a kosher usage, because I’m speaking for them. (However, I do make a point of singling out individual members where it’s relevant.)

      Your co-worker is another matter. Have you made it clear to him that you need to be included in future? If so and he still doesn’t do it, have you mentioned to your manager that there’s some confusion about who has the necessary information for these emails? (Is it also his project, and if not, why is he emailing and not you?) And are you keeping track of your own achievements and sharing them with your manager prior to your review? Have you discussed your interest in a raise with your manager and identified what achievements she’d be looking for?

      1. Ren*

        I have done all of the above! My manager was not interested in us keeping track of our achievements (he says the yearly performance review is enough and says that he figures we all work on the same projects). I’ve also asked him about a raise with respect to my achievements, but unfortunately, I am still waiting on hearing back about it. It is with HR, but it’s been almost 2 years and no reply (since they said they had to do a whole site overview, apparently). Disappointing!

      2. The IT Manager*

        This does not sound like a grammar issue. It is a credit issue.

        My “boss” said that for any credit he credits his team and for any blame it’s all on him! I can’t say how much I respect that attitude. I am trying to live that more myself.

        These are co-workers (I think you’re saying that the co-workers do that in meeting with the bosses) you’re talking about but what you described is very jerky and possibly deliberate attempt to undermine you.

        The both barrels “solution” is whenever that happens say to interrupt and say, “that’s my project,” “I helped with that,” or “yes, thanks for your assistance with my project,” but I think you end up looking bad instead of them. The passive aggressive “solution” is to start doing the same thing they’re doing. I don’t think that’s exactly right either.

  88. Anon for dumb question*

    So…I’d like to take a survey on this question. It’s “is it legal” #198339!

    I manage an entertainment venue. I’m still new there (just finished my 90 days). I know a lot about the labor laws in my state, but this one has me stumped.

    In our venue, we have both a regular bar and full menu restaurant. We have a number of walkout tabs happen, so we implemented a policy (before I started…) that all servers and bartenders are required to secure open checks with a credit card or valid ID. Pretty much, you order your dinner and hand over your CC. If the server or bartender fails to do so and the table walks out, we discount the tab at the employee rate of 50% and they have to pay it out of their tips.

    The other day, this happened with a bartender and one of our regulars. There’s no way this guy “accidentally” walked out on his tab. The bartender showed me the ticket and told me the regular walked out, fully expecting me to comp it. He has been with us for several years and knows the policy. I told him we would wait awhile as he closed up for the customer to return, and if not, I would discount the tab so he could pay it out.

    The bartender completely flipped out and insisted we can’t do that, etc. I went back to the office while he threw his tantrum (yep, while we were open–it was $12 with his discount) to see if I could verify.

    The only thing I could find was that, in my state, we cannot *dock* pay that puts anyone below minimum wage, and that we are able to discipline the servers for the check. We already pay our bartenders above minimum hourly and they make 3.5% of net sales on all food and liquor — they aren’t loaded but they make more than minimum wage and a $12 tab wouldn’t put him below that during the pay period.

    I disagree with both policies. It says a lot about the integrity of the service and operations if we have to require our servers to secure a dinner check, and I feel for the bartenders and servers that they live on their tips. But also that part of my job is to manage all the cash in the store, and it’s the servers’ jobs to keep their checks and cash management in order as well.

    So, is our policy legal? I’m trying really hard to improve this team’s efficiency and service so that maybe we won’t have to do this anymore, but this is what it is at this point. I also know that the business owner does NOT care what’s legal.

    Info: we’re in the US, not in CA
    Team: altogether we have 23 on payroll
    Other: no one is paid less than $7.25 per hour, and most are tipped except myself and the GM.

    1. Joey*

      You generally can’t make those kinds of deductions especially when it will send your employees below minimum wage. But you can certainly discipline for not securing the credit card up front.

  89. Jenn*

    I feel like I’m always a bridesmaid, but never a bride…when it comes to being hired. My education and experience will usually get me an interview, but when I’m going through the process I feel like I’ve just been picked as a finalist because they need a top 3. It’s like they’ve already decided who they wanted to hire and even if I interview well, I don’t have a shot. It makes me feel used. Am I being paranoid or does this happen? Anything I can do about it??

    1. fposte*

      If you’re being pulled in a lot, it means your application is strong. If you’re not making it past an interview, it’s worth considering that your interview skills could be sharper. Have you asked any of these places for feedback? Have you done mock interviewing with a truthful friend? Sure, sometimes people get called in to fill, but if it’s happening over and over again, it’s quite likely to be something other than just that (at least in most fields).

      1. Jenn*

        I think you’re right – I could improve my interview skills and they ARE getting better. I’ve been spoiled because in the past I’ve gotten most of the jobs I’ve interviewed for. But, this time around, these last few have been so weird. I’ve gotten first and second interviews, but the interviewers don’t seem that interested in me at all, just going through the motions and very, very hard to read.

  90. Anonymous*

    I’m sending emails to some contacts to make sure they are comfortable with my using them as references. What is the appropriate maximum amount of follow ups if I do not hear back?

    1. Jess*

      Are you contacting them using email addresses you know they check regularly? I ask just because I’ve had success contacting my references via Facebook and LinkedIn private messages. But not everyone is Facebook friends with past bosses!

      The number of times depends of the reference, I would think. You’d really want direct managers to be a reference, and those are people I hope would jump at the chance to recommend you. I guess you’d have to take into consideration their communication styles. Does one usually reply to emails right away or let emails pile up? You could try adding a nicely worded deadline in your initial or first follow-up email, referencing an application deadline.

      Indirect managers, co-workers, etc., are more likely to ignore your email if they are not comfortable being a reference. I’d probably max out on two for them.

    2. HR Lady*

      Just a thought – if someone asked me to be a reference (as in, they said they’d like to have xyz reference checker contact me), I might not respond back. I might consider it more of a heads-up that I’m going to get called to be a reference. (I think those kinds of heads up messages are great.)

      Isn’t it the case that most people aren’t going to decline to be a reference? If you didn’t get fired from the place, and you had at least a decent working relationship with them, I’d assume that they’re going to be fine with being a reference for you. So in that sense it’s not so much as asking them if they’ll be a reference, as letting them know they’ll get a call from a reference checker.

      I suppose the very first time you need them to be a reference you could ask them, but doesn’t that often happen when you are leaving a job?

  91. Aeryn*

    I’ve read Allison’s advice about volunteering. I’ve been thinking about what I would volunteer about, something I’m passionate about, and I have a few organizations in mind.

    However, some of them have a libertarian/conservative reputation. I’m job searching in Los Angeles, CA, and I can imagine that if I had some of those organizations listed on my resume, I might be dismissed.

    If I do volunteer with any organizations outside of the typical political culture of Los Angeles, should I include those on my resume?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Try to pick something that somehow relates to your area of work. OR pick something that everyone would agree- yes, fighting cancer is good; yes saving puppies and kitties is good…

      Have a purpose for joining that you can put into actual words.
      If you are not sure if about including it on your resume then DON’T.
      When talking about volunteering try to tie it into something meaningful to the employer as quickly as possible. That way they will probably not think about the group and just think about the skills you used/learned in that experience.

  92. Kerr*

    For anyone who does graphic design, or is in a related creative industry: are there any work-related blogs or resources that you regularly follow and can recommend? There are tons of inspiration/tutorial sites, but I’m interested in transitioning into graphic design at some point, and would love to know if there are any must-read blogs that focus on working in – or breaking into – the field.

  93. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

    Happy Holidays all!

    I just received a bonus check to the tune of 2k, after only 60 days at this company. This is the first year in a while they’ve been able to distribute bonuses, and the principal who gave it to me wanted me to know that they really appreciate the contributions I’ve made so far and so they wanted to include me in it despite my short time here.

    The bonuses are from the whole executive team, and I’d like to send the group an email to thank them for including me, and express that the appreciation goes both ways. I am really really glad to be here and so far it’s been like a dream come true.

    Is a thank you email for a bonus too corny or silly? or Kiss uppy? I wouldn’t say the dream come true part, but would just express my thanks and sincere gladness to be here.


    1. Jamie*

      I always send thank you emails after bonuses – if someone does something for you they don’t have to, it’s nice to thank them and when it’s significant I do it verbally as well as an email.

      I thank my boss verbally when he tells me the amount. But I send the email to the other owners as well as him because I understand the approval process.

      it’s a nice thing to do and I can tell you from being on the other side, it’s noticed.

    2. Raluca*

      Of course you should thank them, it’s good manners! But make sure you write it in a non-kiss-uppy way.

  94. the invisible one*

    I was wondering if anyone could suggest ways of being less invisible at work, specifically methods that would work for an introvert who hates being the centre of attention or even drawing attention to themself.

    I’ve heard it said (including here) that it’s not enough to do a good or great job at your work, your boss and their boss have to see that you’re doing a good or great job. But, I’m an introvert and I’m used to (and comfortable with) being invisible.

    I’m an engineer. Both of my previous two jobs let me go as part of downsizing for lack of work, and at both the engineering team was 4-5 people — not big companies. The first one asked me if I wanted my old job back shortly after I started with the second company, saying they regretted losing me. At the second, when I said goodbye to the three other people in the tech team, one of them said “but they didn’t ask us!” about the reason given for me being let go.

    I don’t know for sure why I was chosen to be downsized over one of the others. (Not that I would wish unemployment on any of the coworkers remaining!) But … I can’t help but wonder if it’s because the bosses didn’t really know what I did. A couple of years ago I spent over 6 months out of town on a huge project for the company, and not long after I got back the CEO was making his speeches at the company holiday dinner, and thanked my co-worker for all her out-of-town work on a different project, thanked my boss and another co-worker for moving to the out of town location to take the huge project I’d been working on all year to the next step, then sat down. I was only peeved for a few minutes then shrugged it off because I’m used to being invisible, but now I’m starting to wonder.

    My direct bosses and co-workers have told me that they appreciate my skills and attention to detail, and as I said, the first company offered me my job back. And yet, twice in a row now, in all of the jobs I’ve had after graduating university, I’ve been the one chosen for layoffs, not even “in the group” but the *one* engineer. Could be just plain bad luck. Could be visibility.

    So now I’m searching for a job again, and since I’ve discovered this site I’m revisiting my resume and finding it hard to talk about accomplishments when I have a long standing habit of avoiding the spotlight.

    Anyhow: ways to make sure you’re recognized by the higher-ups that an introvert can handle?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      There’s a difference between shyness and introversion. Try to figure out what is impacting you.

      Read books on connecting with other people.

      Make sure when you pass the VP/etc in the hallway you say good morning.
      You did okay posting here so maybe you can connect with bosses via email from time to time?

      Engineering is a job where the job holder spends a lot of time inside his/her own head. Try to have activities after work where you get outside of your own mind- even if it is once a week.

      I really don’t see too much of a problem with the layoffs because the economy has been so crappy. However, I would be irresponsible if I did not encourage you to keep working on the introversion enough so that you know you have skills in place. (It always pays off to work on the weaker areas.)

      I like reading AAM because I can get an idea of what others think which in turn helps me in my own workplace. Your solution could be as simple as reading about workplaces so you feel more surefooted.

      1. the invisible one*

        I don’t think I’m particularly shy, I can chat with my co-workers no problem and I do martial arts regularly so I think I’m good on the getting outside of my head thing. :)

        It’s getting visibility higher up that I think is more of a problem for me, what feels like self-promotion. I can ask questions no problem, but contacting my boss (in whatever format) to say “hey, look at this great thing I did! Notice me!” just rubs me the wrong way. I don’t know how to make sure the higher-ups find out about my work without doing something like that. And realistically, engineering is a lot of invisible work, and that suits me fine… except where it comes to the bosses knowing what you did for retention, raises, and bonuses. (A lot of people only notice the work engineers do when something goes wrong. Cave-on-foods, Galloping Gertie bridge, etc.)

        I know the economy is crap, previous layoff was in the 2008/2009 debacle, what gets me is that both times I was the weakest link.

        1. Trillian*

          A few thoughts, from a fellow introvert who is working on the invisibility/taken-for-granted problem. Does your company have an Intranet or a newsletter? Contribute to it. Explain aspects of your work to fellow professionals who are not engineers. Your experience of 2 years ago might still be worth writing up, too, since you’ll have learned a lot about how to be productive on secondment. Is it part of your company’s culture to write for industry journals? Then do so. Try and find out what the higher-ups read.

          Also, if you took photographs of the places you have spent offsite, print copies of a few of them and pin them up at your cube – and if you didn’t, find a few on Wikimedia and put them up. Pin up copies of eye-catching visuals from your current project.

          1. the invisible one*

            It’s a tough problem, isn’t it.

            The company had a very occasional newsletter, which as far as I could tell was largely written by the sales and marketing folks and apart from when a new one was sent around wasn’t mentioned in the company. Something to think of for the future. They may have assumed that engineers don’t like writing (since many don’t) and thus not mentioned it to us.

            Photos of sites was an expected part of travel, but I hadn’t thought of putting any prints up in my office. Everybody just dumped them on the server.

            I had to look up secondment :) I considered it a really long work trip for a particular project, not a temporary different job. I did lots of work trips, most of them were only 2-3 weeks at a time though. Had a co-worker who joined me on site for a short while and criticized me for not being very productive or hard working after I’d been on site for 6 months, so at that company (or at least from that person) I would have got criticism for talking about being productive on long work trips. I’ll work ridiculously long days and through the weekend if it’s a short trip, but not if it’s a long one, that’s just asking for burnout.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I think you might want to figure out what it is exactly you want the bosses to notice you for. Do you want a promotion, a raise?
          I firmly believe that 90% of what I do goes unnoticed. Annoyingly I get praised for the easy stuff and my Einstein moments are lost.
          But I think that this happens to most people.
          Start by keeping a file at work. Print out any emails that show people complimenting you. Next, keep a log of your completed work, any awards, whatever CE work you have done and so on. When you go for your eval bring that log with you- so you have the memory triggers right there.
          Make sure you are pointing these things out if your boss misses these things.

          And lastly- no I could not do the look at me thing either.
          Just talk to the big bosses as individuals. Try to learn something about each one and have that ready for when you see the bosses. “Hey, Big Boss, how are those pilot lessons going for you?” etc.
          There’s name recognition and then there is “look at me”. I would focus on just getting them to know your name and let the rest fall into place in a bit. Meanwhile the other part of the plan is to make sure your current boss is aware of what work you are doing.

          1. the invisible one*

            Ha, I’ve been praised for stuff I didn’t even know was worth mentioning.

            But I will definitely start keeping a file.

            Unfortunately, keeping track of little details about people, the stuff that apparently makes them feel noticed, is something I’m not very good at. I eventually pick up a few things from people I talk to a lot, but not so much for the people I don’t talk to often.

    2. The IT Manager*

      This is an interesting question. I consider myself shy and an introvert. And I absolutely do not want to be the center of attention ever. That said, I have been told at least once that I am not perceived as shy at work. I do not think I am; although, I did have one reference mention that I am quiet and think thing over before proposing ideas which is totally true. By the time I speak, I’ve figure out my position. I do not talk things through to work them out. I write them out in emails to get my thoughts together. I do not think I ever really do anything to bring my accomplishments to people’s attention.

      I know you said you work alone, but you must be part of a team. Here’s the big question, what is it that you are doing differently than other team members that your work is unknown and there’s is not? Do you speak up and present your ideas/solutions in meetings? Do you keep your boss informed via email about what you are doing? You mention people above your boss. Do you have your boss present your thoughts and ideas instead of you?

      Another thing to note: I certainly never request the spotlight, but all my good bosses in the past gave me credit to their bosses when I did well (if they didn’t know already).

      1. The IT Manager*

        Another thing to consider that I suspect hurt my previous career. I was one of a few people that didn’t get promoted “on time” and I was down-sized after working their for 15 years. So I do feel your pain.

        I am a shy, introvert. I do not make friends easily or form close attachments. In my previous career I never had a mentor; others around me did and mentorship was very highly encouraged. No leader naturally gravitated towards mentoring me, and I had no idea how to ask for it and form anything more than formal relationship.

        I think that is why I was not promoted on time – there was no one going to bat for me and offering me more than perfunctory, not particularly tailored career advice – although how could they since they didn’t know me.

        For your consideration, your problem may not be that that your work and accomplishments are invisible. It may be possible that the reason you were selected for lay off is that you have no one going to bat for you when layoffs rolled around. The people who were closer to the decision makers and had closer relationships were the ones that got laid off.

        Not saying that anyone dislikes you, but you may be more like an acquaintance especially to the decision makers rather than someone they know better and have a more emotional connection to. Like I said, I imagine things would have gone better for me if I had had a mentor like a number of my peers. I wanted that, I just couldn’t figure out how to get it. Something about my reserved manner did not inspire people especially decision makers to go out of their way for me like that.

        Do I have a solution for that issue? No, unfortunately not. I am in a new job and I do feel like I have some (multiple!) mentors but I don’t know what I am doing differently. I do feel like the fit of this new job is much better than my old one.

        1. the invisible one*


          This most recent job, of the four full-time engineers on the team, three of them had managed projects for the company where I hadn’t. (I have no interest in management. Give me nice crunchy numbers any day.) So, having a project that they managed to their name, where I only had a lot of work on those projects but not my name attached, is a difference.

          We didn’t often have meetings, mostly only the weekly update with the boss where we let him know what we were doing and what was on our plate and if we needed help with anything.

          I have no idea what my boss said to the executives (the only people above him — small company) and I have no idea if my name was ever mentioned. I actually had three different direct bosses during my time at the company. The first one did push for a good raise in my first year there, but because there were no raises at all in the company the next two years, I don’t know if the other two bosses would have pushed for a raise or not. The closest thing to a mentor that I had would probably be the fifth engineer — a contractor.

          Of course, I also don’t know who decided I would be the one let go. The CEO had been known to put his personal opinion into the hiring and firing process before. I think I talked to him once. In a company of 40 people. Overhearing his conversations with the other execs in the lunchroom right next to my office made me not want to talk to him. (He managed to hit most of the stereotypes of the “I’m better than you because I have more money” thing with ease.) That could have also been a factor in this case.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Hmmm. You do have every right/reason to choose not to pursue management. But if I had four engineers and had to lay off one and three managed projects and one didn’t, there’s a fairly good chance I pick the one who did not manage because I would only be losing an engineer and not an engineer and project manager.

            Maybe the small company hurt you since they expect their engineers to manage projects too making you not quite the right fit. Doesn’t prevent you being out of a job now, but it may help you identify places where you’d fit best.

            I once was very frustrated by a programmer who refused to take on a task to provide assistance to customers in understanding the results of a database clean up tool the team designed. I assigned it; she only did anything when I downright forced her. While I understand that she had no desire to talk to customers, I had a small team and I needed someone to do it and that someone was her. Her peer was already volunteering and doing more even though he probably would have preferred to just keep coding too. He got a great reference at the end of the project; she did not. (She was the weaker coder too.)

            Gosh, I keep responding to you with long personal stories that may or may not apply to your situation. Sorry about that.

            1. the invisible one*

              Yeah, the lack of project management on my part would currently be my best guess as to why I was picked this time. All the people management stuff that Alison describes as being part of management? That’s the stuff that I hate doing. I use a tech assist to remind me to check in with vendors to find out where my quotes are, because otherwise I’d avoid/forget that too. I really dislike procurement, once it gets past the technical sizing equipment stage, but I do it because somebody has to.

              I mean, maybe part of that yuck reaction I have is because the one small project I was actually asked to manage, years ago when I was very very junior, which didn’t involve managing any other people, only budget/equipment/myself, it crashed and burned very badly. Partly because I didn’t have guidance, partly because I didn’t know what kind of guidance to ask for, partly sheer inexperience. So much inexperience that I didn’t know what questions to ask and just floundered. That job didn’t ask me to project manage anything after that, but put me back on design where I did my best work. This more recent job, I was never directly asked to manage a project. I don’t know what I would have said if I’d been asked. Probably a reluctant “ok” since I have a hard time saying no, but I’d probably (hopefully) have asked for some guidance, either official from the boss or unofficial from the co-workers who had done that before.

              I’m fine with detailed tracking type stuff. If I had to I’d probably do ok at making a budget and schedule. (Getting it approved, on the other hand…) Well, maybe I’d be extra slow at making a budget and schedule, because I’d want to get quotes and lead times to base them on first.

              I’m really not sure what I’m trying to say here. I can do tech writing, I can do fiction writing, but explaining my thoughts, not so much I guess.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I think you are trying to do too much all alone.
                Can you find a group of engineers to chat with online?
                Learn to ask for help more often.
                It sounds to me like you don’t even go in the break room and talk with the guys that much.

                I think that what you need to do when you get to the next company and get settled in is make sure you sit with the boss and say “What does a great employee look like in your department?”
                I see several things that you do not like to do- which is fine- but make sure those things are not a requirement at the new job.
                And if everyone is complimenting you on your attention to detail it is possible that you are taking too long. Make sure you know time frames and deadlines and make sure you are on time. I am going back to that six months at a job site. Did you check in with the boss regularly? Did you need more help and not ask for it? Did you inform him of time consuming problems as they arose?

                For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you chose to ignore oversights where the boss did not acknowledge your work then you cannot be surprised when that continues to happen. Something as simple as “hey boss, I was on that job too!” Is all you need to say. This will alert the boss to remember what work you have participated in.
                Frankly, I understand why you would not want particular tasks but the more tasks you are willing to do the more protected from layoffs you are. The way things are in the economy now is that the willing horse gets the work. If the boss has a task flipping burgers and you don’t cook then what happens next is kind of clear. I guess I would say make sure you know the job requirements of the next job you take and make sure it fits your interests.
                I also think that having a job or two before finding the right fit is normal. (Actually, I know people who have been through many more jobs than that before finding a good fit.) How else does one learn about one’s own skills and abilities? It’s not written on paper for us at birth, we grow into it.

                1. the invisible one*

                  Break room? Not really. I tried eating lunch with the rest of the people in the office but they pretty consistently were talking about stuff that I had nothing to say about. TV shows I don’t watch, etc. So I stopped, and just chatted with the other engineers as chats happened.

                  I do tend to try to figure stuff out on my own first. That had always been the best strategy for me in school… before university because I was top of the class so who would I ask for help, and in university because some of my classmates tended to do less discuss/help and more cheat/copy. I figured that out after one or two “study group” sessions… (The ones who didn’t cheat/copy either worked alone as I did, or worked in groups that I never heard about.) Then I got jobs where I was in a tiny engineering team and there wasn’t any mentoring (that I knew of). I don’t have any fundamental objection to asking for help, it’s just not what I think of doing first.

                  The six months at a job site sounds pretty bad with no other details, doesn’t it? :) I was in daily contact with my boss, and it was easily 3/4 lab (chemistry) work. Each test failed a little closer to the goal. Research always takes longer than expected… especially when a single test could take up to 3 days. If it were easy, somebody would have done it already. (And since they hadn’t, I got two patent applications with my name on them for those 6+ months of lab work.)

                  As far as detail-oriented vs. getting stuff done on time… I often finished my tasks earlier than I said I would, and if I was going to be late it was usually because I was waiting on somebody else and I let the boss know about it. I was also known for being very well organized.

                  And for ignoring oversights… yeah. There’s a reason I picked the nickname I did and a reason I asked the question I did; I’m used to being invisible. Reminding the boss that I’m here too! is one tactic I will have to brace myself and actually do. (And it’ll take bracing, against the internal chorus of “petty whining! you’re not *that* important, why are you tooting your own horn? why would you expect to be noticed, what you did isn’t exceptional.” –noting that no matter what I do, it “isn’t exceptional” until somebody else points out that it is.)

                  There are several things I don’t like doing that I do anyway, in my job. Management is one where my skills as well as my interest aren’t there.

                  The company may have not lost any of their 3 engineer/project manager employees, but they lost their only tech writer. But, you know, anybody can do tech writing, right? Oh well. Looking for something new. The tech writing part of my resume consistently gets me attention; apparently engineers who can write manuals are unusual.

  95. books*

    I’m starting a new job (yay!) but have this horrible guilty feeling of leaving my team with a lot of work, and no one with the right expertise to take over. How do I deal with the guilt? And what’s the best way to make the transition as smooth as possible? How much written documentation, how much to offer to answer qs as they come up? My coworkers are great and I don’t want them to suffer (need to work super extra hours).

    1. Ruffingit*

      There is only so much you can do to keep the suffering to a minimum because, and please listen carefully here it’s very important – No one being on staff with the right expertise to take over IS THE FAULT OF AND PROBLEM OF YOUR EMPLOYER . Your co-workers know that you are leaving, you and they can prep for your departure in that you leave a documentation manual for your job and you leave your projects in as good a shape as possible before you go. Beyond that, you can do nothing and you should not be feeling guilty for leaving your co-workers under a heavier work load as that is not your fault, it’s your employer’s responsibility to appropriately staff their office. If they don’t do so, not your issue. Your co-workers can go to your manager and say that it’s going to be a big problem when you leave and they can work out what to do with the manager, but YOU are not responsible for anything here except to leave your projects in good order and focus on your new job.

    2. The IT Manager*

      No one is replaceable at work – no one. Do document as much as you can! How to do tasks. Where to find the information/files. Who are your POCs for each task. But I do not recommend offering to take questions from them once you are no longer an employee.

      I was in the military. People left all the time. Very, very rarely was it necessary to contact them after they moved to pick their brains. But the guilt is a normal feeling too. Briefly. Honestly usually the excitement and anticipation of the new job comes upon people before they depart and they are anxious to get started on the new adventure. If not, realize that you’ll probably have a lot to learn at your new job and the excitement will most likely overcome the guilt very quickly.

  96. Random*

    I’m curious what you guys think of this, and the fairness of it. I have a feeling I know how it will be split, but it could shock me. When I started at my job a couple years ago, we were a growing business. I was the 2nd person hired in my role. About 2 months in, the other woman left on maternity leave for 4 months. She returned as a part time employee for about a year. About 6 months ago, she went back to full time. Now although she started before me, with the maternity leave and the part time status, I kind of became the go to person in our position. Well, recently we were acquired by another company. They kept her, got rid of me. I truly think it was because she had seniority over me. I’m not trying to whine, but I don’t really think its fair since while yes, her start date was earlier, when you look at it all, I actually worked for the company full time for a longer period of time. I truly have no problem with her, but it just seemed like a but of unfairness. I know you can’t legally hold the maternity leave against her seniority, but it kind of seems like she got an unfair advantage.

    1. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm … this sucks for you. Being laid off sucks for nearly everyone. But I really feel like your focus on unfairness of a possible seniority determination is hurting you and no one else. Especially when you only suspect their reasons. Would you feel better if they made it fairer by flipping a coin between the two of you? You’d still be laid off.

      If you were actually truly the “go to” person for the role then this was a bad business decision. If a company has to lay people off, seniority with no consideration to skills is not the best business decision. It is, however, an easier one and makes it easier to avoid former employees claiming that they were singled out for some illegal reason.

      So if you want to focus on the unfairness (which does you no good), it should be that you believe you were the most productive employee and you were let go.

  97. Not So NewReader*

    I am not sure if agreeing with you helps you…not trying to be mean.
    Bottom line is that even if I agree with you that doesn’t get you to the next job faster.

    I hope you find something soon. It sucks to be unemployed at all and this time of year is baaad.

    1. fposte*

      We’ve done this one :-). Bimonthly can mean every other month or twice a month, just as biweekly can mean every other week or twice a week. Historically, the “two of them” usage has a wee bit of seniority (“bimonthly” has a little bit of foothold for every-other-month journals, for instance), but it’s been noted as ambiguous for over a century.

  98. vvondervvoman*

    Does anyone do something in their personal life specifically to gain a new professional skill set?

    For example, I send about 60 Christmas cards each year, and instead of buying them, writing a generic note, and hand-addressing them, I’m learning Adobe Illustrator and make my own with an infographic-style yearly update. I also make address labels with Illustrator too. This was my third year and it was the first year I felt comfortable with all the tricks that my partner taught me. So now I’m planning to design birthday and other greeting cards because I’m sick of spending money on Hallmark stuff!

    Does anyone else do something like this? I want to hear about it!

    1. The IT Manager*

      This is awesome. I think I should do things like that (I have ideas), but I am incredibly lazy when I get home. I gravitate to the internet tv, and books.

      IT person that I am, I think I should work with/improve my computer/home network rather than use it just to surf the internet like I do. I don’t hate playing around with my computer, it’s just not as easy to start it as looking as bunnies with chocolate teapots on their heads or this blog or fan fiction – mostly the fan fiction.

      1. vvondervvoman*

        This is me. That’s why I used the holiday cards. I have to do it, even if it’s just social pressure, it needs to be done more than something that could easily be delayed indefinitely.

    2. Prickly Pear*

      One of my goals for next year is to become an Excel whiz. We don’t use it at my job now at all, but since I’m attempting to think past my now and start aiming for the future, I think it would help immensely. Also, vocal lessons. I figure my diction could always be better.

      1. vvondervvoman*

        I’m looking to get better at excel as well. I already use it to track my finances, but I’m sure I could do it more efficiently/better. I might start using it for my holiday card addresses

  99. PuppyKat*

    Well, I don’t know if anyone is still reading at this point—but I just want to share how happy I am: My husband started a new job this week after being unemployed for 3-1/2 years! And a bonus: He likes his duties and his new co-workers!

    2013 was rather tough for us, but things are definitely looking up now. May all of you feel as happy in 2014 as I do now!

    1. Ruffingit*

      That is fantastic, congratulations to your husband and to your family as a whole, I know how devastatingly difficult unemployment can be!! Here’s to 2014 being a great year!

  100. Area51*

    If you’ve worked as a 1099 contractor, I’d be interested in getting your feedback on the pros and cons.
    A recruiter called me about a contract opportunity, but the agency only handles 1099. The only other “contract” I had, I was still W-2 employee to the company through a third-party agency. They gave me some benefits and dealt with the taxes.
    Is working as a 1099 really that great? Is seems like the pros are autonomy and the potential to make good money (well, as good as you could get in this economy). The cons seem like * a lot*: be a sole proprietor, set your rates, manage all your taxes, retirement plans, benefits, equipment, expenses, etc., on your own.
    I wonder if I’m really cut out to be a 1099 contractor. Seems like a lot more work than being an employee, with greater risk.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I’ve done it and it really depends on the type of work and the money you’re making. I got a good accountant to handle things because I am in NO WAY a financial wizard. She gave me the ins and outs of how much I needed to pay quarterly and what not and did my taxes obviously. It’s not horrible and awful and hard, it’s just different than being an employee so with the help of a good accountant, you can do it pretty easily.

      1. Area51*

        I will look into getting an accountant, and also a lawyer for legal advice. One thing that frankly does scare me about working as a 1099 is the liability–specifically, if you operate as a sole proprietor, your personal assets are at risk! Yikes! I don’t need that financial stress. So I’d probably create an LLC, even though its more expensive and involved.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yes, that is something you need to look into. How you structure your company of one as it were is a major issue and you should definitely seek legal counsel on that. Meant to put that in my original posting, but forgot. The legal help is also invaluable when you’re putting together contracts for clients of course as well.

  101. Skye*

    We just got our third bonus in seven months! Just in time for everyone – except me – in the office to get horribly sick.

    Recently, my manager’s child and a friend of the child was at our workplace, and the two of them were entertaining themselves by watching youtube on the manager’s computer. I needed to ask our manager something, and since she was momentarily busy, I humored the kids by letting them show me a video… which had a derogatory slur in it (as text). All I figure out to do at the time that would be work appropriate (and appropriate for children not related to me and not in my care) was to tell the kids that it was not funny at all and leave the room. I was shocked enough that I forgot to tell my manager.

    It’s been a few months since then, but every time her kid is over I worry that something similar might occur. And I have no idea how I ought to handle it should it occur again. Except maybe actually tell the manager next time?

    1. Ruffingit*

      Wow, that’s hard. I don’t know that I would bother telling the manager anything. These kids are in her care and she should be the one monitoring what they’re watching on YouTube or whatever. If she’s not, I wouldn’t make it my problem necessarily unless they were watching porn or something like that in which case you’d want to say something.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Maybe switch to an online game for kids and stay away from the video stuff?
      OR maybe don’t volunteer to pinch hit for the manager at all?
      Or maybe bring in a board game for kids and pull that out.

      I don’t think I would say anything about the naughty word.