{ 945 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    I’m interested to see how much traffic this open thread will get, since traffic has been way down since Christmas (and I expect will stay that way until Monday, when most people’s vacations are over). It might actually be a manageable amount, for people who don’t like wading through hundreds of comments.

    1. Anonymous

      Hah.. it’s a little after 4pm (est) and there are over 600 comments. Of course the East Coast is snowed in and AAM is a nice break from clearing the snow.

      1. Windchime

        It’s a little after 9 (Pacific time zone) and there are 853 comments. Wow. Looks like I’ve got a little reading ahead of me!

    2. Wo Fat

      I like the picture of Olive in that tunnel. I have one of those for my cats. I’m surprised you don’t get 600 comments over that.

  2. Ask a Manager Post author

    Also, this is a note that we’ll be back to regular posts on Monday too — all the flashbacks will be over, and there’s only one or two update posts remaining.

      1. Anonymous

        Not a yay for me — I love updates. I wish I could hear about the eventual outcome on just about every post…

  3. Anon

    I have a question! My company is sending me on a trip to try to grow my knowledge of a particular field, so that I can bring that knowledge back and share with the team over time, and we can all grow.

    Since the plans were made for that, however, I got a call about an absolutely amazing-sounding job from a company I’d sent a resume to almost a year ago — the kind of job that people in my industry only dream about. I wasn’t actively looking anymore, but I jumped at this opportunity, and now I have a final stage interview 3 days before my trip. I have been told this company tends to make decisions fast after the final interview.

    I am feeling really strange and guilty and ambivalent about this trip now, which is basically a lot of touring facilities, shadowing people, short days, and fun evenings in an exciting city.

    Should I be trying to suggest someone else go on this trip? How do I handle it if I get an offer I want to accept while I’m traveling?

    1. J

      You don’t have an offer until you have an offer (agreed and in writing). If you try and back out of the trip you will look at best, uncommitted to your current job, at worst, skeptical to your boss about why you are trying to shirk the trip. I say continue with the trip as planned and if you get an offer, great. A reasonable company would expect you to give at least two weeks notice anyway. Good luck!

    2. Mary

      I guess it is the cost of doing business. Your current company want to expand their profits by sending you on this trip and if you leave before they can fully utilise the knowledge you bring back then they will send your replacement. Until you have a contract from the other company you cannot know if you are going to leave so continue to work as if you will still be there next year.

    3. Anonymous

      Think of it this way, if you get the new job (good luck!) when you come back, you can still share the knowledge and benefit your peers.

    4. LizNYC

      Also, a company’s definition of “moving fast” is usually different from the average person’s. While you might make a decision in 24 hours or less, they might make one in a week or less. I say go on the interview, rock it, and then go on the trip, guilt free.

      1. Anon

        I would ordinarily assume that, too, but my contacts in the company (close family members who have done hiring there) say it’s often more like 2 days here from final interview to offer. They give feedback fast, and their salary offers are based on a mathematical formula which is pretty easy to work out.

        I do think the general advice to assume I’m going to keep working there and carry on as normal is solid. I was mostly looking for validation, because of guilty anxious feelings.

        1. Jessa

          Feel completely validated then, because the 2nd job is all wishes and chocolate teapots until you actually have an offer. Even if you’re 100% sure you’re going to get it, you don’t HAVE it yet. Act as if you don’t.

        2. Anonymous

          I’m being a bit of a debbie downer, but you may want to read some of the posts around here about working with family before you commit.

          1. Anon

            It’s a company of thousands of people, and my family are in totally different branches. Different buildings, even. I suspect it would be okay. :D

    5. Jubilance

      Don’t feel guilty. It’s part of the nature of work – people leave sometimes.

      Go on the trip. If you get an offer & you need time to think about it, then communicate that.

    6. CH

      You probably would do this anyway but I would say document the trip really well–take photos, spend a few minutes each day typing up notes, organize it as you have time. If you do end up leaving soon after your trip, at least they’ll have your excellent report to remember you by.

    7. Jen in RO

      I was in a similar situation last year and I know it sucks. I decided to go on the trip and, while I did get an offer from the company I was interviewing with, I decided to turn it down. I got a better offer about 2 months after the trip and took it with no remorse.

  4. mollsbot

    Happy Friday!

    So my question is, do you feel that not having a smart phone can hurt you professionally?

    1. Cruciatus

      I think this really depends on the culture and norms of certain careers and companies. I’m an administrative assistant and it matters not one iota whether I even have a cell phone. But someone on the road a lot or hard to reach might need one. But whether it needs to be “smart” or not will also vary.

      1. Kelly O

        And I’m normally in an admin role and think a smartphone is invaluable. My mom is an EA and many times she can forward her desk phone to her smartphone and do quite a bit of work when she needs to run out for general office errands or even personal things during the day.

        Plus, it helps in those inevitable situations when you get a call after hours from someone who is in Seattle (when you’re based in Dallas) and can’t figure out the phone number of the hotel, or lost a confirmation number, or whatever.

        1. Cassie

          It really depends on your position – I’m also in an admin role and there are times where my boss needs the answer RIGHT AWAY!. I like being able to check my email once or twice on my bus ride home and if there’s anything urgent, I can take care of it. With a smartphone, I can even connect to my work computer to forward a document or whatever.

          I remember a few years ago when I didn’t have a smartphone – my boss would call me with his request, and I’d have to try walking him through the steps to find the information but it was a pain. Or like your example of a lost confirmation number – I’d have to call a coworker who is still back at the office, ask them to pull out a folder (which means they have to go digging through my stuff), look for the confirmation number, read it back to me, and then I have to call my boss back.

          On the other hand, the vast majority of my coworkers have jobs without the same sense of “urgency” (in actuality, some of my boss’s requests could wait until the next work day). Their jobs are basically 9-to-5 – as soon as it’s 5, they can close their door and walk away. And they deal with a lot of paperwork (checking employment documents, etc) – so since their job requires more physical presence, the need for virtual presence is decreased I guess.

    2. Anon

      I think it depends. I, for example, am a non-exempt worker and do not have a smartphone. I do not not check my email outside of work hours nor do I travel far for my job. I don’t really need one to do what I do.

    3. Jen

      Agree with the others that it depends on your job. In my department doing public relations, you have to have one. We do the media and social media so being able to go out and snap photos on your phone and post them to the instagram account or live tweet an event is necessary.

      1. De Minimis

        I think a lot of it depends on how many people come to you for input. At my workplace I’d guess only a handful of people would need them, mainly the department heads.

    4. Jubilance

      Depending on your industry/company it could seem strange. I’m not sure about hurting you.

      In my company, our HQ is spread over 5 buildings downtown so it’s common to run between buildings for meetings. Having a smartphone allows you to sync your work email/calendar, so you don’t have to keep running back to your office or lug around your laptop all day to stay updated on last minute cancellations or room changes. Its much more convenient, but it’s not a ding.

    5. MLE

      I think this depends on your specific job and office culture. I don’t have a smartphone, but I should probably get one if I want to continue working in my field (marketing/communications). There are a lot of apps that could be useful for my job (for transcribing interviews, etc), and it’s important for me to stay on top of tech trends, which would be easier if I actually used new technology. I also have to work out of the office often enough that it would be helpful to be able to check my email on the go. I’m considering getting a phone with Republic Wireless (https://republicwireless.com/), which has affordable non-contract plans.

    6. pgh_adventurer

      I’m really interested in how not having a smartphone could close doors for people in all facets of life–not just professionally. For example, there’s a smartphone app in some cities that allows you to reserve a parking garage space downtown before you get there. Great for smartphone users, but what about people with dumbphones who are driving through that garage Right Then who can’t take open spots b/c they’re reserved? Or restaurants that only take reservations through smartphone apps?

      Granted, these are fairly minor examples, but I would expect this trend to increase. People who can’t afford an expensive phone plan will be locked out of so much.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        I agree that this can be problematic, but it’s also becoming less so over time as the technology becomes more affordable. You can get a smartphone on Ting and pay like $40 a month for it. There’s also Simple, and I think T-Mobile and Cricket have really cheap data options.

        I think the bigger problem is not cost, but attitude. Putting my mom on the first smartphone she’s ever had last week made me realize how many people just avoid it because they think it’s too hard, complicated, or expensive (regardless of how hard, complicated or expensive it actually is). Over time, I think it will be fine.

        1. De Minimis

          My parents [in their early 60s] are always on their smart phones, they’re like a couple of teenagers! They use them more than I do.

      2. Chuchundra

        You don’t have to have an expensive plan or even spend a lot of money to have a smart phone. There are plenty of budget carriers/MVNOs that provide good service for reasonable prices.

        I’ve been using Ting for the past few months and I love it. My average bill is $26 a month for two phones.

        1. Trudy

          Another vote for Ting here. My bill is about $13 per month, and I got my phone on eBay for $25. I also just signed up with FreedomPop, and now I have a free smartphone plan, though the phone was $100. The call quality isn’t as good as Ting, but the price can’t be beat.

        2. literateliz

          Holy crap… I think you (and the others who suggested Ting) just changed my life. I read several frugality and personal finance blogs religiously… why had I not heard of this?! Thank you!

          1. EA

            Another happy Ting customer here. I switched from Sprint, and my bill dropped from $85/month to about $25.

        3. Elizabeth West

          I got a Net10 smartphone, which requires a plan. It’s $50 a month but I get a break if I do auto-refill. The phone itself was not that expensive; it’s a couple of models behind, but I like it. It’s a Samsung Galaxy S2. It’s my first smartphone and I don’t know how I lived without it (even though no one ever calls me :( I love having internet at my fingertips anytime I want or need it).

        4. pgh_adventurer

          Incredible! I have a $27/month plan for my dumbphone, and I thought that was as good as it gets. Will definitely look into these alternatives! Thanks!

        5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

          We have a family plan from Tmobile for just $100 a month for four of us. We had to buy our own phones. It includes as much data as we use (which isn’t a ton), and there are no overage charges.

    7. Anonymous

      Depending on your field, yes! I finally got one last spring and it’s made a huge difference. While I got by OK without it, the number of embarrassing situations kept growing as smart phones/tablets became more common.

    8. Jamie

      I agree with the others who say it depends on the job.

      If I took the stance of not wanting email on my phone…that’s not compatible with my job. Also, I need to be able to log in to the servers, etc…I’d say for a lot of IT positions it’s just not tenable.

      I am, however, firmly in the camp (so firmly I pretend I am a camp founder) of companies providing phones when needed for the position.

      So, iow, I don’t think one should need a personal smartphone – but be willing to carry one if when provided. But I have a really strong bias against BYOD, and I know I need to be flexible on this…but it’s hard.

      1. Colette

        I have a personal smartphone, and have no interest in reading work e-mail on it. If work wants me to be that available, they will need to supply the job. Having said that, one of the things I like about this job is that I leave it behind when I go home, so if I were asked to carry a phone to be more available, I’d have to balance losing that ability to walk away with the rest of the job and decide whether it was time to start looking.

        1. Jamie

          This is something I wish more people were as thoughtful about.

          There is nothing wrong with near constant availability, if it’s something one is willing to offer, but it’s value added to the company so it really needs to be factored into compensation.

          I am not saying that everyone who answers an email from home should go and demand a raise, but as you mentioned it takes away from part of your life outside of work and at some point it’s significant enough that you should be compensated for the value added.

          I sometimes wonder what kind of trade off I’d make if I had the option of a leave it at the office kind of job. Usually I love my job, but every now and then I wonder….because sometimes I’m just really tired.

          1. Colette

            In a previous job, I carried a pager one week a month (tech support), and I’ve made the decision that I don’t want to do that again. One of the reasons I’m not interested in moving into management is that the managers I know all are constantly available – maybe not working, but able to be contacted at a moment’s notice. That’s not how I want to live, and I’m willing to live with the limitations of making that decision.

            It worries me that our society is moving towards being available 24-7. Most jobs simply aren’t that important, and being able to disconnect is really important personally, and disconnecting to do something completely different is immensely valuable when it comes to solving problems.

          2. hamster

            +1
            Yes! As a matter of fact i always bring this up in interviews . When they ask tell me a number. Or why is this number so big? I say well , i need to know more of the level of mental space and availability i basically sell to you ( i say it in nicer words). In fact, at one of my previous jobs it was rather difficult for the boss to convince me ( almost a yer after joining) to carry a company phone. I just didn’t want to be all-available outside BH. It wasn’t the case, but i wasn’t very willing. At current job, i have a company phone . When I’m not oncall ( therefore i haven’t sold my time availability) i answer if i don’t mind otherwise/if i hear it/i don’t take it with me everywhere. Oncall is a different thing. Some of my colleagues who i collaborate more have my personal phone but they’re the kind of people that i trust not to call me on vacation/evening unless something truly urgent i may have input is ongoing, or people i’d want to help anyway.

        2. Noelle

          When I got a work-issued Blackberry for the first time, I was so excited I didn’t even think about what I was giving up. Not only did I get emails all night and on weekends, but I was fully expected to respond to those emails ASAP. Suddenly I couldn’t just leave work and get a drink without friends, I was that jerk who was glued to the phone for just one more important-I-have-to-respond-right-now-email. It’s unfortunately the nature of the industry I’m in, but I really miss being unreachable sometimes.

      2. Jessa

        This. I sincerely believe that companies who want tech x need to provide it. It’s marginally okay if they pay the bill for instance, but really it should be a company product, where the company dictates what’s on it and how the security works. I do NOT like the idea of my personal number being out where I don’t give it out. I don’t like mixing business files and personal ones, because if I leave the company that leaves me issues. How do they know I’ve uncoupled the stuff. I won’t let THEM do it, because I have private stuff in there too.

        It’s just stupid. If the company needs x, they should provide it.

        1. AVP

          Idk, it’s a trade off. I don’t mind having my personal number out there, but it would drive me crazy to always be checking two different devices (and carrying them around). I don’t have any vendors or clients who have abused having my number, though…that could change with one bad apple.

          Either way I do think these expectations are important to discuss in the job negotiation or interview phase, because every company is SO different and if you have strong preferences or requirements, they do make a difference!

      3. Vicki

        I was going to say this but Jamie beat me to it.

        If having a smartphone is important in your profession, the company should provide the phone. Just as they provide the computer, the monitor, the keyboard & mouse, any training you need, any software you need…

    9. Ann O'Nemity

      Yes, I think not having a smart phone could hurt you professionally. Sometimes because it limits your connectivity, sometimes because of perceptions. I’m sure there are still some exceptions, but it seems this is the direction in which we’re moving.

      1. Elysian

        Yes. This. I think it does.

        Not everyone needs to be connected to their job. But everyone has to interact with coworkers, their boss, etc. You may not need to be always “on” but when something does happen, people are going to assume they can get a hold of you. And if they can’t, its going to seem weird.

        I have a smart phone, but I don’t text. Texts to me fly out into the ether and never arrive at me. People find this exceeding strange and it has hurt my perception with my coworkers. They frequently forget that I’m not available by text, and will text instead of call or email. Then they get frustrated at me for not meeting communications norms. I think the same would be true for not having a smart phone at all.

        Should things be this way? No. But I do think that things are moving in this direction.

        1. Jen in RO

          Can you please explain the no texting thing? Can you somehow disable a phone’s ability to receive texts? Or is it a “bug”? I’ve never heard of someone who couldn’t text before.

          (Then again, if you’re in the US, a lot of the peculiarities of the phone system are very weird to me :) )

          1. Ann O'Nemity

            Some phones give you the ability to disable texts. I also believe you can ask your carrier to disable them. I’ve known parents who gave their kids a cell phone for emergencies only and they’ve turned off text messaging and all data.

          2. hamster

            I receive automatic generated text on my workphone . About servers statuses, batch jobs, critical issues and many more. If i am not following something specifially i don’t couldn;t waste all my evenings following them. I set the sms notification on silent . So my co-workers know that if they want something, it’s better to call. Plus if you factor in forwarding sms is lost sometime.
            That being said, i like to initiate text conv with my boss . I like the async nature of texts.

          3. Elysian

            Texting costs extra on my plan. It’s 25 cents a message to send or receive a text, and my phone automatically opens texts. I had trouble in the past with people “spamming” me with text messages and it was running up a big bill, so I turned off texting entirely. Most of my friends, etc, don’t text a lot, so it isn’t usually an issue and this way I never get stuck with a huge cell phone bill just because some idiot gave out my phone number to that guy at the bar that she didn’t want to give her real number to (that kind of stuff).

            I know I’m probably just being weird, but just like some people don’t want a smart phone I don’t want to deal with texting charges.

          4. Cassie

            My phone carrier (AT&T) will disable texting, if you request it. Otherwise, you have to pay for all texts that you send or receive (even if you don’t read it!), either per message or as a part of a messaging plan. I have 200 texts for $5 per month which is an old plan and no longer offered – many texting plans now are “unlimited” and thus cost more.

            We disabled the texting/data on my mom’s non-smartphone because she kept accidentally hitting the web browser button. Sure, it’s only 1 cent per kb, so it was only like 9 cents here and there, but still.

            I personally don’t like using texting for work and get very few such messages anyway. I only use it for work when I have to – e.g. if I know my boss is in a seminar and I need him to step out. I hate when my coworkers send me a series of single word texts, like it’s a stream of consciousness – just put it in one text and get it over with!!

    10. themmases

      It depends. I own one, but I rarely use it for work– pretty much only if I’m so sick I want to email in from bed rather than getting up and logging in to work email. My coworker is a close friend and sometimes will email me with a question when I’m off, too, but that’s it.

      I work in medical research, so people at my workplace can’t just start using their personal devices for most work– especially something that is easily lost or stolen like a smartphone. There is no way I want information about my subjects in my personal Gmail account rather than my encrypted work account, and my employer doesn’t want it on my device either unless I go through their IT to set it up. I don’t think they want to do that for people who aren’t physicians or managers. At my employer, those people used to have company-issued Blackberrys and are increasingly getting IT to secure their personal iPhones to use those instead.

      I’d find it really strange if an employer held it against me that I didn’t own and personally pay for something like a smartphone. If an employer needs their employees to have something like that, they should supply it, the same as they would with your computer.

    11. vvondervvoman

      Definitely depends on the job. Personally, I would never have one, but I work either from home/out in the field 90% of the time.

      Where I’m supposed to go changes each day, so I use the built-in GPS. I hate texting, but that’s how my boss and co-workers communicate sometimes, so if I refused, that would be an unneeded culture clash.

      When I’m in the field, I use my Outlook calendar to tell me the info of where I need to be/notes etc. I’m non-exempt, so when I’m at home and not actively working, I like to be able to scroll through the email notifications quickly to see if I need to put in 15 minutes to answer an important email.

      During events, I need to be able to photograph our booth so I can document it for Public Affairs, so it’s nice not having to carry an extra camera around.

      Is a smart phone absolutely necessary for any of that? No, but it makes my professional life a heck of a lot easier. And they reimburse me $25/month for phone expenses. So I can’t really complain.

    12. Kit M.

      Ha! I just resolved yesterday that I had to get one because I misread an email my boss sent me and I wasn’t able to go back and check it at a crucial moment, resulting in confusion and embarrassment that never would have taken place had I been perpetually connected to the internet. (Or, you know, had better reading comprehension.) But mostly, I need to get one because I’m tired of contending with the small but perpetual inconveniences that come with people assuming that I have a smart phone.

    13. kimberly

      Just a note about using your personal smart phone for work email:
      A co-worker (we are both non-exempt supervisors) had been an exempt manager before she joined our team of supervisors. About 2 weeks after joining our team (and becoming non-exempt again), IT remotely wiped out her phone — without notice — to remove her access to company email on her phone. She lost everything that wasn’t backed up (eg pictures) and had to re-install all of her apps.

    14. Beth Anne

      I don’t really think having a smart phone or not is an issue but I think culturly people think “everyone should have one” or “everyone can afford one” so if you don’t have one it’s like this huge slap in the face like you aren’t “cool enough.” Or that is how I have always seen it. Our contract is up in May and no joke we pay over $200 for 3 and we just can’t afford it anymore. I’m going to look into these companies everyone else mentioned.

  5. Anonymous

    Yay open thread! Happy holidays, everyone!

    I have a question about female interview attire. I work in a casual environment and need to find a way to wear part of the outfit to work. I would usually wear a suit and button down short to interviews but a button down would be too fancy for the office.

    I’ve read some women wear a nice top and then change to a cardigan, can any readers provide an example of that? I want to look presentable for the interview.

    1. Colette

      I’ve done dress pants and a nice top, then added a blazer en route to the interview.

      If the issue is the top (and you can wear the suit pants without issue), you could wear a more usual top with a camisole under it, then change your shirt on the way out of the office.

      1. Anonymous

        Thank you! Can you provide any examples of the “nice top”? Just want to make sure it’s not too casual.

        Also, any advice on storing a button down throughout the day so it doesn’t wrinkle?

        1. Colette

          I rarely wear button downs, so no help there. I typically wear a shell or another shirt that looks appropriate under a blazer (i.e. not too low, not a tshirt, etc.).

          However, I’m in high tech, and I’m pretty sure I know people who’d interview in sweats, so your industry may require a button down shirt. :)

          1. Noelle

            One top that I tend to wear for interviews is a nice, light-weight sweater (I love the ones from Ann Taylor). Then I don’t have to change my top on the way to the interview but it looks like normal office wear once you take the blazer off.

        2. LizNYC

          I’d say anything that would be defined as a “shell” would be a nice top — moderately high neckline, sleeveless or short-sleeved, some color (or not). If you look at some retailers’ websites at what they put their models in, then you can get an idea. FWIW, I never wear button downs. Then again, it’s not expected in my industry (not Big Law or something like that).

        3. WFBP

          I agree, go for a shell that you can wear under a jacket (meaning suit jacket or blazer). Be sure the fabric is not too casual. There are plenty of places you can go to find these. I have hit the jackpot at places like Ross for nice shells, cardigans, and jackets for work for a fantastic price.

          If you can’t keep it hung up (maybe leave it in a car?) or anything like that, I have found what seems to work best for me is to actually roll it up instead of folding. You could also buy that wrinkle-release stuff (Downy?) to spray on it (then you pull on the shirt and stretch the wrinkles out). Don’t know how well that works though, and it needs time to dry as well. Do NOT use that on silk!

          Also, if you don’t want them seeing your blazer or suit jacket, but you don’t have a place you can put it, just put your regular jacket on over your blazer or suit jacket, and when you get to work, take them both off. No one should see your suit jacket inside your regular one.

          Good luck!!

        4. NK

          I’m a female in a field where interview attire is pretty formal, and I never wear button-downs – I find them uncomfortable and I always get the dreaded gap in the chest, so they can be downright indecent on me. Instead, I always wear a silk shell or a sweater shell under a suit, which makes for a perfect transition piece – I put a cardigan over it for work, and swap it out for the suit jacket for the interview.

          If you go to Ann Taylor or Banana Republic, they have tons of options – you can hardly go wrong there.

          1. A Bug!

            I get the boob gap, too, but I really like button shirts, so I’ve found a way to make it work for me. It sounds like you’re not too bothered, but maybe this will help someone else.

            First, I always buy shirts to fit me in the bust – if the gap is a result of any actual strain on the fabric, it’s too small. If that means the waist fits too loosely, I have it taken in.

            Second, I sew an invisible snap button between the two middle buttons. Because the shirt fits properly in the bust, the snap doesn’t actually pull, but rather just keeps the fabric where it should be. I stitch the button so that the thread doesn’t go all the way through the front-facing fabric, so there’s no sign of it once it’s buttoned up.

            1. Camellia

              Boob gap – fashion tape! Wonderful two-sided sticky tape that fits the space between buttons perfectly, no sewing needed! And can quickly fix a hem, wandering bra strap, lapel that won’t behave, etc. I never leave home without some in my purse.

              I thought I was the only one who had discovered this wonderful stuff until traveling for work and someone asked me if I had some so she could fix her hem. We rhapsodized over it! Seriously!

        5. Mela

          I don’t know if it fits your budget or your size, but I want to briefly shill for Coldwater Creek’s no-iron dress shirts. They look amazing, you can actually stuff one in the bottom of a bag and shake it out and it looks freshly pressed. They’re not cheap, but most ladies magazines have 30% off coupons for them if you can hit up a dentist’s office or something to swipe one. :)

          1. RJ

            I just took a look at Coldwater Creek online, and they’re running 50% off “everything” which includes these shirts! I may have to take a closer look.

          2. Elizabeth

            Also, they’ve been running a Groupon that gets you $50 in clothing for $25. (I love their no-iron shirts, too. I just bought a couple more, in purple & white.)

            1. Fiona

              !!!

              I love CWC for work wear, and I LOVE to stalk their outlet/clearance because their regular prices are too far out of my budget.

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

            CWC FTW!

            It’s the only daily email that I have marked “unspam” so I read it every day.

        6. KAZ2Y5

          I’ve only had one time so far that I had to change from work clothes (think jeans) to interview attire. There was a hotel about 5 minutes from my work, so I just walked in with my clothes in a clothes bag, walked in the downstairs restroom and changed there :-)

    2. Amy

      I’ve done this before. I also work in a casual environment and I simply try to take a large enough handbag with me to the interview to change into flats, a less dressy top and a cardigan before I return to my desk.

    3. Just a Reader

      When I had to do this I either worked at home or, on one memorable occasion, tucked my suit essentials into my purse, changed in the bathroom and then bundled myself up beyond recognition on my way out the door.

      I do carry a giant, giant handbag though.

    4. esra

      Would a shift dress + blazer be an option? You can dress down with a cardigan/sweater, then put the blazer on for the interview.

      1. Kara Ayako

        This would be my recommendation. Wear a cardigan with the dress during the day, then swap to a blazer for the interview.

        If you’re not comfortable in a dress, go with a shell and a blazer as suggested above.

        If you normally wear a suit with a button down, then dress pants and a cardigan is a significant step down the dressy scale.

        1. cs

          I’m new to business attire (always worked in casual clothes or uniform). What do you mean by “shell”?

          1. Camellia

            A ‘shell’ is a sleeveless garment with a shoulder that is wider than a tank top. The neckline is usually a shallow scoop. It is made from a dressy fabric such as silk or silk-like polyester blend. It can be a print if it is subtle and sophisticated but solid colors are usually a better choice. You can go for dynamic contrast such as a navy suit with a red shell, or not so much, such as a navy suit with a white or cream shell. And it begs for a great necklace as an accent! Pearls, beautiful and ‘safe’, or a great statement piece.

      2. Liz

        I would suggest wearing a camisole under your casual shirt then it’s easy to change in the car or anywhere without being revealing. Starbucks bathrooms are a great place to do this.

        If you’re driving leaving the nice top in the car hanging is the best option, if you’re not just try to find something unlikely to wrinkle. Wearing a suit jacket buttoned over a shirt covers many wrinkles anyways. Ann Taylor has so many examples of shells and other tops beyond button downs. I like wearing a rich, bold color underneath a black suit, I feel like it’s a little more memorable. Examples are emerald green, cobalt blue, ruby red, etc.

        1. Jess

          I have done exactly this with the camisole and hanging blazer/nice shirt. I live in a place where I have to drive everywhere, so I’ve changed to/from interviews in parking lots, parking garages, you name it. I’m too lazy to stop into a store because it requires me to park, walk in, awkwardly change in a dirty stall, walk out, fight traffic…

    5. Donna

      Wear the nice cloths to work, if anyone asks, say you have plans right after work, and no time to change. This excuse will work better if you don’t live near the office, I used this when I worked in a office that had a very relaxed atomosphere… I simply laughed and explained that I have plans for dinner, and I don’t have time to drive home and change before the reservation, technically it was true, as my interview was in the evening at a resteraunt.

    6. Sloop

      Can you leave the button down in your car hanging on the hook in the backseat and stop and change on your way to the interview?

      This might not help you for this interview, but I make it to point to “dress up” once every few weeks. I work in an office that straddles the line between business casual and business professional and will sometimes rock a full suit just so it’s never obvious if I *do* need to dress up for an interview. I just tell people that I ran out of clean clothes and had to tap into my “nice” dry cleaned clothes.

    7. Kacie

      I would take enough time off to have an opportunity to change before or after the interview. If you can’t get home, then stop in a fast food restaurant or gas station bathroom and change there.

    8. Sidra

      I work in a similarly casual office (jeans and cardigan type of place) and wore slacks and a rayon blouse to the first interview, and pressed chinos with a cotton cardigan over a ruffled high-cut tank the next. It was summertime, so it was a light cardigan. I got the job and was actually complimented after the fact on how I dressed for the interviews, haha.

    9. Anonymous

      Really, just bring a second set of clothing. Change in a bathroom somewhere between the interview and going to your job. It takes a couple minutes at most and you won’t have to think about it so much.

      Don’t shortchange your interview outfit by requiring it to be valid for your casual-wear day job.

  6. Cruciatus

    Is it weird to write in a cover letter that my boss has thanked me for doing a fantastic job (which he has done, repeatedly, in fact!)? Is that “hearsay?” I saw versions of that included in the model cover letters on this site but I felt weird writing it down myself.

    And where should you mention in a cover letter that you’re planning on moving to that city and don’t need help (if this is true?) First paragraph? Closing paragraph?

    I really hated the system for the job I just applied to. Not that it’s much different from others. Why do you need me to copy and paste my resume and cover letter just to then fill out boxes later that are basically my resume in another form? Gah! One or the other!

    1. brightstar

      If you’re not comfortable saying that your boss has thanked you, there’s the option of phrasing it differently.

      Normally, I mention my planning to move to a city near the end of the first paragraph. And I hate online application forms that ask for a resume and then require you to fill out a million tiny boxes only to have the system reject you almost immediately.

    2. CollegeAdmin

      Regarding mentioning the thanks in the cover letter – I’d say it depends how you do it. (Terrible answer, I know.) If you just kind of throw it in there, I think it could come off as strange. But if you use it strategically – like after talking about what exactly you’ve done to deserve the thanks – it could work.

      I did this when I applied to my current job – I was temping at the time for a company that had been bought out and needed someone to cover the transition. I had a paragraph that talked about what I did as a temp for the company, and closed it with, “After just one week, my manager told me that if the acquisition had not happened, she already would have extended an offer of permanent employment to me.” It was truthful, but more importantly, I had already presented the evidence as to why.

      I would mention plans to move to the city in your first paragraph (where generally you would address why you’re interested in that particular position), but I wouldn’t say anything about not needing help. For example, “Due to my love of chocolate and my experience in teapot design, I’m very interested in the position of Chocolate Teapot Decorator. I’m currently in the process of relocating to Alison City and would love to work at AAM Teapots.”

  7. Lillie Lane

    Alison, you have the most photogenic cats I’ve ever seen. They are adorable.

    I’m expecting an offer for a job today (yay for Alison’s book!!), but it’s an odd situation. The job doesn’t really have a job description because it’s a brand new position and will be a combination of several types of jobs that are also done at the company. The position is unique, so I don’t have much to go off of for salary expectations, but I’m pretty sure that my expectations are pretty much along the line that the company is thinking. I also really want this job and am kind of desperate. My question — will I look naive if I don’t negotiate?

    1. Mary

      Well you could ask them how they came up with the salary they are offering since it is a unique type of role. That way you can establish if they have taken into consideration all the elements you would do if you were asked what salary you would like to have. You could have this conversation without any negotiation element to it.

      Only if you were unhappy could you then negotiation, but your new company will only recall that salary was discussed during final offer.

    2. badger_doc

      You don’t just have to negotiate salary–you can negotiate for more personal/vacation time or negotiate away a probation period. Sometimes benefits can be negotiated: 401k match, etc… But if you are super happy with the offer, don’t feel you NEED to negotiate.

      1. Windchime

        Yes, this. I was recruited for my current job by a manager that I knew from a past job. I had a figure in mind that was about 10% over my salary at that time. She mentioned what they would like to offer and it was exactly what I had been thinking. I guess I could have tried for more salary, but instead I managed to negotiate a little more vacation time and some other small but nice-to-have perks.

        So yeah…..if you like the salary, no need to negotiate. Consider it a happy event!

  8. Annie The Mouse

    What’s everyone’s best strategy to get an emergency job? I’m down to working 16 hours a week and have to get an extra job to supplement my current one, or a new job entirely. I’ve been looking for months in the traditional ways, but my time and money have run out and I need something now!

    1. AB

      Depending on your work experience and what type of job you’re looking for, I would suggest a temp agency. They typically need people that are flexible and available now. It can also be a great way to find new permanent opportunities.

    2. Ruffingit

      Temp work, substitute teaching (although the lead time on that can be long with trainings and such), fill out apps at every restaurant in town, regular babysitting gigs – try sittercity.com for that.

      Good luck, been in your position and it’s hard.

        1. Ruffingit

          Yes, that is true and Annie the Mouse can pick and choose what works for her and what doesn’t in terms of the advice people are tossing out. If she’s got a background in restaurant work, then she can try that. If not, she may still be able to be a hostess or something of that nature. I’ve personally known people who’ve done hostess work as a second job with no previous background in it. So whatever works, doesn’t hurt to put in the applications and see what happens.

    3. Diet Coke Addict

      Temp agency if you want to stay in a more “professional” type sector. Care.com for sitting gigs, pet-sitting, elder-care, type things. Go to a local community college and put up flyers for tutoring if you have that skill set. If you’re looking for non-traditional hours, try looking for stocking jobs–often they start at 2 or 3 in the morning and can be done by 9 or 10, so there’s flexibility there, and they are usually in need of people who want to work those kind of hours. I haven’t tried it myself, but Elance.com might be an option, depending on your skill set? Don’t discount a temp agency that might just want to stick you on an assembly line somewhere–not the most fun job in the world, but little training and little lead time are needed.

    4. brightstar

      I’m in the exact same position. This week I worked six hours. The places I’m looking at for a better bridge until I get a good job are:

      1. Restaurants and bars
      2. Grocery stores (they will sometimes start you the next day).
      3. Looking at Craigslist for anything else that may pop up.

      I’ve been registered with four temp agencies in my area for five months now and they haven’t sent me on one interview. My experience is in the legal field, customer service, and accounting.

      1. VictoriaHR

        Do you regularly check in with the agency? Have you turned down any possible jobs with them? Are you available for factory work or whatnot, or did you set a limit below which you wouldn’t go?

        1. brightstar

          I check in at least once a week with all of them, and haven’t turned anything down. At the initial interview, I told them I was open for any position they thought I’d be well suited for.

          I was told the competition here with temp agencies is high and that it was good that I was registered with so many.

          1. 22dncr

            Did you tell the Agencies that you are signed up with more than one?? Do not do that! That could be why they’re not calling you – they don’t want to share or compete with each other. I learned this the hard way. I always sign up with every single agency in town and never tell any of them that fact. Even the ones that have told me to not look for work anymore because they’ll now take care of everything – ya, right! You just nod and go on about your signing up. Doing this I’ve been able to keep myself employed for up to 13 months between jobs.

    5. Jax

      Some people may frown upon this, but pounding the pavement at the mall during business hours works. If you hit the smaller stores (Bath&Body Works, NY&Co) they typically have paper applications on hand, and the store manager will probably be working. Smart managers will give you a brief “interview” while you’re there filling out the app. It’s a foot in the door.

      1. Mints

        This is the norm for restaurants, and some retail. For retail, I’d suggest going to their own websites (store.com) not indeed or LinkedIn

    6. Nichole

      Tell everyone you know that you’re looking. I live in a small city, and the quickest way to find an emergency job here is to find someone whose dad/sister/friend owns a small business and have that person find out if said business owner needs any help. A lot of small, local businesses can’t afford to hire someone full time and permanent (which most “official” job seekers want), but may need some extra help at the moment.

      1. Elizabeth West

        This is a good idea. I found a temp job that way at a former employer; I just called and asked if they had anything. Because I was still friendly with them, they jumped on it and I worked for six weeks covering someone who was out on maternity leave (and then I found a job).

    7. swfla

      I have found that by being out and about, at the mall, shopping, etc, that it was easier to ask for an application than sitting at home. Not that you are doing that, but the hiring manager can interview you then and there usually

    8. Dulcinea

      Find out if there is telemarketing/telefundraising company in your town. In my experience basically anyone can walk in and be hired, go through training , and start work.

      If you are in Boston, try Integral Resources in Cambridge.

  9. Shelley

    I’m a regular reader and I write articles on mental health topics. I recently wrote one on surviving workplace bullying and my latest article was on coping with job loss wherein I mention using AAM so I wanted to share my articles here in case anyone was interested. Shameless self-promotion – check! :)

    http://www.modvive.com/author/snash/

    1. SA

      Excellent advice Shelley! I’ve bookmarked your page to read some of your other articles later.

      I can relate to the auto pay suggestion. I moved a few years ago and didn’t cancel my gym membership for a full year after the move although I was no longer close enough to get there. Every month I’d see the charge and say ‘I really need to cancel that’ and then promptly forget about it until the next month.

      1. Shelley

        Thanks SA, I hope you enjoy the other articles as well.

        The auto pay problem is very common. With online billing and auto pay, so many of us just set things up and forget about it. I think it’s important to sit down and really examine where our money is going. That applies whether we’re in a good financial position or not, but especially if we’re not, of course. And gym memberships that are never used seem to be a common issue :)

      1. Shelley

        My research for that article was eye opening. There were stories I was told that ultimately didn’t get used in the article, but it is astounding the abuse and bullying that goes on in the workplace. It crosses socio-economic and geographic boundaries as well. I heard stories from the factory floor to the C-suite, from America to Australia and beyond and it was all the same in terms of the emotions it generates and the pain it causes. While researching and writing this article, I was often asking myself “Who acts like that?!” So much dysfunction!

        1. Not So NewReader

          Keep saying it over and over and over. It’s an important message. My stories are tame compared to what others have but I have seen some pretty wild stuff.

    2. Clever Name

      I had a boss tease me about using canned air to clean out my keyboard one day. He made fun of me for using it “all the time”. Funny thing was, I’m pretty sure that was the first time I had ever cleaned out my keyboard (other than shaking it upside down) at that job, and I had been there for over 2 years at that point. Another coworker joined in as well. It was so bizarre that another coworker emailed me shortly after and basically said, WTF. That wasn’t the only instance of bullying, but it was the most obvious, in a junior high type of way.

      1. Clever Name

        And thanks for posting this. I’m going through some really crappy stuff at work right now, and this article helps a lot.

        1. Shelley

          I’m glad the article is helpful to you! I chose to write about this topic because it’s something I went through myself so I know the pain it can cause. It’s not easy to deal with this sort of thing day in and day out, knowing you’re walking into a lion’s den just so you can make a living. I hope your crappy work stuff is soon resolved in a positive way for you!

  10. CollegeAdmin

    My bosses were both horrified when I came into work yesterday and sent me home – I live near Boston, which was just hit with “Winter Storm Hercules.” They told me to take work home with me to do for the afternoon and for today.

    However, the college announced that it’s closed today. Since I normally don’t bring stuff home, I wouldn’t be working, but now I’m confused. Should I work for my regular 7 hours (since I brought stuff home), don’t do any work (since the college is closed, meaning I’m off), or do a little bit and call it a day?

    If it’s relevant, I’m non-exempt but will be getting paid for today – snow days are like holidays for us.

    1. Lillie Lane

      I’d do a little bit and call it a day. It shows you put in some effort but you still get to enjoy your “holiday”.

    2. SA

      I’m late to answer this as it’s now the end of the work day here. I’m also in the Boston area and our office was closed today.

      The commonality of work at home has completely ruined snow days for me as I am expected to work if I have electricity and Internet. Which I don’t really mind except when I think about how much fun it was as a kid to have a snow day and not have to go to school.

      Our group did all work remotely today with shoveling breaks mixed in.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I had to drive in the snow yesterday, so I got my computer and went home (hardly anyone else showed up either). We’re supposed to have more snow/extreme cold Saturday, Sunday, and through Tuesday. Lucky for me I can do that; I remember that I couldn’t at Exjob, which sucked.

  11. ThursdaysGeek

    Why is a manager or supervisor always a better reference than a co-worker? I ask because often I’ve had a better idea of the quality of work of my co-workers than I think the manager does.

    My manager knows they get work done fast. I know that the code they write is a pain to maintain, they haven’t even started the documentation, that the customer is happy only because there is someone available to fix the problems in that fast code, and that there is a lot of clutter just left around. All of that doesn’t really surface until they are gone, probably with a glowing reference from their manager. I knew it all along, because I was helping maintain the code all along, writing documentation that they wouldn’t, answering the phone when the customers called, and cleaning up clutter as I found it. I was also still getting my work done and making my manager happy, although getting it done a bit slower.

    I don’t know, but sometimes I think the people who work with me the closest are the people who can be the best references. Managers know one aspect, but co-workers also know an important aspect.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Managers (good ones at least) should be able to comment about more than just the quality of someone’s work. I know things about my employees that their coworkers do not – I know who I’ve had to counsel about repeated tardiness, who habitually doesn’t follow rules and procedures, who turns in sloppy work, who thinks he can get away with cutting corners, etc. Coworkers don’t always see that side of things. A good employee contributes more than just good work – they get along with the team, they follow regulations and procedures, their conduct is exemplary, etc.

      I always say I expect two things from my employees: do good work and don’t create problems. A coworker might only know about one component of that.

      1. Jen in RO

        Unfortunately, like ThursdaysGeek pointed out, sometimes the manager knows nothing about the quality of someone’s work…

        1. Katie the Fed

          Right, but I was addressing the question of why they’d want to go to the manager. The manager SHOULD know those things.

      2. ThursdaysGeek

        Well, in this case, I could also tell the hours (must’ve been working at home some to get them all in!) And he may have been working at home — that is something the manager would have known and not me. I could see that he got along with the team and customers quite well. There is an awful lot a co-worker notices too, especially when they are working on the same stuff.

        1. Jen in RO

          In my previous job, I absolutely knew more about my coworkers, in all aspects of their jobs, than my manager. It was an unusual setup (manager was in the US, we were in Europe), but a reference from him would not have been accurate.

    2. esra

      They want to talk to someone who will have the same perspective they do. It’s probably a manager/supervisor hiring you, so they’re interested in you from a managing position, not a coworker position.

    3. Bonnie

      The manager often knows things co-workers don’t like the fact that the manager has talked to the co-worker about performance issues and what changes the co-worker was able to achieve based on that. Or even the fact that the manager finds benefit in having one team member that is fast but sloppy but has other employees whose strengths compensate for that as yours do in your office.

      It is possible that your manager does not know what you do or what your co-workers do. It is also possible that if asked she would say that your co-worker is fast but sloppy and you are great at follow up with clients and writing documentation.

      Just because your supervisor doesn’t air your co-workers dirty laundry in public doesn’t mean that she isn’t up to her elbows in it.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Yes, but that just means that the manager can be an appropriate reference. It doesn’t mean that a co-worker may not also be an appropriate reference. In fact, I think a good set of references would include both managers and co-workers, because they see different but relevant aspects of my work. Alison and many commenters appear to only want references from managers, and I was wondering why.

    4. Sidra

      I have always just used whoever knew my work best AND my manager. The manager will know you as an employee at least (punctuality, past reprimands, attitude) which is just as important as knowing your work. I do rely on others to vouch for my actual work as my past boss had no idea what I actually DID everyday except via feedback from internal customers, haha.

  12. Anonymous

    What is the consensus of having a “profile” or “key achievements” section at the top of a résumé?

    I understand it’s a quick summary but is it necessary (especially when trying to conserve space)?

    1. Just a Reader

      I think a summary is really valuable, and enables you to toot your own horn and then back it up with the results in your resume details.

      Basically you can tell prospective employers why you’re awesome instead of making them deduce it from your experience.

      1. Anonymous

        Can you recommend some phrasing for it? I know the general advice is to not use subjective statements on resumes/cover letters.

        1. Just a Reader

          Mine says something like:

          “Seasoned B2B teapot making professional with 14 years of communications experience. I have a proven record for results-oriented teapot design and management. Recent successes include leading ideation, development and launch of Chocolate Teapots Today, Chocolate Teapot Inc.’s product tracking system.”

    2. Jubilance

      Necessary? Depends on who you ask.

      Me, I’d cut other things before I cut my summary section. What other sections do you have on your resume & can you condense/eliminate? Are you including every job you’ve ever had on your resume? Perhaps you can just highlight relevant work experience and then list all your other positions, 1 line each, to conserve space.

  13. Zelos

    I would like to announce that IT folks have my endless love, awe, and kudos for being awesome and keeping our systems everywhere running smoothly. Jamie and all the IT folks here, please accept my tribute of cranberry chocolate chip cookies.

    This was brought to you by the second reformat in two weeks and other attempts to fix my mother’s laptop. ;P

  14. Rin

    Does anyone else feel really grateful for their job after reading some of the things in this blog? Actually, it makes me a little scared to look for a new one, since my office now is relatively sane, like I don’t dare leave this place because of all the crazy, horrible managers out there.

    1. Katie the Fed

      YES! This blog helped me get a really healthy dose of perspective. There was also a series on gawker last year on stories of the unemployed. It made me less frustrated and more grateful for what I have. Government work may not be too fun at times, but I can *generally* count on having a job (unless I really screw up) and at least I have coworkers I adore. Things could be a lot worse. And I like my current boss, when I don’t want to throttle him.

      1. JW

        I’m constantly terrified about making a change! I have always hated change anyways, but now I realize that I am lucky in certain situations.

    2. Cruciatus

      I know what you mean–but keep in mind that people are writing in for help with things and are not generally writing in saying things are awesome (though it has happened occasionally!) But we’re constantly seeing the problems, not the good stuff. If that makes any sense.
      And I do feel more grateful for my own job because, though I don’t get paid much I do get 10 days paid vacation (which they don’t have to provide at all, dammit!), health insurance, 133% matching contribution up to 6% of pay, a secure environment, and more personally, I do like my boss and the coworkers around me though I don’t always like the strictness that comes from the higher ups. But if I see something I’m qualified for out there that sounds like a step up, I’m still going to try for it and hope that it’s not one of the crazy places! I now know how to spot warning signs more easily…

    3. Dawn K

      Yes! Although my workplace is not perfect, it is far better than most other places out there. I’m getting spoiled by having a three day weekend (due to the snow and I will get paid) after two consecutive five day weekends (given three extra days on top of the three holidays because we “worked hard” last year). And I have a great manager and they pay for my master’s degree. So I can’t complain at all!

    4. Jubilance

      This is my struggle right now. Compared to other people, I have it pretty good. So I feel like a jerk because I dread going to work, due to my horrible project & my horrible manager. I know it could be worse, and I know layoffs are coming to my company later this month so I’m trying to stay positive, but a “well it could be a lot worse so just take the crappy environment” mentality doesn’t really work for me either.

      1. BN

        I feel this way, too. My job isn’t terrible. Management is shoddy at best and the culture is not spectacular, but in terms of pay and security it’s fine. You can see the writing on the wall, though… despite the pay and security, middle managers that have been with the company for years are resigning without notice and without other opportunities.

        Honestly, it’s not the worst of the worst, but layoffs are a big deal, and I think you have a right to be unsettled about your position.

      2. Windchime

        Jubilance, just because other people have it worse doesn’t make your situation peachy. I hope you don’t spend too much time feeling like a jerk; if you have a horrible project and a horrible manager, of course you don’t like being there!

        1. Not So NewReader

          Yeah, really. My concerns are big to me. Your concerns are big to you and so on. Comparing concerns works up to a point- like if we need a little nudge to get our butts out of neutral.
          When comparing our lot in life to someone else’s lot in life only makes us feel worse then the comparison is self-defeating, There is no point to saying “Janie has it worse with her 15 hour work days.” No, sorry, I do not feel cheered up.
          Ask yourself “How is this train of thought helping me?” If it’s not helping then make yourself move on to something else that might. There will always be people worse off than me and people better off than me. That is just a fact.

          Jubilance-Am sorry about the horrible manager and I hope the horrible project gets easier very soon.

    5. Liz

      100% YES! I love my current job but know at some point within the next few years I would have to make a move to receive a large bump in salary or a promotion (I work for a small company). Reading all these letters makes me terrified to accept a new job since my current one has trusting and respectful bosses, nice incentives, and no horror stories!

    6. Yup

      I actually find most of the stories here reassuring and supportive, to know that I’m not alone with some of my own past horrid experiences that were isolating or crazy-making at the time. They do make me grateful for my current job too, but I mostly appreciate the reality check that even the happiest jobs have bad patches or tough decisions.

      And yes, there have been some humdingers here that made me think, “Oh my god, I am never complaining about teeny tiny XYZ problem at my job again.”

    7. Ruffingit

      I have worked for some of these crazy managers and because of it, I now suffer from a sort of PTSD in that I always wonder what the next job is going to bring in terms of management, etc. It’s compounded by the fact that so few people really are great managers or even good ones. Management is not an easy job so even when someone isn’t actively malicious, they may just be passively crappy at management because they don’t have the skills to do it.

      So yes, I do think about this a lot just from my personal experiences and what I read here.

        1. Ruffingit

          I believe it Windchime and I’m sorry to hear it. I had one job that I quit with no notice and no other job to go to due to the horrific abusive tactics of the owner there. Took me awhile to recover from that too.

          1. Not So NewReader

            I wish there was more written on the topic. I see so many people who are not where they should be in life because they are so wounded. They end up settling or dropping back from their potential- etc. It makes me mad. But I don’t see any solid solutions out there.

      1. SA

        I have managed two workplace PTSD survivors. At first every time I IM’d one of them to come by my office they were completely freaked out. They would also ask me if it was ok to use the restroom and were really nervous about what time they came in and left.

        I finally straight out asked what was going on and they shared some stories from previous jobs. Gave me a better understanding of how to work with them and make them comfortable in our much less stressful environment. Eventually they got past it and I like to think I helped!

    8. literateliz

      I do feel grateful for my (wonderful) job on a daily basis when reading the questions here, but AAM has also been instrumental for me in *not* being afraid to look around and evaluate my options. There’s a definite “you have a paid job in this horrible economy so just shut up and take it” attitude out there, but Alison always advocates for things like interviewing a company just as they interview you and making sure the job is a good fit for your skills and interests, which I really appreciate in the face of all the “suck it up!” advice out there.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This ties into a concept that fascinates me. The idea is that what we do when the going gets rough is what makes our quality of life later on. Our responses make a difference over all- but it is really tough to see it in the moment or even in the short term.

        The”suck it up” advice really does nothing. Where as Alison’s advice keeps us moving forward in spite of all the challenges. This is how to make a difference in people’s lives.

    9. Noelle

      I posted something slightly related to this down thread, about being terrified to leave my current job. I actually DID leave my current job, it was horrifying, and now I am afraid to leave ever again. My job isn’t even that great, but it’s familiar and my managers are nice. This blog has shown me that is a Big. Deal.

    10. Windchime

      YES. I am so grateful for my job. The pay is good, the commute is short, I sit in a comfortable chair in a safe office and most of all, my manager is a super smart person who also has good people skills. Oh, and I like the work. So yes, I feel very fortunate and I try to count my blessings every day, because although it feels secure, who knows?

    11. AB Normal

      I think we just see more of the bad examples, and this may scare us. For instance, I never wrote to “brag” how I love my current job, which I left one year ago from a job where my coworkers were great, pay was great (although I now earn more), benefits were great, and work wasn’t too bad.

      It was just that I had stopped learning, and in this new job, in one year, I got to learn an entire new field that is in high demand, thus giving me more alternatives in case of a layoff. My old job is in another round of layoffs, so who knows, if I hadn’t left that comfortable position, I might be in trouble now.

      I think that the most important point to tip the scale is the answer to the question: “am I still learning marketable skills at my current job?”. If the answer is yes, then you are fine. But if the answer is no, staying just for the stability and fear of the unknown may actually backfire.

    12. Jenn

      I’m unemployed, but after reading this blog and experiencing 5+ months of no job, the next job I have I’m holding on and never letting go. Haha.

      1. IronMaiden

        I’m grateful for my job and I am so glad I took the plunge and chased this job. It;s a big step up from my previous job and is allowing me to grow.

  15. Katie the Fed

    Hi everyone! I’m home today because of the snow – had to take leave but the roads were completely impassable.

    Wanted to thank everyone for the wedding planning and marriage tips. The planning is going really well so far – found some things I can afford, some things I don’t want to compromise on, and some corners to cut (costco for stationery, for example). I’ve gone from dreading planning this thing to actually being excited.

    Out of curiosity, Alison, have you ever thought of opening up a forum on this site? Considering how many regular commenters you have it would probably be pretty good!

    1. CollegeAdmin

      I’m glad to “see” you here today, because I’ve been thinking about the marriage advice question you had. My mother just told me the two pieces of advice she received when she was getting married – she ignored both and my parents are still happily married after 29 years.

      From her mother: Put everything in the husband’s name, even things you already own yourself (like your car). Women don’t need to own things or be in charge – that’s the man’s job.

      From her oldest sister: Your husband cheating on you is no reason to ruin a perfectly good marriage.

      I’d like to recommend that you also ignore both of these pieces of advice, and good luck with the wedding planning.

      (As a side note, she got married in the mid-1980s, not the mid-1880s, despite how horrifically dated this advice seems.)

      1. Katie the Fed

        Oh good lord! That’s terrible advice!

        I told my fiance he gets his name on my mortgage when we’re legally bound. But I’m certainly not taking mine off.

        BTW, how do people do joint finances? I’m having trouble figuring out the logistics of this. We have similar assets and our income is exactly the same, and our spending patterns are pretty similar (we both even max out our retirement contributions). What are the logistics of how other couples do finances? I was thinking it makes sense to have a joint account for household expenses and then we each get a slush fund/allowance of sorts for our personal expenses every month? I have no idea how to set up this kind of thing.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          We do it this way: We each still have separate accounts, but we have a joint account for shared expenses. Set up automatic transfers each month into the joint account. The rest remains in your account to do with as you like. You can also do a shared account for savings if you want, or do that separately if you’re both good savers.

          1. De Minimis

            We had a joint account for most of our marriage, but I got a separate account when I had to relocate for work [we were apart for just over a year] and we’re only now getting to where we are getting a joint account again. I think we’ll also have a savings account that we agree that no one touches without consulting the other.

            My parents have always had separate accounts, I think their agreement has been that my dad paid for housing, utilities, insurance, etc. and my mom paid for food, and then whatever credit accounts they had they each handled individually. I don’t know if they still do things that way or not now that they’re mostly retired.

        2. RJ

          That’s how we do it. Most of our stuff we consider “household” expenses, but the slush fund is helpful to keep my head from exploding when my husband “needs” to buy video games and wrestling videos. If he feels the same way about my shoes and knitting yarn, he hasn’t mentioned it yet. :)

        3. Judy

          I’ve seen 4 ways in my family/friends.

          1. Completely joint. No separate accounts. (My parents & my husbands parents do it that way)

          2. Mostly joint. A main joint account that pay gets put into. Each has separate accounts that $X gets automatically transferred into for allowance. (That’s what my husband and I have)

          3. Mostly separate. A main account for common things, but pay gets put into separate accounts and then $X transferred monthly for the common things. (How we started out, but 17 years later, we’re on #2)

          4. Completely Separate. Run like roommates. Keeping a spreadsheet and this person handles A, B & C, the other handles H, I & J. Big ticket gets written every other month by each. Keeping charges for household items (dish soap, food) separate from personal items (toiletries), and writing checks to each other to keep it in balance.

          I personally wouldn’t do #1, simply because of things like possibly not having any money until probate opens when one dies or if someone is sued and assets get frozen. My parents and inlaws now have inactive accounts with a few thousand each in them just for those cases.

          We started with #3, but it just seemed easier to do #2 in the end, and at a point about 5 years into the marriage, we switched. We make pretty much the same, and both had been out on our own for 8 years or so after college when we got married, so we didn’t want to have to check every single dime with the other one.

          1. Cath@VWXYNot?

            We currently do #1 (completely joint account). However, if we were both salaried with regular, predictable direct deposits coming in, we’d probably have gone with #3. As it stands, I have regular, predictable direct deposits comng in, and my husband works in a boom-and-bust short-contract industry that still gives him paper pay cheques. When he’s working he makes a lot more than me due to higher base bay and lots of overtime (and he averages about 50% more than me per year), but then he can go weeks or occasionally months between contracts. So we have a single joint account set up, with mortgage payments going out of it the day after my pay comes in, and our personal “allowances” are half each of whatever’s left after all other the shared expenses are covered. Some months that’s virtually nothing, some months we go on nice vacations… it’s not what I’m used to (my parents were both teachers, so on regular predictable direct deposits), but it works most of the time!

            1. Anonymous

              Is the total annual amount predictable though? You can probably simulate a steady paycheck if his pay gets put into another account, and setup regular transfers as equivalent of “direct deposits”

              1. Cath@VWXYNot?

                Nope. It’s not even predictable week-to-week, because there are a lot of last-minute requests to work weekends, depending on what they’re building. Right now he’s working on a project that’s guaranteed to last 4 months, and that’s the longest-term stability he’s had in years. And now there’s talk of another writer’s strike that might shut down the entire movie industry for a few months, which is quite terrifying…

                1. AVP

                  I’m also in the industry and have a composer friend who made over $20k one year, and $10k the next. This is terrifying to me which is why I’m no longer freelance!

          2. Adam

            To me #2 seems the most sensible. Since I subscribe to the “what we each bring in is ‘ours'” style of marriage we’d likely have one to several joint accounts where the majority of the money goes to cover life expenses and saving for the future and all that. Then we each would get personal accounts where a a mutually agreed upon amount is deposited for the fun stuff we could spend on without guilt or necessary explanations. This also comes in handy when you want to buy the other person gifts and want them to be none-the-wiser.

          3. Jessa

            We do two accounts, I handle all the money so it all goes in the main account, and in order to keep my husband from going EEK I spent money we already spent, he has a side account that we put money in every week. That way he doesn’t have to call me and ask how much he can spend and not have us over draught. I take my share from the main account and any big ticket stuff we talk about.

            I just don’t have the energy to manage it any more complicated than that. If he did the bills and such, I’d have the side account. They’re connected on our online banking so I can switch money easily.

          4. tcookson

            Well, this is a timely conversation. My husband and I have done #1 for our whole marriage, and we just this week had a conversation about going more to #2 or #3.

            We haven’t figured out yet which is the best way to do it, but most of our arguments come when we try to discuss money with each other. We thought it would be better if we each had some of our own money to spend and certain expenses to manage. He makes about twice as much as I do. I get paid once a month and he gets paid every two weeks (not sure if that makes a difference or not).

            He currently manages all the finances from our joint account. We talked about me opening a separate account and managing the “household” (groceries, entertainment, gifts, and clothing) budget separately along with the bills that are exclusively mine (a credit card and a couple of loans). He would keep managing everything else (mortgage, car payments, utilities, etc.).

            We haven’t yet decided exactly what the division will be, but it does seem like it might be refreshing to not have to be accountable to each other for every single dime like we are in the completely joint set-up. I’ve never been much of a coupon-user, but the prospect of having any savings I can get accrue directly to me seems very motivating.

          5. Not So NewReader

            My husband and I did a tamer version of #4. We had separate bank accounts and separate charge cards. We went to the bank and filled out forms for each other as beneficiary upon death.

            He brought in 60% of the income so he paid 60% of the bills. I did the same with my 40%. This left us with the same amount of money for pocket money each week. That was NICE. It felt fair.
            We also agreed to work very hard at cutting expenses and repairing rather than replacing if we could. This was sort of a way of showing respect to the other one for all their hard earned income. I mention this because it really built a sense of team. We would work together on repairs because we knew both of us would win because of cost savings.
            Our friends found it odd that we had all our finances separate like that. But it suited us- we were both pretty independent people. The decision was a good fit. We were both very good at keep current with the bills.
            And we would just ask each other if we did have a problem with not enough cash. Whoever had extra cash paid. Then we would agree on tightening up the budget for a few months so we could both recuperate a little.
            We did have one rule that was helpful. We had to check with each other before making a purchase over X amount.
            Because if we both spent X in a short time frame that would be a tight squeeze.
            Bonuses/inheritances/lottery winnings were no fly zones for the other person. Just because two people are married does not mean they do not need their own space! ha! This allowed us to each have our own space.

          6. ThursdaysGeek

            We do #1, but my income goes into checking and his into savings. Household expenses comes out of checking, and if I don’t have enough, I move money from savings into checking (or the debit card). He gets cash out of savings each week and uses that for whatever, and I use cash for incidentals too. We started this when we didn’t have anything, and it’s worked as we’ve acquired a balance. He gets paid a lot more than me, but since we started with nothing together, it’s all shared.

        4. Anonymous

          We do something similar as per AAM and RJ above; we like having our own accounts in addition to a joint to do what we please. It certainly makes gift-buying a lot easier too.

          I would also like to emphasize that you and your husband should do whatever works best. They’re your finances and every couple is different. I got married in April and someone (because she is nosy) asked how we were going to manage our finances. When I said we’re getting a joint for household and still maintaining separate accounts, I got scolded and she alluded that my husband was being selfish for not wanting to share everything with me (!!!). Ugh.

        5. summercamper

          When I first got married (and we were both independently financially stable) I was really tempted by the idea of maintaining our own separate accounts and paying into a joint account for shared expenses. It seems to me that this idea works great for two working professionals, but what happens if one of you decides to go back to school, stay home with the kids, etc? Or what happens if there’s a huge income disparity – both my husband and I work hard, and it doesn’t seem fair for one of us to have lots of money to blow and the other to have significantly less.

          Instead, my husband and I have our paychecks deposited into one joint account. Out of that account, we each get an (equal) allowance to spend as we wish. Now in practice, this probably works the same as a couple that maintains separate accounts and pays into a joint fund for mutual expenses, but in my mind it makes a difference. We are in this together, you know?

          Of course, this gets to be a problem if you want to spend large amounts of money secretly, either for good or ill – our allowances are not large enough to cover any major expenses, only pocket money/lunch/clothes/etc.

          1. khilde

            This is how we do it, too. – we have a joint account and our paychecks are deposited into one. We budget and each have the same amount to draw from each month. We talk about large purchases and agree to those together, etc. Someone upthread said they have similar spending styles and beliefs around money and I think that’s been key for our success.

            1. Jessica

              This is also very similar to how we do it, except my paycheck goes directly to savings (which we draw a bit from each month into checking per our budget). The hardest part was figuring out what constituted a “large purchase” in our budget and agreeing to double-check on those with each other, and that took about five minutes. I’m the main budgeter and bill-payer, but I make sure that we balance our accounts together. If anything happens to me, he will be completely able to jump in and take things over without any issues.

              I agree that having very similar spending styles (we’re both super frugal anyway) and thoughts/beliefs about finances has gone a long way in making sure this works for us. If we had different spending styles or different ideas on how our finances should go, I’m not sure if it work would as smoothly as it has for us. (I recently met with a financial planner, and he was kid of amazed at how “set-up” we were at our age, but a lot of it comes from how we agree on setting up our finances.) Regarding the “large purchases for good or ill,” if we want to make a large purchase for a surprise of some kind we just say, “I’m taking about $xxx out of our account for a special purchase.” If it works with our budget, the other person says, “Okay!” and moves on. (And this comes from someone who LOVES giving people surprise gifts and also loves receiving them, so it definitely happens a lot more than you’d probably think.)

          2. esra

            Re: Income disparity, Gail Vaz-Oxlade suggests you split things in proportion to what you make. So person making 60k pays 60% of a bill and person making 40k pays 40%.

        6. Jules

          The way we did was anything pre-marriage stays the way it is. Post marriage, we pool resources. That said, we have explicit budget and and we both agree with them, so go forth & spend i.e. I have coffee budgeted for “Eating Out Expense” so I can have them when I want without breaking the budget/calling the hubs each time I want one. He has a “Game Expense” budgeted into it so he can do what he wants with that.

          I added him to my account as co-holder and he added me to his account as co-holder so that if anything *touch wood* would happen, we’d have access to the monies. (I have heard of horror stories where the spouse can’t access money since they don’t know the pin and their SO died/can’t communicate/etc.)

          1. Judy

            Just as an FYI, that means if anything does happen all the accounts could be frozen. (If an account owner dies, then the account is frozen until ownership can be resolved.) That also means that if one of you is sued, any assets that one person has their name on can be frozen.

            I think that most/many/all of the states have now updated the laws to protect the surviving spouse, but I do know of a couple where the bank must have been scanning the obits, and the account was frozen, in the last year or two. It took several days to resolve that.

            1. Jessa

              Most bank accounts, when properly set up, have the survivorship already decided at the time of opening. You have a choice when you set them up. Most accounts, the default, unless otherwise specified, is set up so that both parties own 100% of the account – this is the reason they say don’t open an account if you don’t trust the other person because even if you put in 100k and they put in 1k if they spend the entire balance you have no recourse unless you set up limits when you open the account.

              If one dies, the other one immediately takes possession of the account as they already own it.

              The locking out part happens when the other person is NOT attached to the account, and even if they do know the PIN for instance, it’s NOT legal for them to drain the account after the death of the first person. That account would belong to the estate.

              1. fposte

                Additionally, if you have somebody indicated as “payable on death” in your account it doesn’t have to be probated, so that’s money that’s available immediately and legally without compromising the payee in the event that something other than death has complicated the situation.

                1. Judy

                  Except for estate taxes.

                  Not necessarily federal estate taxes, but my state has graduated inheritance tax rates based on the relationship between the involved parties. And people without first order relationships pay the tax after the $100 exemption.

        7. Joey

          Its a personal decision. My wife and I share a checking. But we have friends that have separate personal accounts and a shared expense account. Either can work or fail. Although it becomes a little trickier to have separate accounts when one brings home more than the other. Then you have to decide if its fair to have unequal accounts or if one shares some of the extra income.

            1. Ruffingit

              I’ve known a few people where this was the case and what they did was have the person who was making a lot more pay the household bills and having some left over as discretionary money and that left the salary of the other person to be put into savings (some agreed upon percentage) and then the rest was the lower-earning spouse’s to do with what they wanted. That worked for the two couples I knew in this situation, but there are many ways it could be handled.

            2. RJ

              We’re in this situation where I make about twice what my husband makes. For perspective though, neither one of us makes a “lot” of money. So everything goes into the household account to pay the bills/savings, and then we get our spending allowances. Functionally speaking, my paycheck covers 2/3 of the household expenses and his covers 1/3, but it is equitable in what we get to spend randomly. Trying to go 50/50 would put an unfair burden on him. He works a lot harder than I do on a daily basis, and the fact that we’re compensated differently isn’t something we worry about.

            3. Joey

              One close friend who makes significantly more pays all the bills. Whatever is leftover out of his check is his. Whatever she makes is her spending money. He still comes out on top, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

              I have another friend who direct deposits the difference into wife’s account.

              I don’t know if this factored in, but the first friend is on his 2nd marriage, the latter is on his 1st.

              1. Jen in RO

                I’m not married, but this is similar to the arrangement me and my boyfriend have. (He makes about 3 times more than me.) Since we now live in his apartment, he pays all the bills and makes all the big purchases (furniture, appliances etc). For other things, from groceries to holidays, we pay on a “who’s got money available right now” basis and we don’t keep track of it at all. It works fine for us, but the fact that we make enough money to live comfortably is also a factor. It probably wouldn’t work this well if we were struggling.

            4. Tris Prior

              I used to make 3x as much as my partner did (those were the days..). We had separate finances, so we just sort of worked out what we thought was a fair split – I was in charge of the large mortgage, he took on many of the smaller bills like utilities and such. The trick is to talk honestly about what feels fair to each party.

            5. Natalie

              I had a significantly higher income in my last relationship and I know at least 2 couples with substantial income disparities.

              My ex and I did a percentage split – if my income was 75% of our joint income, I paid 75% of shared expenses (rent, utilities, car). We modified food to 50/50 because he ate so much more than I did, and we were each responsible for our own debt, clothes, work lunch, etc.

              The 2 couples I know have the higher income partner pay for big ticket items, which in our area is housing and transportation. In one couple, the lower income partner pays for utilities and I think they split food more or less but I’m not positive. In the other couple, the lower income partner is doing Americorps and thus makes nothing, so they are basically just responsible for their personal bills.

            6. Jessa

              We always did it all in one account and just pay the bills. But I know a lot of people that go proportional to income, each puts in X% to the main bill account and keeps the rest separate. That does mean one has more to spend, and some people find that unfair, but the bills get paid and all. The % is decided by how much is enough to pay the bills. It also means the one with a bigger income puts in more money than the one without, but that’s how life goes.

              Really if you’re not going to support each other why join accounts and households in the first place? I can understand for instance putting aside money for kids from a former spouse and all, but besides prior obligations you should be equal.

            7. Lora

              ExSpouse and I had a joint account for shared bills (house, utilities, groceries) and our own accounts for everything else. I made about 2X what he did after graduating from college. The way we figured contributions to the joint account was, I paid the mortgage and groceries, and he paid everything else. That roughly matched our income proportions. It worked fine. There was also a certain element of “you’re the one who runs up the big (whatever) bills, you should pay for em”; in my case, he wanted a smaller, more modern house than the one we bought, and I am a picky eater while he isn’t, so it made sense that I pay for the things I wanted more than he did. He was the worst about leaving lights on, turning the thermostat up to ridiculous levels in winter, running A/C when it was 75 degrees instead of opening a window or running a fan, so it made sense that he should pay for utilities.

            8. Steve

              My partner and I have a joint account and each have separate accounts at different banks. I earn more than he does (but he’s one of those “I love my job so much I would work for free” kind of people , so there is no envy or competition about our earning disparity.) We both have split direct deposits with a set percentage going into the joint account for living expenses. We also each have a debit card on the other’s account. I trust him implicitly with my account – but since we can’t marry we’re protecting each other from any family members that might not play fair should anything happen to one of us. By necessity it’s more like a business agreement than anything else.

            9. Malissa

              In my case the person who makes more pays the regular bills. The other person gets the insurance and tax bills. Left over money goes to shared goals, like spending money, vacation fund or savings.

            10. Sutemi

              In our case, there have been times that he makes significantly more and times when I made significantly more. We started off with separate accounts and he paid more expenses; currently we have all joint and I earn all the paychecks.
              I think it is important to have joint financal goals and habits but the accounting works best in different ways for differnt people.

            11. tcookson

              My husband makes about twice as much as me, and we currently have everything joint. We’ve always kept is to that we have the same amount of discretionary money. We’re now (after about 18 years of completely joint) going to introduce some separateness, but it’s still important to both of us that we each still have the same amount of discretionary money. That has been our measure of what’s fair: it doesn’t matter who pays more or less of the necessary things, but one person shouldn’t get more of the fun that the other, because (1) we’re in this together and (2) we both work hard, even if we’re compensated differently.

              1. Fiona

                “because (1) we’re in this together and (2) we both work hard, even if we’re compensated differently.”

                Amen. :)

            12. vvondervvoman

              The fairest way is to do a percentage split. You add up all the joint expenses (deciding on that can be difficult, but once that’s done the hard part is over). For example, I bring in 25% of the household income, and my partner brings in 75%. If our joint expenses are $4,000/month, then I’d pay $1,000 and he’d pay $3,000.

              I looked around at all the ways to do this when our incomes were 5% + 95% and my contribution to the joint expenses would have been laughably low, so we just did all joint, with an extra account for him to save for expensive equipment purchases.

              1. Joey

                Ah, but that’s the magic question. Is it fair for one spouse to have more leftover when you contribute the same percentage wise?

                Sort of similar to whether its fair for jimmy to get a $7k raise to your $5k raise with the only difference being that he started off with a higher salary.

                1. Anne 3

                  I struggle with this sometimes. My partner and I contribute to household expenses 50/50, I make a good amount more than him so I have more left over. But, he’s also home every day at 4 PM, while that’s unthinkable where I work. I guess it’s sort of a trade-off?

            13. kT

              My husband and I started with 2 but moved to 3 when we moved abroad for my job and I became the only wage-earner. It was important to us both that we had the same amount of personal spending money from the joint – because I wouldn’t have been able to make the money I did without his support so it really was our money – he was a part of earning it. When we came back home after 3 years he got a job but because he’d been out of the workforce for 3 years it really affected his earning power (just as it does for women who take a break when they have young kids) so it wouldn’t have been fair to switch back to 2 – I would have been paying house bills proportionally but I would still have been left with more allowance than him. Not fair since we’re a team. So we’ve kept it at 2, and the disparity in income hasn’t affected us because we each get exactly the same amount of discretionary income and all house spend/savings are from the joint.

              But I have more personal savings than he does because I don’t spend all my allowance each month – but that’s because I like to have a stash of ‘running away’ money (even though we’ve been together over 20 years and I’m not planning on going anywhere, it still makes me happy to know it’s there).

        8. Jamie

          We do everything completely joint – but we do consult before large purchases.

          I rarely buy anything more spendy than nail polish and he doesn’t think a new lawn mower is a large purchase “if we need it” so it took a little bit in the beginning to work out the bumps.

          1. tcookson

            That’s kind of how we are, except that we’re both kind of spenders. I tend to buy a lot of little things that add up (clothes, makeup, tablecloths for every season and holiday, etc.) and he tends to go for the one expensive thing (mountain bike, kayak, etc.). He never can understand how I’ve spent so much and have “nothing” to show for it, and I never can understand how he just goes out and buys a big-ticket item.

            1. VintageLydia

              You are me and your husband is my husband. Part of it is when we need little household stuff I’m normally the one to go out and purchase it because to me it’s an errand. Hubby only goes shopping for fun stuff or for groceries, so we may spend the same amount in a month but I bought a throw, some pillows, and a doodad for the kid and he bought a new power tool. Though sometimes I feel guilty when I have a large purchase just for me (clothes or makeup or an electronic device or whatever) since most of my purchases are really household purchases, though that’s all on me. Hubby wishes I’d spend less on the house so I could spend more on me. He couldn’t care two licks about a throw pillow anyway :P

        9. doreen

          We have both separate and joint accounts- but only for convenience. Both paychecks are deposited into the joint checking account, and all bills are paid out of it. We each have a separate savings account with the same bank, which is generally used for money that we don’t want sucked away in general bill paying – for example, a tax refund or a bonus of some sort. Then there are various other separate accounts- I set up the 529 accounts for the kids college tuition and I was the one eligible to join a credit union ( in the days of payroll deduction) , so those accounts list me as the owner.

          The differences between this and what other people have described is that we don’t think of the separate accounts as separate money, There aren’t any allowances – both paychecks go into and we each spend money out of the joint account. It’s not going to work for everyone though- my head doesn’t explode when he buys golf clubs and his doesn’t explode when I buy shoes.

        10. Catzie

          We have two seperate accounts. My husband makes more money than I do, so he is in charge of all the household bills, his student loans, & groceries. I pay for our vehicles, my student loans, any discretionary expenses and I am in charge of our savings. It works pretty well. I make sure we accumulate a rainy day fund, and the rest of my check is just fun money. :) We both contribute to our own retirement funds.

        11. COT

          My husband and I (married about 4 years) started out with a joint account for most money and separate “fun money” accounts into which we each got an equal amount each month. That was helpful while we were learning how to combine our finances and reconcile our spending habits, but it got to be more complicated than we wanted. We quickly ditched the separate accounts and now do everything jointly. At times we’ve had very similar incomes and at times very disparate (and which of us is the higher earner has varied).

          Our fiscal philosophies are similar enough that it doesn’t cause major disputes when one of makes a big discretionary purchase (and we usually talk through anything costing more than $50-100 or so before buying it). We like the simplicity of having joint accounts, and over time have learned to put our spending practices in sync enough that we’re both content and feel that our system is fair.

          My husband does keep separate bank accounts for a couple of side gigs he has, and the money he earns from those projects tends to either be reinvested in the next project or used for the really big “fun” purchases he wants to make for himself.

        12. Ann Furthermore

          We just have one joint checking account and savings account. It just seemed easier than trying to maintain separate accounts for each of us and moving money around each month. My husband and I are both pretty sensible about money, and we don’t have any spats about who spends how much on what. He doesn’t get on my case for how much I spend on my hair, or my mani-pedis, and I don’t care how much he spends on camping stuff or tools at Home Depot. Our unspoken rule is that if either of us is going to spend over a certain amount, we let the other know. We each still have our own credit cards, but as a rule, we try to pay cash for everything we can.

          And even though it’s very un-liberated of me, I let him pay all the bills. He does it all online, and he’s got the timing all worked out for when our paychecks will hit the bank versus when to send out the mortgage payment, and so on. I take care of my own credit cards, but he pays all the household stuff. He likes knowing exactly what’s going on there, and I am a Finance IT geek and spend each day up to my ears in accounting details. So the last thing I want to do when I get home is think about bills. It works out really well.

          We got the mortgage for our first house through the bank my husband had been using for many years. If we agreed to automatic withdrawals, they were willing to reduce the rate by a quarter point. So I just closed my accounts and we moved everything into his.

          When I sold my townhome, I made a nice chunk of change on it and saved most of it for the down payment on the house, but I still had a bit left over in my checking account. We went to the bank to close my account, and the branch manager had us come into her office, she asked why I was closing my account, told me I’d been such a good customer — the standard sales pitch to get me to stay. I told her I was not unhappy with them, we were just combining accounts and using my husband’s because of the mortgage.

          So I finally got a cashier’s check for the balance, and we left. And as soon as we were outside, my husband asked me, “Did you see the look she gave me?” I didn’t know what he was talking about. But I guess the branch manager was really giving him the stink-eye during our whole conversation, and he was sure that she believed that he was coercing me to close my bank account and give him all my money.

          1. Jessica

            I don’t think that’s un-liberated if he’s better about having a system for paying the bills monthly than you are. I am meticulous about our monthly and yearly budget and have taken care of bills since we got married. We balance accounts together every month, but my husband takes care of both of our retirement account parts of things. (We’re both conservative when it comes to those accounts, but he’s better about the losses than I am, so I just figure it’s better for him to look at those statements, particularly these past few years. My financial planner laughed at me and told me that he has never before recommended this, but that I should keep putting what I’m putting in, make it more risky, and then quit looking at the statements. The “don’t look” advice was against the grain for him, but I’m good with putting that on my husband’s plate. All I want to know is if I’m on track and what’s in there now. I don’t want to see the actual loss/gains, because I know I’ll pull losses much more quickly than I should at my age. I’m worse about that than my husband due to my upbringing, which I understand and am compensating for. Heck, one of the reasons my husband and I are so compatible is that his strengths complement my weaknesses and vice versa, so that’s just part of marriage to me: play to your strengths.)

        13. AVP

          If you search on Slate.com, the writer Jessica Grose did a GREAT and very detailed series on this a few years ago.

        14. Allison

          Mvelopes! :) http://www.mvelopes.com/

          You can use envelopes to create “his & hers” spending/personal expenses envelopes, and set up other envelopes for the expenses, etc. This one is great because it’s a little more forward-thinking than budget tools like Mint (as far as I’m aware, I’ve never actually used Mint, just heard lots about it), which may be more interested in where you DID spend your money, rather than where you’re GOING to spend your money.

        15. Cathi

          We just never combined. *shrug*

          He moved in with me into the place I’d been living in for a couple years, so I just kept paying rent and utilities like before. When he had to get a new car we put both our names on the title, and pulled from both our savings to pay for it outright so one person wasn’t taking a massive hit. I assume if/when we buy a house we’ll put both our names on the title/mortgage, but I’ll be the one bankrolling it since it’s the status quo. He tends to buy the groceries and pay for our outings more often than I do, but we don’t really keep track. We added each other as beneficiaries to our 401(k)s.

          Despite never physically combining the money, when we married it was just natural to mentally combine things. We talk about “well, with my savings and your savings WE have $X” or how “we” have spent too much on restaurants this week etc… Once his student loans are out of deferment, the majority of the money to pay them off ASAP will come from my account, but “we” will be paying them off.

        16. Katie the Fed

          These answers are great! Thank you everyone. I’m still no closer to coming up with a workable plan for us, but we’ll figure it out.

      2. Dawn K

        I’ve been married 21 years. Everything is in one pot but I handle the finances (but he knows what is going on too). It worked well when I was a SAHM. However, I have an exceptional husband who sacrifices his wants and needs to make sure me and the kids have what they want and need, is better at housework than I am, and basically does it all because I am in a Master’s program right now on top of working full time and having kids. I hit the jackpot in the husband lottery!

      1. VictoriaHR

        I would also love a forum, and would be happy to mod as well.

        I recommend using high-quality silk flowers instead of real ones. That way you can get the exact colors that you want, way ahead of time, and get everything made without waiting for a florist that may or may not deliver. Afloral.com is a good source, I’ve bought really nice silks from there to make wreaths. Also you can then keep your flowers forever if you want, or break down the bouquets and make a wreath for your door, or various other projects. Fresh flowers are just not worth it, IMO.

    2. ChristineSW

      Katie – Obviously I’m not Alison, lol, but just wanted to make you aware that if you are on LinkedIn, there is a group for AAM readers. It’s been quiet lately, but it’s still pretty awesome. Jamie set it up for us maybe a year or year and a half ago.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, I hear that. A forum isn’t something I plan on because of workload and because it’s somewhat outside the scope of what I want to do here, but the AAM LinkedIn Group can be used that way!

        If you click on the Connect link at the very top of the page, you’ll find instructions for joining it.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          (That said, I will add that I totally understand the desire for something like a forum, because this group is awesome. The open threads are really fun, and I can see wanting to have that option an ongoing basis, and with a bit more organization than these long pages where you have to scroll down for ages.)

      2. Katie the Fed

        Oh that’s good to know. And forums definitely bring out the crazy sometimes.

        I hope Alison has plans in the works to monetize all her expertise – I love that she gives away all this wisdom but I hope she’s being compensated appropriately!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d always like to be compensated more, but between advertising and ebook sales and the general joy the site (usually) brings me, I feel like it earns its keep :)

        2. RB

          Ever been on the SHRM forum? Overall, it’s okay but there are some real snarks on there. I always wince when a newbie asks a question. Even though I’ve been doing HR at a director level for years, I remember what it was like to be new. I hate the way some of those people act. This is one of the few anonymous forums where the vast majority focuses on support and solid advice.

        3. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’ll also note, for people who find this kind of thing interesting — giving away a lot of it for free is what allows me to charge for the times when I don’t. It establishes expertise, demand, etc. So aside from the direct revenue it produces (like advertising), the free stuff is also responsible for some of the paid stuff being viable.

          1. Katie the Fed

            I am interested in it. I’ve always fantasized about branching out and doing my own thing, so I find your gig particularly interesting :)

    3. LizNYC

      I used Costco for my invites and I was very happy with the way they turned out — plus they were so inexpensive! If you plan on having programs, I picked up mine from Bed Bath (we had about 80 people), used the template, and printed them up at home.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Oh that’s good to know! I’m considering using them for flowers as well – they have some wedding packages that look very reasonable.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Also: Do not stress about flowers. Flowers are beautiful no matter what you do with them.

          We just got the final batch of our photos back, so I can share some pictures of what no-stress planning ended up looking like!

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails001.jpg

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails024.jpg

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails025.jpg

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails029.jpg

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails022.jpg

          https://www.askamanager.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/AMdetails010.jpg

          1. Katie the Fed

            Those are so beautiful!

            I’ve been totally baffled when I get asked what my colors are, or what the theme of the wedding is. Um, getting married is the theme. Right?

            1. Diet Coke Addict

              Yeah, a “theme” is not necessary. For flowers, I basically hired a florist, gave her a general idea (“something small! Small blossoms. Nothing pink”) and let her go wild. She’s a professional–she probably knows better than I do, after all.

              Trust your professionals. If you hired them, you trust their work, right? They don’t need micromanaging! (I should hope not.)

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yes! We did not have colors and it was weird when people kept asking about them. We did tell the florist “fire colors,” but they weren’t the colors of the wedding, just the flowers. Then people started acting like they were the wedding colors, which they were not.

              Just tell them your theme is “pretty things” and refuse to get drawn into that madness.

              1. Jessa

                The funny thing is we had colours (my sister the MOH wore dark rose and the bridesmaids wore paler pink in the same shade palette,) I picked flowers, etc. And the florist fumphed out on me, heck the whole venue went sideways and dumped us when they heard we were having no bar bill (too many alcoholics in both families.)

                So my sister got in and picked new stuff (flowers and venue) that I didn’t see til the wedding. I was getting married in New York, living in Florida and husband’s family is from Massachusetts.

                So much for planning it all went out the window anyway giggle. Also I was buying all the dresses and had them sent and told the Boston contingent (the two bridesmaids – my husband’s sister and the fiancee of the best man,) that I didn’t care what they did alterations wise to the dresses as long as they did the same thing to them.

                This was in the late 80s and they were pale pink sateen with lace netting on them and I thought they might hate the netting as too frou.

                So don’t kill yourself on planning, it’s more important that the right people are there and have fun.

          2. Jennifer O

            Such beautiful flowers!

            The photo of your bouquet with the photo of your dad (I’m presuming) brought tears to my eye. What a wonderful way to have him with you when you get married.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Yes, that’s my dad! That way I felt like he was with me, a little, when I walked down the aisle.

              I got teary every time I looked at it (and still do).

              1. Jessa

                Gorgeous. You looked gorgeous the flowers are amazing, what a wonderful idea about the photo, I wish I’d thought of it. The venue is GORGEOUS. What flavour was the cake? You had a beautiful wedding.

                1. fposte

                  I have wondered if bakers and caterers have to guard against fake wedding planning from people who just want to taste cake.

                2. vvondervvoman

                  Re fake cake tasters–yes! I’m planning my wedding in Sonoma County, and there are tasting fees–if you book, it’s comped, but if you don’t book you, they charge you! If I’m recalling correctly, the caterer charged close to $80ish and the baker wanted $50. It sort of forces you to have basically picked them and worked out most of the nitty gritty, making the tasting the final confirmation.

                  I think it’s regional though, Sonoma/Napa is the #1 domestic destination wedding spot so I’m sure that plays into it somehow.

              2. Beth Anne

                LOVE all the pictures and the photo of your Dad. My sisters friend found one where you put a photo of your dad on your shoes so it’s like your Dad is still walking you down the aisle but I like this on the flowers as well. Will have to show it to my sister who is getting married in March (our dad passed away too).

          3. Not So NewReader

            The cake is so awesome. I would have had to stare at it a bit before cutting it…
            I love the pic of Dad, too. A tender/sweet remembrance.

          4. Anonymous

            So meaningful. Was that a picture of your Dad connected to your flowers. That was very special.

    4. BG

      Which open thread did you post in asking for wedding advice? I just got engaged over the holidays and I’m already freaking out about planning a wedding!

      1. Katie the Fed

        Congratulations!!

        I think it was the last open thread, two weeks ago.

        My advice: start looking at venues asap. Apparently November-December is engagement season and all the places I’ve been looking at are booking up fast for next fall, even into 2015.

        Other people told me to focus on the 1-2 things that are really important and don’t stress on the rest. So photography and food are really important to me – I’ll focus my money/attention on those and not really stress about linens and DJs and whatnot.

        1. Diet Coke Addict

          The biggest money-saver for us, venue-wise, was going off-season. Holding a wedding outside of peak season (which is roughly May through September) was wildly cheaper. Ours (Sunday in April) is at a super-nice, very experience venue, for a song. Lots of vendors are also much cheaper in the off-season as well, and availability is more open–instead of your florist doing three wedding in one day, she might have only your wedding all week, etc.

          Apracticalwedding.com is a lifesaver.

          1. Kat M

            Yeah, I got married in January due to logistics (husband graduated in December), and we were able to get a gorgeous location on very short notice because, well, who the hell gets married in January? ;)

          2. Jessa

            We did that we got married in April, we were going to go earlier but husband is Catholic and we had to shuffle in around Lent.

            1. Jessa

              My biggest issue since it was 2 April was convincing him to explain to his practical joke loving friends what I’d do to them if they messed up the rental car. Since the car was NOT ours I was not going to go for a shaving cream filled back seat kind of prank.

              Also he has some physical issues so the tux had to be carried up from Florida (lots of special alterations needed, was not going to count on them being able to do them last minute in NY) so if they messed it up they were going to get hurt.

        2. Ann Furthermore

          Since you mention a DJ, I’ll tell you what we did that saved us a ton of money: we didn’t have a band or a DJ. My husband and I are not fans of wedding bands. We had the reception at my parents’ house (at the time they had a huge, lovely home up in the mountains outside Denver, where we live) and my mom put her foot down and said she did not want a DJ, as she does not like them. Her house, her rules.

          So — we loaded up an iPod with all the music we wanted to play, and that was our reception music. We wanted to start with slower, quieter music when the older relatives were still there and visiting with people, and then work up to more 80’s/classic rock by the end of the evening when it would probably be the just the younger crowd left. So I downloaded all the music we wanted to play, and then renamed each song in the playlist with a number to force it to play in that order. There’s probably an easier way to do that, but I didn’t know what it was. Plus this was 9 years ago and iPods were still a pretty new thing. The only problem was keeping the volume at a steady level.

          It took a long time, but it was completely free, other than the cost of downloading songs we didn’t already have. And it let us do a couple silly things too like having “See My Vest” sung by Montgomery Burns, in The Simpsons take on 101 Dalmatians included on the playlist. That was actually really fun, and the reaction was just what we expected: almost no one noticed, but those few that did thought it was hilarious.

      2. Gene

        Here’s one place where it came up.

        https://www.askamanager.org/2013/12/how-can-i-get-employees-to-stop-saving-all-their-vacation-time-for-december-i-dont-want-my-photos-on-my-companys-facebook-page-and-more.html

        And my post there:

        We got married in Vegas. Chartered a bus for the day and rented the Unitarian Hall for the reception. Sent out invites to everyone telling them the day and for them to call us with their hotel info and phone number.

        The day before the wedding we went to Costco and got two half-sheet cakes (chocolate and vanilla) and everything needed to serve a buffet-style sandwich and sides lunch with beer and wine. Then we looked at where people were staying and called them all with approximate times to be waiting outside their hotel. One uncle had connections and got the two families, best man and wife, and Maid of Honor and boyfriend a comped dinner at a nice Strip restaurant.

        Day of the wedding I met the bus driver in front of our hotel and we drove around Vegas picking up guests. Driver side of the aisle was Groom side. We met up with my bride at A Little White Chapel’s Drive Up Wedding Window, went inside to do paperwork and the minister came onto the bus. The Lovely Bride walked up the aisle while everyone hummed the Wedding March and we did the deed.

        We had the bus driver give everyone a bathroom break, then kill some time driving to the hall to give us time to get stuff set up. We drove madly to the hall and set up the reception, then did the receiving line as everyone got off the bus. The driver pulled out his lunchbox, but we told him to come on in and enjoy the reception.

        Everyone had a fun time except a girlfriend of one of wife’s old roommates who was a status-obsessed b5 from Hollywood who just “couldn’t imagine how ANYONE could ruin a wedding like this!” After the reception, everyone except us got back on the bus and got delivered to their hotels safely. We cleaned up, loaded stuff into the car and went back to our hotel.

        Total budget, less than $2000, excluding the trip to Vegas. And we didn’t have to entertain anyone. Since family and friends are scattered coast to coast and border to border, travel for them was (relatively) inexpensive and they could pick the budget for their accomodations.

      3. Beth Anne

        Just don’t register for a Chandelier…over the weekend we worked on my sisters wedding registry and we found this “check list” of things you should register for…I’m not kidding one of the items to register for was a CHANDELIER…

        1. Katie the Fed

          This industry blows my mind. I’ve just discovered that “reception dresses” are a thing. It’s like there’s a team of evil geniuses who sit around thinking of new ways to get brides to spend money.

    5. Beth Anne

      I’m not married but I live with my Mom and Sister and we basically have joint finances. Basically everyone has their own checking account and we all put “bill money” into a joint checking account or we get it in cash to pay some bills that need to be paid in cash. We’re a little different sometimes people just give me all the money and I just pay the bills out of my account. Lately I don’t even care as long as the bills get paid HA.

      The biggest change to our lives was getting budgeting software. We use a program called YNAB…it’s been a lifesaver and makes budgeting way easier…don’t get me wrong I LOVE EXCEL I just couldn’t find a budget in excel I liked.

  16. ThursdaysGeek

    “My boss is really great, but…”
    I see a lot of comments and posts that start like this, and then the but part is something that makes them a really terrible manager. Why do we think they are great?

    1. Katie the Fed

      Sometimes it’s because people want to see the best in them, or separate out how they are as a person vs. how they are as a manager. I’ll cut someone a fair amount of slack if I think they’re generally a decent person trying their best. For me it’s all about intentions – if I can tell you mean well, you get the benefit of the doubt. But if I think you’re a cutthroat jerk who’s out to get ahead at everyone else’s expense, we’re going to have problems.

    2. fposte

      My guess: sometimes it’s a “I don’t want to admit my boss isn’t great,” sometimes it’s “I like my boss in ways that are important and haven’t done the math about this sucky thing,” and sometimes it’s a terrible thing that only involves 5% of the time.

    3. LisaLyn

      Good question! I would probably say the same thing about my manager. The great things are that he does really stick up for us, will admit it when he’s wrong, is a pleasant, really, really nice guy, is interesting, takes the review process seriously… other things, too, but you get the point.

      However, is is terrible at dealing with under-performers. He coddles. It’s driving morale with the good workers WAY DOWN.

      So I think in my case, he’s great as a person, but there is this one area of management he sucks at. Even so, I feel reluctant to call him and out and out terrible manager. He has some redeeming qualities!

    4. Nonprofit Office Manager

      Also, if someone doesn’t include *any* sort of positive acknowledgement of their boss, people are especially quick to say “you need to get some perspective,” “maybe the problem is actually with you”, etc. By including the “my boss is really great” part, people can at least appear to have a more balanced view of the situation at hand.

    5. Ruffingit

      This is sort of a joke on another forum I’m on where people write in about relationship issues. It’s always stuff like this:

      I’m seeing this amazing man, but…he was recently released from prison for child molestation, he killed his last girlfriend, he’s a drug addict, but only on the weekends…

      Yeah. If you need a qualifier, the person is not amazing, OK?? LOL!

      1. Jamie

        Yes, the people who think dealbreaking HOLY CRAP THE CALLS ARE COMING FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE issues are the same as normal qualifiers like:

        He’s really great but he backs into the driveway when he parks, who does that? (Seriously, who does that? Married almost 10 years and still annoys the crap out of me.)

        Or he’s really great, but not a slave to fashion.

        1. Ruffingit

          It really is astounding Jamie that people cannot see these major red flags as the deal breakers that they are. Massive denial reigns supreme.

          1. Jamie

            Yep. The first time I got married I was in my very early 20s and I just knew that anything bad was temporary and I’d fix everything!

            I learned I can fix exactly nothing.

            The second time I married in my mid-30s and took stock of every one of his flaws and annoying quirks and asked myself if they all got 100X worse could I still love him? Yes, and yes.

            No blinders the second time out. Although he still can’t park or use a hamper.

            1. Jessa

              I don’t get the back in as an issue. I mean on some streets it’s required, trying to back out will get you hit.

    6. NylaW

      For me it’s that my boss is generally a great person. He is a lot of fun outside of work, easy going, and easy to talk to. But as a manager he is not always the best and on occasion is he is downright crappy. It depends on the situation really.

    7. Jamie

      I think it’s because we’re all human and most of us have some pretty great attributes and some that make people want to hide under the sink when they hear us coming.

      For me, it’s about how I feel about them overall. If the sum total of my experience with someone is generally really positive and good but if I had a magic wand they could stop sucking at ____ then it’s a “they’re great, but…”

      If I generally have little respect for someone and think they are more trouble than they’re worth that’s a “despite how annoying X is, she’s really great at ____.”

      None of us are all good or all bad and if it’s not breaking any legal or ethical laws it’s okay to have ambiguous feelings about people sometimes.

    8. Noelle

      Because they are really great people but terrible bosses. I have two supervisors and they both fall into this category. They are both the nicest people imaginable, but they are not good managers and they don’t really back up their staff. They’d be great as friends or coworkers, but not as managers.

  17. anonymous

    I have a question about how to communicate something to my supervisor (She is a Director and I am a manager). I know and agree with the best practice that says managers should not become very close friends with their staff. However, my current Director seems to have taken this to the extreme. She does not say hello to us (her team of three — two managers and one entry level assistant) when she comes in. Does not say good bye when she leaves — she usually slips away unnoticed. The past holidays, no Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays. No Happy new Year, or how were your holidays. No gifts to us or even an acknowledgement of the job we have been doing the past year. Outside of staff meetings and official one on one meetings and team meetings she barely talks to us. When she does it is usually about a work-related matter. To have her speak to us and to approach us in a non-work related way is rare.

    Perhaps this is just her personal style. Perhaps she was traumatized in the past by previous staff. But the impression she is giving – at least what I am getting — is she does not care to get to know us as human beings and beyond a work level. I can certainly continue to relate to her in that way. But there is something lacking in a leadership where you don’t get the impression that your leader doesn’t really care about you and literally just sees you as a repleaceable cog in a machine. It is hard to be loyal to someone who doesn’t seem to care about getting to know you beyond the surface level.

    Is it too much to ask for a human element to your supervisor’s management style? If management seeks our feedback regarding her leadership, I know this will be at the top of my mind. How appropriate would it be to bring this up in a formal review process if asked?

    1. Katie the Fed

      I wouldn’t bring it up.

      This is a difference in personal styles – you prefer more of a relationship with your colleagues, she doesn’t. I had a boss like this as well and found it a bit offputting, but I also found him to be impartial and generally fair too, which I liked. I felt I knew what I was getting with him.

      I’d leave it alone. She might warm up over time, or you could try to engage her in occasional small talk to see if she warms up. But be conscious of her time and schedule – I am not one for morning small talk and it annoys me because I already have dozens of emails to get through, things to do, etc.

      1. Jamie

        I wouldn’t either. I mean, we say hello when we run into each other for the first time in the day – but only seek each other out to say goodbye when there is a question of which of us is locking up. I don’t seek anyone out to greet them and I would find it odd if my boss did it to me.

        Perhaps this is just her personal style. Perhaps she was traumatized in the past by previous staff. But the impression she is giving – at least what I am getting — is she does not care to get to know us as human beings and beyond a work level. I can certainly continue to relate to her in that way. But there is something lacking in a leadership where you don’t get the impression that your leader doesn’t really care about you and literally just sees you as a embraceable cog in a machine. It is hard to be loyal to someone who doesn’t seem to care about getting to know you beyond the surface level.

        I don’t understand any of this. Is she professional and fair? The only thing I felt was a work place issue was not being told how you’re doing in the year, but since it was in the same sentence as lack of holiday gift I’m not sure if you mean chit chat or that you’re not getting proper reviews or opportunities to discuss career development. Those are issues.

        And, tbh, some of us just don’t do small talk because it feels forced. I can do it, I learned to fake that pretty well, but I prefer genuine interaction where I’m not being deliberately friendly to appease someone.

        We’re all replaceable – the goal should be to be as inconvenient to replace as possible which motivates them to keep you happy to retain you – but with the exception of genuine friendships which just happen to develop at work a lot of what you’re talking about if just superficial social interaction – it’s not getting to know someone as a person, not really.

        This reads like you’re emotionally invested in having a personal friendship with your boss – or her going through the motions – and that’s just not necessary to have a productive working relationship.

        Is it too much to ask for a human element to your supervisor’s management style?

        It’s not inhuman to be satisfied with a strictly professional relationship.

        1. khilde

          “I don’t understand any of this. Is she professional and fair? ”

          Jamie – as I read OP’s comment my mind immediately went to (as it always does in these situations) to the topic we talked about several years ago regarding task-focused vs. people-focused individuals. I love that you said, “I don’t understand any of this” — you wouldn’t!! :) And I mean that with a big, hearty laugh and smile on my face. That’s just it – task-focused people have absolutely NO PROBLEM doing a job with someone without an assurance of a relationship in place. People-focused people, on the other hand, have a really hard time DOING a job if they are not certain of a personal relationship to some degree. Understanding that concept and embracing it has been the single best thing I have done for my personal and work life.

          By the content of what OP is saying and asking for, she’s talking all about personal relationships. Becuase yes – if the boss is fair, professional, credible, and produces results (well, we’re assuming). But to someone that’s overly people-focused, if there’s little humanity being shown or given in the workplace that’s a real problem for some people. It feels cold and impresonal, etc. I completely understand what the OP is talking about. Relationships are important to her and are seen as being necessary in order to do the job. The boss? Totally opposite and task-focused. “I can do the job whether I like you or not and I don’t need to take time to make sure a relationship is in place.”

        2. anonymous

          The weird thing is her office is directly right across the cubicles where we are — literally five feet from where I sit. So walking by us to say hello or to say see you tomorrow is not a big stretch at all since we are in very close physical proximity to one another.

          I am a pretty task-oriented person myself and I completely understand someone being busy or focused on task and not so much on social niceties. But come on, would it really be that much of a bother or an inconvenience to say hello, greet or otherwise show some human interaction with your staff once in a while?

          I am not asking for a Christmas gift or for someone to go out of their way to make small talk chitchat with me. I am not asking or wanting to be a friend. I just am puzzled at the lack of warmth and a human touch. In a stressful office where there is a lot of work to be done a human touch can go a long way to raise and maintain good morale.

          On a completely task-oriented level — she is good at delegation and communicating expectations. Her management and communication style of being direct and to the point I particularly welcome after being at workplaces where people did not communicate well. If that is solely the level she wants to relate to her staff that is her prerogative and as her subordinate I have no choice but to adapt myself to her style.

          But I don’t think making a connection between staff morale and human-level interaction in the workplace — and expecting a supervisor to show some interest on that front — is unreasonable either.

          1. khilde

            I forgot to put it down, but I do agree with your original question of “is it too much to ask” for some basic common deceny? I don’t think so at all. I understand what you’re saying here – it’s uncivil to so blatantly not acknowledge other people in the situations you describe.

          2. Jen in RO

            I agree with you. I would hate to feel like just another cog in the machine that doesn’t even deserve a hello! I would bring it up, if the timing was right.

          3. Jamie

            I’m not arguing your point, I know a lot of people feel that way and it’s totally valid…but I am curious though, when people say other should show interest do they want them to feign it if they aren’t really interested?

            If someone was genuinely interested in their coworkers or reports, etc. on a personal level it would have come up in conversation so the only time it’s an issue is when it hasn’t come up organically. So if it didn’t happen naturally but someone started personal chit chat or saying hello because they were told it would be good for morale…is that good?

            I personally wouldn’t want someone to ask me about my weekend or say good morning deliberately and specifically because “Jamie needs warmth and to feel like you care about her.” I would find it embarrassing and patronizing if someone acted more warmly toward me than they felt just because they were told I needed that or it would help morale.

            I would always prefer genuine interest or disinterest over fake niceties and not knowing if someone is asking about my dogs because they are interested or they want to appear interested.

            I’m afraid this is sounding snarky and it genuinely isn’t – I do get that it can hurt people’s feelings if you wish someone took an interest in you personally but doesn’t…but how do you rectify that in a real way because no one can force themselves to be interested in others…you can only force the behavior. So the question is if the behavior was changed, but there was still no real interest is that enough?

            And fwiw I’m not talking about the greetings. I don’t want people seeking me out to say hello and goodbye – but I certainly don’t walk past people not acknowledging them or saying hey or whats up or whatever when I see them…that’s rude and being courteous is the least someone can do and I can see where that would be offputting. I’m talking about the interest in others as people regarding loyalty…that’s beyond a greeting because saying hello or whatever doesn’t breed loyalty either.

            1. Anonymous

              Jamie I think you misunderstand me. If you were a supervisor wouldn’t you want to know if an aspect of your day to day personal or communication style were alienating and was off-putting your staff? And if this problem can be solved by doing very simple things day to day and costs no money, wouldn’t it make sense to at least make an effort to do so?

              I don’t get this mentality of letting staff having to tolerate a lot from the boss and having to bend over backwards to read into their personalities and “manage up” — and the boss can get away with not caring to do the same, is let off the hook from such expectations — just because they are the boss.

              If someone were personally not interested in saying hello to me or greeting me or acknowledging my existence although we are in close physical proximity to one another and they don’t feel like making the effort to do so — well, I hope that person is not surprised if they find me become alienated, unhappy and actively job hunting.

              I don’t think it is too much to ask to expect bosses to make adjustments to their personal and communication styles downwards the same way support staff and subordinates are expected to do so upwards. It’s not about feigning interest. It is about leadership and what type of leader you are and how much of an effort you take as a leader to relate to your subordinates. And whether or not you care to make an effort.

      2. Catzie

        I agree. My boss acts pretty similar to this. He’s said many times (on his own, I’ve never mentioned it) that he’s not one for micro-managing or the personal stuff, we are professionals and he knows we will get the job done. Most days I don’t know he’s here unless I need him for something. And when I say goodbye or give him any kind of greeting, he always looks surprised. It’s just a different style than I am used to, and I’m still acclimating to it, but it’s just how he is. He really is a great boss in all the important ways, it’s just my own preconceptions that need adjusting.

    2. Kara Ayako

      If you’re specifically asked about this person’s management style, I think that’s perfectly legitimate feedback to bring up. You might want to start it with, “This might just come down to personal style, but,” then go on to say what you’ve said here. There’s a difference between not being friends with your employees and not being polite or acknowledging success. This is ABSOLUTELY something that will limit her upward mobility in most companies. This feedback may be valuable to her.

    3. fposte

      Can you tell if you’re performing at the level she wants? To me, that would be the important thing rather than the saying hello stuff, which is, as Katie says, more of a style thing. From what you’ve said, you may not actually be able to tell how well you’re succeeding, and in that case that’s a legitimate thing to mention because it goes beyond style.

    4. Colette

      Could you reframe the way you’re thinking about this?

      Maybe she’s busy, or has a lot of personal issues she’s dealing with (debt, death of someone close to her, medical issues, a new dog who insists on barking all night every night, addiction), etc., and she prefers to focus on work rather than the personal interactions that may require energy she doesn’t have right now.

      Maybe she just doesn’t like socializing at work, or she doesn’t want to appear to favor someone more than the rest of the team, or she doesn’t want to share what’s going on in her life, so feels she can’t ask about yours.

      Maybe she’s someone for whom the holidays are hard, so she doesn’t want to talk about them.

      It seems like you’re taking this a little personally, when it likely has nothing to do with you whatsoever.

      If you want to change it, you could start by asking her things like “did you have a good weekend?” and let her pick it up if she wishes, but I wouldn’t say anything else to her.

      1. Jen in RO

        I don’t think saying hello counts as socializing at work. It’s just common courtesy toward another human being. I don’t think Anon necessarily wants to be social with the manager, s/he just wants the manager to acknowledge s/he exists.

        1. Colette

          It depends. Is the manager deliberately going in a different direction when she sees Anon, or is she just juggling three bags en route to her office? If Anon is at her desk working, I don’t necessarily think the manager needs to interrupt her to say hi. Similarly, if the manager doesn’t pass Anon on her way to her office, I wouldn’t expect her to go out of her way to say hello.

          But regardless of why the manager doesn’t engage in these social pleasantries, there is no benefit to Anon assuming they are personal and a huge benefit to reframing it (to herself) as “Oh, that’s just how Manager is”.

          1. Judy

            There is certainly a continuum between saying nothing deliberately, saying hello if someone looks up, and my experiences in Europe where each person coming into the office goes by every desk and shakes hands and says good morning.

    5. Jessa

      I would only bring up the issue if not knowing where she is creates problems. IE if you don’t know she’s left and need to know that, or need to be able to ask her something before she goes. That’s critical communication. The rest. It’s a style thing.

      But not acknowledging to your staff that you’re leaving the premises? “I’m going to lunch, back in 60 mins, I have a meeting across town, back tomorrow, if you need something ask Lucretia.” That’s an issue that needs talking about. You shouldn’t have to guess where the manager is if you need them or someone asks you about it (IE an upper manager or important client.)

      1. Windchime

        My boss comes and goes all day long, so it would be a bit silly and disruptive if he were to make these announcements to us multiple times a day. We all have access to his Outlook calendar and can quickly look to see if he is in a meeting, working at home, or whatever.

        Like Jamie, I’m in IT so I also find this a little befuddling. My boss happens to be a very personable, friendly guy who says hello when we see each other, but I definitely don’t seek him out for a greeting and he is the same.

        I had a friend who worked in a different office, where the boss would walk through the office each morning and say “Good Morning” to all of the staff. I thought that sounded nice (but unnecessary); my friend thought the boss was a phony for doing it. Go figure.

  18. Diet Coke Addict

    Here I am, at work! Where our pipes are frozen and we have no running water or flush toilets! And my boss refuses to answer his phone or email!

    Out of the five employees, only me and one other are shocked by this. Apparently the other three are like “Eh.” One time the power went out and the boss made us stay here–with no phone, internet, or electricity, or any reason to stay whatsoever.

    1. fposte

      Dude, you’re going to get running water in spades when the thaw hits. Are you going to get stuck with that mess?

    2. ChristineSW

      I would think that’d be against OSHA regulations. is there another management-level person you can contact?

      1. Diet Coke Addict

        Better not get stuck with the mess. They don’t pay me enough to deal with that mess.

        The only other management-level person is our “HR person,” which is….my boss’s wife….who actually works at another company (I know). Another employee and I have been hunting for the actual regulations (as we are in Ontario) and having no luck. What a mess.

        1. Random

          I’m pretty sure you don’t have to go in if there’s no running water! My friend (Ontario paralegal) said it’s in the regulations!

          1. Diet Coke Addict

            The second one applies to health care and residential facilities, but the first one is the building code, which looks like what we have been searching for. Thank you!

    3. Becca

      This happened to me once at my work. Power went out for 4 hours during the winter and we were all crouched by the window for the light. We called the power company and they said power wouldn’t be on until after we closed. Boss just walked away. Half an hour later, it came back on and she was like “Oh darn, I thought we’d get out early” ….uh…..YOU’RE the boss!

  19. Vacay Days

    I work for a small family-owned company. In the past, we have completely CLOSED from Christmas to New Years Day. So, when discussing my vacation time, it was always, “Our policy is 10 days off, plus we’re closed over the holidays.”

    This year, the agreement was that the staff would “check in” each day, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Years Day. We didn’t have to constantly be available, but checking our email was important. I had a few tasks come up that I needed to do, but they didn’t take too long. The point being, though, that I had to step away from my family visits and give attention to my work tasks.

    I realize I’m lucky to have this flexible policy, but should I bring up to my managers that I feel like I have a perk taken away? That being – we used to have 3 weeks completely off and now only have 2? Also – shouldn’t a vacation policy depend on the person, not the overall company policy?

    1. Katie the Fed

      I’d leave it alone – it sounds pretty fair to me. And company-wide policies are better than tailoring for the individual – that’s how people get resentful.

    2. fposte

      I don’t think it makes sense to just say you’re sad unless you’re offering a suggestion–they almost certainly knew that employees weren’t going to be delighted by this.

      So do you have a suggestion? Was everything that came up for you something that could have waited until January 2 even if other people were working, and is that the foreseeable likelihood for future winter breaks? Are you willing to consider trading off years with colleagues so some can be totally off during that time while you take a turn to be the point person for the organization?

      I’m not sure where you’re going with the last question, but on the face of it I don’t see a problem with a vacation policy being overall (so long as we’re not asking non-exempt workers to work off the clock, of course). Can you explain further?

      1. Vacay Days

        Good points – thanks for writing! By the last question, I meant, for example: Should a person’s vacations days depend on things like seniority and employee contract negotiations OR should everyone get the same amount of days?

        And – I guess I am just wondering what a normal amount of vacation days should be. As in the past I got 10 days + closed during holidays, now I really only get 10. Many of our clients are closed during the holidays, so all the work I had definitely could have waited. If I did have, say, 15 total days in my contract, I’d most likely take them over the holidays without the expectation to check in, depending on availability of other staff as well.

        1. fposte

          I don’t think there’s a “should” on vacation day policies, and it’s certainly common enough for the same policy to apply to everybody–that’s what it is at my workplace.

          I also don’t think there’s any standard for vacation days. Some people don’t get any. Some people get more than 10. Some people get 10 and don’t use them so they accumulate. An office being closed only on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s certainly isn’t unusual.

          What I feel like I’m hearing is an underlying question as to whether you’re being hard done by under the new policy, and I’d say no, I don’t think so. It’s not as nice as your old one, but it’s still reasonable.

    3. Jax

      I wouldn’t bring it up to management. No matter how you phrase it, it’s going to sound like grumbling.

      You’re looking at it from the perspective of “I had something taken away!” but anyone applying from your job is going to think, “Wow, I get Christmas to New Years off! I just have to check my email and put out fires!”

      I had to work that week, in an industry where lots of our clients were closed. I was getting emails, phone call, and orders from all of them. The office was closed, but all the employees were still catching up on work behind the scenes.

    4. Bonnie

      I think if you are going to have the discussion you need to look at the reason for the policy changed in the first place. You mention that there were a few things that you needed to do. So is it possible that the reason for the policy change is that things were getting missed when the business was slow that was a problem for clients? If that is the reason for the change then you are going to have to be prepared to show that there is another way for that problem to be solved.

      You also mentioned that vacation policy should be determined by the person not the policy. Are you assuming that if the company wasn’t closed that you would those 5 days as additional vacation or are you saying that you would be willing to spend part of your current 10 days of vacation to cover the days you want off during the holidays?

    5. Nonprofit Office Manager

      I would totally bring this up. Typically, I agree that it’s better to offer a solution along with a complaint. In this instance, though, the only solution that would make me happy if I were in this situation is reverting back to the old policy of closing the office entirely. If it were me, I’d probably say something like “You know, it was a pretty big blow when I learned I’d have to continually ‘check in’ over the holidays. To me, having this extra time off was the most meaningful perk of working at X. Being on-call means I can’t actually make plans, travel, or truly be “off”, and thus the new policy negates the main benefits of being on vacation. I understand that the new policy is unlikely to change, but I wanted to share my point of view nonetheless.” If it’s true, you could also point out that when negotiating your salary, you took the holiday closure into consideration. Of course, the company is just going to counter with “well, most offices don’t close over the holidays at all ….”

  20. H. Vane

    I am just out of college, and I have a job I love. I’ve actually been working here since before I graduated (almost two years) and during that time they’ve been extremely flexible with me. The only real issue I have is that the position I’m currently in is considered temporary, even though there is a permanent need for me in my department. Occasionally, people like me are hired on permanently, but rarely does it take this long. Should I be looking for other jobs? I’m paid well, it’s a reputable company, and I like the work. However, it’s not directly in my field of study, I get no PTO or holiday pay, I could probably make more elsewhere, and the whole temporary thing makes me feel a bit insecure. Thoughts?

    1. LisaLyn

      My gut reaction is that yes, you should be looking. For me personally, and you may feel differently, no PTO is a deal-breaker. I think it will become a bigger deal for you in the coming years, too.

      I understand about the temporary thing. I had a job in a department that was funded year to year. It had been that way for seriously 25 years (depending on a government grant thing), but I still always felt a little on edge and decided I didn’t want to have to worry about it, even though it was probably mostly in my head, and moved on.

    2. LMW

      I was in the same position as you last year. In my case, they strung me along for three years as a “temp-to-hire” with no benefits (they did this to a lot of people at the company during this time). I loved the job, loved my manager, but there was nothing to be done about it. So I left and found a job I like even more (except I miss my manager).
      Think of it this way: Right now you have a job, so you have money coming in. You can keep looking, but you don’t need to leave for just anything – you can leave only for something better. That’s what I did. I actually turned down an offer and withdrew from an interview process because I didn’t feel it was a big enough improvement over my current situation. And if your current company offers you a permanent job – great! But looking at your options doesn’t really hurt you in any way and it could improve things for you dramatically. Also, keep in mind that as long as you are a temp, you are kind of on the front line if they company encounters any financial issues, or if they have rules about how long temps can be in positions.

      1. AdAgencyChick

        +1.

        Also, remember that the longer you don’t have PTO, the more this will screw you in future years when job hunting. “Oh, this person doesn’t get vacation time at all now, so we can offer her the minimum two weeks our company offers,” when they’d offer three to another worker who has the same amount of experience as you have, simply because they get three weeks wherever they are now.

    3. Jules

      If you are looking for a permanent position, keep on looking.

      I was at a temp to hire position and eventually they just hired internally, twice. There was nothing wrong with my work, they just had internal re-org and needed to move people around. Sometimes temp to perm position happens, sometimes they don’t.

  21. Just a Reader

    I posted in a open thread awhile ago about having some PTSD as a holdover from my last job, even though I work for a wonderful company, boss and team and have received nothing but excellent feedback.

    I haven’t been able to come close to conquering this yet and I think it’s starting to hurt me a little bit at work. If there’s any recommended reading on surviving a traumatic/abusive workplace I’d love to hear about it.

    1. LizNYC

      I don’t have any recommended reading, but have you considered going to a therapist, even for a few sessions (like 10 or less)? S/he could help you shuffle through your emotions and reactions that are a holdover from your last job.

      After my last two previous jobs, I had a hard time not reacting to my new coworkers as I would to my old ones. I found that taking time to reframe their requests in my head (“was he really being mean or am I just remembering how OldBoss used to ask me?”) helped a lot.

    2. Yup

      Does your new job have an employee assistance program (EAP)? If yes, check it out and see whether any counseling options are offered. Many programs offer a phone counseling session (free and confidential) as a preliminary step to finding other resources, like websites, books, or counselors and therapists in your local area.

      1. Just a Reader

        We do…there is actually on-site counseling. I had been bucking the idea but maybe that’s the most logical next step.

        I hate the idea that my last boss messed with my head so much I need therapy.

        1. Yup

          I totally understand. But think about it this way: if your last boss had pushed your down the stairs and thereby broken your leg, you wouldn’t have any hesitation about getting a cast, right? Same deal here, you just have slightly different injuries. Think of it as just adding more tools to your work/life tool belt, to deal with both past and future challenges.

        2. Graciosa

          Try to think of it as handling the situation rather than giving up. There is a reason so many 12 step programs start with admitting a problem as a first step – you can’t solve the problem until you admit it exists.

          I may be reading too much into your last sentence, but it sounds a bit like you think getting help will be an admission of failure or weakness. It isn’t. It is a demonstration that you are a competent person in control of your life.

          No one is good at everything, and we all have to hire help for something or other (from doctors and accountants to plumbers and electricians to this). People who have their act together identify the areas where they need help and find a way to get it. Getting the right help when you need it is a strength.

    3. Jules

      Find someone to talk to. Someone who can tell that what you went through was not a normal workplace occurence. Continuous reminder helps too.

      I was lucky that the traumatizing event was shared with someone who also left. She had more experience so I’ll talk to her about the things I didn’t like and she was kind enough to confirm that at other companies that she worked at, they don’t do those kinds of stuff. We stuck with each other during that period and post. Now we work at different places but keep in touch.

      I had a little of that still but each time the negative thought starts, I’d give myself some positive pep-talk. “These are different people with different culture. They don’t do XYZ, if they thought I was ABC, they would tell me” Also see how people treat each other. If they treat each other well, it’s unlikely they would treat you differently. If they back bite, trust me, you are being back bitten too. Culture plays an important role in organization.

      1. Jessa

        One thing I did at a new place, after a hell on Earth place I worked where everyone was treated horribly, is after a few weeks of doing the job (very well as far as I could see,) I asked my new boss for a few minutes and had a conversation that went somewhat like “I know this is my issue, but due to prior jobs, lack of communication does not equal “You’re doing fine,” so how’m I doing?” She said I was doing great, and resolved to provide some regular feed back.

        The issue here was this was a temp job at a banking concern, regular employees got to view stats and get actual FULL on feed back every couple of weeks, we never got to see the stats and stuff. My talk with the boss actually got them to change that rule and give the temp crew their stats.

        So it made everyone’s lives easier and made me less nervous, because prior bosses used to blindside people with what Alison considers to be horrid behaviour, you could tool along thinking you’re doing everything they wanted, and suddenly get dismissed with NO notices whatsoever.

        So EAP can help, or even if you trust the new boss a straight out conversation about “I have this issue, can you possibly do x to help alleviate it.”

    4. Jessa

      If your company has an employee assistance plan see what they have available. They might have a counselor you can go to at no or very little cost. I had an episode at one job, where I got to leave early on Thursday (with pay) for the appointment, and saw someone at no cost to me at all.

  22. Pseudo Annie Nym

    Forgive me for the length of this; it’s half-rant, half-question. What do you say to a friend and professional contact that’s just being a tactless jerk?

    I’ve been unemployed or vastly underemployed for two years now while trying to pay my dues in my field. I have a friend who has been at my company for 10+ years. It’s a company that’s a huge non-profit, well-known for doing very cool things and being at the top consistently–but it still pays below industry standard. Everyone knows that when they come in here. You do it for love and prestige, not money.

    She’s burning out while I’m just figuring out what I want to do and where I want to be and am excited about up-coming possibilities. With all of that, though, I only made about $22k last year and about $20k this year, living in a very expensive city. I’m a temp (hopefully to hire), but my job is ending in 2 weeks. I don’t have health insurance and haven’t figured out exactly what I’m going to be doing when this temp job ends yet. As a temp, even though I’ve been with this company for 2 years, I don’t get PTO or sick leave. With keeping up with my contracts, I hadn’t had a full day off in several months. While I’m keeping my head up, it’s still getting difficult to talk to people when they ask me “what next”?

    So, my friend asks me out to coffee the other day and starts ranting at me about how she ONLY makes $80k; she ONLY got a $1,500 bonus this year, (snearingly saying “That’s like, what? One month’s rent?? And a train ticket for the holidays? That’s ALL??”…forgetting that this is one of the first years that we are doing well again, so getting a bonus at all is wonderful. I did not get a bonus of any sort.)

    She knows how little I make and, even before she starts complaining says, “I know this may sound like a lot of money to you, but I should be making more!”…then goes on to talk about her great health coverage and elective surgeries (while I’m still disputing charges from the free clinic for getting my blood pressure taken.)

    I keep hanging out with her because she’s been a good friend in the past and helped me out in a tight spot once in a while. She’s also been at the company a long time and has a lot of great contacts. But her negativity is wearing me down. While I get that she is in a different point in her career and I understand that burnout can happen to anyone, isn’t this sort of like eating a hamburger slowly in front of a starving person and then saying “Don’t feel bad; it doesn’t taste that good”?

    Other than trying to slowly distance myself from her, what should I say the next time she starts up like this?

    1. TL

      The good ol’ wow. Or better yet, “Ouch, friend, you know money’s really tight for me right now and I can barely afford to get my blood pressure taken. I’m sorry about your problems, but it’s hard for me to relate, given my current financial status.”

      1. fposte

        I like this.

        I mean, objectively, you can acknowledge that it’s crappy for her, and that your income troubles don’t mean she can’t be miserable. But to me a part of friendship is that the person who has it demonstrably, incontrovertibly worse gets the bitching rights on that topic for the time being. The friend with the bad back doesn’t complain about health to the friend undergoing chemo, the friend whose garage door broke doesn’t complain to the friend who’s in foreclosure.

          1. Pseudo Annie Nym

            Thank you! I’ve been feeling like a jerk for wanting to smack her upside the head or something, but do want to legitimize her feelings a bit. But sitting there for over an hour making non-committal grunting affirmations while she rants just gets…tiring. It’s nice to be told I’m not crazy for feeling that way.

            1. Jessa

              You shouldn’t have to and just shouldn’t sit for an hour letting her rant. You have every right to jump in with “Yes you told me, but I make 20k and no bennies, so please just let it go for now, I know it’s lousy for you but do you realise how that sounds to ME? “

              1. Pseudo Annie Nym

                Hah! I remember reading that when it came out and thinking it was a very powerful and useful device. I also know that, if I posted it to my FB and even tagged my friend, she would start drawing with her circle in the inner circle and working her way out… I mean, we have a friend who is not only unemployed from our company because of alcoholism, been treated for it, relapsed, and is now moved back in with his out-of-state family to get better (and I WILL NOT mention anything about how bad I feel about my situation to him)…but I still know that neither he nor I would be an inner circle to her. She is her only inner circle and can’t imagine it any other way.

                And…wow. Typing that out in a blind heat made me realize that I really need to let go of this person. I’ve been wanting to keep her because of past kindness and future job help…but our relationship is really toxic now.

                1. Ruffingit

                  It certainly seems as though it’s time to move on from this friendship. If she’s so self-centered that she would put herself in the inner circle before you or your struggling addict co-worker, then she needs to be dumped like the toxic waste that she is.

      2. Natalie

        I might actually word this a little stronger – “friend, I can support you in all these other ways, but I can’t be your sounding board about this topic right now.”

        1. Pseudo Annie Nym

          I really like this a lot. I think this is exactly what I’m going to start using. Thanks!

        2. Elizabeth West

          That’s perfect. I’m going to use that when friends start whining about their husbands. I get so sick of that, when I can’t seem to find anyone to save my life.

          1. Ruffingit

            I think whining about your spouse is crappy anyway. In my younger days, I’d whine about my husband and the things he did that annoyed me. We’re divorced now and we never should have gotten married in the first place. My feeling is that if you’re whining about your husband, something is wrong anyway and I find it disrespectful to do that anyway. I cannot imagine ever whining about my husband now. I chose wisely this time and therefore have nothing to whine about. He’s a good man and the things he does that might annoy me are easily forgotten because he’s so great in every other way.

            1. TL

              I’m not married but I do feel like living with anyone will drive you to whining about them to somebody eventually. It just shouldn’t be the majority of your talk about them.

              1. Ruffingit

                I’ve learned through my divorce and finally having a good relationship that if I feel the need to whine about something my spouse does, I should be talking to him about it, not someone else. And if we can’t resolve whatever the problem is, I can choose to let it go or let him go, but whining to others has never been helpful. YMMV.

                1. TL

                  Oh, I tend to whine to friends who are good about helping me deal with things. When I whine, they’ll either help me work through a usable solution or realize I’m making a mountain out of a molehill and help put things back into perspective.

                  Sometimes with my roommates there were things that weren’t big enough to talk to them about – like one of my roommate’s totally normal ringtone drove me batty – and venting/whining to others made me feel better and helped me realize that it wasn’t actually that big of an issue. (Or occasionally, that it was and I needed to talk to them about it.)

                  But I tend to process verbally and hearing things out loud really helps me figure out how to deal with a problem, as well as lets me know when I’m building something up in my mind to be much bigger than it is.

                2. Ruffingit

                  I get that TL and it is very healthy to be able to vent to friends and get a better perspective on things. I have no issue with that. I just learned through my own experience that venting about a spouse is in a different category altogether. To me, it feels disrespectful to do that and I know in my previous marriage that I was venting a lot about him and that actually signaled a real problem. In my marriage now, I just don’t feel that need to vent because I chose a good person who I can talk to about problems and with whom the little things just don’t matter.

                  So, YMMV. It’s just my own experience I speak from here in that venting about a spouse just wasn’t healthy for me.

                3. Elizabeth West

                  Yes, that’s exactly it! They should talk to HIM and not everybody at work/your hairdresser/everyone they see in a day!

                  It just burns me. And all they do is bitch about their husbands. I never hear anything nice. I feel like saying, “You ungrateful bee, you don’t deserve to have anyone even WANT to marry your bee ass!” But I don’t.

                  Of course, the humblebrag makes me just as mad, because it’s showing off. I have a friend who does it on Facebook and I know she really loves her family, but STOP BRAGGING ALREADY.

    2. Katie the Fed

      She’s been a good friend in the past, but she’s not being one now.

      There’s really no reason to hold onto toxic relationships. I would explain to her one time, and one time only, that her comments are only stressing you out about your own situation, and that while you feel bad for her stress, you’re really worried about your own finances and would prefer not to talk financial issues with her anymore.

      If she can’t respect that, she doesn’t deserve the pleasure of your company anymore, in my opinion.

      I’ve started letting friendships go that have run their course and it’s been very liberating.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I agree. I think this friendship has run its course. She is asking for something that you cannot give her. “I am sorry that you only make 80k per year. That sucks.”

        I can understand her mentioning it once and that would give help make sense of things when she mentions things like job hunting etc.
        But this shows that she is not considering her audience over and over.
        If you are not ready to walk away you could redirect the conversation by saying “There must be someone you know in your income bracket that could advise you far better than I ever could.”
        I just go to a place in my head that I end up saying “Well, it is a difficult time right now and many people are having problems at their jobs.” That or something similar becomes my standard reply when I hear the same complaints over and over.

        I don’t think I would leave angry but I would quietly back away from the friendship.

    3. cs

      About health insurance, do you live in the states? Have you applied for healthcare through the affordable healthcare act/marketplace yet within your state?

      1. Pseudo Annie Nym

        @cs: Not yet. I live in DC, which actually gives free health insurance to people who make $22k/year or less. I’ve been trying to get on that for a year, but it keeps getting messed up because of my contractor/temp status. In one of my contracts, I make $40/hr–but it’s only 40 hours worth of work, spanning 3 months. Or I make $500 for a batch of articles that’s supposed to, theoretically, take a weekend–but more normally takes two weeks, ending up with me actually making $4/hr or less.

        They keep seeing $40/hr on my income and saying that I don’t qualify, even though the total amount I’d made for the year was about $15k in November. I have no idea how to present this in a way that they will understand and not dismiss, and that goes for any form of applications.

            1. Jessa

              Maybe you two could get together for coffee (beverage of choice) and Calla can show you around and give you Boston tips.

    1. VintageLydia

      Winter wear is on clearance right now and you’ll need more of it in the next few months so stock up!

    2. Jubilance

      Have you ever lived in the North/Midwest before?

      If this is your first time, be prepared to invest in A LOT of cold weather gear.
      * Good snow boots (not cute fashion boots with no traction but boots you can actually use in the snow),
      *Thermals,
      * A couple of different coats (down for when its REALLY cold, something slightly lighter for when its still winter but not bitterly cold)
      * Accessories – scarves, gloves, hats
      *Lots of clothing you can layer – longsleeve tees or button down shirts under sweaters, jeans that are roomy enough for thermals, etc.

      1. TL

        No, I used to live in South Texas and now I live in Central Texas. My winter wear consisted of one hoodie, one light jacket, and 4 long-sleeved shirts for many years.

        (I do have a proper big coat now, so I’m partway there!)

        1. Kat M

          I just did the opposite, as a northern-Midwesterner who relocated to Texas this past summer. I’ve never owned so many sundresses in my life.

          1. TL

            Oh, a bunch of the out of state kids at my college brought full winter wardrobes their first year – for San Antonio!

          2. Collarbone High

            Me too! I have had more than enough snow and sub-zero weather to last a lifetime. I moved to Texas specifically to escape Midwestern winters. That decision is really paying off this weekend — the high tomorrow in Dallas is supposed to be 64. I was so happy to get rid of my snow shovel.

            1. Elizabeth West

              I’d like to do that, but I don’t think I’ll be choosing Texas. California is more my speed. And I’ve lived there before and I love it (but it’s EXPENSIVE).

              1. TL

                There are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of California transplants here in Austin. Much cheaper than CA and just as cool.

                Just sayin’. :P

                1. Elizabeth West

                  I’m sorry, but I can’t stomach Texas politics. Also, except for right on the Gulf, I find most of it really ugly. I do have friends and family in that state, but I really don’t want to live there.

                2. TL

                  I can’t stomach Texas politics most days – but Austin, as well as all the other major cities, is completely blue. (Interestingly, they’re predicting Texas will go blue by 2020-ish. Should be interesting to watch!)

                  And the landscape is an acquired taste for sure, though the wildflowers can’t be beat. :) Not to mention the summers – especially on the Gulf. (I personally love the heat and humidity but I hear others find it a trifle difficult.)

      2. the gold digger

        Exactly. Lots of warm clothes. Forget what you’ve seen on “The Good Wife” – nobody except someone super-rich dresses that cute in the winter.

        I like my North Face Abby boots – warm and they have good traction. I change into my work shoes when I get to work.

        My Lands End down coat rated for 15 below does not keep me warm in 5 below and it sheds feathers. Do your research on coats.

        Get used to the idea of wearing layers to bed. It’s cheaper than paying for heat.

        1. Jessica

          Yeah, the thing about Lands’ End is that their temp ratings always say something about the rating after normal layering for winter weather (or something similar), which includes a turtleneck, wool sweater, etc. I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t always dress by wearing a wool sweater, and I hate turtlenecks. I do layer and I try to be warm about my clothing (especially since I live in northern MN), but I always knock at least 10 degrees off their rating and more often more in my own mind.

      3. Graciosa

        If you drive, think about investing in preparing your car for winter as well – do you need snow tires, chains, a different emergency kit, etc.

        I always recommend to friends moving to a cold climate who have never lived there before to include big bags (pounds, not individual services) of peanut M&Ms in their auto kits. Chocolate and nuts help give you the calories you need if you’re stranded in the cold, and they’re easy to find and to eat. :-)

        1. Graciosa

          That should have been servings, not services – sorry.

          Although I am now thinking about what an M&M service would look like – maybe moving from milk chocolate to dark through peanut and almond, finishing off with peanut butter and pretzel ….

            1. Jessa

              You can also just get one of those survival packs that includes water and also high energy ration bars. You can find em for under 50 bucks on Amazon and other places, and they can include enough for 2 people for as many as 4 days at that price. They also include things like thermal blankets and crank emergency radios and other survival gear. Toss the pack in the back of your car or in the boot and you’re good. They have ratings of over 5 years freshness or more depending on the brand.

            2. AVP

              I used to keep a giant bag of rock salt in my car, to weigh down the back of it in winter for traction.

              I moved to a city and left the car with my family, and they left it in there over a very hot summer – and the salt actually melted into the car! Not pretty.

            3. Elizabeth West

              AND A SHOVEL!

              I have a hard hat, toilet paper, and a SEND HELP sign in my car too. Also clothes, but I think I need to get rid of them because they probably don’t fit me anymore.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule

          Get a shovel too. Not one of those cheap collapsible ones – a real metal snow shovel. An extra blanket, an old coat & some extra socks (they can double as mittens) should also go in your trunk.

          Also, the side of the ice scraper that has the teeth on it? Those are for chipping into the thick ice that will cover your windshield.

          1. Jessa

            Put a shovel IN the car. Nothing is worse than leaving work and finding you’re snowed up to the tires and can’t back the car out because nobody has a way to dig.

            Also one of those little key de-icer things, you poke the nozzle in the key hole and it squirts the stuff in so you can open the door.

          2. Collarbone High

            Dallas got an ice storm last month, and a friend witnessed his neighbor trying to chip ice off his windshield with a golf club.

            1. Elizabeth West

              A rubber mallet works so much better. Just give even the thickest ice a whack (tap it on the windows–lightly!!) and it will pop right off. It’s fun, too. :)

              Disclaimer: Survived the 2007 ice storm

          3. Fiona

            “Also, the side of the ice scraper that has the teeth on it? Those are for chipping into the thick ice that will cover your windshield.”

            I’ve lived in Minnesota for 30+ years and I just figured this out last winter. /shame

          4. Not So NewReader

            And a car broom like this one:
            http://cozywinters.com/shop/sno-brum.html?utm_source=zila&utm_medium=cse&utm_campaign=merchantadv&zmam=61752597&zmas=1&zmac=5&zmap=sno-brum

            I cannot believe how much easier it is to get my car cleaned off. I can get ten inches off my entire car in about two minutes and be on my way.

            Car sales lots use a similar thing because they can do a lot of cars FAST. I bought mine from a car dealership though. One man said the one he has is 20 years old and has no sign of wear.
            I used to hate-hate-hate clearing off my car. We can get ticketed if we don’t clear it all off. No more problem, now.

        3. TL

          Alas I am allergic to peanuts and several ingredients used in chocolates. But I’ll keep an eye out for some good emergency of – thanks! I hadn’t thought about my car kit and I’m taking it with me (though hopefully not using it much.)

          1. Jessa

            Go to a sporting goods place, and look into the high energy ration bars people take hiking. With all the survivalists who plan shelters to save them in the event of a war or catastrophe, you can find all kinds of survival goods that are made without nuts or gluten or whatever your allergy is. There’s a whole industry set up to provide services to people who do long camp trips, or work in the wilderness or are preppers.

      4. Natalie

        For boots, Sorels make some pretty attractive but still rugged boots with good traction. I’m a huge fan.

        Wool is also your friend. And make sure you have good gloves.

        1. fposte

          Seriously on the wool (including wool socks, which have gotten soooo much nicer than they used to be!). And if it’s acrylic, it’s just decorative–don’t expect it to keep you warm.

            1. Chrissi

              I buy “men’s work socks” from Walgreens to wear under my boots. They are half (or less) of the price of the same stupid socks that are marked as women’s (Argh).

    3. Calla

      I moved from Texas to Boston too! I’m a major lover of warm-weather too and I’ve actually made it without stockpiling too much warm clothing :) I do advise lots of hats, or a hooded coat, and scarves. Many areas of the Boston can get SUPER windy and that’s really what gets you so stuff that helps block those gusts is great. Also, good rain/snow boots.

      Mostly, it just takes some getting used to. I was absolutely miserable my first winter here — it seemed like it dragged on and on. This is my third winter and now I still don’t love it, but I can look outside right now (we just had a snow storm) and go “Well, I wouldn’t want to go to work in this but I don’t know if it’s really emergency material.”

      1. TL

        Oh, I’m glad to see another Texas transplant!

        I never wear hats or scarves or layers or…well, I usually dress for 90+ degree weather. I’m glad to hear that you can adjust and it gets better, though!

        1. the gold digger

          I am a Texan stuck in the upper Midwest. I still have not gotten used to the cold. Shoveling is horrible. Snow and slush and ice are horrible. I hate being cold. I hate finding frost on the inside of my front door when I leave in the morning. I hate having to allow extra time to get to the bus stop because I have to be careful not to slip on my neighbors’ icy sidewalks. But I have a very bad attitude, I have been told. :)

          I would suggest renting an apartment where heat is included and where you do not have to shovel. That will eliminate two of the worst things about winter. If you can get attached, heated parking, even better.

          (I will say, though, that the summers here are beautiful.)

          1. Calla

            Oh, the ice still frustrates me so much, especially before I regularly started wearing my good boots (I’m lazy and just want to wear my flats! I don’t want to have to change shoes!) I definitely get in moods where I’m all I HATE WINTER I HATE BOSTON I WANT TO GO HOME. But that was my default constant mood when I moved and now it’s only periodic, at least. :)

          2. themmases

            I second looking for a place with heat included. I live in Chicago, and while that’s not universal here, it’s very common.

            I live in an older building with radiators, and we control the taps on our individual radiators but not whether they’re on or off (hence why we’re not charged). Most winters our apartment gets so warm we have a window cracked, all the time– and this is a common experience with the other radiator people I know.

            1. Tris Prior

              Yep! It is boiling in our place all the time thanks to our radiators. When it is THIS cold, I’m very grateful. :)

            2. Elizabeth West

              After the 2007 ice storm, I decided I hate winter. My sister lives near Chicago and keeps trying to get me to move up there. I told her no way–not even at gunpoint.

    4. Just a Reader

      I’m also a Texan in Boston.

      Agree with the cold weather gear. Also find your local pub/restaurant, and get to know your hood/regular stops. friendly faces help.

      If you can, book a weekend somewhere warm early march ish.

      and check out inman oasis!

    5. The IT Manager

      Not Boston specific, but generally the shorter the commute the better your day-to-day life is. See if you can make use of public transportation based on the location of your job and housing.

      Buy warm clothing in Boston.

      1. TL

        I’m praying I don’t have to drive to work (not to mention it’s a university so I probably can’t afford parking anyway.)

    6. Joey

      Gorge on real texas food before you leave. My friends who left Texas miss things like Tex mex, Texas BBQ, blue bell ice cream, ranch style beans, and texas beer.

      1. Calla

        OMG, yes. One of my coworkers, funnily enough, is from my same hometown (and it’s not like Austin or Houston) and she told me she was going back there over Christmas. I begged her to bring me some of the food. Alas, she didn’t! :(

      2. TL

        I miss Tex-Mex in Austin!

        But thanks. I think the BBQ is going to be hardest of all for me to leave. That and Gulf shrimp. yum.

        1. Joey

          There is no texas style BBQ outside of Texas that even comes close to the salt lick, blacks, kreuz market, or smittys

            1. 22dncr

              Fellow Texas native here who has lived in snowy Cali and London during the “coldest winter in living memory”. For the food there is an awesome site called Homesick Texan – check it out. For the cold – ear muffs are where it’s at. If your ears are warm you feel soooo much warmer! That said I’ve served my time and now I’m back in God’s Country I’m never leaving again.

      3. Tex

        Look into the Homesick Texan blog for a taste of home. (Sorry Allison.)

        Fahgedabout a car.

        I moved from Houston to Boston for school and used public transportation. It was occasionally a pain but mostly ok. My sister followed me up there several years later but had her little Beetle shipped up north. Within one month she had racked up parking tickets, paid extortionate amounts to park, got into an accident (the roads make no sense, NO sense…they are old radial farm roads that led to shared meadows/”commons”). It took only three months before she shipped that car back to my parents’ house. And she was in Brookline, with more parking than Cambridge. Other friends have had their cars broken into, even in the nice areas like Beacon Hill.

        Boston is actually a pretty compact city. Unless you have a garage with your rental property, consider signing up for zipcar. On the whole it might work out a lot cheaper.

        1. TL

          I’m hoping just to use my car for weekend trips and emergency runs to the grocery store in the middle of the night. :)

          1. AVP

            Last time I checked, they do not have Trader Joe’s in Texas, which means they don’t have Trader Joes wine shops. If you are at all into drinking wine on the cheap, you’ll need a car for that! :)

            1. TL

              Austin just opened its first Trader Joe’s actually!

              I’ve yet to go because it’s on the opposite side of town, though. Also Austin already has a gazillion different grocery store lines and I made a commitment to HEB.

    7. Amanda

      Warm clothes, as everyone else has suggested! You lose the most heat through your core and through your head, so silk underlayers, scarves, and hats are your friend. Check out LL Bean for really good solid winter gear. A friend of mine has a saying – there’s no bad weather, only bad gear.

      Do you have an apartment yet? If not, make sure you know what the parking and/or public transportation situation will be before you commit to anything. If you’re bringing a car, buy really nice snow tires and get your fluids winterized.

      Get a T pass and learn to love (and hate) the MBTA. Check out museums on the weekends – there are tons and TONS of world-class museums and historic sites. And Boston itself is a very walkable city; explore neighborhoods by foot in your spare time. It pays to have a walking knowledge of the city because you can often duplicate that by car, or park somewhere cheaper & easier because you know how to walk there.

      1. TL

        I’m excited about the T! But I’ve never used public transportation before, so hopefully it’s not too difficult!

        1. Lore

          The main thing that can be tricky with Boston’s T especially is that while all the trains on a given color line (Red Line, Green Line, etc.) run on the same route in downtown Boston, some of them branch out in the suburbs–so, for example, if you want to go to the MFA on a Green Line train, you have to make sure you’re getting on the right spur line. It’s all very clearly labeled, but it can be confusing the first time you think you’re headed to one place and are actually going somewhere else (she says, from experience).

        2. Del

          The T can be intimidating when you first look at it, but it breaks down pretty easily. If you can, find a local buddy who can help guide you through the basics.

        3. I miss Boston

          Mass transit in Boston is really good. The bus system takes a little while to catch on but that’s because there are so many lines and stops so it’s helpful to consider buses too and not just the T. Google Maps is really helpful to plan your trips until you get the hang of it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help–either the bus drivers or other passengers will know what street you’re looking for and can help you know when to get off. People in the northeast tend to get a bad rap but the reality is that most are helpful but you do have to ask.

    8. rek

      Are you bringing your car? If so, plan to get it winterized, especially if you won’t have a garage. Bitter cold can add a lot of stress to an engine, and really affect its lifespan.
      And, congrats & good luck on your new job! :-)

        1. Not So NewReader

          Have your anti-freeze and oil checked.
          I carry a bottle or two of dry gas in my car just in case.
          I like the windshield washer fluid for winter time. (Regular fluid freezes sometimes.)
          If you use Rain-x on your windows it will be ten times easier to remove ice. (Nothing like scraping ice with tears running down your cheeks because you are going to be late for work and the ice just. will .not. com. off.)
          Have the air pressure in your tires checked – that can fluctuate with the temps.
          I usually by new wipers just before snow flies.

    9. Lora

      -Seconding the gorging on BBQ. We do have very good ice cream up here (Toscanini’s), but the BBQ is a joke. Make a trip to Lockhart and go wild. Also, tequila, if you drink it; we have no good tequila here and when you find anything remotely drinkable, they want twice as much as you’d pay in TX.

      -Not only do you need a winter wardrobe and to learn to dress in layers, you need new bedding. Flannel sheets, at least two blankets, a serious comforter (down is good) and duvet cover, and a quilt on top of that. That’s like, the bare minimum.

      -Housing is mad expensive here. Get ready for sticker shock.

      -I found that employers in Boston, as a rule, tend to be a lot nicer than those in TX. Mostly because the job market here is stronger, unemployment is lower, and they know if you’re poorly treated they might not so easily be able to replace you. Every time I worked in TX I felt like I constantly had to re-educate the managers under me on how to be nice to employees because training takes so long and their employee turnover rates were driving me bananas.

      -Depends on what field you’re in, but many of the local hotspot type fields (biotech, consulting, electronics, defense contractors) have very tight-knit communities where everyone knows everyone else. It’s a big city, yes, but if you’re in one of these fields it will quickly feel like a small town, with all the good and bad that entails.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Dressing in layers. It could be me- but I like to use different fabrics on each layer to get maximum benefit for heat retention. It seems to help.

    10. Sutemi

      There is a very strong likelihood that you will be living in a much smaller place. Pare down your belongings as much as you can before you move, reduce clutter and make donations. Do you have stuff that can be easily replaced? If you aren’t sure then don’t pack it.

    11. cathi

      Something my Chicagoan sister learned after a lot of observation and many frustrating walks after moving to Boston:

      Get excellent rain gear. Umbrellas are useless in the gusting winds that swoosh out of nowhere. Sturdy North Face or Columbia weather-proof coats with hoods that cover your face, or rain hats. Seriously. People wear them!

      Also don’t bother driving. Just abandon your car and leave the streets to the lunatics who drive on them. If you don’t have GPS, get one. A smart phone with mapping capabilities is a lifesaver, since you csn no longer trust your directional senses.

    12. Anonymous

      Advice on the move, in case you’re still reading, and this is long:

      1. You will be COLD. Plan for it, and be willing to pay for it. A move and a new job means a lot of expenses, but if you’re just cold you’ll just be miserable. Normal indoor temps are going to be colder than you’re accustomed to; eg here a lot of businesses keep office temps around 65 in the winter. Sitting still in that without sweaters is really hard coming from southern temps. So plan for more warmth at work, at home, and outdoors.

      For instance, those of us who had the deep freeze for a few days are running around today, when it’s 25, without warm coats and hats because it’s so warm out! Plan on it taking you 2-3 years to acclimate to the cold. To that end:
      WARM coat. Get something warmer than the locals recommend. Best if you have it with you on arrival, it’s supposed to be COLD (as in, highs around zero before wind chll) again next week. You want something wind and water proof, that covers your backside down to mid-thigh or longer. The longer the coat, the warmer the coat. You want something rated to zero or below for “minimal activity” rather than for “moderate activity” which translates as snowshoeing, etc. A lot of stores/catalogs list a minimal and moderate activity rating for their coats. If you can, get one for really cold, and one for moderate (eg, down to 15 or so) cold. Stores have them now, clearances will begin soon, and then there won’t be much available again for a while and it’ll all be full price.

      You need more than one WARM pair of mittens or gloves (mittens are warmer, your fingers share their heat), more than one WARM hat, more than one WARM scarf. When what you have is wet, it won’t be as warm when you put it back on so have options. WARM will come to mean something more to you than it has where clothing and gear are concerned. (You will also be amused at the complaints of miserable heat when it gets up into the 80s in the summer.)

      Wool is warm when wet as well as dry, but not quite as warm. They can do a lot more with wool now, it’s much softer and more comfortable. Unless you have an allergy, you want wool socks (eg, Smartwool which are expensive but worth it), wool mitts, wool scarf and hat. You can find wool hats with a fleece lining around your ears, which is even softer.

      Down – you likely want a down comforter. Maybe also a down coat. Remember that down works from your body heat, so if it’s cold take the extra blanket out from under the comforter and put it on top. You want the down closer to you for more warmth. Same with the down coat – don’t be too well insulated when you put it on, or the down won’t have anything to work with.

      Layers. Silk is amazing. Silk underwear – long johns, undershirts, camis – make a big difference. Not cheap. Wool sweaters. Not too much wool with wool or you’ll provide your own static electricity field. :) Look at some of the “high tech” gear and fibers. Warm vests are great, you can get some nicer looking things filled with thinsulate or down that would pass muster in a lot of work environments, but again they aren’t cheap.

      Leg warmers – wear them! It’s one thing to get to work and need to go change clothes to get long underwear off, another to simply peel off leg warmers and tuck them in your boots. Wool and silk is a great combination, but every layer helps. Wear them over the tops of your boots and up your leg. On the T, just pull them down and then pull them back up when you get off the train. Remember that anything you wear all day feels “normal” and not extra warm when you walk back outdoors.

      Go to the local resale shops; when I lived in MA the Salvation Army shop was the BEST, everything from fancy fur coats to tshirts. See what you can find there, and use that as a baseline for what works for you. You’ll want more than you expect. Winter lasts longer than you think, and a significant part of your clothing/gear budget will go toward taking care of you this winter and next.

      2. Your car: most important item is that if you are shoveling out your car, DO THE EXHAUST PIPE FIRST. If exhaust backs up into your car, it is often fatal. Fatal!
      Next, yes to snow tires, fancy windshield washer fluid, heavy duty wipers, etc. Also keep an emergency kit in the car. And, if you don’t need it day to day, a zip car might make as much sense, or weekend rentals. Find out how much you’d save on parking and put that towards renting when you need one. And please go easy on driving in the snow. It’s *much* different. Give yourself time to acclimate to that.

      Congrats on the new job! And welcome to the northeast. Can you tell I did this move a few years ago? It’s tough on your system even knowing what you’re getting into, but preparations make a world of difference. Enjoy your new city, new job, and new climate.

      If you have specific questions, I’m sure many of us will be glad to answer them.

    13. Bee

      Ahh Boston, I miss it! Really the best place I’ve ever lived (and there have been many). I hope you enjoy it too. I certainly would not have survived without my knee-length waterproof snow boots (L.L. Bean I think) and a long down-filled coat.

      If you’re looking for an apartment or house, be sure to ask about the typical monthly heating bills (if any) so you can avoid sticker shock down the line and budget appropriately. If you can, avoid electric heating as it’s very expensive. If you’re looking to rent and can find a place that pays your heat bill, jump on it!

      Also, if you’re parking your car on the street, check with your city about snow emergency policies. I lived in Somerville and they were very strict about these, as well as requiring you to clear off your car after a snowfall. Your town may also require you to clear the sidewalk in front of your home. Good luck!

  23. De Minimis

    For me the “great” part has to do with personal qualities, how they handle issues like work/life balance, and things that are more big picture. The “but…” part is more about specific work related issues that don’t reflect on them as a person, but are where I don’t like how they are handling certain things.

    I couldn’t access a forum at work….the IT people have a filter that blocks most message boards/forums. Also blogs, but somehow AAM has managed to slip by to where I can see it, and can comment.

  24. Inconceivable!

    I am in the process of transitioning from one department to another. In my previous role I did a lot of tangential work with my new department and it was decided that it made more sense for me to officially be a part of that department . However, my role is a newly created one and it’s very up in the air as to how responsibilities fall. I’m very excited to start on this new path. I have a lot of questions that I am sure will be worked out over time, but there is one thing that I am struggling with (and have since I started a year ago). The new department is a very close knit team. They work well together and all seem to know each other very well. I work out of a satellite office an hour away. While I’ve worked on countless projects with them and have attended their team meetings, I feel very out of the loop. There have been a number of times where information that I have needed or would have been helpful hasn’t been passed on because I am “out of sight- out of mind”. Despite reporting to the new department, I will still be working in the satellite office. I try to get to the main office once a week, but space is very tight which makes spending time there unrealistic as there is literally no place for me to sit and do work. I could really use some advice on how to get to know my teammates better and how to really become a part of the team despite the distance. (For the record, I am the only person in the department that doesn’t work in the main office)

    1. Coelura

      This is a very hard situation to overcome. I would start by reaching out to your coworkers everyday and start building personal relationships with them. Find out where you have similar interests and passions and talk about them. As you build the relationships, you’ll be more included.

    2. Jessa

      Also if there’s some kind of internal IM system, get on it and stay with the team. I did a lot of work at home customer service stuff, we only came into the office once a month. The internal IM system was VITAL.

      Also the conference call meeting. If you can arrange that.

      Now your company may not have all that available. But if there are regular meetings they can always bring you in on speaker phone.

  25. Sophia

    Does anyone know which open thread had suggestions re introducing a new cat to the house? My 7 year old cat/baby passed away a few months ago and her brother is a very needy (but also aggressive – though wasn’t with her, they were litter mates) and I think in a few months we should get another kitty to keep him company…

    1. Jen in RO

      I’m the one who asked the question originally and things have worked out great for me. I had a 2.5 year old tomcat who was pretty aggressive with humans (biting, scratching) – my theory is that he was just very bored. I got a 3-4 week old kitten. For the first month or so, I kept them separate – the kitten in the kitchen (locked, because I was afraid the big cat would jump on the door handle and open it) and the big cat in the rest of the house. Each cat had its own litter box and food, obviously. I let the big cat meet the kitten, but supervised – first week or so just a few minutes at a time (with me holding the kitten), and then increasingly more time, but only when me and/or the boyfriend were around and awake. After about a month, we let them stay together at night as well… and they got along well, so from then on they have been together non-stop.

      I was worried that the big cat would beat the kitten up… but he’s been soooo calm and accepting. The kitten jumps all over him, trying to bite his face (!), and the big cat either sits there, or retaliates by licking the kitten… they are so funny.

      Relevant picture: https://fbcdn-sphotos-a-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-frc3/1472736_10202386682295643_1214406235_n.jpg

      1. Sophia

        Thanks! I’m glad it turned out so well. He’s aggressive with both humans (scratches, sometimes hisses, but other times is a cuddle bug; re: strangers, he usually just hides) but also with strange cats (there are a lot of outdoor cats in our neighborhood and will hiss at them. One time he ran into our glass backdoor chasing the cat). He’s very territorial so that’s what I’m worried about. He never had any problems with Sweety – he would let her get her way all the time – and I’m just afraid of introducing a new cat since she was his littermate. Your story gives me hope!

        1. Jen in RO

          I don’t know what your plans for the new cat are, but I basically had a deal with the friend who found the kitten: if the cats get along, I keep the kitten; if they don’t, I return the kitten and my friend tries to find him another home. I was torn between my responsibility to my older cat and my newfound responsibility towards the tiny kitten (he was the size of my palm!), but this arrangement made me feel less guilty, since I knew my friend would find him a good home in case I couldn’t keep him.

  26. Katie the Fed

    OK, another question from me:

    Fiance the Fed is moving in next month, and I’m a total cluttermonkey. I’m trying to pare down and get rid of things but it’s hard. How do you get rid of excess stuff. What makes it worse is I’ve been every size from a 4 to a 16 and have trouble parting with the skinny clothes, especially because I am trying so hard to lose weight.

    Help! I need inspiration and advice. And how do I get past the “ick” feeling that I spent so much money on stuff I’ve barely used? The guilt…ugh.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I went through the same thing last year. Be brutal and get rid of everything you haven’t worn/used in the last year.

      On the skinny clothes, think of how much fun you’ll have shopping for new ones if/when you need to. Think of it as a reward, rather than stockpiling the old ones now, particularly since they probably serve as a taunting reminder that you can’t currently wear them. It will be hugely liberating to not have that stuff sitting around anymore.

      Also, see the thread here, where I asked a similar question and got great answers:
      https://www.askamanager.org/2013/03/open-thread-5.html#comment-176921

      I especially like this from fposte: “with stuff that no longer fits, I remind myself that it had its time, and I don’t buy clothes to keep them forever.”

      1. LizNYC

        Good luck, Katie, and Alison, thanks for reposting from that thread. I’ve been carrying around clothes that will surely fit again from college and some thing I just refuse to give up. I should just give some teenager the joy of finding my used-but-in-good-shape things at Goodwill (retro is in, right?).

      2. ChristineSW

        Excellent point. I tend to keep clothes in the hopes that I’ll actually lose weight so they’ll fit again, even if they’re several years old. I’m slowwwwly learning that will probably never happen. lol.

        1. Jessa

          Even if it does, unless they’re very special to you, they’ll be out of style.

          I recommend maybe picking one absolute favourite thing (do you have an expensive little black dress, or suit or something that’s timeless?) and holding on to that ONE piece of inspiration and giving the rest maybe to a group that provides work clothes for persons unemployed.

        2. tcookson

          I finally got rid of most of my skinny clothes, but I did keep one pair of jeans that were my favorites. Somewhere at the back of my mind, I’m thinking that if I ever get that skinny again, I want to put those very same pants on again to prove it to myself — because another pair labeled the same size may not actually be the same. I don’t keep them where I can see them every day, though; I don’t want to be constantly reminded of how far I have to go to get in them.

      3. Trillian

        I’ve got some clothes that I’ll bequeath to my heirs, if it comes to that. I won’t let them go because I don’t trust I’ll find anything like them again. Never mind Freud, I envy men decent pockets, and the fact that they can actually get the same style and colours for more than one season. Some years, none of the in colours suit me – ie, make me look not-undead under fluorescent light – and I’ve learned to give up buying slacks every time the whole low rise fad comes around, because my pelvis just isn’t that shape.

    2. victopus

      Where I live, the Vietnam Vets will come pick up donations. When I have a lot to get rid of I set up pickups once or twice a week – having to meet that obligation makes me get it done, and as it is a little at a time it is not so overwhelming.

      good luck!

    3. AB

      I am the worst clutter monkey. When I got married, I didn’t want to have to move 75 boxes of stuff. That was my motivation. I hated to do it, but if I didn’t look at it, use it, or wear it in the past 18 months I gave it away. I took the nicer clothes to a consignment shop (yay money!), and then donated the rest of the stuff to various charities that I support (like blankets to local dog shelter). I allowed myself one small rubbermaid tub for mementos and keepsakes. It was a painful exercise, but I was really glad I did it. In the end, there was nothing that I got rid of that I regretted.

      1. Katie the Fed

        I’m trying to decide if I want to even bother with consignment. The good stuff I’ll probably take to Dress for Success, but anything that requires more effort I probably will just end up never getting around to. I feel like this has to be done in one fell swoop or I’ll never get to it.

        I did offer a very tiny 23-year old friend/coworker to come take her pick of the size 4/6 stuff. Money’s also pretty tight for her (I didn’t mention that part) so I think she appreciates it. I figure we’re helping each other out.

        Ugh, I have got to stop buying stuff.

        1. Inconceivable!

          Yeah, I never bother with consignment anymore simply because picking through stuff to get “saleable items” is a hassle, but at the time I was just out of school and the money was very much needed and a good motivator.

          I also need to stop buying things. (I say this as I am eagerly anticipating the delivery of a really awesome, but utterly unnecessary little black dress today).

          1. The IT Manager

            Yep. For clothes it’s all to Goodwill or other charity. Trying to sort through takes more time which for me is more valauble than money. Also if there’s separate places that the boxes have to go then boxes will sit in house indefinately.

            Side note: Travels of a T-Shirt in a Global Economy (book) and the Planet Money T-shirt project (planetmoney.org) taught me that even my old T-shirt can be used by someone else even if no one in my home country really wants a t-shirt from a 5K I ran 6 or 7 years ago.

            1. fposte

              Though Cline’s Overdressed (book) will unfortunately make the point that it’s junk to a lot of people there too.

              While Overdressed isn’t a perfect book by a long stretch, it was a good overview of how market flooding, poverty, and labor issues are deeply intertwined with our casual shopping.

        2. Anonymous

          Dress for Success & Suited for Change for the good business stuff. See if Martha’s table or other shelters can use bedding/games/clothes. Salvation Army/Goodwill/charity resale shops for the rest.
          Favorite clothing that doesn’t fit – if you sew, some folks are turning those into pillows/coverlets/etc.
          I’ve found it’s easier to do this while thinking about it as making room for something/someone new in my life.

    4. Declutter

      It’s good you’re thinking about this. One of the many issues that caused my divorce was my ex-husband and his hoarding. We had a two-car garage that we literally could not fit a bicycle in because of all the stuff he had stored there. He fell through the attic floor one night because of all the things he had stored up there, the weight had weakened the structure. It was truly ridiculous.

      Not saying this is your issue, just that I give you kudos for being open to getting rid of things and sharing your space. I get feeling like you’re losing money (been everything from size 6 – 20 here), but you’re not because you got a return on the investment when you wore those clothes the first time around. Let them go and see your investment make someone else happy. That’s like a double return on what you paid for them as you got use out of them and now someone else will too.

      Once you let go of the “but it’s money” thinking, you can declutter more easily.

      1. Jamie

        I can’t this your last sentence enough.

        I don’t consider it getting rid of things that cost money, I consider it giving myself and my family the gift of tidiness and space.

        1. Declutter

          I feel the same. I moved last year into a smaller apartment and I got rid of a lot of things. It was so freeing and I felt so much better letting go of those things – clothes, stuffed animals, knick knacks, kitchen items I never used, and on and on it goes. The gift of clear space and knowing I never have to cart those things around again is a true relief.

        2. fposte

          Exactly. And I say this as somebody on the opposite end of the orderliness spectrum from you and who really had to train myself into that mindset. Basically, I try to use my hoarding impulse for good–“Look how much space I could have! I could have more space! I don’t want to part with my space!”

          Additionally, it really is true that it’s much more pleasing to open a closet door and find rows of stuff that makes you happy about wearing it. Closet as nag really doesn’t work, and it’s a bad way to start the day.

      2. Mints

        I read this comment somewhere else that hoarding is sometimes symptomatic of growing up poor. You buy things in the good times, and then when things are bad, you have physicals reminders of what you spent it on. (I didn’t waste $100 I still have that stack of books.) And you think you could sell the junk if you need to. $20 for that old dvd player isn’t much, but whaif I really need $20 later
        It’s a tough habit to break. Trying to convince yourself you’re really financially stable is hard, and even if you’re not, stacks of books won’t save you
        (I should note I mean clutter in the realm of a few boxes of things, not like hoarding literal garbage like on the shows)

      3. Elizabeth West

        Yeah, and it’s NOT money if you couldn’t get 50 cents for it at a garage sale. That’s how I justify throwing stuff away and I’m a bit of a pack rat (though not hoardy, thank God).

    5. Trixie

      I’m guessing there are some great local women’s charities to donate to, include professional items for interviews, etc. With that in mind, its often much easier to part with things knowing someone will get so much more use out of them. Once you’re in the “zone”, it goes even faster. Item by item: have you used it/worn it recently. If not, does it need it mending/tossing/donating? For myself, I would rather splurge on something new and fitted after losing few inches than hang on to something that’s either sentimental or now out of style. If nothing else, start small with a drawer or box before tackling the closet/basement/storage. Work your way up with plenty of beverages, snacks and happy music!

    6. Anonsies

      One thing is to remember you can’t lose money you’ve already spent. If you bought a pair of shoes that don’t fit anymore, it doesn’t matter how much they were because the money is already gone. You can’t recover anything by continuing to have or use something just because it was expensive, you can only continue to be inconvenienced. You can’t waste money that’s already been spent!

      That said, I hear you about the fluctuating sizes. You just have to keep it really organized. I have some storage bins of clothes by size in the basement in case I need to switch since it *is* a waste of money to need to buy a bunch of new clothes every 4-6 months, which is how often I’ll go up or down a few sizes (oh the joys of being short). I just don’t keep them accessible all the time, so my closet isn’t jammed.

    7. themmases

      I have way too much stuff (and way too many clothes) sometimes too, and it helps me to get everything out, go through it all, and force myself to decide whether I really want to put it away again. Kind of like how moving can help you get rid of things when you realize it’s silly to pack and haul something you haven’t looked at in 5 years.

      I did lose weight a couple of years ago and was glad I didn’t part with some things, but definitely not everything. I recommend keeping at least one pair of jeans and maybe your nicest work pants– not from every size you’ve ever worn, but definitely from the next couple sizes you’ll wear if you’re successful, to give you time to shop. Owning only baggy pants that are now baggy really takes the fun out of losing weight. Don’t bother saving anything too distinctive or trendy unless it was your favorite– losing weight takes a long time and you have no way of knowing if you’ll still like that item or if it will look dated by the time it fits again.

      As for shopping, it helps me to make a mental note of why I shouldn’t have bought x item before I say goodbye. This sweater only went with one thing, this shirt was a trend I already owned one of, this skirt only went with a couple other items… And make myself think about them again before buying more.

    8. anon

      Have you tried Unf__k Your Habitat? It’s a great resource for regular people trying to handle their messes. I think it has a lot of the inspiration and advice you’re looking for.

      1. vvondervvoman

        +1. My partner and I just cleaned out his office in 1 hour and it’s gorgeous. Created 5 bags of recycling/garbage, and one Goodwill box.

    9. khilde

      I read “It’s all Too Much!” by Peter Walsh. It was one of the few organizing/decluttering books that addressed how to change your perspective on all this stuff rather than just throwing out the same old tired tips. Highly recommend.

    10. Kelly L.

      Size 16-18 currently, I used to be a 10 and was quite the clotheshorse. I pared down last year because I knew I was about to move (for the second time in about four years) and didn’t want to take stuff with me that I hadn’t even looked at since the last move.

      For my smaller clothes, I figured most of that was trends from the mid and late 90s that suited the person I was then, but might not suit me anymore even if I were that size again, and are out of style besides. Agree with others that if you do become that size again, you’ll probably want shiny new stuff rather than your old out-of-style and/or worn-out stuff! I donated bags and bags to charity. I let myself have one box, a copy paper case to give you an idea of the size, for tiny clothes I wanted to keep for sentimental “I wore this on my first date with so-and so!!!” type reasons.

      For clothes in my current size or close to my current size, I donated anything I hadn’t worn in years, telling myself that if it hadn’t been “the answer” in all those years–if I hadn’t looked in my closet and thought “There! That’s what I want to wear today/tonight!”–that I probably never would.

    11. Tennessee

      It helps me to think that someone else could be using the item and getting a lot of joy out of it, instead of it sitting in my closet taking up space. Tell yourself not that you are losing something, but that someone else is gaining something.

    12. Jen in RO

      Is there a Freecycle group in your city? I use it to give away all my unwanted stuff – 2 days ago I gave away an broken microwave to a guy who had another broken microwave and wanted it for parts. Win-win!

    13. Nina

      I second Alison; if you haven’t worn certain items in a year, you won’t miss them. Donate the clothes to Goodwill. I do have a pair of skinny jeans that are literally tacked to my wall for inspiration, but that’s all I kept.

      Space/vacuum bags are great for storage overall. I live in a small apartment and heavy winter clothes in particular can eat up a LOT of closet space. So I put them in space bags and store them in luggage so they’re out of the way. I do the same with summer/spring clothes when the cold weather arrives. Good luck!

    14. Chrissi

      For stuff other than clothes, I find that going through things over and over again (twice a year for me) allows me to be more “heartless” about getting rid of things. It’s kind of like peeling an onion? Maybe?

      Also, I lay out all of my clothes by type and decide how many of any type I need (and you might classify by size saw well). For instance, I’ll tell myself that I only need 3 pairs of workout pants in my current size. The I lay out all my workout pants and choose the 3 I’m going to keep. That way you don’t fall into the trap of assessing each piece on its own merits or it’s possibilities to be useful, if that makes any sense.

  27. Excited

    I’m starting a new job in a new country next week. Any last minute advice for making a great impression during my first week?

    1. Katie the Fed

      Focus on listening and learning, not talking/trying to impress. There will come a time when people want to hear what you have to contribute, but it’s probably not the first week. They’ll be most impressed that you want to learn and listen.

      What country/region of the world? I may have some more specific advice depending on that.

      1. Excited

        Thanks Katie. Excellent advice.

        The new job is in Sweden. My last couple of jobs have been in the UK and Austria, so I’m not too stressed about the relocation.

        1. Katie the Fed

          Oh you should be fine. If you were moving to Asia or the Middle East you might have to navigate some more tricky etiquette waters but you should be fine.

          1. fposte

            I would say Sweden will particularly appreciate Katie’s “Focus on listening and learning, not talking/trying to impress.”

            Sweden is freaking gorgeous, so I’m jealous!

        2. cs

          I would do research on Swedish business etiquette. Or when you move, ask one of your neighbors about it.

          1. BCranston

            Where in Sweden will you be headed? I am currently just west of Stockholm visiting there Mr’s family, part way through a US to UK move. You picked a good year to move because it is a lot warmer than most winters with no snow on the ground.

            Definitely go with listening and learning and look to learn from your colleagues initially. Also, you will have to get used to a slower pace of business/life overall and of course you must get on the fika (coffee and roll) bandwagon, which will happen most days in the afternoons and is usually quite relaxed and can get lengthy. Sort of like Elevenses in UK offices.

            Good luck – and make sure you get out and meet people, and have plenty of activities because the winter darkness and gloom is no joke. I think I have been going through jet lag for a week!

            1. Excited

              I’m moving to Malmö, right down in the south of Sweden, so thankfully as cold and dark as it could be. Temperature wise it shouldn’t be too bad, but I think the wind chill will be much more of a factor than London.

          2. Excited

            Great idea cs. I’ve found some really good stuff after searching for Swedish business etiquette.

  28. A

    Wedding etiquette question here:

    I have an aunt and uncle who are separated (possibly formally divorced by now) from each other and are living in separate homes. I plan to invite both, as well as their two children together and a third child he had outside the marriage. When I address the invitations, clearly his child from outside the marriage should only go on his invitation. What about the other two kids? Their primary home is with mom but both parents are still actively involved in raising them.

    (They’ve attended other functions together since splitting up and have been extremely civil and even friendly to each other, so I am not concerned about that.)

    1. Katie the Fed

      You might just want to call them and ask – that way they know your intent to invite all the children and it eliminates confusion, and you can make sure to address it correctly.

    2. fposte

      Another possibility is sending the kids their own invitations (presuming they’re over, say, 2). Getting mail is exciting!

      1. Ruffingit

        I would do this, they will be thrilled to get their own invitations and it solves your problem. Generally though, if you don’t want to send them their own invite, they would be included on mom’s invite since they primarily live with her.

    3. RJ

      They should be included on the invitation that goes to their primary residence. If you’re concerned that your uncle may not understand they have been invited along with the aunt, you could enclose a note (or email / call / however you usually communicate) to let him know.

  29. Katie the Fed

    Oh! Oh! One more question:

    I have an elliptical at home with a magazine rack that holds an iPad. I have netflix, hulu, and amazon prime. Which tv series should I get hooked on to start watching while I work out?

    1. VictoriaHR

      What do you like?

      Doctor Who is what I’m currently watching when I run on the treadmill. You gotta get through season one which is “eh,” season two is much much better and David Tennant is so adorable you’ll squee.

      I also like 24, Prison Break (pretty boys), Supernatural (more pretty boys), Homeland, Scandal. I am sensing a trend with the pretty boy thing, hmm…

      1. AB

        I really wanted to like Doctor Who, but couldn’t get past the “first” season with Christopher Eccelston. He just wasn’t likable, and Rose seemed… either exceptionally naive or stupid. Maybe I should try it again

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

          Oh, do.

          I liked Christopher Eccelston, but it just gets better from there.

          And you will love Rose. She’s neither naive nor stupid. She’s Bad.

          1. Felicia

            She’s Bad Wolf;)

            I think i’m strange because I like Christopher Eccleston best. But I started with Blink, which IMO is the perfect episode to start with. It’s on the top of most of the top ten New Who lists and most people like it. You also don’t need any background info to understand it and the Doctor is barely in it at all, which sort of eases you into the concept. I watched that, and then I started from the beginning of the new series

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

              Ooooh. I love Blink.

              Now that I’ve finally finished up 7, YAY for a great season although not the best Christmas special ever, I’m going to to back and watch the new era from the beginning.

              I am old enough to say, Tom Baker is my Doctor so I might wind *all* the way back and marathon some classic also.

    2. Katie the Fed

      Shows I’ve loved:

      Sopranos (finishing it right now)
      Archer
      Friday Night Lights
      Lost (loved it so much)
      Downton Abbey
      House of Cards
      Law and Order (I’m sure there are still a few hundred episodes I haven’t seen)

      I guess I like drama that makes me think, with the exception of Archer that just cracks me up.

      1. brightstar

        You could give Bob’s Burgers a try, H. Jon Benjamin voices Bob. It’s not as dirty as Archer.

        The Wire
        Sleepy Hollow (cheesy fun with pretty leads you don’t have to think too hard to watch)

        American Horror Story (pure crack of a tv show)

        One of my favorite shows ever is Misfits, which is available on Hulu. It’s about 5 people in their early 20’s who get hit by lightning in a freak storm and develop super powers. But instead of trying to save the world they continue to binge drink, do drugs, and try to get laid. It takes sci-fi tropes and turns them on their heads.

      2. Calla

        Have you seen Orphan Black? It’s fantastic. I think the second season is starting soon too, so if you get hooked you don’t have to wait too long.

        On the “just cracks me up” side, I recently marathoned My Name is Earl (a bit older) and found it absolutely hilarious.

      3. Natalie

        Not quality TV, but for working out I recommend Leverage. It’s a crime drama with a pretty solid comedy element and the whole series is streaming on Netflix. It’s interesting enough to keep you engaged but light enough that it won’t distract you from working out too much. Just the right amount of distraction.

        1. Jessa

          Leverage rocks, my cat is named Parker because she hangs upside down on the arm of her chair.

          Also White Collar is good too.

      4. Felicia

        If you like Lost, you’ll probably like Once Upon a Time! It’s by the same people and it’s a similar style, even with totally different stories and premises. It’s one of my current favourites.

      5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

        We have mostly the same taste, although I don’t see any SciFi in there so I will skip that.

        Numb3rs is good for a treadmill sort of show.
        Damian Lewis is Life is overlooked and awesome.

        White Collar, Suits, Burn Notice – those are my three main recommendations for you on the treadmill.

    3. VintageLydia

      Once Upon a Time is like a fantasy soap opera. Eureka is sometimes goofy sometimes heartrending sci fi. I liked to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender for exercising because watching kids being super active and athletic makes me wish I were (and inspired me to keep going.) I know its a kids show but it really well written. Avoid the sequal series, Korra, like the plague.

      1. Evan

        What’s so bad about Korra? I’ve never watched it, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from other people.

        1. Zelos

          Legend of Korra has individual story arcs with each season, as opposed to its predecessor which had an overarching plot over three seasons.

          Korra’s approach really hurt it, in my opinion. I’ve watched both seasons of it, and my reaction at the endings for seasons one and two have ranged from “…okay…but rushed” to “wtf where did that come from”.

          Also, I feel like character development was better in AtLA–I loved them despite their flaws. I’m much more prone to facepalm/shout at the TV to the Korra characters.

        2. VintageLydia

          The characters aren’t written nearly as well and the writing is really really cliche. The creators are great at worldbuilding, character design, and general story ideas, but with AtLA they had a dozen other writers to make up for the things they lack (the writing needs to be tightened WAY up. Don’t spend 2/3rd of your first season on a stupid love triangle when you have some really important and society-destroying things happening in the wider world ESPECIALLY when you only have 12 episodes total for the whole season.)

    4. Jubilance

      I have no idea what you’re into so I’m just going to throw some ideas out there – House of Cards, Orange Is The New Black, Archer, Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Suits.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Love How I Met Your Mother. Even though it’s about love, and I started binge-watching it after a horrible breakup, it makes me laugh so hard that it actually made me feel better.

        I just started watching Orange is the New Black. At first I was kind of “eh,” but it’s starting to grow on me.

      1. De Minimis

        I liked Saving Grace a lot…marathoned that over a few holiday weekends a couple of years ago.

    5. Ask a Manager Post author

      Breaking Bad, before you do anything else
      House of Cards (you will like this; you work in D.C.)
      Orange is the New Black
      Battlestar Gallactica (give it 3 episodes to get you hooked, even if you think it’s not your thing; I didn’t think it was mine either but loved it)
      Firefly

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Don’t give up on Breaking Bad just because of that. It will still be WELL worth watching. It’s not about the ending; it’s about everything before that.

          1. Dulcinea

            Agree! I would say the ending wasn’t much of a surprise anyway if you had been watching all along; it seemed kind of inevitable. But there a tons of amazing twists and surprises along the way.

        2. Felicia

          I watched the first 5 episodes of Breaking bad and I was just bored and struggling through it. I feel like i’m the only one who thinks so. People kept telling me to keep going to season 2 to give it a chance, but I already spent nearly 5 hours on a show i didn’t like at all, what’s the point of struggling through more? If I don’t like it after i’m done the first episode, i don’t want to give it more chances.

          1. De Minimis

            I started on season 3, after trying to watch season 1 and struggling with it. The story starts to move a lot more in season 3 and I almost think it’s better for people to start there and then go back later to get the full story [and be caught up before you watch the end of the whole thing.]

            I still haven’t watched all of season 2, although I know what happened.

          2. BausLady

            I know I’m late to the party, but I was in the exact same boat as you Felicia. I watched the whole first season two years ago and refused to watch more. It was boring, and I could not care less about the characters.
            My husband decided over the holidays that he wanted to try it. I started it with him, again, and this time I made it to Season 5. I have to say, I don’t really like it any better, and I don’t understand why people love it so much and think it’s such great storytelling…but I’m glad I watched it .

      1. littlemoose

        +1 on Breaking Bad, it’s amazing. I also recommend Mad Men, which I believe is streaming on Netflix. If you like animated stuff, Futurama is also hilarious. Arrested Development is also pretty funny, and available on Netflix.

      2. Jen in RO

        I didn’t like BSG or Firefly the first time I watched them… then I gave them another shot and I was hooked!

      3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

        Mmm, yeah, but you have to *watch* Breaking Bad. I multi task during almost all teevee watching but can’t do a thing but stare at the screen to not miss one second on Breaking Bad.

    6. Jules

      Good Wife is interestingly good despite the title. The first few episodes might make you say, “No one gets that lucky that often” but it’s thought provoking.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        Just been watching the latest episode of Sherlock, which was quite good fun. However, the episodes are 90 minutes long!

        1. Nancypie

          I liked the book a lot, but only because I watched the show first. Otherwise I don’t think I’d have been nearly as into it as I was.

    7. The IT Manager

      Broadchurch is aBritish procedural. Very focussed on the dectectives trying to solve the murder of a young boy in a small town on the English coast. Amazing and shocking. Watch it before the American/FOX version of Broadchurch is ruins it by trying to stretch the mystery for a whole season or longer. Only 6 or 8 episodes long and although I heard that the BBC (I think) is developing another series, they whole plot arc is complete in those 6 or 8 episodes. Simply stunning and devestating.

      Luther – another British series with Idris Elba. Series 1 was better than series 2. I haven’t watched series 3 yet. Very dark about a messed up detective hunting serial killers, but it’s BBC so each series is only about 4 – 6 hour long episodes.

      Person of Interest is my current favorites “procedural” like series, but the addictive part is the complicated back story that slowing is filled in for all the characters.

    8. Bryan

      Good wife is amazon. I recently watched through it all and I can’t believe I didn’t start it earlier.

    9. Nancypie

      Scandal
      Orange is the new black
      Breaking bad

      I do this (watch netflix on my phone while using cardio machines at the gym). The trick is to try really hard to only watch these super-addictive shows while working out, so you’ll do it more. So far I always cave, but I try….

      Currently I’m watching House of Cards as my gym show.

    10. Windchime

      How about Firefly? It’s not a very long season but it’s a rollicking good fun space-western, if that makes any sense.

      I also spent a lot of time binge-watching Battlestar Gallactica right after I got my Netflix. Super nerdy, I know.

  30. NewOpportunitySoon

    How should I tell my mentor that I’m leaving the awful job she brought me to?

    Background: I have a new job opportunity (yay!) coming up and almost finished with negotiations. The problem is that I’m not sure how exactly to tell my boss/mentor. I worked with her at a previous job and when she left the company, she even brought me along.

    Within the first two months, I had a gut feeling that this place would not work out. This was my first for-profit job–I was in academia and non-profits prior. Second, the culture at the company was not a good fit–too many politics, really immature management and basic operation procedures. Still, I knew this was a great learning opportunity for me to get some critical skills and I’ve accomplished a few projects.

    Fast forward to now, we’re both miserable. So much so that her own management capabilities have diminished since she has grown to take on more of disarray at work. She’s quite forgetful and she’s become extremely micromanaging. In addition, she’s started taking out her stress on me through little jokes. I have no problem telling her that those comments are not acceptable and she does stop. She has even admitted publicly many times that she knows she’s taking it out on me.

    Throughout the time here, we’ve discussed that I’m not happy with work and that from an environment perspective, this is not a company that I would stay long at, but I would work hard at. Now that I’m close to signing off on a new job, how should I approach my resignation?

    1. A

      “I wanted to let you know that my last day here will be X. Another opportunity at Y came my way, and they’ve made me an offer I can’t refuse. I want to thank you sincerely for all I’ve learned from you over the years and in my work here”

      How long have you been at this latest job, by the way?

      1. Ruffingit

        Yes, this is a good script. Also, just a reminder, though you already know this if you’re a regular reader – don’t resign until you have a solid job offer AND a start date!

      2. NewOpportunitySoon

        Little over a year — it’s much shorter than I intended since I’ve stayed at my previous jobs 2-3 years. I think my main issue is that I need to remember that it’s a professional relationship and not a personal one.

    2. AdAgencyChick

      If *she’s* not happy, I don’t think she’ll react at all badly to hear that *you* haven’t been happy — because you can tell her with complete sincerity, “I love working for you, but this place isn’t for me.” Are you going back to non-profit? If so, you can also add that in — “I really miss working for that world, and I’m really excited to go back.”

    3. Joey

      I found a new job that is a great opportunity I can’t pass up. My last day will be x. I appreciate everything you have done for me here.

    4. SD

      I think some great advice has already been given, so I’ll just tack on: try to be open to the idea that she might even react positively to the news that you’re moving on. If she’s still at all in touch with who she used to be as a mentor, she may be feeling horrible for bringing you along into that work environment. Who knows, you leaving could be the kick she needs to find a job elsewhere as well!

      And as you say above, yes, it is absolutely a professional relationship. She’s an adult and your boss, she can handle a normal thing that happens in the working world- and even if she finds that difficult, it’s not on you to protect her from it.

    5. Not So NewReader

      Be sure to thank her for all the time together. Maybe you can find a way to say that you want to keep the friendship and just lose the job. But definitely make an effort to put your personal relationship on an even keel.

  31. LMW

    Right before the holidays, I had my one year review. It went pretty well, but the one area for improvement identified by both my manager and me was building relationships across the company. I work for a huge corporation and I’m one of the lowest level managers (no direct reports – I manage projects and processes and content). It’s really easy for me to get caught up in my little area and focus on getting my projects done, but I haven’t been able to do much when it comes to becoming a “go-to” person across the company (I’m the only person in my type of role, but other departments are interested in doing the type of work I do – so it’s a prime opportunity for me to be a good resource). People who work with me directly generally come to see me in this role – it’s the people that I don’t work with directly that I’m really struggling with. Sometimes I don’t even know who I should be connecting with, and I’m not sure how to find out. I get little to no help in this area from my director or VP. I’ve repeatedly asked to be included in more meetings that touch my area so I can meet people, but short of that, I’m not sure what to do. Any suggestions? Since things are a little up in the air with my job, I really do need to start getting my name out there within the company, but how do you do that when you don’t have any sort of connection with people?

    1. Jubilance

      Start with the people that you do interact with – ask them to suggest other people you can connect with, whether its to learn more about their area, or perhaps they have knowledge or a skill set you can leverage. Then reach out to those people for coffee or a 30 minute meeting. At the end, ask them to recommend other people to meet with as well. Continue to follow up with those initial people you met with, for coffee or a quick chat so that you keep the relationship going.

    2. Kara Ayako

      This is actually feedback that I, have a mentor, have given people, and I also work for a giant corporation. It can be difficult, and it will definitely involve time and work on your part. It probably won’t come as already part of your current role, or it would have already happened.

      I would try the following:
      (1) When people express interest in learning more about what you do, set up some time for them to shadow you or just to have a discussion. This can be a great way to be seen as a “go-to” person. Now, when someone new comes to the company and wants to learn, people you’ve sat with already will direct the new person to reach out to you.
      (2) Express interest in what someone else does and ask if you can meet with them to learn more about it. Over the course of the discussion, you’ll exchange information about what each of you do.
      (3) Participate in extra-curricular activities. If your company’s anything like mine, there are probably a few networking groups you can participate in. We have some intramural sports groups, a women’s network, some charity groups, and a pure networking group. Even though these take extra time, they’re well-worth it. You’ll interact with all sorts of people you wouldn’t normally.
      (4) I find it odd that your manager specifically said in your review that you need to work on this but now isn’t helping you. I would sit him or her down, specifically reference the review, say you’re trying to improve but are having difficulty, and directly ask for help.

      1. squid

        Seconded. All of it.

        I’m in a similar resource-but-little-direct-contact role and geographically separated from the rest of the division. As well as always being open to meet or discuss things with new contacts, I participated in as many internal training events and extracurriculars as I could for the first couple of years (2 hours on presentation skills? a chance to talk with the dozen or so other colleagues in the room.)

        Taking on a role in providing internal training has made an even bigger difference. Are you in the sort of role where you can offer half-day training, or a brown-bag lunch session, or a column in the internal newsletter, etc?

        And reiterate with your director & VP that ~they~ would benefit from including you in [certain type of meeting.] You’ve got to be a resource for them first of all.

  32. brightstar

    In November I had a 3rd interview for a job in my field that I was really excited about. I was told by the hiring manager I was on the short list, but then they went with the other candidate because they thought the person would fit better in the culture.

    This week, I’ve seen the same job at the same company listed on several job search sites, but not on the company’s website.

    I’m debating whether or not to contact them regarding the position and that I’m still interested?

    1. fposte

      My guess is that the external sites simply haven’t taken them down, but I think it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Having a job still posted on an external site has happened to me on the hiring side, and I’m never offended by somebody asking if the job is still open (and find it helpful to know that the job is still listed where it shouldn’t be). You might acknowledge the possibility that such a listing could be mistakenly retained so that there’s no awkwardness to that if that’s the case (unless you know for sure that the job came down off the sites in the meantime).

      1. brightstar

        Thanks. Left over job listings were my original thought, but these were posted just before Christmas and had been taken down in the meantime.

    2. Kara Ayako

      Don’t contact them. It’s likely that the external sites glitched, but even if the job is posted again (maybe their other candidate backed out at the last minute), they have your contact information and will reach out if they want to.

      1. brightstar

        Yeah, I had actually forgotten that for a bit :(

        I”m trying to concentrate more on the interviews I have lined up in the future.

  33. The Other Dawn

    Not a question, just a comment. I have my first REAL interview on Monday and I’m starting to get nervous. The business I worked for for 17 years (since I was 21) has gone out of business so I haven’t looked for a job in a long time. The couple jobs I had before that didn’t require a real interview. Mostly just a job application and a 10 minute meeting with the manager (retail). I hope I don’t say something stupid. I tend to ramble when I’m nervous and say much more than I need to. Plus, I’m just not well-spoken; I’m much better at writing.

    1. Yup

      I’m sure you’ll do great! Good luck. :-) To set your own mind at ease, have you read Alison’s job interview guide? It’s free and really helpful, especially with the practice questions.

      https://www.askamanager.org/how-to-guide

      Since you’re more comfortable with writing initially, maybe try writing down your answers to the common interview questions, and then read them out loud and see how they sound?

    2. RJ

      Congratulations, Dawn. 17 years must be a magic number because both my husband and I experienced layoffs from jobs during our 17th years too. We’re both gainfully employed again, so things will get better. I hope you have a great interview. For me, I just always try to remember that it’s a two-way street where I should be evaluating them just as much as they’re evaluating me.

      1. The Other Dawn

        I will definitely be evaluating them right back. :) I spent probably two-three years too many in my job and I plan to be picky this time. Not so picky I miss out on a good opportunity, but just because I did something for 17 years, doesn’t mean it’s my “dream” and that I’m willing to ignore red flags.

    3. Jules

      Tip for the rambling (I do that too), each time you feel like saying something not relevant during the interview, take a deep breath and count to 5.

      1. The Other Dawn

        Yeah, I tend to add a lot of extraneous information when I’m explaining something so I’ll have to be very conscious of that. Great tip, thanks!

    4. WFBP

      Having just gone through that, and being EXACTLY like you on the nerves and better writing than speaking thing…a few suggestions:

      Read AAM’s eBook How To Get A Job, it includes how to interview in it (or i think her interview guide is separate, look for it on the top left of her page, it’s FREE). The advice is priceless, seriously. Think up questions you’d ask if you were interviewing someone (a question that comes to mind is what made you stay with that company for so long).

      If you practice answers enough, it will help you not stammer through them. Also, if you do mock interviews with friends, it REALLY helps (especially if that friend does hiring). My sister interviewed me and it helped tremendously.

      Finally, make a list of thoughtful questions you want answered by them, so you’re not caught flat footed when the ‘do you have any questions for me’ thing comes up. AAM’s #1 most awesome question works very well, I think it cinched a job for me! I got ‘wow, what a great question’ from it.

      Remember, this is a 2-way street. You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. If you think of it that way, that you are screening THEM, it may take some nerves away.

      GOOD LUCK!!!

  34. ChristineSW

    Alison – Your cat pictures are so, so cute!

    Just wanted to wish everyone a happy 2014! Also, please send up some positive vibes for me…I have a couple of cool opportunities in the pipeline. They’re not paid at this point, unfortunately, but they could be a huge, huge boost to my long-fledgling career. I don’t want to say anything more so as not to jinx myself.

    I’m just scared to be hopeful because every time something comes along, it falls through. I often get it in my head that it’s due to some of my quirks. I look awesome on paper and write very well, but when you meet me in person, I think I sometimes come across a bit awkward. It’s very possible that I’m being much harder on myself than I need to be…we’re all our own worst enemy! I know I have passion and skills. I just have to show others that I believe it.

    1. fposte

      Happy 2014 to you, Christine! And it’s very exciting to hear about your upcoming opportunities–I hope you find a great fit there.

    1. Sloop

      5 weeks… I took the job and was seriously unhappy because they were a horribly disorganized company that didn’t care about their workers at all, but that is just my experience. I know there are industries that take a long time to hire and are wonderful to work…so I wouldn’t take my experience as a blanket statement at all.

      1. Dang

        Thanks Sloop- I’m glad you could translate my question! haha.

        5 weeks does sound like a long time in general, I think… even though what you said about it being longer in some fields does have validity. It’s hard to tell when a long time before an offer would be a red flag and when it wouldn’t.

        1. AVP

          Mine was 2.5 months. I had long moved on, but it turned out that they had never gotten around to hiring anyone and I was their first choice. My temp gig was ending, so I took the job.

          In my case it was also indicative of a very disorganized, people-last culture but I think this is probably just a coincidence and I’m sure there are plenty of situations where this is the normal process and timeline.

    2. Dang

      Argh I wish I could edit this post. I typed it from my phone and it makes no sense.

      I’m in academia and I’ve been job searching for 7 months. I interviewed for a great job in late October. They told me it would be awhile before I heard because they had to interview more but wouldn’t be able to until late November or December. I haven’t heard from them since. The position hasn’t been filled and I want to follow up again but it seems awkward to do now after almost 3 months (I did f/u not long after the interview with a thank you, etc).

      So I’m wondering how long is the longest you’ve all experienced between final interview and an actual offer. I haven’t lost hope because they told me it would be super slow but I’m kind of anxious about the whole thing. And obviously I’m still applying for other jobs but none have been as good as this one.

    3. Elysian

      7-8 weeks, but I’m a young’un so others might have more. The company ended up being extremely organized and efficient, they were just having trouble getting all the decision-makers in the right room to finish the hiring process.

      During the long wait, I followed up around the time frame they told me they hoped to hire in and with one “update” to my resume. I was in school, and during the wait to hear from them I accepted an internship that was relevant and would make me a more attractive candidate, so I sent them an fyi kind of email. I also did a general follow-up in the nature of “I’m still interested if you are.” They knew they were taking a long time. Eventually I just went on with life assuming I didn’t get the position, and then out of the blue they called me and offered it. So, it happens!

  35. Recruiter

    Hoping the thoughtful readers of AAM can help with this one…

    I’ve been tasked with improving candidate experience. The biggest challenge is that my company hires 1% of the candidates who apply. We’re one of the biggest employers in the city and receive a huge volume of applications. Maybe 10% of candidates receive a phone screen or an interview. Most candidates are never contacted and only hear from us via automated emails.

    What concrete actions and things would you like from employers as a candidate?
    What could an employer do that doesn’t involve personal contact? (e.g. an easy-to-navigate website)
    What have other organizations done that’s impressed you as a candidate?
    How did you learn about your current or most recent position?

    Thanks, everyone, for any insight you can provide. I really want to ensure that all candidates have as positive of an experience as possible.

    1. Dang

      That’s great that your company is having you look into this!

      I think candidates typically know that competition is fierce and there are almost always more qualified candidates out there. So those of us who have been job searching for more than a month or two have almost become jaded and expect NOT to hear anything.

      My main thoughts:

      -Don’t use Taleo or any other horrid application system. If you can have an HR contact to email the resume/cover letter, it’s much easier to apply.
      -CONFIRMATION OF RECEIPT OF APPLICATION. I’d guess that almost half of my applications never received a confirmation and it drives me crazy. It makes it so much easier to keep track of where you’ve applied and gives candidates the peace of mind that someone will actually view what they’ve just spent easily 30 minutes to an hour doing. It would be nice to also send an expected rough timeline (we expect to hire for this position by x date, or hope to complete interview process by x date) but realize this isn’t always possible.
      -Notification when the job has been filled, even if they don’t get an interview. Almost no one actually does this, but it would be nice to know.

      1. De Minimis

        Second the advice on Taleo 100%. It’s just plain awful, and I know when I was applying for jobs any time I saw that the company used Taleo it gave me a bad impression and also the feeling that I most likely was wasting my time.

        Given the volume of applications you receive I understand that personal communication won’t work, but having an easy to navigate website would be great, and I also agree that maybe giving rough estimates of timeframe in your automated responses would be good. I also like the idea of an automatic notification that the job has been filled or at least that candidates have been selected for interviews.

        I had to use a standard website to apply to my current job [I’m a gov’t employee] and a lot has been done to make the website [USAJobs] easier to use for candidates, depending on how each agency decides to use it. One really useful feature is being able to save resumes and cover letter for use in applying for multiple jobs, it becomes a lot easier to customize these when you have them saved in the system.

    2. Anonsies

      An automated email when I apply (so I know it went through) and when I’m out of the running is as much as you need, really.

      And making it friendly can go a lot farther than you think– when job hunting last I applied to one company where the form letter was kind and encouraging, which was unexpected but made me feel better about applying there again later. Nothing grinds my gears more than an automated response that’s also dismissive or snippy, as many of them are. “You do not meet the minimum qualifications for this position” is a favorite of mine that Kaiser sends out IIRC, to every single applicant that is not accepted for hire. Rather indiscriminately judgmental.

      NO TALEO.

      No copying your resume into a million little boxes. Company name here, start date here, end date here, reason for leaving here, phone number here, address here, good lord.

      1. De Minimis

        I never used to even hear anything from Kaiser! That was one of the “black hole” type places where I never learned what happened. They had a bad application webpage too if I remember correctly, it was either Taleo or it was something like it.

        1. Anonsies

          I believe it was Taleo or something just as annoying, yeah. And I’d get a snippy automated rejection many months after applying– like 4-7, I think. It really soured me on the idea of working for or with Kaiser in the future.

    3. Joey

      Candidate or applicant experience? Those are two very different things.

      Candidate experience can easily be positively affected by things like:
      1. Clearly communicating the job (warts and all), salary, hire process and timelines.
      2. Communicating delays and rationale for any negative news.
      3. Investing time to allow the candidate to get a clear picture of the job. This might be just discussions, but could also be as extensive as a tour or talking with employees.
      4. Being mindful of the candidates time. Things should be short, informative and purposeful. Candidate appointments/meetings should be consolidated when possible.
      5. Following up soon after the interview.
      6. Giving rejection timely, personally, and with some rationale.
      7. Giving job offers based on market data and including a summary of non salary compensation.
      8. Being positive, courteous and truthful without being misleading.
      9. Acting swiftly. This means reviewing apps fairly quickly, interviewing fairly quickly and making decisions fairly quickly.

      Applicant experience is probably out of your realm if you use an applicant tracking system. The few things you can control are probably things like:
      1.minimizing required data entry
      2.setting up and tailoring automated messages.
      3. Making your website informative and useful.
      4. Providing a live person if needed.
      5. Making job postings reflect real life
      6. Disclosing comp

    4. Recruiter

      Dang, De Minimis, Anonsies, Joey– thanks! Very helpful. The good news is that we’re already doing just about everything you’ve described. We do have an application tracking system, but with six figures’ worth of applicants, that’s unavoidable. It meets most of what De Minimis and Joey described.

      Ok, I’m feeling a little better knowing that we’re doing what’s expected by candidates. What could be done to go above and beyond? Both for applicants and candidates (fair point on the distinction, Joey).

      1. Joey

        Above and beyond?

        1. Give the top candidate a few minutes to meet an executive before you make an offer.
        2. Pay travel or parking expenses.
        3. Schedule interviews at the convenience of the candidate even if its after hours.
        4. The newest trend is flying out to meet non local top candidates instead of asking them to fly to meet you.
        5. Offer a bottle of water in the interview.
        6. above and beyond is treating every candidate like they will be writing a news piece or review about the experience. In other words it’s making the candidate feel like he is the most important candidate you have. Its similar to the way you would be treated at the best fine dining restaurant or a five star hotel. It’s getting every detail right.

        The best thing you can do is to ask candidates for specific feedback and literally follow someone through the interview process.

    5. Elysian

      Tell me when I’m out of the running. If you’re never going to interview, please properly reject me, even if its with a form email of some kind. I made a spreadsheet of all my job applications at the end of school, and I would say that 70% of people I applied with never (still haven’t) told me that they weren’t interested. I wish I could have closed those loops and then followed up with places where I might have been a better fit.

    6. Anon

      Regarding the application itself:
      *Don’t make text field required unnecessarily
      *On that same vein, if you’re going to throw out any application that doesn’t have a certain not-required text field filled out, just make it a required text field
      *Clearly communicate the requirements and expectations of the job in your posting

      Regarding the hiring process:
      *Automated, timely emails for any applicants that haven’t gotten to the interview stage
      *Timely emails rejecting candidates that weren’t hired that stick to your hiring timeline, or emails that simply state the revised timeline if you think you’ll go well past the established timeline

      Thank you for taking the time to be considerate of applicants. I’m sure many will appreciate it!

      1. Anon

        Oh, one more suggestion: If you have an online application status, try having something more informative than “in progress,” or “processing,” (assuming the program you’re using gives alternative options), and keep the status updated.

        1. De Minimis

          From my experience with USAJobs, I’d say it’s best to just have the status only show if it’s been received or not. Having too many categories of application status can make applicants drive themselves nuts trying to make something out of nothing when it comes to phrases like “Qualifications under review,” “Application under consideration,” “Referred,” etc….

          For applicants the main things that are appreciated are just making the application submission process easy, acknowledging that the resume/application has been received, and letting rejected applicants in a timely manner know they won’t be moving forward in the process.

          Of course, for candidates that you meet with, the requirements should be greater, and Joey has offered a lot of great ideas.

          1. cs

            Along the same lines, I would say create a page for the status updates of where the department is in the hiring process, not just the status of application as received or under review. I applied for a job at a university a month ago, on their job listings page, they list all the jobs that were posted from the past two months and for each position, the status of where they are in the hiring process is listed (closed, interviewing, etc).

            As an applicant, this helps a lot. I wish all employers would do this. At least this way their receptionist or HR doesn’t have to answer all those phone calls.

    7. Felicia

      If I get called in for an interview, or even a phone screen, I would expect to hear from the employer either way. You might be surprised how rarely employers actually do that.

      I learned about my recent position on Charity Village, which is for non profits in Canada. I feel posting on industry specific boards is helpful.

      One thing I hate is overly complex online application forms, especially Taleo but a lot of online applications are really annoying, overly complex, and don’t account for a lot of legitimate variations. If I can’t just attach a resume and cover letter, I get really annoyed.

  36. Nichole

    Anyone know of good resources for converting a resume to a CV? I work in higher ed, so it’s occured to me that I should have one on deck, but I have no idea how to format it or what to include (for example-I haven’t been in any journals, but do conference presentations belong on a CV?). They seem to break all of the rules that made my resume good, so I’m not sure how to create one.

    1. fposte

      Just about all my colleagues have their CVs posted (I really need to get on that), so you can find plenty of examples to work from. But my suspicion is that you’re overthinking it–I think CVs are much easier than resumes because you don’t have to do the same picking and choosing. Conference presentations *absolutely* go on there. Committees you’ve sat on go on there. Grant refereeing goes on there. (Article refereeing generally does not, at least in my field.) Association memberships go on there. Workshops you’ve run go on there. Non-peer-reviewed publications can go on there if they’re appropriate and should go on there if you produced them. Etc. There’s also less design pressure on a CV (I would say that there’s an inverse relationship between how long and illustrious a CV is and how much visual sophistication it has).

      But mostly I’d suggest you poke around to see who else in your field has their CV up on the web and get an idea of what possibilities currently exist.

  37. Erin B.

    I was just hoping for an open-thread after seeing the questions from the adjunct teacher & the manager training writers. I am a high school teacher (Spanish) with some experience with writing. I was a reporter before becoming a teacher, and I have written two successful grants since becoming a teacher (one of which was for a substantial sum). I love my job, but I can’t picture myself teaching until retirement. It sucks too much out of you, and public education is especially volatile right now.

    Are there any teachers out there who have successfully transitioned to other careers? Is there an industry in which I could leverage my writing skills a bit more?

    1. Kristie

      I’d like to hear the answer to this as well! High school Spanish teacher here who is miserable in her job. But scared to try something new….and I wouldn’t even know where to start.
      The only careers I can think of are: writing (I’m sort of skilled in that area) and becoming a translator (because of the Spanish skills. And I’m also fluent in French).
      Help!

      1. COT

        How about Adult Basic Education/ELL, or working at organizations that promote literacy, cultural awareness, things like that?

    2. Victoria Nonprofit

      Are you interested in policy/politics/etc.? You might want to consider working in ed policy (at the state DOE, the district itself, with advocacy groups or your union, etc.).

    3. the gold digger

      I work for an organization that hires former teachers – they develop courses for adult education and certify existing courses. And of course there is in-house training. I had a friend who evaluated training needs at Ryder and developed the courses for the mechanics and other functions.

    4. littlemoose

      I’m not sure to what level you’re fluent, but having that second language skill is sure to be beneficial. I am willing to bet there are a lot of entry-level or similar positions in which Spanish skills will make you stand out. I’m not sure about specific industries, but maybe that could be a starting point for you.

    5. A Teacher

      Can you do a “side job” that gets you an in? I still teach high school full time but I’ve also taken on an adjunct position at the junior college and was told if I ever wanted to transition to tenure track there it is a strong possibility. Obviously you need a masters minimum to make that move, but I do like higher ed for reasons that I don’t like public secondary ed. I love my job so I don’t know if I’d ever make the move but its nice to know its a possibility. I also work as an athletic trainer on an as needed basis…teaching was a career change for me from working for a super large PT company. Can you do something similar with translation or transcribing?

  38. BCW

    I’ve seen a lot of wedding related questions on here, so I’ll post. How far of a “destination” does it have to be where gifts aren’t required. For example, I went to one in Asia last year, and they didn’t even expect gifts because people spent so much to travel. But what if its across the country? The bride and groom live in Chicago, but are getting married on West Coast. With plane and lodging, its going to cost a bit. Is a gift still expected?

    1. Dang

      If it were my wedding and it were out of town I would NOT expect gifts. Unfortunately I don’t think most people think that way, especially since travel is involved for a lot of people even if it were in town.

    2. Katie the Fed

      I’m going to answer your question, and then I’m going to rant a bit :)

      Gifts are NEVER required, and if the couple makes you feel that they are, then they’re tacky as all get out. That being said, even if you’re shelling out a bit to come, I would still try to give a small gift, like a picture frame or something, just to commemorate the occasion.

      OK, now for the rant – I’m kind of over destination weddings, especially in far-flung corners of the world. Apparently everyone I know is shocked that I’m not doing one because I’m very much a world traveler, but to me the point of a wedding is to celebrate with people you love – why would you choose a wedding that’s going to be a burden on the people you want to celebrate with? Asking people to spend obscene amounts of money, take vacation time, etc – it just doesn’t feel quite right to me. I know the message everyone for brides is that it’s all about you and your day, but actually it’s supposed to be about the family and community. If it’s someone else in the country, that’s not that big of a deal since people are probably traveling from all over the country anyway. But if you want a destination wedding in Zanzibar or the Maldives, I think you’re being a little silly and disrespectful of your friends and family, unless you’re planning to pay for their trip.

      Urgh. I went to a destination wedding in Mexico and on the invitation they had registry information (gahhh!) as well as “cash gifts are also appreciated.” *head explodes*

      OK, thanks for letting me get that off my chest :)

      1. Calla

        Yeah, I’m having a hard time deciding whether I want to do within the city (easy because it will be accessible by public transportation) or outside (more affordable options along the lines of what I want, but people would need to have cars). And that’s within the state even! I would never expect people to travel out of the country unless, like, I lived on the border of Mexico and so did all of my friends. Or everyone I knew was a millionaire.

        1. Katie the Fed

          Mine’s going to be about an hour outside of DC, because I can’t really afford anything in the city. I figure there are decent/cheaper hotels by the airports and the local people can make that drive.

          1. LMW

            I’m helping my sister plan her wedding, and she can’t afford our metro area either. So I’m trying to find venues that are close enough that people can drive both ways, but far enough that we get a price break.

      2. Diet Coke Addict

        Bingo. Gifts are not ever required ever ever ever. Honestly, for a big-deal destination wedding, I wouldn’t expect anything more than a card from my guests. I’d go with something smaller, but nice–a gift card to a nice restaurant or something small off the registry.

        Our wedding is going to be local to some, but traveling for both our families and plenty of friends, so I’m expecting many declines and certainly no lavish gifts. If my friends are spending their time and money and energy to come see me, that is by far the best possible gift I could receive!

        Do not get me started on the girl I knew who wanted to get married in Mongolia because she thought it was “romantic.” And wanted her 150 guests to accompany her there.

        1. Katie the Fed

          I’m trying to figure out a polite way to get the message out that Fiance the Fed and I don’t really need much stuff, and we’re not expecting gifts. We’re in our 30s, we’re established in life, I own the house, etc. I can stand to upgrade a few kitchen things but really we need very little. We just want to celebrate.

          I knew a woman who planned a black tie only destination wedding in Provence. I was part of the backup invitation list because I got my invitation a couple months after everyone else, which made me laugh (also because she said it had been lost in the mail), and I found out most people had been declining so she wasn’t even going to make the minimum number of guests she’d need for food/beverage.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            People are going to give you gifts, whether you want them to or not. You can’t stop them! People feel rude if they don’t. (At least most people do.) I felt like my best options were to:
            * embrace that fact and see it as people expressing their love for us
            * create a registry with lots of lower-cost options (although you might have relatives who will want to give you something big, so include one or two things for them on it too)
            * and/or ask people for something specific — recipes, or books they loved

            Actually, if I were doing it again, I might ask people to write down their marriage advice for us (similar to what some AAM commenters did for us!) in lieu of gifts. But some people will still want to give you a “thing.”

            1. The IT Manager

              I found the book (series) Love Lanaguages a revelation. I value time as a gift. My (ex-)boyfriend valued things more so he’d give me trinkets that showed “he was thinking of me.” Best of intentions, but I did not want more trinkets to clutter my house. His loving gift actually annoyed me – one more thing to find a place for and to move to my next home.

              For some people, giving something is their preferred way of giving/recieveing love so those people will probably get you gifts.

          2. Diet Coke Addict

            Tell your friends or bridesmaids, if you’re having them. And your family. The idea is that it’s their job to pass along (in a nice, non-gossipy way) the fact that you don’t really want gifts, just time spent with people. So if Jane Doe asks your sister/cousin/BFF “What do Katie and Fiance want? Where are they registered?”, they can say “Oh, she mentioned they didn’t need anything! She just wants everyone to come and have a nice time. I don’t even think they’re registered anywhere!” or words to that effect.

            But expect cash gifts if you go that route.

            1. Not So NewReader

              Yeah, this is what the etiquette people would say, send the message through the grapevine, don’t write it on the invite.

              I like the recipe idea or a recent picture of themselves for you to put up in your new home. Maybe some would be interested in writing down their memories of best times shared.

          3. Kat M

            Consider asking people who’d like to do something nice in honor of your wedding to donate to a favorite charity in your name, or to bring canned good donations for a local food bank instead of gifts. It gets the message across without offending people who feel like they ought to be spending some money on their loved ones.

    3. Calla

      I think this is something that ultimately is going to depend on the couple as there are undoubtedly some greedy jerks out there, but reasonable people are not going to expect a big gift if you’re paying cross-country airfare and a hotel to see them. If you want to be on the safe side, maybe just a card and gift card to a restaurant or something smaller on their registry. See: http://money.cnn.com/2010/09/23/pf/saving/pay_less_for_wedding_gift/

        1. Calla

          I can’t remember where I saw this one, but I also recall a situation where a bride’s friend lost her job or something and couldn’t make it to the wedding. And the bride was texting her about how she was still going to send a card (with money), right?

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          Jezebel annoys the hell out of me sometimes, but they are great for finding and printing stuff like this. (Does anyone remember their old “crap email from a dude” series? It was amazing.)

  39. Gregory

    I have a question for both architects (building’s, not software) and from software developers. What does the ideal cover letter and resume contain? Also, what would you prefer to be left out?

    In my case, I’m an architect by degree but have spent a good portion of my career as an in-house programmer. I’m not looking at jobs in both professions.

    1. Joey

      I’ve overseen architect hiring.

      Include short Project summaries and scope. Specify design and project management responsibilities. Include project budget amounts, project savings, and whether you were on time.

      In your cover letter answer why you’re one and not the other.

    2. class factotum

      Greg is my brother. I have been giving him AAM advice and had directed him to Kimberlee Stein’s great cover letter. He said he didn’t think that would work in his field.

      I told him I can only address general business cover letters, where I am one of many people who have rather generic skills. I thought that maybe in more technical fields, such as programming and architecture, where it’s easier to tell what someone can do from the resume, that the cover letter requirements might be different. I have noticed people in law and academia saying that a Kimberlee-esque letter might not work in their fields.

  40. Calla

    I’m working from home for the first time ever today due to the snow storm in Boston. It’s weird! I’m in bed in jammies, but also working? I know the advice is act like you’re still in an office and dress in real clothes etc but it’s COLD.

    1. Jamie

      Yeah – that’s the advice but I’ve never done it once.

      I fully believe I’m much more effective in jammies or perfectly broken in sweats and fuzzy socks than any kind of grown up attire.

      Seriously – I believe the requirement to wear proper clothing to come to the office is what’s held me back from being the brilliant success I was meant to become.

  41. anonymous

    I have someone that reports to me who is wonderful – hardworking, smart, great to have around the office. But she talks a lot. It’s about work (usually) but I have a hard time trying to wade through it all. I end up interrupting her and asking a lot of questions so I can make sure I understand what she’s saying. But that will often send us off on a tangent because I want to make sure I’m not ignoring something important that she’s trying to convey. She’s just not a great communicator (which really isn’t part of her job otherwise) and I think she’s getting frustrated with my interruptions. I guess I should just talk to her and explain where I’m coming from but if anyone has any tips or experiences to share it would be helpful. I find I’m dreading asking her a question because it always ends up being a big thing – even yes or no questions. I’m trying to work with her on communication skills but we’re all native speakers of the language we’re working in so it’s a tough thing to teach someone to answer questions in a more clear fashion. Thank you!

    1. Katie the Fed

      You could actually tell her up front that it will help her professionally to learn how to structure her comments to give the relevant information up front, and then coach her through it (if she’s receptive and not super defensive). Then when she starts rambling you could say “Katie, what’s the bottom line?” You could also have her start using that in her emails – address up front what the bottom line is and what she wants to happen as a result of the email, ie “For your situational awareness, ____” or “Can you please advise on whether I should pursue course of action A or B” etc.

      Make it a coaching thing. You’re there to help her develop professionally.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This. The few times I have not been brief enough to suit others I have been told directly “the point, the point… cut to the chase.”
        What I liked about this is the speaker was demonstrating the exact thing s/he needed.

        You may need to speak more firmly once in a while. “Is this task done, answer yes or no.”

        You can encourage her to THINK “Am I answering the actual question OR am I answering the question that I think was asked?”
        Encourage her that learning this skill is an investment in her career. People do not want to listen to 15 minutes of talking when they asked a very simple question.

        Worse case scenario you can lay the ground work to open a tougher conversation later on where you say that you dread asking her a question because it takes too long to get an answer.

    2. fposte

      I don’t think it has to be a dreaded conversation–you’re helping both of you past what’s got to be pretty frustrating. That’s a good thing (™ Martha Stewart).

      Consider also that this isn’t about her being wrong as your communications styles not meshing and about you clarifying how you’d like her to communicate–what feels like rambling to you may feel like an attempt to be thorough to her. Can you figure out a guideline for her to consider so she knows what kind and amount of information you want from her so she knows what “enough” looks like? I don’t know what you talk about–one sentence for what, one for who, one for when?

      There’s an employee in our workplace who had difficulty with this, and she got some great guidance from her colleagues and has become extremely valuable–she’s eager and thorough and invested but now knows when to let go.

    3. Bonnie

      I have a boss that thinks in a completely different fashion than I do. I suspect he thinks in pictures while I think in words. He thinks he is telling me everything I need to know and I don’t agree. What I do is let him get through his explanation of the entire project while I take notes. I have a system of stars and questions marks that I then use at the end of the session to go back revisit the things I think might be important or I don’t understand. It also keeps me from interrupting him.

  42. AnonForThis

    I need some perspective on a totally non-work-related thing:

    I’ve been friends with “Jolie” for nearly 20 years; we met in high school. I’ve also known for a long time that if we met today we wouldn’t be friends. We don’t have much in common… but more than that, I’ve come to realize that I just don’t respect much of the way she treats people and lives her life. (details below, if it’s relevant).

    I’ve settled on being casual friends with her – we see movies, get dinners, but don’t connect emotionally or spend a ton of time together. Jolie wants more – specifically, she really likes to talk on the phone and would love to chat for 30+ minutes every day. I hate the phone, and I never call her (and only sometimes answer when she calls). This has always made Jolie unhappy, and she periodically gets angry about it and drops out of contact entirely for a period of time.

    She’s been freezing me out for a couple of months now (not returning texts/calls with invites to go out, etc.). She called this week, when I was at a family holiday party in another state. I responded by text saying that I couldn’t talk and suggested we get together this weekend. She replied and said “I find it interesting that you can text me and “like” my post on Facebook but you don’t have time to answer the phone.”

    I think I’m just done with this friendship, so I responded by text and said “What? I’m at a family party. Of course I can’t answer the phone.” Ugh. I should have called her (fighting by text is obviously stupid), but I just. didn’t. want. to.

    1. Katie the Fed

      Life’s too short to hold onto relationships out of obligation. I’d let this one go. Friendships change and evolve. I started letting some old friendships fall by the wayside last year and it’s very liberating. She sounds narcissistic – they’ll suck your energy and joy.

    2. Dang

      I’ve found with people like her, it’s easiest to let them be angry and ‘right’ and just let them go, honestly. When a friendship feels like an annoying obligation and talking to the person feels like something to check of a to-do list with relief, it’s time to let them go.

      Although I’m not one to have a lot of friends, so maybe that’s why.. haha

    3. De Minimis

      I think I might just let the friendship die next time she “freezes you out,” but I’m probably the wrong person to be giving advice about that, I’m not all that friendship-oriented anyway.

      1. AnonForThis

        How does that work, though? She’ll call me at some point. Do I just ignore it? Call her for a “breakup” chat? Delete her on Facebook? etc.

        1. De Minimis

          I’d probably just ignore it, but that’s me. Maybe on Facebook just have it set to where you don’t see her posts instead of unfriending.

        2. Windchime

          I recently had to handle this by doing the “slow fade” method of exiting the friendship. The relationship was starting to feel like an obligation, and she was wanting me to do things like attend fashion shows (hello, have you even *met* me???) and go drinking with people in their 20’s (we have kids that age). The final straw was when she sent me a long, nasty text message and then unfriended me on Facebook as if we were 15 years old. Subsequent texts/calls from her are met with polite responses and that’s about it. Life is too short to spend time trying to nurture this kind of “friendship”.

    4. AnonForThis

      Whoops, just realized that I didn’t include the promised details:

      Work-related stuff: Jolie never moved out of her parents’ house. She works retail and doesn’t pay any of her own bills (her parents pay the mortgage, buy the food, pay her cell phone bill, etc.). As is to be expected in retail, she’s bounced around a fair bit and has had several periods of unemployment, during which she explicitly said she wasn’t going to look for work until she came close to the end of her benefits. She’s taken several medical leaves for (in my opinion) suspect reasons.

      People-related stuff: She’s a Mean Girl. She loves to gossip about people’s clothes and appearance. She’s frozen out several other friends before, for offenses that are laughably minor.

      … writing this is making me embarrassed that I’m friends with her. So I guess that’s my answer.

    5. Elysian

      My dad is like this about calls, and I’ve learned to ‘manage’ him. You might try telling your call-happy friend that you know you haven’t been around recently to answer her calls, but things have been busy. Instead of missing connections all the time, you’d like to set up a permanent ‘phone day’ so you know you both will have time for the other. It can be every week, or every other week, or something. But then its planned, and she’ll know you will pick up then. Anything more than that scheduled talk is just gravy.

      Or, you can just be done with her. That’s an option, too.

    6. Claire MKE

      I would just ignore her, tbh. It might be “better” to officially friend-breakup but she sounds like a generally unpleasant person, so whatever. Block/delete/forget about it.

    7. Not So NewReader

      Friendships are reciprocal.
      I don’t see where you are getting anything out of this and she is using you to avoid confronting her real frustrations in life.

      I vote for getting out of the way so that can face those frustrations and grow from it.

      Not all friendships are meant to last a life time. There are reasons for that.

  43. Kristie

    Any work from home careers that someone can suggest?
    I am skilled in writing and foreign languages (fluent in French and Spanish).
    Thank you!

    1. Calla

      I’ve seen a number of customer service and scheduling jobs that can be work from home (at least in my area). I’ve also noticed that virtual admin assistants are on the rise — you can find a lot of stuff like that on Elance.

    2. Windchime

      I have an online friend who work from home doing translations of written documents between Spanish and English. I’m not sure how she got into it, but apparently it’s a nice income.

  44. tangledup

    I applied via a company’s online system for a job that I’m very interested in and I believe well-suited for. My resume isn’t going to get much of anywhere in an online system as I’ve been away from the full-time workforce for a number of years. I’ve found I can often get at least an interview when I can get my resume to a person. I would appreciate recommendations on how to approach the recruiter who is (probably) the one recruiting for the position? Thanks.

  45. summercamper

    I would like to brag about my awesome boss.

    Last August my husband and I moved across the country so that he could attend graduate school. We had no jobs lined up. My husband’s school is small and awesome, and their Dean of Women hooked me up with an alumni of the school who now owns a used bookstore, Steve. Steve ended up hiring both me and my husband for work in his bookshop – not the best paying job, but it was a huge relief to have something to tide us over.

    6 weeks later I accepted part-time, temporary employment with a social service agency (and doubled my pay). Steve was a little disappointed but understanding, and continued to give me very flexible part-time employment. “I need to warn you that I might need to switch to full-time work elsewhere, if I can find it,” I told Steve, because it felt like the right thing to do.

    This has continued for the past few months, and I’m getting weary. It is hard to negotiate two part-time jobs, and giving up my lunch hour to drive across town from one job to the next is zero fun. I’d been selectively applying for full-time jobs here and there but hadn’t had much luck.

    Last week Steve had lunch with a friend who is the CEO at my husband’s school. This friend, Bob, mentioned that his assistant had just turned in her notice that morning. Bob really liked his assistant and was worried about finding someone to replace her. Steve didn’t say anything.

    On the way home, though, Steve had what he later described to me as a “conscience attack.” “I kept thinking of how you would be such a good fit for the job,” he told me, “and how you really deserve to make more money than I can pay you. Even though I’ll have to replace you earlier than I’d hoped, I need to think about what’s best for you.” When he got home he called his friend Bob and told him to hire me.

    Bob has taken Steve’s advice, and later on this afternoon I have an interview for the position. While I’m not the only candidate (Bob is smart enough to consider more than just one person), Bob has told me that I’m a very strong applicant. I’m confident that this has to do with the glowing, unsolicited recommendation from Steve. While I’ve had great bosses in the past, I think Steve goes above and beyond, looking out for me instead of just what is best for his company. Not only did he continue to employ me when he realized I was looking for other work, he’s helping me find the perfect position!

    I’ll let you know how the interview goes. Thanks for letting me brag.

  46. TLT

    Why can’t hiring managers just be straight with you? I was told, after two great in-person interviews I should expect a hiring decision by the end of the year. I didn’t hear anything, so I am assuming I didn’t get the job (bummed!), but I’m ready to move on. I sent a follow up email yesterday, just so I could have some closure, and I still haven’t heard anything! I totally get that it sucks letting people down, I just wish that hiring managers would have the nerve to do so!

    1. Calla

      It’s possible that they are avoiding you, but we’re only three days past “the end of the year” and some people take a day to respond to an email (especially if it’s lower-priority, which that may be). I don’t think it’s any reason to get frustrated at them for being conflict-avoidant cowards quite yet!

    2. De Minimis

      I agree, it’s really annoying.

      The worst though is when they lie! I looked for work for a long time and had a lot of crappy interviewing/recruiting experiences, but I *still* am angry about one where they responded and said they were still going through the recruiting process when they had in fact already hired people. Of course, I checked Glassdoor reviews later on and it looks like I might have dodged a bullet anyway.

      1. De Minimis

        I’m guessing in this case that may be a lot to do with it…so many places more or less shut down right now.

        1. TLT

          Wishful thinking me wants to believe that, but they were hoping to have the person begin the week of the 13th and the hiring manager is out next week…womp womp.

          1. Colette

            They may have changed their expected start date, or they may have made an offer that hasn’t been accepted, or the person you emailed needs to check with someone else before getting back to you, or …. It’s best not to assume malice, and closure is up to you, not them. Assume you didn’t get the job and move on.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      I have a little siamese tabby cat, and when she was a kitten, she was buckskin with stripes. So I named her Kiger, after the buckskin mustangs with stripes.

      Another cat was named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz after one of the sons of Isaiah, which means ‘quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil’. I thought that would make a good cat name. We call him Baz.

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      Tofu was light-coloured, like tofu (and since deceased).

      Toffee is a calico, dark and light alternating with brown, like toffee.

      Timber we just thought went well with “Toffee.”

    3. Victoria Nonprofit

      Bika: Named Ambika, after the Hindu Goddess of Destruction. Turned out to be prescient.

      Carl: Named after the Good Dog, Carl children’s book series.

    4. JoAnna

      We just adopted a cat last Saturday, and we named her Katniss. I love the Hunger Games series (books and movies) and my husband has enjoyed the movies. We also liked the “play on words” aspect of it. :)

    5. Anonymous

      I ended up with a mythology theme: Loki was jealous of his brother, Athena was the daughter of Zeus.
      Oh– we were talking about names and I told my friend I had considered Poseidon for a cat with blue eyes, but didn’t think it was cute enough for a kitten. She said I should named him Poseidon officially, but just called him Possy haha

    6. themmases

      My boyfriend and I really enjoy Burn Notice. So our (female) cat’s name is Bruce Campbell and she’s known casually as Bruce.

    7. Cath@VWXYNot?

      For my two cats:

      Google has white marks around her eyes that look like goggles, which was originally going to be her name. Then she spent her first few days in our house searching every single inch of the place over and over, I called her “a right little search engine”, and the rest is history. But we call her Schmoogie (via Google Schmoogle) more often than not.

      Saba (Google’s sister) is a mackerel tabby, with some absolutely gorgeous mackerel skin-like patterns in the dark parts of her fur. We both love sushi, so we gave her the Japanese name for mackerel (one of our favourites). But we call her “The Shabba Dabba” more often than not.

      My favourite photo of them: http://occamstypewriter.org/vwxynot/files/2011/12/photo-51.jpg (Saba on the left, Google on the right).

    8. WFBP

      I have a dog named Puddles…she pretty much named herself. Just sayin.

      On a side note, a friend found a one-eyed kitten at a local Starbucks. She was wondering what to name it. I suggested Staaaaarrrrrbucks, but apparently I was the only one who liked it. Kitty is now Dorian (it’s a gray cat) and is doing great!

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        You made me laugh! And think of the joke about where pirates go to eat fast food — Aaaaarrrrbys!

    9. littlemoose

      Cat’s name was chosen just because I liked it (Lucy). Puppy was named after two weeks of impasse between the boyfriend and me; we settled on Ernie as a short for Ernest Worrell (you know, the Jim Varney character), whom my boyfriend loves for some crazy reason.

    10. Random

      I was 9 when I got my dog and a friend had a dog of the same breed (and from the same breeder, different litter) named “Holly” .. I thought it would be the coolest thing ever to name mine “Hailey”

    11. KLH

      I wanted to name a cat Mencken (for HL Mencken, and because it’s fun to say). When two gray brothers from the same litter came into my life, on was Mencken and one was Cain, because James M. Cain was Mencken’s good friend and protege (and one of the best mid-century noir writers out there).

      Willa is a mix with enough Siamese to give her beautiful blue eyes and a desire to communicate loudly and often. She is very lovey and super feminine. I would have named a daughter Willa Howell, so I used it for my cat.

      I’ve also named a litter of Cocktail Cats (Gimlet, Sidecar, Mai Tai, Tom Collins and Cosmo) and Indian Subcontinent Cats (Bombay and Calcutta) that I’ve fostered, along with the strays Marbles and Specs.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        My part siamese has pretty blue eyes, but she doesn’t talk much at all. Since I named her Kiger (after a type of horse), when she does her gravelly quiet meow, I tease her about being a little hoarse.

    12. Schuyler Pierson

      My cats were already named when I came into their life. I think my significant other’s ex had a thing for Casablanca or something. In seven years, I’ve never called Bogey by that name; he’s Bo. Sammy stays Sam, though, and I couldn’t change them even if I wanted to because both will come to their name.

      However, I do use nicknames sometimes: Creamsicle, because Bo is orange with white belly and neck. The vet staff call Sam “handsome Sam”, but I call him sidewinder because he sometimes walks sideways.

    13. Jen in RO

      The first cat couldn’t meow properly, so we called him Squeak (as in the sound the door makes, not the mouse – they’re different in Romanian).

      We struggled a lot to name the second cat (I wanted a World of Warcraft name, but I couldn’t find a good male one), but we settled on Loki – boyfriend because he likes the superhero movies, me because I felt the god of mischief would fit the kitten (and because Loki as played by Tom Hiddleston is hot).

    14. Elizabeth

      Our cat is named Kismet.

      We were house-hunting at the time, and we knew that once we bought a house and got settled in, we would be adopting a kitten or two (although I was rooting for one a little older, so that all brain cells functioned). We’d been out of town for the weekend, and when we got back, there was a 10-month old gray tom cat sitting on our front door step. An hour or so later, we opened the door, and he walked in. And he’s never left.

      It was fate that he found us when he did. Thus, Kismet.

    15. Laufey

      When I was a kid, the hamster chewed entirely through the box on the way home from the pet store and almost got loose in my mom’s car. I was not about to be so stereotypical as to name a rodent “Chewie,” so I named him Chewbacca. Because that totally does not shorten to anything at all.

      1. 22dncr

        My black Mama kitty is Daisy so when she had 5 babies the oldest boy got Onslow (Keeping Up Appearances). Then it was Jeté (ballet jump – from Susie and The Dancing Cat), Chulo (Mexican for cute), Big Girl (because she was always the first to do everything) and Graytoe (because he has 1 Gray toe so I could tell him apart from his sister Big Girl). Gave away the 2 girls (no one wanted any of the boys) and Chulo died so just have Daisy, Onslow and Graytoe for going on 10 years now. Constant love and amusement (;

    16. Windchime

      My cat is named Mica. He is a mutt, with long hair and marked like a Siamese with blue eyes. I named him Mica because his coat reminds me of the silvery-brown color of the stone.

  47. Anonsies

    Does anyone have recommendations for sites similar to AAM, Above The Law, Corporette, etc. for people in medical or science fields?

    I’d especially like ones related to medical research or career advice for students/residents and young physicians.

    1. fposte

      Not quite what you were asking, but I really recommend whitecoatinvestor.com for finance advice for people in or studying to be in those fields. Because they’re perceived to have money, they’re a target for crap investment plans and “opportunities,” and White Coat is a great sane and helpful voice to help people keep more of their own money.

  48. Trixie

    I’m hoping to re-boot my job search attempts and efforts in the New Year. I’ve had a nice (long) break but its time to bring it to a close. Anyone else in the same boat have suggestions about reenergizing, and clearing the cobwebs?

    1. Mike

      I am in the same boat and honestly I haven’t found anything inspiring. I’m fairly burnt out and can’t seem to reboot, although coffee sometimes helps.

  49. Anonymous

    I have a question about interviewing. I’ve had to assume senior level responsibility for a number of projects. When listing these activities on my resume, I’ve been tactful, but any hiring manager with sufficient experience in my field would know that these additional duties, when compared to my salary and current title (and relative youth), would be highly unusual. I’ve been in a few interviews where I’ve had to discuss assuming such roles, and received not only raised eyebrows but direct challenges as to whether I was inflating my role. How do I discuss these opportunities (how I’m currently phrasing it) but also signify that I know these roles are highly unusual and probably inappropriate, given the industry and expectations of (and compensation for) senior leadership, without saying that, yes, my leadership dropped the ball (or royally messed up) and I had to take the reins?

    1. Graciosa

      It’s a little difficult to figure out how to respond to this without more specifics, so I’m going to assume (mentally at least) that you are a receptionist who had to handle the company’s books, prepare the company’s SEC filings, and respond to inquiries on behalf of investor relations. I picked this example as something highly unusual and inappropriate that would only occur when leadership royally messed up.

      If your examples are like this one, I wouldn’t believe you in an interview either without some supporting explanation.

      You may have to make a choice between dropping these activities from your resume, toning them down (“assisting with” things you had to do on your own with no support or direction), or providing an acceptable explanation.

      If the explanation is that your leadership royally messed up, you lose for criticizing your employer.

      If the explanation makes it look like you stepped in and did work well outside your scope without at least tacit approval from your leadership, you lose for serious overreaching and incredible presumption.

      I’m trying to think of a possible explanation that might work for you, and can only say that it needs to include both management approval / delegation and also some acceptable explanation that doesn’t sound like criticism of the management team. For example, “I realize it is extraordinary for a receptionist to be asked to help prepare a 10-K, but 4 of our 5 top corporate officers were tragically killed in a car accident the month it was due, and the surviving VP was in a coma. I was asked by our director to help gather the appropriate records because I backed up our payroll processor and happened to have access to the accounting system, so I helped the team preparing the filing pull the information together.” This example includes toning it down – I would say you helped the team even if you were the only one working this because it’s just not credible otherwise.

      It may seem that this is unfair if you did work well outside your scope because your leadership dropped the ball. You accomplished something significant and want it to be recognized. However, if you can’t manage it without avoiding all the pitfalls I’ve noted (and probably others I’ve missed) you may need to leave it off your resume and let it go.

      1. Jberry

        Thank you for your comment! I conduct research, so the relationship is more like graduate student to principal investigator. Unfortunately, I can’t leave it off my resume as I spent the last 2 years working on the project. I will try and think about ways to infer that senior-level leadership was present in the project, rather than suggest, through my duties, that I had to fully assume the role.

  50. Anonymous

    I work in IT and from what I have read I meet all the requirements for an exempt employee. My company considers me exempt in our payroll system and I am not required to clock in/out like our hourly staff.

    However, my company does require exempt staff to take PTO in either 4 or 8 hour blocks. 8 hours is obviously a normal work day (ha ha), but they are making us take 4 hours of PTO if we are gone for a half day. I think this contradicts being exempt which says if I work any part of the day I’m supposed to be paid for all of it.

    In the past year I had to use a lot of PTO in 2013 due to some minor health issues with my daughter, and the whole process of buying a house and moving that we went through in the summer. I didn’t have much to use as it was (because of pregnancy in 2012) and now that the holidays are over, my well is dry. I tried to talk to my manager about this, but he says it’s HR’s policy and we have to follow it. I’m not sure this is really illegal, but I’m curious.

    1. fposte

      But it’s PTO–the P means you are getting paid. They can’t dock your pay a half day if you go over and take a half day off, but they can indeed require you to use a half day of PTO when you take a half a day off.

      1. Anonymous

        But now that I basically have no PTO left, if I take a half day they still have to pay me. So I feel like they made me use up my PTO for no reason. I’m still being paid exactly the same.

        1. fposte

          But you took the half day off–that’s not “no reason,” that’s just using time off for its intended purpose. And the reason it’s not illegal is, as you say, you’re still being paid the same.

          I get that you don’t like the policy, but it’s not illegal, it doesn’t contradict being exempt, and it’s pretty standard.

          1. fposte

            I missed that it sounds like you’re suggesting going into the red on your PTO balance. While you’re right that they can’t dock your pay for that, they can certainly write you up, deny you a raise, fire you, etc. So it’s not like it has no consequences.

        2. doreen

          If they allow you to take that half-day off. Being exempt mostly has to do with pay. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be required to work a certain number of hours a week or to have prior approval to take time off . It doesn’t mean you can’t be suspended without pay or even fired for taking time off without approval or which exceeds your available PTO.

    2. The IT Manager

      Totally legal.

      How exempt works. Once you run out of PTO they can start denying you time off. And if you leave early or don’t show, they cannot dock your pay, but they can start documenting unexecused absenses and take action which can eventually lead to firing (or not so eventually if they want to be a jerk). Fact of the matter is that it sounds like you have no more PTO saved up so you can no longer take time off until you build up the time.

  51. just laura

    I am considering taking a contract-based writing gig with a website. What are the important questions to ask so that I know what I’m getting into? Also, what are the going rates for this? (I’m having initial conversations later today, so I appreciate any help!)

    1. Kat M

      Depends on your level of experience and what kind of writing you’re doing. I usually end up with $50-$75 for a typical blog post, if that’s the sort of thing you’re talking about. Folks with bigger names make more. People brand-new to the industry with no reputation of which to speak make less.

      1. just laura

        Thanks, Kat. I need more details as to what the job really entails (copyediting? article-writing?), but it helps to have a ballpark idea.

    2. LMW

      As someone who hires for this type of thing, here’s my advice:
      First find out if they are looking for site copy, articles or blogs.
      – Again, depending on the type of website, find out what type of informative resources they can provide for you (SMEs, research, etc.) or if you’ll need to find all resource material on your own. (This will make a big difference in the amount of time it takes you to write articles. Make sure you factor that in when thinking about rates)
      – What’s the typical workflow for this type of work? Turn around time? How many revisions do articles/blogs/etc. usually go through? What type of turnaround time is expected? (Again, something to consider when thinking about rates)
      – Are you going to be given specific topics to write about, or are they going to expect you to pitch ideas to them?
      – Who is their specific audience? What type of style/language/tone do they respond to? (For instance, at the website I currently manage, there is a big different between the language on one blog by engineers for engineers and one that’s for end users).
      – If you are doing blogs or articles, what’s the typical length they expect? Do they hold this as a firm standard?

      Those are just a few of the questions, off the top of my head, that I think will give you a clearer picture of what you’re getting into (and some of them would definitely make me think that you’ll be able to understand and commit to my expectations).

  52. Nonprofit Office Manager

    I’m thinking of quitting the job I’ve had for 4.5 years simply because I want a break from working. I don’t want to backpack through Europe. I’m not having a nervous breakdown. I don’t want to spend more time with my (non-existent) kids. I just want to spend a few months going on daily hikes, doing yoga and other yuppie exercises, scrapbooking, taking cooking classes, learning Spanish, etc. Is there any way to explain this kind of gap in work history to a future potential employer without sounding like a lazy bum, or worse, that I had a nervous breakdown at my last job? I considered just saying that I took time off to write a book or otherwise spend time on a distinct project, but that’s a lie so I don’t want to go that route.

    1. just laura

      Is there something you would like to do that could somehow translate to a job-like “accomplishment”? That is, something measurable and achievable? For example, if you wanted to train to be a yoga instructor or something, or even took Spanish for a business-related reason. Or start your own very small business?

    2. Joey

      Why not just say you simply wanted to take a break to do some things you always wanted to do and had the luxury of being able to do so.

    3. cs

      I would do some volunteer work during the time off. That’s what I’m doing. Find something related to what you want to do when you return to work or something that would build a new skill set or existing skill set that you could transfer to a paid job. Volunteering is something you could do a few times a week. Nonprofits are generally very flexible with scheduling too.

      Once you return to work and start putting together your resume, you can list your volunteer service. If it’s related to the work you will be applying to, it could go under Work Experience and poof! no employment gap. :) Otherwise, you could create a Volunteer Experience section on your resume.

      good luck.

    4. Anon #2

      Have you considered starting your own business, either now, or when you’re ready to “come back”? Your “employer” would most certainly understand why you took a break… ;-)

  53. JoAnna

    My husband has been job-searching off and on for over a year (he’s currently doing tech support and is searching for a programming position, as he recently earned his bachelor’s degree). A few weeks ago he applied for a programming position at a software firm, and the company sent him an e-mail late on a Friday night (12/20), asking him to call so they could schedule a phone screen. He made a mental note to call on Monday but it slipped his mind in all of the Christmas hubbub. He called first thing Tuesday morning, 12/24 (his birthday, btw) and the person he talked to said something like, “Oh, we really expect our applicants to respond more quickly than that, but I’ll let [hiring guy] know you called.” My husband figured he’d blown his chances and shrugged it off, but we were both surprised that waiting one business day, especially right before Christmas, was apparently slacker behavior.

    Fast forward to yesterday morning, seven business days later, when [hiring guy] calls and asks to do a phone screen that same day. Luckily my husband was able to accommodate this and did the phone screen in the afternoon. [Hiring guy] asked him if he could come in for an interview, and my husband responded that he didn’t work Mondays or Tuesdays so those would be the best days for him. The guy’s response was, “Oh, gee, it’s going to be really difficult to get someone in on those days, but we’ll make it work.” And the interview is scheduled for Monday afternoon. Both of us are kind of puzzled as to why Mondays and Tuesdays would be such difficult days to work with (unless certain members of the company are still on vacation?).

    Also, when my husband called in for the phone screen, he called the number he’d been given, which turned out to be the main line of the company. The receptionist he reached didn’t know which person he was supposed to talk to (he was directed to ask for [Common Name] or [Less Common Name], and she didn’t know which [Common name] he meant). So he was transferred to [Less Common Name] and left a voicemail, then called main line again. By the time he called back, the receptionist had figured out which [Common Name] he needed to talk to and transferred him.

    Is it just me or is this throwing up red flags all over the place? Should he bring up all the confusion in the interview somehow? What’s the best (e.g., most tactful) way to do that?

    1. S

      The receptionist might be new or a temp. So he/she is not going to be familiar with all the staff.
      What I recommend is to have your husband research the company on Glassdoor and other sites. Reading the comments might help him have a better understanding of what might be going on.

  54. Ash

    I’ve been interviewing for a particular position since Thanksgiving and I’m nervously awaiting word — last I heard I was in the “finals” but I just want an answer! I’ve been on vacation and go back to a job I really dislike on Monday and was hoping I could just walk into my supervisors office then and resign. Alas, with the snow today, don’t think I’ll know today… Why oh why must they drag this out!!

    No real question, just a bit of job searching rant!

  55. Anno

    Tips for staying motivated after being denied a well-deserved raise?

    I received a stellar performance review after an amazing year. Despite showing market data on salaries and a list of all my increased responsibilities and accolades, my raise request was denied due to budgetary constraints. (I know my boss did try to go to bat for me but lost.) When I asked what I needed to accomplish to earn a raise in the future, I was told to “keep doing what you’re doing – work hard, put in extra hours, take on extra responsibility – and hope that finances are better next year.”

    I know I should be happy that I have a job I enjoy, but I’m feeling really demotivated. And I’m starting to question my company’s willingness to reward hard work and keep salaries aligned with market rates. Any advice?

    1. Joey

      What’s their history? Is this the first time that’s happened?

      Look for indicators of what will happen next year and decide if you will be happier looking for a job that consistently rewards performance. (. They’re out there, but right now they’re fewer and farther between)

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

      Of all of the times I’ve been on the other side of this conversation, one thing has surprised me. Very few people in this situation have degraded their performance or resigned for a better paying opportunity thereafter.

      My personal opinion, and advice I’ve given to people over the years who work for me, is that if you feel underpaid you should get out in the job market and casually or less casually look for a job that pays you what you believe you should earn. The part where a company is paying you all that it can shouldn’t be the limiting factor in what you earn.

      You’re at an exciting time in your career if you’re taking on new responsibilities and learning new things. Look around and see if you can leverage that into a job that pays more, that you like equally well with other factors also.

      You’re always working for yourself as well as the company. That mindset might keep you motivated even though the answer about your raise was disappointing.

  56. Windchime

    Love the new picture of baby Olive. :) She is so pretty.

    I’m sure I have mentioned this before, but I am a programmer in a room full of other employees with mixed roles. Programmers, trainers, project managers and application support people. Most people do their best to be good cube neighbors; I overlook my neighbor’s crunchy carrot snacks and she overlooks my coughing when I have an asthma flare-up.

    However, there are a few people who spend the majority of the day chatting and visiting. Not a few minutes here or there, but literally hours. The main offenders stand in each other’s cubes and whisper in a loud, stage whisper punctuated by fits of giggling. All. Day. Long. I’ve mentioned it to my boss (A) who has mentioned it to the Chatters’ boss (B). “B” doesn’t care, because “B” is also a habitual chatter who roams around and just finds people to start conversations with. These are all people in their 30’s and 40’s, so it’s not like we’re talking about teenagers in their first professional job.

    My question isn’t “How to get them to stop”, because it’s obvious that it’s not going to stop as long as “B” doesn’t care. My question is….how is it that people like this manage to stay employed? For years? I don’t get it. If I decided I wanted to spend my day chatting, giggling and whispering instead of programming, I don’t think I would keep my job for long.

    It’s so distracting and annoying. Thank god for headphones.

    1. Anno

      I think there are tons of reasons that bad employees don’t get fired.

      Sometimes, the employee has (or is perceived to have) some redeeming quality that outweighs all the bad.

      Sometimes, management is too lazy to manage and fire/rehire.

      Sometimes, management is too “nice.” Maybe they’re avoiding a conflict, or are sympathetic to the poor performer.

      Sometimes, the employee IS actually completing the work, although co-workers don’t see it.

      Once in awhile, the co-worker is an amazing con artist.

      And finally, sometimes I think it’s more a matter of *when* an employee will get fired, not *if*.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd

      Because somebody, somewhere up the chain, isn’t doing their job properly.

      Those people persist because “B” isn’t doing her job. “B” exists because “B”‘s boss hasn’t structured B’s goals in an accountable way. Or because B’s boss’s boss hasn’t done that for him.

      Waste is always the fault of somebody way up the food chain.

  57. Ali

    Does anyone know of any good books about career exploration besides What Color is Your Parachute? I tried to read it a couple of times and the material and exercises never kept my interest until the end. It just was wayyy too long and wordy for my tastes, but to each their own. Any thoughts?

    I have decided to stick with my career goal for now, trying some more practical things like volunteering at sports events that I feel will be a better picture of the industry rather than sitting behind my computer and writing. But I wanted to ask for thoughts on books so I can do some consideration in the meantime.

    1. The IT Manager

      This book does not contain exercises for you to figure out your path, but I thought it was a wonderful way to get me thinking about paths. It’s the short stories of people who have searched and some of them have found what they wanted to do with their lives. And i just enjoyed the short vignettes.

      What Should I Do with My Life?: The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question by Po Bronson

        1. Ali

          I like the looks of the “Fail Fast, Fail Often” book…think I’ll give that one a try. Thanks!

  58. Associate

    Today has not been a great day. I’m an associate in a large law firm and I made a mistake today. It was a fixable mistake, but one that I should have caught nonetheless. Unfortunately, it was for the one partner who does not take ANY mistake lightly. There has already been lots of yelling (him) and crying (me. behind closed doors).

    This is not the first of these scenarios with him, but every single time it makes me question my entire career path. “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” “If this is really what it takes, then I should just get out now.” And that really stinks since the rest of the time I really enjoy what I do and every other partner I work for seems genuinely happy and impressed with my work.

    I guess I don’t have a question. I just needed to rant a bit.

    1. Random

      Oh I’m so sorry!

      As a legal assistant I have felt the exact same way with specific lawyers throughout my career.

      Obviously your situation is very different (more responsibility for one thing) but there are truly partners (and probably associates) like that in every law firm! It has nothing to do with you. Everyone makes mistakes occasionally and I’m sure you’re doing a great job!

      Hang in there!

    2. fposte

      Aw, I hate that sinking feeling when I know I screwed up–sorry about your bad day!

      I think you might be tending to make a rather large leap under stress, though. If getting yelled at was proof we were in the wrong career path, most of us would have no jobs, and nobody would ever be a parent :-). Heaven knows law isn’t for everyone, so it’s certainly possible that’s not the direction for you. However, if you mostly like your job and do well at it and the big mistake doesn’t happen often, it sounds like it might be a case where you want to get some perspective on the error and the response rather than taking it as a sign you should change what you’re doing.

      1. Associate

        Thanks, @Random and @fposte. Sometimes it’s difficult to break out of that “woe is me” spiral!

    3. Joey

      How big was the mistake?

      I find that the bigger deal you make them the bigger deal they are. And the more you minimize them the less bad they are. Small occasional mistakes will be made by anyone who is human.

      I think this is less about a mistake and more about whether you can continue to work for a partner that makes a big deal out of every mistake unnecessarily.

      Only if you make mistakes that have a large impact (a lot of small mistakes or late mistakes) and can’t or won’t learn to prevent them should you even begin to question your career path. It doesn’t sound like you’re anywhere close to that.

    4. cs

      Perhaps you should consider moving to another firm. The career path is the problem – it’s this particular colleague.

    5. Schuyler Pierson

      I’m so sorry that this happened to you. I hope you take some time to do something for yourself today–see a movie, read a book, take your mind off!

      Almost every lawyer I know (my significant other is an attorney) has found that working at a firm was not for them. Several have looked for/are working as career clerks for federal judges. One is working for the SEC. At least one chose to work as a professor. Lastly, I work in higher ed and one of my coworkers works as our compliance officer. She may be interested in moving to the General Counsel’s office in a few years.

      There are lots of avenues where you can use your JD and take a new path in your career if you find you’re unhappy. I give you a lot of credit–you have a stamina I couldn’t keep up. Hugs!

  59. Anonymous

    Happy 2014!

    Just asking for some good vibes be sent my way that I can finally move on with my career – get out of a job I despise and move into my field full-time. I can’t change certain things as they are out of my control, but I can change my career path! Just need some positive vibes for this resolution! Thanks!

  60. Sharm

    What is the best way to list some work/trade and tangential experience on my resume and on LinkedIn? For some quick background, most of my career was in marketing for the arts. I moved to an area that has little in the way of positions available in that field, so for the past 1.5 years, I’ve been working in a different industry (though still marketing/communications) out of necessity. Long term, I want to go back into the arts, and what I’ve realized is that I have to build connections organically in my new community.

    The good thing is, I also have a background in dance, and have started teaching on the side. The studio where I teach also needed help for web updates, and so I’m helping out there as well. They’re on WordPress, which I never got exposure to professionally (though I’m familiar with using a CMS and have some HTML experience, etc), and so having this experience seems like a good thing to mention.

    Since I’ve been in the arts, I know that a personal connection to the arts is important, as is a skill like WordPress (which everyone seems to have, and I never really did). I’d like to list this as I try to get myself back in to the arts professionally, but am not sure where to place the information. I guess it would go in a “Related Experience” section on my resume, but what about LinkedIn? Do I list my studio as an employer? But then that would go on top of my current day job, which seems weird…

    Any advice?

  61. Is it just me

    Any fellow EA’s out there? Ever feel like sometimes your boss asks you to send out correspondence on their behalf to make themselves look important? For instance, in the time it took my boss to type and send me an email instructing me to type and send an email requesting something from another exec, she could have done it herself (and would’ve probably gotten better/timely results). Whatever, at least I’m getting paid!

    1. SarahBot

      Fellow EA here! That is one thing that always cracks me up – when my boss writes me an e-mail that says “will you write Mary an e-mail and ask her about [some topic]?” I always think “you literally could have typed fewer words into an e-mail directly to Mary! Less time and cut out the middleman!”

      However, in my particular situation, it’s not about importance as much as 1) my boss knows that I am usually far more diplomatic than he is, and 2) he knows that if he puts something on my plate, I’ll follow up until I have a resolution, whereas if he sends his own e-mail, he may forget that he needs that information until a problem arises.

      1. Is it just me

        Good points! Now that I think about it some more, my boss isn’t really one for diplomacy. (There have been far too many situations where I wish she would have let me handle certain communications on my own.)

    2. Mints

      Yes! The diplomacy thing doesn’t really apply
      The worse thing is when I’ll be CC’ed on an email like “Mints can help schedule a meeting for next week” then the person responds like “Does Monday or Thursday morning work?” Then boss says “Okay Thursday at 10am” and I rarely actually have the go-ahead to pick the time.
      I feel like an office accessory

    3. Graciosa

      You may want to decide that this is a tribute to your professional skills. I have had the pleasure of seeing an EA rip her VP boss a new one for daring to send out an email on his own (containing errors that would damage her reputation since everyone knew she normally sent his emails).

      Whether it’s true or not, it’s a good way to think about it to keep from driving yourself crazy.

  62. Mary M

    Long time listener, first time caller here. I’ve been looking through the archives for an answer to the question I’m about to ask, but I can’t seem to find anything. Perhaps any of the fine AAM commenters can give me a quick answer?

    I’m updating my resume and a year ago I took a new job/title in addition to the position I was originally hired for at my company. So while my resume says “Chocolate Teapot Maker for ABC Company,” how to I add/write about the new duties? The new duties were folded into my position after someone resigned (and are unrelated to the position I was originally hired for), so now my job title is: Chocolate Teapot Maker/Another Job Title/Another Job Title. What I’m trying to get at is, how do I talk about this on my resume? The various job titles and tasks now assigned to me aren’t related but I did take on an increased level of responsibility and a larger workload. Does this question make sense?

    1. fposte

      If I’m following correctly–

      Chocolate Teapot Maker and Spout Licker, 2012-present
      Expanded responsibility to include taste-testing spouts for quality

      Chocolate Teapot Maker, 2010-2012
      Made the teapots. Duh. [or words to that effect]

      Does that make sense?

      1. Mary M

        Ah ha! Yes it does! (Spout Licker made me laugh out loud. Good thing I’m alone in my office!) I can’t believe I made that so complicated in my head. Thank you ever so kindly for your help!

  63. FreelancerAnon

    After several years as a freelancer, I’m buckling down and looking for full-time employment this year. (What I’d really *love* is a full-time telecommuting position with benefits, but I know that’s a pipe dream.) I wanted to see if anyone had advice on how to make the transition, things to put in my cover letters, concerns hiring managers might have and how to assuage them, and any other tips.

    1. AVP

      I work in an industry where it’s common to go back and forth, freelance to staff. If I’m hiring someone who has mostly been freelancing, I like to get a good idea of why they want to make that transition, so it would be a helpful to address right away in a cover letter. I’m sure you have great reasons, and it’s nice to see that someone has thought about it (and isn’t just out of work and going to jump the second they get a better call!)

      Keep in mind that staff positions usually pay less, on a weekly/hourly basis, and acknowledge that when you discuss salary.

      Also – one concern that I’ve had about freelancers is that they’re very used to doing things their own way, or making their own schedule, or something else that they’ll have to give up when taking a staff job (3 week travel vacations?) Usually it’s not a problem, but you want to come across as being reassuring that this won’t be an issue for you, and you’re excited to be making this transition for X and Y reasons.

  64. Jessica

    I’ve been waiting for this thread! Does anyone have experience ordering from Zenni Optical? I’m having such a hard time choosing between frames.

    1. FreelancerAnon

      I’ve gotten glasses from Zenni Optical that were okay, and perfectly functional, but I like Coastal.com much better. I got some super cute cateye frames from them. They have a first pair free discount that’s awesome.

  65. Noelle

    How often do you trust your gut? And has your gut ever been wrong?

    A couple years ago, I was offered a job. It was pretty much the same job I was currently doing, but with a substantial increase in salary. Even so, my gut told me it was a bad idea. I stupidly allowed my friends to pressure me into taking the job, and I immediately regretted it. It was the worst place I ever worked, and I fortunately was given the opportunity to return to my old job within a few weeks (for which I am eternally grateful).

    The problem is that ever since then, my gut thinks EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Unfortunately, I’m in a temporary position and I need to find a new job by the end of the year. I don’t love my current job and I’ve actually got some good opportunities, but the thought of leaving terrifies me. I was wondering if any readers had advice for overcoming an unreliably pessimistic gut.

      1. Noelle

        That is a great thread, and I think you are right that you need to actually be able to vocalize why something is giving you a bad feeling. In that case, I could vocalize it, and my gut did turn out to be right. It’s just that now all my gut tells me is, “this is going to be a change and I hate change.”

        1. fposte

          I think Name makes a great point about differentiating between what your gut saw that proved to be true and bad and what your gut’s baselessly afraid of now.

          I lie to my gut–can you try that with yours? “I’m just looking at job postings–that doesn’t mean anything.” “I’m just testing the waters by sending my application in–it doesn’t commit me.” And the thing is it’s true–there really is a lot of middle ground between starting a new job and refusing even to look around in your own one. Go window-shop a little bit, do some networking (telling your gut it’s good for the long term); if you accidentally get an interview, well, that’s just good experience, right?

          1. Noelle

            Lying to my gut doesn’t work, but I am having some luck with trying to override it with my brain. I think part of it is that I actually really like my job now and I don’t want to leave. In the past, I’ve always been looking for jobs because I don’t like where I’m working so it’s been a lot easier to leave. Now my gut wants to stay until the bitter end because it’s a good job, but my brain really doesn’t want to be unemployed.

    1. Anoners

      I think that gut feelings do count for a lot, but if your gut is telling you everything is a bad idea, there may be some worth in pushing those feelings aside. Just keep your eye on any red flags during the hiring process. If something rubs you the wrong way about the company (that isn’t a super minor detail) consider not pursuing it. Since you’re temp though, you’ll soon need to start a new job anyway so you don’t have much to lose (unless of course the temp job you’re at is on track to become permanent or something along those lines). Good luck!! :)

      1. Noelle

        That’s what I’ve been trying to tell myself. My gut is always thinking, “Do you want to risk a new job or stay at the job that is familiar?” The actual option though is, “Do I want this new job or a different new job?” I also think I relied too much on friendly advice last time. Now there are a few specific people I ask for feedback on, but a lot of people only give advice on what THEY would do, not what would be best for a different person.

    2. Name

      What about that job made you immediately regret it? And what was your gut telling you in the first place? The answer to those questions will help you get a better idea of which positions are a good fit. With these new opportunities, if and when you get to the interviewing stages, I would interview them right back. Ask them questions that demand revealing answers. And don’t be afraid if you find yourself back in the same situation. It will be just another learning experience.

      1. Noelle

        I got really bad vibes from the person who would be my supervisor, and my gut was telling me she would be bad to work for. It was also a brand new office, so most of my coworkers (and my supervisor) had almost no previous experience. I’d come from a position where we had a very established process and everyone knew what they were doing, and they were all very nice. As soon as I started the new position, I realized everything I was afraid of was true (and then some). Not only that, but they expected me to work 12 hours a day without overtime, so I never had time to have a personal life. That is pretty awful when you actively hate your job. After a couple weeks of never seeing my friends and being stuck in an office I hated, I was the most miserable I’d ever been. I’ve been on a few interviews since then where I’ve liked the people and the position, but even though my gut was actually right about this last job, it is now apparently traumatized.

        1. Name

          I’m sorry you went through that! I can see why you’re hesitant to move on to a new position. Accepting a job comes with quite a bit of risk, but it can also come with some rewards. BTW, if you were non-exempt, that former employer was breaking the law. It sounds like you want a workplace with a clearly defined structure, respect for employee rights as well as good work/personal life balance, and a supervisor that isn’t a total nightmare. That falls in line with what most of us want, so you’re not looking for anything too out of the ordinary. I recommend perusing websites like glassdoor wherever possible, and asking the hiring managers questions like describing their management style, how would the perfect candidate in this position perform their work, and what is a typical day in the workplace like. If they tell you that the perfect candidate would go above and beyond to execute all projects, ask them to clarify/provide examples. If they mention anything that sounds too familiar, run. If they balk, run fast.

          1. Noelle

            Sadly I am exempt. Working long hours is pretty standard in my field, but this was ridiculous and mostly caused by lack of organization on their part. I like your advice though, and I think a good approach would definitely be to focus on things that I want in a new job, and things I can actually check out or investigate in advance.

    3. Not So NewReader

      There is a difference between general nervousness and situation specific nervousness.
      Actually your gut did not fail you because you say your friends had to pressure you into taking this other job. NO, you knew all along “do not do this.” But your mind and peer pressure overruled what you instinctively knew.
      I wonder if what you are actually suffering from is trying to smoother your gut feelings. So now your gut feels like it has NO say in matters and you will force yourself to go where the gut says no don’t do this.

      Gut feelings/intuition is something that is developed. Sometimes I think I am having an intuitive/gut feeling and nooo that is just breakfast not setting well. The way to get in tune with your gut is to pay attention to the small whispers. “I think I should bring my rain coat today even though the weather report does not clearly predict rain.” Then pay attention to how that plays out in real life. After a bit you will detect differences in worry or meandering useless gut mutterings and the real thing.

      Now, I could be the only person at work carrying my raincoat and I do not care. I know I will be using it. (Okay, more often than not, I will be using it….)

      Knowledge is power. I think if you go back in the archives here you will find posts about red flag warnings on interviews. Review some of those. Teach your brain to understand what your gut already knows.

      My husband once asked me “how can you tell if an animal is mean?” He did not have pets growing up so he had no reference points. This question forced me to put into words something I consider to be a gut response. I had to think about that for a minute. There is no clear cut answer but there are some clues.

      So your question roughly is “how can I tell if this is a good company to work for?” Teach your brain some clues help you decide if the job is good for you. As you look through the archives you will find some really great questions to ask on interviews that will be very helpful. And you can also read other people’s experiences which will help. too.

  66. Ask a Manager Post author

    Okay, here’s my question for you guys. I’m going to reclaim my bathroom cabinets and get rid of the huge amount of unused makeup, etc. that I’ve accumulated. I’ve got dozens of those samples that Sephora sends you with every order, plus a bunch of makeup that I used once or twice and haven’t touched since. It’s a large amount, and it’s generally good stuff, some quite fancy, but I know I’m not going to use it.

    I could just throw it all out, but I wonder if there’s some way to donate it to someone who would be delighted to have it all. I thought about women’s shelters, but they only take unopened stuff (which makes sense). I thought about sending it all to my nieces, who would have a field day, but they have enough stuff as it is. Ideas?

    1. Sharm

      What about local theaters that might need to use makeup for plays or photo shoots? Although I think unused might be key for any kind of donation you do.

    2. fposte

      Some of the “getting women back to work” charities may accept makeup, too.

      However, I suspect that used would be a deal breaker in most situations (unless we’re talking something like perfume). The only places that I can find that take makeup specify “unopened.” I think the hygiene concerns are just too great for most organizations to be prepared to deal with that, so it would either need to go to people you know or just get chucked.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, I think so too. I may pack up the unopened samples in one bag for a charity and toss everything else. And then I will stop buying cosmetics because my under-sink cabinet in the bathroom is like a mini Sephora. A very dark mini-Sephora.

      2. Name

        You know how makeup counters have those sanitizer spray bottles to clean sample makeup products between customers? Maybe buy one of those to donate along with the makeup? These products are usually terribly expensive, I would hate for them to go unused.

        1. KLH

          I have heard that a swipe of spray alcohol is how you can sanitize blush and eyeshadow and the like. There’s a market for used name brand makeup on ebay and the like, or I’d offer it on Craigslist or Freecycle for someone who’s willing to take the chance to take it. Toss the mascara. Give anything unopened or samples to the shelter.

          I feel your pain. I just went through my stuff on NY Day. I’ll be made up like Mimi Bobek forever in order to use things up.

          1. fposte

            I like the Freecycle idea–then it’s just an individual call and not an organizational policy.

    3. Mints

      Freecycle.com maybe? I’ve never used it, but it seems like someone who’s looking for opened makeup for (free) sale is probably someone who really needs it

    4. Laufey

      I know you’re trying to get rid of them, but if you don’t mind shoving the new ones into a closet until November, Toys for Tots would love the donation of unopened make-up. They often have a very hard time getting enough items for teenagers.

    5. Collarbone High

      My friends and I do a yearly “product swap” where we put unwanted products up for grabs. We obviously don’t trade used mascara, but it’s great for things like hair products that turned out to be wrong for your hair type or the super-expensive moisturizer that made your skin break out after one use. And I love getting other people’s samples, because they’re often brands I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Anything that doesn’t get claimed gets tossed afterward.

    6. AB Normal

      Don’t throw anything out, AAM!
      I run a social project in Brazil, helping underprivileged adolescents and young adults prepare for the job market. I can keep it and bring with me from the U.S. when I visit next. The young women will be thrilled with the opened stuff, and since there everybody uses a bit of makeup in professional settings, that will definitely help them present well in interviews. Let me email you with my address and the link to the website of the project!

      1. Not So NewReader

        I have read that anything over a year old should be tossed and not used by anyone. ugh. I just hate throwing stuff out like that.

        1. Elizabeth West

          That’s one reason I try to restrain myself–I don’t want to throw it away! It was easier in the ’80s when we could wear nine shades of eyeshadow all at the same time…sigh. Ah, the good old days. :)

  67. Kinrowan

    Since we have so many wedding questions…do you have suggestions for gifts to couples who are getting married who have been together (and living together) for a long time, are 45 and older? This really means a lot to them so I want to honor that but am stumped.

    1. anon in tejas

      gift certificate for dinner/date night, wine and cheese basket, membership to museum/etc.

      Sometimes experience gifts work well for couples who are a little more established.

    2. Diet Coke Addict

      Experience gifts are nice, yes–concert/event tickets? Is there a charity or cause that is particularly important to them that you could make a donation to in their name? Or a kind of “name a brick at the local library” type thing? They probably won’t be looking for nice home gifts or (obviously) establishing their place, but there are some nice things that always go over well–nice wines and good glasses, a lovely piece of crystal, a beautiful art item, etc.

    3. AnonForThis

      My favorite wedding gift was an extravagant gift certificate to a restaurant we normally couldn’t afford. It wasn’t a crazy amount – like $100 or something – but more than we would ever spend on dinner. It was so much fun to go out to a swanky place and order whatever we wanted without worrying about the bill.

  68. Potential Petulant Child

    I’ve been at a new position for several months now. When I was hired, I was told I’d be doing tasks similar to my previous job (I’m a social media specialist). At my previous job, I was an account manager: I developed strategies, I gave tasks to interns, created content, and made all decisions regarding my many clients’ social media strategies. At this new position, I’m essentially a copywriter. Since I’ve been hired, I’ve done no strategy, no advertising, etc. All I do is draft content. As much as I appreciate the decrease in workload, I’m bored out of my mind. I’m also a little annoyed because I was told I’d be doing strategy, advertising, etc. I’ve definitely taken a demotion in responsibility and I know (and have proven) that I’m capable of taking on more. I’ have some background in PR, so I did approach my manager about taking helping out the PR department. Although I am assisting, it appears this company doesn’t like employees to be cross-departmental so, as a result, I’ve been regulated to tasks I did when I was a PR intern three years ago. Furthermore, all strategy for a social media client is delegated to the “strategy” department (even though they have no social media experience) and I’m expected to execute it (even though I disagree with their recommendations).

    I was going to wait until the end of the month to approach my manager regarding what I told my job responsibilities would be and what I’ve actually been doing. Does anyone have advice on how to discuss this topic? I feel like I’m being a bit of a petulant child, but I’m just so frustrated by what I was told this job would entail and what I’m actually doing.

    1. Jenn

      I would definitely meet with your manager and discuss your job responsibilities. Maybe he or she doesn’t realize how things are realistically and practically playing out and you can set a time line to transition into more of a challenge.

      I was hired as an executive director for a small non-profit, but it ended up practically being waaaay different from my job description (for various reasons beyond my control). I feel like I wasted a year of my career spinning my wheels and that it hurt me for future positions. On paper I was performing all these duties, but not really.

      So, I don’t think you’re being a petulant child. It seems like a bait and switch and it could hurt your career. However, the leadership might not realize it.

  69. batmom

    An acquaintance is also acquainted with a VP that I would like to get my name (and resume) in front of. She has offered to do an introduction for me via LinkedIn. Is it better for her to introduce him to me, or vice versa? Or does it matter?

    1. fposte

      In real life, the lower-ranking person is introduced to the higher-ranking person. I suspect LinkedIn is kind of a Wild West when it comes to etiquette nuance, but you could always follow that rule if you wanted a rule to follow.

      1. De Minimis

        This makes me think Al Pacino explaining mob etiquette in Donnie Brasco…”If a guy is connected, you say “This is a friend of mine…” but if he’s a made guy, you say ‘This is a friend of ours…”

  70. Anonymous for this one

    Regular poster here, but going anon for this post. Here’s my question/issue (really, it’s two separate, but related, problems with the same person):

    I was hired to develop the plan and process for a new-to-this-company discipline and eventually build a new team at my company. It’s a branch of a department/field that exists, but it’s a specialized skill within that department/field that requires specific experience and often, an advanced degree (I have one).

    I got this job through a reference from a previous coworker, Jack (not his real name), who now works here. He was a great coworker at my previous job and works in my department, but does not have much experience in the specialized area of the team that I’m building (his exposure to it was limited to working with recommendations from my team at our last job, but not actually doing the work I or my team did). But apparently, he told everyone here (before I started working at the new company) that he does have direct experience doing that type of work. He was hired for the work of the department, but not my team. For simplicity and clarity’s sake, he was hired as a teapot designer; I was hired as a chocolate teapot researcher and strategist. My research and strategy informs his designs.

    When I started at the company, the manager of the teapot design department and I talked about the work I would be doing for the teapot research team and we decided I needed an extra person from teapot design team to help me (teapot designers often are able to do some less complex teapot research and testing in my particular field). Because Jack had told them he had that type of experience, the manager told me that I could have him and he would scale back his teapot design assignments. In this situation, I’m not Jack’s manager, but I do manage projects he works on.

    Initially, I thought I would be able to help him get up to speed on the easier, less detailed parts of my job. He could focus on the daily tasks and smaller projects, and then I could work on big picture planning and research implementation. He also would be helping on larger research studies that required more than one person and because I really needed the help and there was no budget last year to hire a full-fledged teapot researcher, I decided to make the best of this and try to get him up to speed.

    However, he is clearly in over his head. I think this is clearly a case of he saw someone do this work, read a few books, and then thought he could just go out and do it. But it doesn’t work that way. His brain just doesn’t work the way it needs to to do this type of work. That’s not a slam against him; it’s just saying that his skills are currently grossly misplaced. He’s a good teapot designer, but not a good researcher. I have given him several projects to work on (small ones) and he doesn’t do them. We did one large research study recently and he contributed nothing to the analysis or report. It all fell on me, which is not ideal for this type of study.

    The other issue other than him being over his head and outside of his skillset is that he is completely checked out of the job (he’s been here less than a year). He never contributes to planning meetings for our research projects. Instead, he has his laptop open and is constantly working on side projects that are not for this job (I know this for a fact, this is not speculation – I’ve seen his screen and he’s told me). He’s also told me that he has absolutely no teapot design-related projects at our job right now, so the only projects he has are the teapot research projects, so he’s not too busy to get the research work done. I’ve even given him a design-related research project (build a website to house our research) as I thought that would motivate him. It didn’t. But he continues to express interest in being involved in teapot research. I believe this is largely because being a teapot researcher means traveling to cool places and visiting very cool clients/companies (like movie studios). He just wants a vacation, but he doesn’t do the work he’s supposed to do when he’s there (that was our recent big research project where he left me holding the bag).

    And lastly, he rolls into work at 9:30, takes a long lunch, and leaves between 2 and 2:30. I’m not a stickler for clock-watching, but when projects and deadlines are looming and it takes more than one person to do the project, I don’t appreciate being left hang out to dry while he heads to the bar (also, not speculation – he goes there almost every day). He worked all last week, except on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but didn’t get any of the things done I asked. He didn’t even read the research report I wrote and sent out for the last big project we did (a pretty easy assignment, if you ask me).

    My question is, how do I approach his manager about the issues I’m having with his work. I’ve already tried addressing them with him, but since I’m not his manager, I don’t think he took it seriously. We are building a real team this year since it’s in the budget and I don’t want him on it. I also don’t want to make an enemy of him because at our last job, he was pretty awesome. I’m not sure what happened here. I’m not even concerned about the fact that he’s working on side projects and doesn’t work a full week, ever, because that’s not really my place to worry about. I just need to figure out how to get him removed from my team going forward.

    Thoughts?

    Long post, sorry.

    1. fposte

      Oh, this isn’t great, is it? He’s been rudderless and consequenceless and he doesn’t do well like that. How long has this been going on?
      Is his manager supervising him at all now that he’s on your team? If you “return” him can you get somebody else, and is it still worth doing if you can’t?

      I think if you can just hand him back because his experience level isn’t actually what you need, that’s what I’d do. Since he’s been a good colleague to you, I think you tell him that you understand that he has interest in the area but right now he’s not developed enough on the expertise front to cover what you want.

      If you can’t hand him back, I think you’re going to struggle unless you can get clear authority over him, and I’d definitely connect with his manager about that. I’d also be frank with him about the disconnect between his stated interest and his behavior, and the necessity of the “doing the work” part of the equation to get to the travel part. If there’s an area you think would be a better fit for his advancement, by all means mention that, since it’s clear you think he’s skilled at many things.

      But the equation where he’s slacking and underproducing and nobody really does anything about it is bad for everybody, so I applaud you for taking the initiative to change that.

      1. Anonymous for this one

        To answer your questions:
        It’s been going on since the day I started here (about 6 months ago). He’s done this on every single project and there have been many.

        His manager is supervising him in that he’s still his manager, but actual supervising? I know he’s asked him a few times what he’s working on and of course, Jack sputters and stammers around, so I have a feeling the manager may think something is up, but I can’t be sure because I haven’t talked to him about it.

        Yes, if I “return” him, I’ll be able to replace him since it’s in the budget this year to build a real team. I just want to return him before he legitimately becomes my problem to manage.

        My biggest issue is that he keeps saying he wants to be involved, but I *know* it’s because we get to go on cool trips. I truly believe other people on the extended team are onto his antics, but none of them authority either. It’s frustrating. His manager is very passive, so I hope he’ll take some action here because it’s going to hurt the team if he doesn’t. This guy is dead weight and taking up a spot that someone who knows what they’re doing could fill.

        I’m positive that if he goes back to teapot design, he’ll actually start producing work because he knows how to do that and it would just be better for the whole department.

        But teapot designers don’t get to go on fun trips (and to be honest, I don’t even really enjoy the traveling, but I like the type of work I do, so I deal with it because it’s part of it). He actually suggested that for the next trip we leave on a Saturday and come back the following Sunday, so quite the long trip. Everyone else who has to go looked at him like he’s crazy and said no way. We leave Monday morning and come back Thursday or Friday and that’s that. This guy clearly wants a company-paid vacation here. I actually want someone else to go on the next trip instead of him so we’ll actually get more out of it, but he’s already spoken up about wanting to go after it was brought up that maybe we should send someone else (in addition to me – I always go). That was probably his sole participation in our planning meetings over the past several months. Awesome.

        1. fposte

          I think the other issue here is that you’re pretty pissed at him and disappointed in him. I didn’t really address that because it’s not really a managing-him thing, but it sounds like you wanted him to be better than he is and it’s really bothering you. And that’s understandable.

          I do think you and his manager need to be communicating regularly rather than relying on Jack to report to his manager, and I suspect that the passive manager may be mentally farming him out to you (and also not realizing that Jack’s performance level is worse outside of his wheelhouse). It’s a bad plan to have nobody who sees the employee’s output have authority to correct the employee’s output.

          1. Windchime

            That’s kind of what I was thinking….Jack’s manager may be wanting to get rid of him, and putting him on your team is one way of doing that. I would have an honest conversation with Jack’s manager about his inability to perform and replace him with someone else. Once you form a team with him on it, it will be a lot harder to get rid of him.

            1. Anonymous for this one

              Yes, mentally farming out makes sense, but I’m not sure that he’s trying to rid himself of Jack. Because my new team, while it doesn’t right now, will likely fall under Jack’s manager later this year. So ultimately, it will be his manager’s problem regardless.

    2. Not So NewReader

      The guy is dead weight, as you say.

      This might be too simplistic but what I see is you ask him to do task A and he does not do it.]
      You ask him to do task B and he does not do it, and so on.

      Each time this happens, it needs to be documented. If he is not asking relevant questions that needs to be documented to.
      (People new to a job routinely ask similar questions. Likewise people who are actually doing their work, routinely ask questions at predictable points. )

      There is a huge difference between refusing to do the work and not understanding the work. People who don’t understand usually have questions and usually have fragments of the task started.
      My guess would be that he does not want to understand the work.
      I see this as a problem between two managers. Your boss needs to know this guy is falling woefully short. And she needs to discuss that with this man’s manager.
      As far as the trips as you have pointed out these are working trips. It is not to the company’s advantage to send this guy anywhere. He is not working here, no reason to believe he will work while away.
      In short I think it would be fine to tell your boss this man is not assisting you, matter of fact you have to do the work yourself that you had asked him to do. He is slowing down the workflow not enhancing it.
      I think that is stands on its own. HOWEVER, if you feel you want to talk about his attendance then go ahead. As with the above stuff report it in as neutral a voice as possible.
      “This week the earliest he arrived for work was 9:30. He took an hour and a half lunch starting at 11:30. And the latest he left was 2:45 on Wed. ”
      Develop a neutral voice where you are just relating facts. Leave out the parts that are speculative. This will be okay because the facts alone are BAAAADDD.
      If you are not documenting, please start. You can jot down his arrivals, departures and long lunches. This does effect you because he is supposed to be helping you. And you can document task by task the results you receive for your requests.

      I don’t have a lot of empathy for people like this. I will try talking with them but I will not cover for them. If someone is not doing their work then that is on them, not me.

      1. Anonymous for this one

        I haven’t been formally documenting the tasks, but that’s easy enough to do as I have an email trail as well as a trail of work he never did and I had to do instead. I haven’t documented the lack of hours worked at all, but I can start just so I have a record in case I need it.

        I do think you’re right in that he doesn’t want to understand the work – and he doesn’t want to understand it because it’s quite complicated and takes years of learning to do well, so since he’s at square one, he has a lot of learning to do.

        1. Not So NewReader

          It could be that he was not a major success in his other department either and this is the company’s way of giving him a fair shot.
          I have started two new part time jobs in the last year and a half. (I am blessed with good bosses.) Both my bosses have on going comments about how I am catching on and they point out things to me that are meaningful to them. (It really helps when you do this, thanks.) My point is I KNOW the energy that goes into that. I make sure I have enough rest and I try to eat good foods because these learning curves are very demanding. I end up very tired. Sometimes I have 14 hour days- it’s the job and my on switch has to be on. I don’t see this guy lifting his little finger in effort to do his work with you. Granted I may be a bit extreme in my efforts but your cohort is a bit extreme in his lack of effort.
          I guess my one message is “No, you are not crazy. This guy’s productivity level is indeed unacceptable. And please figure out what your next move will be.”
          I am kind of annoyed because there are too many people like me that would be walking three feet off the ground- so happy- to have one job instead of two or three. PTO? what is THAT??? It would be nice to have some of that sometime … SOON.

          1. Anonymous for this one

            Thank you. I agree that his lack of effort is quite extreme and he’s not lifting a little finger. And yeah, I understand your annoyance. I worked in several contract positions before landing this full-time job at a really great company with super awesome benefits. This guy is totally leeching all of that and not producing anything to earn it.

            I plan to talk to his manager this week. Thank you again.

  71. Nonnymouse

    Another human relations question for y’all!

    I have a friend. We’ve been friends for about two years now and I’m having a hard time connecting with her.

    Friend has one main interest/hobby, hobby X, that we share. However, my interest level in that hobby is about a 6. Hers is about a 15. Past that, I’m beginning to realize that we don’t have much in common at all. She’s online a lot, and when I do go on IM she’ll usually message me and it’s gonna be something about X. Which is great, but honestly, I’m not super ultra that into X like she is, and sometimes I just want to talk about something else. But we don’t share much else and she gets bored by other stuff I talk about because she doesn’t have any interest in them. Heck, I’ve had more in common with her last two ex-boyfriends!

    Usually I’d just try to dial it back and meet up with her once a month for coffee or something. But she’s the type to LIKE intimate get-togethers and I get extended invites all the time and it’s tiring to always turning it down and I think she’s a little hurt too. Also, she has a bunch of food sensitivities which means we can’t actually go out and just grab a coffee, we always get together at her place and do a big cooking thing that’s really not the one-hour coffee I’m imagining. Besides which, sometimes I feel conversation gets stilted because we don’t have that much in common.

    I don’t like hosting; she does, and while the social buffer is great, her extended friend circle all have food sensitivities too. Trying to go to a party and accommodate like 10 different sensitivities/allergies/etc. is really hard for my limited cooking repertoire and stresses me out. Going-out poses the same problem re: food. Understandably, she and her other friends prefer gatherings at someone’s place so they can actually eat…but when I can’t buy it and can’t make it, it just makes me want to throw up my hands and give up entirely. And again, it’s not exactly a quick one-hour coffee either.

    I love her, I definitely want to stay friends with her, but I’m not sure how to engage on a level that’s enough for her and me and not completely exhausting to me. Thoughts and sage advice?

    1. Colette

      She can’t go out and drink water for an hour?

      I mean, I understand that food sensitivities are tricky and a meal could be difficult, but surely there’s a way she could be somewhat flexible here.

      And similarly, if there’s a bunch of people with food sensitivities who are willing to handle the food prep, that’s one thing, but if they expect you to accommodate them, that’s another. Also, I’d be curious as to whether these are self-diagnosed sensitivities or whether they were medically diagnosed, given the apparent number of them in that group. I don’t eat peppers (self-diagnosed) but if I’m somewhere where people are serving them, I either choose to eat them or not – I don’t expect everyone around me to not serve food containing peppers, although often people I know well will accommodate me.

      Anyway, back to the point. I think you have two options.
      1) Suggest something you can do together (“It’s supposed to be nice next week, want to meet up and go for a walk?”) that doesn’t involve food, and be too busy for other options (“Sorry, that sounds fun, but I can’t make it.”)
      2) Talk to her directly and let her know you need to dial back the friendship – i.e. you like to get together with her, but you really aren’t able to get together as often as she’d like.

      1. Nonnymouse

        I believe most of the sensitivities are diagnosed by medical professionals, and if not, by long trial and error. And I think it feeds into each other too: for example, my friend has not eaten X in so long (by choice) that she says she feels sick when she does eat X, even if it’s not strictly a diagnosed pathology. Don’t get me wrong, I fully respect that a decision to eat/not eat whatever is just as valid as a medical diagnosis, but man it makes food decisions challenging. Multiply that by however many people are attending a party, and…yeah. Usually email invites for said parties involve more detail about the various food sensitivities than the event details.

        For the record, parties are usually potluck in order to prevent one person from having to do all the slaving away. I think that’s a great method in general, but in this case…yeah, it stresses me out. (Plus all the things they can’t eat are things I love…) We live in different suburbs and work similar hours, so “meetup after work” coincides with dinnertime…so I can understand that she’s not enthused by drinking water for an hour when she really wants to eat instead.

        I think I’m just going to suggest going out for a brief activity but split before we hit the food parts. Thanks, all!

        1. Colette

          For the record, I think it’s perfectly valid to decide that you don’t feel well when you eat X, so you’re going to stop eating X – it’s just the number of people doing that makes me question it. And expecting everyone to accommodate everyone else’s issues is also asking a lot, when there are so many to accommodate.

      2. Nonnymouse

        I should clarify that when I say “diagnosed by medical professionals” it does mean that they will get sick with contact. And because they are severe, they’re banned from the event in case of accidental contamination.

        Not only does it make it hard to bring anything, it’s also hard on the wallet. There’s only so much gluten-free wheat-free spelt flour substitute I can manage….especially since I won’t use any of it afterwards.

    2. fposte

      I have some friends with different engagement styles myself, and it’s always kind of hard to realize how perfectly reasonable we both are :-). I wonder if she’s out there saying “I love Nonny, but it’s so complicated because she always wants to go out where I can’t eat anything and can barely get comfortable before it’s time to go!”

      I like Colette’s ideas (I love going for a walk with friends, so I always think that’s brilliant); I think also you can approach her directly about the event compatibility without making it about dialing back the friendship: “So you like long dinners at home and I like quick lunches out–can we find something between them that works better for both of us?” If she won’t give an inch from what she wants (or, for that matter, if you won’t give an inch from what you want), then that’s an indication that the friendship’s value may not exceed its convenience.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, really.
        If this woman is your friend, then she will want to accommodate you as much as you accommodate her.
        And frankly, I don’t get the constant food thing. Eat at home then go do something together.
        Maybe I am a grouch but if I often have to prepare dishes to get together with certain people, I go LESS often.

        Tell her the food thing is too much for you and it is stressing you out. Ask her if the two of you can find non-food activities.

        This does nothing to solve the part about her immersion into hobby X. That may require candor, too. This can be done almost in passing “I don’t have as heavy an interest as you do. But I really respect all that you have learned about X.” Repeat as needed.
        Some people are willing to abandon friendships to find new people who are working on the same level of interest. It could be that she is transitioning to that more intense group.

        I think find ways to address these things before your stress gets the best of you. I think I am picking up on “round peg, square hole” stuff. Change what you are doing in some way and see how that goes.

  72. Kinrowan

    On a roll now (and home snow day!) – I supervise someone (long time at job but new to my department) who is great at his job, enthusiastic and an all-around good worker but he talks (both oral and written) to other people (peers, other supervisors, me sometimes, although in a more subdued fashion) in the most condescending and patronizing way. For example, he often feels he is more knowledgeable about technology (and often he is correct) so he will go to great lengths to explain how this technology should be used – he won’t say “first, turn the computer” on but almost; and then he is upset/discounts people who don’t think that this new technology is as essential as he does. He is oblivious to this, and I think in general he does mean well (as in, I don’t sense he is harboring secret resentments or anything like that).

    I don’t know how to broach the way he talks to other – it’s not something I can easily point to. It is costing him good professional relationships and I think will keep him from getting promoted but how do you bring this up?

    1. De Minimis

      I don’t have any advice about how to bring it up to him, but I think you’re on the right track about why it’s hurting his career, so I would try to make that a big part of what you say. It sounds like he’s just really into technology and isn’t patient with people who may not be.

    2. Jenn

      Could you send him to a customer service training/conference? He’s probably not aware of how he’s acting and maybe he would be opening to growing in this area. Like it or not, to be successful in any job you need to have people skilllzzz.

    3. Not So NewReader

      I have engineer friends that talk about this stuff- they are so deeply into their own heads that the people stuff goes by them. They will comment to each other – “oh people skills, not my strong suit.”

      If he seems like basically a nice guy, he might actually be relieved that you opened the topic with him.

      Since it is costing him something professionally, it’s perfectly appropriate for his supervisor to say something.
      You can start with the compliments you have written here. Then move on to “I am concerned about one thing that might hold you back professionally and I want us to talk about it.”

      You can talk about reading people’s faces and body language. You can talk about checking as he is talking to see if people are listening or if there is a dead stare in their eyes.
      Tell him that we all have times where we sound condescending and we absolutely do not mean to do that, but it happens. We have to watch how we sound to others.
      And talk about listening skills. The importance of waiting to hear what other people think. Ask questions and wait for the reply. Make sure you hear and absorb the reply.

      Then when you end the conversation set a date for the next conversation to see how things are going.
      If you can find books that you think would help -give him the name of one or two