my manager is venting about work on Facebook, asking for outside feedback on my work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My manager is venting about work and staff members on Facebook

I’ve recently been struggling with the relationship I have with my boss. She originally started out as a coworker and we had a great working relationship. She friend-requested me on Facebook and I accepted. Months later, she and another coworker were promoted, and I began to notice that they would vent about work together on Facebook. I didn’t want to un-friend her, because I felt like an awkward conversation would follow. Now, she has been promoted again and is communicating via Facebook with the other managers and team leads, making incredibly negative comments about staff members and work situations in a format that is visible to all. Several of my team mates have noticed as well and feel uncomfortable knowing that our supervisors are acting this way. Any advice as to handling that situation?

She’s an idiot, and it’s not your problem to solve. I’d block her posts so you don’t have them in your face, and wait patiently for this to blow up on her at some point.

But if you want it to stop now, and you still have a pretty good relationship with her, you could say to her, “I don’t know if you realized that Jane, Apollo, and I can see your conversations on Facebook about ___, so I wanted to alert you!” Hopefully that will make the point on its own, but if instead her response is some version of “so?” then I suppose you could say, “It feels a little awkward since you’re our manager,” but really, at that point she’s made it clear that she’s an idiot and I’m not sure there’s much point in pursuing it. (I’d also assume that if you do, you’ll be talked about on Facebook next.)

Besides, in this day and age, it shouldn’t be news to her that people can see this stuff. So I’d lean toward just blocking the posts, ignoring it as much as you can, and waiting for the inevitable crap hitting the fan for her.

2. Can I ask for outside feedback on my work?

I work at a small nonprofit where my boss is also the head of the organization. He’s been working in our field for only about 5 years. This is my first job out of grad school. In previous settings, I have received mostly positive comments on my written work. Here, I’ve been receiving a lot of feedback on my written work that basically it is extremely sub-par. He tends to send that work back to me under the assumption that I’m not trying, couching it in terms of saying “please review this again to make sure it is your best work,” without further suggestions. I will then make what edits I can find to make, and send it back. Changes that he then makes are often then done in an exasperated tone, and he often fully rewrites my work, and then sends me an email saying that he shouldn’t have to do this much editing on my work and that he “knows I’m a better writer than this.” He’s never given me feedback about a consistent mistake I’m making, and I’ve been unable to find a pattern; I’ve asked, and he simply says, “You know that could have been better written, I need you to try harder.”

I’ll admit I’m very frustrated; It feels like he’s looking for a clone who can produce something that’s exactly like what he writes and I feel like I have to read his mind.  I’m at a total loss how to produce work he’ll be happy with on the first try. My colleagues here who have reviewed my work say that “our boss is nuts, this writing is good, don’t let him get to you,” but obviously it’s not their call. But it does lead me to further distrust my manager’s negative opinion of my work.

Since I also manage my own accounts and regularly do writing that he does not review, I am concerned that if he is right, there’s a systemic problem with my writing that my manager is unwilling or unable to articulate, and that it might be hurting my clients as well as my performance. Would it be appropriate to, without my manager’s knowledge, seek an outside mentor, like a former professor, to review a couple redacted pieces of my written work and help me determine if it’s really as subpar as my manager believes and get some more constructive edits?

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with seeking outside feedback on your work. Make sure you choose the right person though — a fairly picky writer/editor. Someone who doesn’t fall in that category isn’t as likely to be able to give you useful feedback. (I actually fit that profile and would be willing to take a look myself, if you want to send some stuff over here.)

Of course, then the question is what you do from there. If you hear “yeah, there’s some stuff here to work on,” that’ll be really helpful to know. But if you hear “it looks fine to me,” then what? In that case — actually, in both cases — it would probably help to look at samples of writing that your boss does like, and really study them to try to spot the differences between what you’re doing and what he’s doing. The fact that there’s not an easy pattern to spot might be because the issues are about things like nuance and the rhythm of the words (things that are also hard for many people to give clear feedback on) … or, of course, your boss might just be ridiculous. But that’s where I’d start.

3. Asking an interviewer about a recent scandal

I applied to a job at a college in another state, and through my research found the school is on probation. Last year there was apparently a sex scandal involving high level administrators, ethics, and legal violations. The college has been given time to fix the problems and it appears they have fired most of the staff associated with the problems. Should I bring this up in my interview and ask about it? Now that I know, it feels like the elephant in the room. I should note that I’m fairly certain the job I applied to and am interviewing for is vacant because the previous person was fired as a result of this scandal. Thoughts on tactfully asking about it?

Sure, if there’s information you genuinely want to know (it sounds like you know the basics). You could say, “I’ve read a bit about the events that led to the school being put on probation with (governing body). Can you tell me anything about how that’s being handled?”

4. Bolding words in a cover letter

I know this is kind of a grey area, and really involves hiring managers’ individual preferences, but I’d love your input on this. Lately I’ve seen cover letters with skills being described in boldface within the sentence.  For example, “As a leader in a non-profit organization, I frequently work to tight deadlines and regularly reassess changing priorities, strengthening my problem-solving skills.”

What do you think? A handy way of making the important bits stand out?  Or a crutch relied on by bad writers unable to create impact with words?

Eh. I’m not going to hold it against a candidate, but I usually think that if you find yourself doing that to make your letter compelling, the problem is the content of your letter — not something that can be fixed by using boldface. If your letter is great, it doesn’t need bolding in it.

And yeah, I know the idea is that hiring managers are skimming and you want to catch their eye — but you can catch their eye with content.

5. I can’t get in touch with a past manager for a reference

I’m a recent grad, and I’m waiting to hear back from my past supervisor for a great summer job I had in 2013. It really is too early for me to say if she’s ignoring my email or not, but I am still paranoid about how well I did in that position and I was wondering what I should do if I don’t hear back from her. I sent her an email asking if it would be okay to use her. Would it be out of line for me to call her a week or so after I haven’t heard from her through email? Truthfully, all I want is a yes or a no.

Also, there are so many job openings at the organization I worked at last summer. If she ultimately doesn’t reply or says no, should I give up on that organization completely? They are such a big, big organization for the field that I am in my city that I don’t really know what I would do if I can’t apply for jobs there. Should I try to contact another employee from the branch I worked at to be a character reference? I’m being a bit paranoid about the situation, but I’d like to know what I should do if my worst fears are true.

It’s fine to call her if you haven’t heard back after a week. That said, the fact that you don’t know how well you did in the position and whether she’d give you a glowing reference is worrisome — you’d ideally know those things before offering her up as a reference. So you might also ask her if she feels like she could speak highly of your work or not, so you’re not planting land mines for yourself without realizing it.

If you can’t get in touch with her or she says no, you can try reaching out to others there who know your work (not as a character reference; as a work reference). However, be aware that many hiring managers will want to talk to the person who was actually your manager there — or will at least want to know why they shouldn’t. So you really want to get a better sense of how your performance was seen overall.

{ 271 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK

    #2) As a quick test, I’d try throwing some samples into a readability tester website (google something like “text grade level). A low grade level may indicate that your work is all technically correct, but is perhaps over-reliant on simple sentence structures or general words where something more precise would be appropriate. This is the type of thing that can be very hard to articulate when giving feedback.

    1. Vicki

      I did that (see below). The OP’s problem is not a low grade level. (I suspect that the OP’s problem may be a higher grade level than her manager wants to read at.)

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I don’t think we have nearly enough information to suspect that. I’m picking up on an assumption in comments below that the boss must be wrong, but we really can’t know that. Someone can be a competent writer in a technical sense and not write well enough for specific other contexts.

        (Moreover, wanting something written more simply is a pretty normal and reasonable thing in a business context — if indeed that were to be the case here, which again we can’t know. Most newspapers are written at a sixth grade reading level, because that’s clear and easy to understand. Good business writing is very different from, say, academic writing.)

        1. PEBCAK

          I should have been clearer…I meant that the OP should test both the text she is generating and the text post-correction from her manager. It could give an idea of where the differences might lie.

          Most of the online tests give grade level and readability, meaning two different things. Maybe her manager wants things simplified; maybe he wants them formalized; maybe he is indeed totally nuts. It’s just a Q&D comparison.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Yeah, I was responding to Vicki’s assertion that “I suspect that the OP’s problem may be a higher grade level than her manager wants to read at.” There’s an assumption here and below that the manager is obviously in the wrong here, and it’s unfounded by the letter (and I believe unhelpful to the OP). (Not directing that at you, PEBCAK; referring to some of the other comments.)

            1. PEBCAK

              Right, I think that the biggest question, in my mind, would be “what changes is the manager making?” If the OP *does* get outside help, it would probably help the mentor enormously to see both versions for comparison.

              1. fposte

                Exactly what I was going to say. Her writing could be objectively okay and still not be what the venue is looking for. There’s kind of a blood-type aspect to writing, and A- may be a fine blood type but it’s not going to work if you’re looking for B+.

                The manager sucks at writing coaching, though.

                1. Noelle

                  That’s what I was going to say, too. I work in an office with a lot of lawyers and I have to edit their writing. They may be great at writing legal briefs, but we don’t do legal writing here. I can kind of sympathize with the boss (if that is what’s actually happening here) because it can be really frustrating to edit a 10 page document when what you really needed was the information in those 10 pages condensed into 1. It doesn’t mean the writing was bad, it’s just not what we need.

              2. LBK

                Exactly my thoughts. I would be examining the boss’s rewrites and doing my best to mimic them, since it seems like that’s what he wants.

                Not to say that he isn’t doing a crappy job of coaching, but if he’s going to consistently be saying the work is bad without clarification, there’s not really much else to do besides quit and find a manager who can be more articulate.

                Maybe also check with some coworkers who’ve also had stuff rewritten by the manager and see if they have any tips? I can’t imagine OP is the only one whose work the manager finds unsatisfactory.

                1. Mallory

                  Seconding the advice to talk to coworkers to see how they’ve handled re-write work for this manager. If he’s going to give such crappy coaching and feedback, maybe the OP can get better from her coworkers.

                  I write for my boss and can sound pretty much just like him in writing. Our process is that he will verbally outline the gist to me of what he wants to communicate, I’ll write a draft from that, and then we will pass it back and forth between us a few times to get the tone right.

                  It sounds like OP’s boss is unwilling to do the back-and-forth part of the process, which is unfortunate because it doesn’t take that long and would probably help OP pinpoint what it is that he’s looking for.

                2. Meg Murry

                  Or see if coworkers are willing to do a thorough editing for the OP (and she do the same for them)? Not just a quick “oh it looks fine” scan, but a serious “if I were the boss how would I edit this” editing session. OP can learn a lot from editing someone else’s work (especially if she is putting on her “boss’s hat” for the editing) and get a review before passing something on to the boss so he has less editing to do.

            2. kyley

              I’m suspicious of the manager because he keeps telling her to just try harder, without any real direction. That’s a very demoralizing way to treat your staff, and shows an inarticulateness on his part. The OP may well have room for improvement in her writing, but based on the information here, the manager is not doing a good job of actually managing.

              1. sunny-dee

                I had an English professor who kept telling me to rewrite papers if they didn’t “sing” to him. That was … less than helpful.

        2. Artemesia

          Most people write badly. It sounds like the boss is not able to provide good feedback, but it doesn’t mean he is wrong. On pure odds, I’d guess he is right.

          I would probably try to get a meeting with the boss and take a couple of not very long pieces he wasn’t satisfied with and tell him that you need more specific feedback about what is’t working for him so you can write more to his specifications. He may still not be able to articulate it, but I am not sure seeking an outside person will give you the feedback needed either. If the writing is terrible, it will help. But if the issues are also a stylistic difference from the boss, then it won’t.

          I would also look at the bosses work and your own and try to identify the differences. Is yours more simplistic or more complex for starters. Most bad writers use adjectives (lots of adjectives are the first sign of a bad writer), use pretentious words where simple ones would do and perhaps use them awkwardly, use cliches, are redundant and don’t structure their writing so that the key points are immediately obvious. For example, in most business writing the main point should come in the first paragraph with the rest lining up in support of that point. The O’Henry school of writing, where the point is a surprise at the end is poor business writing. With good writers, you have a sense they have done a lot of reading because their writing is graceful.

        3. OP Question 2

          Yeah; I would actually be perfectly happy to find out that he’s right, and that there is something wrong with my writing; it would mean that I would know what to work on.

          My concern primarily is that he is basically saying that my “poor” writing is due to lack of effort. I don’t know how to convince him gracefully that we’re having a communication problem, rather than what he seems to think, which is that I’m not making an effort to write well. Him thinking I’m not trying seems dangerous to my career (as well as darn frustrating, of course).

          1. LBK

            Have you tried just telling him that? Honestly, at this point I would flat out say that you ARE trying, this IS the best work you can provide based on the feedback he’s giving, and if he needs something else from you then you really need more specific direction or more one-on-one training, because what he’s told you so far isn’t helping you get to where his standards are.

            1. OP Question 2

              Sigh. Alas, I actually have tried. A couple months ago I sent him an email, and followed up in person. In that email, I explained exactly how I’d constructed a piece of writing that he didn’t end up liking. I walked him through my process, which was based primarily on using samples that he had written, and told him that I would appreciate specific feedback about where in my process he thought I’d gone wrong. I also told him (I think pretty diplomatically) that I was frustrated to receive general feedback, and needed more guidance if I was going to produce work he was satisfied with.

              His response (in person) was “you made some good points in your email about my feedback”. He did also give me a little guidance about how the goal of that piece of writing differed from the samples I’d used (the ones he had told me to use). So that was actually really helpful, and I certainly haven’t made the same mistake again. Unfortunately, that seems to have been a one-off conversation, and I’m still getting vague feedback. It’s almost more frustrating knowing that he’s capable of giving good feedback, and just isn’t doing it!

              1. LBK

                Ugh. How much of a hassle was it to do that kind of breakdown of your thought process vs. how much benefit you got out of the feedback? It sounds like you may have to take the initiative here if you want to pull specifics out of him.

                He may just not be willing to take the time to sit down and ask you about your thought process, but if you do that piece of it for him he can easily target the aspects of it that he’d like you to fix. You shouldn’t have to do this, but it may ultimately be worth the effort if you can get useful criticism as a result.

              2. Julie

                Was the difference (between that time and all the other times) that you sat down with him and went over it? If so, maybe you need to do that for a little while for every piece he doesn’t like until you can understand what he’s after. It sounds like you pushed him harder for useful feedback, and you actually got some, so perhaps try to repeat that process. I know it would be a real pain in the neck (probably for both of you), but it’s better than continuing the way things are.

                1. Spondee

                  I agree with the advice to ask for a live review, if possible.

                  I’m a copywriter, and I find that when I have clients/coworkers who can’t articulate the edits they want, it’s more productive to schedule a meeting for them to review the document than to ask them to send me comments. That way, if they start making changes without explaining them, you can prompt them for some feedback.

                  It sounds like that’s worked for you in the past, so maybe you could ask your boss if the two of you could make that part of your process until you’re both more comfortable.

              3. Meg Murry

                Could you ask for a review when you simply have the piece outlined, but not fully written? That way he could say “no, your point #3 is the most important so pull it up to the top and elaborate, your point #2 can get a quick overview but nothing big, and kill points #5 and #6”. That way you won’t waste a lot of time writing paragraphs and paragraphs of content he doesn’t think is important.

          2. LMW

            I feel for you, OP 2! I had a boss like that once — she kept telling me that I really needed to work on my writing and it wasn’t very strong. I repeatedly asked her to please show me examples of specific things that weren’t working and explain why, so I could understand where I was falling short and fix it. She never once did. I would have been very happy to work on the problem if it had ever been clear what the problem was. But I only ever received the same type of vague, subjective feedback that your boss is giving you.
            I actually ended up leaving over it — I was never going to please her, and she never had an objective critique.
            That’s the problem with writing: Everyone has an opinion on how to improve things, and it’s rarely based on something tangible.

    2. A.

      Thank you, PEBCAK, for informing us about the readability tester website. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now!

      1. Headachey

        You can do this in Word, too. Go to the Proofing tab under Options and select “Show readability statistics” (if it’s greyed out, make sure “Check grammar with spelling” is also selected. Then when you run spell check, you’ll get a tab with your word/sentence counts and readability stats (% passive, reading ease, and grade level).

  2. EAA

    #2 The problem may be as simple as you don’t write the way your manager does. It is not unusual for people to rewrite perfectly good work because it’s not their style believing it “isn’t good enough”. Often they don’t realize the problem isn’t your writing it’s their interpretation of it. This can be very problematic for reports that multiply people are involved in.

    1. AdGal

      This. I used to have a manager that constantly critiqued my writing but without giving any real feedback or things to improve upon. She finally told me to “write like her.” Well, that’s fine and dandy, but she was a crummy writer. :(

      (FWIW, I’ve been a freelance writer for nearly 10 years and have written for national and international publications.)

      1. Ethyl

        I had a similar manager and at one point he read out loud a perfectly fine sentence and was incredulous that I didn’t see the issues with it. I sent that sentence to some other people that worked in my field with me and nobody else had a problem with it. It was really surreal!

        Now having said that, in that instance, and I’m not saying this is what is going on with LW2, my boss was a bully. He had apparently decided that since my strong writing skills were something I talked about in my resume and that my references had noted, that he would pick on that to make me feel lousy. If it wasn’t that I’m sure it would be something else, and that was really only the tip of the iceberg. It was a very bad experience and I hope that LW2’s boss is just bad at communicating what she wants done. Because having a bully sexist boss sucks.

    2. VictoriaHR

      That was my thought also. My business writing is very to-the-point, whereas my manager likes to write things like “summer slumber” instead of “slow period.” I don’t care for flowery prose so I don’t model my writing based off of hers, but my supervisor does. If I wanted her to like me more, I’d focus more on writing the way she obviously likes to, but I care more about my writing.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        I think there’s a place for a phrase like “summer slumber,” but business writing is not it.

      2. LMW

        Ugh! I used to be on a team where a higher up would introduce mixed metaphors and flowery prose like that, and I wasn’t allowed to fix it. It was a special kind of hell. We actually won a jargon award. I’m so embarrassed about some of the materials I worked on — I can’t put them in my portfolio or anything because they all have her stamp.

  3. LAI

    Re #2 Feedback on writing

    I used to work with someone who I knew to be a strong writer, and an excellent employee overall. She got a new job and her new boss would print out her emails and give them back to her with edits in red pen. They were completely ridiculous things like “it’s not professional to say ‘positive’; please use ‘affirmative’ instead”. Fortunately he moved on shortly after, because he otherwise would have driven her out of there very quickly.

  4. Vicki

    #2 – I would like to note that the OP has provided us with three paragraphs of coherent, readable text. I could nit-pick about one or two typos, but honestly? Most people wouldn’t know a semicolon if it bit them; the OP used two (correctly) as well as proper quoting and other sentence structure.

    The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for these three paragraphs is 11.3. The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease score is 64.4. (A higher score indicates easier readability; scores usually range between 0 and 100.)

    OP: Your manager has issues. Perhaps you should try dumbing your work down a bit to test if he actually doesn’t know what good writing is?

    1. Zelos

      The OP’s post is coherently written, but her boss may deem it to be inappropriate for their purposes. Maybe it’s not formal enough, or it’s too formal. Maybe it doesn’t use enough industry jargon. Maybe their industry has something against contractions. It sucks that the boss won’t clarify exactly what is wrong, but while the OP’s manager may have issues, the manager may simply be inept at articulating what she wants.

      To be fair, the OP’s coworkers don’t seem to find anything wrong, which suggest to me the problem is a stylistic one preferred by the boss. So I’d go with Alison’s recommendation–analyze what the boss does like, and maybe even talk to the boss afterwards. A lot of people are inept at enunciating what they want but can agree when it’s specifically pointed out: “Yes, I couldn’t put it into words earlier, but you must always use words no shorter than five letters long!”

      Of course, the OP is then free to evaluate if the boss’s opinion has any merit or not…

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      We don’t have nearly enough information to know the boss’s concerns are or aren’t legitimate. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level doesn’t even begin to get at all the elements of good writing, like nuance or flow or rhythm or thoroughness or tone or voice. It’s only about the education level generally required to understand the text, which is one factor of MANY that go into good writing.

      We do the OP no favors by assuming the boss is wrong, and it’s intellectually dishonest to assume we can know from what’s here. I think there’s some knee-jerk boss-blaming going on because he’s not managing her well (in that he’s not giving useful feedback) but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong in the writing assessment.

    3. Observer

      You have exactly ONE writing sample, and you have subjected it to two very general purpose and extremely limited tests. How can you make a generalization about either the LW *or* the boss based on this.

      On the other hand, I do see one significant problem with this particular writing sample. That is, that there is apparently unnecessary and irrelevant detail in the information that is being presented. Specifically, the amount of time that her boss has been in this field does not seem to relate at all to the issue she is presenting.

      Is this something the LW does on a regualr basis? Is this what is bothering the boss? We don’t know the answer to either question. And, that’s why I totally agree with Alison that we simply don’t have enough information to know what the issue is, and if the boss is right, wrong, or just looks at it differently than the LW.

  5. CanadianWriter

    #2 If he’s actually doing full rewrites then I suspect he’s a control freak who will never be happy with what you write.

    It’s also possible that he’s making only minor changes and you’re overreacting. It’s weird going from school where teachers don’t edit your papers to work where you’re going to be edited. I know I was irrationally offended by the first few editors who moved some words around and fixed my grammar. “You don’t recognize my genius!”

    1. AdGal

      “If he’s actually doing full rewrites then I suspect he’s a control freak who will never be happy with what you write.”

      This was my manager to a T. :( She would rewrite everything of mine, even when our staff editors would say it was fine.

    2. Felicia

      I also suspected control freak with the way he frames his edits and criticism. I had a manager like that, where all I’d get was “you really weren’t trying” or “you should put in more effort” or “I know you can be better.” Well ok, I was actually trying really hard, harder than I’d ever tried at anything before, and if I knew what was wrong with it, I would have fixed it before giving it to you, and if you want to be helpful, you need to give specific feedback. I don’t react well to people questioning my effort, because no one can know how hard I tried other than me. I also hate non specific feedback, it’s so unhelpful.

      1. OP Question 2

        I’ll admit, I sort of begin to wonder why I try so hard at all, if it’s going to be met with a total rewrite and “you’re not trying” no matter what I produce.

        1. fposte

          I think that’s where an outside source really might be helpful–you can get an idea of whether there’s nothing you can do that would change this or if there really is a discernible goal for you to work toward even if your manager can’t articulate it.

        2. KrisL

          The way I see it, you basically have 2 options; you can think your boss is wrong, or you can assume your boss is right but can’t articulate the problem clearly. I guess there’s a 3rd option where it’s just a style choice.

          Option 1 isn’t going to be productive. With option 1, most people will be more and more frustrated until quitting.

          Options 2 and 3 give you something you can work with. You may need to ask co-workers about what the boss does and doesn’t like or talk to the boss again.

    3. MissDisplaced

      My take was also CONTROL FREAK based on the way he gives his criticism. Most people would be more specific, such as the writing was too technical, too lengthy, etc., etc., and not a “you’re not trying” type of comment.

      If he’s one of those, it’s unlikely she will ever please and that’s not good at all. Is it only the writing, or other things as well?

  6. Vicki

    OP number 1 – Don’t block. Use Facebook’s “I don’t want to see this” and/or stop following your manager’s posts. Then quietly step away.

    1. Vicki

      People can tell if they’ve been blocked (and it’s two-way). They can’t tell if you’re simply not reading their posts anymore. Blocking leads to an uncomfortable conversation you may not want to have.

      1. LBK

        I think that’s what Alison meant. The OP says she doesn’t want to remove the person on Facebook, so I’m assuming Alison was referring to hiding the posts, not actually blocking the manager.

      2. LV

        Do you mean “block” as in “un-friend” here? I wasn’t aware that people could tell they had been blocked/hidden from someone’s feed as opposed to being totally removed from someone’s list of friends.

        1. FiveNine

          They can tell, because the block goes both ways — meaning if you’ve blocked someone, you can’t see their posts or, for example, their comments on a mutual friend’s post. Most people realize they’ve been blocked when they see someone respond to a comment you’ve made on a mutual friend’s post but you and your comment are totally invisible.

        2. amaranth16

          You can unfollow someone on Facebook without blocking or unfriending them. They won’t know. From News Feed, click on the small grey arrow on the upper right-hand corner of the post, and click “Unfollow Name.” Unfriending is for people you don’t care if you antagonize; blocking is for stalkers. Unfollow is your friend.

          1. LyonsTigersandBears

            If you can’t find them in your News Feed (people never seem to be there when you go to unfollow), you can visit the offender’s profile and simply uncheck “Following” — you can find it next to “Friends.”

  7. Jen RO

    #1 – Wow, this manager is clueless! I was hoping the OP’s question would be similar to one I would ask, but I’m glad it’s not! (My former-peer-current-team-lead friend does vent to people she shouldn’t, but at least it’s not on Facebook!)

    #2 – Now I’m really curious about your writing. I am going back to a job where I will have to review new coworkers’ writing, and I am actually a bit worried not to turn into your boss. We have stricter guidelines, but outside of those… when is it “this paragraph doesn’t sound good” and when is it “this paragraph doesn’t sound like Jen would write it”? (I’ve been told that I am good at telling the difference and explaining, but I’m still not convinced.)

    #4 – Looks like someone who is trying to do SEO in print.

  8. Brigitte

    OP2: I’m hoping this isn’t obnoxious, because obviously a letter to AAM isn’t “evidence” of what you submit at work, but I can see a few things I’d edit if I were your boss.

    For example, in this sentence, you use the word “then” three times and “often” twice: “Changes that he then makes are often then done in an exasperated tone, and he often fully rewrites my work, and then sends me an email saying that he shouldn’t have to do this much editing on my work and that he ‘knows I’m a better writer than this.’”

    I have no way of knowing whether you write this way at work, but as a ruthless editor, I’d caution you to watch for wordiness.

    That said, your writing here is not sub-par, and I empathize with your frustration in this situation.

    One last recommendation — you might want to ask someone with a business background as opposed to a professor for input, as the style conventions can be quite different. Going into PR after studying literature and creative writing, I had to switch from MLA to AP style.

    1. Fucshia

      I agree with Brigitte about not choosing a professor. Ideally, you want someone in your field, but anyone in the business world would be preferred over a professor for this.

    2. OP of Question 2

      Well spotted. I have had trouble with wordiness in the past. You should’ve seen the length of this letter before I edited it down! Thanks for the feedback.

    3. Bagworm

      I concur on maybe looking to someone other than a professor (unless they teach business writing). From this limited sample, you don’t seem to have technical/grammar issues (and I think you would have noticed/noted if that was a recurring issue) so it seems the issue must be about style.

      I noticed that you mentioned that this is your first job out of grad school and that you always had good feedback in previous “settings”. If those settings were all (or primarily) academic, that might be part of the problem. Academic writing is very different from business writing. I know I had to learn business writing (as well as the style of my boss(es) (they wanted it to be written in their voice and that just takes time to get familiar with), it was sometimes challenging but I got there.

      Good luck!

    4. Emily, admin extraordinaire

      Yeah, this. I have an MA in English lit, and a cousin asked me to do some freelance SEO writing for him. I SUCKED at it. I mean, literally, worst stuff I’ve written since 8th grade sucked. Unlike many English majors, my writing style is generally very concise, which was the exact opposite of the kind of writing they wanted– 700 words with an 8-10% repetition of certain keywords– I just couldn’t do it. There’s only so many ways you can work “Chicago chocolate teapots” into a 700-word paragraph, after all. No one reading my failed attempt at SEO copy would ever believe that I was a good writer. Likewise, I’m great at academic writing and whitepapers and TV episode recaps and book reviews and such, but my creative writing is really bad. Different genres call for different styles.

      OP, are there any internet guides out there for the type of writing you’re supposed to be doing? Books on the subject? Your boss may still be crazy, but it never hurts to improve your skills.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Also, OP, what are the things you’re writing? What types of pieces — web articles, blog posts, fundraising letters, op-eds, newsletter pieces, what? Those all require different types of writing, so it’ll help to know what they are.

        Also, as a very picky writer who has done tons of nonprofit writing (including op-eds, speeches, fundraising, press releases, etc.) and has hired and managed writers in similar contexts, I’ll repeat my offer to take a look if you want to send me some of your drafts and some of his rewritten pieces.

      2. do not pass go

        I’m new-ish to this site. Can someone explain the teapot thing to me? I keep seeing teapots everywhere.

        1. Editor

          It’s the in-house fictional industry. When someone had to talk about a product, the made-up example was “chocolate teapot.” Then someone wanted to talk about their job, but not say what it was. Thus was born “chocolate teapot designer.” And so on. In the business, Wakeen is one of the workers.

          1. Ruffingit

            Shavon is also one of the workers, but she hasn’t been very visible lately. She’s probably toiling away at the chocolate teapot designs.

  9. Stephanie

    #2

    He tends to send that work back to me under the assumption that I’m not trying, couching it in terms of saying “please review this again to make sure it is your best work,” without further suggestions.

    Ugggggh, OldBoss would do this same type of vague and passive aggressive communication. It drove me batty. “Well, do you think you exhausted all the teapot databases, Stephanie?” I knew if he asked that, the answer was “no”, but it would have been so much easier (and less condescending) if he was just direct with his feedback.

    Sorry, OP #2, I know this has to be frustrating.

    1. Kelly L.

      I had a college writing instructor who would grade my papers low but without any explanation for what I’d done wrong, and when I asked for criticism, just got a tirade about how “Just because you got A’s in high school doesn’t mean you’re going to get them here!” I never could get her to clarify what she actually didn’t like about my writing–if it was style, structure, etc. And it’s quite possible that my writing wasn’t all that great! But the vague (and oddly angry) criticism didn’t help me zero in on the problem so I could improve. I can relate to the OP’s frustration here. Even if the manager has a legitimate criticism, he’s not expressing it well or constructively, and is instead making insinuations about the OP’s work ethic. Aggghhhhh.

      1. HM in Atlanta

        When my brother was in graduate school, he had a professor like this. Since he was already getting low grades, on a low-value paper (so it wouldn’t hurt his overall grade), I had him do a test. He wrote 4-5 sentence paragraphs, simple sentences, with no compound words. It read very much like this:

        “Teapots are made in multiple colors. Teapots from CountryX are made using red clay. Teapots from CountryY are made using gray clay. The color of the clay comes from the soil in the country.”

        He received an A with a “much improved” note. Graduate level course at a well-respected, traditional university. At the end of the course, he included a “D” paper and an “A” paper with his instructor evaluation, and the professor was asked to leave soon after.

        1. Rachel

          I come from an academic background and I can guarantee you that a professor leaving a position had literally nothing to do with your brother’s evaluation. There is no department anywhere that would micromanage grading that way. For a department to discipline a professor over grading, there would have to be a much bigger scandal such as sex for grades or assigning grades based on race.

          Tenured professors have almost no oversight because of the collegial atmosphere of academia and this goes double for the details of how they teach and grade, bc those are generally considered the least important duties compared to research and publishing. I’ve known professors who got away with creating abusive working conditions for research assistants, who failed grad students on candidacy exams because of personality conflicts and who asked students to co-author research papers only to turn around and accuse them of stealing data for writing up the requested paper. A grading preference for simple sentence construction wouldn’t even register as an issue.

          1. HM in Atlanta

            She wasn’t tenured. This was far from the only thing that was an issue, but it did add to the pile of crap her dept chair used to get rid of her. Academia isn’t exactly known for being able to keep its personnel matters confidential.

          2. OhNo

            Just wanted to swing by and say: that’s not necessarily true. Some schools are much better about checking fairness in grading than others. I had the misfortune to be responsible for a non-tenured professor getting fired over unfair grades. However, my school was an anomaly in many ways, and I suspect this was one. In academia in general, I’m sure you’re quite right about the lack of oversight.

        2. OriginalEmma

          I’m so glad I AP’d out of Expository Writing (as the intro writing class was called at my uni). I saw what my buddies had to submit for papers and it was writing like that. Many students knew to game the system by artificially nuking their writing in the beginning and “improving it” towards the end of the semester. It made me cringe.

  10. Lily

    #1 I find it difficult to believe that a manager would be unaware that others are reading the posts. I have experienced people who seem to prefer complaining to solving problems and wonder if their complaints are just a way of telling everyone how important they are and how hard they work. Another possibility is that the manager hopes that the complaints will get passed on to the responsible party who will then get their act together. This is so indirect that it is probably ineffective and it probably results in more collateral damage than it can solve problems, but who said that people always behave effectively?

    1. Rayner

      The alternative could be that they have so many friends that they’ve forgotten who’s following them and who isn’t. I know many people on twitter have made the same mistake. With 300-400 people following them on twitter, they just plain don’t know who’s looking and who isn’t, so they just say stuff regardless.

      1. Monodon monoceros

        Which is still incredibly stupid. You might not have been defending it, but I’m just making the point that forgetting who is on your FB or twitter is no excuse. As many others have said, everyone should assume that whatever they put on FB should be OK to yell on a street corner, and maybe that should be amended to “should be OK to say loudly in your open space office” too.

        1. Rayner

          I’m not defending it, I’m putting forward another explanation as to why the manage may actually be unaware, or at least not consciously know who’s looking.

          Also, I agree. If you see my post below, I advocate for tighter personal control of social media for exactly these circumstances, and for people to watch what they say/do.

        2. Jubilance

          Dude I have 1800+ Twitter followers. How am I supposed to remember who all those people are? I get your point though – don’t publish things online that you don’t want to be seen by everyone but that’s a blanket rule whether you have 1 follower or 1 million.

          1. Monodon monoceros

            Yeah, I don’t have a problem with someone having a zillion Twitter followers or FB friends, dude :) Someone with that many may not remember exactly who is there, but thinking of it as a public space is probably the safest.

            1. Ruffingit

              Yes, exactly. Public space are the words people need to keep in mind with this. Even when you think it’s private, there are many ways it may not be. Your friends may share what you wrote and attach your name thus their friends see it and so forth. Never assume, regardless of privacy settings, that anything is actually private.

      2. MW

        Or that they think they have certain privacy settings that they don’t actually have enabled. However, in my experience, people who put inappropriate things on FB usually aren’t the people who are thinking through privacy settings for different people.

      3. Artemesia

        A boss should not be dishing about employees in any sort of public forum ever. How hard IS this? I’d fire someone I supervised who did that. It is not a mistake; it is rank unprofessionalism.

        1. Kelly O

          That would get you fired as an employee in some settings. I don’t understand how a manager thinks this is okay.

          1. Ruffingit

            I think the manager hasn’t lost the subordinate feeling. That is to say she was promoted from being a co-worker to management so perhaps she still has that “stick it to the man” sort of attitude, rather than realizing she needs to be more discrete now. This is not to say that all employees shouldn’t be careful of what they post, just that a manager should absolutely know better, but in this case I don’t think she has the management mindset despite having the title.

    2. Sunflower

      The other thing is the manager might be in a ‘we’re all in this together’. Maybe she assumes because she is annoyed that everyone else she works with is too.

      In college, the adviser for our major was one of those guys who wanted everyone to think of him as a friend and not teacher and he’d friend everyone on facebook. Something always felt off to me about him though so I put him on limited profile. Sure enough, people found out he was telling professors what people were writing on facebook. People assumed he was cool and wouldn’t say anything though so no one really thought about posting that they had a couple drinks during lunch before class.

      None of this makes it okay to post this stuff but it can explain why someone would post things without thinking about it

    3. Celeste

      Most people don’t understand the nuts and bolts of Facebook settings, or pay attention when they change. What I think is really going on with this manager is that she thinks her posts about the idiots are funny and that people will think she’s clever. Personally if she has that much to vent about, it makes it sound like she’s in over her head with the promotion. She should be immersing herself in ways to solve her new challenges, not whine about them. Putting it on Facebook without regard to who’s listening shows that she doesn’t understand how quickly a career can be derailed.

      OP, I think you should follow the advice to hide her posts. Maybe she will notice that you never comment on anything of hers, maybe not. If pressed, I would just say that I am not as into Facebook anymore.

    4. Graciosa

      I think that people sometimes treat online social media as diaries that occasionally give them (hopefully supportive) feedback.

      I would like to think that someone in a management role would be smarter than this, but there is abundant evidence in the world to dispute that assumption.

  11. Poysidia

    OP3: You need to bring up the scandal, and say something exactly along the lines of: “I’ve read a bit about the events that led to the school being put on probation. Can you tell me anything about how that’s being handled internally, with regards to this position?” If you don’t, you won’t have the information to know exactly how it might impact your future job, legally and ethically. And that’s information you need to know before you start. It’s not information you can get along with without knowing, so you need to ask it; if you’re not comfortable asking, I wouldn’t interview for the position.

    1. De Minimis

      #3–My feeling is unless it is something that could have a direct impact on your job, don’t bring it up. If the scandal involves the actual department you’re interviewing for, of course it is relevant and you need to find out about it. But if it’s a completely different area, I’d leave it alone unless it’s a case where the impact is so great as to create doubt about long-term employment there.

      When I was interviewing with accounting firms [the major ones are almost always in some sort of legal trouble] we were always advised not to bring up anything like that. I knew of people who did and it usually had a bad result.

      1. OP3

        Thank you both for the advice. This is a pretty big deal, as the school will be closed if they don’t clean up their act, so I wanted to approach it in the appropriate manner.

        1. Colette

          the school will be closed if they don’t clean up their act
          That right there is a reason to ask, if they don’t bring it up.

        2. Elizabeth West

          I would definitely want to know how they’re handling the issue from now on. Especially if they might close over it.

          I had an interview once where the interviewer actually volunteered the information that her company was under federal investigation for import violations. They were cooperating fully (apparently it was an issue with the vendor), but with the explanation and subsequent information I found after the interview, I decided that if they offered me the job I would say no. It was too iffy whether or not they would end up closing down. That to me wasn’t a stable workplace situation.

      2. Sunflower

        Like you mentioned, when you were interviewing, it seems like it was normal for the company’s to have legal issues ‘the major ones are almost always in some sort of legal trouble’. Maybe you were advised to not bring it up because by doing so, you could have looked naive to how these organizations work and what goes on whereas in OP’s spot, this is a rare occurrence.

        In this case, if the university reacts badly to OP asking, I think it’s a sign of a bad organization. Trying to hide information that is already out there or not being prepared to explain yourself isn’t good. A school being on probation is a pretty big deal and any job applicant I think deserves to know that the school is going to pull through.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yes – if they react badly to being asked, it’s a red flag. (And I think you’re right that the difference between this and De Minimis’ experience is that this isn’t par for the course.)

      3. Mary in Texas

        If the scandal was something in the media, ie Penn State, then you have to bring it up because everyone knows about it and they won’t be surprised or insulted that you brought it up. On the contrary, if you didn’t bring it up, if I were hiring there, I’d wonder about why you didn’t bring it up. Just my 2-cents.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Depending on what the position is, it might not make sense to add “in regard to this position.” It might have zero bearing on this position, but the OP still wants to know in a broader sense — I wouldn’t limit the information like that.

      1. Jessa

        Especially if the position itself isn’t directly involved but may have to explain the issue to others. As in the job won’t actually be impacted by the probation, but you might have to explain to students that it may impact the school certification and therefore their ability to transfer courses or become licenced in a certain field.

    3. SA

      When I was researching my current employer prior to interviewing I found several mentions of layoffs. I was working at a stable company with very little risk of being laid off so that was something I brought up with the recruiter and hiring manager. It’s not exactly the same situation you are in but if you have any reason to believe the scandal will result in a closure or damage your future employment prospects I’d bring it up.

    4. Anonymous for this

      I’m gonna throw this out there, for what it’s worth.

      If the school has been in the news for anything other than the scandal, make sure you’re at least as well aware of the other stuff as you are of the scandal. Take a spin through their Google results and be familiar with the top three pages of hits. That way you’ll come across as someone who’s paying attention to the school’s place in the news, not just someone who’s generally interested in scandal. The school is, presumably, much more than just the scandal.

      I work for Nike, and we know all too well that we’ve been in the news for the wrong reasons at times. We don’t expect applicants to be blind to those scandals, and we wouldn’t hold it against them if they mentioned the scandals in an interview. But we wouldn’t want to dwell on it, because it’s a very small part of our history and what we’re about. We’d want an applicant to be equally aware of our successes.

  12. Sourire

    #1 – I sympathize. I have two coworkers I highly regret adding on facebook. The first posts nothing but highly inflammatory political and sexist tirades and photos. I had to set my facebook to ignore him because just seeing his posts made me angry, and I worried the more I saw, the more it would affect my working relationship with him. The weirdest thing is, he’s the nicest guy at work. If you weren’t facebook friends with him, you would never suspect the anger that comes out there.

    The second, much like your manager, posts all sorts of rants about our job and coworkers, and then complains loudly at work when she is reprimanded for doing so. She also then posts on facebook about how sick she is of the “rats” who turn her in and how her free speech is being violated (don’t even get me started on the misunderstanding it seems 90% of people have regarding freedom of speech and the First Amendment).

    Like someone mentioned above, set your facebook to ignore/not show her posts, but I wouldn’t block her or un-friend her. Both may cause some unwanted waves/conflict.

    1. Tina

      I have a personal policy of not friending any current co-workers, and only have a handful or so former coworkers on my FB, either. I prefer it that way. I’ve worked in offices where no one makes a “thing” about that, so it hasn’t been a big deal. Then again, for years I refused to friend my younger sister because of things she posted, so I think I could deal with a coworker who was “put out” by it.

    2. Ann Furthermore

      I know what you mean about the political stuff. There was a consultant at my company who worked with us on a huge project for a couple years, and one of my co-workers was Facebook friends with him. She told me he also posted stuff like that. In his case, I was not surprised, because he would rant all the time at the office too. I carefully avoided any mention of Facebook in his presence, because I didn’t want him to send me a friend request.

      One morning, he read something that set him off and he started going on and on about Islam being a religion of terrorists — while one of my other co-workers, who is Muslim, was sitting right there. He finally said, “Hey. Do you mind?” The consultant said, “Well, I wasn’t talking about you,” my co-worker replied with, “Well, actually, you were,” and they both stalked back to their desks and things were very tense for a few hours. Then my co-worker was leaving the office and stopped by the consultant’s desk and said, “Hey, I’m running out to grab some lunch and to also pick up a new turban. Would you like me to buy one for you too?” LOL!!! I so admired my co-worker for taking the high road and choosing to diffuse the situation with humor.

      But anyway — I have very few co-worker Facebook friends, and they’re all people I’ve known and worked with for years. I very, very rarely rant about anything work related on Facebook, because my view is that you don’t put anything on the internet that you’d be embarrassed for your grandmother to see. But the few times I have, it’s always been in very generic terms. Like when Former Worst Boss On Earth left for another job, and took his Chief Conniving Minion (who I hired and then stabbed me in the back to get promoted) with him, they were soon completely miserable at their new company, because the CEO treated everyone horribly, and these 2 were no exception. They were just SHOCKED at how terrible it was for someone to treat people so badly. Did I gloat on Facebook about the 2 of them being run over by the karma train? Yes, I did. But I didn’t use any names or anything else.

  13. Rayner

    #1 is one hundred percent an advert for never friending people on facebook that you cannot openly and freely interact with, without fear of recrimination or gossip (even if that interaction is blocking or unfriending). Facebook (and twitter, and other social media things) are your places, and it’s up to you to guard information and access wisely. Bosses and coworkers generally shouldn’t feature in that, unless you’re also very good friends.

    Frankly, I don’t understand why people want to be friends on facebook with coworkers and bosses anyway, unless they’re good friends (and I mean very good, not just casual). I don’t want to see my boss’s pictures of her family holiday, and she is NOT seeing my pictures of me trying (and failing) to ride horses or make a campfire. I would also think that if someone tagged me (even if it is falsely) in something that’s legally problematic or dubious, I would not want my boss or someone able to do my performance review able to view it. At the very least, it could colour their perception of me. And yes, I still know people who try to do this. I untag myself, and defriend them, very quickly.

    I would block her, and then in six months time, just quietly unfriend her.

    Alternatively, if you feel that these are discriminatory (she’s saying ‘-ist things’ etc), then you can certainly print screen, and pass them onto HR etc.

    1. Mike C.

      At my wife’s last workplace, it was “highly suggested” that you friend your managers, so they could see when you were on Facebook at work.

      1. Ali

        This happened at my first job out of college when I was too dumb to know better. Our company’s CEO would add every employee on social media and read their blogs, and he got me and at least one other person in trouble because of what we wrote about work, and even commented on a status I wrote. It was a miserable place to work anyway, and the company had to lay off about 40 people a couple months later.

        After that, I added coworkers on FB still, but not bosses, and haven’t had issues over it since. My current job has a pretty laid-back culture and a lot of us are FB friends, and two of my coworkers have even added our manager. (I do not go that far as, well, he’s my manager.) There’s no pressure to do so, though, and I still have a custom setting on my page that I can hide certain posts from them. No problems.

        1. Meg Murry

          Remember that if your coworkers are Facebook friends with your manager, and the coworker comments on your post, your manager can now see your post, whether they are friends with you or not. I think the advice above to not post anything on social media (or in an email, which could easily be forwarded) that you wouldn’t want to shout in a open plan office or post of the break room bulletin board is a good rule to follow.

          1. Ali

            I really do not post about work that much on social media and I haven’t been in trouble for it yet. When I do post non-work stuff, my coworkers don’t comment on it really. Again, I generally hide stuff about work, so my coworkers aren’t seeing it anyway.

            1. Fee

              Correct. I have a bunch of people on a restricted list to whom it essentially looks like I use FB very little (you can see how your Profile looks to others in Privacy Settings – View Profile As). However as FB increasingly blurs the privacy lines in the News Feed and ticker e.g. ‘X friend likes a link posted by someone you don’t know’, I don’t fully trust that. For that reason I actually extend my “no coworkers” policy to coworkers who’ve left NewJob, as I figure that through them, current colleagues may get access to my posts without my knowledge. Basically I won’t friend anyone I work with, or have worked with, at a job until I’ve left that job. I’m a contractor though: I can see that being a bit restrictive for those in permanent positions. This isn’t so that I can vent about work BTW. I have no reason to at NewJob and at OldJob if I ever did it was in such vague, codified language that only a certain set of very close friends knew what I meant, although others did try to guess :) It’s just that I see no reason to make colleagues privy to personal conversations I have with my friends that I wouldn’t repeat to them in work.

        2. KrisL

          Facebook changes too much, and the connections are complicated enough that you should never:
          – complain about work on FB
          – get into politics, or at least not too deeply on FB – you might not realize who you’ll offend until you’ve done it
          – slam anyone’s religion

      2. Rayner

        This is where I draw the line, and choose to be literal. “Highly suggested” means not mandatory, and thus, I don’t have to do it. When it becomes mandatory, I’d just deactivate my account and say, “Sorry, don’t have one. ”

        Also, if a manager can’t get IT to block the website, or at least figure out who’s goofing off on company time, they’re terrible managers. I’m sorry to hear your wife worked for such dolts.

      3. OriginalYup

        I don’t know what it is about social media that brings out the crazy in companies. I think social media policies might replace time off policies as my personal litmus test test for leadership soundness.

      4. LQ

        Because they were on FB at work?
        That’s just a level of creepy that makes me shudder. Makes me very glad supervisors at my place of work are discouraged from that exact same activity.

    2. Jen RO

      On the other hand, I have no problem with others seeing my holiday pictures and I enjoy seeing my coworkers’ pics. I don’t post about work on FB and I haven’t friended my boss, and having coworkers as FB friends has never been a problem.

      1. Anony mis

        A former coworker of mine once posted about how relieved she was that gas stations sold condoms. I can’t imagine wanting to post that to begin with, but she was also friends with our boss, who wished she could erase that knowledge from her mind lol. I think the boss unfriended her after that.

        1. Prickly Pear

          I once had a work meeting that morphed into a fun night out kinda deal, complete with some of the bosses. I posted about it on Facebook, and didn’t think anything about it until my immediate supervisor mentioned seeing my drunk post. Neither one of them are my bosses anymore, but we still laugh about how spectacularly busted I was the next day at work.

  14. JustSomeone

    OP3: I was in your position and yes, you should talk about the elephant in the room. Because not talking about it will just make it look weird: it either looks like you didn’t do any research at all before applying, or it looks like you don’t particularly care about how your new workplace handles massive problems like this.

  15. Rayner

    #4, I wouldn’t do the bolding thing.

    Imagine getting a document that looked like this and then you had to sift through it to find important information , and then do the same with a hundred other people who had thought they had a bright idea . And then you have to take it to show other people too.

    It’s actually really quite tiring to read, especially if you’re having to do it a lot, as I imagine a hiring manager would.

    Like Alison said, it just looks plain odd. Also, the things you consider important might not be what the manager considers important and vice versa. I think it wouldn’t be as bad as chocolate (or a message in a bottle!) but it just would…odd. Just go for writing the best cover letter you can and making sure that makes you stand out.

    1. Del

      I can’t help reading it like the bolded parts are shouted, which makes it entertaining, but a little harder to correctly parse.

    2. Jamie

      The bolding feels like a form letter to me, I don’t like it for a cover letter at all.

      I wouldn’t not call a good candidate based on bolding, but a cover letter should read like an email between two people – not a commodity and a consumer and that’s how the bold feels to me.

      I know people skim, but I do have enough attention to get through a cover letter and read all the words.

      I wouldn’t do it.

      1. Parfait

        Yeah I get junk mail like that, mostly begging letters from politicians or charities. Not a fan of the tone.

      2. Tinker

        It kind of puts me in mind of those prayer rug people for some reason — I mean the folks who send out those pieces of paper with a picture of Jesus on it, and you’re supposed to kneel on it and recite something or other, and then send it back “for the next person” after having checked off a list of “prayer concerns” i.e. things to wheedle you for money regarding.

        I don’t know that this would even work for a position where a certain amount of salesyness is called for (mine is, ehrm, not) because of that kind of bottom-feeding look to it.

    3. Sunflower

      It’s actually highly distracting. You’re trying to read a letter that presumably flows and your eyes keep darting around.

  16. lh

    OP# . 2.
    I experienced something similar with my writing. I recieved feedback going from ‘you are a good writer’ when I started at the compant to ‘your writing is terrible and we need to review every single thing you write to check it’. Now, the second was from an awful manager. He did edit my work for 6 months, and then stopped saying that I had improved. To this day I do not know I did better at the end of the 6 months.
    However, when my new manager took over he again looked at my writing. While the style was adequate, he thought that the whole structure could be improved. He did this by actually teaching me a technique how to write reports (it was a consultancy). This was new information for me, and made my writing a hundred times better. This was different from writing for academia, or fiction, or anything I had done before. However, no one in the organisation had thought that this was something I should be taught, that I should somehow pick it up by osmosis.
    I would find some outside training for your writing in the type of business writing that you need to do, and make a formal request from your boss to cover it. Your boss is obviously not happy with your writing and obviously not capable of feeding back his problems in a way that makes sense to you. If this doesn’t fly see if your boss can reccomend a book that can help.

    1. Graciosa

      I had a professor like this – actually two, now that I think about it. In both cases, it was all about his ego which required that everyone in the class get very low marks first term (before we had fully benefited from his brilliant teaching) and then significantly higher marks second term (after he had “molded” us).

      In both cases, I knew this was a crock as I stopped paying any attention pretty early in the first term and still received the grade boost. It’s kind of hard to “mold” someone who mentally left the building, but I wasn’t going to change either of them so – que sera, sera. I moved on.

      I do think the OP here should pursue feedback before assuming the problem is the manager’s – and the OP has to work for this manager, so even the appearance of trying to meet his standards has benefits – but it’s not impossible that the manager really is just nuts. We just don’t have enough information yet, and that assumption is a risky one for the OP’s career.

  17. Blue Anne

    #1 – Eurgh. Cruddy situation. Sorry you have to deal with that.

    When I finished uni, I was hired into the same company my then-boyfriend-now-husband was in. There are a lot of great people, so my first instinct was to look them up on facebook. Immediate advice from other half: NEVER friend work people on facebook, even if you really like them as people. It has been excellent advice.

  18. Vanessa

    OP#2

    When you say your boss is making a complete re-write, how does the finished product differ from what you provided? Is it substantially different in tone or content or even length? Try to do a really deep read of both pieces to suss out what’s different and perhaps get an outside reader for objective assistance on that front.

    That brings me to my next point….a professor (assuming they primarily are researchers and have not spent substantial time outside academia) is the worst person to ask for feedback on a piece of business writing. I say this as a former academic who now spends all day turning professors’ writing into something palatable for the general public! They’re (mostly) great writers in their own academic formats but that approach doesn’t fly in the business world.

    Try to get someone in a similar industry to you to do a read. Chances are good, if all your writing experience has been in academia then your writing IS incorrect for this purpose. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, it may simply be a matter of taking the time to re-tool your style and get calibrated to this new setting.

    I would also perhaps ask your boss if you could schedule a meeting specifically to get feedback on your writing. He may be more inclined to give substantial feedback if it’s planned ahead, rather than immediately post-revision.

  19. Feed Fido

    #1 I’d absolutely ask for outside feedback. If it’s not obvious grammatical mistakes and you are not in an industry dictating a particular format- than his criticism is subjective. And in reality, you may or may not be able to make him happy. I’ve had bosses who love to edit, and others who rave about my writing. An outside critique may help you if just to reassure you, it’s him not you.

    #5 References- unless the former employee was a terror, I’d hope the manager would be willing to give a fair reference. I think people forget, failing to provide references can keep others from work. I have provided references for folks I didn’t particularly like, because they did their job and I had no right to play God over their future. Most people are average, so raving reviews- good or bad- are often just opinion based on whether one personally liked the person.

  20. Bryan

    #2

    I feel you, I’m a similar situation. I feel like if I have two choices either way I’ll be wrong and my boss will choose the other one. I want to just put both options and let her choose.

  21. Professional Writer

    #2 – I second AAM’s suggestion to seek out a strong writer/editor to review OP’s work. And, OP, know that it will only be effective if you make it clear that you want to hear the hard truth; otherwise, they will tell you it is fine because they think that’s what you want to hear and they’ve become accustomed to people who react poorly to the truth.

    I will add that one thing I’ve learned in my career is that when someone points out that something I’ve written does not 100% hit the mark, there is usually something to their concerns. Often, the issue isn’t what they pointed out but, by stepping back with an open mind, I can usually find a way to make some really minor changes that fully address their concerns. So I like the idea of looking as your boss’s edits with an eye toward what is missing. Is it word power? Is it an issue of needing a stronger opening more fluid transitions? Is it a personal quirk (I write for someone who was schooled by nuns and believes beginning a sentence with a parenthetical is “bad writing”…because nuns know tons about the rhythm of words and how to foster creativity!)

    Do not do the reading ease test.

    1. fposte

      Good points. Our style sheet has a lot about house style and tone, because they’re important. The boss should be saying more specifically what the misfits are rather than just scolding, but an experienced eye may well be able to extrapolate the direction he wants the OP to go by looking at the corrections/rewrites. OP has already noted that she tends to be wordy, so a lot of it could be related to prolixity.

      (I may be with the nuns on starting a sentence with a parenthetical. How does that even work?)

      1. Professional Writer

        Here’s an example: “While I was on vacation, I had an epiphany.” The parenthetical here is an introductory phrase. Another example would be, “If you, an experienced reader of this column, see something you disagree with you should add a comment.”

        Paragraphs can benefits from sentence structure variety.

        As a writer/editor, it is pretty uncommon that I receive something to review that can be addressed with a few words of advice. In most cases, a surgical rewrite is required. I always hope that the original writer will learn from reading my changes but they typically only accept the changes and move on. The reality is that good writers are few and far between and, by the time we’re in the work world (oops, a parenthetical!), it’s unrealistic to think you can make writers of the rest.

        1. fposte

          Ah, I thought you were talking about a literal parenthetical–I’m totally with you on the modifying clause kind.

          I’ll differ with you on the coaching, though. It’s quicker for me to rewrite and edit most of the time, but part of my job is indeed bringing young writers along, and most of them can improve a lot if you provide them with the kind of specifics that we’re talking about–which the OP’s manager isn’t doing. (Though I agree that people tend to have individual improvement ceilings.)

          1. Professional Writer

            I guess a lot of my experience involves people who have been asked to write something but would not be called writers. I much prefer helping the latter — it’s the difference between giving a cup of milk and creating a cow. Have recently worked with one colleague whose talent has long been kept hidden and it a joy working with her.

            1. fposte

              Yes, with people who are already writers, it’s like switching a musician to a different instrument; the challenge is technical and the ear is still there.

              1. Mints

                The music analogy really works. When I was in school, I had some classes that were more research based, and I would write in whatever my normal academic voice is. But in some more writing-intense classes, the professors/TAs would give us guidelines, and I would learn things like this guy is really into topic sentences so make sure every paragraph has one, or this guy pet peeve hates the word “oftentimes” or “some,” or this woman really values strong introductions. I could easily tweak these things, and my voice or style was generally consistent

  22. Mike C.

    OP1: If you can tolerate it, take notes. That sort of inside information could be really useful.

    1. Ann Furthermore

      I agree, and I was going to post a similar reply. Distasteful as it may be, it is potentially a good way to glean information that you may otherwise not be privy to.

  23. BCW

    #1 The boss isn’t thinking, but this is another situation where I don’t really understand why you care so much. Are you the subject of these rants? If not, then let it go. As someone said, just hide their posts from your timeline. Its very easy. But I mean, they would be venting about work or staff members anyway, its just now you know it. If you think they don’t vent about this stuff at lunch or after work for drinks, you are wrong. Would you be just as upset if you walked into a restaurant, they didn’t see you, and you overheard these things? Not that I’m defending stupid behavior, because it is stupid. I just can’t bring myself to care about other people’s stupid behavior if it isn’t directly affecting me. My facebook is set so my co-workers who I’m friends with can barely see anything I post. But if they want to rant, thats their choice. Let it be known that I have always been on the record saying that what you post on facebook shouldn’t have any bearing on work with very few exceptions.

    1. Bend & Snap

      I think hostile/rude comments about staff, airing of workplace grievances, etc. would affect the reader whether he/she is directly mentioned or not. Anyone would feel devalued in that situation.

      1. LBK

        Agreed, it creates toxicity and negativity in the workplace and that will spread to how people act in the office. If you know all the managers are talking trash about people it’s got to impact your confidence in their ability to manage. That’s especially true if these people are bad performers who should be getting actual performance coaching/discipline instead of just being insulted and complained about.

        Also +1 to your awesome name :)

      2. LBK

        Oh, and FWIW my response would be completely different if this were a coworker and not a manager. That would be a lot easier to just ignore and move on and let that person dig their own grave, because a non-manager doesn’t have as much of an obligation to address workplace issues properly like a manager does. It’s still in their best interest to bring up feedback appropriately, but there’s less potential damage to the workplace as a whole if they don’t.

    2. Sunflower

      I was thinking this too but I think it depends on the content of the facebook posts and how OP actually feels about it. Is the manager just venting or is she talking about things that are legitimate problems? Is OP annoyed or worried? I can understand it being frustrating. Everyone in my organization complains about all the bosses and policies here. Do you think that makes me feel secure about my job and the company? No- except it doesn’t annoy me, it just makes me look for a new job.

      I also think it’s worth wondering if this manager is making public negative comments about staff members, I wonder if OP is curious what manager is saying about her behind closed doors

      1. BCW

        Yeah, I suppose it depends on whats really being said and not the perception of what is being said. I mean, when I was a teacher I may say sometimes on FB how my students drove me crazy, but I wouldn’t mention them by name. So if the supervisor is saying something like “I need a vacation from my crazy job” or even like “some of the people I work with drive me to drink” well, I don’t think thats too bad. If she is saying “Jane is a complete moron” on facebook, then that is a bit different.

      2. RL

        OP here – one post has a grumpy cat pic with the text “I’m not saying I hate you, but if you were hit by a bus, I’d be the one driving that bus” and she’s tagged the other managers saying “let’s go to the office parking lot!” posted during work hours. The tone of all of the comments is “all of our employees are idiots” – and in some cases, they are direct comments on specific employees.

        I am definitely wondering what is being said behind closed doors if this is seen as okay on fb. Our yearly performance reviews/salary action were delayed 3 months, so I’m concerned about the outcome considering this is how they talk to each other.

        1. BCW

          I know I may be in the minority, but I don’t think its that bad honestly. They are clearly frustrated about something, but if that is the worst thing, then its actually not nearly as bad as I expected.

          1. BCW

            Oops, I misread this. If she is mentioning specific employees by name, then yes, that does make it pretty bad.

        2. Mints

          Wow, that’s pretty bad!

          I agree with BCW that sort of negative vaguebooking like “Could so use a happy hour tonight!” is fine. That doesn’t bother me, especially since we worked with the public, and it could easily be about crazy clients or vendors or whatever. But that sort of meanness about specific employees is over the line

        3. Meg Murry

          Or maybe its the other way around, and they actually think THEIR managers are idiots? Don’t forget that when they are complaining about work with other managers, they could just as easily be complaining about their own managers, or HR, or the employee handbook in general as they are about their employees.

    1. Sunflower

      I wouldn’t take it to HR unless the OP thinks that her posts are legitimately harming the company (losing business or customers). Sure the manager could get fired but she’ll probably get a slap on the wrist and OP will be known as a tattle-tail. Just not worth it for something relatively petty IMO

    2. some1

      I would imagine someone will take it to HR at some point. But in my experience, the folks who feel like like it’s appropriate to take this stuff on FB are often the people who feel like they were “tattled” on and the LW doesn’t need her boss mad at her.

  24. Hummingbird

    I stupidly friended two of my coworkers on Facebook. While I have not unfriended them there, from nearly the beginning I put them on restricted. By now, they either think I’m not on it a lot or they think they are blocked. Neither one of them has mentioned it to me. I blocked them based on a third coworker’s revelation to me. She and I are still Facebook friends as we were friends in real life before I got the job (I got the job because of her). She mentioned to me a previous coworker that had worked there. That person used to take time off, usually using the excuse that she was sick and would have to miss her shifts. But when the other coworkers looked at her Facebook page, they saw she was on some mini-vacation with her then fiance! Instead of just pulling her aside and saying “You owe us!” they went straight to the managers and squealed on her. As soon as that story was told to me, I went and put them all on restricted status. I rarely take off to begin with, but I don’t need questions or them to know everything and would try to use something against me. The former coworker I’m still friends with, but I’ve kept her on restricted still. But when I leave this job (hopefully sooner rather than later), I might unfriend the two I still work with presently.

    1. class factotum

      Actually, I think the true moral of this story is that you don’t lie about being sick and then go on a mini-vacation about which you post on facebook.

      1. Sunflower

        Another problem that can revolve around this is that it’s hard to control what other people put on Facebook. Like if a friend checks you in at the airport. You can delete or hide it but as with everything on the internet, once it’s out there, it’s out there. When I first got facebook, it would let people keep tagging you in pics even if you untagged(thank god that’s been disabled now).

        1. The Real Ash

          You can set it so that you have to first approve anything that you are tagged in before it is posted on your Wall.

      2. KrisL

        I agree with class factotum. Don’t lie about being sick. If you do, don’t post stuff about it.

      3. Hummingbird

        It’s not even that. As I learned with the culture, even those who reported the former coworker were guilty of what she had done. One calls out for migraine headaches in the afternoon only for a couple of hours later is traveling out of state to visit family. Or another decides to take the night off and head into the city for dinner and a show with her boyfriend. And it is usually me who gets left holding the shift. I got into that bad habit a lot because being the newbie, I wanted to impress. However, I became a doormat instead, and being there is a unionized contract, no matter how well I did, a raise is not based on merit. So, once in a great while, I refuse the shifts, especially with one particular coworker who loves to take off a lot of his shifts. Therefore, I lock up my facebook so they can’t see that maybe I just bummed around town with friends vs. having elaborate plans that made it impossible for me to be there.

        But Facebook sometimes makes it impossible to hide things like that completely. Like also mentioned, you can have everything approved before it posts to your wall, but that becomes a nuisance. Luckily pictures can be untagged, but if your coworkers snoop enough, sometimes they can find that one friend who has a very public profile and will still find the pictures. Basically, making a restricting profile and blocking friends from seeing who your friends list are the closest profile settings before unfriending and blocking.

        But even so, regardless what someone does with the days they want off, does it give the coworkers the right to go to the manager or should they take their complaint to the employee causing the trouble?

    2. Colette

      Instead of just pulling her aside and saying “You owe us!” they went straight to the managers and squealed on her.

      Wow. I’m with the coworkers in this one. Blackmail is not a good choice.

        1. BostonBaby

          I don’t think she was talking blackmail, I think the preferred course of action would be to just keep the info to themselves, rather than informing their managers. Not that the vacation taker was correct, but the tattling co-workers aren’t either.

          1. Colette

            “You owe me one” implies that they expect something in return for not sharing the information – that’s very similar to blackmail.

          2. Hummingbird

            BostonBaby understood what I meant. I work in a shift setting, and if someone is absent, another coworker must step in. Therefore, the culture is if you want a shift off, it is courteous to offer coverage for when someone else wants time off. It is not blackmail. Actually, the manager wants us to take care of situations like that on our own, but what was happening prior to me getting there was the others were basically helping and then snitching rather than just having the former coworker make up for it later.

      1. LBK

        Yeah, this is the kind of mentality that drives me crazy. There is no such thing as “squealing” or “snitching” on someone at work. Even if you do it in a whiny, non-constructive manner, there’s information managers need in order to do their jobs properly and they can’t possibly get all of it without their employees’ assistance.

        1. BCW

          I disagree. Unless something becomes a pattern, I don’t think telling your boss what someone is doing on their sick day is the place of the co-workers. Maybe she did feel sick the whole time she was gone, but they were planning to take this mini vacation after work anyway and had already paid. Maybe she was just playing hooky. They aren’t sure either way, and to me, it doesn’t matter. Now I suppose it may depend on how that sick day affects others. If its a job where it will have a significant impact on the other employees, I guess I could see talking to the employee about it. But if it doesn’t really affect anyone else, such as my job, why is it any of their concern? It reminds me of the episode of the office where Dwight made it his concern to find out if Oscar was really sick. Worry about yourself and not what others are doing

          1. LBK

            How does the manager know it’s a pattern if they aren’t aware of when it happens? If you’re saying the employee should wait until it happens more frequently, at what point does the employee get to decide that the manager should know? When it impacts their job? That could be never.

            1. BCW

              By pattern I mean if they are taking sick days often. If it was a one time thing because the fiance decided to surprise her with a trip on Wednesday, I don’t really see it as a big deal. If this type of thing happens monthly than that is different. I’m also of the opinion (which I know everyone doesn’t agree on) is that your sick days are yours to do what you want with. If I don’t get sick often, but Jim next to me does as do his children, then I’m working way more than he is in a year. So if I decide to take a Friday off in the summer to hit the beach one day, then its not a big deal to me.

              1. LBK

                I think that’s where we differ. I don’t view sick days like vacation days – by which I mean I don’t feel entitled to use them all up by the end of the year. I view them as a nice perk my company gives me so that I can call out when I’m sick and actually take the time I need to recuperate without having to cut into my vacation time.

                1. Colette

                  I’m with you on this – sick days are for being sick, not discretionary days. However, if someone who had been working a lot took a sick day during a slow time to recuperate, I wouldn’t have an issue with that.

                2. BCW

                  I guess my problem with “sick” days is that people are generally ok with someone taking a sick day for reasons other than being sick. If your kid is sick, is that ok? If your car breaks down, is that ok to take a sick day, even if you aren’t really sick? Even if someone is taking day to recuperate after a very busy time, many people, like Colette, would be ok with that. So while I agree they aren’t necessarily like “Vacation” days, I also don’t begrudge someone the occasional day to do what they want/need to do.

                3. C average

                  I know reasonable minds may differ on this, but I think “sick” goes beyond the narrow definition of physical disease.

                  There are times at my work when the pace and pressure of the business is just unrelenting for a set period of time. Everyone’s working nights and weekends, everyone’s exhausted and burned out, and everyone knows it’s all temporary and things will eventually ease up. Once the high-stress period is over, it’s not uncommon for some of us to just wake up on some random weekday and think, “I . . . just can’t. I can’t. I need a day to rest my body and mind.”

                  Sometimes this means calling in sick when you’re not, in the narrow clinical sense, actually sick, but you’re just mentally completely tapped out and really no longer even useful until you’ve had a chance to recharge.

                  Everyone here knows it happens. Everyone is OK with it, as far as I know.

                4. Colette

                  BCW – here’s my personal answer. I’m OK with sick days for days when you just can’t face work (although if there are a lot of those days, you need to get a new job). I’m OK with them for unexpected emergencies such as car/furnace breakdowns (although I’d prefer employers to work with their employees for other options for those days – i.e. come in late or work from home). I’m fine with using them when your child is sick, if necessary.

                  However, IMO using them for a vacation or trip away is over the line.

                5. LBK

                  I agree that mental health days are a perfectly valid use of sick time. If you’re feeling burned out and you need to spend a day at the beach vegging out and getting some sun in order to recuperate, I understand that. My problem is people who use it as a way to avoid doing work when they would otherwise be capable of being in the office – ie like extra vacation time.

                  It’s really more about planned vs. unplanned for me. I consider sick time to be emergency time where I’m allowed to deal with unexpected problems without having it cut into either my pay or my vacation time.

                6. fposte

                  And when you’re talking shift work, as in Hummingbird’s example, I’m going to be really ticked off if I was called in at the last minute to cover somebody “sick” who turned out to be in Vegas.

                7. BCW

                  LBK, but that somewhat contradicts you. If you take sick day to veg out at the beach, but someone finds out about it, you think they are fine to do it, but that its fine for the other person to run to the boss about it too? It seems its either one or the other. I think aside from that, we are saying similar things. I don’t think someone should necessarily plan to take a 3 day weekend by using a sick day. However, if on a random Friday you decide that this week has been a pain and you want to veg out, then I’m fine with that too

                8. LBK

                  You don’t need to run to the manager and say “Jane is such a slacker, she took a day off when I clearly saw her at the beach, you need to fire her!” You can point it out as and FYI and leave it at that.

                  It may be that Jane is a stellar performer, and if she wants to play hooky for a day and it doesn’t really impact the business overall, then the manager doesn’t care. But maybe Jane is on a PIP for her attitude and attendance, and the manager now has the final evidence she needs to fire Jane. Isn’t it up to your manager to decide what information is important and how they’re going to treat it, not you?

                  I also completely agree with fposte, you’re screwing someone over if you call out of shift work when you don’t need to.

                1. doreen

                  Really depends on the policy as a whole – I’m just fine with separate sick leave and requirements that it be used for medical conditions , since my employer would never let me accumulate 1800 hours of unrestricted PTO ( I can have up to 1500 sick and 300 annual)

          2. LBK

            Also, just because the employee informs the manager on the first occurrence doesn’t mean the manager has to act on it immediately. Let the manager decide if and when they want to address it, but give them the information to make the call appropriately. It’s not your decision as an employee.

          3. Colette

            I don’t think they’re obligated to bring it up to the boss – depending on what exactly was posted – but I don’t think they’re obligated to keep it secret, either.

            If the comment is something like “ha ha, too bad I got sick when the boss told me I couldn’t have the day off! Great day at the beach!” I’d be far more inclined to bring it up than if they just posted pictures from the beach or made a remark about being at the beach.

            1. LBK

              Good point – I don’t think employees who see something like this and keep it to themselves are wrong, by any means. If it doesn’t bother you or you don’t think it’s worth it to bring it up, I won’t fault you for doing that. But likewise, I don’t think that people who DO report it are wrong either, and they shouldn’t be told to just MYOB or considered snitches/tattletales.

              1. BCW

                Where do you draw the line? If someone took a sick day but you saw them out at a movie/bar/restaurant that night would you feel that it ok to snitch, at least without finding the reason? I mean, I’ve felt like crap in the morning, then by evening felt good enough to go out to eat or something. I guess in this situation, you know they were out of town, but not really the circumstances. Again, were they planning to leave that night anyway or did they leave the night before and take a sick day because of it? That, to me, is where you should at least have a conversation before running to management.

                1. fposte

                  I think one reason we differ here is that you postulate a pretty big management/employee divide that doesn’t jibe with my workplace experience (I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, just saying that I’m looking at the situation as a person in a workplace where the divide isn’t like that). It’s not like you’ve blown the horn and loosed the hounds by sharing information with somebody else; the manager will decide if that’s important to her or not on her own.

                2. LBK

                  Agreed with fposte’s comment here as well. I think I’m working from the assumption that the manager is reasonable and can make a fair call as to whether information presented by an employee merits action. It seems like you’re working from the assumption that if I say Jane skipped work for a day, she’ll immediately be written up/fired, with no room for context.

                3. BCW

                  Yes, I do think reasonable managers would be able to make that distinction, but how many stories on this site have we read about managers who aren’t reasonable? Again, when it is shift work, I get it. But aside from that, I just don’t think it is your business to go running to the boss to tell on someone because the did something bad (assuming its not theft or something)

      2. OriginalEmma

        I took that to mean the lying coworker owes coverage of a shift to the ones who covered hers. Which, yes, is totally acceptable in a shift-coverage situation where you pinch-hit for a coworker, regardless of the reason.

  25. A.

    Re: Situation #1

    Facebook now allows you to “unfollow” a person’s status updates without actually “unfriending” them. Lord knows I’ve used this feature with several of my Facebook friends.

    1. Carmen Sandiego

      The “unfollow ” feature is perfect. You don’t have to see that person’s posts, yet they don’t know you’ve unfollowed them so no hurt feelings. I unfollow people all the time for various reasons (political tirades, Negative Nellies, people who post every mundane detail of their day).

          1. Windchime

            Me too! In fact, I’m going to post that I agree with you on Facebook!

            I have several friends whose posts consist almost entirely of those postcard/meme things. It’s very tiring.

    2. Mimmy

      How would someone know if you’ve blocked or unfriended someone–I always thought that FB doesn’t notify you in those instances.

      1. BCW

        It doesnt notify you exactly, but if you are blocked, then you can’t even see someone else’s profile. So if you were to look for them, you would quickly realize you were blocked

      2. Anonylicious

        It doesn’t notify them, but they’ll notice if they try to view your profile and can’t anymore, or if they notice you’re not listed as their friend.

  26. LQ

    #2:
    It might also be that the problem with your writing is something that is difficult to address clearly, or without hostility.

    You say you work for a nonprofit, if your org has a target audience it is critical that you are addressing that audience appropriately. I once had a new part time employee directly out of college. She was a good writer, but she was horrible at writing for the audience. The problem was she was writing at a collegiate level for academic papers, our audience? Young black entrepreneurs (like 9-16 young). She spent so much time focused on the particulars of it that she missed that she was writing in a way that came off to the audience as racist. After several times of trying to push back I finally had to sit down and have a conversation where I said. I don’t care how you intended it, your document was racist and you can’t do that here. It was extremely difficult to have that conversation and she did not take the feedback well.

    It is worth examining if you are really addressing your target population in a way that is most reasonable for them. Honestly, damn convention, formal grammar, proper punctuation. If you read to your audience in a way that is not ok, you’re doing it wrong.

    (I’m not saying you are doing this, I’m just saying that as a manager this is why I once avoided this conversation and did rewrite all of someone’s work that others would have said was fine.)

    1. S

      I am so morbidly curious – any examples of what in her writing was coming across as racist? Was it just a tone thing in that an academic writing style is condescending in the context of writing for 9 to 16-year-olds, or were there other problems?

      1. LBK

        Likewise, I’m fascinated to know how someone’s writing could be subconsciously racist. And I mean that genuinely, I know it sounds kind of sarcastic.

        1. Kelly L.

          Me too! It sounds like it could be a really interesting analysis. I’ve certainly read things that came off as -ist or other kinds of wrong without being blatant about it, so I believe it.

      2. LQ

        This is what made it so hard to express. Some of it was the condescending tone (don’t use whom at all, let alone hem and haw over the decision), some of it was idioms (and analogies/examples – things people take for granted because they are a part of the culture they grew up with but are entirely inapplicable to another population), some of it was not using anything that the kids could relate to.

        The thing that set it over the edge was that she tried to pull a sample business plan for kids and it was for something that was quintessentially white and wealthy and wanted to give it to them without any alteration. The entirety of it would have been better in a foreign language because it was so bad. I was able to sit down and basically take all the stuff off it and use the template to recreate something they’d relate to, but giving it to them as is would have sent a really bad message. She thought since the sample was accurate and a good sample that it should be good enough without having to redo it for the audience.

    2. LMW

      I actually run into audience problems all the time. I’ll get pieces that are technically perfect, but miss the goal by the mile.
      For example, recently we partnered with an outside agency on a paper. We have a very specific audience in mind, and this audience is very familiar with our industry-specific subject matter. The writer had been working in the industry for years, but primarily on profiles and case studies. These are usually a little fluffier and focus on how individuals achieve results. Our piece was looking at technological changes on the horizon. The writer packed it full of quotes about the current state and results that were being achieved, much like you would with a profile, but it was completely inappropriate for the piece we were working on and way too basic for our audience. On the sentence level, there was very little I could say that would be useful — the problem was with the piece overall. Since she missed our audience and what they would want to get out of the paper, the tone, the structure, the examples, etc., were all off the mark. And it’s hard to give clear feedback when you’re dealing with issues on that level.

      1. LQ

        It really can be, and you know what you want it to look like, but when the writing is technically fine it is really hard to say, “Yeah, but this isn’t sending the message we want to send.” Which often means you do have to rewrite the whole thing.

      2. fposte

        I think that articulating the difference is like writing the difference–there’s a learning curve, but it’s still doable. I’m an academic who does a lot of nonacademic writing, and I edit several of same, so it is possible to find specifics to point to there.

        I think most writers learn to write by doing, understandably, so they know how to *do* the difference before they know how to describe it. It’s interesting how they don’t automatically go together–it’s sort of like the way great athletes aren’t necessarily great coaches.

      3. CC

        Hm. I think your description here is pretty clear about what the problem is. What kind of information did you provide the writer about what the audience would be looking for? Did she misunderstand or ignore what you provided?

        I do know that when I’m writing something for work, one of the first things I ask myself is, who is going to be reading this, what information are they interested in getting from it, and what do they already know? I can’t remember where or how I learned that, but it makes a huge difference in my writing compared to that of other engineers. I’ve completely rewritten operations manuals because the old document was mostly about the chemistry and theory behind the facility, and the operators are more interested in how to interact with it — procedures, troubleshooting, stuff like that. (I did leave the chemistry and theory information in, but as supplemental information instead of as the core.)

        1. LMW

          I think it was a combination of misunderstanding and ignoring. It was our first time working with the agency and the writer and I just think she wasn’t the right writer for the project — this was a new type of material for her, and I didn’t know that and so didn’t go over some details that I thought were apparent from the outline and description we provided (because I thought she had the experience to pick up on the details herself). So, a lesson for me there!
          At the same time, as a client, I don’t really want our piece to be the one she learns on. It requires a lot more work from me. I don’t mind mentoring a coworker, but I shouldn’t have to mentor a vendor.

          1. CC

            Understandable! It should have been on the agency to make sure the writer hit the right tone for the audience you described, not on you, and to assign a writer who could do so. If the agency wanted to have a writer take on a “learning experience” then it should have been on them to pair her with somebody who already knew the style to check it before it got to you. Letting a product out that doesn’t meet the spec reflects poorly on their work.

            But, I still think “this is not addressing the right audience” + a description of the intended audience’s expectations is clear feedback. Even if (or especially if?) that description was in the initial spec.

          2. fposte

            Oh, heavens, I missed that this was an outside agency. That’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. Yeah, if you wanted to train somebody you could have stayed internal.

        2. Elizabeth West

          who is going to be reading this, what information are they interested in getting from it, and what do they already know?

          This is good. I just posted it on my cube wall for future reference.

  27. AB

    #2, having done a lot of speech writing and “ghost writing” (mostly published articles and letters) for other people, I would hazard to guess it’s more about tone,rhythm, and word choice and less about actual mechanics. That can be a frustrating difference. One of my previous bosses was from a foreign country. Regardless of the audience (usually American), he wanted the overall tone, rhythm and structure of the piece to be like that of his native culture and language. Since I was not very well versed in his culture or native language, it was really difficult for me. One day in a fit of frustration, he actually yelled at me that it was my job to read his mind and know what he wanted to say without being told.

    Unfortunately, there is no really quick fix that will help you figure out your bosses “voice”, just time, careful attention and study. Eventually, you will start to recognize a pattern in his word choice and how he structures his writing and you will learn how to mimic it. It might help if you have a calm sit down with your boss and explain that you understand he has been unhappy with your work. I would ask him to give you several examples of work he or others have done that he likes for you to look over, and I would tell him that it make take some time to figure out the style he prefers. If you ask him nicely to continue to give you feedback to help you improve your style, it will likely help him sort of rein in the criticism. It gives him a chance not only to see you’re trying but also to put him on your side as a teacher rather than critic. If he is too busy to do it himself, ask him if there is someone else whose writing he likes that would be able to be your “writing coach”.

    1. AB

      may take some time…. I promise that the quick thoughts I dash off here are nothing like the carefully edited ones I produce for work.

    2. Chinook

      AB, since you are ghost writing and speech writing for some people who are ESL, have you looked into a linguistic book that talks about first language interference? I had one from university that was a great source of help when working with specific individuals because it went beyond explaining pronounciation difficulties (which can be obvious like l/r confusion in Japanese) and went into issues like subject/verb/object order in grammar and intonation and ryhthm. It gave me the vocabulary and information to discuss issues that, previously, I could only say were off but not why or how.

  28. Sunflower

    #3- I wouldn’t be surprised if they address it in the interview. The college I went to had a huge scandal a couple years ago and it was viewed as a giant administrative fail. They were pretty proactive about addressing it. In that case, it was only a couple administrators who were involved and there was a lot of different information going around so by acting proactively, they were able to clear up a lot of things.

      1. Ruffingit

        You might also get them to address it simply by asking why the job is vacant. If it really is because the previous person was implicated in the scandal, they may address it then.

  29. KerryOwl

    OP#2: Instead of sending your drafts to your boss via email, is it possible to sit down and go over them together? I did this with my boss when I first started working here, and I gradually learned to mimic his style. It might be easier to see what’s working and what isn’t when you’re reading it over together.

  30. Knight Andrews

    I’m a latecomer to Facebook, and only joined to keep up with a few high school friends and authors. I’ve made it an ironclad rule to NEVER add co-workers to my friends list, no matter how many times the program suggests I do so. It’s come in handy a few times to have that policy. :)

  31. Sunflower

    My big thing about adding people on FB is that things that aren’t even bad or a big deal can get misinterpreted. For example, I went to a baseball game last week and my friend checked us in on FB. I was exhausted the next day and a coworker I’m friends with asked if I was hungover because she saw I was at the game. Nope- the game just didn’t end until midnight so I was running on 5 hours of sleep.

    I have one friend who is friends with someone who thinks when you add a picture on facebook, it’s happening right this instant. If my friend takes pictures the night before, she adds them around noon the next day and EVERY TIME this one person will write something like ‘you girls are wild- at the bar already!’ Then the fact that that comment is stuck there forever.

    There are so many people on facebook now and a lot don’t understand how things work or how to use them. My mom thinks her homepage is her timeline and it took months for her to understand when people post things, they aren’t talking directly to you.

    I rarely post anything on facebook but the amount of times people think it’s something it’s not is so rampant that I can’t risk adding anyone from my professional life on there

    1. Mike

      > Then the fact that that comment is stuck there forever.

      You can delete comments on your photos. Hover over the comment and then click the X in the upper right of the comment box.

    2. Jubilance

      1 – you can change your settings so that friends can’t check you into places, or add you to status messages without your permission. I have my FB set that I have to review anything that has my name attached to it.

      2 – whoever “owns” the photo/post can delete comments from it, if there’s a person posting obnoxious comments, they can be deleted. I use this all the time when I’m annoyed with a stupid comment.

      1. Judy

        Yes, I found that out yesterday. One of my cousins, who does this sort of thing often, posted a meme about “What is the meaning of life?” One of her friends posted “42”, and she replied “42? what?” I replied that 42 was the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, google it. Both my comment and her friend’s comment had disappeared when I walked past my pc about 2 hours later.

    3. Fee

      – If my friend takes pictures the night before, she adds them around noon the next day and EVERY TIME this one person will write something like ‘you girls are wild- at the bar already!’ –

      That actually made me LOL.

  32. JLo

    #1
    I do have coworkers as friends, but I unfriend people if I do not like what they post, if they have the right to post whatever they want I have to right to unfriend them. I tell people face to face when I don’t like their behavior, and I do it on FB too. Don’t want to know about any drama, and they don’t want to hear me about telling them to get over and deal with it. But that’s me, if the OP don’t feel comfortable to unfriend them, just do the blocking/unfollowing option.

    1. KrisL

      What’s tough for me is the friends who I do want to keep in touch with and are usually nice people and post reasonable things except when it’s about politics, at which point there’s a few who just seem to be mean about the other party. I don’t want to read that! Especially when I disagree.

  33. Red Librarian

    #2, It’s possible that it’s not actually a question of technical skill but tone, voice, formality, word choice, etc. The writing may be excellent on a mechanical level but isn’t right for the target audience. Like AAM said, that sort of thing is difficult to give feedback on. Whenever I submit to literary journals it’s always recommended to read previous issues to give a feel for the style they want and publish.

    Have you done a comparison between what you turn in and the final product after your boss’s edits? If you can’t get specifics from your boss directly I’d see if you can pull it out by comparing the two pieces or other writing that has been used by your company.

  34. B

    OP 1 – Facebook

    When I first joined Facebook I made it a rule to never friend anyone I work with. The only, only exception is if I hang outside of work with you on a regular basis and are actually your friend not just a work friend. And that usually still takes me over a year to friend you. Having this blanket rule makes it very easy to say no to people and protect your privacy. I think of it as my work/life balance…if people I work with are friends with me on Facebook I can never escape.

  35. Lora

    OP2, are you sitting next to me right now??? Are there free bagels and fruit in the break room across the cube farm? Because I am dealing with this RIGHT NOW and it is driving both me and my colleagues around me absolutely nuts.

    I’ve been doing tech writing and peer-reviewed writing in my field for 16 years. I was published in science journals before graduating college. I’ve done regulatory filings for 10 years. My writing was perfectly fine when I sent samples to the project managers who hired me to consult for them. My writing, and my colleagues’ writing, was perfectly fine until they hired a new scheduler/assistant manager who insisted on reviewing our work before sending it round.

    Now, suddenly, we all suck and we’re terrible writers, because SHE was a tech writer for Merck for four years and SHE knows how to write WAY better than any of us.

    Possibly significant: She is from a different consulting firm. She has a financial interest in disparaging us and bringing in more people from her firm.

    Most recently she assured us that the project managers (who don’t particularly like her on a personal level) all agree with her critiques. These same critiques tell us “this paragraph is unnecessary,” then later complain that we have left information out. We show her the Track Changes and comments that clearly indicate she told us specifically to take that out. Uh. Well. Put it back in.

    It’s also possible the project managers are just tired of her and don’t want to deal with arguing–seeing as how they deliberately avoid meeting with her and decline her meeting requests. Which is not the same as agreeing with her.

    Yeah, I don’t know what to tell you. It’s really frustrating, especially when you’re reasonably sure there’s a large reading comprehension component involved.

    1. LMW

      I once got yelled at for a misaligned drop cap that appeared in every single chapter of a printed book. Being able to produce the proofs that showed that my horrible boss (who was throwing me under the boss) was the one who proofed the book and let the error slip through, not me, was incredibly satisfying.

      1. Ruffingit

        I love karma. What did horrible boss do when you were able to prove that it was his fault?

    2. Pip

      Possibly significant: She is from a different consulting firm. She has a financial interest in disparaging us and bringing in more people from her firm.

      I hope your client has enough sense to see through this. But it happens fairly often in the translation business that clients pit translation firms against each other by having one firm translating and another reviewing. Since translation is generally more profitable than reviewing, the reviewing firm often cuts the work of the translating firm into ribbons in hope of getting the translation contract instead. But when you review with the sole intent of finding as much to complain about as possible, the text rarely improves from the review.

      Track changes is indeed a godsend, but I imagine you must spend a lot of time and energy on defending yourself … again, I hope the client will deal with this nonsense in an appropriate way, so you can do your job in peace and the client can get the writing they want.

      1. Lora

        Oh, I do…and I note it on my hourly time sheets, which the client must review and sign. They also review the drafts, which are posted in a shared folder for their electronic mark-up.

        If they think it’s the best use of their money, well, they can certainly pay her to bicker over nothing. The last guy who took that approach was fired with extreme prejudice, and I know at least one of the project managers is sharp as a tack about that sort of thing.

  36. C average

    For #2.

    A few questions for you to ponder:

    1. Who is the target audience for your writing?
    2. Is your manager a good proxy for your target audience? (Of course, your manager IS, in a sense, your target audience, but is he likely to receive and experience your writing in the same way that your eventual target audience will.)
    3. Whose writing does your manager admire? If you don’t know, can you find out?

    Getting the mechanics correct and writing clean prose is necessary, but not sufficient, at least in a professional context that’s writing-centered. (It took me some time to figure this out, because in school getting the mechanics correct and writing clean prose was considered downright noteworthy, and got me a long string of As.) You must thing about who is reading your work, how you want that audience to receive your work, and how you can best write to them.

    In my work, I write (among other things) consumer-facing FAQs about tech products for a not terribly tech-savvy audience. I have created a composite character named Liz as my target audience. She’s fortyish, college-educated, likes but doesn’t love technology, and doesn’t enjoy being talked down to. When I’m having a hard time getting the right tone, I imagine Liz reading my writing. Does she understand it? Are my ten-dollar words getting in the way? Are my paragraphs too long, so that she’s faced with an intimidating wall of text?

    Who is your audience? It’s your manager, but who else is it? What preferences and backgrounds and assumptions do they bring to each document of yours that they read? Are you framing your writing process around communicating effectively with your audience, rather than stating your piece? It’s a really critical mind-shift, and if you can make it, it will raise your writing game significantly.

    Also, if your manager has strong preferences for certain kinds of writing, you should at the very least have an awareness of those preferences. Whose writing does he consider good? What books and blogs does he read? Do you have colleagues he considers good writers? I’m not saying you need to study the writing of these other writers at length, but gaining some basic awareness of how their style is different from yours could be helpful.

    Aaaaand I have written a whole novel on this.

    tl;dr = Know your audience and tailor your message to your audience’s tastes and needs. Your manager is at least part of that audience. There are likely other parts, too.

  37. the_scientist

    Here is my “things on facebook getting out of hand” story. I’ve posted it on here before, but it was 700+ comments into an open thread, I think.

    I was a camp director in late high school/early university. Supervising between 8 and 12 employees (all high school/uni aged), I did add some of them on facebook once I had left my role. One of my employees contacted me in April of my 3rd year of undergrad, when I was no longer working at camp, to ask for a reference letter. First, given that he had my email address, I found a facebook message request odd, but whatever. Second, you may recognize April as being exam time- so I didn’t respond to the message right away. About 72 hours after this employee sent it, I logged on to respond and noticed he’d posted a passy-assy status of “can’t believe there are people out there who are so rude that they won’t respond to reference requests”. So when I went to respond to the message, I mentioned his status and noted that it displayed some fairly poor judgement.

    Obviously, he flipped out (I should note that he was about 24 and in teacher’s college at this time, so not young and new to asking for reference letters or anything), called me names, denied that his status was directed at me, and insinuated that he was going to blackmail me with some questionable things that I’d allegedly done during my tenure. It was the strangest experience…..his tantrum when called out basically confirmed to me that he *was* trying to be passive-aggressive, and I was and still am so confused as to why he thought any of this was a good idea.

    1. Poysidia

      Wow! That is the most epic FB meltdown I’ve ever heard. How very sad. Did you end up writing the reference?

    2. Ruffingit

      I always think it’s bizarre when people who have asked a favor of someone (which writing a reference letter is) flip out on that person in any way. Doing so nearly guarantees the person will not write the letter for you. This is especially true if you do it in such a manner as calling names and threatening blackmail. WTH??

      It is disturbing to think someone that unhinged was training to be a teacher.

  38. allreb

    #4, all I can think is that randomly bolding text makes it look like comic book speech bubbles. You probably don’t want that for your cover letter.

  39. AdAgencyChick

    #2, your manager sucks at giving feedback.

    “This needs to be written better” is not constructive feedback, unless your manager has already explained what “better” means, and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case. “Better” could mean “more grammatically correct” or “more concise” or “more tightly focused” or even just “in the client’s/boss’s preferred style of jargon.” (Cynical ol’ me thinks that anyone who just says “write better” probably means “write like I write, even if both styles are equally valid.”)

    Since this person is unwilling to provide specific feedback when you ask “can you be more specific?” you may be able to get better results if *you* pose specific questions to get yeses or nos to. “Is it my grammar? My adjective choice? Are my sentences too long?”

  40. Graciosa

    To OP#5, I would not write off any possibility of employment at one company based solely on fear and in the absence of actual information.

    If your former supervisor actually told you that she can’t recommend you or that she identified you in the employer’s system as not eligible for rehire (pretty extreme), that would be different. Here, all you have is the length of time you’ve been waiting on a reply to what the supervisor probably feels is a very low priority email (not low priority to you, but not urgent to the business).

    I do agree with Alison that you should have a more solid understanding of how your supervisor perceived your work. Learn from this experience and make sure you’re getting appropriate feedback in your next position.

    Good luck.

  41. A Cita

    2 of the biggest problems I see in writing that is generally grammatically correct (no SPaG errors): 1. wrong choice of voice and 2. long redundant passages/extra phrases that don’t add meaning (instead of directly making the point). Could these be some of the issues he’s seeing? They would be hard to articulate.

    I can provide examples if this is unclear.

    1. fposte

      How have I not encountered the wonderful “SPaG error” locution before? I will now use that at every opportunity.

      1. A Cita

        LOL! I thought it was common, but I am learning (not just from you) that there are whole tribes of people who haven’t heard this before. :)

  42. Ann Furthermore

    #4 – This strikes me as gimmicky, and (right or wrong) I would be more likely to pass over a cover letter formatted this way.

  43. C average

    The whole Facebook-at-work thing is so fraught with potential issues. Do you accept all friend requests from colleagues or none? If only some, what are the parameters? What do you do when the colleagues you like in real life become unlikable on Facebook?

    My manager, when she was new to the job, sent me a friend request, which I accepted despite my misgivings. I found I really didn’t like being Facebook friends with her; until that time, I’d been friends with only a handful of colleagues who really WERE my real-life friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my manager. I just wanted to leave work at work, and not feel like my boss was keeping tabs on me when I was posting pictures of my cat or whatever.

    I closed my account and created a new one, and my manager found me and sent me a friend request AGAIN. I took a few days to think about whether I’d accept it or not, and she asked me about it at work.

    I wound up accepting it, because it would’ve been awkward not to, but then just wasn’t very active on Facebook.

    A few months ago I deactivated my account altogether, and haven’t missed it and the attendant drama and annoyance.

    1. Jamie

      I think this is a good rule of thumb. If you’re close enough that you text and email about personal stuff, hang out outside of work, etc. that’s totally different than someone you just work with.

      I just started kind of sort of using FB on Saturday (and I hate it, but that’s besides the point) one of my co-workers friended me and it was fine – it just saves her from having to show me adorable pics separately. I wouldn’t FB friend anyone from work who wasn’t a personal friend – because I can’t see the benefit of knowing more about someone’s personal life if we’re just coworkers.

      1. Jamie

        I also don’t get venting about work on FB. If you don’t work with me I’m assuming your interest is limited to none and if you do…I don’t want you to know I’m venting. That’s what real life bitching at home is for. Although I limit that these days, too. Some point it’s going to bubble over and I’m going to grab some random stranger and tell him all about my petty annoyances.

  44. Kantz

    #2 I feel your frustration. As I was reading your post I kept thinking it could have been me writing about this!!! My manager was also eager to point out the fact that since English wasn’t my first language I always needed help (!!!). Never mind the fact that I had published articles in peer-reviewed journals and many industry publications… My point here is to not let this get to your self-esteem!!! While I know I tend to write in a passive voice I believe I can correct it most of the time. And having editorial changes here and there is way different than having someone completely rewrite your text based on their voice/personal style and claim that your voice is wrong.

    This situation did a number on my confidence and I still need to work through some issues before getting back to the point where I can focus on the writing that needs to be done rather than second-guessing myself.

  45. Compliance Wonk

    #1 – Does your company have a Social Media policy? At my company, I could report this to our Hotline and the company would launch an investigation, and I could remain anonymous if I was worried about retaliation. If you don’t have the policy and you don’t have a compliance group, you could still let HR know. The company is not going to be happy about this.

  46. Ruffingit

    Random question for all. If a business has had a huge scandal as in covered in the newspapers, everyone knows about it, etc. do you think it’s a red flag if they don’t address it or they try to skirt around it in an interview? For example, if the position is open because the previous person who held it was indicted, do you think they ought to come out and say that?

    I can argue this both ways personally. If it’s something huge and well-known, I’d certainly feel better if they just addressed it and I might look at it as being less than honest if they didn’t. But I’m curious what others think.

    1. Anonymous for this

      Honestly, I wouldn’t. My organization has had scandals and, because we’re well-known and it was in the news, our whole huge PR machine had to be mobilized and it was an ongoing source of drama for what felt like weeks and even months on end.

      It would never even occur to us that an applicant wouldn’t have heard about the scandals in question. You’d have to be blind, deaf, and living on Mars to have missed the news.

      And, honestly, in our situation at least, we really don’t have the leeway to share any opinions we may have on the matter, so all you’re really going to get is a recitation of a canned response. At every level of the organization, we’ve been instructed to stick to the same statement we’ve offered in the media, so we don’t actually have anything new to say on the subject. “It was regrettable, we’re committed to, we are moving forward, blah blah blah.”

      It’s just an awkward conversation about something we’ve already talked to death.

  47. Fee

    Not directed at anyone in particular, but I really don’t think ‘I’ve been published’ necessarily equals ‘I’m a good writer’.

    If it did, no-one would ever have a difficult or less-than-pleasant reading experience with a book or article, and as a reader, I’ve had plenty.

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