open thread – June 20, 2014

Olive tinyIt’s the Friday open thread. This post is for work-related discussions only. Please hold anything off topic for the free-for-all open thread that’s coming this Sunday.

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

{ 1,238 comments… read them below }

  1. Dan*

    Piggy backing off of yesterday’s charity conversation, are non profits better or worse at pushing “voluntary” charity contributions than for profits? Worst I ever had was working for a large defense contractor, and haven’t heard a peep from my non profit. But we don’t really do “feel good” work, so I don’t know how different it is for those kinds of nonprofits.

    1. Stephanie*

      Government =/= nonprofit, but my old agency really, really pushed the Combined Federal Campaign. And CFC lasts for months. >.<

    2. JayDee*

      I work for a UW funded nonprofit, and we are encouraged to donate (and designate our organization if we want). Our ED always says the goal is 100% participation, but there’s not a huge push. We are all supposed to attend a kick-off meeting and if we miss it we have to get forms from the gal who coordinates things. And she sends out a reminder email or two about when forms are due (less to pressure people and more because those who donate will totally forget and not turn them in on time otherwise).

      There will occasionally be other charitable things like toiletries/food/clothing drives, and most people do participate but there’s not a ton of pressure. You can slide under the radar and not participate without anyone noticing.

    3. KJ*

      At my nonprofit, there’s definitely a distinct push to give back to our org once you come management. I don’t feel this is unreasonable or unfair – a certain level of commitment to the mission is expected at our level, and the emphasis is more about the percentage of manager participating than the actual dollars raised.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        The non-profit I used to work for pushed everyone to give back to the org. I didn’t like it. I guess I can see it being somewhat more important for manager level and above, but for me, I felt like I already gave so much of my time, lower salary, and lack of benefits to my org. When I wanted to donate, I had other interests that I preferred to donate to and I didn’t like the assertion that I didn’t care enough about my org to donate.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Same here, I gave in non-monetary ways. I felt it was up to the company to figure out how to leverage that to their advantage. (This on the heels of years of saying, “Let’s try this, let’s try that.” It fell on deaf ears.)

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That happened at the NP where I worked as well. We had a requirement to do so. I felt the same way about it, but we ended up purchasing an ice machine for our floor and our contribution to that counted, so I felt a little better about it.

        3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          While I certainly don’t think giving to your org should be mandatory, and everyone should be free to give as their hearts desire, I don’t like the justification that you already give non-monetarily. I mean, you signed on at a certain salary, level of benefits, and workload. That’s your job. You’re not doing them any favors by doing your job, they’re paying you to do it. Unless you’re saying you would actually decline a pay raise to support your organization, you’re not doing anything more than what would be expected from anyone else in your role.

          Which, again, is not to say you don’t kick ass or that you should donate. I’ve just always found that particular justification grating. :)

          1. Laura*

            But I think the point is, people accept a lower salary/less benefits *because* they care about that organization’s mission so much. They could go to another job, perhaps at a for-profit company, and make more. They choose not to *because* they believe in the non-profit’s mission and care about it.

            So if they’re taking $10k less in pay because they really believe in what they do…how is that not giving? And why should they then, out of the reduced income, have to also give money? (If they want to, that’s great. But to make it mandatory seems wrong.)

            1. Anonsie*

              Exactly this.

              And even though it’s a job that you’re being paid for, there’s still something to be said for the fact that it’s the work you do all day every day. That’s a big contribution regardless of what you get in return.

          2. Dan*

            I don’t think this conversation has much to do with “doing anything more than what would be expected from anyone else in your role.” If everyone is expected to give back to the org, than that’s the expectation. If everyone who works there is expected to support the mission and take below-market pay, then that’s the expectation. Nowhere did the prior commentor suggest that s/he’s doing more than their fair share.

            That commentor’s biggest issue was the appearance that s/he “didn’t care about the mission” because s/he didn’t donate. What that person said was that lower benefits and lower salary should have demonstrated his/her concern for the mission.

            I happen to agree with that poster. I don’t work for below market wages for no reason.

    4. Al Lo*

      I work for two non-profits — one with only 2 staff, and one much larger (but still quite small in the big scheme of things). At the larger job, all employees are included in our annual campaign mailout, but I’ve been there almost 2 years and haven’t found any specific pressure to give. My boss understands that we’re all underpaid, and we give in other ways. Her husband’s job means that they are relatively wealthy (she doesn’t take a very large salary from our organization), so they give quite generously, and many of the staff also give proportionately, but it’s never been explicitly asked of me.

      As for the other organization — my husband and I do give to it as part of our planned giving. There’s a much greater sense that my $50/month is desperately needed — especially since I do the books and see how desperately that $50 can make a difference some months.

      Both organizations operate on tight budgets, but the difference is between a $50,000 annual budget and a $2M annual budget (and programming that reflects those numbers), so at this point, we give to the one, but not the other.

      My husband used to work at a church, and there wasn’t an expectation there, at least at his staff level. I believe that the pastoral staff, and particularly the lead pastors, were expected to donate back, but I don’t think there was significant pressure on the support and non-management staff, although I’m sure many of them did. We did for part of the time he worked there, but not all of it — it just depended on how we chose to divvy up our charitable giving in any particular year.

    5. BRR*

      I think it depends on each specific organization. I’ve worked for two non-profits. One did not push the UW drive very hard but did push moderately hard for the drive for our own organization. My current one pushes a little harder for UW but still not as bad as some other people’s companies on here. They’re a lot bigger about 100% participation but encourage it through an employer match and prizes raffled off for departments that reach 100%.

    6. C Average*

      That conversation yesterday made me SO glad this isn’t a feature of my workplace. It sounds awful to get publicly pressured in the workplace to give to a particular charity or to donate in a particular way.

      My company often sees an emerging need and pledges a certain amount if a certain amount is donated, which I like. For example, after the Japan tsunami, an article went up on our corporate site letting us know if the workforce donated x dollars, the company would donate x more dollars. We always meet these goals.

      We also have a pretty robust corporate match program that includes a lot of different charities.

      And we do ad hoc stuff as it arises. There’s a guy from our department who has a brain tumor and, though he has insurance, can definitely use money for expenses that aren’t covered as he’s getting treatment. His immediate team set up a fun run with T-shirts and I think everyone donated way more than the requested amount for the shirts, and a lot of people just handed them checks.

      tl;dr = The idealist side of me thinks people will give to good causes even if they’re not badgered, and my experience in my current workplace seems to bear this out.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      I work for a non profit and there is never a discussion about donating to our cause with $$. But we are a self sustaining non-profit with a good revenue stream. I’m betting things are different if you work for charities where all funds come from donations.

    8. JC*

      I would agree that it might depend on the type of non-profit, if it is indeed more prevalent among nonprofits. I also work for a nonprofit whose mission is not the type you’d fundraise for, and we do zero fundraising for charities.

      I used to work for the federal government, and I thought that CFC was pretty out of control. We spent so many man-hours having events to fundraise for CFC, and someone even got detailed from their regular job to head CFC for many months. It seemed like an inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars to me. Money that was allocated to my agency to work on a particular issue, not to fundraise for charities.

    9. AnonAgain*

      A nonprofit I formerly worked at had a very, very hard push recently to achieve 100% of staff as donors. I don’t know for sure but am pretty certain they gave “on behalf of” anyone who did not make a voluntary donation.

      My favorite there though was a few years back when the economy tanked, they had to cut pay for the executive staff. In return, they recorded that pay cut as an “in-kind” donation of sorts and listed them in the agency’s highest giving “club”.

    10. Anoners*

      I for in NFP and we don’t force any sort of charity stuff. We do food drives and other stuff of the like, but no one is hassled in any way (thankfully!!)

      My bestie works in a for profit, and they’re always making them do charity initiatives. I think it really does just depend on the workplace.

    11. Courtney*

      This is a great question. In my opinion I think it’s worse for non-profits for pushing “voluntary” charity contributions than for for-profit companies. My thinking is that if you have long-term tenure at the non-profit you believe in their mission and support charity in that way.

      Plus in my mind workers at non-profits are typically paid less than similarly qualified individuals in for-profits companies.

    12. Diane*

      Not charity, but along the same lines – I work for a fortune 500, and they are asking for donations to support the companies political interests. Everyone is encouraged to make a monthly contribution of $75 or more so the company can give the money to political campaigns which supports it initiatives. This is the company that boasted a billion dollars in profit last year. I find it disgusting they have all this money, and are asking employees for money.

      1. AVP*

        And for political stuff! For campaigns that probably half the company doesn’t support, even if it’s in your career interests to do so. Ouch.

    13. A Jane*

      I’ve worked at two non-profits now. The first one was going through real financial problems during the 2007-2008 recession, and it was strongly encouraged that we join our own membership program and pay for the services. Many of us disagreed with the practice and opted out.

      I now work at a very large, and decently funded non-profit where the culture understands that we’re already helping our own movement. We have a list-serve where we can share other volunteer opportunities or fundraisers.

      That being said, I’ve also worked at two for-profit companies. The first one offered a volunteer off day where you could take a day off and work for any organization. The only two requirements were that you got the day off approved by your manager (nothing different), and then write about your day on the company’s internal social media site.

      The second for-profit company cancelled their blood drive because they couldn’t get a conference room. Seriously.

    14. Anonsie*

      It depends on the culture, obviously, but in my experience nonprofits tend to feel like your whole job is a charitable contribution so asking for more is done pretty unobtrusively. It would be kind of hard to play the guilt game with people who work every day on charitable endeavors, you know?

      In my experience you maybe get a reminder about workplace giving once a year, as a general message to all employees, without any direct followup.

    15. JamieG*

      We do the UW thing at my store, but it’s pretty low-key. HR tells us to fill out the little donation slip thing when we clock in at some point during the campaign, but there’s zero expectation that we’ll donate anything. We also do penny wars, where the manager whose box has the most money in it gets water ballooned or pied in the face or something, but that’s just some labelled boxes in the office. Nobody seems to care much, or even pay attention (beyond HR making sure you turn your slip in), but it’s an option if you feel like donating.

      1. Noah*

        I had a “disagreement” with the UW drive coordinator at my office last year. They were pushing my employees to turn in those slips saying whether did or did not intend to donate anything. I told my employees they didn’t have to and told the UW coordinator to leave us alone. Went all the way to the CEO and thankfully I was successful. Now no one has to return those stupid forms unless they actually want to donate.

    16. Jaime L.*

      I work for a nonprofit that is a UW member. We definitely have a UW drive. It is mostly voluntary. There are people who do not give, and execs are fine with it, so people are not pressured to give 100% as an organization to UW. They do have several email meetings and reminders about it so folks might get pressured in that sense. It’s generally presented to staff as the United Way gives so much to us that we should support them. A staff member, typically in an admin position, coordinates the drive.

      However, our agency also does a staff annual giving drive to benefit our organization. There is pressure for 100% staff to give to that, even if the donation is $1. This is presented as, it doesn’t matter what you give, you can even just give a penny, just as long as you give something. The Director of Development started this to use this number as inspiration (ie, our staff is so committed, that they even give of their own money to the cause! We have 100% staff giving!) There’s no trouble or consequences for not donating, but there is a lot of pressure from everyone. I believe some staff, not all, resent this as our organization tends to underpay middle and lower support staff while the execs do well. The staff who resent it feel like I already give so much, I don’t make much money as it is, why should I give money back. It doesn’t bother me personally because I would have chosen to donate on my own anyway, but I can see and respect where they’re coming from on the issue.

      Most folks at my organization are charity-oriented to begin with so throughout the year there are several drives like canned good drives and things of that nature. Those are completely voluntary. The staff runs them and decides which charities to give to.

    17. Kat*

      I work in fundraising and throughout my career have only worked in one nonprofit that had an employee giving campaign. That was a college too. I had a past director who said that employee campaigns are basically lazy fundraising. So you know… there’s that. I kind of tend to agree! The same time and energy spent getting your staff to give a total of what? $5k? can be spent finding a donor who will give more than that. staff know what’s going on. They’ll give if they can and want to.

  2. ZSD*

    Any suggestions on what sort of jobs to look for when you might live somewhere for less than a year? My husband is applying for a one year visiting assistant professor position in a Midwestern college town. If he gets the job, he’d be employed there for about nine months (one academic year). What sort of job could I get in which my boss won’t be upset if I leave in less than a year?

    1. CLM*

      Not sure what you do for a living, but are you qualified for any kind of contract work? Contracts often run six months to a year, and while they may get extended, you can also just decline to renew.

      Alternately, you could aim high and look for the (my personal) holy grail: a full-time remote work position with a company who won’t care where you are living while you work for them.

      Or you could see if you could get some kind of admin/staff job at the school where he’s working?

      1. Angora*

        You can look at positions at the university. Many times they run through the academic year only. Especially things like the bookstore, student clinic, student services, etc.

    2. NW Cat Lady*

      What do you do now? Is it something that you can either transfer to another office or work from home? Can you do something contract or self-employed for that time?

      You can check out temp agencies in the area. Some of them are looking to place temp-to-permanent, but there are also lots of them that are looking to place someone for a set period of time.

      Other than that, you might want to consider retail, with some sort of volunteer opportunity to keep any skills fresh.

    3. BRR*

      I know sometimes universities help with spousal employment for professors, but I don’t know how much this applies for visiting faculty.

      1. Dr. Speakeasy*

        Depending on where your interests lie – Substitute teaching might be an option. The pay isn’t great but generally all you need is a college degree (in some states just a number of college credits will qualify).

      2. College Career Counselor*

        Most universities are not going to make explicit efforts to assist with the trailing spouse’s job search for visiting professors. That’s something that is generally only done (and not automatically, either) for tenured or tenure-track faculty coming in. That said, depending on the size of the university (and your skill set/work background), some universities have temp job listings within the institution to cover for people who are on maternity leave, out ill, or for project work.

        1. Meg Murry*

          Yes, if he gets the job, once he has his offer in hand its worth asking the chair or HR at the college for suggestions of places to apply that fit your background – they might not be able to help, but its worth asking. What do you do now/what is your background?
          Also, I wouldn’t mention the 1 year thing while applying. If someone asks, just say your husband is a new professor -leave off the visiting. You never know – he could get a 2nd year at the school, or one in another town nearby, or not be able to find another position after this one right away – so I wouldn’t approach the job search as too temporary unless he already has a job lined in for fall 2015.
          Last -if he’s offered the job, you need to go find somewhere to live immediately. We run rentals in a college town, and most everywhere worth living is already rented for the fall, so don’t wait to find somewhere to live – the longer you wait, the worse your choices will be.

        2. BRR*

          I agree that it’s usually for TT faculty. I know at my employer (large university) they have one person who coordinates it and we hire a few temporary people so that it might be a similar situation for the OP.

    4. Rana*

      Depending on your field, you might also consider applying for positions at the college itself – they’d be used to the turnover and you’d be on the same schedule, more or less. (They’ll probably be part-time jobs, though, in my experience.)

      It was this sort of dynamic, btw, that encouraged me to start freelancing, as that meant my work was portable. But, again, that depends on whether your work transfers to that venue.

      (spouse of adjunct professor and former adjunct/visiting professor myself)

      (If you want to pm me, I might have more specific info – odds are decent I’ve probably lived in the town in question.)

      1. Ellie H.*

        I agree totally with Rana. There are usually a lot of temp jobs (although they may be part time) available at universities, especially during admissions processing. That’s how I came into my job, started temping and moved into different positions.

    5. ZSD*

      Thanks, everyone. I currently work as a staff member at a large public university. I don’t think it’s true that university jobs tend to be temporary; when I took this job, my boss asked me to commit to staying for three years.
      I hadn’t thought about temp work, though. That’s a possibility. I wonder how much of my current job I could do remotely…

      1. Meg Murry*

        Yes, as a “trailing spouse” to an academic, the more portable your career is, the better, as you may be moving around a lot unless/until your spouse gets tenure.
        I think if you already have a position at a university you are most likely going to be able to re-use those skills in another position at a college, but if you are going to a small school the jobs in the department you are in now may not open very often. I’d wait until your husband has an actual offer, then ask if the school has a temp pool – and check their website for vacancies in your type of role currently.

        1. Angora*

          They have what’s called emergency hire pools in my neck of the woods. They are great ways to get hired in. But many of them require you to apply every three months to keep your name out there. And if they offer an applicant seminar … go. It’s a great place to network and puts your name out there with the HR staff. You’ll be filling in for people out on emergency leave, FMLA, vacation, and sometimes they may be planning to hire a permanent person but individuals that are on the interview committee are not available for interviews at that time; so they go the emergency hire route. Normally emergency hire positions will only last 120 days; sometimes they get extensions but it’s unusual.

          Another thing to look for; is to look for positions that are funded by foundation and or sponsored programs versus the state budget (assuming it’s a state university). Many times experienced employees will not apply for a position on campus if there is a risk of funding drying up.

          Than get every bit of training that you can. They offer some of the best software training for their staff out there.

      2. Jaime L.*

        My husband is in the US Army and where we are now we’re going to be here less than a year. I work in development and communications for nonprofits. Our last location we were there 5 years. We moved to where we are now back in January and will move again before the year is up. I have a great relationship with the organization I work for so when I told them we were moving here we were able to set it up so that I work for them remotely. I’m not sure what it is you do for the public university. While you might not be able to work for that public university remotely, you may be able to do that type of job remotely or on a contract basis.

        Good luck!

        1. ZSD*

          Thanks! I hadn’t thought about the analogous position that a lot of military spouses must be in.

  3. Carlton Banks*

    Anyone ever survive a layoff?

    Our company just laid off 30% of its employees. Rough times. I survived, but not without the work of two c-level execs who aren’t with us anymore. Overwhelmed is just one way to put how I’m feeling right now. I’m strangely looking forward to the challenge in some weird way, sure, but stressed out nonetheless.

    Advice (or any encouragement ha ha ha) welcome!

    1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

      I’ve worked with companies that have gone through re-structuring and downsizing, you have my empathy and also my congratulations.

      All I can say is, companies feeling the sting of cuts are allergic to negativity and will go to great lengths to weed it out, even irrational lengths (not saying my companies did that, but I’ve seen it).

      Keep an iron grip on flapping lips, particularly gossip, back-stabbing, complaining etc (even if the lips aren’t yours).

      Be as upbeat and agreeable as possible, not only at work, but also on social media and socialising. But also keep your boundaries! Being a positive go-getter but also maintaining your boundaries will make you look very attractive.

    2. PEBCAK*

      You should push back on the additional work so it doesn’t swallow you up. Your leverage is as follows: after layoffs, a manager does NOT want to lose anyone. They know that if they do, they are compounding the problem of already running VERY lean, and that it’s also very likely the position won’t be backfilled. So, keeping that in mind, ask what can be deprioritized and/or explain that you won’t get everything done. Don’t be a martyr; the layoffs have already happened.

    3. Spinks*

      I have survived a 30% layoff (back in the days of the internet bubble). Morale was pretty low afterwards and the company was never the same again. I’d start looking around, just so you have a Plan B in place in case you don’t like the way things shake out.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        +about a million.

        I happened not to survive my organization’s 30% layoff, but everyone who did has been looking for lifeboats ever since, and they’re right to, because it’s not like without the 30% of us that got cut the place is now doing just fine. Have a plan. Even if you never exercise it.

      2. AnonAnalyst*

        This. I survived a 30% layoff in 2009 and it pretty much destroyed morale at the company. In the 6-9 months following the layoff, there was a huge amount of turnover (myself included). I absolutely agree with what was said above about pushing back on some of the additional work by asking what can be deprioritized, but start looking – things seemed bad immediately after the layoff but continued to get worse as time went on, so if something similar happens in your organization, you have an escape plan (or at least a head start).

      3. Carlton Banks*

        Thanks for the advice! Absolutely. I have been applying here and there, but the catch is that I’ve only been with my current company for five months, and my last company for seven, so (correct me if I’m wrong) I’m sure this wouldn’t look too great on my applications.

        The good thing is that morale doesn’t seem to be too low, hence why I’m excited for the challenge (though rightfully nervous, I think). Our executives have always been extremely supportive and are fighting tooth and nail for both the company and laid-off employees (they are reaching out to their network to find people jobs, or writing recommendation letters to those whose pays got cut, which isn’t all that necessary, of course, but I respect them for it). The truth is I want to stay here, and I hope it works out, but given the reality of the situation, I am looking for new opportunities. The only hurdle is my five month stint.

    4. Dan*

      I survived two rounds and then got whacked. The way in which companies conduct layoffs can have HUGE impacts on morale. If you treat the dearly departed like crap, yes, it’s going to have an impact on the remainder. But if you treat them well, then the remainder can honestly look up and say, “I guess it had to be done, but they did it as humanely as possible” and feel good about the company.

      My last job would have layoffs out of the blue and then say “that’s it for now” without any indication on when the next rounds would come. And then management actually seemed to be SHOCKED that people would quit. Idiots.

      Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt. Crappy raises. No bonuses. Adds up to excellent retention plan.

      1. Audrey*

        My employer has announced that there will be a 15% reduction in professional staff by the end of next year (over 5o0 jobs to be lost! arrgh) and predictably morale is at rock bottom. I think TPTB are hoping that enough people just resign before they wield have to the axe.

          1. Angora*

            They prefer to have employees walk so that they are not paying severance packages.

            Heads up to anyone that is getting laid off in the near future, etc. Many times they will have a severance letter that you sign; in order to get your severance pay. They will include where you waive any rights to workman’s compensation, or your rights under FMLA etc. You have to waive those rights in order to get your severance monies.

            I was in the 2nd batch laid off so I was familiar with the form. One of my co-workers had filed a workman’s comp claim from falling on the floor. You know .. rain on marble flooring. Tore her shoulder up pretty bad. They were really dragging out the response to her claim. The doctors were getting ready to do surgery and it looked like she wouldn’t be returning to work anytime soon. She filed for FMLA a couple of days before the laid offs.

            I called and told her to not to sign the form until she takes it to a lawyer if they laid everyone else off. She didn’t sign it; they were forced to cover her multiple surgeries , physical and occupational therapy, etc. But she would have been off work with a medical condition and no medical insurance unless she paid for COBRA …. but who has the money for that when they are job searching.

            She was a private woman so I do not know if she got a paycheck or not during the medical stuff. She may have been required to sign a non-disclosure agreement to get monies.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        At an old job we lost 25% of the workforce. They gathered everyone into a room and had a staff meeting. During the meeting, managers pulled out the people who were being laid-off. When we went back to our desks, they were already gone. It was a disturbing way to go about it. That was back in the 90’s and honestly, the company had a lot of redundancy so the layoff did not impact production. But then they had another round, and another, and then I jumped ship.

    5. C Average*

      I survived a big round of layoffs at my company back in 2008. I was fairly new and was honestly surprised I survived. A lot of far more tenured people lost their jobs. Looking back, I think the company did the best it could to perform these layoffs the right way (the workforce knew the layoffs were coming, those laid off received generous severance and other assistance, we knew no further layoffs were coming after the first round, etc.), but of course it was still really hard.

      Here’s my off-the-cuff thoughts:

      –Don’t try to figure out why certain people (including you) survived and others didn’t. You’ll never know, and speculating is a waste of time and likely to lead down weird mental pathways where you really don’t want to go.

      –If this hasn’t already been done, schedule time with your manager to talk openly about what new responsibilities are falling to you and where they should rank among your other priorities. When you’re taking on other people’s work, it can be challenging to know just how important any given task or action item is in the bigger scheme of things.

      –Know that things are going to be subdued for a while. There might not be an office party for the holidays this year, for example. There’s always a period of time during which celebration of anything just seems in bad taste. Know that this will pass. The old normal may not ever be normal again, but the new normal isn’t forever, either.

      –If you were close to people who were laid off and want to remain in contact, do. There’s no need to be weird about it. My company actually wound up hiring back a lot of the people we’d laid off in different roles once the economy picked up and hiring resumed. I was glad I’d stayed in touch with these folks and could put a good word in for them when I knew they were applying for a job here.

      –Don’t feel too bad about “strangely looking forward to the challenge.” Yes, it’s sad that people lost their jobs, but if the net result is that you wound up with a challenging and interesting role, there’s no need to create a second victim by feeling guilty and conflicted about it. If you enjoy the challenge and are up to it, now is the time your company needs clutch players who excel in difficult circumstances. Embrace that–don’t fear it.

      Good luck!

      1. A Jane*

        I agree with C-Average’s first point. I survived two rounds of cuts, and I heard through the grapevine that my position was saved through some type of favoritism. It added to my ongoing concerns about the organization and really pushed me to find a place where I could feel appreciated for my work effort and not deal with any questions of why I was still there.

      2. AmyNYC*

        I would add make any doctors/dentist appointments you’ve been putting off. If you do get laid off, you don’t know what your insurance situation might become.

      3. Izzy*

        Speaking from the viewpoint of someone who was RIF’d a few weeks ago, a few things I wish I had done in order to plan better. Just an extension of some of the backup plans mentioned by other posters:

        – If at all possible, purge your desk/workspace while you still can. Don’t take everything away, but don’t have so much that it would take multiple boxes to pack it up. At the time, being surrounded by pictures and books at my desk was great, but I wish I had removed some items earlier.

        – Save copies of your performance evals at home.

        – Backup a portfolio of your work to an external hard drive or the cloud.

        – Don’t make yourself crazy by asking “Why” questions.

        – Save a copy of your contacts (emails and phone numbers) somewhere that wouldn’t require a company-issued laptop or mobile device to access.

        1. Angora*

          Great advise. Especially the contact info, etc. When I was working for a contractor they gave me no heads up. They had me do all the monthly financial reports, than let me go after I submitted them that morning.

          Than she stood over my shoulder and I was refused computer access to contact anyone via e-mail, print out my address book, etc.

    6. Scott M*

      Not completely relevant, but at one of my wife’s previous jobs, they had to hire back some employees as contractors because they didn’t realize all the work they did before they let them go!

      1. Angora*

        I worked with someone in the university that we hired on … her desk was the cleanest thing. Looked like she didn’t do a thing.

        She said that she suspected that clean desk made it look like she had nothing to do.

        1. Angora*

          hit submit too soon … that clean deck caused her to get laid off. They didn’t know the volume of work she did because they couldn’t see it.

  4. PK*

    I work for a company (let’s call it Company X) who, in addition to making their own products, also resells related products from many other companies (including Company Y). I enjoy being involved in the resselling aspect of the business, but I’ve come to realize that what I’d really like to do is work for Company Y and focus on making their products exclusively. I speak with managers there on a regular basis in my day to day duties with Company X. I saw a job listing come up on Company Y’s career site that I would love to apply for. In the past when I have applied to a position at Company Y, I never got a call and I’m wondering if I’ve been shooting myself in the foot by not contacting the managers I know at Company Y and letting them know I put in an application. I’ve not done that in the past because I wondered if I was inappropriately networking and taking advantage. The only way I know the managers at Company Y is because of my employment
    with Company X. I’m worried that Company Y might be upset, come to my managers and tell them I contacted them inappropriately. Is it okay to email a manager at Company Y and give them a heads up that I applied for a position in their department?

    1. PEBCAK*

      Reasonable managers are discreet about this sort of thing. Nobody wants to have a reputation for loose lips, because then they won’t get applications from the best candidates. So, yes, you can email Company Y.

      That said…it sounds like your current company is a customer of the company to which you applied? There *could* be reasons they wouldn’t want to rock the boat by hiring you, but again, there shouldn’t be personally negative repercussions; you might just get a response email that doesn’t say what you hope.

    2. ClaireS*

      If I were in your shoes, I’d try to find the manager that is a) the most discreet and b) closest to the hiring and reach out to them. While there may be some awkwardness, in my experience (which is in a bit of a niche industry) this sort of thing happens. If you’re a talented person, I bet your company would rather you go to their supplier than their competitor

      Good luck

      1. Angora*

        Agree with what you are saying about niche industry. Many fields are quite incestuous. CRO’s are like that. People move back and forth between some of the larger ones on a regular basis. Many times that’s the best way to move up. I’ll never forget being at a meeting after we merged with a larger CRO . This was a regional (southeast) meeting; and quite a few of the managers and executives had worked with each other at other CROs or with various pharmaceuticals.

  5. Ali*

    A midnight open thread…been waiting a while for this. Yay!!

    I’m unfortunately feeling a little down about work right now. Like I said last week, I did not get the position I was hoping for within my company. I e-mailed one of the managers I work closely with (my normal boss is out of action still, but he does know I didn’t get the job) to see if we could talk about what needed to be done from here and what my chances were of moving up. I don’t want to rehash the whole e-mail because it was long and I don’t want to risk giving away too much about myself, but he said he can promise me professional development. That’s good, but he also added he doesn’t know if my promotion will be with Current Company or if it will come elsewhere. I took that as a sign that I should probably job search, as not a lot of jobs open within my company, and right now, the openings don’t really reflect my skills/expertise. I don’t want to apply for them just to apply.

    I feel torn on what to do. I appreciate my manager telling me that he can’t guarantee a promotion because I value honesty, even if it’s tough to hear. And he’s saying he can continue working with me because I have a good base of experience, which is great. I’m all for developing and improving. But at the same time, I’ve already been at this company for four years and I’m admittedly starting to look for a change. I don’t see much point in not looking for outside opportunities and choosing to cross my fingers that something will come up.

    I also feel a bit bad for thinking about job searching after my manager said he’d help me get better. Also, part why I’ve been with this company so long is because they’ve been a good place to work, the culture is very friendly and laid-back and I have always had encouraging supervisors. I just doubt I’m a fit anymore, and the whole comment about maybe an opportunity coming elsewhere makes me think I should be searching.


    1. HarryV*

      I’m a firm believer in that if you want something, you need to take the initiative to act on it and not wait for someone else. There is nothing to feel bad about it.

    2. CLM*

      You have no reason to feel guilty. It’s nice that your manager said he’d help you get “better”, but if it’s not a good fit anymore and there’s no room for advancement, you are much better off looking for something new and challenging. The good news is that since you have this job, you can take your time to look for something you really like. I say go for it, and to take the opportunity to brush up on your skills as well. Is there a skill you’ve always wanted to learn, that someone else at your current company knows how to do, or does as part of their job duties? Clear it with your manager and see if it’s okay to help them out a couple hours a week. Frame it as part of how your manager can help you get “better” — that you are interested in adding new skills to make yourself a better employee.

      My two cents, anyway. :D

      1. Ali*

        I’m actually picking up some new skills at an internship I’m doing away from work/outside of my shift time. As far as stuff at work, I was offered the chance to help out with something, but we have to make sure we have the resources to put a plan in place.

        I’m considering leaving my company for other reasons as well, but being told they don’t know if they can promote me was the kicker.

    3. Diane*

      Often you have to move to another organization to get a promotion or a different kind of experience than your current one offers, but you can than go back. But having a great culture and support for growth is hugely important. Look, and if an opportunity comes up that helps you get closer to your goals, weigh it along with all of the other things that are important to you in work (salary, professional development, good management, commute, etc.).

    4. nep*

      No need to feel bad about looking elsewhere.
      You might find a great fit somewhere — in a place that also has a friendly culture and where you thrive. I reckon it can only be a good thing to seek and put yourself out there. You can’t know what’s possible till you do.
      All the best to you.

    5. Raven28*

      This is almost the exact position I was in at the beginning of the year. I have been with my company for a few years and have worked my way through three positions, all promotions, but the final move was out of my field, HR, simply to have a promotion. Not many opportunities open up in HR in my organization. Trust me, I looked internationally and was willing to relocate. I can tell you the last few months in this non-related field have been miserable. Yes, it was a promotion with a 10% raise, but it is not the direction for my career. I took it just to move on, because I had outgrown my other position. My boss, much like yours offered to help in any way with career development and preparing me for a new position internally or externally.

      I said all that to say, I HIGHLY SUGGEST YOU START A JOB SEARCH NOW. I agree with previous post that you have to take initiative and control of your career development. During my job search I got great feedback that has led to me starting a new position in my field next month. Sometimes we don’t realize that we have a lot more to offer than our current employer utilizes, even if well intentioned. Also, seeing what other companies have to offer while being content is the best time to job search. I was in no hurry to move on so that made negotiations and turning down things that were not a good fit 10 times easier. When you are not pressed to move on a job search is much less stressful and one sided.

      I felt guilty for a split second because I have an excellent relationship with my manager and colleagues. The company is going through a tough transition right now, I am one of a few that have been in my department more than six months and I have literally been in every one of the roles in this department so they rely heavily on my presence and knowledge and blah, blah, blah. Guess what, none of that helps my career advance or gives me the professional satisfaction.

      I have not read your previous posts, but I strongly encourage you to remember that employment is a business transaction. I thought there would be an issue when I resigned, but the same manager who offered help was actually happy for me. If your manager is a good one they will be also, especially if they see potential, and you will forever have an excellent reference and connection.

      1. Harper*

        Just to add to the manager being happy for you, I had the same experience. I was really worried that the director of a job I left for lack of advancement (ever) possibilities would be really upset with me because he had done a lot for me and the position while I was there, however, when I told him, he told me he was actually really relieved because he had worried that I would end up stuck there forever. He was happy that I was going to be able to move on.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I would take every bit of help I could find, UNTIL something proved not to be working out. For example: I would take the boss’ mentoring until it proved to be a bad idea. I would keep searching for jobs in arena X until that panned out to be a poor plan. The key is when you drop one plan pick up a new plan.
      I can honestly tell you for every 10 things I try, 1 actually works into something that is of some help. Looking at it that way, makes me want to run out and do 9 more things because that workable idea is in the next batch somewhere. It’s just a matter of finding it.

      Yeah, make sure you get rest each night….

      As far as the guilt, tell yourself that no one is feeling guilty about not promoting you. Don’t dwell on that line of thought, it will not help you.

    7. Angora*

      Dear Ali:
      Feel for you been there. At the 3 – 4 years mark I find that I will stagnate in a job, if my responsibilities are not increased. In many times it can hurt ones performance if you are bored or not challenged.

      Many times when a job description is posted; there are hidden qualifications that one is unaware of. A huge one is that they want an external client but cannot not freeze out current employees from the application process. That they want to hire someone outside because they want someone that has no ties with the current staff and are unaware of the cliques, office politics, etc. I thing this is more true of individuals being hired in executive and managerial positions.

      I had a boss that would hire student wives that had no background in higher education; and would be leaving once the husband completed the graduate program.

      I know how you are feeling. Been there and done that. It’s so disheartening to put all this effort working for an employer, giving it your all only to feel stuck. If you are extremely good at what you are currently doing they may fear the disruption of finding your replacement.

      I recommend that you start job searching but take your time. Find something that will challenge you and that will allow you to grow with. Best of luck

  6. Chuchundra*

    Anyone have a co-worker whose e-mail inbox is like the Bermuda Triangle? I’ve spent the last couple months sending request after request to this guy and he almost never even responds. I did what I could to work around it, but my project now needs resources that only he can provide.

    Finally I called my boss this week and asked him what to do and he sent the e-mail request and cc’ed the co-worker’s boss, the co-worker’s boss’s boss and most everyone else on our team because they need stuff from him too. The only thing we were missing was pitchforks and torches.

    Finally got an e-mail back on Wednesday, but still no actual resource delivered unto me. yet.

    1. HarryV*

      At the 3rd reminder, you should’ve cc’d his boss and if necessary, cc you own boss. It is unfortunate you had to have your boss get involved.

    2. Jen RO*

      My team lead is like this. The only way to get a hold of him is to contact him on IM, and he might ignore you then too. (He was laid off – not for performance issues – and he will be leaving in a few months, at least this situation has a firm end date.)

    3. Christine*

      What are you trying aside from email? Have you addressed this with him personally? Tried making your requests via phone or in person?

      I’m swamped at work. I try to stay on top of email, but sometimes it takes me a day or two to respond to something that doesn’t involve something being figuratively on fire. It frustrates me to see 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc requests in one of my low-priority inboxes where the person is obviously getting increasingly frustrated but yet has not bothered to reach out any other way.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Why not take 2 minutes and reply, so that the requester isn’t left wondering about the black hole they just chucked their email into? Or set an autoreply on the “low priority” box advising people that if they haven’t heard back from you by X to follow up by phone/text/IM/whatever? Direct people to take the actions you want instead of being annoyed that they can’t read your mind.

      2. LQ*

        Why would a phone call or in person visit be less intrusive? (I assume that’s why you want them to reach out in another way.) The thing about email is that it seems like one of the least intrusive ways of requesting something. I guess when I have something I get behind on and people DO reach out in another way (in person, phone call, or worse, contacting my boss because it took all of 2 days for a low priority thing) I get very frustrated. I try to be on top of that 15 second, response saying I’ve seen it so that doesn’t happen.

        4 requests in 2 days seems really absurd too so I’d guess that person either doesn’t know it is a low-priority (or it isn’t to them) or they just want – “rcvd – 72 hr response time”.

      3. LBK*

        This is so odd to me, because if I’m swamped, the last thing I want is someone calling me or showing up at my desk. Send me an email and let me prioritize it myself. If they call you, they’ve decided that their issue is a high priority for you, because presumably you’re going to pick up and answer their question right away while you may be working on something more important.

        I do think that a 2 day email turnaround time is a bit much, though, depending on what kind of inquiries these are. I save myself a lot of time by just giving a quick “Thanks, I’ll take care of this!” response and then actually taking care of it when it fits into my schedule. Your coworker doesn’t need to know that you didn’t actually save and submit those files until 6 hours after you replied to their email.

      4. Chuchundra*

        I’ve tried calling in the past. The problem is that I work shift and so I’m not always around during working hours. E-mail is the best method of contact for me.

        The other issue is that this person is not often at his desk. He’s usually in the server room or somewhere else in the building. So an impromptu desk visit is unlikely to result in anything besides wasted time for me.

        1. Angora*

          For individuals that do not respond to e-mails and never in their cubicle . Part of the reason they do not respond … especially in IT is because they are working on something, etc. His lack of response could be because there is not enough staff to meet everyone’s needs and he has to prioritize.

          But I have also found out ….. if I cannot get a response via telephone and e-mail; and cannot locate the individual in person …. a bright colored sticky note on their door or monitor works wonder. If it takes only a couple of words “short request” …try that method. I have done that before; than have had the “IT” person show up in my office with the sticky note in their hand.

    4. Chloe Silverado*

      I have a co-worker who often has 3,000+ unread emails in his inbox. He basically just checks emails from clients, unless you happen to catch him on a day when he feels like being responsive. If you left it up to him, it would take weeks to get back to internal emails. Our manager is aware of this but has opted to not address it.

      I’m someone who prefers to work through email so I find this annoying, but I’ve come to realize that he’s not likely to change. If I need a timely response, I send the email and then call or walk over to his desk to let him know that I sent him something and need him to respond via email with a report/document/etc. If I need him to review something, I print it out and bring it to him in person. I also send him a lot of emails that say things like “Per our conversation just now, I am moving forward with this aspect of project X, but you will be sending me the Y report before the end of the day so I can complete it,” and cc our manager so if he conveniently forgets to send the report (this happens a lot), our manager knows I was on top of it.

      1. Anonymous*

        This used to be my manager (and I am an email person too!). What you described here was also the approach I used with him. Making the best of a bad situation.

    5. ClaireS*

      When this happens to me I get on the phone and have the “how’s the best way for me to make these requests of you? Do you need more information? Do you prefer a different communication method? Phone? Fax? Carrier pigeon?”

      If I still get no response after that, I go up the chain.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, this exactly.

        I work with a few people who receive a horrifying amount of email on a daily basis. After talking to them, they’ve given me tips on how to make sure I can get a response. Some examples include: phone call right after sending the email, in-person notification that important email is coming, and specific email subject tags like “Urgent: xyz” or “Action Needed: xyz.”

    6. C Average*

      This might be a ridiculous question, but is it clear in the emails that you are asking him for something, and what that something is?

      I’m someone who gets a ton of emails, and a lot of them are either FYI or just because I’m part of a list. If you very clearly ask me to do something, I’ll do it. If you ask me a question, I’ll answer it.

      On big projects, sometimes people on email threads will say stuff like “we need to complete a draft version of the site content, including URLs” and, because it doesn’t sound like it’s in my wheelhouse, I let it slide. But if they say, “C, I need your team to deliver the rough drafts by end of month, including the URLs for the new site,” I know what needs to be done and can respond appropriately.

      The non-ask ask is a pet peeve of mine. Grrrr.

      1. Scott M*

        +1 on this. At our company, we run so lean that everyone wears multiple hats. Since it’s so hard to figure out exactly who is in charge of what, large numbers of people get ‘spammed’ on certain issues. The hope is that one of them will be the person to fix it, but there is no actual request made.

      2. Eden*

        +1 on the “non-ask ask.” I think of this as very passive aggressive. I have been in too many situations where there was no action item, yet somehow I was supposed to divine that “we need to” (directed at multiple people) meant “I want YOU to.”

        My personal favorite email issue is when I present options: Do you want to do A, or B? And the answer comes back, Yes.


    7. Harper*

      My last boss was like this. There were times when he would email back immediately and then others where you would hear NOTHING for weeks. When he was in a responsive mood, he would actually start answering all those old, neglected emails.

    8. A Jane*

      Ugh, that’s super annoying. I learned I had to suck it up and talk in-person for some individuals. I also had to approach it as (I’m not bugging them, it’s just the only way to get through to them because email is clearly not working).

      If I needed something in writing, I also made sure to say, hey, I need you to respond to the email from x date (or the one at the top of your inbox from me). I literally had to watch a guy respond to my email while standing over him.

    9. Joey*

      Obviously there’s no excuse, but have you tried calling him or going to his office to speak to him when he doesn’t respond to emails. Some people prefer those lines of communication. Or sometimes the only real way to get what you need is to do whatever it takes to track people down. Sometimes these things can be addressed and sometimes they won’t and you’ll need to find a way to get what you need regardless.

    10. Jamie*

      When this just starts or is inconsistent I speak with the person and ask why they aren’t responding to my emails. If it continues to where it’s impeding my work, and it’s continual (where you know sending an email is the same as doing nothing – just chucking it into the abyss) I’ll just start asking their boss for what I need.

      If I have a deadline for the numbers I need from Wakeen and he never responds – and they are due. I’ll email his boss asking for my numbers and explaining the deadline – because by the time it’s at this point all official requests I’m ccing the boss on anyway.

      Absolute last resort and I bend over backwards not to have to – but I need what I need and if Wakeen isn’t getting it to me his boss Jane will have to.

      Important part of this is once they change and start responding I drop the boss off the emails.

      Someone came to me about this recently and said I didn’t need to cc his boss because he wants to take care of things himself. I said it’s the only way I get a response – he denied that. I showed him 3 separate issues where I’d emailed him 4-6 times with no response, but as soon as the boss was cced I had a response within the hour. In showing him I told him he taught me that it was the only way to get a response from him.

      He seemed kind of embarrassed and surprised – but I gave him another chance and dropped the boss and he’s been responsive since – so there’s that.

    11. Jules*

      I would email, after the 2nd email, IM. If no answer, I would drop by and ask. I can be pretty persistant.

  7. Joy*

    Anybody with experience in BigLaw (as attorneys or staff) have advice for someone who’s starting as an associate attorney in a few months? This is not at a NYC, Boston, D.C. or L.A. firm – think secondary market, so the pace isn’t quite as frantic, but I’m still expecting long hours, high stress levels, etc.

    What do you wish you’d known (or what do you wish the junior attorneys you worked with had known)?

    1. Legal Assistant*

      Hmm. Not sure how helpful this will be to you but:

      Don’t be afraid to rely on your assistant! A lot of junior attorneys are a bit timid about spreading the resources and it makes everyone’s life difficult in the long run, but especially yours! Don’t add the extra stress – if we can do it, we WANT to do it for you. If you had an assistant in articling, I’m sure you’ve learned some tips and tricks but we really do want you to succeed and we want to help, it’s our job! :) A good assistant can help greatly with the high stress level. Or so I’ve been told!

      1. Joy*

        Thanks for this reassurance! I had a wonderful assistant last summer when I worked for the firm I’m joining, and although I’m unlikely to be assigned to her again, everyone else I met seemed very welcoming. I have read a lot about how recently, new lawyers feel that they should/can just do everything, and I understand that impulse, but I’m hoping I can get into a good groove with whoever I’m assigned to and learn what to delegate.

    2. Hermione*

      This is going to sound like one of those “duh” bits of advice, but be friendly with ALL of the support staff, or if you absolutely cannot, be sure you have an assistant who is. I was an assistant to this hotshot junior associate for two years, and the guy could not find it in him to be nice to anybody but our departmental support staff. He was snappy with the mailroom guys, dismissive to our receptionist, gave eye-rolls when other departments’ staff would greet him in the halls. Naturally, this constantly blew up in his face because there were times when he needed to rely on other staff (especially the copy/mailroom guys) , but nobody prioritizes the rude guy upstairs when there are other, friendlier attorneys who also need help.

      This one time, we were going in on an appeal, and so needed to submit to the court a bunch of copies of our appellate brief (and of course were running late). He had picked up the printed/bound copies directly from the copy room on his way out the door to file them, and when he returned, I started updating our pleading books with the brief + other court docs, when I noticed that the moron hadn’t signed the brief, or the other twelve or so copies he had just filed with the court.

      Of course, the copy guy had noticed, but wasn’t about to get chewed out for pointing out his mistake…

      1. Rana*


        I’ve always held that a good rule of thumb is to be nice to service and support staff, and if you find people who are both competent and friendly, treat them like gold. Thank you for the great illustration of why!

      2. Joy*

        I’ve heard horror stories like this, but I just can’t imagine treating people this way. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a lower middle-class (bordering on upper lower-class) home, with parents who *were* the staff that were sometimes treated rudely. It’s always good to hear that friendliness opens doors, but it’s sad that it’s not a basic minimum operating standard for everyone.

      3. KrisL*

        Be nice to people. People who are jerks to people who they think aren’t “important” are jerks. People will figure this out eventually.

        Also, the people who sometimes seem not “important” can be a lot more important than you think.

        1. Angora*

          Be nice to the support staff … they can so burn you if you are rude to them, etc.

          I knew someone where his XO (military) was dismissive to him. He prepared a memo with a key statement worded incorrectly. This is a guy that was an excellent Yeoman … his XO signed it without looking at it. Got his butt fried on that one; but he was quite aware that he had been set up.

          This is one that so didn’t work for me … do not scream, belittle and cuss at your administrative staff … than turn around and say you are sorry or give them a $5 gift card to Starbucks after the fact. I had a faculty member that treated me like (*&^ but that the “I’m sorry” and two gift card negated the poor behavior. This happened 1 – 3 times a month … it was a cycle.

          Another thing … some assistants like flowers, etc for admin professional day or their birthday etc … I don’t I cannot eat flowers. Give me a $25 – 50 gift card to a nice restaurant or store you have heard me mention. And if you’re a mean boss … taking me to lunch on those days doesn’t work because I hate working for you and your forced companionship at lunch isn’t my thing.

          I have seen people pee in their bosses plants, leave underwear crammed between the cushions in CO’s office, spit in coffee cups and pots when they have been abused. Admin and support person may feel forced to take a lot of abuse to keep a job to support themselves and their families. But if anyone lawyer, manager, etc …If they have mistreated their staff … they may find themselves unknowing drinking spit in their coffee.

          The way I look at it; if you find yourself considering and/or have resorted to passive aggressive behaviors’ to payback an employer, supervisor or co-worker. It’s time to go to HR or just find another job. Actions like that will bite you in the rump. It’s an unhealthy dynamitic when you have so much rage and feel powerless to change the situation.

          1. Angora*

            Forgot to add … one my father’s clients (he designed software for small businesses) treated his legal secretary like dirt. When she quit she wiped out all of his accounting records including the back-up.

    3. D*

      Have you read The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law or Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks or something similar? If not, I highly recommend any of those books. Their advice is very, very good.

      Make sure you do a great job, every time, because you will mess up one day, and you want to have some credibility built up.

      Make friends with everyone you can.

      Figure out a way to do what you want. If there’s something you hate doing or someone you hate working for, be proactive about filling your time with enough other things that you won’t have time for the stuff you don’t want to do. Obviously don’t say, “I want work from you because I don’t want to do anymore for Partner X.” But figure out a way to make sure your own career is progressing and you’re developing skills in the practice area you want.

      1. Joy*

        Yes, I liked the Curmudgeon’s Guide, and I’m about to start Humor in the Salt Mines, which was given to me by a friend at the firm.

        I’ve gotten a lot of advice about how to get the work I want, but yours is the first to address avoiding the work I hate! I’ll keep that in mind :-)

    4. Gwydion*

      First, congratulations! That’s a great accomplishment in this market!
      I completely agree with the other replies. Remember that your administrative professionals are just that- professionals! You want to treat them with respect and deference the way you’d trust a specialist you’ve hired for an area you don’t have experience in. Especially if you have a paralegal or legal assistant who’s done this for a long time, they’re an amazing resource and want to help you!

      If your firm is large enough to have a library and its own librarian, don’t hesitate to contact them when you’re stuck. Why spend a week researching Guam Teapot Law empty-handed only to find out later that the librarian has a copy of the go-to treatise sitting on her desk. If you’re smaller than that, remember that your law school has librarians too! Most law school reference librarian staff are more than happy to assist alumni as well. Some states also have trial court libraries with full time librarians that may be able to help you as well.

      Lastly, clarify everything with your partners and senior associates. Clarify what they want, when they want it, and what form they want it in. When they tell you to find out whether the statute of limitations is up on an employment claim, repeat that back with clarification. “Right, so I’ll research the statute of limitations on a MYSTATE wage claim. Would you prefer me to write up a memo on that, or just a quick e-mail? I should be able to get that to you by tomorrow afternoon: does that fit your timeline?” A simple quick recap at the beginning of the assignment will save you so much time and shield you at least a little bit from partner frustration.

      Good luck!

      1. Joy*

        Thanks for the tips! My firm had a library as of last summer, but there was some talk of making it all digital (although I think the idea was that the librarians would stay on staff regardless). It was a god-send several times when I had research-heavy assignments.

        And OMG yes, the repeating back! I thought I had a good handle on this last summer, only to find that one partner in particular had a very different idea of the deadline for the project than the one I’d left our meeting with. I plan to master the art of reiterating, confirming via email, etc. once I’m back. And to figure out which attorneys say “We need this by Y” and secretly mean “I’ll think you’re slacker if you don’t actually turn it in by X!”

        1. Gwydion*

          I’ve never understood why people want to hide the ball like that. Maybe they feel they need to torture their associates the way they were tortured years ago?

          1. Joy*

            Ugh, I don’t know, maybe. The job market is hard enough without more torture once you’re working.

            The partner I had this experience with actually told HR in his written review that he didn’t think I would have finished the project at all if he hadn’t checked in with me to nag me about it! Mind you, this was three weeks before it was due, and I’d sent him an email the week before, checking in and letting him know that I had started it and was finding the associate he’d referred me to very helpful. And after he nagged me, I told him I could have it done a week early and then actually got it in a day earlier than that!

            I completed 30+ other assignments last summer and was never late, made a point to turn most in at least a few days early (and never on Friday afternoons), and HR knew that this guy was a jerk and later told me as much. So I doubt it impacted their decision to give me an offer, but it was incredibly stressful getting a negative review at the time – I was very glad for a private office with a door, because that was the one day I cried at work!

            I’d much rather have been warned about him and then just planned to shave two or three weeks off the deadline he gave me.

      1. Joy*

        Thanks, I’ll do that! I’ve read a couple of posts in the past and keep meaning to bookmark it.

    5. CA Anon*

      Remember that printing/copying/scanning/binding things takes time! I once had an associate give me a 10 binder project at 9am that he needed for a noon meeting with the partners. Needless to say, he didn’t get them…

  8. HarryV*

    I have a work from home job where it pays very well and it is extremely flexible. My boss trusts in me and I get my work done and done well. However, I am starting to feel like I am wasting my potential and that I can and should be making at least $30-40k more. How much is working from home worth to you? If you were in my situation, how much at the minimum would you need a pay increase to make you go back full time into the office?

    1. Jen RO*

      I wouldn’t work from home again. I did it for a few years, but I suck at time management, so I watched TV all morning then worked all evening (when everyone went out etc). It was also very lonely. I work in a dreaded open space now but I prefer it to my empty living room.

    2. NW Cat Lady*

      I had a work-from-home situation that I absolutely ADORED. Unfortunately, there were cuts, and I was laid off.

      To me, it wasn’t the money that would have made me want to go back to an office. And it wasn’t the lack of socialization or time management (as Jen RO said). It would have been dissatisfaction with the job and/or company I was with. My previous job was absolutely toxic, and no amount of money can make up for having to pop Xanax like candy.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I read that as “unfortunately, there were cats” and was expecting to see why the cats interfered with doing your job. Which they would, unless your job was petting and feeding them.

    3. Stephanie*

      My mom works for home full-time. She told me it’d have to be a pretty significant increase (or a threat of no job) to have to go into the office. She likes having the personal flexibility (my younger sister’s disabled) and not having to buy work clothes or commute downtown. She said the line between work and home can get blurred (like it’s easy just to hop on to the computer at 10 pm just to finish one more thing and have your boss expect that), but that that inconvenience is worth the benefits.

      I suppose figure out what’s important to you work-wise to assess if it’s worth giving up the home office.

    4. Dan*

      I sort of get what you’re asking (you want other people’s thought processes to help you make a decision) but the way you phrased the question, the true answer is it’s a personal choice that nobody can make for you.

      Personally, I like the flexibility of working from home when necessary, but really don’t want the isolation that comes with living alone and working from home full time.

      Money wise, you’ve given us no reference to work from. If you’re making a half mil, you’re talking a small percentage increase. If you’re making $40k, you’re talking about double. Realistically though, you’re talking about a huge chunk of change, and am seriously wondering why you’re asking random strangers on the internet if they’re sane enough to leave $30k on the table for the convenience of working from home.

      I’d take that kind of cash and work in an office without thinking about it for more than three seconds.

      1. Ali*

        I work from home now and am starting to get tired of it. It can be really isolating when others who live near the offices are getting to go to company social events and you’re stuck covering for them while they go party. This happened to me last week when there was a “mandatory” social event for the employees near the main office and I had to cover hours so all those people could go have fun. It made me kind of upset. I’d love to save money to live near the company’s secondary office (it’s an easier move for me to make), but it’s going to take a lot of time, if I ever get there due to the high COL in this city and how much money is needed to move in the first place.

        Everyone always tells me how good I have it working from home, but I miss the social aspect.

    5. ali*

      I have the best of both worlds – I can work from home as much as I want, but there is also a local office I have a cube at and that I can go in as much as I want. Most weeks I choose 3 days at home and 2 in the office, but there are some weeks I go 3 in and 2 home (and once a quarter I’ll go in for a whole week because my boss, who is remote, will be onsite).

      I love it. I absolutely would not trade it for more money. I’ve had higher paying jobs, both where I’ve had to go in and where I could work from home. The stress associated with the higher pay and usually awful commute just isn’t worth it to me.

      I plan on staying in this job as long as they’ll have me (which may not be too long…I’ve already been laid off and rehired once, which is a long story)

    6. Molly*

      My current job lets me work from home 2 days a week, and I find that’s a really good mix for me. It would need to be a significant increase in pay for me to give those two days up. Like, really, really significant. I’m comfortable now – I have what I want and need, and I’m able to save for a decent retirement.

      If I were behind on retirement savings, then I might prioritize the money over the flexibility.

  9. Shell*

    I’m reasonably sure I didn’t get the job I applied to. I’m pretty disappointed even though I was unsure about applying in the first place; I convinced myself that it’d be a great step in my career in the weeks since my application.


    Thinking of asking my manager from my Ex-job if he’d be willing to let me pick his brain…he changed positions at my old company and now hires for the position that I applied to (although I applied to their competitor). The last time I saw Ex-Manager he was reasonably friendly. Not sure if he’d do me this favour though…we parted on rather awkward terms. (A long struggle with a workplace injury and some mishandling on all sides.)

    I guess I just need some encouragement. It’s been a tough few weeks.

    1. CLM*

      Sorry to hear that Shell, that’s rough. I don’t think there’s any harm in shooting your ex-manager a brief email explaining that you are job searching, applying for X type of jobs, and wanted to ask him a few brief questions if he has the time. Worst that happens is he says no, and you are in the exact same place you started.

    2. Harper*

      I was recently in this position. It sucks. But I’m convinced something will come along, for both of us! :D

  10. CLM*

    Anyone have tips on how to get hired for full-time remote work as an employee? I live in the Midwest, and it seems like all the best companies are … not where I live. (And yes, I do know that getting that kind of job is a long shot at best, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely impossible). I work in editorial, so I’d be interested in a midlevel editor or website content manager type position. Ideas, thoughts, skills I should brush up on or get training in? Any advice appreciated. Thanks. :)

    1. robot chick*

      What’s your stance on general webmaster-ish duties? I’d brush up on stuff like html, xml and stylesheets (css and xls) – if you’re more or less new to this, is your friend.
      And if that’s not out of your comfort zone, you might even want to take a peek at their tutorials for javascript, php or asp, so you can make your web pages not only pretty but interactive ^^

      Good luck!

    2. BRR*

      Look at positions that you might be interested in and what they’re asking for. So if one is looking for a midlevel editor but they want you to live in New York to do it, you could still see what skills they’re asking for.

  11. Chloe*

    It’s been 2 years since I graduated and in a few days it’ll have been a year since I was employed and I’ve just about given up. I don’t know what else to do. I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in computer science (my B.A is in Anthropology) but I still need a job. I’m at my wits end with it all!

    Are there any long term unemployed recent grads out there? How are you coping? Any advice?

    1. Coco*

      I’m a BA Anthro grad too, graduated last year and am now in a MA TESOL program. I had so many friends who were still unemployed years after graduating so you’re not alone!!

      My breakthrough happened when I did some volunteering for a local community college in ESL classes. The instructor said I was great at it and if I got my Master’s she would help me get employed at the college!! (MATESOL is a prereq for almost all ESL instructor jobs.) I’m not advising you to go to grad school necessarily, but volunteering might be your “in.”

      Good luck!

      1. Chloe*

        That’s awesome how things worked out for you! I definitely want to further my education as well but I know it won’t be in Anthropology. I love the discipline but I definitely want to go the technology route so that’ll require some more education. I’m taking classes at my local Community College. I’m aiming for a Master’s in Computer Science but if I don’t get into the program I’ll pursue a Second Bachelor’s in Engineering (computer science). The master’s program is cool because you don’t need a CS background. It’s the only program I’ve found that is as accessible for me. The plan is to apply next year. I’ll definitely be joining some clubs and maybe they can link me up with some volunteering opportunities out in the area because I haven’t had much luck. I volunteered with a women’s shelter in the area for a short while but all they had me doing was stuffing envelopes. Needless to say, it didn’t work

    2. JayDee*

      You might also want to look into the Americorp program (assuming you are in the US). The stipend isn’t crazy high, but the fringe benefits are good (like student loan deferment) and it can be a great way to get experience in a nonprofit or government agency that might turn into a job after your term of service is up or might lead you into a specific graduate program or career path.

      1. Stephanie*

        Minor point: you aren’t allowed to have outside employment during AmeriCorps, so just make sure you really can live on the stipend.

          1. Stephanie*

            Ah, got it. It must have been a VISTA position then. They were very upfront about the stipend being $900/mo and that you weren’t allowed to have secondary work.

        1. Office Mercenary*

          On the plus side, AmeriCops income doesn’t count toward EBT eligibility; i.e., you’re eligible for food stamps unless you earn more than, say, $908/month in outside income. (That was the cutoff for my state, yours may vary.) In my case, that was an extra $200/month, which is a lot when your paycheck is only $900.

      2. Dan*

        Minor point #2:

        I don’t consider student loan deferment to be a fringe benefit, unless the government is picking up the interest tab on subsidized loans.

        I went several years without making ANY payments on my undergraduate student loans (kept all the paperwork straight so it was legit) but the amount of interest that capitalized was ungodly, like $15k. I honestly regret that part now.

        Besides, for loans under the stafford program, you have ridiculous amounts of time (like 8 years) between various deferment and forbearance options.

      3. Anonsie*

        My word of caution on this is to only do it if the work you can get is something you actually want to do– don’t do it just to do anything, and don’t do it expecting to get a job from it.

    3. Beebs*

      Long term unemployed here, hundreds of applications later, definitely at my wits end right there with you.

      I see an employment counsellor and a personal therapist, they both help me put things into perspective. I have been so focused on things I can control, and as a side effect of that have internalized a lot of this in hopes that it is something I can fix/change within myself. Unfortunately, this is just part of the current climate. I have met many other people in the same boat, highly qualified, brilliant people who are struggling to find work – this has helped me realize it’s not personal. I am learning to accept that there may not be a ‘reason’ why I am in this situation, and while this all helps at the end of the day none of it brings me closer to employment which is a bit of a necessity.

      The other thing I can say is to stay focused and keep moving forward but also to take breaks and try to not feel guilty about taking some time for yourself and finding some joy throughout the week.

      1. Stephanie*

        This is really good advice that I second. I’ve just had to learn to accept what I can control and leave everything else up to fate. It’s tough.

      2. Chloe*

        Thanks Beebs! You’re right that this isn’t all in our control. It’s a hard idea to accept a lot of times but it’s true. I’m definitely trying to keep myself moving forward instead of dwelling. I did that for too long and made no progress. I’m currently on a break from sending job applications because I’m taking classes right now and plan to continue. After almost a year, I was just tired of not doing anything at all. At least now I’m using my mind and learning new things.

      3. Office Mercenary*

        I’ve been unemployed on and off since 2009. The biggest thing for me was finding hobbies to distract me from the state of my career. Hobbies like sewing, gardening, cooking, etc. can save you money and it helped me to think about my tangible skills, rather than the intangible skills that aren’t helping me get a real job.

    4. ali*

      I’m also a BA in Anthro, although mine is 15 years ago now. I was lucky that I had web/programming skills to get me a job (because back then that was all the rage and you didn’t need a silly college degree in “web” to get a job doing it). That has become my career. I don’t know how anyone with only a BA in Anthro can find a job. I’d always understood you needed at least a Master’s if not a PhD for anthro jobs. (I did go back and get a Master’s 10 years after I got my BA, but not in anything related to what I was doing or related to anthro).

      I don’t have advice for you, but I feel horrible for the graduates these days that remain unemployed for years after graduation. It definitely was not that way when I graduated. I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Becca*

        As someone with a “Silly college degree in web”….I found that my educational experiences were great. Maybe it wasn’t completely necessary in all areas of my job, but I’ve found that a lot of things I learned in school propelled me a lot further than when I was just tinkering around as a teenager.

        1. ali*

          Fair point. I just see so many interns these days who are getting those degrees and they really aren’t learning anything practical from them. The skills they are learning on the job are much more valuable to me as their manager than the things they are picking up in school. I likely would not hire someone with a degree in web if they did not have experience and a decent portfolio to go with it.

          I also was not just tinkering around as a teenager. While I did do my own webpages in 1993-94, after that I was employed by universities to do actually web development while I was getting my undergrad degree, so I was both mentored and given the opportunity to learn on large, complex projects.

      2. Chloe*

        Thanks for your comment.

        I was never really married to the field. Even when I chose this as my major, I knew I wasn’t going to pursue it further after graduating. I thought about law and public health for grad school but obviously didn’t pursue end up pursuing either. I wanted to take a break from school for a while to get work experience and figure out what I really wanted to do. Ever since I started looking for post-undergrad work, I’ve been looking outside of my field as well. There’s not much in my field anyways. Most of what I’ve applied for has been admin office jobs. I’m currently taking classes and hope to take some programming courses (darn pre-reqs) so hopefully after that I’ll be able to expand my job search.

    5. Molly*

      My BA is in Anthro. At the BA level, an Anthropology degree is just like any other liberal arts degree – it’s good for getting you entry-level business-type jobs that only require a degree, but that’s about it. You’re unlikely to find anything worth doing in the Anthropology field unless you get a master’s or a Ph.D (and even then it can be really tough).

      What kind of jobs are you applying for? If I were you, I’d be looking at coordinator-level positions in a business area you’re interested (like HR, Marketing, Sales, IT, whatever), basically one step up from assistant roles. If you’re looking for something anthro-focused, you’ll probably need a higher degree.

      1. Chloe*

        So interesting seeing so many Anthropology people here. Geez!lol I know the opportunities in the field are slim. I’ve always known I wasn’t going to be working in the field, at least long term. I plan on furthering my education on a different route though. I’m pursuing technology because the job opportunities are better.

        When I was applying for jobs I was mainly applying for office/administrative assistant/coordinator and program/project assistant/coordinator jobs. In almost a year I had a handful of in-person interviews, two handfuls of phone-interviews, wasted my time with staffing agencies, and was a top candidate for two positions.

    6. Anx*

      I graduated in 08 (walked in May, got my B.S. in December).

      I’ve been employed for 9 months since. It’s been…brutal. While in school I averaged 18 hrs/semester, two part time jobs, and other clubs, and a social life. While I did let my school work slip (I had a hard time prioritizing my own things over work type things), I was still pretty busy. And it was so, so, so much easier than being unemployed.

      I did have to go to therapy after a while for depression/anxiety (I went for something else, but it was pretty obvious the unemployment had taken it’s toll).

      Your value as a person is not contingent about what you can produce for another person (or whether or not you are paid for your labor). It’s hard to believe at times, but you have to keep finding ways to love yourself if you used to tie your value to your work.

      1. Chloe*

        Thanks for your comment. I can definitely relate to the depression and anxiety. I’ve struggled with these issues for as long as I can remember but post-undergrad, 5 months in a toxic workplace, and almost a year of unemployment have definitely exacerbated these issues. It’s work trying to stay positive but there is no other choice.

    7. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I was unemployed over a year, and that was coming right out of a master’s program!

      Coping was the hardest part for me, but the thing that helped me was– if you have the resources at all– to schedule fun events or purchases. I had a long list, so if I had a bad week, I’d order some little thing off Amazon that I’d wanted for a while or go out to a movie. It wasn’t great to spend the money I didn’t have, but it kept me sane to still have/do nice things from time to time.

      Good luck!

      1. Chloe*

        Thanks for your comment. I’ve bought so many books from Amazon since Since graduating I’ve found solace in reading for leisure. I don’t do it as often as I should, especially now since I’m taking classes again, but when I do I feel a little better. I’m still struggling to find a balance though. I spent so much of the last year and a portion of this year looking for work. I know now that wasn’t the best choice. I just wish everything didn’t cost money! It sucks not having any at your disposal. Makes enjoying life pretty hard.

    8. Stephanie*

      Not a recent grad, but long-term unemployed so I can empathize.

      I exercise. A lot. So at this point, I have very little money, but a serious right jab and roundhouse kick (I’ve been trying out MMA). That’s good for keeping my moods level and finding a healthy outlet. If there’s a physical activity you like, that’s really good for staving off the inevitable depressive feelings.

      1. Chloe*

        I recently got into weight training and I love it. My sister was nice enough to get me a gym membership for a few months. Sadly I sprained my foot pretty bad (fell down the stairs) so I haven’t been to the gym in a few weeks. I definitely feel more pent up aggression so I hope to get back in there next week.

    9. Anonsie*

      I’m an anthro BA as well and I did spend a long while unemployed after I graduated a few years ago. The key for me was moving somewhere that actually had the type of work I was qualified for available– I moved cross country and got a good job extremely quickly. Your region may be part of the issue here.

      From there, what did you do in college? Experience and interests? What type of work do you want? I did a lot of research as a student so (once I was somewhere with actual research institutions) it wasn’t tough for me to continue that work. Do you actually want to be a programmer or do you just think the degree will get you work?

      I get really frustrated when people blame your major for whether or not you have an easy time getting a job. People love to mock the anthro degree, but if I’d stuck with computer science (which was my original major in college) I’d be in exactly the same spot but even less happy because I didn’t *like* programming. I had opportunities to get experiences with my anth department that turned into work later, and there were no such opportunities for compsci where I was. It wouldn’t have been easier to find a job, I still would’ve needed to move to a hub and those places are competitive. Me with my not-really-liking-programming and no/crummy experience was not going to be competitive.

      For how to deal with the unemployment– I did not cope well. I’ve never been more angry than I was then. I always got upset when people told me “oh well, you’ll find something eventually” because it’s about the least helpful thing you can tell someone, but it’s true that it is temporary. It feels like it’ll be like this forever, but it won’t. Wait it out, see if you can do something to change your odds but don’t take drastic measures.

      1. Chloe*

        Thanks Anonsie.

        I can’t afford to move out of the area right now. I literally have no money and nowhere to go. And with the type of jobs I am “qualified” for, I can’t justify the inconvenience moving would require. So while I have thought about getting out of the midwest, which is still on the horizon, it won’t happen any time soon — unless I hit the lottery or something. Once I gain the skills I need in my desired field, I will feel more comfortable moving out of my area.

        I didn’t really do much in college as far as research goes, unfortunately. I was a RA for a professor but I didn’t really do much of anything, aside from marketing and making flyers. I worked in my school’s business office doing cashiering and office work.

        As for my interest in computer science, that has definitely been a process. I have always loved computers and considered pursing a technical degree but due to my hate for math I avoided anything that involved it. Silly but that’s my truth. I definitely regret that now because in doing that I limited my opportunities. I don’t know about being a programmer because there’s a lot you can do with a CS degree, but I know that it happens to be a field with plentiful opportunities. Right now I’m not on a path leading me anywhere so I guess I find solace in the pursuit of something different. I know it’ll enhance my options and that’s something I look forward to at this point in my life.

        1. Anonsie*

          Ah yeah, I should have said you could try job hunting in the places where the jobs exist, rather than just packing up first thing. That’s what I meant. But I also know that when I was job hunting and people said “try looking in other cities!” it made me really angry.

          I’m not sure what you mean by justifying the inconvenience, though. You mean, the jobs aren’t good enough to be worth relocating for? A starting job is pretty valuable, but I understand why someone wouldn’t want to up and relocate. If there aren’t opportunities where you are, though, what could you do to beef up your experience for a better job elsewhere? You don’t need to go into research, that’s just what I did, but if you have any experience with regulatory processes or expectations that can be a foot in the door.

          That was the same motivation I had for CS at first, too, and what I found is that the day to day was a very bad fit for me for the whole spectrum of work it could have turned in to. It’s mostly the human element, in my case. I liked working on my own projects and I like math just fine. Definitely look into it if you’re interested, but I would caution against thinking more education (and more debt and more time out of the work force) is the best solution just because it’s one you can start working on now and you just want to do something. Do it if you genuinely think you are suited to the actual everyday work.

          If it’s any encouragement, I hated math and did very poorly with it before college as well. In college I enjoyed it (ok, sometimes enjoyed it) and did very well, so you might have a better time with it than you think.

          Sorry I can’t really offer any better advice. It’s perfectly easy (and common now) to do everything right and still be in this situation, which is why I say it’s ok to ride it out and not try to jump ship just because it’s taking a while. I’m sorry you’re going through this, and I hope you get that light at the end really soon.

        2. Tex*

          I’ve heard places like Microsoft and Nokia (before they got bought out) hired anthropologists to see how people in developing markets used technology and how they could incorporate those insights into products for those specific markets. How one gets those jobs, I have no idea. But they do exist.

          Also, have you considered market research (which the above job falls under) – it can deal with a lot of psychology/culture/observational factors and your degree should be of use then. (Might need to brush up on statistics though.)

  12. Wander*

    I am more than a little nervous about work these days. Tensions have always been high between the team I’m on and another, but it’s always been kept behind the scenes. (That is, both teams know the other has issues with their work, but neither says anything to each other.) It escalated recently though with a complaint to a supervisor, and it’s ballooned since then.

    Even then, it wouldn’t be that bad, but there’s a department wide meeting coming up that includes the directors, and there’s always a free talk section. I’m sure it’s going to come up, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to get ugly. The other team shouldn’t know for sure who complained, but the logical guess is me. I am more than a little afraid that I’m going to be targeted. I have an over exaggerated nervous physical response to conflict, and if that happens, I will almost definitely break into a cold sweat and shake. No one at work knows about that, because it’s never come up, but I know from personal situations that it happens.

    I like my job a lot, and I was unemployed for a very long time before getting it. Even though I know that everything should be ok in the end (for multiple reasons), I’m worried about getting fired. It’s not a particularly rational fear (I hope), but it’s going to bother me until that meeting – and probably the whole week after that – is over.

    1. ClaireS*

      Oof! What an awful situation. My first thought is that this could be a good thing. It’s almost never productive for problems to fester under the surface unattended. But, your nervous response makes it an entirely different situation.

      Could you talk to your manager about it? Let her know about your concerns and that while you think it would be good if these things were dealt with, your concerned an uncontrollable physical response from you in going to make things more difficult. Maybe she can share some insight that will help put you at ease or at least better prepare you for what’s to come?

      This entirely hinges on having a reasonable boss, which from what I’ve learned ’round these parts, that’s not always the case.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Is there anyway you can step in before the chaos starts?
      I am not sure if I clearly understand your setting so this might not be a good idea: Can you express this concern to your boss and ask for tips?

      Also, practice calming breaths- inhale through your nostrils and push out slowly through a small opening made with your lips. Practice this BEFORE the crap starts. Then keep doing it when you can – such as in the restroom or lunch- look for opportunities.

    3. Harper*

      Do you mean one of the things you’re worried about is that the other team will think you are the one who complained and you’re not? I can totally relate to that. I have a particular hatred of being sort of backhandedly accused of something when there is no way to really set the record straight.

      For the other stuff, I can also sympathize and I know you already know this, but thinking about it a lot and getting it worked up in your head won’t help. It may be that the other team won’t even bring it up at the meeting and then you’ve worried about it for nothing! I would suggest maybe coming up with a couple of points you would want to make in case they do, writing them down, and then trying your best to forget the whole thing until it happens. I know that’s easier said than done!

  13. Poster formerly known as Jane Doe*

    Anybody have any thoughts on effectively leading/managing a project team without coming across as too strong or two weak? Background is that I am a young female in a male dominated industry. I got to where I am by being really good at my job, but people in my position are usually about ten years ahead of me.

    I have a strong personality, in that I’m not passive and open share what I think. I wouldn’t say that I am aggressive either, as I genuinely care about what others think, even if it’s my call at the end of the day.

    The challenges that I run into when I am soliciting thoughts and ideas from others is that they seem to think that I am asking them because I don’t already know anything, and they start explaining things to me like I don’t have a brain.

    Any thoughts on how I can be an effective leader without cracking the whip and becoming the one everyone hates?

    1. Coco*

      Not exactly work experience here, but I was the leader of a male-dominated competitive sport/game group (so kind of like a job–had goals we needed to meet and all that). You sound just like me!: young woman, strong personality, genuinely care about people’s opinions, skilled but not necessarily seen as knowledgeable.

      Transparency was important to people accepting me and respecting me as a leader. My calls were definitely questioned more often than those of the leaders before me (who were all men), but clearly laying out goals and procedures (to a reasonable extent, of course) and not getting defensive eventually convinced people I had everyone’s best interests in mind. And I think “showing your thinking” can often be a demonstration of competence. My 2c for what it’s worth :)

    2. Dan*

      I work for a woman who listens to the people on her team and doesn’t act like she knows everything. So that’s step one.

      Step two, to not get talked down to, be very specific about the feedback you’re soliciting. Tell them what you’ve already crossed off the list and why, and ask if there’s suggestions.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Ha, welcome to the first part of my life.

      Here’s some random thoughts for you.

      1) Gaining people’s respect is a process. Assume that this is going to happen over time and I think it works to act as if you have it in the beginning, meaning operating out of that confidence that you are respected.

      2) Never believe that people are treating you a certain way because of your age or gender, even if they are. Never internalize it, that just leads to defensiveness and defensiveness ***kills*** leadership. Sucks it right away from you, gone.

      3) Be patient . Maybe the big old strong men are trying to explain things to you slowly because they have a negative assumption about you or maybe, they just haven’t gotten to know you yet. If you are capable, this will be revealed over time anyway, so there’s no harm in being patient with people.

      4) Be open. I started a habit 25 years or more ago of making sure I use open body language in any group situation.

      5) If somebody seriously threatens you, actively undermines you, know in that moment that you can take them out later. I have been in situations where I could keep a calm exterior and a smile on my lips while I was thinking “dead man walking”. Take them out later. Later is always better than in the moment and it’s good have time to plan where to bury the body.

      1. Camellia*

        Also, do an awareness check of your speech patterns.

        Do you automatically say “Sorry” as a preface to speaking? As in, “Sorry to interrupt but I have a question”, or “Sorry, what was that again?” Or do you use a lot of fillers like “Um”? Sometimes as women we undermine ourselves and don’t even realize it.

        1. ClaireS*

          Up talk is another one I struggle with. Up talk- turning sentences into questions my a higher tone at the end.

        2. Jamie*

          Yep. My first boss schooled me in this quickly – told me to stop apologizing unless I was truly at fault and then do it once and move on.

          I meant sorry as in I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that, the general – gee that sucks kind of sorry – but he told me that the people we worked with would see it as a sign of weakness – blood in the water.

          Ditto “sorry?” when you didn’t catch something and need them to repeat themselves. What? Or can you clarify works just as well but it doesn’t put the blame directly on your inability to understand but could just as easily be they didn’t communicate it clearly.

          I was lucky that early on he rode me about those things – I see it in other women and I see the reaction and I do behind the scenes mentoring in this every time.

          1. hildi*

            When you do the behind the scenes mentoring, how do you approach it? Because it could be a touchy issue or it’s sometimes tricky to give unsolicited advice. So curious how you open up that conversation.

            I have been more aware of the Sorry issue, too, though I don’t think I did it extensively before. But when I want to tell someone I’m sorry for their predicament, I often turn to “I’m sorry to hear that.” I can pull that one off, though I don’t know if that’s seen the same as just plain, “sorry.”

            1. Jamie*

              I’ve never found it tricky – or maybe I’m not sensitive enough to have noticed.

              It’s always women, so I just talk to them privately and tell them I used to do the same and pass along the advice I was given. I don’t police them afterwards – but everyone without exception has appreciate the heads up.

              I work in a male dominated industry and there aren’t a lot of women in management – so we kind of look out for each other regarding the things that are specific to how we are socialized, or how we talk.

              Like I have had women cry in my office about stress at work and I’m fine with it – not in issues with me, but just venting kinda thing. But I make it clear that I’m fine with it and I’m a stress cryer but heads up we can’t do that here because of how it’s received so if you need a breather you can always duck into my office for a second – or the ladies room.

              I am one of the few women in executive management and I was stopped by the only woman who outranks me the first time she saw me cleaning up after a meeting. I had come from support previously and it was habit.

              She said even though she appreciated the sentiment it would hurt my authority since I was so new…then she proceeded to clean up. I asked and she said she established her authority so can now enjoy the privilege or throwing away everyone’s used napkins.

              :) We laughed.

              Set limits in the beginning and then you can break them later once you’ve earned respect and cemented your place.

              Kind of like I wouldn’t have worn a Hello Kitty lanyard in the plant until well after I had zero concern of being taken frivolously.

              Men do this too, btw. I know someone who was taken aside and told to dress more professionally than the others because it bothered this person that we’re as casual as we are. We’re a jeans/dockers and polo kinda place because we’re a factory the managers spend a lot of time around oil and grime.

              He did it even though it was bad advice, because everyone thinks its weird when someone goes all dry clean only to spend 8 hours a day in a hot and grimy environment…so you do have to vet the advice.

              1. hildi*

                #1). When my husband was going through a degree program, he was the only male of a small clas of 7 or 8. He was friendly to everyone and but of the women known to be obnoxious, a low performer, and someone that if you ended up allying with her would hurt your reputation. My husband was pleasantly oblivious to these things until one of the other women in his class, who was much more professional, a leader, respected, etc. pulled my husband aside and gave him a heads up as to how his own credibility was being hurt by being chummy with this other woman. So he pulled away from her and I think the advice helped. I may not have described that well (it sounds more like middle school cattiness, but it definitely wasn’t).

                #2). More importantly, I LOVE IT when women help other women. That doesn’t happen enough and I absolutely have the utmost respect for women that help other women.

                1. Jamie*

                  To be fair, I’d help anyone…I’ve just never seen a man with the apology thing.

                  And women can have a unique subset of issues that only we can help each other with so I totally get what you’re saying and I applaud the sentiment – but I just wanted to be clear I don’t help women at the exclusion of men…it’s just some things have never come up with them.

                  I know there is a lot about cattiness and backstabbing of women in the workplace against other women in particular – maybe I just got lucky but I haven’t seen that. Some are nicer than others – but no issues because of gender. Maybe in my industry we’re rare enough we can’t afford to turn on each other.

                2. hildi*

                  I totally agree about helping anyone regardless…and I can’t imagine anyone here would have thought you would help women at the exlusion of men!

                  Perhaps when I commented I had in mind the mommy wars of my generation and how it’s SO refreshing and heartwarming when a woman just supports and doesn’t judge another woman for her choices.

        3. AnonAnalyst*

          This is one I really struggle with. I’m still trying to change my speech pattern to eliminate the “sorry” prefacing, but much to my chagrin I feel really awkward not using it. It’s kind of disheartening how much I seem to think I have to apologize for requiring anyone’s attention for anything.

          1. Jamie*

            It absolutely takes time. At least for me speech patterns are one of the hardest habits to change.

            After a while the change sticks – but you need to be really conscious of it for a while.

      2. AVP*

        Love all of this, especially your last point. Other onlookers will respect you for staying calm and unflappable in the moment, and it gives you time to make a real plan for later.

      3. KrisL*

        I like what Wakeen’s said. Especially about being patient and “Never believe that people are treating you a certain way because of your age or gender, even if they are.”

        The way I figure, if I think someone’s being obnoxious because I’m female, I’m likely to stew about it and maybe expect other people to do that. If I figure someone’s being obnoxious because that person is just obnoxious, it’s easier for me to deal with. And really, people who are obnoxious based on your gender or age are obnoxious people anyway.

        Try to assume the best (but cover your back). You don’t know for sure why people are doing what they are, and if you think someone’s trying to be helpful by explaining something, it’s easier to reply and sound about right (“thanks, but I’ve already covered that”) than it is if you feel like the person is being a jerk.

        If you’re new, people might be trying to be helpful, since they don’t know what you do and don’t know. Some people might be condescending jerks. Some might just be trying to be helpful and trying a little too hard.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Try to preload your questions to show an indepth understanding of the situation you are inquiring about.

      Please don’t take this wrong: I tell myself when I am getting basic answers, that is because I did not frame my question well. (Yes, a little harsh on myself- but all I can change is ME.)
      Look at your questions. Will the questions bring the answer you want or is it easy to misconstrue what you are asking?

      The other thing that I have found helped me when people are telling me things I already know is that I deliberately look for some tidbit that I did not know. I challenge myself to find that tidbit. What this does is distract me from the fact that they appear to be talking down to me. Sometimes I find the tidbit sometimes I don’t. People do notice that I am listening.

      I could write a book about asking questions. If you decide that questions are a mix of art and science you will gain a lot of ground. There is an art in the way you ask (tone of voice, bodylanguage) and there is a science to how you structure the question(framing, breivity, level of awareness, etc).

      1. samaD*

        I would read that book about asking questions.
        I keep getting answers to things I haven’t asked and no answers to what I actually did ask.

    5. Us, Too*

      When it comes to project management, it’s nearly always a bad idea to just open up a discussion asking what people think of some generic problem or concept. You’ll end up with long, rambling dialogues with people endlessly admiring the problem.

      The secret to this is you don’t just ask what they think. You tell them what you already know (and what you think) and then ask them to give you feedback on that.

      Check out the difference between the below.

      Option 1: “Hey, Wakeen, how would you go about bringing the teapot handle breakage rate down from 25% to 10%?”

      Option 2: “Hey, Wakeen, I’ve been looking at the teapot handle breakage rate. Industry standard is 12%, but our rate is 25%. My initial research from the data in XYZ system shows that 2 major defects are contributing to nearly all the reports of breakage. I estimate that if we addressed those 5 issues, our breakage rate would go down to only 6% which would knock us out of the teapot handle quality ballpark. I’ve put together the following plan to address these 5 issues, but I’d really appreciate your feedback on this to help me work out any kinks or address things I may not have thought of.”

    6. Joey*

      You’re doing just fine. Once they see a track record of good decisions and outcomes they will have more respect. The only thing I would say is to make sure you tell them why you’re asking them- that you’re looking for better ways. It might also help your credibility if you’re asking about specific parts or pieces as opposed to a general solicitation.

    7. Jules*

      This is a good question that I struggle with and this is not the first team I have lead.

      I think what is important is to realize that project managers are human too. As project members, we see lot of flaws from our leader but once you lead, you’d realize the bigger picture is never quite a simple as it would seem.

      Another thing project managers need to learn is that everyone will have an opinion one way or another. What you need to do is to think about what would work best for the company. The acid test for me for any decision is, ‘How would this impact the company?’ and “Would this decision take us to a better state?”

      About asking questions to the team, I remind people regularly that they are MY subject matter expert. If I don’t need their expertise, they would not be part of the team. Being humble might not be the thing for some people but that is how I learn. That is how you can grow your project skills/knowledge base. By listening and asking a lot of questions.

      Why do anyone care if people think you are ignorant? I am in a non technical field as they come but we can talk IT project all day long because I understand technical stuff. I did not get there by talking, I got there by listening and asking question. A lot of ‘stupid’ questions. Sometimes questions that no one else asked because they don’t know what they don’t know.

      If you know your stuff but want to ask how the company does it. You can always prephrase it as, “So, typically the industry/market/outside, does XYZ like QFT. How does our company do XYZ.”

      Don’t worry about being the person people hate. Haters will be haters. Worry about your project outcome because ultimately your bottomline/reputation/cred gets impacted by it.

      Being female in the US seems like a disadvantage (I come from AsiaPac) but be true to yourself. Don’t let or lead politics into the project. Be aware of who can sell your project for you in managment. Reach out and keep those people in the loop. Don’t be afraid to talk /ask questions to managers who are not your direct supervisor. Leverage other team/people’s experience/capability.

  14. Miss C*

    I’m having a hard time trying to decide what would constitute a fair hourly wage for contract, fixed-term employees (so, not independent contractors), and figures are few and range widely in my very small and very specific field.

    I’ve come across several rules of thumbs for independent contractors (such as annual salary divide by 1000 = hourly rate rule of thumb, or 2x employee hourly rate). Are there similar rules of thumb for contract fixed-term employees? Does 1.25x employee hourly rate seem reasonable?

    1. Dan*

      I honestly don’t understand the distinction you are trying to make.

      Keep in mind that the IC rate is as high as it is because you’re paying for 1) Flexibility, 2) Benefits, and 3) Taxes that would otherwise have to be paid to a regular employee.

      If you’re talking about a legit employee who you are bringing on for a fixed period of time, the pay is whatever the market dictates. Start at base wages and see if you get takers, and if you don’t, go up from there. If you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to play games, consider the increased wage to be a convenience or “rush” tax.

      1. NW Cat Lady*

        I worked for a company that had contract employees, and they were paid above the going rate for that position (but I don’t know how much above).

        Basically, these were people who were hired to work on specific contracts, and when the contracts expired, so did their positions. They could then apply to work on another contract, but they had to go through the hiring process all over.

        They were paid more because the company knew they would be laid off at a specific date, and even though they’d be getting unemployment, this was supposed to let them put some money aside for the “lean times.” Essentially, they were like long-term temp positions that were filled by employees.

        Of course, we all know that employment is at-will and anyone can be laid off or fired at any time for most reasons. But it was harder to find people who were willing to take the short-term positions, rather than searching for the full-time ones.

  15. Healthy*

    I recently got a job in the healthcare field. I’m working in mental health. As part of my new employee packet they ask that I fill out a health form. Questions areintrusive asking if I’ve had an Ekg in the last five years, if I’ve been duagnosed with any illnesses. Question is how honest should I be? Yes I’ve had an ekg, yes I take meds for some things. None of it would affect my ability to do the job. I don’t want to lie but I also feel my complete health history is none of my employer’s business.

      1. ClaireS*

        +1 definitely ask! Don’t get defensive or anything, just a simple, “this questionnaire is quite detailed. Can you tell me what it will be used for.”

        The answer would have to be really good and confidentiality assured for me to complete it. Just because you work in health care doesn’t mean your employer gets to be involved in your health.

    1. Clinical Social Worker*

      I had to do a complete physical for my job and let them know what meds I take. This was for security issues as I work in a prison.

      Do you work in a secure place, like an inpatient unit? Does any part of your job require that you hold down patients? This might be why they want to know about health stuff, so that you can’t claim any previous physical ailments as “on the job” stress or injuries etc. That’s just a random thought though. I would ask them what they need this information for and see what their response is.

      1. Sunflower*

        I agree. Also, if you’re in a hospital, it might have something to do with having access to medication?

        1. Healthy*

          I have no access to medications and carry none with me and when we’re on the floor, we’re not allowed to have any personal items with us anyway. I can see the rationale, I’m just squicked out a bit by the questions. I have nothing to hide per se, but my health history is intensely personal and I don’t like it when employers start asking questions like that. Again, I get the rationale, I’m just not super thrilled by it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This. Working in mental health, it matters what if you carry medications with you. That can be an issue.

    2. MaryMary*

      This may be for insurance purposes. Some small employers (more than 50 employees, but less than 100) are still required to have employees complete a medical history for health insurance. You can’t be denied coverage due to what you put on the forms, but it may impact your employer’s premiums. It shouldn’t impact your individual premium (unless your employer has some sort of wellness incentives tied to your contribution), and HIPAA prevents your employer from knowing what medical conditions you may have. If this is an insurance form, omitting information is insurance fraud. Particularly since you have concerns about sharing your medical history, ask your manager or HR what the information is used for.

      1. hildi*

        Hmm, this is a really interesting point. The answer I was giving OP in my head was, “just fill out some basic, inanse stuff.” But then your point makes a lot of sense and I would definitely follow the rules if I knew it could be fraud if I didn’t! I agree – ask what its used for. MaryMary’s possibilty makes a lot of sense (though not really ideal).

      2. Healthy*

        It’s not an insurance form. Insurance doesn’t even kick in for 90 days so I don’t get the forms for that until later. This is part of the standard new employee packet.

    3. AsianQB*

      If you are not comfortable with this info, dont provide it. I’d be surprised if it says that it is mandatory. Sometimes employers ask for these things and tie it to a discount on health insurance. Check on it.
      You could ‘mistakenly’ leave out this form for now. If it comes back as a requirement, ask why it is needed and who will use it. HIPAA exists for a reason.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I spent years working with people with all types of disabilities.
      My chances of getting injured where very high.
      I felt the employer needed to know my pre-exisiting conditions to protect themselves if I got injured on the job.

      That may or may not have been true. But it was my feeling at the time. When I read what you posted here, those memories came flooding back. Sigh…

    5. NylaW*

      I work in healthcare and we have new staff fill out something similar as part of their onboarding drug and TB testing. As I recall we can ask whatever we want as long as it’s not something that reveals a disability that would qualify under the ADA, unless it specifically would prevent you from being able to do the job you were hired for, such as required lifting restrictions.

      As others have said it may be for insurance purposes, but if you aren’t comfortable or it wasn’t explained, just ask.

  16. Diane*

    I’m in the last couple of weeks wrapping up my position at an organization with epically bad management. I’ve been reorganized five times in just over five years. My budget and staff have been cut to the bone. I’ve been blamed for failing to get funding for programs that the state just stopped funding and had nothing whatsover to do with me. My last manager started moving me out from day one of her tenure over very fuzzy performance issues (I say this not to be defensive or in denial, but because even HR seemed puzzled that my stellar evaluations and great feedback from those I’ve helped have turned into this). Anyway, when they offered me a not-good contract for the next year and would not change any of the conditions, I declined to sign. Oh, and the top two people are leaving.

    So I’m having a rough time.

    I got past feeling bitter and angry at my boss and her boss. Difficult people are going to exist; the universe may as well put them together and make things uncomfortable enough to push me to do something I’ve been wanting to do. That’s fine. I’m worried about money and whether I can really go back to school and change careers so dramatically, but for the next few days, I’m mostly very sad for the programs that are going to suffer. I may be asked to consult and fix some of the mess, or management may bring in their own consultants too late. This is going to hurt the most needy people we serve. I hate it.

    I want the organization to reap what it’s sown. But I don’t want the good people left behind to suffer. So, no question, just mad, sad, guilty.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      FWIW, I think you are processing all of this quite well and you will come out the other side. Painful as hell, yes. But you will find a path through it.
      1) You are reality based, you see the good and the bad.
      2)You are in a bad situation but you have not lost YOU, your values, your ethics, your heart. That is still intact.
      3)You understand that you are being pushed to your next big gig. That is huge. Most people do not understand this process.

      For an incredibly sucky situation, you have things that are still in place and still right. All is not lost.

      1. Angora*

        I like what you’re saying. Will have to take those thoughts with me regarding my own situation.

  17. Tara*

    So I’m 17 and looking for a part-time job accomodating my high school schedule. The places around here that hire teens don’t really ever “hire”. People drop off resumes and when they have an opening they just call people who they have on file. So, with this in mind, how to I customize my cover letter? The local grocery store could have an opening for someone to stock the shelves, a cashier, a deli person, etc… Should I write it in a “I’ll be awesome wherever you put me because I have a wide range of skills and experience such as X, Y, Z” or should I aim it towards something specific? Anyone have experience with this type of thing?

      1. hildi*

        You’re not because there have been others in the past that can just conjure up these exactly relevant posts from ages ago. It totally blows my mind how you people remember these things! :)

    1. Colette*

      No experience, just thoughts.

      If you have specific relevant experience (e.g. you were a cashier at a summer job), I’d emphasize that. I’d also think about why you’re interested in working for the store – money is not the answer – and work that in.

      1. Tara*

        I’ve typically talked about gaining work experience, but I’ll also mention my desire to save up for university. Is that toeing the line towards inappropriately money-focused? And I’ve just finished up a year-long internship at a bank, which is kind of like being a cashier I guess. So I think I’ll focus mostly on the customer service bits. Thank you!

    2. Brigitha*

      I think the key with jobs like this is having a conversation with the person doing the hiring. When you drop off your application, see if you can talk to the manager. If you present yourself as bright, responsible, reliable, and ready to work they will probably give you a shot.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, this. Don’t be pushy about it, but if you can talk to a manager (even a shift manager or assistant manager), shake their hand, and look and sound confident and competent, they will figure you’re probably a better bet than any random unknown out there.

        Other than that, I think it’s better to focus on why you can do the one job you want to do at that company rather than how competent you are in so many areas. Hiring at that level is not about finding someone with potential, it’s finding someone who can do THAT job. Later on you’ll find that companies will want more depth, but not so much at this stage.

    3. LQ*

      I’d also really recommend talking to friends and friends of family and let them know. A lot of these positions are I know someone… kind of positions. And many of those people are very happy to help someone who is interested in finding a position because they got that kind of help when they were looking for a job (this is an opportunity for them to pay it forward). Let people know what you are looking for and ask if they know anyone. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t, thanks and try someone else.

    4. Kaz*

      You might also try creating your own job – do you have any handyman skills, good with pets, can do yard work, etc? Make up a nice website, get some cheap business cards, and go door to door in the neighborhood. You would definitely make a better wage than working as a grocery bagger.

      There was a kid about 15 pushing his lawnmower door to door in my neighborhood last year, offering to mow your lawn right now for $20. I had only recently upgraded to a powered mower, so if I was still using the push I’d definitely have given him twenty bucks for it. Plus the yards in my area are pretty small, so it’d only have taken ten minutes.

    5. JamieG*

      Emphasize, if you can, reliability and people skills. For a lot of places like that, they really just want someone who will show up for every shift and deal with rude/annoying people without walking out or getting into an argument. Any experience you have with cash handling or any other related job duty can help as well. If there’s one area you have more experience with (like if you’ve stocked shelves for three months, but cashiered for a year and a half), focus your cover letter on that one. Bring up the other experience if you get an interview, but focusing it down (if you can) will make the cover letter a lot tighter.

      Also, when you drop off your resume/cover letter, be sure you’re well-groomed and at least moderately respectable-looking (clean clothes that fit, not pajamas, shower that morning, etc.), because even in a retail or food service or whatever place if you show up looking gross, someone will remember.

      1. Tara*

        Thanks! Yes, like I said above, I’ve just finished up an internship at a bank so I have lots of experience with customer service and cash that I can reference. I’m also used to dressing up a bit for work. :) Honestly I would prefer a job with lots of customer interaction so I think I’ll focus my letter towards that.

  18. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

    I’m writing with a work-related favour (AAM please redact/remove if not appropriate). I work for a community ministry that serves the Vancouver homeless community.

    We are entered in a social media photo contest:

    The photo depicts community members and volunteers participating in our footcare program.

    We are currently on the leaderboard but waaaaay behind the front-runners. Any ‘like’s would be deeply appreciated.

    1. hildi*

      The man with his feet in the tubs holding the hands of the two women? I liked it (hope it was the right one!). A footcare program sounds intriguing – what’s that about?

      1. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

        Yup!! TYVM! Our footcare program provides a therapeutic footsoak for homeless people, coupled with relaxing conversation with volunteers, wound care, grooming support and a clean pair of socks.

        Many people who are homeless – even those who are sheltered overnight – spend as much as 18 hours on their feet, and some have challenges maintaining proper hygiene and finding clean socks.

        Every week, up to 175 people get to have relaxed footsoaks in warm water with epsom salts and tea tree oil, hang out with volunteers, and leave with clean socks (and sometimes new shoes).

    2. Natalie Anne Lanoville*

      A big THANK YOU to everyone who’s voting! The voting’s still open, and we are now in 5th place (out of hundreds of entries). We are actually tied for 4th place, heh. :)

      If you haven’t voted yet, it’s not too late! TYVM.

  19. Coco*

    Anyone have advice for immigrants who need references?

    My fiance will be moving here soon from Mexico and has a fairly successful career as a freelance photographer. None of the people he’s worked with speak English so he’s essentially without references. Other than his portfolio, he doesn’t even have any documents proving employment since he was paid “under the table” (which is fairly normal where he’s from).

    Fortunately he has an excellent portfolio & work experience and is bilingual so I think he’ll have a good shot at getting a job but I’m not sure what he can do about potential employers not being able to speak to people he has worked for.

    1. CLM*

      Could he get a few freelance photography gigs here in the States after he arrives? I work as a freelance writer, and I’ve never had a client ask for references, only clips. Once he has three English-speaking clients, he could use them for references for full-time work.

      Also, volunteer work is a good way to get references when you don’t have any.

      1. Coco*

        Oh now that’s interesting–I didn’t realize freelancers weren’t always asked for references. Makes me more optimistic! Volunteering sounds good, in fact I was thinking that there are probably a lot of school or summer camp programs that need volunteers and would surely appreciate a photographer. Thanks!

        1. CTO*

          Lots and lots of nonprofits would welcome a volunteer photographer! Visuals are increasingly important in social media and marketing in general, but most orgs can’t afford as much professional photography as they’d like.

          He could reach out to a local organization that does something related to his usual kind of work: an animal shelter, kids’ program, nature center, sports league, etc. I’m sure some organization out there will welcome his talents.

          He should make sure to ask upfront about using this org as a reference, to ensure that they’re willing to be reachable and responsive should he need them. He should also make sure he has permission to use the photos in his portfolio as needed (and that the org isn’t worried about confidentiality, photo releases, etc. for its subjects).

        2. LMW*

          If he has a portfolio website (really easy to set up for free using a platform like WordPress), he can also do testimonials — just ask his old clients for a short review he can post and translate them to English. Then list the quote with the name and put (translated into English) underneath.

          When I hire freelancers, I usually don’t call references, because the clips are more important and I’m not making a permanent commitment.

    2. Luxe in Canada*

      Perhaps you could get the references to write official letters of recommendation, talking about his skills and achievements, and then get them translated by a reputable translator? You’d need to submit a copy of the Spanish original along with the translation, but it might be a possibility. I know a lot of people who got degrees abroad need to get an official translation of the transcript to submit along with the original… It’s not quite the same situation, but it’s better than nothing.

      1. Coco*

        Yeah I’ve considered that, and I know his references would be totally willing to do that for him. I’m not even sure a professional translator would be necessary since it’d be pretty easy to verify whether the important parts were accurate (google translate for example), and it’d be super ballsy to translate it incorrectly, heh.

        Problem is the employer still doesn’t have anyone to call and talk to (which, from what I’ve read on AAM, seems pretty important). Even if the employer spoke Spanish, it’d still be an international call!

        1. JC*

          The challenges you listed can be overcome with a trusted Spanish speaking friend / employee. Employers are not going to balk at the expense of making international phone calls to verify that they are hiring a sane person…and there’s always Skype (and similar applications).

    3. g*

      For freelancers, it’s all about the book. There are few full time jobs as a photographer – is he looking into that type of work due to immigration issues? I’ve had a few friends go through that, and it’s pretty difficult. However, that really depends on what kind of photographer he is, and the quality level. I’d suggest making sure the tax/immigration status is OK for freelancing and to continue in that mode.

      1. Coco*

        He’ll be a permanent resident with employment authorization (since we’re getting married), so immigration status won’t be an issue.

    4. AVP*

      Hi! I hire freelance photographers relatively regularly. Where are you living?

      A couple of thoughts…no one will ask for proof of employment, so he shouldn’t worry about being paid under the table in the past.

      References aren’t that important in the freelance line, to be honest – referrals are the key. I think his best plan would be to take on any jobs he can scrape together in your new city, paid or not, while he’s looking for a job. The people he ends up meeting through that will almost certainly be the people who end up connecting him to the next opportunity.

      But yeah, I almost never ask for full-on references from freelancers, because typically they’re being referred to me by someone I trust. He needs to find those people and cultivate them.

        1. AVP*

          Ah that makes it even more casual. It should be pretty easy to set up some spec work in Portland, although most of the creative people I know there are freelancers. Not a lot of full-time opportunities unless you work for a large running company or their ad agency.

    5. Mints*

      I have no experience with photography, but I wanted to add LOTS of people speak Spanish. He really does have references, and it might be fairly easy for the employer to get someone on their staff to call if they’re interested. Providing a list of the references with notes on language along with some of the above suggestions could work

    6. PK*

      Do any of his clients have contacts in the states? Sometimes photography is who you know. If he has a great portfolio and one or two of his former clients refer him to someone else in the states, that may be all he needs to get the ball rolling.

  20. Stephanie*

    Wahoo! MST-friendly open thread start. I’ll be curious to see if this reduces the total number of comments.

    Well, I made it through a week of the Large River Fulfillment Center. Thought I could hack it. That was a nice tall glass of NOPE. The online stories are accurate. There was definitely gallows humor going on there. The group manager was doing an announcement (to about 50 people) and mentioned there was construction going on at a new warehouse across the street. Someone yelled out “Ooh! Are they hiring?”

    I’ve worked retail before and volunteered at the library’s online book store fulfillment center. The work itself was exhausting (but I expected that), it was the lack of breaks (two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch break (including commuting time across a warehouse the size of several football fields) for a 10-hour shift), the rate at which we had to pick items (about an item a minute). My pedometer tracked that I walked 11 miles one day.

    I woke up the other day with a strained thigh muscle and a knee the size of grapefruit and was thinking “Nope! This is not worth an injury. I will find another way to get some cash in the interim. Plus, this is making me too exhausted to even do a full-on job search.”

    A few thoughts (since I had a lot of time to think while I was scanning ALL THE THINGS):
    -I am very lucky. I sometimes do forget this as my job search goes longer and longer. This was not the difference between rent and no rent for me, unlike others. And even though it feels like I’m not going to find anything, I know at some point, I will land a position (or schooling that would put in the path toward a position) that is better.
    -The job market really is rough at all levels. Common refrain I heard from people there was that this was about the only place hiring that wasn’t demanding prior experience in the retail sector.
    -This company strikes me as cheap. (I’ve heard the same about corporate.) Simple things, like making the warehouse shelves more ergonomic (many shelves were at ground level), reducing the required rates, or allowing longer breaks would make things a lot better.
    -I don’t completely get how people will have moral objections to shopping at Walmart, but not here. My best guess is that the company hides its low-level workers and doesn’t have the pesky working-class taint Walmart does.

    1. K.inFL*

      Actually, I try to avoid that retailer if I can. I don’t like some of its business practices. I do buy MP3 through them.
      (not a fan of Apple or Google either; never go to WM)

        1. De Minimis*

          I feel guilty about it [have friends on Facebook who own a small bookstore and are rabidly anti-the company in question, and one of my favorite writers has also been very vocal against them] but still order from there.

          I have at least gotten to where I usually go elsewhere for books.

    2. Sharm*

      Wow! I’ll admit it, I’m shocked. I didn’t know about these stories. This definitely makes me view them in a different light. I feel like a friend of a friend of a friend type connections of mine have worked at corporate and enjoyed it, but perhaps something got lost in translation.

      Are you done done? Do you have something else lined up?

      1. Stephanie*

        Um, no? I worked there long enough to get this month’s bills paid. I still haven’t officially quit yet, so perhaps I’ll get a second wind before Sunday (when my next shift is scheduled). Maybe.

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I was thinking about you all week!

      Well I am sorry that it didn’t work out for you for a bit longer for $ reasons but neither you nor I are shocked. “OMG, after everything we read, it seemed like a perfect fit. What a shock!”

      Our fulfillment operations ( a flea on butt of the flea that’s on the butt of the Big River) are under me so I do really read everything I can find on River Fulfillment operations. It’s the lack of full breaks that I can’t understand.

      It’s all just math. X products need to be filled in Y time which takes Z workers picking at A rate. You factor in that % of Z workers will meet A rate, and then you staff up and down to come up with the correct value for Z. If you reduce the required rate, that has a giant “negative” impact across all centers, increases the number of people you have to employ and increases the cost of goods sold. Okay.

      If you increase the break time to something that is more reasonable given the *travel* time to even take the break, it has a similar but not nearly as impactful effect. Theoretically, it would decrease the amount someone was able to pick per shift and thereby do all of the negative effect things that increase the cost of goods but….maybe not. A better rested employee might pick faster after break. I would guess they have tested that, but that’s the line I would draw. “Okay, we gotta give people full breaks, we are going to figure out how to make that work.”

      Long! You see I am geeky about this.

      Thanks for the story and sorry about the knee.

      Did you run into anybody who is happy there?

      1. Stephanie*

        I am geeky, too! This is what lead me to volunteer at my library’s online store fulfillment center.

        Large River is probably strict on the rate as if they send things out slower, they’ll lose their competitive advantage. (And I think Prime has some kind of shipping time guarantee or you get a refund.) But the rates don’t seem to be calculated with a human (that will get exhausted) in mind. You had a timer on the scanner and so many seconds to go retrieve it–it could be as little as 60 seconds to get to a bin a quarter of a mile away (you’re pushing a cart as well).

        Automation probably is the future. Some of the warehouses in Washington are partially automated with these industrial-sized Roomba-looking things that carry the shelves to the pickers (who then inspect for quality). I think the current system’s super expensive and the PR fallout from “taking away jobs”, so I don’t think it’s quite happening yet.

      2. Stephanie*

        Oh! To answer your last question, I think the higher-ups, managers, and people who were direct employees (I technically worked for the staffing agency) were a bit happier. People doing the scut work, not so much. I did see some woman just cursing at her inventory cart.

    4. EE*

      Australia-friendly too! I’m awake!

      Sounds like you made the right decision leaving this place. You’re lucky to have the choice and you shouldn’t be afraid to use it.

    5. Blue Anne*

      Really interesting to read your feedback. But not surprising, unfortunately.

      Maybe after some recovery time you’ll be able to look back on it as an “interesting experience”?

      Very glad to hear you have other options. I really feel for the people who don’t. Urgh. I have got to stop using Big River.

    6. Liz*

      My friend’s husband also works in Big River Fulfillment Center, and from what I’ve heard, it is insanely hard, unpleasant work. There was actually a story in the local paper a few years ago about the company getting busted for a ton of OSHA violations in the warehouse. (So many employees collapsed from the heat and had to be taken to the ER that the local hospital finally reported it.) Conditions are much better now, apparently, but still: no thanks.

    7. Mimmy*

      Wow…they make you WALK all throughout the fulfillment warehouse??! Sounds like they run their people pretty ragged. And if this is who I’m thinking it is, they just opened up a fulfillment center in my state, and are actively hiring. Ha! New hires are in for quite the surprise! (well, maybe not, but still!)

      Hope the knee feels better soon!

      P.S. (OT, but while I have you here…): I’ve been meaning to thank you for the information in your email a couple weeks ago :)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It makes more sense to me to hire enough people so that each person or small group of people covers one smaller area of the warehouse, if it’s that big. That way people aren’t running back and forth, which is terribly inefficient and a huge waste of time. They could get picks done a LOT faster without all the associated unpleasantness.

      2. Stephanie*

        Sort of. You get assigned to one specific task (picking, packing, stowing, etc) for outbound (sending the stuff out to customers) or inbound (product intake from the manufacturers). If you’re picking (like I was) the algorithm does keep you in one general area. Every once in a while, however, I would have to run from say bin 412 to bin 680 (which I estimated was close to a half-mile). And also, since these are humans picking, you do get collisions, people in the same aisles blocking the shelf you need, etc.

    8. AVP*

      Oh, how terrible and discouraging. I don’t think I could do that much physical labor and then come home and write cover letters.

      Re: the cheapness, I think it’s a complicated mentality that comes from being a huge, world-power company but also never turning a profit.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I was fascinated to learn that they don’t really turn a profit. Any idea why? Do they have the same issue as Facebook or Twitter where they get insanely high and illogical valuations?

        1. AVP*

          Not an expert, but from what I understand their push so far has been all about market share (selling to as many people as possible), and thus their prices are artificially low (which you can see if you compare their prices to, like, anyone else).

          So far, investors and the stock market have kept them afloat, but won’t last forever.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          It’s all about investment in infrastructure and also market share.

          In order to deliver fast fast fast, they’ve built and staffed all of these centers all over the US, so they keep plowing investment money back in the business.

          And then market share, well, they just won’t be undersold so they will sell product categories at a loss, if need be to maintain or gain dominance.

          Bezos is unafraid.

    9. Kaz*

      I’ve heard good things about – it’s work at home stuff, not an exciting pay rate, but def better than nothing.

    10. Anx*

      I only shop there when the discounts are significant, as I’m poor myself. Or when there’s a 2 dollar item I can’t find in a store and I don’t want to pay $8 shipping because the item isn’t worth $10.

      But otherwise I try to avoid it. I also get disappointed when one of my favorite shows contracts with their streaming (not that Apple doesn’t have shady practices)

  21. kas*

    I joined a new department which meant moving away from my annoying coworker (yay)! I thought I finally escaped but she still finds a way to visit me. She always has something to say or complain about and keeps trying to get me to open up to her. I barely respond or acknowledge her but she just isn’t getting it. All she talks about is how miserable she is at work and how she needs a new job and some random stuff about her family.

    I’m slowly losing it.

    1. Rana*

      Sounds like you need to be more blunt; clearly she’s a person who either doesn’t get your hints or is ignoring them. I’d also be relentless about being a bad audience; if she’s not getting the feedback she needs (and even just being a quiet sounding board may count) she’ll go away.

      “Carol, I’m very busy right now. I don’t have time to talk. Thanks!”

      “I’m sorry you don’t like the work here. Now, excuse me, I need to get back to this report.”

      “You’re right, you probably do need to find a new job. But I don’t have time to help you with that.”

      “Carol, that’s very interesting about your nephew. Now, I need to concentrate on this project.”

      And accompany all of these with the appropriate body language – turning away, picking up a file, walking out the door, gently ushering her to the door and pushing her out, etc.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I get this with someone I help out once a week. Every time she sees me, she starts telling me her woes. I sympathize, but there’s nothing I can do and it’s starting to get on my nerves. I don’t know how to get her to stop without being mean or seeming like I don’t like her (I do, but I’m tired of the griping).

    3. KrisL*

      “I’m sorry, but I really have to get back to work” Then turn toward what you’re doing and look concerned and maybe slightly worried.

  22. CollegeAdmin*

    For those of you who remember my post in last week’s open thread about my supervisor trying to pimp me out to get her shredding done, an update:

    I decided not to say anything to her and forgive (but not forget!) the instance. If it happens again, I will bring it up and firmly shut it down. On the bright side, she told me today that as a “birthday gift” (my b-day is this Sunday), she decided that our work-study student could be allowed to do the shredding. The student used the shredder near the office manager’s desk, so therefore was “supervised” so she wouldn’t read the “confidential” materials. I’m thrilled – that’s 4-5 boxes’ worth of shredding that I didn’t have to do!! I wish it was my birthday more often :)

    1. NylaW*

      Well I’m glad you didn’t get stuck with all of it, but your manager still sounds like a whack job. :)

    2. Kaz*

      I didn’t see the original post, but does she know there are companies that will come pick up the box and shred the whole damn thing in one go? It’s got to be more cost-effective than actually paying someone to sit there and shred.. said as someone who shredded for four months because they couldn’t think of anything else to do with me.

      1. Frances*

        When I was in university admin, our Facilities department actually offered this service — they’d bring you a locking wastebin, you’d fill it up and then they’d haul it off to be shredded. A lot of people didn’t know about this service (I only found out about it accidentally while browsing the Facilities section of our website for different info), so if you haven’t looked into that yet, see if they have that kind of option.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      She reminds me so much of a former supervisor who would re-gift things that came into the office as our Christmas gifts. Things like calendars and pens that were given to our boss. She was a piece of work, much like your supervisor.

  23. Maggie*

    I work at the reception desk & have a couple of complaints about some applicants. First, why are you bringing your toddlers along? If you don’t have a babysitter on job-hunting day, will you ever have a sitter on work days? Second, when you come for your interview please leave your BFF’s in the car. Your entourage impresses nobody. Third, dress appropriately! Clean, business casual clothing is good…looking like a cheap hooker is embarrassing.

    1. FiveNine*

      It sounds like these are not people who have been called for an interview but are dropping by to fill out an application on a day of job hunting. If that’s the case, of course there are going to be unemployed people who need a job and money — maybe mothers with toddlers or people who have a friend or relative with transportation driving them to several sites when they cannot or do not have those resources.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        Obviously you can’t leave an unattended toddler in the car while you fill out a job application, but the adult friends and family can and should be waiting outside.

    2. evilintraining*

      Had one of those yesterday: “How long will this take? Cuz I got kids in the car.” Come back when you don’t; sorry. I’m not completely unsympathetic to people’s situations, but that’s unacceptable.

      1. Allison*

        Yikes! Not that I condone doing it ever, but that’s not something you admit to a potential employer! Talk about a huge turnoff. If you’re the type to leave your kids in the car, what other irresponsible stunts are you gonna pull?

    3. Betsy*

      Babysitters cost money. Sometimes a lot of money. And when I was unemployed, I didn’t really have “job-hunting days”. I had the tasks for job-hunting, which were mixed in with my other tasks. If I had to stop by an office to drop off an application or information packet, I would do it on my way to or from another place I had to be.

      It’s totally different to say, “Have a babysitter or daycare while I’m paying you to come work,” as opposed to “Hire a babysitter to drop off an application that may go nowhere: that $20 will either come out of your food bill for the week or shave a day off the time until you become homeless.”

      1. Betsy*

        I’m assuming this is for what FiveNine said above — dropping off an application vs a scheduled interview. For an interview, yes, you absolutely need a babysitter.

      2. Colette*

        Dropping off an application is every bit as much job hunting as an interview. Yes, it may go nowhere, but the chances of not getting to the next stage go way up if you bring other people (adults or children) with you. If you can’t find child care, online applications will probably be more effective for you.

        1. Betsy*

          I agree that it will hurt your chances to have the kids with you. All that I’m saying is that it will hurt your chances less to drop off an application while you have the kids with you than to never drop off an application at all, in which case your chance is zero.

          Maggie’s comment was “If you don’t have a babysitter on job-hunting day, will you ever have a sitter on work days?” and I was pointing out that that’s a false parallel, because once you have the job, you will have a job, which means you will be in a position to pay for childcare.

          Some people have people who can help them out by watching the kids while they drop off applications, but a lot of people don’t. If you’ve been unemployed for 2 years are are living off assistance, and have no good support network, it is crushing to hear people wave off your incredibly difficult choice about whether to eat meat this week or increase your chances of getting a job from this application from 1% to 4% by saying, “Get a babysitter!”

          1. Colette*

            Bringing a child (or anyone else) along is not professional. People go in to apply because it gives them a chance to make a good impression – bringing a child means that your first impression is that you don’t understand what’s appropriate in a work environment.

            Once that impression – that you don’t understand job norms – is out there, it’s not a large leap to wonder what will happen when the child is sick & can’t go to daycare/ the babysitter is on vacation/it’s a school holiday.

            1. Anu*

              There are tradeoffs in this world. I just had to comment on this because I feel that this is the sort of unsympathetic attitude that makes American workplaces so harsh.

              What, in the real world, is a person supposed to do? If you are a single mother, and you want to apply for a job, sometimes there is no choice but to take your kid along to drop off the application. There are many people out there, especially in this economy, who don’t have the financial capital to pay for babysitters, or the social capital to get friends or family to look after the kid (heck, maybe the friends and family are in the kind of positions where they can’t take the day off to go look after a friend’s kid). This sucks, but it is not this person’s fault.

              I’ll also note that plenty of people in my white-collar office bring their kids in once in a while, and it’s not considered particularly unprofessional – but they have the luxury of making good money and not having their every choice judged by passersby. Try to treat people with a little more kindness.

              1. Colette*

                I think it’s kinder to be honest about the impact of choices people make while job hunting than to tell them the world should adjust to suit them.

              2. Tinker*

                “I’ll also note that plenty of people in my white-collar office bring their kids in once in a while, and it’s not considered particularly unprofessional – but they have the luxury of making good money and not having their every choice judged by passersby.”

                I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here — personally, it hasn’t escaped my notice that it tends to be folks who aren’t paid much, don’t have a lot of discretion in how they do their work, and don’t tend to have issues of public duty involved in their work that tend to most often get called out for being “unprofessional”. Which I find mildly hilarious.

              3. Jamie*

                I’ll also note that plenty of people in my white-collar office bring their kids in once in a while, and it’s not considered particularly unprofessional – but they have the luxury of making good money and not having their every choice judged by passersby. Try to treat people with a little more kindness.

                TBF everyone has more leeway with everything once you’re an established employee with a track record. No one gets that same kind of benefit of the doubt as a unknown job seeker.

                First impressions are always more important because it’s the only data point people have about you. That’s true for everyone regardless of socioeconomic status.

      3. JobSeekersWife*

        I agree with Betsy. In an ideal world, you would have childcare for dropping off an application. But, when you don’t have a job, childcare money is saved for actual interviews.
        Employers: please don’t penalize people who otherwise dress and act appropriately just because they have a child in tow.

        1. Colette*

          The problem is that the employer has very little data about you. All they know is:
          a) what’s on your application, and
          b) you brought a child with you

          I understand that childcare might be a problem – but it’s not the employer’s problem, and if you bring a child with you, it’s not clear that you understand that. (I’d also wonder who’s watching the child while you’re filling out the application.)

          Many places allow you to apply online – take advantage of them!

          (All “you”s above are the generic you, not specific to JobSeekersWife or Betsy.)

          1. Anx*

            Or they could understand that, but have no other options. An employer may not see it, but leaving your kids home unattended is a worse judgment call for many people.

            1. Colette*

              I’m not suggesting leaving children home alone, I’m suggesting not going in to a business to apply for a job with your children in tow. Many businesses allow online applications. If you are applying at businesses that don’t, get a sitter for one day and apply at all of the places you’re looking at.

              Do you want to get a job (again, generic you)? If so, why would you do something that severely hurts your chances?

              1. Betsy*

                If you’ve been unemployed for 15 months, it’s not likely that you’re thinking, “Let me save up all of these places that I want to apply and collapse them down into a single day.” You’re probably thinking, “I have applied for every job that looks like a possibility, and no one has hired me. Now there is a new place with an opening, and I have to drop off an application there. I want to do it as soon as I can.”

                For a lot of people out there right now, there is no money and no work, and spending money on something that may lead to a job, but probably won’t, is a really irresponsible expense.

                No one is saying “This is the best thing to do.” We’re just saying that our society really puts single parents in an awful can’t-win bind sometimes, and the lack of sympathy and assumption that people will suck at their jobs because they’re struggling by the best they can is really unsympathetic.

                I get that this is the only impression you have, and that if you can, you should try to not bring the kids. My only point is, if the choice is between bringing the kids while you drop off the application or never applying, I know which is going to make it less likely you get the job.

                1. Colette*

                  if the choice is between bringing the kids while you drop off the application or never applying, I know which is going to make it less likely you get the job.

                  I don’t understand why you’d choose something that will hurt your chances with many people instead of something that won’t (i.e. networking, applying online).

                  You’re seeing this as “it’s better than nothing”, but … it’s not much better. Why not look for other ways to spend your job hunting time that may be more effective?

                  I understand it’s hard out there, but that means it’s more important not to shoot yourself in the foot, not less.

              2. Anx*

                After a certain point, you can’t network anymore or apply to anything else online in your area. You exhaust those options. And yet, you haven’t walked into every single storefront.

                It’s not wise and it’s not effective. But there’s a lot of badgering of the unemployed to pound the pavement and a lot of rhetoric that they aren’t really trying unless they’ve tried everything. What employers look for in a job applicant and what taxpayers look for in a job applicant are at odds. If you’ve been unemployed for a long time, it’s hard NOT to internalize some of that shame for taking the day off to focus on a career or a good job and not try to break yourself trying everything.

                Plus, when networking and online applications haven’t worked for months or years, can’t you imagine why someone might want to try another avenue?

              3. azvlr*

                I’m thinking that if this person cannot afford a babysitter, maybe they can’t afford a computer/internet service as well.

                Plus, why is it such an involved process to drop off an application? I’m guessing that if these applicants are in the socio-economic bracket suggested by the other hurdles, the reception desk where Maggie works may have a long line. So leaving the kids in the car is not an option. And even the most well behaved child is going to become a nuisance waiting in such a line. Maybe instead of complaining about/penalizing people bringing their children in, Maggie can look at their procedures to see if they can streamline the application process.

        2. Vancouver Reader*

          If someone’s just dropping off an application, can they leave the child just outside of the office for a quick moment? Provided it’s not a baby of course. Just again for those first impressions.

    4. Audiophile*

      Maggie, unfortunately I’ve seen this occur at my job as well. Sometimes people drop by dressed as if they’re coming for an interview and my company does not do on the spot interviews. And they only take applications via their website. I’ve only seen one person come in with their baby.

      1. LQ*

        Wait so it’s wrong to drop by in professional dress to drop off a resume? Assuming they aren’t pushy I don’t get the problem?
        (I do understand that they aren’t following the proper process and applying online, I understand and it makes total sense to take that into account. But since when is dressing professionally a professional sin?)

        1. Audiophile*

          LQ, I wasn’t criticizing them for showing up dressed appropriately. Somehow my other sentence got lost. I think it’s great to dress appropriately, but that can be business casual. It doesn’t have to be full suit and tie.

          I just feel bad, because I know it won’t lead anywhere. I direct them to the website, that’s all I’m allowed to do. I feel less bad when they get aggressive or angry. I can’t and won’t give you the name of an HR person. And I’m sorry you went to the website and your application was ignored, showing up isn’t going to make it better.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        No, you WANT to dress nicely when dropping off an app. I’ve had people interview me on the spot and I never knew if/when that was going to happen. Besides, it gives a good impression to the front office staff, whose observations may be given weight by the hiring manager.

      3. chewbecca*

        My favorite is when people show up in dirty, torn or just not appropriate clothes and ask if we’re hiring. We normally do most of our hiring through staffing agencies, so I’ll give them the names of a few. What gets me is that usually after we go through all that, then they’ll ask what we do.

        I don’t need to feel like a special snowflake and have you gush all over the front desk about how awesome you think our company is, but at least knowing what we do when asking to work here is helpful.

  24. Sharm*

    I’m about to become the most unpopular person on this blog, but here goes.

    A rant for the day.

    My office is participating in Bring Your Dog to Work Day, and I am really annoyed about it. For some reason, it’s become completely socially acceptable to say you hate babies and children, but say you don’t like animals, and you’re a monster.

    I don’t like animals. I didn’t grow up with them, I don’t find them that cute, and I just don’t like being around them. However, this is a societal norm that I feel like I always have to acquiesce to. I don’t have an allergy, and I really wouldn’t want to lie and say that to my manager as a reason not to come in. I have meetings scheduled for the day anyway, but even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable asking to work from home for that reason. “Not liking” something, as we’ve discussed ad nauseum, is not reason enough to rock the boat.

    As someone in the minority on this, I just have to suck it up. I do, and I will. But I am really, really not happy about it. The thought of the dog smells, hair, barking, and everyone cooing over the animals, constantly being a source of distractions all day — it really bugs.

    I don’t get the pet love, and I know I’m weird. I just really wish they didn’t have to impose it on the whole office.

    And now, bring on the hate mail.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I am a huge dog lover and I don’t hate you. People have asked me for a dog day and given that I talk about my dogs incessantly, you’d think it’d be an easy sell but no. Some folks don’t like dogs. (Occasionally I bring mine in for a five minute visit but I’m careful to keep control of them and only visit other known dog lovers.)

      We do have a big, sweet Doberman who hangs out (sleeps!) in the warehouse, partitioned off. Nobody knows she is there unless they intentionally go to visit. Which. I do. Sweetheart.

      1. Sharm*

        I feel I should state for the record that the majority of the time, my issues have been with pet owners who don’t understand that their tolerance levels are different than other people’s. And if they can’t understand that not everyone likes when a dog jumps up on them. “Friendly” to them is “aggressive” and “in my personal space” to me. I really feel like that’s a training issue some people are lax on. And some people are very good, which is awesome!

        Case in point, last weekend I watched World Cup with some friends who have a dog, who has a scary bark, but is otherwise super chill. She came by me and laid down by my side, and it was actually quite nice. I was petting her fur and everything — big for me! One on one is one thing though; what my office is proposing will be tough.

        Thank you for not hating me! And for being one of the respectful owners.

        1. WK*

          Ugh, bad pet owners! If I had a nickel for every time I heard “oh, he was a rescue” as an excuse for badly-trained dogs, I could retire early! Tough it out, use a knee-jerk to prevent any dogs from jumping on you, and reward yourself after the day with a nice glass of something soothing! Oh, and avoid getting close to any friendly large-breed dogs because they tend to want to lean against your legs like mine do!

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          Bad pet owners are right up there with inattentive parents on the annoyance scale. WK is on point with his/her advice.

          I hope BYDTWD is only once or twice a year, and not a monthly event!

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That summed it up very well, Sharm…I may have to steal that! :D

          I tolerate dogs. I say that because many are not well socialized. I love calm dogs or dogs who know people are alpha dogs, but even my BIL, a great guy, has hyper dogs who climb all over everyone and everything.

          This is why I’m a cat person. “Pushy” for a cat is usually making noise and glaring at you. I am comfortable handling that.

        4. Rana*

          Bad pet owners have always burned my grits. “Oh, don’t mind him, he’s friendly!” “Oh, yeah, the barking. That’s what dogs do.” “Bowser! Bowser! Stop that!” ::yanks leash ineffectually::

          If you can’t properly educate your dog to be polite, you shouldn’t be taking that dog out in public, let alone making excuses for its behavior.

          I love animals; that’s part of why I dislike people who can’t be bothered to ensure that their pets are properly socialized. It’s not fair to other people, and it’s not fair to the pet.

        5. Mimmy*

          And if they can’t understand that not everyone likes when a dog jumps up on them. “Friendly” to them is “aggressive” and “in my personal space” to me.

          I can’t STAND it when dogs jump up on me or start pawing me! And don’t even get me started about dogs who sniff at you….down there.

        6. chewbecca*

          You’ve just described my mom’s attitude toward her dog. He’s sooooo cute! The constant jumping on people is just a cute little thing he does. No. I don’t like being touched when I don’t invite it, so having a dog constantly jump and rub on me is Not Cool.

          I love dogs. We have an awesome rescue, who for the most part is well trained (he’s very protective of his people, so he’ll bark at people coming in the house, but he also backs away from them). He likes knowing where his people are, but doesn’t need to be right up on them constantly. My cat on the other hand has no concept of personal space…

        7. KrisL*

          I love dogs and grew up with them. I don’t hate you either. My feeling is that the whole thing depends greatly on the specific dogs. A well-behaved dog is a delight. An aggressive one is not a dog who should come to work. A dog who jumps on everyone – not a good thing, even if this is a friendly dog.

    2. NW Cat Lady*

      You’re not alone.

      OK, I love animals, but I also think that an office is not the place for them. Some are well-behaved, but some aren’t; just like with children, the people who have the ill-behaved ones are convinced that YOU just don’t understand the child (or dog).

      I live in a *very* dog-friendly city, and people think it’s all right to take their dogs just about everywhere. And then they get irritated when you’re annoyed by it. AND they get offended when they can’t take their dogs certain places (bars, restaurants, etc.).

      So, even though I don’t get your non-getting of the pet love, I totally get the not imposing it on everyone.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        “AND they get offended when they can’t take their dogs certain places (bars, restaurants, etc.)”

        Okay I understand in Paris it’s totally acceptable to bring your dog into your restaurant, when I’m in Paris I’m fine with it. But what’s with people taking their dogs into department stores here? Is your dog going to help you choose your sofa and loveseat? I don’t get it.

    3. robot chick*

      Ok, saying that as someone who’s currently at a company with *perpetual* bring your dog to work policy (and loving it, though not a dog owner), it’s perfectly reasonable to not be a fan.
      If there’s a door you can close, do it, and maybe talk to the people on your floor / in your area about your concerns regarding dog hair on clothes you’re going to be meeting clients(?) in. In a “I’m just not good with animals”, not a “keep your filthy mutt away from me” kind of way, but you guessed that already.
      Finally, in my experience, dogs (unlike cats) probably won’t try to engage you if you actively ignore them, so you should be good. Unless their owner subscribes to the laissez-faire style of doggie training, in which case you can objectively argue that this particular dog is not fit for to be brought in and needs to be removed…

    4. Nutcase*

      I don’t mind animals in general and I grew up with a cat at home but these days I’m a complete germophobe. I’d hate to have a dog day at work too mostly because I’d be in a constant state of ick, needing to wash my hands if I touched anything. Perhaps my main reason is a bit of a quirk, but I’m also quite scared of big dogs nomatter how much their owners assure me that they’re a big softie or their bark is worse than their bite. I’m quite short and really not very strong so if a big dog even playfully jumped at me I would be down on the floor. Also if a dog comes up to me in any situation I am always terrified that it might lick me or something and the thought of that makes my skin crawl. I’m really weird with saliva. So yeah, having to be around dogs all day would be a bit of a nightmare for me.

      Writing it all out like this makes me sound like a bit of a weirdo so I probably wouldn’t want to explain this at work if a dog day did somehow materialise! Luckily I work somewhere where having animals running around would be wildly unsafe but I think I’d have to develop a mysterious allergy or find a closet to work in solitary confinement for the day if dogs were coming in.

      1. Rana*

        That doesn’t sound weird to me! I basically like dogs, but I don’t like being jumped on, and I hate being licked by them. You don’t have to couch it in terms of being afraid or paralyzingly disgusted; just saying that you don’t like it and would rather not interact with the dogs more than necessary should do the trick (if the owners are reasonable people).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        There die-hard dog owners that do not like being licked. Lots of reasons for that. Not too weird, really.

        1. Anonsie*

          I. HATE. Being licked by dogs. My dog doesn’t even try to lick people because her whole life I’ve been dodging it and telling her no if she tries to put her tongue on my face.

          She licks her butt, I don’t want any of that noise.

          1. Anonie*

            I love my dog to death but I don’t take doggie kisses for that very reason! I would seriously risk my own life to save my dog because I love her that much but I can’t let her lick my face because she is licks her bootie! Just can’t do it!!

      3. Anx*

        Not weird at all!

        I feel uncomfortable in some homes with cats because not all owners are the type to wipe down counters with disinfectant and that weirds me out.

        And I love dogs and dog kisses, but some dogs are very slobbery and don’t stop. I hate having to wash my hands over and over again because some doggy thought they were popsicles. I love dogs so I don’t really mind it, but at work it would probably be a distraction.

    5. Blue Anne*

      I LOVE animals. All kinds of animals. I’m a dog person really, but I love cats too, and reptiles. I have a very spoiled hamster, and a membership at the zoo. I’ve helped with rescues, gone on bat-watching trips, and have actually thought about setting up a rodent rescue myself, as so many people seem to treat mice/rats/hamsters/gerbils/chincillas as disposable pets.

      BUT. Even with that, I have absolutely nothing against you for not liking pets. That’s completely valid. Don’t feel bad or weird about it. I’m sorry you have to put up with Dog Day, honestly. I’d love something like that, but I would still think it was pretty inappropriate for the office.

    6. Elkay*

      I like animals however the only place I’ve ever worked where I didn’t mind having dogs in the office was a nature reserve where it felt appropriate because a) the dogs were well trained and b) at least one of them was there to work.

      My only exception is when our old receptionist used to breed golden retrievers as guide dogs and she’d bring a puppy or two in for a visit before they went off to start their training. She’d bring them in on a day she wasn’t working and generally there was a stampede towards her so she’d just stay in one place.

      My cousin decided it would be super cute to get a puppy and take it into her high end real estate office, don’t know how that went down but I suspect she didn’t care…

    7. kas*

      Oh my gosh, I’m freaking out for you.

      I am not an animal lover and I don’t want them near me so I understand. I would honestly have to find a way to miss work/the meeting or I would speak to my manager. I’d actually have like an anxiety attack if an office I worked in did that. I’ve worked in 2 places that had a dog, one was small and old so it really didn’t bother you but the other one … I did not hide my fear and they had to keep it away from me. I really wish people would stop doing things like this, not everyone loves your dog.

    8. nep*

      Not a lot of hate mail in these responses…You absolutely are not alone. I like animals. Would not at all like this ‘bring your dog (or other pet) to work day’.
      I respect your not wanting to lie and say you’re allergic so as not to come in that day.
      Seems like a real imposition on some people — and with no benefit.

      1. De Minimis*

        I love animals and have two dogs, but I don’t like the thing now where people want to have dogs everywhere. It is so inconsiderate of others. I think there’s also an assumption that the dogs are fine going all these places, and I don’t know if that is true either.

        1. LMW*

          I love animals, and we’re a dog family, but I HATE inflicting my dog on other people, unless I know they are dog people. She’s pretty well behaved (doesn’t bark, doesn’t jump), but she expects that everyone near her is as interested in meeting her as she is in meeting them, and I can’t train that out of her (been trying for 8 years).
          I’d never in a million years take her to the office. She’d be way over stimulated and would whine all day. It would drive us all nuts!
          I’m sorry your company is doing this. It’s a terrible idea.

    9. BRR*

      I love dogs but I’m not sure if bring your dog to work actually works. I have a super sweet dog but in a new place with so many people, he would want to meet all of them and would not sleep under my desk. Plus there are so many dogs who just sit and bark at other dogs. Not to forget people have allergies and once the dog hair is there, it’s going to be there on non dog days.

      Honestly if you can, take the day off. I know it’s not fair to have to but if you don’t like dogs, just call it a mental health day. As someone above recommended “I’m just not good with animals/dogs.” That is totally non offensive.

      1. Kelly*

        You are absolutely not crazy. As a dog owner, I would love to someday have a job where I can bring my pup to work, but it is my responsibility to make sure my dog is well behaved and to be sensitive to others feelings about having her around.

        I do take her to the firehouse when I am not on duty, partly because I want her to be better socialized and to work on training. But she is also where I can keep an eye on her, and I make sure to check with everyone to make sure there are no allergies or dislikes before I let her roam anywhere.

    10. Camellia*

      Don’t hate you, you are allowed to have opinions and preferences!

      That said, I’m really surprised that a company would have ‘bring your dog to work’ day. So many people have so many issues with dogs, as other posters have mentioned here, that it just doesn’t seem like a reasonable thing to do.

      1. Anx*

        I’m surprised because of fleas. Maybe because it’s June and I live in the southeast US, but I’m surprised.

    11. MousyNon*

      I hear people complaining about how it’s “more acceptable to hate kids than pets these days” and honestly, I don’t see it. Parents are, compared to dog owners, overwhelmingly accommodated in most societal areas in the US. Kids aren’t banned from most methods of transport (and typically kids even receive discounted tickets) like pets are, kids aren’t banned from all indoor restaurants and most outdoor restaurants (despite the badly behaved ones being just as if not more disruptive in those environments), and people are far more likely to swallow a screaming kid in annoyed silence, but a barking dog will get you kicked out or evicted surprisingly fast.

      Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with any of these preferential treatments–kids are kids, they’re a fact of life, and it’s hard enough to raise kids as it is without people making some allowances. But I think it’s incredibly unfair to imply that somehow pet owners are overly accommodated. I also think it’s unreasonable to wish that one day–one single day!!–of pet accommodation in your employer’s office be banned because dogs annoys you.

      Kids annoy me (yep, I’ll get hate too). They’re loud, they’re constantly underfoot, the untrained-ones run around my department banging on file-cabinets, but aside from a polite “could you ask him to keep it down?” to the parent, I stuff my headphones in my ears and suck it up. That’s life in a polite society.

      HOWEVER, as a responsible pet owner myself, don’t ever hesitate to tell a pet owner “I don’t like dog’s jumping on me/in my personal space/barking, can you stop ____behavior____ or take him to another area?” That’s completely reasonable, and a responsible pet owner will completely understand that some people simple don’t like dogs.

      And just try to keep in mind–there’s no parental leave for dog owners, the only way we can travel long distances with our pets is in our own cars or by spending hundreds of dollars each way on airfare, we have to buy our own single family homes or face a shockingly difficult time finding apartments that allow them, and we can’t bring our pets anywhere. Not most work environments, not stores, not restaurants. And for some of us, our pets are like family. So–no, you don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to accept badly behaved dogs by any means–but give dog owners more generally a break!

      1. MousyNon*

        Oh, I forgot to add in my Tl;dr response–another perfectly reasonable thing for you to do is request that your company stringently define the pets that are allowed to come on that day. I.e. fully house trained, quiet, well behaved, limited to their cube/office, etc. Many companies that are dog friendly have/enforce very strict rules about them (and they should, precisely because there are so many irresponsible pet owners), and there’s no reason yours shouldn’t either, if they aren’t already.

      2. Sharm*

        I can’t generalize for the world at large, but in my social circle and world at large, yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to say you hate kids but not animals. I think it’s because I run in urban, younger circles where no one has kids but everyone has a pet.

        Everyone’s experience is different, of course.

    12. Clinical Social Worker*

      The reason I hate this is because I’m allergic! In college professors started bringing their dogs to work and it really made it difficult. When your dog leaves, it leaves dander behind and I still have to suffer with that!

      And I actually love animals! I just don’t like feeling like crap and struggling to see because my eyes are constantly tearing up. And scratching myself because I’m itching everywhere. And feeling tired and like my head will explode from congestion. Don’t even get me started on how difficult it is to focus on anything when you cannot breathe because you’re having an asthmatic attack.

      Dogs are basically like furry babies. And babies aren’t allowed in the workplace for good reason (with a few common sense exceptions that are rare). They are just as distracting and can cause health problems for people.

      1. Valar M.*

        Yep. I love dogs but in college my advisor kept a dog in her office. The first time I went there, the door was shut, I knocked and got a “come in!!” I opened the door to her dog leaping and jumping all over me. I found it annoying, and I can only imagine if I was a person that was afraid of dogs. After that he went back under her desk and just quietly stared at us while we talked but… still unacceptable.

    13. Allison*

      Before an office decides to participate Bring Your Dog to Work Day, they need to do two things:

      1) They need to make sure most employees want the office to participate.

      2) They need to give employees the option to work from home that day, no questions asked.

      Although honestly I would not want to bring a dog to work. I only worked from home a couple times while living with my parents, and while I loved our dogs they were an endless source of distractions during the day. They needed to go out, they needed to come in, they needed so much attention, and the younger one needed to bark at everything that moved. It was probably the biggest downside to working from home.

    14. C Average*

      I love cats and like dogs, but I still think this is dumb.

      Why must allegedly adult workplaces do this kind of cutesy nonsense? How does your pet have ANYTHING to do with your job?

      Don’t bring your dog or cat or son or daughter or mom or dad or significant other to work. Come to work on time, do your job, and then spend your free time with your dog or cat or son or daughter or mom or dad or significant other. See? That works fine.

      (I feel even more curmudgeonly than usual today. I’m blaming the rain.)

    15. Sparrow*

      I’m an animal lover, but I don’t think Bring Your Dog to Work Day is appropriate. Some people are allergic and some people just don’t like dogs. I have a family member who is afraid of dogs. There’s nothing wrong with not being an animal person. I agree, it sucks that something like this is being imposed on the whole office.

    16. Fabulously Anonymous*

      I’m an animal lover and don’t believe they should be brought to work – unless you work at a vet’s office. I’m okay with that, but even then, I believe the pet should be in the back area and not mingling with the patients and their owners.

    17. Raven28*

      I have a dog who I spoil rotten and love as a member of my family. I do not particularly like other people’s dogs all over me, which some people don’t get. I feel your pain, because as someone who has a dog, people often assume I will be more than happy to have theirs jump all over me or come visit me. I am not. I have to warm up to a pet.

      I would actually hate bring your dog to work day. I enjoy lines between personal and professional. Not to mention my dog is very nosey and would want to be everywhere with everyone, while I am sensitive that not everyone is okay with that I know many dog owners who are not and that would get under my skin.

    18. Jen RO*

      I am not allergic, I don’t hate pets, I’m not afraid of dogs, I have two cats… and I still think “bring your pet to work days” shouldn’t exists. When I’m at work, I’m working, not playing with my cat/dog/turtle.

    19. nyxalinth*

      I don’t hate you, either. There’s a world of difference between “I don’t like animals and don’t get the fuss over them” and people who go out of their way to be cruel and abusive. You’re in the first category, so it’s all good.

      1. Sharm*

        Oh no, I can’t handle cruel and abusive anything! And of course, if there’s a picture of a really cute puppy or kitten, I will squee with everyone else. In person, not so much.

        I am just not very affectionate/good at handling small animals (I’d include babies/kids in that group too). I would never, ever wish harm on an animal. That’s messed up. I don’t understand pet love, but I’d rather animals are cared for than hurt, of course!

        1. Jamie*

          There is nothing wrong with this, and I’m someone who prefers animals to people 100% of the time.

          You aren’t harming them – you just don’t want to snuggle or be around them if you can avoid it. Exactly how I feel about all of my friends’ husbands. :)

        2. nyxalinth*

          Heh, I love animals, but kids? I’ve known since I was five years old that I wanted to be child free. I like kids… when they’re someone else’s!

    20. LQ*

      I hate children. It is SO not acceptable to say that. This is a perspective, you say you hate dogs and people get upset so you notice it. I say I hate children and people get upset so I notice it. There are people who hate things, and there are people who get upset that people hate things.

      1. Sharm*

        I was all set to be defensive at your comment, but you’re right. It’s perspective. In every work environment (and life environment) I’ve been in thus far, it’s overwhelmingly tilted towards animals. Why? Tons of people I know have pets. No one has kids. So from my perspective, saying you hate kids isn’t controversial while saying you hate dogs means you’re socially shunned. I had a co-worker say to a new mom in our department that we should kill all the babies, and people laughed. So that was my reality.

        1. LQ*

          It totally is what universe are you in and what do you see.

          (I don’t hate kids but in my universe saying that I don’t want to have them translates into hating them apparently.)

          1. Anx*

            I don’t hate kids but I hate being around them sometimes. And I’ve worked with kids! I love working with kids. But interacting with kids is work to me. I hate trying to do an unrelated job and having a child thrown at me to ‘watch’ while being expected to fully attend to other duties.

    21. Mimmy*

      I don’t hate you one bit! :) To be clear, I don’t *hate* pets and I certainly don’t like seeing them getting abused or neglected. But I don’t think a “bring your dog to work” day is appropriate. Yes, some dogs are very well-behaved–just like children. However, not every likes dogs. I think some people are allergic to dogs (or is it cats that more people are allergic to?). Also, as I mentioned above, I can’t stand it when dogs jump up, sniff, or paw me. Even with cats, I don’t like it when they climb on me. Our cat does it all the time–sometimes she’s all wet because she plays with her water, and I’m like, “Get. Away. From. Me!”

    22. Jess*

      I love ALL animals, but I don’t blame you. If we could all just agree no kids and no pets in the workplace EVER, no matter how well-behaved, the world would be a happier place.

    23. Not So NewReader*

      I do agree that there is some social pressure to liking dogs/animals in general/kids. I am not sure why, people are who they are- if they don’t like a particular thing then so what?!

      I am a dog lover to the nth degree. However, a person’s no means no. It does not mean keep asking. I have put my dog in another room for a lot of people. It’s just a bad mix to put people next to dogs that they are uncomfortable with. It’s like asking for trouble.

      Honestly, there have been some dogs I do not want to be around. The animal is just not stable and the owner is not capable of handling the animal. I think as a dog owner that is the first thing I do is look at the other dog owner to see how much control is going on.

      My previous dog was part shepherd. He had the shepherd lines and he looked formidable. Adult men (big men) would cross to the other side of the streat rather than pass him on the sidewalk. I understood the gesture. I would do the same thing if I had reservations about a dog that I was approaching.

      I firmly believe that part of dog ownership is understanding the differences in people and not inflicting my dog on people who don’t want to get to know him.

    24. Anonsie*

      I’m fine with people not liking animals, but when people who don’t like kids or animals or whatever and have a laundry list of things that bug them just from being in the vicinity of one (like “dog smells, hair, barking, and everyone cooing over the animals, constantly being a source of distractions all day”) I always think they’re focusing waaay too much on it. You’re only causing yourself problems by obsessing before anything’s even happened.

      Like, I’m not wild about little babies, but if there is a baby somewhere near me I don’t care until it actually screams or horks on the floor or whatever. Or if someone MAKES me hold the baby (uuggghhhh) despite my protest. Before then I’m not sitting there stewing on how everyone shouldn’t be cooing over the baby and how unfair it is to be there, since it’s a distraction. It’s definitely an “eyes on your own paper” deal. It shouldn’t be bothering you before it’s literally bothering you, know what I mean? You don’t have to like it or participate in it, but don’t let the concept of animals existing be offensive to you.

      1. Anonsie*

        Oh geeze these sounded more hostile than I meant it to. I was trying to be helpful… Don’t worry about it now because you’ll just stress yourself out, you know?

        1. Sharm*

          That’s kind of what I meant by “I deal with it.” I would never say these things publicly (and I don’t), but I was just trying to give my perspective openly here.

          It was just a vent anyway; I’m sure it’ll be fine. As you say, I do fixate on these things because they’ve bugged me in the past, but I’ll just try to do my work and extricate myself from situations that bother me as best I can.

    25. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I’m in favor of bring your dog / kid / airplane to work days, but I think they should come with a policy allowing anyone not participating to work from home or escape to a section of the office designated as free from dogs / kids / airplanes.

    26. newbie in Canada*

      I have animals, and I love animals. However, they absolutely don’t belong in an office.
      My coworker brought in her pug every day, all day, for a whole week. It whined constantly and people were popping by every five minutes to “come see the doggy”.

      People bringing in a baby or a dog for a few minutes once in a while, ok. But not a whole day. No way.

  25. Elle*

    I’ve read that it’s okay to bring/take notes during interviews, but I’ve personally never done it. How can you do this in an interview without it being awkward or intrusive (which is how I feel it would be on my end)?? I have an interview coming up and I think it could be helpful to bring some notes, but I can’t figure out how to use them gracefully.

    1. Sharm*

      Most people I’ve interviewed with have my resume out with a pen, so I don’t really think it’s that weird.

      I think most times, I’ve opened up my notebook or am at the ready right as the interview starts. In most cases the interviewer will give a quick synopsis of the company and the position, and since they’re talking, I would take notes at that point. I frequently look up and back down at the page (my notes are never as neat as they normally would be), and just jot down keywords. I would stop when it’s my turn to answer questions, but ramp back up again when I ask questions.

      It weirded me out at first, but I do it a lot and it’s never been a problem. Not sure if that helps!

    2. Elizabeth*

      What kind of notes do you want to bring? In past interviews, I brought along a notepad with a few bullet points jotted down about things I wanted to find out during the interview, and when I got the inevitable “Do you have any questions for me?”at the end iI was able to make sure I didn’t forget anything in my nervousness. I also took VERY brief notes (like, a word or two at a time) when the interviewer was giving me information. Then right after the interview I sat in my car andfleshed them out into more detail.

      It’d look kind of weird if you checked your notes before answering a question (“A challenge I’ve faced and how I handled it? Just a sec, let me look it up…”) but I think otherwise it’s fine. Shows responsibility, in a way.

      1. LadyB*

        ‘It’d look kind of weird if you checked your notes before answering a question (“A challenge I’ve faced and how I handled it? Just a sec, let me look it up…”) ‘.

        Oh yes! I interviewed a candidate for a management role who had scripted responses for every single attribute referred to in the job description. For every question we asked them there was a pause while they rifled through their exercise book to find the attribute they thought the question referred to and read out their answer to that.

        Needless to say, the answers were not always appropropriate to the question we asked. We chose not to pursue their candidacy. any further.

      2. Audiophile*

        I did something like this once. I got the aforementioned ‘do you have any questions’ and quickly opened my notebook and then asked my questions. Felt really weird doing it but no one batted an eye. I really needed a minute to collect my thoughts.

    3. Fabulously Anonymous*

      I think it depends on your definition of taking notes. It’s not like when you are in school and you’re bent over a notebook writing down everything the professor says. But I see nothing wrong with having a sheet of paper out and jotting down something the interviewer says so you can ask about it later.

      I usually bring a copy of my resume, a blank sheet of paper and another sheet with my questions on it. The latter is tucked underneath my resume and I refer to it when the interviewer asks, “what questions do you have for me?”

    4. MaryMary*

      I take my notepad out of my purse when I sit down to start the interview. If you have a padfolio, it’s even more natural since you’d likely have a hard copy of your resume, references, maybe the job posting with you as well. If you’re worried about it being awkward, acknowledge it when you take out your notepad, “I hope you don’t mind I brought along a notepad, I find it helps me organize my thoughts.”

  26. Sharm*

    And now for a less controversial post (I hope) — if an employer touts their flexible telecommuting/work from home policies on their career page, is it legitimate to ask about how soon one could take it up at the offer stage? Generally, I see you need to wait and put in your dues for it. But if they are bragging about it outright as a reason to work there, AND you aren’t front line staff, is it reasonable to ask about it once they make an offer? What’s the optimal way to phrase it?

    1. straws*

      I work for company that does this, and I think it’s important to ask about. The key (for us anyway) is to make sure you’re not focused on just that aspect of the job. Which, if you’re not bringing it up until the offer stage, it doesn’t sound like you are. For us, the general policy is company wide, but the details are left up to the individual departments. So mentioning that you saw the perk on their career page and asking how it’s typically handle for your department/position and what the expectations are is a good way to start. If they don’t end up answering the ‘how soon’ question on their own, then you have the open dialogue to work it in at that point.

    2. Molly*

      I negotiated WFH time at the same time I negotiated my salary – as part of the initial offer. I didn’t bring it up until the offer had been made, though. I think during the interview process you don’t mention wanting to work from home, but after the offer has been made, you can negotiate anything you want (within reason.)

  27. Anonyby*

    Do you guys have any self-promotion tips for individuals with low self-confidence and that don’t like to put themselves out there?

    I’m currently job hunting, and I’ve completely bombed the couple of interviews I had due to self-confidence issues. (Granted there were also some other issues, like my previous job before my current one is really awkward to talk about.)

    1. Sharm*

      I struggle with this, so I don’t know how helpful I can be.

      One thing an old HR director told me was to stop thinking about how everyone else out there was better than me. (I do this basically every minute of every day.) She said to think instead about what makes me different, and use that as a selling point. I downplay so much of what I do, and it was useful to think, “Okay, I didn’t do A, B, and C, but I DID do X, Y, and Z, and they provide a totally different perspective in the following ways,” and then list out some examples.

      I don’t know if that helps you, but it was a good exercise for me to see how I could distinguish myself as a candidate.

      1. Anonyby*

        I think part of my problem is that my job isn’t the sort where there’s a lot of projects, or things you can point to and go “look how much better I did!”. I’m a receptionist. I mostly answer the phone, greet those coming in, and sort the mail. And my job before that is tricky, because I don’t really have proof of how I did there. The person who could speak best about it was (a)my mother, whom (b)has since passed away.

        I’m also having trouble getting past what I see as ‘failure points’, even if they’re not anything anyone would notice.

        1. MK*

          I think that you need to go beyond thinking “I’m ONLY a receptionist.” Receptionists, office assistants, etc. who are good at their jobs are lifesavers in any office, especially when stuff hits the fan or a deadline is looming. I wonder if you received any compliments from coworkers about your work skills (ex. organization, professionalism over the phone, etc.) Then you can highlight those things during an interview.

        2. nep*

          Not sure precisely what you mean by trouble getting past ‘failure points’. But if they’re things only you notice, it might be easier than you think to just stop breathing life into those negative thoughts. Those thoughts have got force only to the extent you give it to them. (Even if they were things others know about or would notice, so what? They do not define you or your abilities.)
          Agree with the other commenter. Sounds trite, but it really does make a difference not to compare yourself to others, and to focus on your particular positive points. I’m sure there is a lot to be said for how you’ve carried out your work as a receptionist, and that experience is important.
          Wishing you all the best.

        3. Anx*

          Failure points! Yes!

          For me, I have been underemployed for 6 years. I keep thinking I should have soooooo much to show for that time!

          I also have my college GPA which I’m not proud of. But you know my transcripts have never been requested? I never made it that far, but it’s not the thing that’s held me back except that I’ve allowed it to.

          1. Anonyby*

            I’m at four years underemployed, with a bad GPA too. And not much else to show for it, due to helping family and then struggling to cope with life issues. I recently applied to volunteer, but haven’t heard back…

        4. KrisL*

          If I were hiring a receptionist, I’d want someone reliable, who always had a smile for people coming in, who sounded professional and friendly on the phone, who sorted the mail correctly and wasn’t nosy, and who handle the fact that occasionally callers or visitors are obnoxious.

          Maybe you could talk about that kind of thing?

          It might be useful to think of a time when a visitor or caller was rude and how you handled it, so if an interviewer asks, you can explain.

    2. Liz*

      Don’t beat yourself up. I just got a job after six months of unemployment, start Monday. Yay. Be yourself, make eye contact. In this market, it is tough. You have my sympathy. The few interviews I managed to get were all different. If you can remember questions you were asked, practice answers to them, until you feel confident. Do you have some one you can mock interview with, using those questions? Also, the little things. Make sure your shoes are shined, smile. Also, as been pointed out here, people can sense desperation when you need job. Not saying this to make you feel bad. I had to learn to try to relax. Before I went in for the interview, I would tell myself that if this was where I was supposed to be, then those doors would open. If not, then help me deal with it, and move on. Hope this helps. Hang in there, I am rooting for you

    3. happy its friday!*

      Practice interviewing with a friend. More than once. It will become more natural and may put you at ease.

    4. Clinical Social Worker*

      Fake it till you make it. It sounds like horrible advice but really, you have to practice being confident and as you do that, feeling better about yourself will come through.

      Some really successful people have overcome extreme anxiety by basically inhabiting a “persona.” Imagine yourself as someone else, like Sterling Archer (who is supremely confident but kind of an ass) or Don Draper or James Bond or anyone really. Woman badasses include Olivia Pope, Hilary Clinton, Tina Fey. Move your body posture so that you aren’t curled over on yourself. Shoulders back, hands on your hips if you want. Stand with a somewhat wider stance. Head up, chin up. Practice this with people close to you, keep practicing. You can be any you that you want to be and if you want to be confident you just have to keep trying. It’s like any other skill, it requires lots of rehearsal.

    5. LQ*

      Pretend you’re describing your best friend who you love and want the best in the world for.

      This helps me tremendously. If I were describing a friend or a coworker I thought was really fantastic how would I describe them. It feels a little third person and weird, but it really helps to not feel like you’re talking about yourself that way.

      And then practice. Ask someone (and realize that you probably have a friend who would be upset if you didn’t ask them for help) even if they aren’t in the business of hiring if you mostly listen to the advice offered here (you can even provide them a list of questions to ask from the blog here) and just saying the positive things about yourself aloud to someone will really help.

    6. Jamie*

      I used to struggle with this – what helped me was taking some time before hand to see myself through the eyes of one of my old bosses who thought I was awesome.

      I’d kind of channel him and bring up stuff I knew he would bring up about me if he were touting my case – although in my voice, if that makes sense.

      You have to get outside of yourself and looking through the eyes of someone who thought highly of you, but not for personal reasons can really help.

      Like I’d never try to do this with my dad’s voice because no one would hire me because I was clearly the most adorable applicant ever and much smarter than everyone else – ever – and anyone who wouldn’t hire me on the spot is too stupid to work for.

      That’s the tape I ran in my head when I didn’t get a job – after the fact. :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, this is a great idea. Think of the times you have been complimented and use that as a spring board for your conversation. “Well, my boss said he felt I was very organized because I do a, b and c. And a person doing business with us felt that I was great at handling a difficult situation. Then there was the time Janice for the other department thanked me so much for helping her with a few small computer issues.”

        It’s not one comment but the string that gives people an idea of what it’s like to work with you. Pick comments that show a little bit of a range of abilities.

    7. KrisL*

      Maybe think about the company and how you could help them? Without sounding like you have *all* the answers, of course.

      Asking questions about what their perfect employee in this position might help – you can talk about what qualities you already have and what you are eager to learn.

  28. robot chick*

    A question for the consulting folks: What’s your experience with STEMers in your field? I know that math and even comp-sci and physics are often listed as possible backgrounds for entry level positions, but is that really a thing that happens, or just a “can’t hurt to leave in the ad”?
    Specifically, I’m looking at forensic technologies, which I’m certainly qualified for in terms of analytical and IT skills, but since I’m not the most competetive, ‘business-minded’ person, I’m a bit wary of jumping into a pool full of baby sharks with MBAs (assuming I even get in).
    I’ll apply either way, but preparation is everything, so I’d like some insight if you have it!

    1. AM*

      the firm i work for does like to hire people with science backgrounds, particularly MBAs with science backgrounds. if youre going into consulting with a BS/BA, you would likely be hired 1-3 levels below an MBA who is hired. so you’re not exactly competing with the MBAs. the reason that happens is to give the Bachelors hires a chance to develop some of the business skillset (that an MBA should have obtained in business school).

      1. robot chick*

        Well, I’m currently drafting a proposal for a MS thesis (fittingly, about fraud detection algorithms, in a programme that isn’t CS exactly but close enough). So tacking on a business degree isn’t really an option anymore.

    2. Jennifer*

      Most companies I’ve interviewed with for similar kinds of positions (math/computer background with the substance of the job can be more business/management oriented) have two tracks:
      1. project management, or
      2. technician/specialist/whatever you call it.
      They recruit people with potential to grow into the management aspects after they are proficient at the technical stuff, but usually there are a few people who don’t want to manage and just become really really good at the technical work. The second option is less advertised, probably because they want to be sure that those people are actually more useful specializing instead of generalizing, and that the business needs/can support that kind of specialist.

  29. anon17*

    What do you do about frequent mistakes from an employee? I mean, yes, address it, but how? Do you start double checking all of their work? That would prevent mistakes from going out the door, but doesn’t really address the problem of mistakes occurring in the first place. Is double checking subordinates an appropriate use of a supervisor’s time? Or would a better idea be to make time to discuss assignments with the employee and review their plan to successfully complete their assignments, pointing out areas they’re neglecting to consider, thus leading to mistakes?

    1. littlemoose*

      I think you first have to figure out why these mistakes are occurring. Is your employee overloaded with work or pressed for time? Is there a fundamental comprehension problem underlying these errors? I think a closed-door conversation with the employee (“Wakeen, I’ve noticed that your TPS reports have some spelling errors and formatting problems. (Gently provide a couple of specific examples.) It’s important for our TPS reports to be error-free, because the Bobs need to be able to distribute them timely without first needing to make corrections. What factors do you think might be contributing to these?”)
      Once you have the answer to those questions, you may be able to better assess how to remedy the problem. It might be as simple as having the employer wait a day and then review their work with fresh eyes before sending it out.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        +1 for Office Space reference at 8 a.m. on a Friday. I about spit my coffee when I got to “The Bobs need to…”

    2. LQ*

      I think an important thing here is to figure out which mistakes are critical to address first. A minor misspelling in an internal email even if they do it often? Let it go (for now, it is just easy sometimes to focus on the little things especially if they big ones are less tangible). Incorrect numbers to clients? Serious, focus on that.

      Helping create a plan, areas they are neglecting, creating checklists, making sure they are aware of mistakes etc.

      Also are they making the same mistakes over and over or is it a new mistake each time? If it is the same mistake then focusing on checklists, reasons they made the error etc will help a lot. If it is different mistakes can you dial back the work they do to make sure they are comfortable with each step before moving them forward to the new work?

      Someone on my team I’m responsible for training is making new mistakes all the time and it’s very frustrating but I pulled back on the tasks she was doing and it made me take a bunch of work back on that she’s supposed to do, but I don’t have to double check things. Now she’s making only minor errors that are expected and I’m making her correct them (this is HUGE for me, she needs to know how to resolve her problems). I’m giving her new little bits of work and she’s doing ok. It’s not quite the speed we were hoping she’d be at but it’s working.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Insist that the employee double check her own work.

      It’s hard to know what type of mistakes we are talking about. Are we talking about spelling errors or the employee planned an event and neglected to make arrangements for a guest speaker?
      I’m going to assume it’s closer to spelling error (frequently occuring mistakes).

      I feel that if you know mistakes are coming up regularly then you may have to do spot checks.
      But you can insist that for each recurring mistake the employee develop a plan to prevent that mistake in the future.

      There’s a fine line though- you can end up with an employee in melt down from being micromanaged or you can develop a fine employee. The difference is how heavy handed you are.

      I have to type in long numbers at work. I developed a system for it because I have to get it right even if I am in brain fade. I take the number three digits at time. Then, once I finish the number I go back and check- did I get the number right? Sure, it slows me down, but my numbers are correct 99.9% of the time. Makes the boss beam. Since these long numbers come up on a regular basis it was worth my while to get a system and stick to my system.
      It’s just human nature to make mistakes with long numbers. There are many other examples out there of tedious work that is so easy to screw up. Just point those times out to her and tell her that she will need a plan (work habit) to deal with it.

    4. meg*

      Most of my work involves reviewing what other businesses have done in their normal course of business. Everything seems to have at least one mistake, unless there are built-in QC procedures.

      If you need to reduce the error rate, and there are patterns to the errors, it makes sense to say “focus on a, b, or c.” If you need everything to be absolutely error-free (we need to do that in our line of business), then in addition to a conversation with the employee to reduce their error rate, you need to budget for quality control – be it having someone review the work, or replicate it independently (that’s what we do), or something else along those lines.

  30. anomnomnomimous*

    So I find myself in the enviable position of potentially maybe possibly having two job offers in the next week (both have informed me that I am a/the top candidate). The problem is that I much prefer one over the other, but the preferred company moves much more slowly, and I won’t know if I have an offer until after the second choice company has made their decision.

    Does anyone have any good tips for stalling? If my second choice does make an offer before my preferred company, how do I buy some time? And what are the rules for checking with the preferred company about their timeline or speeding up the process? Ack! A wonderful problem to have, certainly, but a problem nonetheless!

    1. ClaireS*

      If you get an offer from fast company, I’d call slow company and ask for an update on their timelines. Explain you have another offer but you want to be able to fully consider their potential offer before making a decision. If you’re their top candidate this may push them to speed their process up.

      For the other company, ask for a week to consider. I don’t know if you can ask for much more than that.

    2. Valar M.*

      There are several entries on this if you search the archives that will probably be more helpful than my answer but…
      You can ask to think about it, ask for a few days (within reason), and see what they say – they may or may not be open to it.
      You should contact the other company and tactfully let them know that you’ve been contacted with an offer from Company B, but that they, Company A, are your first choice and you are hoping to find out what the situation is (AAM has good advice on how exactly to state this in the archives).

      Then you have to figure out where to go from there given the information you get back from those two situations.

    3. Raven28*

      Aside from what everyone else has said, when this issue came up for me I asked for more information from Company A who had made the offer already: an offer letter, benefits package, etc. anything that would be a part of the negotiation process and benefits in writing so I could review everything prior to making a decision. Follow up with the second company and try to get a concrete answer on whether they are putting an offer together for you or still deciding who they want to make an offer to and what’s the timeline. Once I got the timeline, I sent a thank you to Company A letting them know that I would review everything and be back in touch with them within X days. Luckily, Company B’s timeline wasn’t too far fetched. Hope everything works out!!!

    4. Jen RO*

      I lied. I said I was on holiday with no access to email and I wanted to review the offer in detail when I got back. This bought me 4 more days and it was enough time for my preferred company to make me an offer.

  31. EE*

    Update from the wonderful world of local government where poor performers are unfirable:


    Manager asks me to help junior worker to go through lots of old documents and update a spreadsheet based on status ahead of an afternoon meeting. I’m on doc work he’s on Excel work. I chivvy him along constantly (“OK, we’ll put that on the Query pile. Next one is N05566!”)

    We finish a little after 1 so I tell him he can clean up the classifications after lunch. I say I expect it’ll take less than 10 minutes.

    Three hours later he says it’s just about ready. We have our meeting.


    He calls in sick. Won’t be in til Monday apparently. I have to do his project instead and find that he’s copied duplicates everywhere.

    Manager tells me “oh yes, I should have warned you, you can’t let him do anything unsupervised. Not even moving rows from one sheet to another.”

    1. Ruffingit*

      OMG. That would drive me insane. What is the point of having an employee for whom you have to supervise every single step? That is not someone who is worth employing. UGH. How frustrating.

      1. EE*

        No, he seriously isn’t worth employing. The shocker is that he’s not yet on a PIP (will be soon, though).

          1. Jamie*

            Performance Improvement Plan. Usually written goals of what needs to be improved, a time line for improvement, and evaluation at that date. Spelled out is usually the consequence of not improving which can be termination.

      2. Windchime*

        It’s super frustrating. We have a person like this at work who doesn’t seem to understand anything we are doing. He can do some basic stuff but there isn’t a lot of “basic” stuff that we do in our jobs. He either just doesn’t understand or forgets a ton of things. For instance, after a bug is fixed, it’s supposed to be reassigned to the QA job so he can verify the fix. Pretty simple. Yet I came across a bug last week that he had just “fixed” (not really) and then closed. No QA.

        He’s been here for years and I don’t understand how that’s possible.

    2. LQ*

      So frustrating. I’m also in the land of No One Gets Fired. “Oh they’ll retire.” “They are 36!!”

      I have found that sometimes managers let you push very basic tasks to these people. (Making copies, stuffing folders, etc)

      1. EE*

        They are living in fantasyland if they think a 36-year-old who knows damn well they can’t get a reference for a new job is going to retire! Wow.

  32. WK*

    Okay, here’s one: Any suggestions as to how I can stop being “That Guy” at work? You know, the one who doesn’t really fit into the culture of the business and always says the thing that can be taken the wrong way?

    Background: I moved from a larger, fast-paced office to a smaller business in a smaller town, where literally everyone in the staff of about 20 (and I am being serious here) went to the same high school, albeit stretched over 20-30 years. I was hired for a normal position but was introduced to people as a dept head, probably due to the fact I have about almost 10 years worth of formal training and experience, whereas everyone else has only worked at this one office and only knows how they do things. (Some of which is sadly out of date!)
    When I started I really wanted to get things up to speed in our field, with the latest material and procedures, but there was a lot of resistance and I may have turned into That Guy, the one who gets really picky about little stuff and the one you never want to hear from.
    At my first review it was pointed out that my job skills are a 10 but my people skills are a 3! I kind of knew that, because I’m a big introvert most of the time and don’t particularly want to join the office clique, but I’ve been working hard on changing that.

    Unfortunately, a lot of that means dialing way back on the wanting to upgrade stuff, which I feel is detrimental to the business! What do you guys think?
    ~Is updating stuff a lost cause? The few changes I’ve tried to implement have been okayed by management but not supported by them. As in, “good idea” but when nobody follows the new procedures I’m met with a “whatever” shrug.
    ~Do I try to hang out more with my coworkers? Honestly, we don’t have anything in common, and I know I’d regard it as a chore, like I do most forced social interactions.
    ~Do I just give up and accept my That Guy fate? I’ve been working really hard at dialing it back, but due to the culture the newest hires (also from the same hometown) may have been warned to watch out for me! There’s a lot of backbiting that my coworkers say when they think people can’t hear them, and I’ve heard them say some pretty bad things about me (and others). And those people have been in their positions for the last 10+ years, so it’s not going to change anytime soon.

    I’d really like to stay in this job for a while, but if relations don’t improve I’m worried that they’ll dump the experienced newbie and stick with the old-fashioned familiar.

    1. Camellia*

      What does this mean: “I was hired for a normal position but was introduced to people as a dept head…” Are you or are you not a department head? And does that mean you manage these people..or not?

      That aside, as a contractor I have a lot of experience at being dropped into a new group and having to make it work. In the beginning I try to listen more than I talk. I learn a lot by doing this and don’t come of as the new person who thinks she knows better than those who have been there forever. If you started off telling them what they are doing “wrong”, which is often how people perceive “updating to new stuff”, you didn’t really get off on the right foot. Not sure you can correct this at this point, and also it doesn’t sound like it is a great fit for you. Why did you downsize?

    2. g*

      So are you in charge or not? Either way, I would say own it. Map out a plan for updating, and take it on steadily. If you are not the authority, then that plan needs to be on a slower pace.

      And try just being more friendly. That doesn’t mean you have to be buddy buddy (though who knows, by being more friendly, you may find someone that you want to be friends with) – but just be warmer.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      It sounds like you are pestering your bosses to implement changes they are not ready to make. My advice is to stop trying to get anything to improve for a while and just continue do your job well. Do not criticize your coworkers or complain to managers. You might be on thin ice so it’s a good idea to just try to blend into the background for the time being. You don’t have to be best friends with your coworkers – smiling and a bit of bland small talk can go a long way. I know it’s frustrating but if you want to stay at this job you probably need to adapt to their work style instead of the other way around.

    4. MJH*

      People will be a lot more receptive to changes if you have a good relationship with them and are friendly. Also if you can be clear why you are doing the things that you are insisting upon changing.

      But first, start with the relationship building. You will never love everyone in the office, but maybe you can find a few people who are extroverted and friendly and can be your wingpeople. If you find someone who is easy to talk to and seems to like everyone, start there. That way you can just ask questions, let them talk, and the conversation will be easy because they carry it!

      Questions are great! Small talk seems so annoying, but it is the grease that makes social interactions work. Start by asking “how was your weekend?” and innocuous stuff like that. Generally people will respond and be glad that you asked. You can mention that you saw a movie or played video games or whatever. Yay! People skills!

      Finally, start going out with them occasionally. Not every time, but sometimes. And don’t go with the “I’ll hate this” attitude, but with the “I need to get to know people and I can do this for an hour and it will help me improve my people skills.” You’re skill-building, not having a forced interaction. You can talk to a few people (you don’t have to be the center of the group or charm everyone) and have some good side conversations and excuse yourself after a drink or an hour.

      Once people actually know you, you have more leverage and influence. People skills are WAY underrated in keeping a job.

      (And clarifying who actually has the authority to make these things happen is important, too.)

    5. Ruffingit*

      This is your major problem right here The few changes I’ve tried to implement have been okayed by management but not supported by them.

      If management won’t support the changes, your hands are basically tied. You must have their support to be able to implement changes and you just don’t have it. I’ve been in that situation myself where I tried to implement needed changes, management was all gung-ho about how great it was, but then they refused to support it when no one followed procedures. Honestly, I just gave up because I came to realize that it really was OK if they didn’t do the most efficient things for their business. It’s THEIR business, not mine, so if it’s not running efficiently or effectively, that is on them.

      As for your fate as THAT GUY…I think you just need to accept that as well. I’m from a small town so I know the culture that you speak of. It’s not likely to change and in your shoes, I’d accept your fate and start looking for a position more in line with the culture and values you need in the workplace.

    6. Raven28*

      I’m not sure if I missed it, but how long have you been in your role with this new company? Seems it would be a good idea to continue to come up with great ideas for improvements, but keep them in a log and let them rest for a while. Work on your professional relationships, it’s easier to get people on board when you know their communication style.
      Also, the fact that management won’t support you is a huge flag. Above suggestion is only if you are intent on staying with this company. Which depending on how much time you’ve already invested, I would seriously question. It does not seem to be a good fit.

    7. Malissa*

      I was “that guy.” It freaking sucks. First thing, forget about personal acceptance, that’s up to them not you. Be an effective nice person to work with. Don’t give them gossip fodder. At work you need to be a saint. Also always have their back with outside forces.
      Personal stuff aside you need to look at the changes you want to bring on. Is there one that offers a clear advantage? Start with that. Talk to your coworkers and make sure they see the advantage. If somebody ever says, “wouldn’t it be great if we could do X” and X lines up with something on your list, take the opportunity and ask them what they think about the list item. Often you’ll get them on board with the change there.
      Change can happen, but it’s best to start slow and build your credibility first. Otherwise you are just the outsider with all those weird ideas from the big city.

    8. JamieG*

      You can be an introvert and not hang out with people outside of work, and still have good people skills! Smile. Say good morning. Make small talk if you’re walking in the same direction or something. The world (unfortunately) is full of forced social interactions, and it’s really useful to get good at them. If you’re used to going at a faster pace, you probably come across as being brusque, potentially to the point of rudeness. Remember that probably no one is in as much of a hurry as you are (even if you think they should be!), and it’s okay to spend five seconds on pleasantries if it will help you get your job done.

      (Once people’s opinions of you have raised, it’ll be more likely that they’ll listen to what you have to say. The only thing more annoying than a new guy bursting in and trying to change everything is a rude new guy bursting in and trying to change everything.)

    9. KrisL*

      My advice on trying to get people to try new things (getting up to speed sounds like they’re going to have to change what they’re used to):

      1. Explain what’s in it for them.
      2. Try not to let the change make much extra work for them.
      3. Let them have some input. Sometimes you may have a big goal, and other people may be very helpful on the little steps – they’re used to what they’re doing now and may have great input on how to switch.

      People are most likely to adopt new methods when they benefit by it, and they don’t have to do much to adopt the new methods.

      If you know someone who can tell you straight up what problems that people there find with your suggestions, this person is like gold. If you know what people don’t like, you can work on it.

      Also, start small if you can. If you get a track record of making changes, even small changes, that are consistently worthwhile, people will pay more attention to your suggestions.

  33. Just wondering*

    Am I limiting myself by not considering union environments? Every time I’ve worked at a place that was unionized, I was turned off by the antagonistic us versus them attitudes of my co-workers. I’m considering looking for a job in a warmer climate, but I’ve been tempted to dismiss anything unionized. I’m employed in education and I’ve stuck to private schools because of the negative impression I had from unionized public schools. Is this a reasonable personal preference, or am I throwing out half my opportunities for a bad reason.

    1. robot chick*

      this is at best marginally helpful because unions where I live are very different from the US (meaning I’m a bit suspicious of the American model too), but maybe you could try to view it as a sense of community among your potential colleagues, rather than antagonism. Maybe the culture you find in a specific workplace (and maybe even all or most of them) is in fact uncomfortably hostile, but I’d definitely give it a shot and try to challenge my own mindframe about it.

    2. BRR*

      I would give them a shot. It’s going to depend on where you work and in a lot of places I have found an us versus them mentality.

    3. Clinical Social Worker*

      I think this depends greatly on the culture of the place, not just unions generally. All my family have been union workers at one point (except my brother) and it really depends on the industory, political climate of the state, whether the general and local economies are doing well etc. In hard times unions often have to do a lot of cutting and try to fight to keep some things in place. It can get really ugly in those instances. But so it would in other environments as well.

    4. Gilby*

      I agree with the rest. I think it depends on job, company and union.

      My dad was union my whole life and I never even knew the impact of it because there was none. He went to work. Did his job. The company and the union did their stuff they needed to do.

      Other situations that I have seen upfront were not so agreeable.

      I would suggest getting some information about any union you are thinking of. Just see if you can find some information of how they negotiate with the company about stuff and how do they treat their members and so on.

    5. Joey*

      In a word, yes. Some companies welcome unions and use them as the vehicle to get employee input on employee related decisions. Those are probably the ones you’re looking for.

    6. Jamie*

      I personally would never work in a unionized environment if I had any other options – everyone is different.

    7. LQ*

      I think as a teacher it might be difficult because you are cutting out so many opportunities. (That said if you are looking toward southern states there is generally less unionization in them so you might be more likely to find schools without unions.)

      I work at a government that is unionized. I have mixed feelings. Some people have an us vs them attitude (those people btw are the people who would have been most likely to be fired if they didn’t have a union). But people in the group I’m in don’t have that attitude at all, even the union reps who work in this area.

      I’m going to say that in general it’s going to be like any work place, some good and some bad. Some places are going to deal with it well and it will be a boon, some won’t. Often places that don’t deal well are places that have other problems running throughout.

      1. AGirlCalledFriday*

        Fellow teacher here. The thing about unions (aka public school teachers) is that you get better pay, better hours, and more support. I love private schools but you normally have less funding – but also a bit more freedom.

        To be honest, it seems more like it depends on the neighborhood rather than private vs public. A small public school in a rural place is going to have more freedom and a better sense of community than one in a city.

  34. Powerpuff*

    My friend who works in IT (user support / maintaining servers etc) has damaged her hand. She can move it, but not with enough precision to type/build fiddly computer parts/accurately use a mouse. She’s not sure if its permanent yet. Do any IT types out there have suggestions about how to work around this?

    1. robot chick*

      ugh, that’s bad. I wish her a good and quick recovery.
      Worst case though:
      – Make the left (assuming she was right handed) your mouse hand. Doesn’t work for everyone and takes some practice, but is often easier than one would think once you’ve re-wired your muscle memory
      — can be extended to making the left your dominant in general, possibly to the point of doing fiddly tech stuffs. Maybe. Focusing on less hands-on support would probably be safer though.
      – Typing is harder, and I don’t see how she could do it without getting significantly slower, but depending on the nature of the damage, it might help to set the keyboard to a lower sensitivity, as in require holding each key for a moment before it registers (people with neural damage that makes them twitchy to that a lot).

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Learn to use a mouse with her other hand. It’s a bit tricky but definitely possible.

      2. Camellia*

        Excellent points! I’m always surprised when people say they can’t learn to do things with their left hands, like use a mouse or apply mascara or eat. I’ve had musicians tell me that! To which I replied, oh, so you only play your guitar/clarinet/drums with your right hand? Think about this, people!

        1. Camellia*

          Also, the wrist brace used for carpal tunnel syndrome may be helpful. It keeps the wrist at the right angle but also naturally steadies the hand and limits hand movement a bit.

    2. V*

      There are one handed keyboards; she may want to look into those. Otherwise, just get as much practice as possible with the working hand on the keyboard and mouse; I would think that having custom ones (with adapters) that she could carry around would be a reasonable accommodation.

    3. MaryMary*

      Would a trackball be easier for her to use than a mouse? I have a coworker who had carpal tunnel, and she uses a trackball.

    4. Cat Tales*

      Have her see a hand therapist. Seriously. There are physical therapists that specialize in the hands, and a good one can help you recover every possible iota of functionality that is possible. I had bilateral carpal tunnel releases (ages ago) at a point when I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to work with my hands anymore (I work exclusively on a computer). Now I have few problems. The surgeries were obviously part of the success, but the therapy was actually more helpful in the long run. It took me from 70% to 98% functional.

  35. Sara M*

    How do I develop a strong work ethic?

    All my life, I’ve worked in “cog” jobs–menial, low-level, things below my ability. I was always one of a team of many people doing the same thing. It was easy to overachieve on everything I needed. Even in school, I didn’t have to work for anything I needed. (Please don’t judge me–I’m genuinely here for some help, please.)

    In those few cases where I had my own project, I set sky-high goals–and could often achieve them, though teachers or managers would sometimes guide me back to reasonable levels. But the reason I achieved so high is I was kind of showing off. I wasn’t doing it for the sake of hard work.

    Now I’m working for myself… and struggling constantly. Apparently what I learned is that “there’s always a shortcut, and it doesn’t matter what you do so much as what the bosses think you do.” All the people who post about “I’m so bored at work with nothing to do”–well, that’s just not in my experience. Being bored at work was the best thing ever. I could sit around and daydream about stuff.

    Somehow I missed the part where I develop a strong work ethic. I don’t know if I’ve never had one, or never developed it, or what. I always do exactly what’s required of me, plus enough more to receive lots of praise from managers. But I never really understood the part where I work hard for things I really want. (God, I feel dreadful just writing that sentence.)

    How do I convince myself that hard work is the only way, now that I’m working for myself? (I keep thinking, “Surely I just haven’t found the right shortcut yet.”) I’ve tried raising my expectations for myself, but that’s no help at all; without a manager to guide me back to sanity, I just end up with unrealistic goals that I can’t reach, and then I get mad and don’t want to work at all.

    Any ideas, please?

    1. Coco*

      I’m not sure what to suggest but you’re not the only one who feels this way. I don’t really have a strong work ethic, I’d much rather be bored than busy, and I’ve never been particularly ambitious. And that’s exactly why I wouldn’t ever want to work for myself. I like to do what’s required of me plus a little more and then go home.

      So I guess the situation you’re in right now is that what’s required of you has increased. When circumstances force me to work more than what I’m comfortable with, I set myself up for failure if I frame it as “I must work hard” because from my perspective I never work hard and therefore it must be an impossible task. Instead, I reframe it as “I must do what’s necessary.” I make a lot of lists of necessary things that need to get done. Sometimes I find shortcuts, sometimes I just have to trudge through it, but in any case, I do it because I NEED to — it has nothing to do with feeling “motivated” or being principled in any way.

      Maybe that’s a bad strategy but it works for me.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Are you sure lack of work ethic is your problem?

      I work insanely hard because I love what I do and a bunch of other people are depending on me. You say you are now working for yourself. Maybe that set up isn’t right for you – the problem isn’t you, the problem is that you aren’t cut out to thrive in that kind of environment.

      I don’t work for the sake of work. I work because I am driven and the things that drive me propel me through the icky stuff.

      Trying to make myself do anything is a fail.

      1. AVP*

        Co-signing on this here! I have a similar background – didn’t have to try very in school, had an easy time at easy jobs, chose a really hard field to get into because I assumed it would be easy as well, freelanced for a while and found it really difficult.

        What changed my situation was a) realizing I’m a terrible freelancer and work much better for other people than myself, and b) finding a job I love and a mentor I love. I have no willpower on my own, but knowing that I’m being trusted to do specific things, and people I respect are depending on me to get them done, and they are things I enjoy doing, gets me out of bed in the morning.

    3. Fish Microwaver*

      If there is one thing that drives me crazy it is looking busy for the sake of looking busy and busy but inefficient work processes. I feel I have a strong work ethic, although after your post I’m questioning what that is. I work hard when necessary and enjoy downtime when it comes along.

      I don’t think that shortcuts are necessarily slack. Sometimes it is wiser and better to work smarter.

    4. AnonAnalyst*

      I was going to say something similar to Wakeen’s Teapots. It doesn’t sound like you don’t have any work ethic – it sounds like you may need a more structured environment, which I don’t think is all that uncommon.

      In my current company, a portion of our team works as independent contractors offsite that we pay per assignment completed, so each person decides how much or how little work they want to complete (we put work out to the team and they decide who completes it, so it’s pretty much entirely self-driven). We’re pretty good at screening who will thrive in that type of role, but sometimes we misjudge and someone will come in and fail spectacularly because they don’t have goals set for them to meet or anyone overseeing their productivity. They were great employees in their former roles and always did awesome work when we gave them more structured projects to complete, but just weren’t able to succeed in the role that was more self-driven.

      I’ve always been pretty good at self-motivation so I don’t know how helpful any of these suggestions are, but is there a way you can start with small goals that are easier to meet, or set a series of smaller goals that will lead to the large goal of what you want to achieve? I don’t know what kind of work you do but maybe small goals like “spend X amount of time on Y today” or “complete X number of (tasks/output for the work you do) this week”? For me, at times when I’ve been feeling less motivated, that helps me get back on track, and the nice thing is that the small goals are achievable in a relatively short period of time so I feel like I’m making progress. It might be a way of incorporating the way you’re used to working (doing what’s required plus a little more) in a way that will help you succeed here, rather than starting with the huge, unrealistic goal where it seems like you’re destined to fail.

    5. C Average*

      Definitely no judging here. I’ve felt like this often, too. I think many people have.

      When you say you’re working for yourself, are you doing a type of work that you really feel has value, or are you just performing a trade to make money? I’m not saying one is better than the other, but one does offer more motivation–or at least DIFFERENT motivation–than the other.

      I don’t know if this will help you, but one thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a really good clutch player, but I have a hard time staying motivated when things are moving at a normal, non-urgent pace. I think it’s why I struggle with procrastination: if I wait until the last minute, everything feels urgent! and exciting!

      I also found a book that helped me define and address some of my work ethic issues. I actually read about it here. It’s called “Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement” and it’s by Ken Christian. It’s not that long, it’s an easy read, and it’s very constructive.

      And one more thing (this is kind of all over the map–sorry about that): It sounds like you’re really motivated by praise. That’s fine, and it’s good that you know that about yourself. Does the kind of work you’re doing for yourself give you access to positive feedback? If you really thrive on that kind of reward and you’re not getting it, it’s easy to feel unmotivated. Think about whether you’re getting the positive feedback you value. If you’re not, can you come to terms with that? Or do you need to find work or structure your current work in such a way that you get at least a little bit of positive feedback?

      Good luck.

      1. Sara M*

        I’ve ordered the book from my library. Thank you for the suggestion. It’s absurd to think I’m an underachiever given what I _have_ achieved… but I know I’m holding myself back, for sure. I want to get to the root of the problem.

        1. KrisL*

          Would it help if you gave yourself mini goals? Or found something that will be useful for work that you’re excited about?

    6. OriginalYup*

      Your post reminded me of an older post where a person wrote in about being an underachiever, and got lots of really good advice:

      It’s not the same situation you’re describing, but maybe some of the comments in both the original post and the later update would be helpful to you? The first step is acknowledging the problem, so you’re already on the right track. :)

    7. Eden*

      I freelanced for a very short while, and discovered this about myself: I’m not self-motivated. I need an environment where my motivations are extrinsic. I think it’s partly due to not having terrific self-esteem (I’m less worth working for than others), but also, I am more of a helper personality and get motivation from helping others. So after three months, I went back to working for someone else, and never looked back.

      My husband is the opposite. He is incredibly self-directed. He gets up at 5:30 or 6:00 am, raring to get started on the day’s work (I used to have to just drag myself out of bed). He worked for himself in construction for 20 years, then decided to pursue his other love, the less back-breaking field of web development. He would be miserable in an office environment like mine.

      At first, seeing how amazing he is at freelancing made me feel kind of bad about myself, I felt lazy and unmotivated looking back on my time freelancing. But the truth is, we’re just motivated by different things.

      What I’m trying to say is, if working for yourself is a “constant struggle” to keep yourself motivated, you might be happier in an environment where you don’t have to set your own work goals.

    8. Keri*

      I can really relate to this. I have always done well at work, but own projects are always neglected, and I really struggle with motivation for them. I think it may be more about a lack of accountability than a lack of work ethic.
      Since I struggle with this as well, I don’t know if I am the best person to give advice, but I have found that giving myself hard deadlines can help. Also, taking a chunk of time and making myself write down what I have actually achieved during it as a way to hold myself accountable.
      I’m sure others will have more solid advice, but I wanted to let you know you aren’t the only one who feels this way!

    9. Jamie*

      Doing good work because it’s satisfies your ego or makes you a high achiever isn’t the same as having a bad work ethic.

      The company doesn’t benefit more from the productivity of someone doing it for the noble cause of working for the sake of it and others like us ahemyou who do it to maintain the sense of self as high achievers status quo.

      I don’t need external praise, although an acknowledgement is appreciated, but I’m in competition with myself and meeting my own bar all the time. But if the quality of my work didn’t translate into how valued I felt as an employee (and I prefer more tangible forms of appreciation – and perks) I would not be happy.

      Sounds to me like you’re struggling with the structure of working for yourself – and I personally HATED it when I did it – never again. Works for some people very well, not everyone has the temperament or work style to do that well.

      1. Sara M*

        I really appreciate the comments and knowing I’m not the only person who feels this way.

        The comments about “maybe you need more structure” are spot-on. My struggle has been with health problems; it’s been enormously hard to structure my day when I have no idea how I’ll feel or what my sleep will be like. I don’t know how I’d go back to a regularly scheduled job; maybe, like so many things in my life, that’s something that older-me can’t do anymore.

        The comments on adult ADD from the other thread are exactly what I’m exploring with my therapist. I was astonished to take the quiz from Driven to Distraction and get a 56/100. I would never, ever have thought that. I thrived in school. But I suppose school had structure. I knew exactly what was expected of me and it was set by someone else.

        I wonder if it’s possible to hire a manager for a self-employed person. I bet I could get a mentor from the community of people in my business… but I’d have to have money, and right now (since I can’t get anything done) I don’t have any. :P

        1. Jamie*

          Not everyone with ADHD struggles in school – kids who are academically gifted can often compensate. And ADHD has core issues but manifests differently in different people.

          Before I got treatment I could function fine – I got to the director level in less than 5 years after entering the workforce, but now I can do it without having to work so freaking hard at it and it makes it easier to stay organized and not have to wait for the last minute hail marys to get stuff finished.

          And by treatment I’m not pushing meds – they work for some but other things are effective for other people like organizational tools and that kind of thing.

          No shame in it and if they had a cure tomorrow I wouldn’t take it – to me it’s never been a disorder, just a difference which can work for or against me depending on the situation. I’ve taught my kids it’s not something to run from – channel it and you’ll be ahead of the game.

          1. Sara M*

            I was/am most definitely academically gifted, with professors for parents. Now I’m wondering if all that helped mask mild ADD.

            Total procrastinator, and the only reason it hasn’t burned me sooner is that I’m good at panicking early.

            1. Anx*

              I see your name is Sara. If you haven’t already, research how girls and young women are often not diagnosed with ADHD. Girls tend to work harder to mask it, and academically gifted people also go undiagnosed.

              There’s also the possibility of not having ADHD but other real obstacles that early academic success can mask or contribute to: perfectionism, procrastination, lack of work skills and study skills, sleep issues

              1. Sara M*

                Sara is a pseud, but yes, I’m female.

                I definitely have perfectionism and sleep issues. That’s why I am not sure if ADD is my issue or not. I read the book and was surprised to see the behavior was a closer match than I expected… and especially, the “anxiety plus ADD” was a perfect match. (I have already been formally diagnosed with anxiety.)

                I’ll see my therapist again in July and we’ll talk more. I really don’t want another diagnosis and another prescription… but if it would help things, I’m all for it. (Or maybe I can learn to manage without medication; I seem to have gotten worse and worse over the last 10 years, so at some point, I _was_ handling this all somehow…)

                1. Anx*

                  I became self-aware this year and have not pursued a diagnosis or medication.

                  I can’t tell if it’s because I’m making progress in other areas or not, but just exploring resources for ADHD-PI has been very helpful.

                  I am a lot more confident about simply asking someone to repeat something or to let me write things down without worrying about seeming slow and incompetent. I wish I had been aware in college or while waitressing. There’s a tumblr “actuallyadhd” that is pretty helpful. I don’t take medications and I very well could just have sleep issues or have developed attention control issues as a result of not having try to learn as a kid. But changing little things has made a great improvement. I can’t wait to see how much better my work becomes when I’m fully employed.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Take up walking, every day even if it’s only for 10-15 minutes.
      You need the time to clear your head. It is amazing what that will do for you over time. It’s not just physical. It’s the mental strength to get out there and do it regularly.

      Okay ,so on one hand you had jobs that were totally boring and never used your skill sets. Now you have work that you take on too much and end up defeating yourself.

      (Wait. This sounds familar.)

      The key is what you do when you don’t want to work at all. IF you feed into that it will only snowball. And it will just be easier to feed into it the next time. I have had stuff that was dreadful- at least to me, maybe others could move right through it.
      Break it down into manageable parts. Promise yourself a quitting time and KEEP your promise to yourself. If you work beyond that time you are no different than that monster of a boss that has people working 80 hours a week. Stop. Start again the next day.

      Perhaps you are doing too much in isolation. It could be that you need to connect with peers doing similar work and find out what they are doing with their hurdles.

      There is nothing wrong with looking for effective short cuts as long as the work is done correctly/ethically. You should always look for easier ways to do things especially repetitive processes. There is actually intelligence and creativity involved in that. Take that habit of shortcutting and channel it into working effeciently. It’s not a big leap, I promise.

      Lastly, learn something more about goal setting. Using a silly example: I know it takes me 45 minutes to vacuum my house the way I like the job done. If I plan to vacuum, run three loads of laundry and do the dishes ONE HOUR before bed then this stuff will not get done. Period. This means I must plan better. Okay, so the next week I decide to vacuum and run one load of laundry. Whoops, forgot about budgeting time for the dryer and now I can either stay up later or do it in the morning. More adjustments.
      The same concepts apply to work. Once you get in the swing of how long it takes you to do something it you won’t be setting killer goals. (Hint: add to your time alloted to tasks for unforeseens, because there is always unforeseens.)

      I agree with other posters who said you sound pretty normal. I think a lot of people go through this, too.

  36. Henrietta Gondorf*

    I’m struggling with a situation involving my office leadership. (I work for the federal government, DoD.). My office director is extremely ill and has been out since March on extended medical leave. His replacement has been hired and will be here mid-July. There is no expectation that’ll he’ll return in advance of his replacement showing up. His deputy director (normally my immediate boss) has been filling in for the past few months and it’s not gone well. The deputy director is very junior to be taking on the senior role and has been really overwhelmed with both personal and professional issues. His leadership and management style isn’t a good fit with our office and he appears cowed when having to deal with personnel outside our office and within. I’ve lost a lot of respect for him based on how he’s chosen to handle a number of issues and am struggling in many cases not to say “oh, please just suck it up and enforce some reasonable boundaries for yourself and our office!”

    Here’s my question: I’m finding myself discounting a lot of his directives, suggestions and advice because of how he’s acquitted himself in this senior role. Come July, he’ll be my regular boss again and I don’t want to continue to resent his failures while acting as big boss. Any good strategies for letting go and trying to regain respect for a boss?

    1. ClaireS*

      This situation sucks. Can you try digging deep for some compassion for the guy? He was pushed into a role he wasn’t ready for and he floundered. That’s really got to be weighing on him and it probably makes it even harder to be effective in the role.

      Did you like him as a boss before this transition? Try to dig into the aspects you liked about his management style back then and hope that it all comes back once he’s got some weight off his shoulders.

    2. Clinical Social Worker*

      What are the things he does well? Are you grateful to him for anything? Being particularly understanding if you need time off, or whatever? Focus on those. I’m sure he has some redeeming qualities.

    3. Payroll Lady*

      I think the best way to handle this is to remember just what you said. He was not cut out for the Senior role, however was thrown into it and tried. If you did not have issues with him as your regular boss, you need to separate the issues from the senior position and virtually ignore that it happened. He was a good deputy director, and that is why he is going back to that position in which he was a good fit.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Just a shot in the dark here– but how is upper management viewing his leadership?
      I have seen times where upper management had a betting pool as to how long the new manager would last. (toxic, toxic place)

      The other thing I would be looking at is “Could this happen to me in years to come????” I know this does not really help with your question here, but in terms of CYA it might be good to have your eyes wide open.

    5. KrisL*

      One thing I try to do when I’m having a tough time with someone is to go Spock-like about it, at least through e-mail or when I’m thinking about it. What is logical? If you can channel Spock for a while, sometimes some of the frustration goes away.

  37. Exhozzled*

    Anybody changed roles within an organisation and have had to keep knocking back requests the the new member of staff?

    I went from HR (6 months) to HR and Office Manager (6 months) back to HR (role got bigger – 6 months) and am still getting contacted for everythng to do with the office – from cleaning to there is no milk to post. I hate post.

    I keep knocking it back to the Office Manager with a bit of humour attached – does anyone have any tips on how to do this?

    1. straws*

      I completely relate. I’ve had at least 5 role changes since I’ve been in our office manager role, but I still get stopped in the hallway or requests via email. Since this still happens to me, I’m not sure how great my advice is, but here’s what I do. If it’s an urgent request and the actual office manager isn’t readily available, I’ll do my best to either take care of it (if it’s quick) or find a quick-fix/patch (if it’s not). Anything else, I tell them that [name of office manager] handles that now and then explain the process for their particular issue (email, request form, etc.). I think it’s cut down for me, at least as far as the number of people who still do it.

      1. Exhozzled*


        That’s what I have been doing, but I am finding the opposite – the OM seems to be getting busier and busier due to her role growing and I fear I am starting to come off a bit ‘offish’ (not intentional) when pushing back to her.

        1. straws*

          I’m not sure there’s a way to avoid feeling that way. I’ve always been the problem solver type, so my instinct is to help and pushing back always feels unnatural. But, it’s her job and not yours. She may be busier, but I’m sure you’re busy too – with your actual job duties! It probably won’t help immediately, but adopting that as your internal mantra (“It’s not my job and that’s ok”). If she’s truly that busy & you work closely, it may be worth encouraging her to speak up about her workload. If she had the time & resources to cover all of the requests that keep coming to you, it might help you feel better about sending them along.

        2. g*

          I think you should talk with the OM on how to handle these requests. They are new, you’ve bounced about a bit – it seems natural that there will be some settling in time.

        3. Lily in NYC*

          How about responding to the person who made the request instead of just forwarding it to the new OM? Just remind the person that “Jane” is handling this stuff going forward and leave it up to him/her to contact Jane. That way it might stop happening so often and Jane won’t get frustrated (although you might be worrying unnecessarily about this – she probably understands).

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            This is what I wanted to say. Don’t forward anything unless it’s a really critical request, just reply “Sorry, Jane is the office manager now, she can help you with that.” Even for big-deal requests, if they’re emailed, reply to Juan telling him that Jane handles that now, but then CC Jane on it.

            1. Raven28*

              Yes, forwarding the request makes it seem like you are still the person to contact even if you are not completing the task. I have the same issue because I have changed roles so much within my organization.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I totally feel you. I changed roles last fall, but things have been somewhat jumbled in terms of actual reassignment of responsibilities, and every other request for help seems to start with “I don’t know if this is your job anymore or not but…” after 6 months of this, I’ve gotten quite comfortable saying “actually, that’s Edwina’s department now.” If it’s an email I’ll usually reply but also forward the original message.

      It might help to send out a reminder memo clearly outlining the new division of responsibilities.

      “Who Ya Gonna Call?”
      Persephone Mulberry, ext. 123:
      –Task A
      –Task B
      –Task C
      Edwina Paperclip, ext. 456:
      –Task C
      –Task D
      –Task E

      We also have signs posted at strategic areas: “Fridge supplies running low? Notify Edwina at ext. 456” and “Copier questions? Contact Persephone at ext. 123”.

    3. AVP*

      I was the office manager three years ago and am still getting requests for pens, my boss’s car registration, lunch orders, etc etc. Try to remember that they’re not personal (people aren’t asking you as a secret signal that they think you’re not good at HR and should be doing office work instead. It’s just a reflex because they’re used to you being able to solve these problems).

      In addition to kicking these requests to the office manager, I would politely let the requester know that you’re not the person to ask in the future for this. You might think it’s obvious if they’re always asking Jane for an office supply request, and it’s being fulfilled by Bob, you’d think they would directly ask Bob next time – but all they’re seeing is that they ask Jane something and it gets done. So generally if it comes in email form, I will forward it to Bob and cc the requester with a note, “Hey Jim- Bob is actually handling this stuff now. Bob, can you take a look at the below and liaise directly with Jim?” If it keeps happening, you can be a little more pointed depending on who the person is. Couch it in terms of how it will help THEM if they ask the right person directly. “Hey Jim, you always ask me about the milk but actually I have to forward it to Bob to handle, since I’m full-time in HR now. So you know, if you ask him directly, we can skip a step and the milk appears faster!”

      It’s only been six months – not a whole lot of time for people who aren’t paying attention to staff changes.

  38. PX*

    Was thinking of asking Allison about this but might crowdsource first: I luckily have a fairly decent/non-crazy manager in an office environment that is fairly laidback/casual/egalitarian (I’m in Europe if that matters).

    During one of our extremely infrequent 1-to-1 sessions, my manager said that one of the things he would like is more feedback on how he is performing as a manager. I was honest (again, I realise how lucky I am after spending too much time here), and said I would find it hard to honestly be able to critique him on some of his shortcomings as a manager. He was disappointed and felt that this was something he should work on (approachability) as he thinks its important that we be able to give him honest feedback.

    So throwing this out there – would any of you give your boss honest feedback on how they perfom? (If it helps, imagine its impossible for them to fire you/otherwise make your life any harder as a result of your feedback) And if the answer is yes, how would you approach this (scripts welcome!)?

    1. Henrietta Gondorf*

      I’ve been asked this question and find it very difficult because I think that’s the kind of feedback that better comes from the boss’s managers. This is tricky if boss’s boss doesn’t give feedback or the boss is at the top of the food chain in some respect and there aren’t people either above him or in his division to help him with this.

      My own strategy has to been to talking about things the boss can fix (resourcing, keeping office meetings limited in duration and scope, setting clear goals, etc). Telling my boss he appears insecure in talking with the bigwigs isn’t going to be helpful, even if it’s true. If the question is taken as boss saying “how can I help you excel in your role?” vs “do people like me in the office?” I think it’s easier to avoid pitfalls.

      1. PX*

        Basically I dont think my boss’s boss gives useful feedback – not anything concerning actual management of people in any case!

        Thanks for the feedback. Some of it I think I could apply. I think part of my worry is there’s just a fundamental difference in how I personally would like to be managed vs. his management style. Also the fact that the last time he asked for feedback, I didnt really notice any change, so I feel like its a bit of a waste (with the potential to offend and upset what is otherwise a perfectly good working relationship…)

    2. Betsy*

      If you’re comfortable with this, ask him for more specific questions.

      I just finished reading “Thanks for the Feedback”, by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, and they talk about the feedback trap that there are 3 kinds of feedback: affirmation (“you’re awesome!”), coaching (“these are two areas you could improve in, with advice about steps to take”), and evaluation (“compared to all managers I’ve ever had or seen, you are in the middle third of all managers.”)

      The danger in giving feedback to your boss, IMO, is of being asked for “feedback” and misreading what he wants to hear. If you ask, “When you say you want feedback, what exactly do you want to know about?” you can try to just what he really wants.

      “Well, how’m I doing? Are you happy?” -> “Oh, yeah! You’re doing great!”

      “What’s one thing you think I could do which would make it easier for you to perform your duties?” -> “Sometimes there’s a long turnaround on email responses. I understand that you have a full schedule, but if you had a more consistent email-response timeline, it would reduce my uncertainty.”

      I would never assume my boss was looking for evaluation, or give it if he was below the top third, so requests for evaluation would fall under the same category as affirmation for me, honestly.

      1. PX*

        Aha. Thanks for this, definitely things to think about and I shall tailor my approach accordingly :D

    3. ClaireS*

      I would frame it as “what you need to succeed” not a “what they need to get better at.” It’s a small difference that’s just semantics but it makes the conversation more comfortable.

      For example: “when this happened, you supported me this way and it worked really well.” Or “when this happened, I could really use support in x, y and z ways.”

      1. LMW*

        I was going to say the same thing! Instead of focusing on what he could do better or does well, why not look at what you need from your manager?
        I think part of being a good manager is being able to adapt to what your employees need from you, and that’s going to differ a little.

    4. Molly*

      Could you maybe think of it less as “Give me feedback on how I’m doing” and more as “How could we work together more efficiently?” and “What could I do to help streamline our work?”

      It might be easier to come up with things that way because a) they’re more specific than just “how am I doing”, b) there’s always something both of you could be doing more efficiently and to streamline your work, and c) it de-personalizes it a little, making it more about the work and less about your boss’s performance.

  39. Sarah*

    Strange advice

    I just started a new internal job. They’re looking to bring in new ideas to improve the department. There is one person doing the same job, and now it will also be me and also one new person. My trainer/ unofficial manager said to me that I should avoid speaking about my ideas in a small group, as someone else could takethe credit. He said that I should only speak about ideas in a meeting where notes are recorded. He said that otherwise someone can take credit for them. I tried probing but he wouldn’t elaborate. After thinking about this some more, I think what he may have been implying is to be wary of collaborating with the new guy.

    I am wondering your thoughts about anything below….
    A) Is it even reasonable/possible to only give ideas in a large group? How can you collaborate and be a good team if you’re constantly paranoid that someone will take your idea?
    B) Does this sound like normal advice that a manager would be giving?
    C) Has anyone else experienced having a colleague that you are afraid will take credit for your ideas? What did you do?

    Also just a note that the organization has a loose hierarchy.

    1. BRR*

      Could you make the ideas vague so that people get an impression of them but wouldn’t be able to steal them without more information?

    2. Betsy*

      This does NOT sound like normal advice that a manager would be giving. It sounds, honestly, like a nightmare place to work, where everyone’s focus is on receiving credit for their ideas as individuals instead of on doing the job. How they expect to get good ideas and results out of a group where apparently “success” for each individual is defined differently from “success” as a group — namely, group success is an improved department, but individual success is proposing an idea which is adopted.

      1. Sarah*

        Thank you for the validation! I really didn’t like his advice… I agree with you. It’s important for a group to collaborate and move the organization forward, rather than only focusing on individual achievements. :( It’s mostly this guy that is a bit defensive, rather than the organization as a whole. But I’m bothered b/c he is my main trainer for success in this role.

        He told me that he is having his own political issues and I think this may also have been a factor in him giving me this advice.

        Thank you so much for your feedback!!

    3. Camellia*

      Hmm, if “new guy” is new, how would this person know anything about them taking credit for other’s ideas?

      If it were me I would probably ignore this until it actually happened. Then you would know what you are dealing with. However, after any discussion it is a good idea to provide a recap by email. If you are truly concerned and want to be proactive, you could volunteer to do this and maybe list the discussion points by person.

      I do have a concern. You say there is only one person already doing this job, and you and ‘new guy’ are supposed to bring in new ideas to improve the department. Please make sure to handle this correctly so existing person doesn’t feel attacked. A

      1. Sarah*

        I like your idea to recap by email. I also like your suggestion not to take this to heart for the moment!

        I agree with you that it’s a concern. But she has also been requesting help with her role and wants others in the department. I do see that she will likely get defensive. I am treading lightly with her. :) Thanks. (I am avoiding discussing ‘new ideas’ when she is around. If you have any other specific suggestions that would be welcome.) Thanks so much for your helpful feedback!

        1. Camellia*

          “…bring in new ideas to the department.” is vague so I don’t know if this will help you or not, but I do have a couple of other suggestions.

          Have the existing processes/jobs/tasks been mapped out? Visio swim lanes or flowcharts are great for capturing the steps in any process or job. The existing person can and should help with that; we all feel better when ‘the experts’ know exactly what we do because there is less chance that they will try to change it to something stupid. Then you will have a thorough understanding of current practices and it should be easier to target areas for change.

          Also I would ask her if there are things that has been tried before and didn’t work. Again, this could help you avoid presenting a wonderful new idea, only to be told, guess what – it’s been tried before and didn’t work. Then you can probe further to find out if it REALLY had been tried and subsequently failed, or if it had been proposed but not really followed through, etc. This will also give you an idea of politics/bosses’ involvement, etc.

          And both of these will engage the current person and hopefully get her buy-in, participation, and support of any changes. After all, she had a part in creating it so why wouldn’t it be great?

          1. Sarah*

            Thanks, Camellia for the awesome suggestions! It’s a good idea to have conversations with her about our process and what has worked before. Also I am still struggling with the collaboration piece b/c my trainer is saying not to collaborate with the new guy. I would love to meet with everyone and speak about our ideas. I would invite the trainer, but I’m afraid that he may not be interested. I am so confused! Maybe I will try initiating a meeting with our 3 managers plus the trainer plus the new guy plus the current person to discuss the current process and ways that we can move forward. This whole thing about worrying about my credit is so bizarre.

            Thank you very much again for your insights!

    4. Kaz*

      Why is it so important that you get the credit for an idea? Does the person with the most ideas get an ice cream?

      Sounds like he may have felt his ideas were stolen in the past and that he wasn’t recognized as he feels he should have been. There are times when it’s good to get recognition for your ideas, but sometimes everybody needs to pitch in and the original creator of the idea gets lost in the shuffle.

    5. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Sounds like something that could happen in my workplace. It’s loosely organized and very competitive. This kind of culture can produce a lot of innovation, but it also can make it possible for some people to get ahead by taking credit for other people’s ideas and work. I would trust that your manager has your best interest at heart.

      That said, there are more ways to ensure credit for your ideas that what they recommended. In any workplace, documenting all of your ideas and work is a good practice whether or not it’s required. Start sending your manager weekly updates and include any ideas as part of your work. If there’s an internal blog or wiki where you can publish these reports, even better. Or use project management software.

      1. Sarah*

        Thanks for your feedback. Yes, I think in his strangeness he likely does have my interests at heart. (I do sometimes wonder what he is telling the new guy about me, though.. Maybe he is trying to make us competitive by isolating us from each other, although he says that we are not in competition.)

        I have documented my ideas. I have discussed a lot of them with managers informally before I officially started in this position. I thought about keeping the *full* list to myself for now. You think I should share it with the managers?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      There are some ideas that are small enough that it does not matter if you or Joe or Jane get credit for the idea. This is an angle to consider also.

      Like the others, I think that is a bit odd for your trainer to say. It could be HE is the one who is the idea thief and the others are normal people. You can always test the waters on simple ideas and see what happens. Then you will have a better feel for what will happen to your bigger ideas.
      You also have an opportunity because you say there is another new worker. This is a person who has not been indoctrinated into this bizarre system and is still nuetral. You can see what experiences she has and what she thinks.

      1. Sarah*

        I like your angle on this. He has been a bit manipulative in the past. I like your idea of starting with simple ideas. Now that I think of it, when I brought up a simple idea last week, the trainer said that it is not a priority right now. So there’s that. He is focused on what he wants to train me on rather than on changing our approach to things… Maybe it’ll just take some time or maybe he is also feeling a bit threatened.

  40. Virginian*

    Is anyone else applying long-distance for jobs? I’ve applied to several within my field (academia) and still haven’t heard anything. As a long-time reader of this site, I’m familiar with Alison’s advice. If there are any other hiring managers on here, what would make you consider an out-of-state candidate for an interview?

    1. BRR*

      When you say academia do you mean faculty positions? Because I imagine most candidates are out of area.

    2. Kaz*

      Within academia, assuming you’re applying for something specialized and not just secretarial/admin type work, they’re going to be pretty used to out of state candidates. I have a lot of friends who did Skype interviews first before an in-person – sometimes for a one-year position they didn’t even bother to meet in person.

    3. Sophia*

      If it’s for faculty positions they pretty much expect most, if not all, candidates to be out of state. Focus on your cover letter, cv, and other application materials

  41. straws*

    Any advice on how to deal with unintentionally creepy coworkers? I have an employee who is uncomfortable around an employee from another department. I don’t think it’s on purpose, but he tends to indirectly focus on her (using her name in examples, always sitting next to her in cross department meetings, etc). It’s never anything direct or threatening, and the specific instances could always be explained away by coincidence. For now, she’s content that I’m aware in case anything does escalate, but I feel like there should be more that I can do to help her feel more comfortable.

    1. Exhozzled*

      If it is making the employee uncomfortable to come to you, you need to take it seriously. I would get her to document everything and also keep an eye on it yourself. If you do notice it is happening too many times to be purely a coincidence, speak to him and tell him to back off a bit. If it continues you will need to take it further. Does he do it to any other employees or just her?

      I experienced this with a coworker who has now left and it was horrible and almost caused me to quit my job because I was that uncomfortable. This could build into a sexual harassment case if this continues.

      1. straws*

        I agree, it’s a really bad position to be in, so I want to make sure that the end result is that she’s comfortable working here. It does seem to be just her. I made sure that she’s involved in and ok with every step, and her main goal is to just ensure that these smaller issues are known as they come up. I respect her a lot for being mature, but also standing up for herself! I’ll double check to make sure she is keeping documentation. Hopefully it will just fizzle out, but that will be very important if it doesn’t.

    2. robot chick*

      I’d bring it up conversationally at some point, maybe when he mentions her, “You know, I never realized you and Jane were friends, but you also always sit toghether, don’t you? I wonder why she never mentioned anything…” and move on with the conversation.
      If it’s really unintentional, or he’s just genuinely bad with social cues (like Jane radiating discomfort) and trying to befriend her, he should take a hint (and probably be thankful for the nudge).
      If it’s less unintentional, he might still back off because then he knows people notice what he’s doing.
      Either way, you’re (more or less) putting the cards on the table with a minimum of awkwardness for all involved.

      1. straws*

        I like this! It touches on the part that was awkward for me: I don’t want to take a step into a sexual harassment accusation for something that really could be unintentional. I take that very seriously on both sides. A casual mention of the behavior seems like a really good first step that could potentially resolve the issue. Thanks!

        1. Del*

          Another similar thing could be if he uses Jane as an example for the millionth time, you could say “Hey, why don’t we leave Jane alone for a bit? Wakeen’s not gotten the spotlight lately, what if he’s the one [doing the example action]” Highlighting the behavior and turning it aside without treating it as a calling-him-out thing.

      2. Camellia*

        I don’t think I would use this phrasing. He may only hear “You and Jane are friends” and think that is a good thing, or that she feels that way.

        1. Mints*

          Yeah I’m not sure that would work. If he doesn’t see her discomfort, saying that they’re friends might actually make it worse, since it’s validating the (non)friendship.

          I like the example of “Let’s give Jane a break from all these hypotheticals. How about Khaleesi instead?” (If a joke is in order, a good fake name could work, or just a regular John Doe example if not)

          1. straws*

            I agree, I think this is more the way I’ll go if/when the opportunity arises. Although to be honest, there’s no reason why an actual staff member needs to be used for these examples. So the fake name or even just “the user” would suffice. Hopefully that will also prevent the focus from just shifting to someone else.

      3. Laura2*

        I don’t think it’s a good idea to mention this like it’s just an observation, especially if he lacks basic social awareness. He might just not get the hint at all. I think it’s important to be direct about these things, especially since it’s not just something the OP noticed, but something the coworker spoke to her about.

    3. Persephone Mulberry*

      Depending on your company culture and what you know about that employee’s relationship with his direct supervisor, I would either mention it to the employee casually, as above, or bring it up with the employee’s supervisor, as a from-one-manager-to-another head’s up. “Hey, Bob, I wanted to loop you in that Jane is becoming a little uncomfortable with the attention that Joe pays to her, like when he always sits next to her in meetings. I can mention it to him the next time I see him, unless you’d prefer to talk to him yourself.”

    4. The one with the creepy coworker...*

      If you’ve seen any of my posts in open threads over the last few weeks…know you should say something now and, unlike my workplace, KEEP ON IT if nothing changes. It doesn’t have to be accusatory exactly. Just more like “I don’t know if you’re aware, but you often use Jane as a focus, like for an example or this or that. It’s making her uncomfortable to be the focus we’d like that to stop.” It is still somewhat harsh sounding, but if it was just coincidence he should be apologetic, and if not he will now know that people are aware of what he’s doing. I wish more people had done that to our creepy workplace coworker.

      1. straws*

        Thank you for commenting! I’m glad to hear from someone with a similar situation. He’s definitely not crossing the lines that your coworker was/is, but I think he’s the personality type that he could get that way eventually and I really don’t want to see it escalate. I’m storing all documentation for now & am keeping an open communication with the uncomfortable employee. She knows she can talk to me any time, but especially for this. If it does come up again, I’ll definitely prepare myself to speak to him or his supervisor.

  42. Rebecca*

    I’m starting to think my manager’s bad management style is due to the start of dementia. I’ve worked for her for over 10 years, and the last 2 years she’s gotten progressively worse at managing, for no apparent reason.

    She forgets conversations. Then, when we bring them up, she says “send me an email”. When she doesn’t read that, she complains about the number of emails she has. She acts very proud of herself when she finally gets to something, 18 months later, and can’t understand why the need has passed and we don’t need to discuss the issue any longer.

    There have been a lot of procedural changes, and our team learns about them the hard way: when we continue to do things, then all of a sudden, another manager says “this changed 3 weeks ago – why aren’t you following the new procedure?” Sure enough, my manager acts all confused, says she’s sure she went over it, and tries to deflect the situation back on us.

    Then there’s the odd hiring practices. She hired someone completely unqualified for the job nearly 18 months ago because it would be neat to give someone like her a chance, this person is still struggling, and the solution was to lay off another person (?) which she told me about “confidentially”. That’s a whole other issue – don’t tell your direct reports that someone is getting the ax so they can look at that person day after day! It’s not fair!

    There are a ton more examples, but I think you get the picture.

    Has anyone else had this happen? What do we do? Is this something for HR, or her boss? She has our jobs in her hands, and I think this is something to proceed very carefully on.

    1. Betsy*


      This is a harsh situation. I would probably talk to HR, but only if I was prepared to look for a new job if things stayed the same. I would also focus less on the odd hiring practices, and more on the memory issues, since they’re less subjective:

      “This is a delicate situation, but someone needs to be informed of it. For the last few years, it seems as though Jane has been having some memory issues. She forgets conversations, doesn’t read emails, and doesn’t inform us of procedure changes. Up until around 2 years ago, she was a much better manager, but things are getting progressively worse, and it’s having a significant negative impact on the team. I don’t know the entire situation, of course, but I’m seeing a downward pattern, and I’m worried it will continue to deteriorate.”

      1. Rebecca*

        Exactly – I mean, how do you bring something like this up?

        I recognize these symptoms, as several older family members have succumbed to dementia, and this is exactly how it starts. They started forgetting things, and when you brought up that yes, we discussed this before, or this changed, then the defensiveness and deflecting started.

        My plan is to find another job, and if I get an exit interview with someone other than my manger, then I’ll bring it up.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Unfortunately, I think we can safely say that upper management doesn’t care. If they just don’t know what’s going on, then that still says that they don’t care enough about performance and efficiency to keep tabs on what this division/department is doing. HR might get involved if she’s becoming a huge liability to the company, by botching something huge, but it’ll probably take a huge disaster for them to take action.

    3. Joey*

      Talk to her boss: “I’m concerned about Jane.” Then explain everything you explained here. As long as you’re conveying that its a dramatic change, is out of character, an is impacting work in a big way that’s the supervisors cue to look into it herself and raise the performance issues and potential health problems with Jane .

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree about talking to the boss. Just list off the behaviors that you are seeing and the impact it is having on your work and the department’s work. I think you know to stay away from pointing to a particular diagnosis. But you could express concern that maybe she needs to see a doctor.
        I think when you list off what you have been seeing, that list alone will speak for itself.

  43. Betsy*

    Where do other women get decent business casual clothes? I keep trying to find a place that sells good trousers and skirts, but everywhere is either selling them for $100 and forcing me to roll the dice on quality, selling clothes that fall apart, or not selling anything that feels businessy enough.

    1. wesgerrr*

      I go to secondhand stores, the quality is good and it’s a fraction of the price of new business clothes.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        +1. My mom runs a consignment shop and she frequently gets clothes from brands like Banana Republic, White House Black Market, Ann Taylor, J. Crew and Calvin Klein. Sometimes the clothes are new with tags. Look for second hand/consignment stores in neighborhoods that are a little more affluent – you’re more likely to find new with tags and high end items.

        I also recommend TJ Maxx and Marshalls. My sister just went to Marshalls with $100 and got 2 pairs of dress pants, 2 cardigans and 3 tops, all by name brands.

      2. C Average*

        +1. I’m a total brand snob, but never ever buy anything new. It can be done! I have a sort of route I take every few weeks that includes several nice secondhand stores. I find that if I stop by regularly, I can often find good stuff.

        1. Stephanie*

          You. I like you. I , too, have my consignment store route among the stores in the nice part of town.

    2. Chloe Silverado*

      I like Banana Republic and Express for pants and skirts. I’ve always had good luck with their clothes. If you sign up for their email lists they frequently send out coupons – I almost never pay full price.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I love Banana Republic for pants. They’re amazingly sturdy if you treat them right. I lived in Express pants in high school and again: workhorses. Express usually has good sales as well.

    3. littlemoose*

      I love Gap’s trousers. They don’t have a huge selection, but they’ve got some nice basic styles (wider range of styles online). They’re machine washable and have held up well in my experience. Gap often has coupons or sales, especially online, so you can get some good deals.

      1. Miss C*

        As others have mentioned, Banana Republic is great! I find that Anthropologie often has steep discounts on their classic style pants in the sale section, especially in the fall/winter, and they are really good quality, usually with a tiny bit of twist (like an interesting piping or lining or something). They just don’t seem to be popular items at Anthropologie because there’s so much more eye candy!

        1. Stephanie*

          The good thing about Anthro, too, is that the inventory turns over so much, the item you like will probably on sale within a month.

    4. Anonymint*

      Banana Republic and J.Crew have GREAT sales – They’re actually having them right now! I got a gorgeous blazer at BR for $45 last night, along with a few nice skirts and a blouse. My total was just under $200.

      I put together a “wish list” in my head, and then when mid/higher end stores are having sales I just shop around until I find the right thing. J.Crew always has pencil skirts on sale (and their online outlet – J.Crew Factory – is very, very reasonable) and BR always has dresses and blouses on sale. Sometimes you can hit the jackpot and get a good blazer (usually in-store, not online).

      I love clothes but don’t have a very big budget and learned the hard way that you don’t ever have to pay full price (except in emergencies!) and eventually, everything goes on sale.

      1. AVP*

        I love the Madewell sales! They’re owned by J. Crew so the quality is pretty good, and they have a lot of uniquer-looking pieces that can be mixed with more traditional office clothes a few times a week.

    5. Valar M.*

      GAP. If you sign up for their email list, they regularly have sales for 30-40% off. So while their paints might be $70 originally, they end up being pretty affordable. The quality is pretty good in my experience, and definitely businessy enough.

    6. Persephone Mulberry*

      +1 to upscale resale shops and signing up for email lists for the brands you like. Filters (or the Gmail promotions tab) are super handy for dumping all those emails into a folder so they’re not cluttering up my inbox, and when I’m ready to shop I can quickly search that folder to see what offers I have available (if only I could program it to also delete them as they expire, I’d be in heaven!).

    7. Algae*

      I’ve had good luck with zulily for dresses and tops. And I kind of adopted a uniform for the last year – t-shirt, flyaway cardigan, scarf. A few cardigans aren’t expensive and I mostly found my scarves at TJ Maxx or on clearance.

      I’ve actually had a bit of luck with the thrift store for pants. I’m trying to lose weight, so I haven’t wanted to spend a lot of money on a size I hope not to wear more than 6 months.

    8. Allison*

      I’m young, so I can get away with shopping for work clothes at H&M. It probably helps that I don’t work in a super conservative field. Have you tried Kohl’s? I don’t always wear pants to work, but when I do, they come from Kohl’s.

    9. Sparrow*

      My got to places are Gap, Express, The Limited, Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft. My favorit pair of black pants that I wear all the time are the Perfect Trouser from Gap. I did have a problem with the hem falling out, but some Stich Witch fixed it up.

      This may sound weird, but I also bought some dress pants from Victoria’s Secret. The Christie fit worked perfectly for me and they had petite lengths. It’s been a while, so I don’t know if they still carry them. I’ve got a pair of tan and gray pants fromVS that are wardrobe staples.

    10. Lucy*

      I’m a fan of Loft, but only when their stuff is on sale. I’m short (5’1) and their petites fit me well. They have 40% off sales fairly often- no excuse to pay full price for anything there!

    11. A Jane*

      Places like Marshalls, Ross, TJ Maxx, etc have decent business clothes, but you’ll need the patience to sort through the racks.

    12. Rana*

      Ann Taylor is also nice. (It’s the only place where I’ve ever been able to buy a suit off the rack and have it fit perfectly, save hemming, so I may be a bit biased.)

      1. Rana*

        Also, if you’re comfortable with online ordering for clothes, LandsEnd has a lot of well-made, classic business casual wear. It’s not trendy or cutting edge, but the quality’s high relative to price.

    13. JBeane*

      I’ve found the trick to getting good work clothes at low cost is to go to consignment or Cancer Society thrift stores in high income neighborhoods. I’ll often find name brand stuff with tags still on, and even the used clothes don’t look like they’ve been worn more than a few times. Last time I made the trip to a nice neighborhood I stopped by the Cancer Society thrift store and found a wool skirt and a cashmere sweater for a grand total of $3.50.

      1. Anx*


        Whenever I go home I go shopping at all the consignment stores.

        The ones in my economically depressed town are much more expensive and have designer or more thrift stop clothes. At home I can find better prices and selection for midrange stuff.

        I have about 5 pairs of work pants that cost less than $10 each.

    14. Kaz*

      Lands’ End is very good and also having a 30% off sale this weekend. Always check their clearance/reduced stuff too – that’s 30% off as well!

    15. Lisa*

      Ebay! Figure out which of the expensive brands you like & what size works best (either fits well as is or can be altered). Then go home and measure pants/skirts/jackets/tops you already own that fit well – lay them out flat & do side to side and up & down measurements. Then put in the brand name & the size on eBay & search by price. I really like brands like Nordstroms Classiques Entier and Lafayette 148 for professional clothing but can’t afford full retail, so gently-used or new pieces from eBay are my go-to. You can also pick up Banana Republic and Lord & Taylor private-label pieces this way, & even jackets from designers like Armani and Jaeger, if your tastes run that way. I bought at least a half dozen Armani black label jackets this year at an average price of $50 per…. vintage jackets can be altered or worn with dark wash jeans, and it’s a great look at not much money.

    16. hnl123*

      I subscribe to email lists for Ann Taylor, Loft, Limited, Ideeli and some others. They often have 50-70% off sales online and I have gotten my entire wardrobe this way, never paying any more than $25 for a single item. Most are less than $20, and I’ve received numerous compliments.

  44. Anonymous*

    I’ve had this come up a couple of times this year. What is the appropriate response when you have been asking an outside supplier/vendor for information/documents via email and they tell you that they were out for a family emergency? I speak to some every day, so it feels very cold to just ignore it and move on, as I have been doing. I worry that someone has died, etc. Any idea what to say that wouldn’t be weird over email?

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      I completely understand – I have 2 vendors that I talk to almost daily and to me they feel more like part of my team than outside vendors. When I’ve been in this situation, I’ve just responded with something like “I hope everything is ok!” and then move on. If they want to volunteer additional information they can, but if not they can just say “Thanks!” or ignore it and get back to business.

      1. Christine*

        I also respond with “Oh, no! I hope everything is OK!” I have a few that I’m closer to, that I might ask questions, but that’s more from a friendship perspective than a professional one.

  45. Sabrina*

    Alison always says “strong candidates have options” and I never do, so I guess I’m not a strong candidate. So, how do you fix that?

    1. Ali*

      Let me know if you find the solution. I’m dealing with the same thing. Except in my case I tend to feel like I’m a strong candidate (I’ve had interviews, employers do reference checks, etc.), and then I always lose out to someone else.

    2. Beebs*

      I keep receiving cues that I am a strong candidate, and my biased judgement agrees. But I have been struggling with the job search for some time.

      I am starting to wonder if there is a disconnect between the hiring process and the best candidate. Lately I have been seeing positions that I had looked into previously being reposted after about a year, and am also aware of industry turnover and candidates not working out.

    3. Colette*

      I’d check your resume – does it accurately reflect what you’ve done? Could you re-word it to make it stronger?

      What about former coworkers? Are they open to talking to you/putting you in touch with their contacts? If so, can you do that?

      When I was last unemployed (for 7 months), I had very few interviews – until the last month, when I had two different job offers. Sometimes it’s just luck.

      If you really believe you’re not a strong candidate, though, think about what you’re missing. Is there an important skill or credential you should get? Do you have a reputation for doing the bare minimum? Do you frequently have conflicts with your coworkers? Are you in an industry/career that’s dying?

      1. Sabrina*

        I’ve been told that my resume is good. And I’ve always gotten good reviews, been told that I work hard and am always willing to help out. I don’t have conflicts with coworkers. Mostly if I don’t like someone, I keep it to myself. Most of my experience is in AA and support type roles. I’d like to go in to Project Management. I’m not sure how to gear my resume towards that, since I’ve never done it formally.

        1. Colette*

          My thought is that making a shift in the type of role you’re going for makes you less of a strong candidate. Moving to a job you have no track record is means you aren’t a superstar at it, and it will be a little harder to find something.

          That doesn’t mean you’re not a great employee (or that you sh0udn’t try to change), just that this is new to you.

        2. Joey*

          Well strong candidates always have options isn’t exactly true all the time. Especially when there’s tons of strong candidates with similar skills.

          If you’re tryin to break into PM you need to look for any and every opportunity that’s likely to lead to PM. That might be looking for PM participation in your current role if possible or even looking at admin roles where you’d be working around a lot of PM’s. In other words don’t just look at PM roles, look at roles that can lead to PM roles.

    4. Tzippy*

      Although I’ve been volunteering rather regularly in my desired field for the 2 years since I’ve graduated, and have done 3 internships in it, no one has decided to hire me yet, after 2 years of constantly looking. I’ve had some crappy sales/telemarketing jobs in between that I hate and aren’t entirely related. I do get a LOT of interviews, so it’s not that. I think for me and a lot of people who’ve graduated in the last 5ish years, it’s that people with 5 years of relevant experience are taking entry level jobs, so it’s increasingly rare to find companies that will give someone their first chance. So there’s not nearly enough first chances for everyone, even if like me you have years of relevant volunteer experience and relevant internships. Also choosing PR which is super duper competitive probably doesn’t help – most people who also graduate with a PR degree 2 years ago aren’t employed in the field. Everything else I can think of that I might like and consider going back to school for is just as super duper competitive so I don’t know what to do (or how much longer I can last with sales jobs without a nervous breakdown) . I think sometimes there’s very little you can do to fix that, though I still recommend volunteering to all unemployed people I know, because it’s gotten me interviewed and I at least get to feel useful doing unpaid work I enjoy

      1. Anx*

        Sometimes I think it’s a just a numbers game.

        I really appreciate all of the work Alison has done here and the comment threads are invaluable. But at the end of the day, the advice here is only going to go so far and competition is fierce. Maybe I’m just making up excuses for myself, but I think my life depends on it.

        What scares me most is that after years of seeing people with 2-5 years paid experience filling the entry level jobs, I’m seeing a few more people starting to recruit for actual entry level jobs. But now I’m in a weird limbo where I’m not a new graduate and still don’t have experience, so I’m competing with both experience and youth. It’s very demoralizing.

        I actually feel sick this week because I have found the FIRST entry level job in the field I’m licensed in. They require some experience that I don’t have, but it’s only 1 more year instead of 2 or 3 so I’m going for it. It’s been FOUR years since I’ve been near eligible for an opening.

        1. Beebs*

          Just want to echo the sentiment about your life depending on it. I whole heartedly agree. I truly appreciate all of the advice and support I have been receiving and the encouragement that “something will happen eventually” – but that isn’t providing for me. Unfortunately this is a unique issue where your life and survival do depend on it, I am single and independent so I don’t have someone to rely on financially to support me. You spend so many years on the “right” path and then end up here, it doesn’t make any sense.

  46. Anon*

    I got let go from a very stressful position after 90 days for various reasons. Some of it was a bad culture fit. Just feeling depressed about.

    1. Doy*

      If you think you’re feeling depressed now, just think how bad you’d have felt if you were there for a year. Or two. Or three. All that stress, the bad fit, over and over and over, every day… and then trying to find another job after all the life has been sucked out of you…

      Make a list of all the wretched things you loathed about this job- big and small- while they are fresh in your mind. Then put it aside and spend the weekend doing little things to re-create your soul.

      Next week, look at the list and write out the opposite, positive things you will be looking for in your next job- you know what the deal breakers are now!- and happy hunting, eh?

      1. Anon*

        Good idea. Thanks :) The job was making me miserable and I was thinking of quitting anyway

    2. Lisa*

      Also, think about what made it stressful: was it the work or the culture? Was it the (lack of) effective management or were your preferred ways of being managed not happening? Good honest answers to those questions – and thinking back to any red flags that might have come up in the interview/first week – might help you avoid a similar situation in the future.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, this is a bummer. Bad job and then no job. Crap.

      When you can, try to refine your list of what you want in a job. Use it as a way of thinking about work and work places in a new more refined manner.

      For years I did not want to work for big companies with hundreds of people. I could not stand the idea of being a small fish in a big ocean, feeling like just another number. When I left said big company it was huge downer. But I knew before I started that I didn’t like big companies. Going forward, I had to be more deliberate about what I was choosing.

  47. Perpetua*

    Any tips for a newly-appointed one-woman HR department in a company of about 30-40 employees (mobile games industry)? :)

    1. ClaireS*

      Don’t be too rigid. At an old job (~30 people) we hired an outside hr contractor who instituted a bunch of rules and processes that appeared to be just because “that’s how things are done.” Take some time to learn the needs of the company before changing everything all around.

      When you do make changes, be transparent about why they are necessary.
      Good luck!

    2. Joey*

      Yes. Don’t just be the police. Look for ways you can maximize the discretionary effort of your folks in addition to minimizing legal exposure. This is the best way to add value. This means looking for ways to reward employees relative to their value. Of course that means there needs to be metrics and good benchmarks. Also, keep policies to a minimum.

    3. Chriama*

      I would also say make it a point to get to know the other employees really well. The junior people need to trust you to act professionally (not always confidential, but at least being forthright with them) and the managers need to respect you well enough to let you tell them when their hiring process stinks :p

      In a small company, HR will know a lot about each employee personally, so make sure you use professional discretion, never ever gossip (even about something seemingly harmless), and try not to learn things about your coworkers you don’t need to know (e.g. if someone turns medical forms in to you, only read the info you need in order to file it away properly/pass it off to the appropriate agency). Boundaries sometimes get blurred at small start-ups, especially if the culture has a lot of socialization/ pub nights/ company sports teams, etc. Since you’re privy to a lot of confidential information, make sure to stay really conscious of professional boundaries and don’t make friends with coworkers without establishing boundaries about work topics.

  48. EduStudent*

    Any suggestions on not feeling bad leaving work when it’s after 5pm and you have finished your work to do, but many coworkers are still there and not showing signs of winding down? (I can’t help them on their work for a few reasons.)

    1. MJH*

      If you have done your work for the day, there is really nothing wrong with leaving at 5 PM. So you can leave at 5 and feel bad, or leave at 5 and feel fine.

      Tell yourself you’ve done what you can and what you are paid for, and then go. You honestly don’t owe the company more than that. Also, the company wouldn’t hesitate to do what is best for their bottom line, etc., so you need to do what is best for you as a person.

    2. Befuddled Squirrel*

      I used to have a job like that. Sometimes I stayed late and pretended to be busy. Other times, I just left quietly when my work was done.

  49. evilintraining*

    I work at a company that, through employee word-of-mouth, has a large number of employees from one particular country. Many spent considerable time in refugee camps, where even basic hygiene was almost nonexistent. Even though there are signs posted and it’s been communicated verbally, there’s still an issue with people washing their feet in the bathroom sinks. Any other suggestions on how to stop this? We’re a food manufacturer, so it really is a big problem!

    1. nep*

      I gather this is part of ablutions for prayer? Are the washrooms set up in such a way that a foot-washing area could be created without too much expense?

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I think this is a company problem, not an employee problem. You have a lot of employees who need to wash their feet, so create a way for them to do that.

      1. MK*

        +1 The people who’re washing their feet seem to be practicing Muslims (not related to them being refugees). Not providing religious accommodations may lead to legal problems later on, so it’s in the interest of the company to address this is in a way that respects the employees’ beliefs and addresses any issues that the company may have regarding food manufacturing.

      2. Jamie*

        I disagree – I think the company should make it clear what’s not acceptable (the sinks) and the employees need to find a way to do what they need to do. Wipes, bring their own plastic basins – whatever.

        Religious accommodations doesn’t extend to providing, at company expense, the tools they need to practice their religion. If I did some Catholic ritual in my office on lunch they’d have to allow me to do it, but not provide the Holy Water or rosary or whatever.

        Why would the company be on the hook for any added expense?

        1. MK*

          I agree with you on a lot of what you said regarding 1) finding a middle ground and 2) not requiring employers to take on the financial burden of their employees’ religious beliefs. I’ve a background in civil rights law and am constantly amazed how many employers get into trouble by not providing common sense decency to their employees. I think that employers who have religious employees should try to understand religion 101 and then provide realistic solutions that satisfy the needs of both parties.

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Because it’s generally good practice to accommodate employees’ reasonable needs. I’m not suggesting that this is a legal issue, but rather a company that should respond to the reality of its workforce. Why not designate one sink for foot washing and set up a clean-up station (with extra towels/mop/etc.) to handle any spills (or something along those lines)?

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Sorry, didn’t quite finish. The company’s employee base has changed; the company should adjust to reflect those changes. Back before women worked, office buildings didn’t have ladies’ rooms; they changed. Before computers were common, offices didn’t have as many outlets; they changed. This feels the same to me.

            1. Jamie*

              I misunderstood and thought when you said it was an employer issue you meant legally – which you didn’t say so totally on me for reading it wrong.

              I guess where I see the difference is religion is highly personal. Yes, so is what we do in the bathroom but everyone, regardless of anything else, if you’re human you need access to a bathroom – that’s universal and religion is not.

              Outlets because electrical needs changed is a function of the business – not in deference to employees.

              Also, I have no idea how one would wash one’s feet in a sink without a huge mess and/or sitting on the counter. Logistically I just don’t get how it works, especially if you aren’t super limber. So to put a cleaning station in would, in my mind, mean putting in a lower sink which is redoing the plumbing.

              And I just don’t see how that would ever be an employer expense. It would be nice if they want to, but I don’t think there is any reason why it should be their problem.

              There are plastic basins you can get at any dollar store – employees could take care of this themselves in a cost effective way. Basin which holds the soap and towel when not in use.

              I’m not trying to be argumentative – I’m just really interested in the concept since seeing this as something the employer should address is something I am having a hard time understanding.

              But I’m happy to agree to disagree.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      I may be missing something. Why is it worse to wash feet in bathroom sinks than to wash hands in bathroom sinks? Given what your hands get up to (in bathrooms especially) in between periods of handling food, I would think any concern about What Might Be Left In The Sink would be worse if Whatever It Is came off someone’s hands than off someone’s feet. And it’s a bathroom sink. If people were washing their feet in the kitchen sinks, I’d be right with you; but people shouldn’t wash their hands in commercial food-prep sinks, either, really – there should be dedicated handwashing stations.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        When this was an issue at a community college in Minneapolis, the problem was generally that because sinks aren’t designed for foot washing, water gets everywhere and the bathroom ends up messy. It’s not really a hygiene issue.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t have experience with this, but if people go barefoot and then put shoes on to go to work bottoms of feet can get way filthier than your hands can in the course of a day.

          She mentioned there were hygene issues, so it’s possible it’s not just clean feet which have been in socks/shoes all day.

          I am a barefoot girl whenever possible and I wouldn’t wash my feet after that in a sink other people were using.

      2. Henrietta Gondorf*

        Damage to the sinks. When you put a significant portion of your body weight on the sink, it’ll pull away from the wall over time.

    4. CTO*

      Like the others have said, feet-washing is a critical aspect of the Muslim prayer ritual, which is performed several times a day. This practice is so important to its followers that posting a few signs won’t make people stop doing it.

      It would be in your company’s best interest to accommodate this religious practice and work together with the Muslim employees to find a solution that works for everyone. Employee buy-in will be far, far more likely to get results than signs and lectures. In my state, there are a lot of Islam-practicing refugees working in food manufacturing. Surely many of them have found some solutions that could be adopted at your company.

    5. AM*

      this won’t help your situation but just to add some context: as others have said many Muslims take the 5 daily prayers seriously and that means praying at work. I have prayed at work often and have tried to find a solution to this feet-in-the-sink problem. but the only other solution i’ve found is to use my hands to bring water to my feet and rinse them — which just leads to water on the floor, and i think a slippery floor is a much more dangerous outcome. sometimes i can use wet paper towels to wash my feet, but many bathrooms have only air dryers now.

      how is the feet washing getting in the way of your hand washing? are the sinks left really dirty? or is it just a problem because you’re not used to it?

    6. Lisa*

      Swap out a sink or two for bidets? Washing feet in a bidet has got to be safer as well…

    7. C Average*

      In the best possible world, where expense is not an issue, you’d deal with this by adding an employee shower or two to your facilities. Then not only could the foot-washers wash their feet, but the rest of the employees could get in a workout at lunch and have a place to clean up. We have showers here, and it’s really handy to have a place to clean up after going running or hitting the gym.

  50. Brigitha*

    I have a verbal offer for a job with an electrical contractor. I’m waiting on the completed job description and formal offer which they said I’d have by the end of the week. The position is basically an assistant to the owner and project manager (two separate people) and will consist of dealing with paperwork for proposals and operation manuals, double checking specs, editing corrected design documents, and organizing the project workflow. The position title is “Project Engineer”.

    My question is: is that the usual title for a position like this? My husband is a licensed civil engineer, and I know the term “engineer” is regulated. People get in trouble and fined for signing documents as an engineer when they’re not. I’m not sure the kind of organizing and paperwork I’ll be doing could accurately be described as “engineering” anyway. If this is the usual title for this position, then I don’t want to sound silly asking for a different one … but if it’s going to be problematic then I want to have that conversation once the formal offer is made.

    Am I over-thinking this?

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I think “Engineer” is an odd choice for an administrative-sounding job, but I can’t speak to the legalities of it. They were perhaps looking for something more authoritative than “Assistant” or “Coordinator” and defaulted to a common individual-contributor level title in their industry. If you’re uncomfortable with the title, I’d suggest “Project Specialist” as an alternative – that’s my title for a similar role (in a completely different industry).

    2. EE*

      The term “engineer” is not regulated in the US. The term “professional engineer” might be – that requires a licensing exam. Your husband’s field is an exception; most engineers do not take the licensing exam (varies by field, but e.g. only 3 people out of 300 engineers at my company have their PE).

      It is uncommon in my experience for jobs with engineer in their title to not require an engineering degree. It sounds more like you’d be an assistant project manager or something.

    3. MT*

      Engineer is only a regulated term in certain aspects. There are certain documents that the government requires a licensed engineer to be able to sign off on. Mostly civil and mechanical. The term engineer is soo generic anymore, that come trash collectors are now called sanitation engineers. I think that “project engineer” is not the correct title to use if you are not spearheading the project.

    4. Mints*

      In construction, I think it’s really common to have “project engineers,” but my impression was that it was like a project management role, more management than entry level
      I’d probably search Indeed for “project engineer” titles to see if it sounds like what you’re doing. Or maybe LinkedIn for people with that title so you can filter for industry. (Alternatives to search: Project Coordinator, Project Associate, Project Assistant)

    5. Glorified Plumber*

      Yes you are overthinking. :)

      Contractors routinely have folks in these “Project Engineer” roles who do everything you describe. They are TYPICALLY not engineers, and almost certainly do not work in an engineering design role.

      They are more best described as a project manager or some sort of construction manager. However, they will often interface with engineering documents (construction drawings, specifications, submittals, RFI’s, etc.).

      I work with MANY different contractors at a large large large client site, and there are MANY “Project Engineers”. I do not know a single one who does actual engineering design (completely not in their job description, that is what A&E firms are for).

      That said, said project engineers play an important role and can be paid quite well.

      Good luck in your new role!

      With regards to the other folks talking about “Engineer” as a protected title, I believe it is highly state dependent, and then also has lots to do with the services you are advertising.

      When I transferred offices my company prohibited me from putting “Process Engineer” in my signature until I had my PE in my new state. I had to put “Process Department” or some crap like that. While, when I lived and worked in a state 5 miles away, I was able to put “Process Engineer” on my signature with zero hulla-baloo despite no PE. Weird. I don’t know that anyone ever actually convinced me that “These are the rules…” just, I heard lots of squawking about “Engineers” in State 2.0, and none in State 1.0.

    6. Brigitha*

      Thanks so much for all the feedback! I just got the email … they gave the job to someone else who could start immediately. I’m bummed, but now I know more about the field and have a new title to search for openings in. Thanks again.

  51. Lunaire*

    My colleague is both obnoxious and gross. He’s nice, but everyone in our small office has started avoiding him because he comes over to your cubicle, ask a work-related question, then starts on a half-hour, if not more, monologue about his wife, his children, his dog, his weekend plans, etc., stealing valuable work time away from you. He doesn’t even get the hint to stop. Saying “I’m busy” doesn’t give him pause at all. Saying “I want to finish this now,” only makes him go “oh it won’t be long” and then he starts yapping away anyway. I’ve started wearing headphones at work, to no avail. I’ve tried to ignore him, but he just continues obliviously. I’ve asked to be separated from him and I have, but he keeps coming over anyway. It’s gotten so bad I’m tensing up and freezing every time I hear him get off his chair, because I do not want him to come to my desk and blabber away again. Last week I got so overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts at work from all the stress in my life, of which he is a major component, I had to get out and call 911 so they’d come get me before something happened and I spent the night under watch in the psychiatry ER.

    In addition to the above, now he comes to my desk to try and tries to get me to tell him how I feel today so he can give me wise advice on how to run my life.

    All this is not mentioning his gross habits like constantly eating his fungal nails and clearing his throat like he wants to spit out a loogie the size of my fist, and smelling like a toxic combo of B.O. and unwashed clothes all day every day.

    Am I justified in telling my boss about all this? I’m afraid to look like the whiny one and get fired, but I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t want to ever have to call 911 again. That was a pretty heartbreaking experience.

    1. nep*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this.
      More than justified in talking to your boss about this colleague.
      I hope you’ll get some relief soon — not just in this situation but more importantly in whatever else is going on that has you to the point of suicidal thoughts.

    2. Betsy*

      Oh, god. Are you me? I was RIGHT THERE with you, through all the awful conversation, the oversharing, the poor hygiene, the unwillingness to stop, and the incredible stress and helplessness that come from feeling like you’re trapped by this incredibly stressful guy who just has NO idea he’s doing it.

      Two steps:
      1. Monday morning, before he comes over to talk to you, go over and talk to him. Tell him, “Wakeen, our conversations every day are excessive. They’re taking up a lot of time, and you don’t respect my need to end them. I really need you to stop initiating non-work conversations.” Then, whenever he starts a personal conversation, remind him of this, put on your headphones, and turn away from him. NOTE: with my awful Wakeen, this literally felt like turning my back on an armed gunman. It was INCREDIBLE difficult, stressful, and terrifying. Do it anyway, if you can.

      2. If you doesn’t stop after this, then yes, tell your boss. “Jane, I’ve been having trouble with Wakeen lately. He keeps coming to my work area and talking to me about non-work topics, even when I tell him that I need him to stop so I can finish my work. I’ve been explicit and clear, and he is ignoring my requests that he wrap it up and leave. This often eats up a half-hour or more of my day. I try to ignore him and work anyway, but it’s not working. This is really interfering with my ability to do my job. Do you have any suggestions for how I should handle this?”

      Also, a piece of advice: Wakeen is not really nice. Wakeen is a guy who is taking advantage of the social norms which tell you not to say, “Fuck off, dude: I have told you 39 times not to pull this crap, and you are becoming crazy awful stalker dude.” He knows you don’t want to be in these conversations. He is just so desperate for conversation that he doesn’t care. You are a prop in his movie of Wakeen’s life. (Disclaimer: may be wrong. But it is best for you and, eventually, him if if you assume this is true)

      1. hildi*

        “Also, a piece of advice: Wakeen is not really nice. Wakeen is a guy who is taking advantage of the social norms…”

        I totally agree with this. People’s feelings and relationship are often default priorities for me. I care about what others think of me and how I make them feel. So I tend to avoid conflict when I should face it, etc. It’s taken me a long time to understand this concept that when you politely tell someone to back off and they don’t, then you are free from the burden of feeling bad about hurting their feelings. At that point, they are showing you that THEY don’t care about your feelings (if you did indeed communmicate them), so now you can be firmer, harder, much more assertive than you are comfortable with and it doesn’t matter what the other person thinks becuase they aren’t caring about you very much. Don’t know if that makes sense, but it was a revelation moment for me when I figured that out.

    3. Doy*

      You aren’t whiny when you go to your boss and ask for suggestions to deal with a co-worker who is interfering with your ability to get your work done. You’ve told him you’re busy, you’ve told him you’ve got things to do, and he won’t go away.

      He’s wasting your shareholders’ resources- it’s now up to your boss to get those resources (your time) back.

      And look for some type of counseling too, okay? You need an independent, sympathetic witness to your life.

    4. Colette*

      I’m sorry you’re struggling right now. I assume there’s more going on than the job, and I hope you are able to get help in dealing with everything.

      About your coworker, it sounds like you’re being nice rather than direct. Can you say things like “I need to work now, so I can’t talk” or “You are distracting me, so I need you to leave”?

      You may want to practice them a few times, but there’s nothing wrong with asking for what you need.

      1. Windchime*

        Yes, this. OP, because you are a nice person, you have been giving him polite hints that most people would understand. “I’m busy” and “I need to finish this” are statements that most of us would understand to mean, “Please go away so I can get back to work”. This guy is either ignoring your indirect requests or doesn’t understand that you are asking him to leave. So as Collette suggests, you may need to be more direct. “Fred, I’m busy and can’t talk so please leave.” It might be difficult, but it’s direct and if he still ignores you, then you can definitely tell the boss that you have directly asked him to leave and he won’t.

    5. C Average*

      Whoa. It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on beyond Oversharing Loogie Guy. I hope you’re getting some help.

      We had a dude like this who just did not get the hint, and I finally said to him something like this, “Look, please don’t take this wrong, but I’m feeling the need to have some firmer boundaries with you so I can focus on my work. I’d prefer to keep our conversations work-focused and to not hear so much about your life outside of work. I’m a very private person and this much sharing just isn’t comfortable for me. I hope you can respect that.”

      I actually wrote out and memorized the speech, and giving it was definitely not comfortable; I could actually feel my hands shaking. But he got it and understood it and we’ve had VERY little contact since, and it’s all been excruciatingly professional.

    6. Valar M.*

      You definitely need to tell your boss about this. At the point at which it escalated to you needing to call 911 – that means you need to have a conversation. I’ve had to do this before in the past, and I’ve always found as long as you’re careful with how you word things you won’t come across as whiny. Like others said you need to phrase it as a disruption in your work – keep note of the number of times and the amount of times he bothers you.

    7. Lunaire*

      Thank you very much for your answers and concern, everyone. I just want to add that yes, I am being followed by a psychologist and a psychiatrist and medicated to bring my morbid thoughts under control.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        When you get to the boss, let us know how it went, ok? And if the boss blows you off ask him who in the company will help you because this situation is over the top.

  52. The Maple Teacup*

    How do I ask to be assigned to different clients at work?

    Context. I work with adults who have disabilities as part of a community engagement program. When I took the job, I accepted the case load of the departing employee. One client is very far away from my house (30 km one way), has medical issues and a history of aggression. He has been very aggressive to family members, and hit at least three other staff. The individual does not do well in groups, so I pick him up from home instead of at the office. This has resulted in me feeling disconnected from my coworkers. I’d like to have this individual taken off my case load, but I’m not sure which reasons to give to my boss. Should I use the desire for a shorter commute? Wanting to work with a client who I have more in common with? Not wanting to be the next support staff he punches out?

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      The aggression towards staff would be a deal breaker for me. That’s the approach I would use.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        To be sure that’s the most obvious reason. And my main one for wanting to have a different client. I’ve been hesitating to use it though because I knew his case history when first accepting the job three months ago. At the time I was unemployed, desperate and this job is full time and within my field. Didn’t think I had the stability to push back and say “you know, the risk of getting hit isn’t something I want to deal with.” But now I’ve passed my probation period and feel confident enough to request someone else.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This is an ongoing problem in that type of work.

      There are actually two inroads here.

      One is the agression. His meds can be changed AND you can request the prescence of another staff person. Not the answer you were looking for but hang on…

      Uh- are you approved to transport? If you are not properly licensed or certified that could be a consideration. The other thing would be are you transporting and not getting paid? Are you using your own vehicle? (your car insurance will not cover you) Do you have the ability to use radio or cell phone communication with your base for the entire trip? (if this indivudual needs help, how do you get help for him?)
      Since his agression seems to be escalating perhaps your program is no long suitable for him? (It’s abusive to put an individual in a program that is beyond their capacity.)

      Please don’t use the reasons you gave in your last paragraph. Those reasons, not only won’t work, but will tend to annoy others. That is because they all have the same worry from time to time. Sorry,that sounds mean- I really feel for you and want you to be able to get out of this situation. Use some of the questions I typed here, maybe find your own similar questions and go forward with this new group of questions.

  53. RG*


    I’m only two jobs into the full-time professional world, so I’m not sure what’s expected here. A couple of you were really helpful last month with my question about how to handle my boss’s concerns about twentysomethings.

    My boss pulled me into a meeting yesterday and asked me to tell her if I’m looking for jobs. I’ve been in my current job about two years and I am casually looking.

    I normally would want to tell her, but I’m genuinely worried the work environment would get very unpleasant if I did. Still at this point, I don’t think I have a choice since I don’t want to lie to her. We’re following up next week.

    But in the meeting, she told me that she thought my former coworkers had been very selfish and unprofessional for not giving her more notice and leaving her “holding the bag”. They all gave 2-5 weeks notice. She then cited examples of previous coworkers who had left to go to grad school and given her 4-6 months notice as the most professional and what she would like me to emulate.

    How should I handle this? Obviously I can tell her I am looking but I can’t guarantee more than two weeks notice. My boss is somewhat volatile and the work environment strained. I have another manager between us but that person only started work last week. We’re a small organization so there’s no HR, etc.

    1. nep*

      Wow — it’s highly unfair that your boss would create such a difficult environment for you just because you’re searching.
      You should not be pressured to give more notice than is required and acceptable.
      Sounds like a tense and not-so-pleasant work situation (volatile boss, strained environment); hope it will work out for you to move on soon.

    2. BRR*

      The only way I would tell her is if you have seen people let her know and she doesn’t push them out the door. If that is an unknown I wouldn’t want to be the test subject. You risk being let go and for most people any job>no job. You could in theory tell her and if she appreciates and starts looking to fill your position so there’s no hole when you leave, what if you don’t have a new job and they want to bring someone on board. When I hear small organization I think not being able to carry an extra staff member.

      1. RG*

        I have some job security because the work we do takes about 6-8 months of training, realistically, and in a month I’ll be the only person besides my boss who’s been here more than two months. I understand that she’s very concerned about losing me before I can train our new hires. I am a little worried about being pushed out, but I do have some security.

        1. Christine*

          Leaving with less than 4-6 months’ notice is not unprofessional. Managing your business so that you cannot handle a standard notice period without significant strain, and badmouthing people who have left is poor management. I would not tell her.

        2. BRR*

          I wouldn’t really call that security. People tend to take emotions far more into consideration than they should when they leave a job. Your boss doesn’t sound like she’s creating an environment that encourages long periods of notice. If your boss is really worried about losing you will you not be allowed time off to interview? After the other people who are new have been there long enough, will she not be as worried about losing you?

          If you want to tell her you’re job searching that’s up to you but I would approach it as potentially being let go or at the very least being in a toxic work environment while you’re job hunting.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      If your boss is getting that stressed out about the idea of you leaving, then I can’t imaging how she would act if she KNEW you were leaving! I wouldn’t say anything. A good manager should be ready for people to leave and you don’t owe her more than a regular 2 week notice period.

    4. Sunflower*

      I would not admit to anything. What would the advantage be? In most situations, the advantage to telling your employer would be that your employer would give you time to interview and you could work together to find a new employee and you could train them. Do you see this happening in this situation?

      It sounds like she is guilting you. If she seemed more interested in making sure you were happy, I would maybe disclose to her but it sounds like she’s just going to get upset

    5. Tzippy*

      After a conversation like that I would look more aggressively. And still not tell her, and not give more than 2 weeks.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Wow. My standard answer to that question is “We all look from time to time, just to see what is out there and what the going rates of pay are.”

      Her real question was about the notice. “Oh, so your real concern about the notice period. Maybe you can send around an email suggesting that in the future this would be helpful.”
      And let the cookie crumble where it will on that one.

  54. Leeloo*

    I posted in last week’s open thread about a sudden and exciting change in role, from a low level part-time temporary position to an upper level position that I honestly didn’t dare to hope for because it’s in such a small organization that doesn’t usually have much turnover.

    As with most transitions, there are some growing pains. The position I’m moving into is actually the one my former supervisor is leaving (for another organization). She has never been the best manager, but the ways I’m having to deal with her now are bringing it out in a whole new light. She’s condescending and dismissive of the idea that I could perform the job duties adequately. I will be training with her and gleaning what I can about the job in the next couple of weeks. To contrast, the head of the unit has been very supportive and positive about my skills and abilities as a match for this role, even though she and I are both clear that I don’t have a depth of experience behind me (my outgoing supervisor did not have that when she started in this role, either).

    Any advice on dealing with blatant disrespect and disregard from someone in this kind of situation? At this point I’m just taking it, holding my tongue, and thanking my lucky stars that she’s moving on to another organization rather than moving up the ladder at this one.

      1. Leeloo*

        Thank you. I feel like I need to put that old motivational “hang in there” kitten poster as my phone background or something.

    1. Kaz*

      The best thing to do is just be as good as you can. I would bet that she is hoping you fail because if someone like you could do her job, what does that say about her?

      Only you can know if this is at all a good idea, but you could also take the “you’ve been here before, can you give me some advice on x?” route. There’s actually been research showing that if you ask for favors from someone, borrow things, etc, that person will actually start to like you more.

      1. Leeloo*

        Yes! I want to think she isn’t actually hoping I would fail, but that fits all too well with how she seems to approach things. Ego does seem important to her in ways that are sort of alien to me, so dealing with her more from a place of “I need your input/advice” might work for her.

        This also makes me wonder if she’s now feeling like I curried favor with the unit head to “take” the position… even though she’s leaving it. But given how she acts, I think she might previously have been in really cutthroat environments where that kind of thinking would make sense.

    2. Darth Admin*

      You’re doing the right thing. Grin and bear it for now, and remember she’ll be gone soon. Also, a fave phrase: “Thank you, I’ll consider that.” Doesn’t mean you’re going to do anything, and handy for shutting down unproductive conversations.

      Good luck!

      1. Leeloo*

        Ah! Excellent phrase, along with it’s cousins/offspring “Wow, that sounds really frustrating.” (when it sounds like no big deal to me but clearly is to her) and “Ok, I’ll definitely remember you said that when X does Y.”

    3. Jamie*

      You’re doing just fine – hold your tongue she’ll be gone soon. And listen – you don’t have to agree or like it but the stuff about the job she talks about, file it away for later because the more you know about her mindset the more understanding you’ll have of the status quo before you make changes.

      And sometimes people have inside info just from doing the job. Weird example, but when we bought our house I mentioned to my DH that I wanted to put our bed against the other wall because it was weird the way they had it. Owner overheard me and said yeah, it looks weird but it doesn’t work the other way – it’s too awkward.

      Yeah, yeah – did it my way and she was right – made everything else super awkward. There is no way to arrange furniture properly in that room. So keep your ears open.

      1. Leeloo*

        Oh, absolutely. I’m not interested in dismissing anything she has to share with me, especially since we have very little time to pass on what she’s put together over her time in the position. She definitely has inside info, and has mentioned a lot of things like “Yeah, this person we work with always has tech problems for no apparent reason, just look out for that” and I am here to pick up any of that I can.

        It’s just when it turns to “And this took me a REALLY long time to figure out how to make this work” when it seems like a pretty low-effort fix- well, like you said, I can just keep my mouth shut and my ears open.

    4. KrisL*

      Yeah, hang in there. If there’s any way you can honestly compliment her or ask for her advice, do it. I hate to say that, because it sounds like rewarding her for meanness, but it’s funny how people sometimes change their attitude if you do this type of thing.

      1. Leeloo*

        Great idea. I don’t know if she’ll value compliments from me, given how little she seems to think of me, but they can’t hurt. At this point, I’m happy to try anything as long as it doesn’t have much potential to backfire on my relationship with my coworkers who aren’t leaving, and appealing to her ego is definitely a low-risk option. :)

  55. Diet Coke Addict*

    My ridiculous job continues to spiral down the drain. One coworker quit without notice, going back to his old job which featured a promotion and a $7/hour raise. My other coworker in this department is going on mat leave in about a month. Our technician has been flat-out refusing to do work, and my boss keeps “suggesting” he do things, which the technician ignores. (How is this place still functional???) Our admin person has been coming in hours late and taking extra-long lunches on the clock, and my boss won’t reprimand anyone.

    Additionally, a customer of ours received a damaged shipment this week, and my boss’s solution was to send them replacement parts and paint and fix it themselves.

    The job search is going well, but I’m absolutely on tenterhooks waiting for a phone call and deliberating about what to say in an interview when I’ve been here just shy of a year. I have lots of options! (No room for growth, I don’t care for sales, I want to get back into my field, and the negatives: the business is having cash flow problems, our pay rate has changed, etc.)

    1. ArtsNerd*

      Talk about company’s cash flow problems, and getting back into your field second. “My current employer is experiencing cash-flow issues, and I’m looking for something more stable – and in my chosen field.” I don’t think any reasonable interviewer will take issue with that.

      “No room for growth,” on the other hand, isn’t a good answer for a short-term role. And “I don’t care for sales” isn’t nearly as compelling as the first two – assuming you accepted the job knowing it was in sales.

    2. Tzippy*

      I think saying I want to get back to my field implies that you don’t care for whatever field you’re currently in as much :)

      What if you weren’t aware all along it was a sales job? I was hired a few months ago for an Office Assistant role that in the job description, interview and offer sounded very administrative. One week after starting I find out it’s 100% sales from now on. Seems like a reasonable reason why i’m looking after 4 months, but I don’t know how to say in the most professional way that the job I’m doing is not what I was hired for.

    3. Befuddled Squirrel*

      Don’t say anything negative in an interview! If you have to, phrase it positively. “I want to be at a company with an excellent reputation for financial stability,” not, “I’m leaving because of cash flow problems.”

      Ideally, just talk the work you’d be doing at the job you’re applying for and what you like about that company. Focus on what you’d be gaining, not what you’d be leaving behind.

  56. a.n.o.n.*

    How do people feel about their CEO and how does that affect your happiness at work? Do you need to have a CEO you can get behind 100% and feel a connection with them, or does it not really make a difference to you?

    Since I’m still in the job I don’t want to be in, and I’m missing my former start-up environment, it’s caused me to think more about what I need to make me happy. I’ve realized that having a CEO I can get behind, talk to everyday (mostly), and feel respect for and loyalty to is extrememly important to me. I had already been thinking about this, since this is a bigger company and there’s no real contact with the CEO; he’s in an office 40 miles away and never visits this office. But some issues came to light very recently about our him and it’s made me realize I can’t work at a company lead by someone like this. I long for the atmosphere of the other company I’m trying to get into (I’ll be calling them soon!). I’d see the CEO everyday, I’d report to him, and be able to build a nice working relationship.

    I’m probably not putting this into the right words, but hopefully you get the gist of it.

    1. Sparrow*

      I work in a very large corporation and our CEOs (they have changed through the years) have always been in different states. They are so far removed from me, it’s not even possible to develop a personal relationship with them. I’ve never even met them in person.

      So for me, the CEO doesn’t make a difference or impact my daily job. Having a good rapport with my direct manager is what’s most important to me.

    2. A Jane*

      You know, it’s not something that is top of mind when it comes to work satisfaction, but having the idea of an accessible CEO is something that does impact how I feel about the company. Even if the interaction is superficial, like giving a hello nod, it at least makes me feel like a person.

      I also really appreciate it when offsite management or even regional sales people say hello to the people in the office. It’s always weird when some random person walks in and only talks to some of the other management.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        Yes, that’s what I was trying to convey. I don’t feel like a person; I feel like a number or a body. We never see the CEO. He never stops by to visit any of the locations and no one hears from him except at the quarterly staff meeting.

    3. LMW*

      Hmm… I think this does make a difference to some degree. But I’d think “leaders” in general instead of CEO.
      When I worked at a smaller company (300+ employees), someone from the leadership team hand delivered paystubs every week. It rotated, and it might seem like a waste of time for upper management, but it meant the leaders knew the name, role and face of every employee. And it meant we all knew them on a personal, conversational level. I can’t say I liked them all, but I really liked a few of them a lot, and it made a difference in how we thought of the leaders, because we all had access to them.
      When I moved to the corporate world, it was really different to not have that type of access! At my last company, half the time I wasn’t allowed to reach out to someone at a higher level in a different department. I had to escalate to my VP, who would reach out to that VP…everything took so long. The leaders seemed really distant and they didn’t seem to care about employees.
      At my current job, at a huge corporation (40,000 in my division alone), I’ve never personally met the CEO, but I can see that he’s trying really hard to be accessible and share things with employees on our intranet or social media. It’s not the same as that face-to-face interaction, but I respect the effort. In the mean time though, I NEVER meet leaders even one level above my boss, so I feel like a cog in a machine sometime. I like my job, boss and coworkers, but it’s a weird feeling to know that all the big decisions are made by people who have no access to on-the-ground workers. It often makes me miss working for a smaller company.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        This. All of this.

        Our CEO doesn’t seem to make any effort. Granted, I’ve only been here 4 months so maybe it’s not enough time to see it, but I think it’s telling that I haven’t yet found one employee that seems to be happy here. All I ever hear are complaints. Yeah, some I think are just petty, but I think others have some meat to them.

        Yes, it’s tough to not have access to anyone above my boss. Things do seem to take a long time here. And we only have 120 employees. It’s just a very different atmosphere.

    4. LQ*

      We had someone come into our (governmental) org and ask about meeting our top muckity muck. She’s a political appointee in charge of a department of a thousands. It struck me as very much that the person didn’t sort of understand the basics of business. No one likes to feel like a cog but if you are an entry level employee in an org with thousands of people wouldn’t you want the top brass to have something more important to do that meet with you?

      That said it would be very different if the top brass was your direct boss.

      (Before this I worked at a tiny tiny org with a number of people I could count on one hand. I knew everyone there but I don’t feel like I was more or less appreciated because of it.)

  57. Kay*

    So I just started working at a staffing agency and they keep telling me that it’s illegal to call any references that are not listed by the candidates. That just doesn’t seem right to me. Does anyone know of any rules that would dictate this? I’m in NY if that matters

    1. AndersonDarling*

      It’s not illegal, but it may be their policy. They may want to make their life easier by only calling the good references. If you dig deeper, your candidate pool may shrink.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Regardless of legality, why would you want to do this? I would be so pissed if a staffing agency called someone I didn’t give them as a reference.

      1. Joey*

        It makes sense though a lot of times doesn’t it? If you didn’t list your former boss as a reference that’s going to make me want to talk to her more.

      2. AVP*

        Does it make a difference if it’s not a staffing agency? I call references all the time that haven’t been expressly approved by the candidate, and Alison has given that as a recommendation. (Not the applicant’s current employer, of course!)

        Reasons for doing this: sometimes I know the person and want their input. Sometimes there’s something shady about the way a job is listed on a resume and I want to get to the bottom of it. Sometimes the references given are odd, or incomplete, and I need a bigger picture. Or the references given can speak to one angle of a person’s performance, but I;m hiring them to do a different function, and need a reference for that.

      3. LQ*

        Why would you be upset? (Assuming they aren’t calling your current employer.) The reason for an employer to do this is to get the full story of someone. Same reason as an employee I get to ask around and try to find out what the business is really like as an employer. I want not just the sugar coated version they give me. I want the full story.

    3. Anon4This*

      Why would you want to do this? I understand asking a friend, coworker or personal acquaintance about an applicant. However, if I list a former boss on my application and ask that you don’t contact that person. I like to think that your agency would respect that request.

      I no longer list my former manager as a reference because I testified against his brother-in-law and best buddy in an internal hearing. As a result of this testimony, his buddy lost his job. Needless to say, he told me that he would no longer be my reference because he could no longer be objective about me.

      I imagine that people who had abusive, violent or crazy managers would not list them as references.

  58. Loquaciousaych*

    I would like to apply for a job that I am SUPER excited about. However, absolutely NONE of my professional experience is relevant to the job or my ability to do well at it. All of the “experience” I have that relates to the job is volunteer or due to owning and operating a small family business.

    My background really meets the qualifications, but I have never been PAID to do this work. I have always done it because I am passionate about it and it’s pretty much who I am.

    If it helps, the job is a combination of social services and volunteer organization; both of which I have extensive volunteer/lifestyle experience doing.

    That experience has usually been along side of a retail position, and much of my volunteer organization experience has been done on my lunch break or by email /FB/Twitter/Blog posts while I am working a paid job. Despite that “limitation”, I’ve been able to manage as many as 30 people and accomplished truly life-changing results for others in my community; and almost all of this work has been under the umbrella of being a business owner. (Ie: my business sponsored XYZ event, and I organized Q number of volunteers for the event and raised $R during the event to benefit members of my community. Events ranged from charity auctions to poker runs and silent auctions.)

    I’m really having trouble figuring out how to talk about this experience in a “resume” format that a hiring manager might take seriously. Any help or ideas would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      I would highlight volunteer/self-employed work first under the heading “Relevant Experience” and then list your retail/unrelated jobs further down under “Other Experience”. Also try attaching the specific metrics that you mentioned to a time period, e.g. “accomplished X in just 5-10 hrs/week around full-time job” (that wording is awkward but you get the idea).

    2. Kaz*

      I don’t see that being paid to do it matters – it’s different than volunteer work because it was for a business. Sometimes volunteer work can be seen differently because the metrics for what matter are different, but this was still in a professional, business context.

      Plus, don’t discount passion – write the HECK out of that cover letter and your “relevant experience” section!

  59. Gilby*

    OK… Just venting……

    I applied and interviewed for job XYZ. About a week after my interview I got a call from HR telling me the status of interview process and then asked me “If you are not selected for this position would you consider position ABC.” I said yes of course. A specific job was mentioned.

    A week later I got an automated email saying I didn’t get job XYZ. I then got a personal email from HR saying…. “I just wanted to personally reach out to you and let you know you were not selected for job XYZ however I will keep you posted on job ABC”.

    I followed up about a week and a half later with a quick email asking the status and saying I can interview at any time if needed. I didn’t assume I had a job. I got a call back the next day. There is no job. I wasn’t being considered for anything. She apologized for not being clear. She was extremely nice.

    How can one misinterpret ”Would you consider another position” and “I will keep you posted about job ABC “ ……..into we are not considering you for anything at all?

    Why not tell me I didn’t get the job and goodbye? This was NOT the usual “You were not selected and will contact you if a position comes up we will contact you”. These specific conversations regarding a specific job she was going to keep me posted on.

    I am thinking that the hiring manager gave her information that looked like I was going to be considered and then back took it back?

    In any business do you say…. “Susie… If I don’t have Widget A for you will you consider Widget B? Tell me you will keep her posted on the status…… with NO intention of having it available at all?

    That is my issue. If there was no intention on offering me a job (based on my initial interview) or giving me another interview why say all the stuff she said?

    1. EAA*

      Maybe job ABC was a possibility in the future, just not currently open. But yeah bad communication.

      1. Gilby*

        ABC was a job that was already posted. So I figured ( in my obvious stupidity…lol…) that when they interviewed me they thought.. hey… she might be a really good fit for ABC. Thus the reason HR said… ” Would you consider another position…ABC….”.

        But HR told me that those positions had been filled… ( I guess during this whole time, not sure…). She said,,, MAYBE in Aug something MIGHT come up.

        She told me not to stop my job search. Which I thought was nice but odd in a way. Like what does she care? She also could have easily sent me an email back saying all this stuff.. sorry no job at all and sorry about the confusion but she chose to call.

        Don’t know.. but I am not too jazzed with them.

        1. KrisL*

          I know someone who was the 2nd or 3rd choice for about 3 different job openings at a company before he got a job there. The manager was pulling for him; he knew this guy would be good, but the first few times, someone else was just more qualified.

          Could that be the case this time?

  60. the_scientist*

    Halp! I mentioned in last week’s open thread that I had a couple of interviews- one I felt OK but not great about and one that I thought went amazingly. Well, I heard back from the company for the first interview and unsurprisingly they have decided not to move forward with my application. However, my HR contact wanted to follow up because a manager in another department was interested in my resume and wanted me to come in for an interview for an analyst position in a different area.

    However…’s a short-term contract (8 months) and based on the job description, doesn’t look like something I’d enjoy or be interested in long-term. There is lots of opportunity to move around/advance at the company, but if I took this position I’d be doing the whole job search thing again in less than a year (albeit maybe as an internal candidate), which exhausts me to think about. I also feel guilty turning down an interview- because at least it’s good practice? And they were nice enough to pass my resume on to somewhere else in the company?

    Should I go to the interview or am I wasting their time and mine?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’d go to the interview. We had someone interview for a contract report building position. I think he was in the same boat, he didn’t like the idea of being on a one year contract, but he came in to hear more about the projects and to see if there were any opportunities once he came on board.
      He ended up not wanting to do the contract because of the reasons you mentioned, but he had all his answers questions and was able to make a solid decision.

    2. robot chick*

      eh, sounds like a win-win to me? You’d have to do more job-hunting anyways, either now or in half a year, except then you’d be in a stronger position, a) as internal candidate in a company you like and b) without the stigma of unemployment.
      Also, with it being a short-term contract, you’re not at risk of having to chose between staying stuck in a job you hate and having it look like job hopping if you leave.

      Unless it’s really entirely abysmal, I’d go for it!

      1. robot chick*

        whoops, I just realized you never said you were currently unemployed. Yeah, ok, then I see the dilemma. Sorry.

    3. Colette*

      Do you currently have a job? If not, how badly do you need one? If you need a job, I’d go ahead with the interview – it’s not what you want to be doing, but it’s better than nothing, and 8 months isn’t that long.

      If you’re able to hold out for something more in line with what you want to do, I’d pass.

      1. the_scientist*

        I do currently have a job until September and can renew my contract once it’s up. I’m applying to other positions in other organizations (see: interview that I was really pleased about) and internally. So I’m not desperate for a job but I’m not crazy about my current one and would like to get out sooner rather than later.

        Based on the job description, I wouldn’t take this job unless they a) sold me on it in the interview or b) offered me a seriously large amount of money. I’m truly stumped, here!

        1. the_scientist*

          If it’s relevant, this would be a two-hour interview (one hour questions; one hour skills test). The location is an hour away, fairly undesirable, and since I don’t get paid PTO/vacation/sick days, would mean taking a half-day off work, unpaid (and making excuses to my boss as to why I need more time off). Ordinarily it would be no issue, but for a job I’m not sold on it does factor in.

          1. Colette*

            In that case, I think I’d pass. That’s a lot of hassle for a job you’re not really interested in and don’t desperately need.

            1. the_scientist*

              Yes, my gut says “pass” but I’m worried that the company will perceive me as “flaky” or disinterested or not committed or something. I’m none of those things, I just don’t think this position will advance my career in the direction I’d like to go.

                1. the_scientist*

                  I just sent the “thanks but no thanks” email. The job description made it seem like mostly data quality/ user assessment testing- just not for me. I have three applications submitted that I’m pretty confident about landing interviews for and am still waiting to hear back from a really solid interview last week, so I’m hopeful :)

  61. Unemployable*

    I have had three interviews in the last few weeks. Two of those companies have gone silent, completely ignoring my follow-up messages, and I expected to hear from the third from now. I have been unemployed for nearly a year and will soon be insane. Maybe I already am insane.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Insanity works well at many organizations. You may be more qualified than you know. :)
      Don’t give up!

      1. Camellia*

        This wins ‘quote of the day’. I’m entirely going to steal this.

        Also, I can’t help but read your name in my head with a fake British accent – AN-du-sun DAHling. :)

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Thanks! I like the accent! It’s actually the Anderson Darling test for statistical normality.
          My fiancé’s name is Anderson and I’m still debating if I want to take it. I was test driving the Anderson part of the name on AAM to see how I felt about it. ..still not sure about it :)

          1. Camellia*

            Anderson Darling test for statistical normality…something tells me you may know of this little gem:

            “The Official Handbook of Engineers and Applied Scientists (Toolies) or Fun, Wealth, and Artsy-Craftsies: What They Are and How to Avoid Them”

          2. EAA*

            I like it but that’s because it’s my maiden name. But it does take a little getting used to the new you.

    2. Dang*

      I completely empathize. Companies go silent on me too, often after multiple interviews. I’m just over a year unemployed. It’s tough to not take it personally.

      1. Unemployable*

        I just don’t know why it’s so difficult to reply to an email asking about status. Ignoring it, after all the time and effort they expected from me for the interview, is just about the rudest thing I can imagine.

        1. Jamie*

          I’ve seen it on the other side from time to time where HR would love to give an answer but the hiring manager and other decision makers haven’t made a decision – or maybe they are now reevaluating whether they should fill it now or next quarter or whatever budget time line.

          Not excusing it and should have all that worked out before scheduling one interview – but I’ve seen it happen.

          Or they interview for a position to replace Jane, suddenly Jane picks up her game then they aren’t sure if they are going to make a change or not.

          Sucks – but there are are often reasons besides thoughtlessness on the other side. Because you can’t explain the chaos in writing and it’s hard to find the wording to keep people dangling.

        2. Vancouver Reader*

          Maybe they’re just slow to respond. I was told after one interview that they’d let me know in 2 weeks and it took 3/4 weeks before they got back. So like Alison always tell us, just move on mentally and you might be pleasantly surprised later on if you do hear back from them.

  62. The one with the creepy coworker...*

    For those who have been following along in the last few open threads… Today’s the day my coworker leaves. Creepy Guy keeps walking past my desk about 50 times a day trying to see across the hallway to see if she’s around. He asked her earlier in the week to see if they could talk because he has an “epic apology.” She said she’d “try to find time.” But all this week he has still been work stalking her (well, more like trying to) so pretty sure it’s going to be something like “I’m so sorry…we haven’t spent much time together in the last 1.5 years since I moved desks.” But she has said she plans to shut him down if he tries to do anything more than say goodbye. Last night his name popped up on my FB notifications because he wrote on a picture I was tagged in from her goodbye party. They aren’t FB friends so now we know he FB stalks her too. Hopefully she’s upped her FB privacy since last night. And because he comes to my desk to look across the hall to her desk, I’ve had to put up with a lot of inane chatter. Yesterday I was talking about buying new cars with someone, he came up, interrupted, then tried to keep talking to me about car warranties after the other person walked away. Gah! (It’s been like this all week.) The going away party was OK. No weirdness. And he’s coming right now….the horror….the horror…

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      This dude is BAD NEWS. My skin is crawls just reading these updates – I can’t imagine how creeped out the cowoker is, but if I was her I’d be worried this will NOT end when she leaves.

    2. Algae*

      Have you read Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker? No one in your office seems to be treating this guy the way de Becker suggests.

      No more “try to find time” statements. Simply “I don’t want to talk to you again.” Don’t sugar coat it.

    3. The one with the creepy coworker...*

      OK, she’s gone. Well, not totally out of the building, but she’s in another part until 5:00, which is later than when we stay (or should stay…) We saw that he caught up with her so all of a sudden everyone had something to talk about near her desk. Fortunately she did actually have to leave so he gave his hand out to shake and told her it was a pleasure working with her then went for the hug, which I’m pretty sure was completely planned in his head… I just spoke with her and his apology was about things being weird between them. Which is pretty much exactly what I thought his “apology” would be. Things are weird because you asked her about your relationship together years ago when she was (and is) a happily married woman with children. And from overhearing him talk to her while she was trying to leave, it sounds like he made her card really personal with “Betty-isms”* Things she’s said all the time and whatnot. Ugh. Puke. We all had a group card last week but he needed to get her his own. But it seems to be over. Let’s hope forever.
      *Not their real name

      1. Jamie*

        This is so weird – I hear about stuff like this all the time but I still can’t wrap my head around it.

        I should probably be insulted that no one has ever fallen in love with me at work – I bring to the table only computer savvy, pathological attention to detail, and snarky humor. Also the occasional baked good. Oh well, I prefer the uncomplicated life so I guess this works for me.

        1. The one with the creepy coworker...*

          Trust me, not worth it! And it wasn’t love more like…childish romantic feelings. But he managed to creep everyone out with them. He’s never had a girlfriend or been married or anything like that and I guess he thinks this is what a relationship is–when a woman is nice to you, you must be “in love.” Something similar happened to me in grad school and I was so surprised when a guy I was just nice to all of a sudden thought there was more to it. Made me rethink this niceness business.

  63. AndersonDarling*

    I have an uplifting story.
    My fiancé has spent the last 2 years transitioning from a life working in restaurants to being a mechanic. While in school he delivered auto parts. Just a month ago, the found a part time gig in a motorcycle repair shop, but it was only 2 days a week.

    The delivery job was for a big corporate company and he was treated like dirt a lot. (He isn’t the corporate working type anyway.) He had a last straw and we decided he should just quit and do what he liked… working in the motorcycle shop. We would make the finances work with him working just 2 days.

    Yesterday he turns in his notice… two hours later the motorcycle shop calls and says they need him full time!

    I’m a big believer that if you can visualize what you want to do, you can make it happen. But it usually doesn’t happen in 2 hours!

    1. Gilby*

      Congrats to you fiance !

      I will read this one over and over as I am job searching…. : )

    2. Ruffingit*

      THAT IS AWESOME! I am a huge believer in visualization and also that once you make a decision that is right and good for you, the universe opens up to help you make it happen. ROCK ON to your fiance and may he enjoy his new, full-time gig!

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I find that the universe does that when we’re going in the wrong direction. (not that it makes us feel any better about it)
        I like to think that there is something great being set up for me, but I need to spend my time being rejected until the “great” thing is ready.
        Stay positive! Good Luck!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Congrats to you guys! You took a chance and won.
      I love hearing stories like this.

  64. MaryMary*

    Managers: what tips do you have regarding communicating unpopular policies or bad news to employees? For example, my office recently formalized its work hours policy, clarifying that lunch breaks are unpaid, associates are expected to work at least 40 hours a week, and asked everyone to submit official arrival and departure times (8:30-5:00, 7:30-4:00, etc) to HR. Naturally, people feel micromanaged and those who are working over 40 hours per week feel insulted. Raises are also low this year, and there will probably not be bonuses. What are good ways to deliver not good messages? Non-managers, what do you particularly like or dislike about when your boss delivers bad news?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      As a non-manager, I like to hear why a policy was put in place that way I don’t feel like some big wig in an office is making heartless decisions. Are you making this change for security reasons, was someone abusing the system, is it a financial decision?
      We had our work from home privileges cut, but we were told that management did testing and saw that working from home was not an efficient option for our workforce. They had the numbers to back it up so the bad news seemed reasonable.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      So, I do this frequently because upper management seems to make boneheaded decisions frequently. I’d say the big things are:

      – Try to strike a balance betting empathizing (I know this is going to be difficult for some of you) but not undermining upper management. But also don’t be too “rah rah!” about it. Just deliver it straight. If you’re too enthusiastic your employees will think you’ve drunk the kool-aid.

      – If you know/understand the reason behind the policy change, communicate that.

      – Don’t blow sunshine up anyone’s ass. Everyone knows that the new personnel policy is designed to save money, not “reward the hardest workers” so don’t try to spin it in a positive light if there isn’t one. If there really IS a bright side to it, then explain that, but let’s be honest – most of these changes aren’t to benefit the employees.

      – Let them know you understand their frustrations, but also be firm that the policy is what it is and everyone (including you) is responsible for implementing it, regardless of how anyone feels about it. Limiting venting/complaining is ok for a little while, but then everyone needs to accept it and move on.

    3. BRR*

      I’m non-management but I believe the same advice either way, explain the rationale behind it. I had bad news delivered yesterday but they talked about why it was happening. I’m super not thrilled about the answer however I understood what things had to be that way.

    4. Joey*

      Explain the rationale, the points that were considered, and that there will be times when you’ve got to respect direction and the decision even when you disagree with it.

      1. Not So NewReader*


        “While we may not agree with this, please remember that we are all working under the same rules. Everyone will be held to this policies, no one is being singled out.”

        In one-on-one conversations, I would simply point out that “there is nothing here that is illegal or unethical. While I am not so sure it’s a great idea, I do understand that this is what is expected of me, so I will be doing it. I feel that eventually we will all just get used to it.”

    5. KrisL*

      When bad news is delivered, I want to know why the changes are made. I don’t want people to soft pedal it too much or act like we’re too stupid to realize that this is bad news. I want to know enough details so I can deal with the changes properly.

  65. Bea W*

    Any suggestions for helping to keep global meetings from becoming or staying US-centric? The Americans tend to run the show, but most of the partipants are not in the US, and being US American myself I’m not sure how to balance things out so that our non-US folks don’t feel their needs are being neglected and that these meetings are useful for them since each region functions a bit differently. I have enlisted a collegue from another region to help plan and be a liaison between our 2 functional groups. Any tips on how to make global meetings truly global is appreciated. My group is US based, but the other group is on every continent but Anartica.

    1. OriginalYup*

      A couple of ideas:

      Use a rotating schedule for who leads the meetings: week 1 is Country A, week 2 is Country B, and so forth.

      Separately, ask the non-US attendees about the meetings: what do they find helpful? Not helpful? What would they like to see more of? Less of? Use these suggestions to create a standing agenda for the most important categories. Rethink & remove stuff that doesn’t work.

      Solicit their input during the meetings. “That’s a really important point, Chris. I’d really to hear what that would mean for the global team. Javier and Angelika, what are your thoughts?”

      1. Bea W*

        I wish I could do rotating schedule or rotating presentations, but the call is for my functional group to address and discuss issues, answer questions, and conduct ongoing training for the larger global group which is a totally different job function, but that has my brain turning on how to formulate an agenda to invite broader participation even though the meeting focus is on topics related to my group’s function, and how helping the large global group work with our technology and go on and train others on what they need to do to meet certain goals. I’m not sure how to explain it.

        1. OriginalYup*

          Maybe a first step is asking them outside the meeting about their impressions? They might specific sub-areas of interest or regional problems that would allow Country A to participate really actively in one meeting, while Countries B and C are going to be really active in the following meeting. Also, if a particular country has done especially well in resolving an issue or implementing the procedures, they could a take a lead discussion role on meetings related to that topic. And if there are any local experts on a specific topic (someone from Country D who’s been working the longest on the project and has the best historical perspective, or used a similar process in their prior work) then you can ensure that they are front and center in any meetings about that topic.

          1. Bea W*

            Good points. I’m hoping with a designated rep not in the US, we can incorporate those things. It is really helpful for my group to understand how things work on their end in the real world so we can try to design and build our systems that will help them get what we need in the field.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Not so much specific to international meetings, but in general we all know that the people in the room can communicate much better than the people on the phone. That’s why someone already made the very sensible suggestion of having the originator rotate. However, if you can do video, then there are visual cues about who is actively listening, how the listeners feel about what is being said, and who feels they have something to contribute. Those visual cues keep people from stepping on or slighting others in ways we tend to do with just a voice conference. I’ve done it for offsite (domestic) staff, and they really love how much more involved they feel.

      1. Bea W*

        Everyone is on the phone for this meeting, including my group which is office based (cuz it’s early, and many of us take the call from home and commute afterwards). The other group including the US employee are all remote workers, except for maybe 4 based in the EU office who don’t travel. So yes, there’s no body language cues, but I can also tell you that doesn’t change the participation level for the American remote workers. They are not shy about speaking up ever.

        Everyone speaks English fluently, but I wonder if some of that is related to having to communicate in a different language, which can be difficult on the spot if you don’t speak it everyday. These people are conducting most of their business in their native languages, and English is likely more used in written communication.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that the video would help with a language problem…all of our offsite staff speak English as their native language. My point was that video allows for participants to step on each other less, allows them to visually indicate they have something to say, and allows participants to gauge the reaction of other participants. And webcams can be found for as little as $10, so if all the participants have a reliable internet connection, I highly recommend you give video conferencing a try. Maybe even have local people try it from their desks to test it out first. I’ve just found that it eliminates a lot of the problems satirized in this video:

          1. Bea W*

            I love that video. It’s so true!

            How would you manage a video with 30+ people all logging on separately? Is everyone on the video or just presenters? People are already equipped for this on their laptops but we’ve never used it. We normally have material on the screen that is actively being discussed or live demonstrations of systems. Is it helpful to see the presenter or the person leading the discussion or is being able to see everyone/anyone talking key?

            I’m guessing I’d have to not have my hair in a towel and at least be wearing a decent shirt for this sort of thing. :D

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Ah, 30 people might be too many for what I was envisioning. Our meetings are usually 12-15 people at two different locations, so we would only have one view to look at, and the view of the conference table still allowed you to see who was speaking, how people were reacting, etc. 30+ people and/or more than 5 or 10 locations would be really hard to follow. I’ve done Google Hangouts with that many, and after 6 or 7 it becomes hard to divide your attention, so you usually aren’t looking at anyone other than who is currently speaking.

    3. Jen RO*

      Late to the thread, but what are these meetings about? I have meetings with people from 3 continents fairly often, and it’s just… work, it can never become US-centric or India-centric. The country of the participants had never matters except in scheduling.

  66. saro*

    Any tips for finding federal work through the usajobs website? There are a number of interesting jobs there that I am qualified for (and applied) but don’t know much about the process. I’d appreciate any tips, advice or anecdotes. I applied for rule of law/attorney advisor positions.

    1. De Minimis*

      It’s not all that different than applying through other online systems—it’s good to tailor your resume toward the specific vacancy. If you have supporting documents be sure to download them into your account so you can reuse them–this can be good when you are applying to multiple positions.

      It is handy to have it set to where they e-mail you any time there is a change in application status.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      The really important thing is to make sure your resume very clearly and explicitly addresses the desired and mandatory-related position assessment factors which are in the vacancy announcement. Pretend a complete idiot is reading your resume (they might be) – will it be obvious that you meet those qualifications?

      1. saro*

        Hmm, I think so but am not completely sure. It’s too late for the other positions (they’re closed) but I’ll make sure to do that in the future. Thank you both.

    3. Joey*

      Yes. Fill out everything completely and don’t bother applying to jobs when you don’t have the minimum qualifications. That said feel free to interpret related experience liberally and you’ll have a better shot if you meet the preferred quals. Also, it takes time, months isn’t uncommon, so apply and don’t anxiously wait. Typically scores qualified candidates so the closer you match every qual the more likely you’ll get a call. Also keep in mind that you’ll likely be competing with tons of folks unless the job is very specialized. Also apply over and over if the jobs are reposted. Frequently govt agencies don’t keep applications for future reference.

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Honestly? Don’t bother, unless you’re PERFECT for the job. It’s still a pretty competitive market here (a recent internship position was open for 2 days and got hundreds of applications…some from well-overqualified people).

      Also, some of the HR departments that post these will simply run the numbers from the questionnaire and stick to that– that means that unless your score is 100%, you don’t make the list. Don’t forget that veterans and other groups get preferential points so that someone with less qualifications can actually leapfrog over you in the process.

      I’m sure all of the agencies handle it differently, but I’d really say don’t get your hopes up. One path I have seen to work is to become a federal contractor until someone discovers that you’re indispensable.

      1. saro*

        Thanks, yes, I figured it was a long shot but they wanted international experience that I figured it was worth trying. We’ll see. I will re-do my cv though.

  67. Katie the Fed*

    I know we’ve talked about introverts/extroverts here before, but does anyone have any practical tips for surviving among ver