open thread – July 4, 2014

olive 4thIt’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.

{ 873 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonScientist*

    Seeking advice here – I’m a postdoctoral fellow in a life sciences lab. In August, will be leaving my position to take on a new role at the same university. My relationship with my postdoctoral advisor (a principal investigator (PI) who heads the lab) has always been rocky. I have always tried to be professional, responsible, and accommodating, but she’s been very negative and demeaning toward me throughout my 4-year stint in her lab (it’s not just me – she acts this way toward a bunch of us). I’ve stuck it out so that my projects are completed and my manuscripts are published, but now that I’ve found another position at the same university (relocating would not be ideal for me since I need to stay close to family in this area), I’m (happily) moving on. Unfortunately, she’s become a permanent part of my ‘scientific pedigree,’ I will still need recommendations from her for the indefinite future, and we will be tied together for the next few years at least while I am still working at the same university and am on a grant with her in my new role.

    I would greatly appreciate any advice on how to stay professional in continuing to manage this difficult relationship (i.e., how I should manage this relationship going forward, how I should deal with further resistance or negativity from her, whether I should seek out recommendations from higher-ups instead of/in addition to her when I apply for other positions, and how to explain why I’ve solicited recommendations from others instead of her, etc.).

    1. vinds*

      I totally understand where you are coming from. For whatever reason, egos are HUGE in higher up research faculty and they don’t seem to take pleasure in their trainees gaining success. My dissertation advisor and I seriously butt heads on everything (I think we have a very productive scientific relationship because we bring such different perspectives; he thinks my inability to defer to him is a big problem). What I’ve found works is just ignoring the personal stuff. It is really really hard, but getting into arguments or acting like there is a problem doesn’t help. So I’d say just be cordial, but also request the recommendations like you guys were best friends. She owes them to you and since it seems like you were a good post-doc, she will give them to you. Although I would recommend writing a first draft yourself.

      1. butterbeans*

        I am also one of these biomedical sciences postdoc types. I have seen that writing your own draft of a letter is fairly common because of how many recommendation letters faculty need to write for their own students, former staff, students who’s thesis committees they served on, other mentees, being a consultant to someone else’s grant, and so on. It is hard to keep track of who accomplished what. To his credit, my grad school advisor has a physical/digital folder for every person he needs to recommend, and keeps every letter that goes out, but the first time I needed one, he asked for a couple paragraphs of what I had accomplished.

        I think, unfortunately, we all have to have our grad school and postdoc advisors write letters, or it can be a glaring omission. This is true of the F series of grants in the US–they have special guidelines laid out on what to do if you can’t get a letter from a direct advisor. Fortunately though, I do think they know how the games work in academia. You advise someone, you write letters. For a long time. All the way up to their tenure recommendation.

        There are faculty who dedicate themselves to the training of students and the career success of their postdocs, and are also nice people. I found them, but I had to be pretty stingy about my postdoc search and ask some rather direct questions at my interview when I had a little time with the other postdocs. Totally worth it, though.

        Congrats on moving on, and I hope you have a productive collaboration and refreshing independence!

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree that writing a draft is a great idea as in ‘I know you get inundated with these requests so I did a draft that summarizes my work here that you can draw from when you write the letter.’ Most people are lazy and will just use it with tweaks. The key here is that you lay out the work, accomplishments, publications, the interesting initiatives or findings.

        I also recommend finding ways to boost her ego. If you can praise her so that it gets back to her or she overhears and directly show enthusiasm for her discoveries, publications etc you create the positive vibes that will show in her letters about you. (who after all have great insight since you are noticing her wonderfulness.)

    2. Brett*

      I worked for a similar PI while an undergrad. She actually went so far as to purposely write mediocre recommendations for post docs she didn’t want to lose, or who she disagreed with on career path.
      But… she developed a reputation. People knew how she treated her students and post docs. So, bad recommendations from her had little impact. Mediocre recommendations were very much handled as “read between the lines”. Just coming from her lab ending up being way more meaningful than her recommendation. (After all, if you could deal with being her postdoc, dealing with your new colleagues as faculty was a relative breeze.)

    3. DL*

      I have been a postdoc and now advise postdocs. This type of situation is unfortunately common.

      It’s in the PI’s best interest to have trainees placed in academic positions, for the sake of future grant applications, promotions, and recruiting. So writing reference letters is part of her job, and the letter might actually be better than you think it would be. When making the reference request, you can offer to write the letter, but don’t send a draft without knowing she wants one first.

      If any lab alumni have been in your position previously, reach out to them. Ask if they have any advice for managing the transition and maintaining the relationship. If you’re close, you could also ask if the alum knows how good/bad the references from the PI were.

      If you have everything published already, that’s great, but most postdocs don’t when they transition. If you do have remaining publications, you and the PI should agree on a plan & timeline for publishing before you leave, including who’s responsible for what and the authorship order. Write it up in an email so you both can refer to it later. It’s best if you can finish up all writing within 6-12 mo.

      If you plan to stay in academia, start writing grants & publications ASAP in the new position. Having a good funding and publication record is the best to negate any slightly questionable parts of your application/promotion packet.

    4. AcademicAnon*

      Most advisors in this position will at least right a neutral rec letter, if not a good one, because it also reflects badly on them if they have a less than stellar grad student or post-doc going to a new position. Since you’re staying at the same uni for a few years, then you can get more rec letters from others in the department to overcome your post-doc advisor letter. It’s possible to get past this, as I’ve seen female grad students get past a sexist advisor and have successful careers.

  2. boyhowdy*

    Wondering if there is advice on how to deal with a cube-mate who constantly complains about being hungry? Six or seven times a day, she started in with, “I’m soooo hungry!” Then describes what she is craving. When i Suggest that she go get some food, she responds that if she brings food she will just eat it (then you won’t be hungry!).

    She often hovers over me when I am eating, wanting to know what it is, and if I have cookies or something, she will stay at my desk until i give her one. On days when she does eat lunch, she spends the afternoon telling me, “I’m sooooo full!”

    I really like her otherwise, and she is good at her job, but this is so irritating that I am avoiding eye contact. Is there a polite way to shut this down?

    1. Weasel007*

      I know Alison has addressed something like this before. Is this person new to the professional world? I think it might be best if you can say to her that her food consumption or lack thereof is getting to be a trite subject. Adults manage their diet and food intake without the emoting. Secondly, in no world is it acceptable to pester your co worker for for food while they are eating. Even my dog knows better!

        1. Artemesia*

          +2. Never ever feed her at your desk or you have the dog who always begs at the table. And occasionally giving her a cookie is the most powerful reinforcement of all.

    2. Lizabeth*

      Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and have an uncomfortable conversation. We have a rather “clueless” person in our office we have to do that with on a regular basis. One of her recent things was saying “that’s not fair” constantly until my boss (and her boss) said something and I added my two cents worth as well. Nasty conversation ensued but as a result it doesn’t get said very much anymore. Well worth the 10 minutes effort of dealing with her.

    3. Nicole*

      My new boss does this!! I have just started not responding to those parts of the conversation and it’s…kind of working? Too early to tell. She still does it but I think she’s getting the hint that I’m not going to give the answer she probably wants and does get from other people (which, I think, is “oh my god you need to eat! You’re so skinny, you can eat whatever you want!”).

    4. Gene*

      First, stop giving her cookies. You’re just training her that if she begs long enough, she’ll get rewarded. Then tell her you don’t want to hear about her hunger and stop responding in any way to those comments.

      1. Kay*

        Yes, this! It’s just like giving in to the small child at the grocery store having a temper tantrum. What they learn is the lengths they have to go to in order to get what they want. If you always refuse to give her food, eventually she’ll stop asking.

    5. Sarah*

      I don’t know how to stop it, but you have my sympathy. Dieting coworkers drive me nuts! (I don’t care what my coworkers choose to eat, but when they go on diets or cleanses, it seems like they complain constantly about being hungry, not losing weight even though they’re always starving, or they get very emotional in general and overreact to things or get sick all the time.)

      1. UrbanGardener*

        I have an unfortunate history of sharing space with people going on juice cleanses, and then getting mad at me for eating at my desk -ugh! My response is always, “no one’s making you do this”, as I continue to eat my sandwich.

    6. KrisL*

      Ignore her when she says she’s hungry. If she asks if you heard her, say you were busy concentrating on work.

      Don’t give her food, especially not cookies. You might want to consider not eating at your desk for a while.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Thirst masquerades as hunger, tell her to drink some water.

      Or you could simply say “Yeah. I know. You always say that.” But use a tone of voice that sounds resigned or uninterested.

      Pick a response and keep saying it. She probably has no idea how much she says it and I suspect might be her own boredom.

  3. louise*

    I know I’m overthinking this, but I need a how-to guide. Handshaking in the U.S. in business settings is a bit of a mystery to me. I’m a native, but grew up in a more blue collar family and only observed hand shaking at church among the men–now, as a woman in the working world with a retail and dental front desk background (where there is pretty much no hand shaking), I realize I don’t know any basic rules.

    I’ve tried to observe what others do, but can’t discern constant patterns. Meeting someone and at the beginning and end of an interview seem easy, but for less formal things, like a lunch meeting with someone I’ve met before but don’t know well or something like that, I have no idea what to do.

    More specifically, I’m about to start a new role in an HR dept and will be responsible for facilitating employee reviews, discipline meetings, and firings (supervisors don’t have offices, so these meetings will be in my office, with me present). Are those times when I should shake the employee’s hand when they first come in as I motion for where to sit? I literally don’t know what to do! It doesn’t seem right to shake their hand after a firing or negative meeting…right?

    To further complicate this, it’s a construction environment where the workers will come in very dirty most of the time and it seems like that may change the standards a little.

    In general, I’ve tried to observe other professionals and follow their cues, but I feel like I will now be the professional who needs to set the tone and I’m not sure where to start.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      In my experience I’ve only ever shaken hands with someone I’m meeting for the first time. After that, just hellos and pleasantries do the trick just fine.

    2. Annie*

      I’ve only shook hands with someone in a professional setting when meeting them, at the beginning and/or end of the interview or if they were being introduced if they were a new employee in a small setting (a meeting of less than 5 people). More than that it takes so long that it becomes a “thing” rather than a natural progression of the introduction.

      1. Audiophile*

        THIS! I work with a guy right now who has a habit of handshaking every time he sees you. I picked up on it early and it honestly made me view him differently.
        I’ve been guilty of handshaking to vigorously (I’ve been told I have a nice firm handshake) which as a woman I’m careful to be mindful of. I’ve also done it when it wasn’t necessary, so for instance I did it upon meeting someone a second time, more recently.
        Back to my original point, I agree with Annie, you don’t want it to become a “thing”.

    3. ElinR*

      I agree with Ann, handshaking is only needed the first time you meet someone. There are other times you could do it if you’re a handshaking sort of person, but no one will look at you weird if you don’t.

    4. KayDay*

      I’ve noticed that men and women seem to do slightly differently even at work (men shake hands much more frequenlty), so follow the lead from women. Basically, I only shake hands when meeting someone for the first time, at the beginning of the meeting (ah, or occassionnally re-meeting them…awkward!). Occassionally, I have shaken hands with people as I was leaving, but not very often (men seem do this a bit more frequenlty). It’s polite to always stand up when shaking people’s hands, but not everyone does that.

    5. Colette*

      I believe (but am too lazy to look up) that the etiquette rule is that men should let women take the lead on hand shakes – they should not offer to shake hands.
      Personally, I rarely shake hands outside of interviews or networking meetings – so lunch with someone I don’t know well and rarely see would qualify.

      1. Kate*

        When I was like 17-18, I took an “Etiquette” course. I am not sure if it works all over the world, but indeed my teacher said woman may choose whether to shake her hand or not at all, while man have to be careful about it and make sure they shake hands in right sequence (younger people, subordinates etc).

        1. ClaireS*

          I don’t think this applies anymore. I would be offended if a man was uncomfortable initiating a hand shake with me because I’m a woman. In business etiquette, I would think you’d try as hard as possible to remove gender from the equation.

          But, I may be sensitive to these things. I’d love to hear if other people always thought that.

          1. Kate*

            There may also be difference between States and Europe (I’m from Europe) – all the equality stuff came from US after all, so may be Europe is a little bit behind in this sense.

            1. ClaireS*

              Ah! Makes sense. And I’m in Canada! Similar to the US in many ways but there are lots of nuances and some big differences.

      2. Aunt Vixen*

        I think to the extent that rule exists at all, it is a social one. In professional situations, the junior or lower-ranked person should let the senior or higher-ranked person take the lead on handshakes.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. It is like going through doors. In business the junior person yields to the senior, not the man to the woman. Some men still apply social rules and ‘ladies first’ their subordinates but it is inappropriate and a bit sexist. No big deal if it doesn’t lap over into other behavior, but it is sexist to import gender based social niceties into the workplace.

          And of course, even socially, a woman responds to a man offering his hand rather than imply he is transgressing a social rule. (one which isn’t much followed anymore anyway.)

          In my worklife, handshaking occurred on first meeting someone, not in ordinary meetings or interviews. I would in HR handshake anyone coming into your office the first time and then only shake if the other person initiates after that.

          1. Mallory*

            Ha. My boss “ladies firsts” me all the time. And if there is something heavy to move or carry, I will try to do it because I am junior to him, but he will insist on doing it because he is the man. I finally just let him do that stuff; I still make the move to do it first on the carrying/moving things, but I don’t put up very much resistance anymore when he insists on doing it.

            1. Aunt Vixen*

              True story: one year in graduate school, we were out in the quad of my little residential college having our picture taken – students, fellows, the master of the house, everyone. It starts to rain a bit, so we hurry to get the picture done and then we all rally to get the chairs – because the front row were seated – in out of the weather. I – in my late 20’s – am toting this solidly-made dining-room chair in to the common room and our Dean of Degrees, an emeritus fellow who’s seventy-five if he’s a day, says “You don’t have to do that, love, there are plenty of strong men about.” I reply, quite cheerfully, “Oh, it’s all right, there’re also plenty of strong women!” and bring the chair in and go on about my day.

              So that evening at dinner in hall, the same old man turns to another professor-type next to him and says “You should have heard this one this afternoon! Hauling furniture about and I tell her there’s strong men to do that and she says no need, there’s plenty of strong girls!”

              I think he meant it in that sort of proud-but-baffled kids-today funny-old-world way the retiring generation sometimes do; but I was a lot less cheerful than I’d been in the afternoon when I reminded him that what I’d said wasn’t to do with strong girls, but with strong women.


              1. Zillah*


                I’ve been letting my boyfriend do more of the heavy lifting in our household since we started working out together and I realized that he really is significantly stronger than me, but in a setting that’s not so intimate? No. I hate standing around while other people work, and I haven’t bumped into many situations in a social setting where a task required real strength.

      3. Loose Seal*

        When I was growing up, I used to be envious of how men always seemed to know what to do in social situations: They would stride up to the person they were meeting with a big smile and each would put out their hand. It seemed so natural to them while, when I met other girls (and later women), we would just smile at each other nervously and sort of hover until we got to know each other. So, in my mid-twenties or so, I decided I was going to shake hands with new acquaintances as well. And I copied how I saw the men do it, since they had so many years of practice.

        As a women, I almost always offer my hand first to a man just in case he’s thinking that he shouldn’t shake hands with me. If he’s shaking hands with others, mine will get shaken as well. I think handshaking is such a wonderful way to connect with someone so there’s no way I’d want to be left out.

        I will also offer my hand to someone who is sweaty or dirty because I want them to feel as welcome as someone who isn’t. Frequently, they will decline to shake, citing their condition. But even if we do end up shaking, dirt washes off! And we’ve made a connection.

        1. Clever Name*

          Yes! I do try to emulate what men do in those situations that are a mix of business and social. It’s actually surprised me how much warmth and affection can be conveyed through a handshake.

          I used to do some fieldwork with a man twice a year, and those times were the only times we saw each other. When one drives for hours and then spends all day in the field with someone, you get to know them pretty quickly. We developed a friendly professional relationship, so when we would see each other to do the next round of fieldwork, we’d greet each other with a warm handshake.

    6. Rayner*

      Generally speaking, you should shake the person’s hand while introducing yourself for the first time (and you should initiate, since it’s your office, so you’re in the seat of power). Something like, “Hi, I’m Anna, *offer hand* and I’ll be doing abc with you today. Please, have a seat,” but gauge the situation. If it feels very serious or unfriendly (such as a disciplinary meeting with someone who’s cold towards you etc), you don’t have to offer one.

      Lunch meetings and such follow the same rules – offer a handshake if you don’t know them well/at all, but there’s nothing wrong with a hug if you’re familiar with them (and they agree! Always important) or to just say hi, and move straight into conversation.

      If you’re dealing with someone with visibly dirty hands, it’s unlikely they’ll offer first – just smile and look welcoming instead.

      And after a negative meeting, it depends on the situation again, and the atmosphere in the room. After some meetings, people might be angry or sullen, so you might not want to offer a handshake (but do be polite and not standoffish), but if it’s been reasonable, even after a firing, it might be nice to shake their hand, and offer them that respect. You might not have liked their performance, but you can still offer them a bit of dignity.

      Handshakes are about being natural or they become a performance – if you haven’t offered one or been offered within the first ten seconds of meeting someone, move on. They’re not obligatory and they can feel quite stiff if you want a more relaxed atmosphere in the office/on the lunch thing.

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        You’re so right about the hugging. A hug is appropriate for co-workers/colleagues you know well.

        I am working on a project right now with people I’m getting to know pretty well, and will know much better by the time the project launches. I was onsite at their office a couple weeks ago, and when we were gathering up to leave and saying our goodbyes, one of the women jokingly asked, “Hey, where’s my hug?” I laughed and gave her one, and told her that I never assume that a hug is in order, since some people like their personal space.

    7. Puddin*

      Here are my general thoughts:
      -Anytime you introduce yourself, initiate a handshake. Extend hand, “Hi, nice to meet you I am Grace.”
      -When someone introduces them selves or others to you, extend your hand, shake and repeat their names as they are given to you. “Grace, this is Will,” extend your hand, “Hi Will, good to meet you.”
      -When departing after a meeting involving outside stakeholders (people not directly from your company), thank them for making the time to meet with you, use their name again and shake. “Will, I appreciate the time you took out of your day to come in, I think we made some real progress.” Shake.

      1. Editor*

        One caution — some people experience pain from a standard firm handshake. Now I tend to extend my hand and try to respond with equal pressure — someone with a limp handshake doesn’t get the full firm-grip treatment just in case they have joint problems or some other unknown issue (such as a cultural difference where firm handshakes aren’t desirable). Firm is good, but causing pain is bad.

        And I’m never offended if someone says they don’t shake hands. I don’t care if they’ve got arthritis, are paranoid about germs, or have some other issue. I assume it isn’t a reflection on me but a reasoned decision that I don’t need an explanation for.

        1. Homme*

          It embarrasses me if someone doesn’t shake my hand. It only happened once but I felt so strange about it for the rest of the day. She didn’t give an explanation either, just didn’t extend her hand and looked at me. Ever since, I am reluctant to be the first to extend my hand. Honestly, I think the handshake ought to become obsolete in a few years, as touching stranger’s hands is actually kind of gross, if you think about it. You don’t know where that hand has been, and you might not get a chance to wash it for a while.

    8. CoffeeLover*

      I’ve been complimented on my handshaking skills before ;). I come from an Eastern European culture where handshaking is common place. You shake hands every time you meet someone even if you know them well (women also kiss cheeks).

      Basically, when in doubt, shake the persons hand. Confidence is key. I’ve never had a hand shake be awkward. It’s weird if you see someone all the time and insist on shaking hands (in western culture), but I shake hands when I meet people that I rarely see or don’t know well. Both in a professional and personal setting.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        I’ll add that I also shake hands when leaving if it’s someone I believe I should show respect to i.e., someone significantly older or in a very senior position. It’s a good way to end an interaction that’s perhaps difficult to end smoothly.

      2. Anna*

        That’s what it’s like in Spain, too. Handshakes or hand clasps while you kiss cheeks. I shake hands with people I do business with regularly but don’t see in person often.

    9. D*

      I’m late to the handshake party (sadly, because I love shaking hands), but I thought I’d throw in my two cents. I think this must be very industry dependent. I’m a lawyer, and we (as a profession) shake hands A LOT. Definitely more than just first meeting someone. We always shake hands with everyone if you haven’t seen them in a while, like meeting up with people from another firm. Then shake hands when the meeting is over. If something really good happens, we’ll shake hands. I mean, I don’t shake hands with the people I see on a daily basis very often–usually only when something great happens–but it’s way more than just upon an initial meeting.

      I’ve never really seen someone shake hands during a negative meeting, though. So, I would think it’s a little odd if a partner shook my hand when I come to his office and he’s going to tell me things I’ve been doing wrong.

  4. In progress*

    Oops I posted for the wrong open thread at first!

    My supervisor isn’t happy with my speed. I feel like I’m doing all I can. I’m not sure if I should give myself more time to really get the job down, ask for training with her, relax my standards, or purchase some special equipment out of pocket. The vacuum issue that I brought up before is still ongoing. She explained it better. Unfortunately, it is taking up most of my time. Thoughts?


    1. Marina*

      I’ve had good luck with similar issues in the past asking my supervisor or an all-star coworker to observe me and let me know what I might not be doing efficiently. There may be places where you could multitask that someone more experienced would notice.

      1. ClaireS*

        The added benefit of this is that is shows your boss that you are actively trying to improve. That alone can go along way.

    2. Clever Name*

      I missed your other post. Can we have more details?

      How long have you been at your job? How many years experience do you have in the working world? I assume it’s an office job. How fast do you type?

  5. Marina*

    Just a shout out for the benefits of knowing someone in an organization when you apply for a job… My coworker hired someone this week who I’d worked with in the past. When she first applied, I’d told my coworker that I didn’t know anything about her resume but from what I’d seen thought she would be a good fit, and just wanted to make sure my coworker looked at her resume.

    Thing is, her resume got lost in te system TWICE, and if I hadn’t kept checking in with my coworker to see if she’d read it yet, the candidacy wouldn’t have gotten an interview, much less hired!

    So I feel good this week. :) My organization got a great new hire and I was able to help out a great candidate, just by remembering to follow up.

    1. Brett*

      I ran into someone at a bar who applied to our org after get laid off from another agency last November. She thought she had been rejected. So, I checked for her because I remember the manager for that position complaining that no one applied. Sure enough, her application went out for background check and never returned. The person who was responsible for these had actually been recently transferred and essentially demoted because of this being a recurring issue.
      Meanwhile the person I was helping had run out of unemployment and was working under the table jobs at bars to make ends meet.

  6. Ali*

    Such a huge fan of the cat picture this week! Normally I’m not much of a cat person but that pic is awesome.

    So on to work. My boss turned in his resignation this week. I got in touch with him the other day 1-on-1, and he said he’d be a reference for me down the road. I disclosed my job search to him as well since he’d officially cut ties.

    I have to admit, though, I regret that I didn’t really love my boss. He’s a good person and he had his good moments as my manager. I wish I hadn’t been driven so insane by him and that I had been a bit more understanding of his management inexperience and the fact that he was learning on the job. Plus, he’s being a reference for me, so he couldn’t have disliked me as much as I disliked him, right? I guess hindsight is 20/20.

    My schedule is still a mess with people going on vacation, including the Coworker Who is Getting Married (next week! Finally!), and I’m worn out on being asked to cover and one person asked me to switch with him in a couple weeks. I declined a coverage option for tonight because I just wasn’t up to it and it was no pressure from New Boss at least. I’m feeling pulled in 100 different directions and stressed out and was wondering if anyone had any advice on how to get through work burnout. I still make sure to get my workouts in and am trying hard to make good food choices, but I still struggle to not feel like I’m being run into the ground. I also try to take time for myself outside of work, even if I just watch Netflix, but then I feel bad that I’m not cleaning my room or something more productive. I cannot just quit my job without anything lined up, so please don’t suggest that as an option.

    I am trying to work on saying no more on the job, but with everyone wanting time off, this is not a good time period for that. What do I do? I’m planning on talking to a contact/mentor of mine who also goes through Very Busy periods at his job (now is not one of them for him, thankfully) to get some advice, but was wondering what you all do.

    1. Luxe in Canada*

      Hi Ali. Not sure I’m the best person to give advice on the work situation itself, but as for feeling guilty about watching Netflix instead of cleaning or whatever — sometimes what looks like laziness is really self preservation. I assure you, if you get burned out you’re not going to have the energy to clean your room anyway, so just think of the TV as your short term TLC. It will get better, and you can be organized then.

      I mean, clean if you want to clean, but don’t beat yourself up if, for this short period when you’re holding on by your fingernails, the cleaning doesn’t get done. Or whatever tasks you find aren’t getting done. High fives on getting to the gym, too.

    2. Mallory*

      Seconding Luxe in Canada on the not feeling guilty about the NetFlix/cleaning spectrum.

      I just finished a semester at work that was so onerous (our every-six-years re-accreditation visit) I just did not have any resources left over for more than the bare minimum on the personal/household front. I actually had to make a list of simple, pleasant things I could do to preserve my sanity, and my meal preparations/household cleanliness definitely suffered for a while. But now I’m out on the other end, feeling better and with more bandwidth for cooking and cleaning, etc.

      Sometimes your energy flow just needs to go into things that keep you going through a tough time, and you can worry about meeting some sort of higher standard later when you have more resources to draw upon.

    3. C Average*

      You’ll look back on this period of your life with pride, knowing you can summon the extra energy to get through busy and challenging periods. I think back on certain high-stress work periods in my early career and marvel at the things I got through successfully. Knowing I have those abilities helps me get through clutch situations that come up at work now. In the longer span of memory, you’ll realize that these things are temporary. You do what you have to do to get through them. And, as you’re doing that, you take notes on which aspects of these high-stress periods would be intolerable if they were regular features of your working life, and which ones really aren’t so bad.

      (For instance, I realized early on that I can deal with long hours, but I really dislike an inconsistent schedule. That realization increased my determination to get out of food services and into an office-based job with regular hours. I still work all kinds of nutty hours when it’s needed, but I do it from home, on my laptop.)

      Hard times teach you way more about yourself than any personality test. You’re learning that you have stamina, strength, and the good sense to cut yourself slack on the things that don’t matter so you can stay the course on the things that do.

      Happy Fourth!

    4. Golden Yeti*

      Since we seem to be feeling the same, just in different situations, I thought I’d chime in now that I’m off for the day. :)

      The feeling I get from your post is that you’re caught in a riptide of stuff All. The. Time. In my situation, things either seem to trickle or flood, with not a lot of in between. I am the unofficial dumping ground for implementing other people’s ideas or doing stuff they don’t want to do–so I end up stuck doing a lot of things that either haven’t been thought through or are just time consuming.

      With all that being said, it sounds like with your constant bombardment of things going on, turning your overdrive mode off is a struggle. Have you been camping lately? It sounds random, but it’s the best situation I can think of where you are disconnected from everything. You’re pretty much forced to slow down when you camp (unless you have a camper, I guess). Anyway, it’s a shot in the dark, but that would be my suggestion.

  7. Anon*

    Had a second interview with a company early this week – they called me back just a couple of days later and said they were going to have a few positions open with similar roles – one is being filled by a guy with a particular skill set, and they’re going to start him next week. In about four weeks they’ll have a better idea of where his skills lie, and will be able to determine what exact skill sets they will need for the other two positions. If my skill set fits one of those two positions, it sounds like I have a good shot. They asked me to let them know if I get any job offers in the meantime as they “don’t want to lose” me just because of timing.

    Going to keep my job search going, of course, but this is good, right? :)

    Big thanks to Ruffingit for the kind encouragement in last week’s open thread. :)

    1. Kate*

      It looks to me that you made a great impression, but also – they don’t guarantee you anything at all and they ask you to keep them updated at the same time.

      If you like that workplace and if you want them to consider you as a candidate, you may actually keep them updated, but there is no obligation, especially if you did not like their environment.

      Anyway, if I were you, I would keep searching for more jobs, while if I liked that office, I would actually let them know when I got offered another job (not before the formal job offer though). Let them fight for you :)

      1. Anon*

        I like them a ton, Kate, so definitely going to let them know if I get any other offers in the meantime. They’re my top choice – great people, great (and challenging) work, and a position exactly in the right place for the career path I have in mind. :) Can’t stop my job search in the meantime of course, as I said above – going to keep looking. But I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed I fit with what they decide those roles are going to be. :)

    2. Vancouver Reader*

      That is awesome! You’re obviously a person they want to have and being so open and on top of things is a huge plus for them. Best of luck!

    3. Ruffingit*

      You’re so welcome! :) And yes, what you describe is good because it sounds like they were impressed by you. Always good to keep the search going until offer is in hand, but it’s also very encouraging to know there is interest in you. That’s awesome!!

  8. TheSnarkyB*

    Hey y’all!
    Tips for first couple weeks @ new, fast-paced job?
    Starting a new job very soon and I’m wondering – Does anyone have advice for starting out when you know you’re going to be swamped with a lot of work and you’ll likely be forgetting stuff bc you’re new to the workplace’s procedures, etc.? It’s kind of a “hit the ground running” environment and I’m pretty anxious about that. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help. Any tips would be appreciated.

    1. PuppyKat*

      Two things that have served me well:

      1) Write down as much as you can and print out any explanatory e-mails, and combine them into an info binder. Also, track down any procedural manuals they already have.

      2) Forgive yourself when you forget something, and cut yourself some slack for the first few months.

      Congratulations on your new job, and good luck!

    2. periwinkle*

      1. Seconded on writing stuff down. Take notes in a way that makes sense to you, and don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers to verify that you captured the important bits (repeat back what you wrote, “does that sound right?”).
      2. If someone uses a term or acronym that you don’t know, ask for a translation. Often you can figure it out by context, but at times you’ll be completely lost. I’ve been at my current employer for about 6 months and am still running across new acronyms. At least it’s not just me – the company intranet has an acronym look-up page!
      3. Speaking of which, find out if the company and/or your department has a corporate intranet, wiki, new employee website, and other such repositories of collected information. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have access to standard processes there.
      4. Set up mail folders right away. Create one for each project, plus additional ones for corporate communications, stuff sent by HR or the department admin, stuff from your boss, etc. If you have Outlook or some other calendaring function in your mail software, set up reminders when you need to submit a form or respond with information by a certain date/time.

      Feeling swamped is perfectly normal! Congrats on the new job, may it never prompt you to contribute to AAM’s search for “idiot boss” stories…

      1. Angora*

        If it’s a task you do once a month or less include your notes and directions in Outlook task manager. When reminder pops up directions are along with it. .Each job has a timetable or cycle of deadlines.

        1. Mallory*

          +1 on adding instructions to Outlook task manager. I do this for all my monthly and yearly tasks. It saves so much time, especially on the yearly ones because even though I’ve been in my job for several years, I would still be reinventing the wheel every year if I didn’t have the instructions saved in Outlook.

    3. Perpetua*

      I’m in a similar position and I’m a huge fan of what has already been mentioned – writing down everything. :D Also, asking for help/information, even if it is a “hit the ground running” environment, because it is simply not possible for you to know many specific things about your new workplace and any sane person is going to recognise that fact.

      1. Artemesia*

        When I had new jobs back in the day, I always assumed I was supposed to be perfect from day one. This is unnecessary pressure and a rather dysfunctional way to approach things. I love the advice already given about writing things down and asking about things like acronyms with which you aren’t familiar. In the early days, asking for clarification and taking pains to get it right impresses other people. What you want to avoid is repeatedly asking for direction especially about the same things over and over.

        The trick to looking competent is to ask ONCE and then make sure you get it, document it and can do it. It if is some procedure that is difficult, ask someone to walk you through it ONCE and make sure you have it that time.

        The people that drive others crazy are new hires that keep asking for every little step of every little thing and then do it all again using co-workers as their memories rather than taking the initiative to become independent quickly. So asking for guidance EARLY and then getting up to speed from that is better than drifting along in confusion and then having to ask well down the road or messing up and having to bailed out.

        1. Can't Think of a Good Name*

          Ditto to this. If you are asking (what an experienced employee would think of as) simple questions during a time when your coworkers are swamped, being able to assert that it’s not in your notes and obvious solutions x, y and z didn’t work goes a long way to diffusing any frustration they may have.

    4. KayDay*

      1. Write things down…always keep a pen and paper with you. Occassionally go through your notes and highlight what still needs to be done and cross out what is done. (depending on how many notes you have, you may want to keep a notes-notebook and then transfer items to a to-do list.
      2. Ask follow up questions as often as possible. Do you still need me to do X? What was that thing you mentioned in the afternoon meeting? Is there anything else you need me to do?
      3. Slow down. Try, as much as possible, to concentrate on one thing at a time.
      4. Ask when people need things by. If they say today ask what time. If they say ASAP then say, well I’m doing X now–which is more important?

      Eventually you should get the feel for things and not need to ask so many questions.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      You’re describing our environment pretty well, although one of the issues new folks have is that we are so fast paced that new people can have a lot of down time the first few months as it takes awhile before they know enough to be able to contribute. One of the things that we value is new folks who are able to roll with not having work fed to them constantly.

      I suggest knowing your own learning style and seeing how much you can learn in the manner you learn best. We’re really open to this. When I’m learning something, I hate taking notes because it distracts me from actually learning. I’m a button pusher, I learn by getting my hands on things and doing. If you’re going to place that lacks a long formal training (our formal training is less than a week), the people who are training you may love to hear “I learn best xyz way, is it okay for me to ABC in order to do that?”

      Perfectionist: get over it. :p

      Okay, you can’t get over that. (I positively despise making mistakes, so I tease you as one of you.)

      Try this trick. Give yourself a “mistake fund”. Decide how many mistakes per week you are going to put in your fund in your new job, and when you make a mistake, you’re just drawing down from what you’ve already allotted yourself.

      This actually works. I have a crazy detailed job and I have a weekly allowance of two mistakes for myself. If I make two mistakes, they roll off my back and I just fix them. The third one, well, I still need some help for my reaction to that. (I get really upset and tear apart all of my processes to figure out how to stop making “so many mistakes!”)

      Point is, you are going to be making mistakes every week in your new job for the forseeable future. Find what works for you to be okay with that and not go all weird an nervous and over cautious.

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        Thanks for your perspective on this- I think part of what’s freaking me out is that it’s going to be a lot more work in the first 3-6 weeks than it will be at any other period, so I’m not going to have that awkward down time (which I actually do well with) to decompress. Think of a workplace where someone is on boarding their new clients at first and then it’s maintenance stuff (or a situation that is intake heavy in the beginning and then check-ups after that).

      2. Another Job Seeker*

        At a former job, we had a system that would record activity associated with managing a telephone switch. So when a user entered a command on a console, both the command and the results of the command would be displayed on the screen and recorded into a file. On one of my first days on the job, I asked my team leader to record her activity of the day so it would be saved into a file I could study. (There was no formal training). She refused, stating that she did not want her activity recorded. She said it in a joking manner, but she still did not do it. Eventually, I was able to pick up the procedures, but it would have taken much less time if she had recorded her activity for a couple of days.

        I was annoyed, but I had no other choice. Does anyone think my team leader was out of line? Before I started working there, she made a snide remark about me. Her negativity continued during the time I worked in that department, so I thought that her refusal to record her work on the console was about making it difficult for me to learn. However, I also thought that she might have been concerned that if she made a mistake (a typo, for example) that it would be recorded and I would judge her for it, tell others and try to make her look bad. I would never do that, but she would have no way of knowing that. (By the way, the only items that were recorded were items she typed onto the screen and the results that were displayed on the screen. And this particular interface supported the telephone switch. It did not support – or record – emails, notes that were typed on other screens, other documents or applications, or anything else).

        Thanks for your input.

        1. Mallory*

          It’s hard to tell if your boss had some sort of reason other than the ones you suspect for not wanting to be recorded. Maybe, even though you thought you weren’t being trained, she thought you were (in the manner that the Karate Kid thought he wasn’t being trained, but then it turned out that “Wax on, wax off” was his training). Not saying that your bosses training methods actually were all mystical and kung-fu-ey, just that maybe she thought they were.

    6. Kate*

      As per my experience, asking questions is a key! Don’t be afraid of even asking twice or more! It is much better than sitting there and doing nothing!

      Congrats on your new job!

    7. Brett*

      Document your volume of work. Even if it is a task that you are able to start immediately and finish that day, write down how long it took and what you produced in measurable terms.
      This will give you the experience to know how long a task should take and better manage and prioritize you are swamped. Also makes it easy to show your manager what you are producing and have them help you prioritize when you are time crunched.

    8. C Average*

      Create a parking lot spreadsheet for things you can’t get to or need to follow up on later. That way, you won’t lose the flow of what you’re doing, but you also won’t forget about the things you mean to do later when you have some white space. If you want, you can assign them an importance level and/or a due date. The main thing is to get them into a permanent location so they’re not rattling around in your head. They’ll be easier to track on a spreadsheet than in a notebook.

      Also eliminate as many decisions as you can from your non-work life so you’ll have maximum bandwidth for prioritizing and decision-making in your new role. Simplify your life by having the same foods for breakfast and lunch every day, or wear the same type of outfit with slight variations every day, or do the same workout every morning. It’ll give you some constants in the flux of your new job, and you’ll have fewer things to think about. (I started using this approach after reading an article about the President wearing just two colors of suits so he doesn’t have to think about what to wear every day. It seemed like somewhat gimmicky but sensible advice. I’m amazed at the difference this approach has made in my life!)

      1. TheSnarkyB*

        Thanks for this second chunk of advice! This is definitely the kind of stuff I need to learn. My life is SO clunky and non-streamlined and I just don’t know where to start (I’m 24 and out of school for the first time- thanks, grad school.) but knowing that it’s a priority for success at work should light a fire under my ass about it, which helps :)

    9. Not So NewReader*

      The thing that helped me the most in a fast paced environment was making a list BEFORE I went home of what I needed to do the next day.

      This more than anything, helped me to appear like I hit the ground running each morning.

      I am a big fan of lists with a purpose. I have a page of passwords. I have a page of key contacts-resource people. I keep the print out date on the top of the page so I can update frequently and still know that I have my current list printed out.

      I am also a big fan of doing the obvious. Well, guess it’s not so obvious if no one before me has done it. I make labels for things. I cannot tell you how many places I have worked and there is no number or extension number on the phone. Get a label on there. Keep everything labeled clearly.

      In some fast paced environments there is no time for notes. In those instances I put stuff in my own way so I remember to do it.
      After reading comments on here, I went to my boss and said “It does not bother me if you leave stuff on my keyboard or chair that is a priority item.” She seemed really pleased that I mentioned this to her. (I have a separate place for her to put regular work. We frequently don’t not work the same hours. And we frequently have stuff suddenly come up that takes precedence over everything else- that’s just the nature of our work.)
      It helps her to know that what is on my keyboard or chair will get done immediately, when I get there. Our work flies so there isn’t even time for me to ask why something is a priority, I just do it. This makes a good relationship.

    10. TheSnarkyB*

      Thanks everyone for the advice so far! It’s been super helpful :)
      For some context, I’m not going to be doing a huge range of tasks, so while I’ll definitely write things down, my #1 concern is just moving quicker while on the job. Lists will definitely help, and so much of your advice will come into play for me. :)
      If anyone has any more tips- keep ’em coming! Especially for how to keep going on those days that feel like a firing squad/perpetual work, not a moment to rest. Or any general tips for being new. Asking questions EARLY was a great one- I’ll definitely do that!

      1. Editor*

        As someone mentioned about the time away from work, keep it simple and organized. Keep up with the laundry on the weekends and by midday Sunday have clothes ready for the week and the other stuff you do — I like to clean the receipts out of my purse, pay the week’s bills, make a roast or grill some stuff to carry me through Monday and Tuesday, and so on. You want this stuff out of the way so that Sunday night is pretty much free and you’re not doing last-minute stuff before the Monday rush.

        Also, it helps when you’re first starting a busy job to go to bed early every night. I am always procrastinating about bedtime, but when things heated up at my last job, I would get home an hour or two late, eat, and then I’d want to crash on the couch with a book. Instead, if I was being good, I would organize my outfit for the next day, sort out what I would do for lunch the next day, brush my teeth and do my bedtime routine and then go crash on the couch. That made it easier to go to bed early because I didn’t have all the maintenance stuff left to do. I had already unwound and didn’t have to rev up again before bedtime, so it was easier to get to sleep for the earlier bedtime.

      2. Clever Name*

        These are all amazing tips. Also, try not to be too hard on yourself. This is your first job out of school, and you’re still young. People get that, and they really don’t expect someone in their first job to hit the ground running. (At least reasonable people get that) The only person I have ever seen hit the ground running at a new job was an experienced professional with 20 years of experience, and she was managing similar projects with the same players as she was at her old job.

        You’ve already got a head start by coming here for advice!

  9. Jen RO*

    Hello early open thread! It’s 8 am and I am on my way to my very first official team building! Most readers will be horrified, but I’m looking forward to it. I love my co-workers and it’s a day out of the office! The only downside is that we’re being bused there and we won’t be able to leave until 6 pm or so. I hope they feed me well, I turn into Grumpy Cat when I’m hungry.

    1. De (Germany)*

      Have fun! I had mine last Friday. Today is just a normal work day for me, but after that it’s one week of glorious “at home holiday”.

      1. Alice*

        Hey De! sorry to hijack the comment thread, but I was curious if you’ve ever seen any kind of German Equivalent for AAM. I’m stalling out on my job/ausbildung search here (Stuttgart), and it just feels so different, I’d love to be able to find a -good- advice site.

        1. De (Germany)*

          I sometimes read the Zeit Online Karriere/Studium articles, though depending on your industry, the advice can be a bit strange. I don’t really have any comparable site for Germany, I just try to absorb as much here as I can and supplement with my trained cultural German-ness.

          Is there anything in particular you struggle with? I have been through the job search thing very recently and would be happy to help.

          1. Christian*

            I haven’t found anything comparable. Most sites a rather quer with full of advice which I think is outdated…
            My CV and coer letter tend to be heavily “AAMazed”, because I like her advice. Maybe I am violating german custome, but the customs are not particularly sensible in the first place….

            1. Weasel007*

              I reviewed a close friend’s CV who is applying for professional positions in Germany (she is American). The “rules” of applying to a position in Germany are soooo different, including putting a headshot being the norm. This is so contrary to job hunting in the US it made my eyes pop out of my head! It would be awesome if those who live outside of the states came across any sites that show the differences. I’d have another favorite reading spot on my ipad.

              1. Alice*

                Also including Marital Status. and Hobbies. And including education back to elementary school. Its mind boggling.
                I do not include my marital status, nor a headshot. Maybe eventually I’ll get professional headshots done sometime, but right now, meh. they’ll see me if/when they meet me.

          2. Alice*

            I’m trying to apply to be a daycare teacher, either to get a job, Ausbildung, or get a job/Ausbildung combo. I have a few years experience (daycare center, and au Pair/Nanny), but no officially recognized Ausbildung. Without an Ausbildung, I’m not sure if I should mention my Ausbildunglessness in my application letter (while emphasizing my desire to get one!). There are Ausbildung programs (the combo above) where it would be PT job, PT Ausbildung, but the programs generally say the spot at the Kindergarten/Kita needs to be secured first (which is hard to do, if I’m being rejected for no Ausbildung).
            Another thing is, I don’t have any Arbeitszeugnisse, since as an American, its a foreign concept. I was an au Pair here, so I could get something from my host parents, but the father doesn’t feel he knows all the subtlety of writing an Arbeitszeugnis enough to write one without help. (is there a site you trust I can forward to him?).

    2. Jen RO*

      Annnd I just noticed there’s a big pink stain on my (freshly washed!) jeans. Great job Jen! I shouldn’t get dressed before I wake up properly…

    3. Neeta*

      Team buildings CAN be fun. We went last week, and spent a few hours at an adventure park. It was so much fun! We all had a sizable assortment of bruises and were wimpering about our sore muscles the next morning.

      1. Jen RO*

        I loooove adventure parks and I wish I could talk someone into going to the one in Brasov with me! I only went to a smaller one near Bucharest and it was great.

        This team-building was not as fun as it sounded initially, but not bad either. We started with weird corporate shit (massaging coworker’s shoulders, silly team activities), but we got fed and my team for the main event was too big, so I just left and chilled with a few people and beers.

        On another note, homemade sunburn remedies anyone? The ‘Who needs sunscreen’ plan was a failure and I look like a red Oompa Loompa.

        1. Clever Name*

          Ouch! Do you have an aloe plant? Taking a cool bath with baking soda helps too.

          And OMG on the “massage your coworker’s shoulders”. That would make me feel sooo uncomfortable. What is with teambuilding activities that force coworkers to do things together that totally outside the realm of what is considered acceptable in an office setting?

    4. Gene*

      My wife has the same hungergrump problem. So she always has a bar or three in her purse. If we’re leaving the house for the day, I may grab one myself just to make sure. A friend witnessed the transition in 96 and still talks about it.

      Lately, it’s been Atkins coconut almond bars.

      1. E.R*

        I get hangry too :) Whenever I’m upset or grumpy, the first thing people ask me is, are you hungry? Do you need to eat something? Haha. Sometimes I’m legitimately mad!

        1. Mallory*

          Ha. I’m picturing your friends doing/saying something to make you legitimately angry, and then whipping out a granola bar and handing it to you as a form of appeasement.

      2. BRR*

        I’m a huge fan of Quest bars. They taste good and have 21 grams of fiber so they keep me full for a while.

      3. Artemesia*

        We always have granola bars when in a situation where meals may not be convenient or delayed. I am not that charming when the blood sugar drops.

    5. KrisL*

      Sometimes when I’m worried about the food, I bring a baggie of almonds to munch on.

  10. NW Cat Lady*

    Not work-related, but absolutely had to comment on the absolute adorableness that is Olive framed by fireworks.

  11. Beth Anne*

    I started a new temp job this week. It’s only supposed to be for 2-3 weeks. So far I’m not sure I like it. A big part of it is making collection calls blah. I have this huge problem as an introvert I HATE talking on the phone. I had a job once where I had to answer phones and it stressed me out so still does. I’ll go out of my way to find the online chat customer service so I can avoid making a phone call. I think one of the reasons I loved my last job was b/c the phones never rang in our department (we got a few internal calls but it was rare).

    One of the things I’m finding in this job search is these positions have 1 person do 5 different job functions…deal with people coming in the door, incoming calls, and the accounting….which just doesn’t fit in with my personality. Oh well it’s all a learning experience. I have a ton of applications for admin/clerk positions with the school district that I’m hoping to at least get an interview.

    1. Perpetua*

      Framing it as a learning experience might be the best thing to do in order to get through it. You can even think of it as (max) 3 weeks of training in getting out of your comfort zone AND you get paid for it. ;) As an introvert myself I can empathise, but I have also learned that it is good not to let myself try to get out of everything I might not like. Sometimes I surprise myself with liking it, sometimes I hate the experience, but it is often useful.

    2. Kate*

      For you as an introvert, probably, it is an awful job. I am more of an extravert, but I struggled sometimes when I was overloaded (I worked as office administrator for a few years in the beginning of my career). Did you consider different jobs as well? I mean if you are working as office administrator, you normally ARE pushed in many different directions at once rather then concentrate on the single thing, and I cannot imagine how would you avoid answering the phone

    3. Harriet*

      I tell you, as someone who’s been there, you may never stop being anxious about collections calls but your future phone anxiety will go way down. I’m great on the phone now, because I’m filled with effervescent relief that I don’t have to ask people for money.

    4. Vancouver Reader*

      I did that for a day and told my agency I wanted out. I seriously could not handle having to call people for money. OTOH, you can always tell yourself it’s temporary and you’ll be out of there soon.

    5. stellanor*

      Maybe if you have to make a lot of calls it will stop bothering you?

      I hated meeting new people, and then I got a job that involved 6-12 hours a day of meeting new people. After the first two or three weeks I just stopped caring about it because I’d done it so many times I was completely desensitized. Same thing happened with public speaking when I was in grad school — I had to do so much of it I stopped being nervous about it. I still don’t enjoy it, I’ve just stopped caring…

      1. Felicia*

        It was weird, but as an introvert with a similar type job of just calling people constantly , the more I did it , the worse it got. I think its because it WAS as bad as I thought it would be (in fact it was worse), and teh more I did it the more I wish I was doing something else. It’s like when I confirm something is actually horrible (for me that kind of job is horrible), practice makes it worse.

        1. Anx*

          This is kind of how I feel about pushing sports as confidence builders for young girls.

          I honestly think my life would be better if I stopped spending so much of my valuable time in a state of constant embarrassment and fear of letting my teammates down.

          Kind of a weird tangent, I know.

      2. Beth Anne*

        Thanks for all the advice and tips. At my last job the only phone calls we ever got were internal phone calls and we actually did more over email than anything. I can say I’ve only been at this for 3 days so I probably need to give myself a learning curve.

        I don’t know that I’d want this job permanently but it’s good learning experience. The collection calls haven’t been as bad as I was making it out to be I’m just overdramatic HAHA.

        I just really miss the nonprofit I worked for and wish I could go back :(

        1. Felicia*

          At least you have a defined end date! I didn’t have that in a similar job. So you can think “ok, x more days and then I can stop doing this!”

          Most people may not find it that bad, but it would be that bad for me.

  12. James M*

    Hobby Lobby: can a business owner openly discriminate against an (otherwise) legally protected group of persons IF they claim that doing so is an exercise of religious freedom?

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Since the owners of Hobby Lobby are evangelical Christians and the five SUPCO justices are Catholic, I’m leaning towards what Robyn said.

          1. Artemesia*

            There is a current alliance of conservative Catholics and fundamentalists. I find this a hoot since my own answers were Klan members in order to oppose equal rights and political success for Catholics.

            The theme of the court seems to be misogyny and the fact that 5 old conservative Catholic rich men made this ‘judicial decision’ is part of a larger pattern of religious misogyny.

            Of course we saw their lack of integrity in Bush v Gore so it isn’t just that they are misogynist, they are willing to use their own partisanship in place of stare decisis or principled judicial decision making on any politically fraught case.

    1. OriginalEmma*


      Is anyone else ready to change their name to Of[male name] and buy a red dress yet?

      1. Artemesia*

        First thing I thought. People think things can’t ever get that bad, but throughout history they have and often.

    2. Enough*

      Hobby Lobby is not discriminating against anyone. They just do not wish to pay for 4 forms of birth control that could effect the ability of a fertilized egg to become a baby. They are covering 16 others. They are not keeping anyone from getting any prescription they want.

      1. A. D. Kay*

        Except that those four forms of birth control (including one of the most safe and effective forms, the IUD) actually DON’T interfere with a fertilized ovum. Just because the Hobby Lobby owners believe it, doesn’t make it true. Pretty hypocritical of them anyway, since they invest in pharmaceutical companies that make birth control.

        1. A. D. Kay*

          And another thing–one of the forms of BC that Hobby Lobby opposes is the emergency pill, known as Plan B, which works by DELAYING ovulation. There are handy little graphics that explain exactly how Plan B works on the female reproductive system, but apparently the Hobby Lobby owners think that is too icky to actually learn about.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        But yesterday SCOTUS opened that up and is allowing the possibility of all forms of BC to not be covered. PLUS Hobby Lobby itself invests in some of those BC they originally wanted banned. If they are so ethically opposed to it, why would they want to profit from it?

        1. Rebecca*

          This, exactly. Their investment portfolio includes companies who manufacture the very things they’re opposed to. I’m waiting for the public announcement from Hobby Lobby that they’ve divested themselves from these funds.

      3. Stephanie*

        But it should be up to a woman and her healthcare provider (not her employer) to determine which form of birth control is most effective.

        1. Reader*

          No one is telling anyone not to use something. Just we’re not paying for it. Just like any other coverage. Not everything is paid for.

          1. Chris*

            They aren’t paying for it now. Health care is part of the employees benefits package and overall compensation. It is the employee that pays for it.

            1. Stephanie*

              Wait, wouldn’t the company still be paying for it? My understanding was that your average company does pay for the lion’s share of an insurance premium (and by extension, medical costs). I figured this is why COBRA premiums are usually so much higher than current employee premiums, since the employer was paying the majority.

              And while Hobby Lobby isn’t telling employees not to use some forms of contraception, they’re definitely heavily disincentivizing using some forms. My doctors usually try to only prescribe what my insurance covers as a favor to me. Plus, unless these are Hobby Lobby corporate employees (or higher up store employers), I’d imagine the cost of an IUD would be out of reach for a lot of employees. As others have pointed out, there are benefits or medical needs for IUDs (or other forms) over other BC methods.

      4. Zillah*

        That sounds really nice and reasonable… except that despite what the good ole’ boy’s club seems to think, birth control isn’t actually just interchangeable. They seem to think that everything exists in this magical fairy world where birth control = birth control, but that’s just not how it works. Women choose different kinds of birth control for actual reasons, not just because “Well, shucks, let me just draw it out of a hat!”

        For example: IUDs are often by far the safest option for women who are at a higher risk for certain kinds of cancer. But according to Hobby Lobby, it’s not discrimination to tell women who are at a higher risk of cancer to use a different kind of birth control – after all, it’s Hobby Lobby’s feelings and beliefs that matter, not petty little concerns like cancer.

            1. msad*

              I had an aggressive estrogen +/Progesterone + breast cancer at 36. There are very few non-hormone bc options, IUD being the big one. And employer denying my that (and considering the cost, unlikely I can afford it on my own, after all the other financial blows of being out of work etc that cancer brings) leaves me with condoms as the only decent option. It’s so flustrating that people don’t seem to get that not everyone can take the bc pills, and it isn’t simply a choosing a different form – most of the non-objected to ones would likely cause a new tumor.
              But I guess after you have had cancer you shouldn’t have a sex life any more anyway.

      5. C Average*

        I have so many thoughts about this that I barely know where to start, so apologies in advance if this winds up long and/or all over the place.

        First off, the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly that these four forms of birth control are not abortifacients. The Supreme Court chose not to take on the Greens’ “sincere belief” that they ARE abortifacients. I find this really troubling. Sincere personally held belief trumps scientific consensus with regard to a something that affects actual people’s actual lives? What could possibly ensue from THAT kind of precedent? The possibilities are disturbing.

        Secondly, if you are making a benefit a part of your employment package, there should be some reasonable baseline expectations for what that benefit includes. “Health care,” as modern women understand it, includes an array of contraceptive options. If your employer offers health insurance as a part of your benefits, you expect that it’ll include what you regard as reasonable health care provisions. If employers are allowed to line-item-veto specific health care provisions in the health insurance package they offer as part of compensation, where does that reasonably end? How closely will we have to start scrutinizing health plans to make sure there aren’t weird exceptions carved out because our employer (or, more accurately, a few people in positions of power with our employer) felt that it violated their religious beliefs?

        And how are we do assess religious sincerity in these scenarios? The Supreme Court chose not to examine the Greens’ sincerity; they took it as a given. If an employer can save a few bucks on a benefit by claiming religious objection, what would prevent them from doing so if they don’t have to prove their sincerity but only have to claim that they have a religious objection?

        And finally, as others have noted, not all birth control options are created equal. Very few men understand this well because very few men have any kind of analogue for what women deal with in finding the right hormonal cocktail to keep their reproductive lives under control. You are talking about a pill you take every day. It affects you physically. It affects you mentally. It can affect your quality of life in very real ways. If it’s the wrong one, it’s not a minor inconvenience; it’s really, really unpleasant. Men, if you suffered an illness that made you feel the way a woman feels when she’s on the wrong pill formulation, you’d be visiting your doctor in a hot second, I guarantee it. For women who don’t react well to hormonal methods and are in a stable relationship, the IUD is a godsend. Having it off the table as one of your options for dealing with your reproductive health is a serious limitation.

        (And yes, I know you could theoretically go out and pay for one yourself, but there’s just no good reason you should have to. It’s a well-vetted device with a legitimate medical purpose, and carving it out as an exception in a company’s health plan due to dubious “religious objections” is asinine.)

        I think this ruling sets us on a lot of slippery slopes. And I think the conservative wing of the court absolutely knows this. And that, beyond the basic facts of the case, bothers me a lot.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If an employer can save a few bucks on a benefit by claiming religious objection, what would prevent them from doing so if they don’t have to prove their sincerity but only have to claim that they have a religious objection?

          That is what bothers me the most about this. It’s not about God. It never was. It’s about control and money, and every company is going to jump on the bandwagon and demand that this be applied to them. Publicly held companies are next. You watch.

      6. Anx*

        Although medicine and science don’t consider pregnancy to start until after implantation, I can actually understand how some individuals would consider conception to be the start of life and make their own definitions of pregnancy.

        However, if you can’t get an IUD you could be losing access to a prescription you want. If you are looking for reversible and extremely effective birth control options, most people will be confined to various hormonal pills or copper IUDs. If you can’t use hormones, IUDs are one of the only realistic options.

    3. mm*

      In Oregon a couple who owned a bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a lesbian couple based on religious reasons. I can’t remember what the result was in court (I think they lost), but they definitely lost in the arena of public opinion. They were picketed, people quit going to the bakery and they went out of business in a couple of months.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This is the risk a business takes by discriminating. Not only do they lose the business of those potential customers in the group they exclude, they lose the business of customers who find their prejudice morally objectionable. You can’t have it both ways.

      2. Anon*

        LGBT people are not a protected group in many states (including mine, sadly). Just adding this in here because it’s not well-known, but people can legally be fired for being LGBT in more than 20 states.

    4. Wonkette*

      The Hobby Lobby case is limited in the sense that it applies only to closely held corporations (i.e. family owned businesses). But the Court’s decision to allow Hobby Lobby to not provide health insurance coverage to certain contraceptives is definitely making the legal community nervous. We’ll see if the decision allows these companies to discriminate against LGBT people or not cover vaccines due to religious grounds.

    5. Girasol*

      This sets a precedent that scares me. I worked once in a rocky relationship with a religious manager who objected to professional women (as opposed to women who were just marking time until they could get pregnant and be stay-at-home moms as women should be.) Now I work in another religiously conservative town where legislation is proposed to protect religious businesses from any consequences of refusing to hire gays. I want to be tolerant of others’ religions, but it seems like religion could be used to excuse all manner of discrimination. Hobby Lobby seems like a tiny step in that direction.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Someone I was talking to said something interesting today about how you can’t make everyone happy, and then went off on how government is too intrusive. Well, we no longer have a government when our employers and their special interests control it and we have no say in the matter. What scares me about this is that it won’t stay narrowed to privately owned companies. Big public corporations will see ways to either make money or save money, and they’ll lobby hard to have the decision extended to them too. After all, corporations are people. :P But it seems that people aren’t people.

      None of this is about God; it’s all about power and control.

      1. James M*

        My working definition of a “god” is ‘an idea that is an object of worship’. In this sense, ‘making profits’, ‘knowing what is “best” for [group]’, and ‘being more “righteous” than you’ are all “gods” that people worship. Religious trappings may surround these “gods” in the form of ceremony and dogma, but that doesn’t alter the underlying focus on self-centeredness.

        For those so inclined, this definition of a “god” puts an interesting twist on commandment #1.

    7. Mints*

      What infuriates me is that they specifically differentiate contraception from other medical care. (Important side note: they have expanded the ruling to 20 out of 20 forms of contraception). So even if employers have religious objections to vaccinations, blood transfusions, or Viagra, they cannot opt-out. Which implies to me either
      A) They view women’s health care as less important than other forms of health care, which is wrong medically and sexist
      or B) They view conservative Christian objections as more valid, which I view as a violation of church and state

    8. ab*

      I don’t think this is discrimination. No one is telling women they cannot get the contraception they want. Businesses and insurance companies have been putting restrictions on medical coverage from day one, so this really doesn’t change the status quo. But I do think it’s a bad decision and another example of taking the RFRA too far. Note, I did not read the case and am going off only what I’ve heard on the news and read.

      This is an example of how the Affordable Care Act, while a step in the right direction, is just a band-aid on a gushing wound that really doesn’t solve the problem: That most insurance in the U.S. is tied to employment. If our system were more sensible, i.e., individuals bought their own, just like we buy our own vehicle and homeowner insurance or we had a single-payer system, this would not be an issue.

    9. Clever Name*

      Here’s what really burns my biscuits about the Hobby Lobby ruling: HL claims to be pro-life and therefore pro-family. However, they do not offer paid maternity leave.

      Also, viagra is covered.

  13. Kerr*

    Tips for salary negotiations when moving from temp to perm? Would be interested in hearing your experiences, whether you negotiated through the agency or directly with the company, etc.

    1. Christine*

      I negotiated with the company hiring me, and got about a 35% increase, which was pretty much what they were paying the temp agency for me before, so no difference for them. I didn’t drive a very hard bargain, I was eager for the benefits!

    2. Colette*

      I negotiated with the company. The original offer was a significant increase, and I got it increased a little further.

    3. Riki*

      My friend recently transitioned from perma-temp to officially perm salaried. He negotiated directly with the company. His annual salary now is actually less than what he could make as a temp (his rate was pretty high and he never missed a day) but the benefits more than make up for it. My only tip would be to focus on the total compensation package, not just the pay. It might also be helpful to know your temp agency’s mark up. It usually falls somewhere between 25-40%.

    4. Weasel007*

      Depends on your field. In IT, expect a significant pay cut when being hired fulltime. The temp pay was about 135% of the salaried (with benefits, vacation days, sick days and 401k match). When I totalled all that up and gave a value to those things, my salary plus benefits was close to what I made as a consultant.

  14. Ash (the other one!)*

    Hypothetical time!

    So I’m very very close to getting offers for two jobs (long story for both, but they are coming pretty much for sure unless I really mess something up). Problem is, one will likely come before the other and I want to be prepared with knowing my preference and I am truly torn. So which would you pick. Assume salary is the same.

    Job A:

    High profile, fast paced, meaningful work. I get to pick my own portfolio of work and I already know many of the people at the organization. I’d have a great title and lots of exposure

    It’s a term position nte 2 years, so I’ll be out of the job again in 2 years
    It also doesn’t have benefits (technically is be hired as a contractor) but the salary would make up the difference in health and retirement from the other job

    Job B:

    It actually requires and utilizes my phd. It’s a regular job (benefits, long term potential)

    I’d be buried in a huge organization, working on whatever they need me on ( some but not a lot of flexibility at least to start). Plus, it’s a “soft money” position do every hour has to be billed

    Other details to consider — I’m a woman, husband and I want to have a kid soon, and I need out of my job 9 months ago…

    So which do you pick?

    1. Christine*

      I would prefer Job A for the exposure and the pace, but that’s how I like to work. I might have leaned toward Job B for the having children thing – have you considered the cost of insurance with an addition to your family? And high profile/fast pace (IMO) doesn’t always lend itself well to parental leave and the challenges of working with an infant at home. I’m not advising that you let family planning decisions drive your career, but it would cross my mind if this was my decision to make.

    2. Perpetua*

      It would depend on where I was in my life. If I wanted to have kids soon, I’d probably go with Job B. In terms of actual job tasks, I’d go with A.

      That, of course, means nothing to you as you’re not me. :D You’ve written more pros for Option A, so the only thing that Option B has going for it seems to be stability, which a) might change with time, b) might turn out not to be worth it (in regards to the actual job).

      Let’s say you are told you have to take Option A. What are your feelings?

    3. periwinkle*

      In Job A, would you be contracting through an agency (as the agency’s employee), or would you be hired directly as an independent contractor? If the latter, bear in mind that you’ll be responsible for handling your tax payments. You’ll pay more in taxes because you’re paying the self-employment tax as well as the normal fed/state/county/city rates.

      If you run the numbers to include taxes along with your health care and 401k costs, and the money still balances out… I guess it depends on how ready you are to embrace risk. Job B is a huge organization, which may offer stability but also a frustrating bureaucracy and other such problems.

      Does Company B offer paths for your professional growth? Can you live with soft money and not getting to pick your projects from the start? Does Company A provide a better platform for getting the solid experience and professional visibility that will ease the hunt for a job after this term ends?

      You seem more excited about Job A (“meaningful”) than Job B (“a regular job”).

    4. Kate*

      I think, it’s important to first understand, what are your priorities. For example, my own priorities are (even money means less):

      -Self-development (both knowledge and career)
      -Great people around
      -Sense of importance of what I’m doing

      If your priority is your baby, I guess your choice is quite obvious: you will need good health insurance, great environment (since you are going to become more sensitive during your pregnancy).

    5. KCS*

      I’d pick Job B because you plan on having a child soon and it offers more stability.

      You would learn so much on Job A, but you’d have to start job-hunting a year in. (I once job hunted for nearly an entire year.) I think the temporary nature of the job would stress me out.

      I’d also explore the culture of the two companies – is there work-life balance? In particular, does your hiring manager seem flexible or rigid? That might sway your response. With doctor’s appointments and a baby, you will need a flexible boss.

    6. K Cat*

      For me it would all depend on health insurance and whether you can go without a job for a bit. If by having a kid “soon” you mean in two years the timing could be perfect – you could sock away some money from the higher paying gig and take a break when the kid comes.

      I personally am the insurance getter for my family so a stable job with insurance is a must, but I would totally go the high profile short term route if I could.

    7. BRR*

      I think it also depends when your plan is for having kids and what you plan is for after you do have kids.

    8. alfie*

      I would pick A. It just sounds like way better experience. If it ends in 2 years you could have a baby then (if that isn’t too far off) and would have a great resume of interesting projects and contacts when you finished.

      B sounds like it has very few advantages for your career.

      1. Kate*

        On the other hand, OP should also think of returning to work after her maternity leave. It may be more difficult to start at new place after such a long break. Just to keep in mind.

        On the other hand, I agree to _periwinkle_, since author said “meaningful job” & “regular job”, it could mean she already knows what she likes better.

        Anyway, answer is already THERE. OP just needs to dig it out.

        1. Ash (the other one!)*

          I am definitely leaning towards A, but I’m getting a lot of advice from mentors to go with B. I know A means putting off having a kid for at least 3 years (want to make sure I am at a job where I’ll get FMLA; I’m the breadwinner of the family, husband will be stay at home dad, so simply taking off to have a baby isn’t an option). The problem is that (TMI) I have PCOS and hypothyroidism so getting and staying pregnant will likely be an issue for me.

          To answer the question about the type of contracting gig… it’s complicated without revealing too much, but they would be withholding taxes for me, its just a different hiring authority that lets them bring me on.

          I will likely hear from A first as the last email I got was that they were putting together a package and I’d hear on Monday and B I still have to go give a job talk, but have been told that its all for checking things off the list and the job is mine. So. Yea.

          Good problem to have I guess after 9 months, over 50 interviews, and 5 jobs for which I was a finalist…. now to get an offer signed so I can GTFO of my current position.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Stress, fast pace, etc tend to feed my hypothyroidism. I tend to burn myself out.
            Your health is something to consider here.

            I understand that Job A is drawing you in because it sounds exciting. That in itself is not a solid reason for taking a job.
            Sometimes jobs that start out as exciting end up being train wrecks. I had that fast-paced job with my hypothyroidism and one day woke up to realize I was going no where, but I was going very fast. (Picture a stationery bike. Pedal like heck but still in the same spot.)
            The straw that broke the camel’s back on this story is that I put off my life goals to do this. That was a huge mistake.

            Basically, you are saying do I stick to my life goals or do I take a two year detour?
            My bias is stick to your life goals. In the long run, you will be happier. Don’t hand your life over to an employer even if it’s only for two years. I have yet to see anyone say “I put my life on hold for X time for Y employer and I am so glad I did.”

            1. Kate*

              Actually, this is interesting point indeed!

              I’ve been in a similar position about a year ago – I was choosing betweent exciting start-up company and really huge stable (maybe even boring) position. I chose first option, work was extremely interesting for the firt like 6 months. Now, it got worse – I did and orgnized so much here – nothing needs to be done (nothing grandiose).

              So I ended up bored here. No proper benefits, no proper team buildings AND – afraid of changing job just now since it may spoil my CV…

              Hm… This made me re-think a lot :) Thanx!

    9. Sarah*

      Job B so that you can use your degree. (Also benefits) I personally feel overqualified in my current job so I would want to use my education to its fullest extent.

  15. Anon E. Mouse*

    The company I work for has moved raises to September due to contracts we’re implementing and a high number of staff being hired. That’s all well and good, but I’ve been there a year as of this month and am not looking forward to having to wait for the raise. They will give us back pay for the few months they will owe, but I worry they won’t keep their word again.

    Is this common practice among businesses? This is only my
    second job in the working world and is decidedly more corporate than the last, so I don’t know what to expect.

    I’m also worried my raise will be paltry in comparison to the extra work I have taken on, so I’ve been putting out feelers and talking to recruiters about new opportunities. Do you think I’m jumping the gun, or is this a logical reason to start looking a year after being at a company (besides the gut feeling I’m getting regarding delayed raises)?

    1. Jen RO*

      My company just moved the raises/promotions period to December (used to be at the end of summer) and they are being paid retroactively to September. This is not unusual in my experience, just messy. Also in my experience, raises are small (5-7%). If I were a manager, I would not be particularly happy that an employee is upset for not getting a raise at exactly their 1 year mark. In my company, that would mean naivete at best. I’d say talk to your manager and find out how the process works on your company.

      (Disclaimer: my opinion is colored by an ex-coworker who always pointed out her years with the company as a reason to get a raise; she was actually on the verge on being put on PIP.)

      1. Noni*

        In my company we DREAM about getting a 5% raise!!! Their policy is to compare our salary to “industry averages” and only give raises if currently salary is significantly below the range. The result is, of course, that very few people get a raise at all. Given how many people lose their jobs each year as roles are relocated to developing countries, I’m sure they think we should just be grateful to still have a job:(

        1. Windchime*

          5% is the absolute max raise anyone can get at my job, unless they are changing positions. Our bosses are supposed to give reviews/raises within 30 days of the employee’s hire date anniversary, but that doesn’t always happen. Once the review finally happens, you get retro pay back to your anniversary for the raise amount.

      2. Anon E. Mouse*

        I’m certainly not trying to do that, but I’ve taken on a ton more work than I was hired to do and discussed it with my boss in March when we were building an internal website for news since leadership wanted a better way to communicate with employees and I would solely manage content on top of my other duties. He said we would see. After a few successful months, I wanted more details about the raise in June since I was never told percentage, etc. My boss reacted negatively and a week later the company announced they were moving raises out to Sept.

        He said raises in the past have been 4-6% but wouldn’t nail down a number for me. I’ve kept my nose to the grindstone since last asking for details but it’s frustrating the policy isn’t clear and he’s purposely keeping me in the dark about it (from my perception, that is).

        1. Artemesia*

          The negative vibes around this would have me looking seriously for another job. Bosses who are annoyed that people who work hard and deliver want to know what to expect in the way of a raise are likely not anxious to deliver a raise. I wouldn’t jump without something better, but if something fabulous comes along go for it and if not you have the process underway so if September melts away or you get the message that your extra work and productivity are not valued or the raise is 2%, you are on the path to getting out of there.

      3. Sabrina*

        I haven’t seen a 5% raise in almost 15 years! That’s the high end no one ever performs at this level kind of raise.

    2. Colette*

      Well, raises aren’t ever guaranteed ( unless you have a contract that spells them out), and a year isn’t long. Many people don’t get raises after a year, for a variety of reasons (their performance, company performance, starting salary a little high). IMO, you’re jumping the gun.

      1. Anon E. Mouse*

        You might be right, and in this economy, most people are lucky enough to have a job, period. I’d love it if the problem was my starting salary was high, but unfortunately, it’s on the low end for my field. Our handbook spells out raises SHOULD come in July, but as you can see from my initial post, that’s not the case. I have other reasons for wanting to leave spelled out below in the post to SC in SC.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          I would understand that to mean that when they do merit or COLA increases, they normally do them in July. I don’t mean the handbook is a guideline rather than an agreement, but – it’s a little bit of both, isn’t it? It sounds like this year is non-normal because of contracts and hiring (not because of somebody’s whim), so bumping it to September rather than cancelling it altogether is a pretty good solution, by me.

          I don’t like the lucky-to-have-a-job argument, because I don’t think there’s ever really a good rationale for treating people badly. But it sounds – even from your post below to SC – like they’re treating you a) more or less okay*, and b) the same as everyone else. (Right? It’s not some people are getting their raises in July and yours was pushed to September at the earliest?)

          * So the non-recognition thing. That sucks, but have you said anything to the department head about her implying that your colleague did the work instead of you, and how that bothers you? (It is implying, by the way, not inferring, unless you mean that your department head is assuming the other writer did the coordinating, in which event she has the wrong idea herself about who did the work – rather than simply giving new directors and VPs the wrong idea when you and she both know the truth.) Going from completing an impressive job to not getting props for it to heading for the door seems to me to be skipping some major communications steps along the way.

        2. Colette*

          I agree with Aunt Vixen – it sounds like they’re treating you reasonably well, and I don’t see a reason to rush into a new job.

          It really sounds like you’re expecting a raise every year – and particularly this year, since your starting salary was lower than you wanted it to be – and that’s not always the way it works. Is the business growing financially? Are profits up? Is there a labor shortage? Are other comparable businesses paying more? Raises don’t happen in a vacuum.

    3. SC in SC*

      Without knowing all of the details of your situation, I’d recommend a wait and see approach. You mentioned that this is your second job and you’ve only been there a year. You don’t want to have too many short jobs in a row. However, you also mentioned the company breaking their word ‘again’ so that raises some concerns. Unless there were other major problems, wait until September and reassess. If they truly break their word then I think you have your answer.

      1. Anon E. Mouse*

        Right, I’m worried if I job hunt now and leave, it’ll start to look bad on my resume. I was at my last job in my field 10 months, and before that, I was a freelancer in my field (still am, so you could say from my resume that job has been more long-term, although the work comes and goes). When I refer to the company breaking their word again, I mean when September rolls around, I’m worried they might not pay retroactively to July. They’re already not following what they had in the handbook – who’s to say they might say it’s more “cost effective” again and not honor the original agreement?

        Other concerns I didn’t address here that have made me think of looking for other jobs include coordinating employee surveys for awards in two major local publications but receiving zero credit from our department head for my efforts. When she introduces new directors and VPs to the head writer in our team, who did nothing with those projects, she brings up the awards and infers she coordinated them. To me, that’s not okay, so my eye has been wandering.

        There’s also the issue of salary – I didn’t negotiate well in the beginning (entirely my fault) and am on the low end for my industry because I was moving to having a job closer to home due to my pregnancy at the time, but the lower salary plus my performance and additional duties has been what’s brought me to try to bring up raises with my boss twice. I don’t plan to bring it up again as I’ve probably shot myself in the foot enough times trying to get a straight answer.

        I just interviewed with a company for a role there this week and might not be a good fit for the job they posted, but their website has another one more geared toward my skill set they might hire in 6-9 months, so that may be in the cards for me now.

        TLDR version – There are more issues than the salary increases moving to different months that have me looking for a new job already.

        1. Observer*

          You really are jumping the gun. The handbook is not a guarantee, by any stretch. It’s actually pretty unusual that a company will do retroactive raises based only on the handbook, unless there is a contract. So, if they do that, that puts them on the better end of the spectrum.

          As for the lack of recognition thing, ask your boss what’s up with that. Don’t be confrontational about that. Ask for information.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Do you have someone that you trust that you can ask them how the company has behaved in the past regarding promised raises? (Do it discretely, if you do this.)

      I have worked for places that postponed raises and the employees laughed right out loud. There was no doubt in my mind I was never going to see that raise in 4 months. If the employees seem to be going about their work and their day that MIGHT be a clue that, yes the raise will come in September as promised.

  16. Windchime*

    Hey, for once I am getting in early!

    They are putting in a new firewall at work and I was asked to switch over to it to help trouble-shoot and test. They asked us to report any work-related sites that we couldn’t reach on the new firewall, so obviously I tried this one and was blocked. Grrrrr. I reported it to the engineer and he said, “All blogs are blocked because people waste time on them”. Um, no, because one of the SQL blogs I read is accessible.

    So I am going to my boss (director-level) to see if they can unblock AAM from the firewall filter. It’s not like I sit and read AAM all day; I read for a few minutes while I eat my lunch and also if I have any long-running programs that tie up my computer for other work (usually only 10 minutes or so).


      1. Girasol*

        They should be delighted to have employees who are wise and cooperative with all the advice we get here!

      2. Windchime*

        That’s what I plan to do, Alison. My boss is fantastic and believes in the theory that people need a break from the work every so often, so he would be completely supportive of me reading a career development blog for a few minutes here and there. I plan to ask him to go to the people who are managing the “block” list and get your site added.

        It’s just so weird to me that it’s blocked.

    1. Dang*

      I started a temp job 2 weeks ago and aam and “all blogs” are blocked. I have noticed that some actually aren’t and can’t figure out the rhyme or reason,… Because Facebook, online shopping, and all personal email sites are fair game. I’d think people were more likely to “waste time” on those sites than on blogs!

      1. EE*

        Every workplace I’ve contracted at in the past few years has blocked one of my favourite websites, saying Blocked: Gaming.

        It’s a Game of Thrones fansite!

        1. Kelly L.*

          At my last job, I had a clothing store’s site banned for being pr0n. Because there was a page of underwear, I think.

          1. Girasol*

            The delightful blog Execupundit – leadership with a sprinkling of philosophy , history, and literature – seems often to be blocked. Go figure.

      2. Windchime*

        Facebook and YouTube are blocked at my workplace because a few people who are in customer-facing roles just couldn’t stay off their Facebook when they should be working. (Think patients walking down the hall and seeing nurses doing their Facebook on computers where they should be doing charts). So I kind of get that, but blogs? That seems so random.

    2. CAA*

      If they don’t block, you may be able to read posts that way. It’s hard to subscribe to comments though. will email blog posts to you. This came in handy when I was working in China for a month and major parts of the Internet just got randomly blocked for days at a time.

      Lastly you could try anonymouse or other anonymous proxy sites, but many of those are likely to be blocked since their whole purpose is to circumvent the blocks put in place by your company.

    3. Blinx*

      I don’t bother trying to access blogs/Facebook, etc. while at work. I’m a contractor, and don’t need to give them ANY reasons to not have me back next week. But I do read AAM at lunch time — on my phone!

      1. Windchime*

        I thought about just bringing my iPad and reading AAM over the company’s guest wifi, but there is no guarantee there either. They have Pandora blocked on the guest wifi. No biggie, I just have to remember to take my phone off wifi before do Pandora.

        I work hard all day long and often work at home (as I will do for a bit today) and it’s annoying that they want to control my one bit of personal surfing that amounts to maybe 15 minutes per day.

    4. Audiophile*

      A coworker at my current job, decided to ping websites that were blocked and was able to get around the block. Coworker got written up, so do this at your own risk.

    5. Ash (the other one!)*

      I worked at a job where it was critical for me to pull information from LGBT organization’s websites. They were blocked by the organization for being “explicit.” My boss was livid and got it changed, but that’s actually a huge issue.

      The same algorithms are used in schools and to block access to those sites to kids who are questioning or closeted can be really detrimental. The ACLU actually has a big campaign going on to get schools to unblock those sites.

      Why the heck LGBT sites are “explicit” is beyond me. Sexual orientation is not sex.

        1. fposte*

          I know a big city library subject to the city’s IT policies–which blocks all social media on employee computers. And how is it that libraries generally connect with their public in 2014? Why, yes, it’s social media.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had that problem at Exjob with some sites we would get mail from and I had to unsubscribe on their actual website. It seemed totally random. I told IT that it kept me from doing my job and it was unblocked.

      2. Observer*

        In most cases, these filters are being set by broad categories, and no one is actually looking at things. In a reasonably well run organization, it should be fairly straightforward to have this dealt with, though.

        The filters tend to be over-broad, because they often use fairly clumsy filtering techniques. It happens all the time.

      3. rando*

        My guess is that the word “sex” appears several times. Such as “Another state passes legislation supporting same sex marriage. “

  17. CT*

    I’m wondering what people think about sending cold e-mails to companies asking if they have any openings? I searched the blog but couldn’t find a straight answer (unless I missed something!).

    I’m very clear that cold CALLS are totally inappropriate, but what about cold e-mails? I guess I’m thinking just a short e-mail expressing interest in the company, with an attached resume, inquiring if they have any openings now in the near future. Obnoxious or no?

    (For the record, I’m mainly focusing on publishing companies or literary agencies, if that makes any difference.)

    1. Colette*

      I don’t think it will hurt, but I don’t think it will help much, either. If they have a preferred application method for general applications, you’d be better off following that.

      1. BeBe*

        I don’t think it’s obnoxious to express your interest, but you’d be better off targeting a few companies for an informational interview.

        If you do inquire about possible openings, I wouldn’t expect too much, but you know they might suggest that you follow them on LinkenIn or other social media.

    2. Anon E. Mouse*

      You might try InMail in LinkedIn as well. I don’t think companies mind you asking – if anything, HR can take a look at your resume to see if you’re a good fit for anything open now or something they know will be open in the future.

    3. ADE*

      Obnoxious. Instead see if you can fdn a relationship with somebody who works at one (friend of friend? Alumni from university?) and reques an informational interview to learn more about the field.

      Also see what career advice guides and industry associations are out there. Go to a conference if you can.

    4. Geegee*

      I’ve done this before. I did this mostly with smaller firms that had the name of a hiring manager on their website. I would send an email to them, not just HR. I got no job out of it but my resume wasn’t that impressive to begin with. I must have sent out over 100 emails. I had maybe 5 responses. One said I may be a good fit and would keep my resume on file in case there is an opening. The others basically said thanks but no thanks.
      In hindsight and after reading this blog, this may have been weird but I don’t think it would hurt. Emails can be read at the convenience of the recipient and if they’re not interested, all they have do is hit delete.

  18. Christine*

    With regards to the post earlier this week about managing team workload when they’re overloaded – any tips for when your management does NOT do this well?

    When I am communicated to about priorities at all, they change so frequently that the end result is that everything is a priority, which (to paraphrase my son’s favorite movie) is another way of saying that nothing is.

    If I communicate that I am behind or struggling on something, instead of getting help, I am tasked with providing routine and time-consuming updates on my progress, which only puts me further behind. I do not get any additional help to compensate for the extra reporting.

    When I talk to my manager about redistributing my crazy workload, *I* am asked to speculate about which of my peers might have the time and the skills to do what I need to get off my plate, and then I am left to tell them they have to handle it and train them on how to do it. I don’t want to speculate that Bob is not busy because I see him packing up his desk promptly at 5, or volunteer Suzy for extra work because she is only working 10 hours of overtime a week and I am working 30.

    Decisions to add/shuffle staff seem to be made as a kneejerk response to a failure that has happened because the current staff is overloaded, instead of thoughtfully and proactively. No attempt is made to measure workload or allocate workload by any logic other than “Jane is always busy and sends emails at 10 pm and looks harried and submits her reports late, she’s too busy to handle XYZ, but Waukeen seems calm and is always on time with his work, so he probably has time.” In reality it may be that both are working shameful amounts of overtime – it stinks to be penalized for doing a better job of keeping your cool and keeping your stuff in line.

    I am at a loss for how to deal with this anymore…I dealt with it by job hunting, and accepted an offer for a transfer this week, but some of this is company culture, so I am going to need better strategies for handling it in the future.

    1. Christian*

      I think changing jobs it’s the right answer. It sounds like company culture and changing it without beeing the manager is difficult to say the least.
      If you want to deal with it: Assign priorities to your projects and inform your manager that x,y,z will be done, whereas Z1 …Z100 will not be done. If she wants a different result, she can alter the schedule, or redistribute the work.
      Basically the work gets done, so there is no problem from her viewpoint. If works gets dropped due to workload, this might change. Or it alienates you and your manager :(

      1. Christine*

        Work is being dropped because of the workload. We had some turnover when we were already overloaded and it’s simply not possible to get it all done. I am worrying less and less about alienating management! They gave me one priority to get caught up on this week, told me it was my #1 priority and had to get done even if nothing else did…instructed me to put an auto response on my email that only emails related to Priority and XYZ urgent stuff would be answered. Then I got in trouble because a few emails that did not meet those criteria were ignored, even though the sender re-sent them four and five times and labeled them as urgent. I am not teaching people that resending emails and marking them urgent is what needs to happen to change my priorities – all that gets me is an email box full of repeat email marked urgent.

        My manager has been with the company for a month. She’s new to management and hasn’t been able to help much – she’s dealing with culture shock, plus I can see a huge case of imposter syndrome and she’s uncomfortable with using her authority (when she gives me direction, it’s clearly coming from above her, and she barks it at me and walks away).

        Yeah, leaving is the right decision.

    2. Apple22Over7*

      I had a very similar situation at my last job (well, most of us working there did). Too much work, not enough time to do it. Everything’s a priority, so nothing is. More and more tracking tools rolled out which took up more time. We were even given a timetable for the week and what to work on, to provide the needed results at the end of the week – a timetable which conveniently didn’t allow for admin time, staff lunches or holiday cover.

      Whenever anyone tried to push back on the workload, we were always asked “how come Bob at the Exeter office gets everything done on time?”. The answer to that was he worked well into the evenings and at the weekend, and he was suspected to be cutting corners (which if found out would have ruined the company). But because Bob was the bosses favourite, she wouldn’t hear any criticism despite how we tried to frame it, rejected the notion he was working so much and basically told us we had to copy Bob’s example.

      Sadly I didn’t find a solution. I tried all of AAM’s tips & tricks – asking for clear priorities, suggesting priorities, stating that if I do X and Y, Z will be pushed back. Even outright directly asking for help. None of it worked. It was all a priority, it all needed to be done in the given timeframe. In the end I quit – without a job to go to – because it was so stressful. The problem was clearly with the organisation and management, and there was nothing I could do which would change that.

      1. Christine*

        I am copying Bob’s example, lol! Then they complain about what gets missed when you cut corners (my corners won’t ruin the company.)

    3. BritCred*

      Have you spoken to your team collagues and ask if they feel they are struggling with workload too? If you get a general (or mostly general) view of yes then a team meeting with the manager to ask for assistance could be held.

      I’d suggest a lunch or a quiet few minute chat with them and see how everyone is feeling.

      1. Christine*

        Everyone works overtime. I think I work more than most, because I am the most experienced, so I am tapped for more projects and have the more complex work.

        I am on my way out, so I think organizing my coworkers to make a united approach to management about workload would be viewed as “Christine causing trouble before she leaves” and might affect my career here. I will pass along the idea to one of my coworkers, though.

    4. Rebecca*

      I’m in a similar boat, and haven’t found any solutions. I was asked to cover for a coworker who was scheduled for medical leave, but she moved to another position, and now I have her job on top of my job. My manager’s solution is to “find help” from my equally overworked coworkers, and to actively tell upper management we can do even more. This is coupled with a “no more overtime” policy. I live my work life in a Dilbert comic strip.

      I have an impossible workload now. I cope by taking every minute of the break times I’m entitled to during the day, doing what I can, and walking away at quitting time to enjoy my life. Telling my manager you can’t fit 2 pints of water in a 1 pint container is pointless. She just waves her hands and tells us the work has to get done. And, even if I was superwoman and could do every single task I’m assigned, there’s no reward, as raises (merit or COLA) no longer exist.

      I’m also job hunting, but decent paying jobs with benefits are very scarce around here, so I have to be patient and just hope that I get lucky.

    5. C Average*

      This was a chronic problem at my job until my manager arrived a year and a half ago. (My team had previously reported to someone with a lot of direct reports and little day-to-day contact with our team, meaning we effectively had no management until our current manager was hired.)

      She has completely changed the tenor of our day-to-day existence. If you have a manager who will advocate for you, this kind of work environment CAN change. But without that person in place, I don’t see a way to effect these changes.

      Here’s how she did it:

      –She asked us all to begin working a reasonable schedule. We’re salaried, and some of us were working around 70 hours per week when she arrived. We’d work weekends, nights, early mornings . . . my family NEVER saw me for dinner and I always worked one full weekend day, often two. She asked us to cut our schedules back to around 50 hours per week. She explained to us that she was requesting additional head count for our team, but that she’d never get it if she couldn’t demonstrate that we needed it. She wanted some balls to get dropped so she could make the case that the current team couldn’t do it all.
      –She made us take vacations. Some of us hadn’t had vacations in years. Again, she wanted to demonstrate that business would suffer if we took the perks to which we were entitled. She wanted to show leadership that we needed more bench strength.
      –She forced us to cross-train so that projects wouldn’t fall disproportionately on people who happened to have a certain skill set. She wanted us at a level that allowed any person to step up and take an incoming project. It enabled us to spread work more fairly across the team.
      –She made us track our work. We hated it and we protested, but we reluctantly did it. She used that information to build a case for new hires.
      –She made us self-promote. Do you know how hard it is to get an introverted bunch of html copywriters to self-promote? We had to build decks explaining our roles and our projects to leadership. The project was boring and it sucked and it took us away from more important stuff, but it ultimately gave our leadership insights into what we actually do and why it matters. That’s made it easier for us to get funding, approval, and buy-in for stuff we want and need.

      Finally, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite things a colleague has ever said to me: “You’re eventually going to drop a ball somewhere, no matter how good you are. Don’t worry. The important ones bounce up again, and the ones that don’t matter sometimes just roll into the sewer.”

        1. C Average*

          If only!

          She’s not perfect. She overshares and gossips and has a weakness for the kind of team-building activities that make me want to crawl under my desk and assume the fetal position. She cancels nine out of ten one-on-ones. She forgets to communicate with us sometimes. But she absolutely cleaned house in terms of our workflow. She is so, so good at the big-picture aspects of management. Overall I would give her an A-. There’s stuff she could work on,sure, but she’s made a huge difference–in just a year and a half–on the things that really matter.

  19. Christian*

    Hello, I am seeking advice too.
    It’s about how to break a stalemate in my and my fiancees life.
    A little background: We are living in germany and both have our jobs for approx. 1.5 years. My job is tolerable, but I feel I have achieved all I can do here and I am eager to move on. Furthermore, the future for my company is a little bit uncertain due to changes at our main customer.

    At the other hand my fiancee has a an absurdly good paying job, but the firm itself is a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Basically she is paid to manage the laboratory, but the manic (in the clinical sense) owner does not let her do it, so she does the normal “grunt” work in the lab. She still needs her PHD experience for it, but the work is more in line with her subordinates, which are paid 50% less.
    Her firm is in financial trouble, partly to circumstances which are hitting the whole industry hard, but even more because customers are jumping ship because the boss does his level best to drive away customers.

    I fear that there WILL be layoffy (we are living in germany, but the firm is so small that job protection doesn’t apply) and think it would be best to try to find another job.

    My fiance is reluctant because other jobs would not be as well paying and are to be found in another part of the country (we are living in north germany, jobs are in cologne or munich). Furthermore, we would like to have children, which would have to be delayed when she changes jobs.
    I would like to relocate because a job search would be easier for me in those regions, too.
    So any ideas how to break that stalemate?

    When I read my post, I don’t see a solution – so I guess it’s more venting…so thanks for reading ;)

    1. CT*

      The sensible thing seems to be for your fiance to change jobs. Regardless of any other factors, the firm is dysfunctional and is in financial trouble largely due to its dysfunction. And it’s dysfunctional because, from what you describe, the ones at the top are bad managers — which is something she could try to, but probably couldn’t successfully change.

      It just isn’t really a sustainable solution, even if there was no engagement/marriage/potential family to consider. Great money is only great if it’s consistent and dependable, which this doesn’t seem to be. Really, the smart thing to be doing would be to be job searching right now, so that she has something ready if/when the firm caves in. Plus, a toxic work environment at a company with a bad reputation probably isn’t ideal for her career standing anyhow.

      1. Christian*

        The top is dysfunctional beyond description – I have read AAM archives a lot, and most bad managament practices to found here are present in the firm.
        The owner / boss is probably bipolar, which is not a good thing. Furthermore, he intensivly dislikes critic – which is great when he forgets to enter vital information correctly (e.g. you have to do analysis A and B, but he orders C – and later complains cost overruns and delayed analysis…)
        There was another lab lead when she begun, but he tried to change things and was fired sometimes ago.

        Yes I agree that job searching would be great, but she doesn’t want to. She hopes to get pregnant before the axe falls – but that seems improbable. Worst case would be pregnant + out of job because the firm caves in.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I can see your fiancee’s perspective. It’s hard to give up a well-paying job for something unknown. Maybe these are some things that she could consider when making a decision
      – She doesn’t yet know if other jobs would pay less! It can’t hurt to start looking around and see what’s out there
      – Sometimes taking a paycut is worth it, especially if the salary you end up with is still enough to have you living comfortably. In this case I’d argue that leaving this dysfunctional environment and doing work you actually enjoy with a boss who treats you well could make a big difference in this respect.
      – Having kids can take a while. Sure, you might get pregnant right away when you start trying. But it’s also very common for it to take a while, a few years even. I wouldn’t worry about it too much and just let what happens, happen.

      1. Christian*

        Thank you very much!

        I especially like your last comment. I see it in the same light. But she turned 31 and is in the “it has to happen NOW!!!!” mode and is intensely frustrated by a year without success.
        Right now, the job is frustrating, the “want a child” thing is frustrating and I am frustrated because I don’t see a good way forward or even sideways – not a nice position to be in.

        1. Reader*

          The stress of the job may be effecting her ability to get pregnant. A new job may be exactly what she needs.

    3. CLM*

      You could try framing it like this: yes, it’s *unlikely* that she’s going to find another job that pays as well as her current one. But unlikely is not the same as impossible. If she starts looking now, she can take her time, and only apply to jobs she finds appealing, and can be choosy about what jobs she interviews for, and accepts. If she gets laid off anyway, she’ll still need to search for a new job, only it will be more rushed.

      1. Christian*

        Thats my point of view – if only there would be more jobs to be had in her field (human genetics – the people are rare, but the jobs too )

    4. robot chick*

      I’d just like to pitch in that moving to the Köln/Ruhrpott area is absolutely a good idea. Cheaper and nicer than München at any rate, even if I’m totally biased. Also the wages are pretty good in comparison to other regions (although I suppose München wins there). Good luck!

      1. Christian*

        I totally agree. We even have friends in the Ruhrpott, while Munich is so far away that it would be difficult to visit friends and family (my family lives in Bremerhaven – you cannot go much farther away from Munich I guess and stay in germany)
        But there has to be a job first. Right now, there is ~1 job opening, at a firm where she is unsure if she would like it.

        1. Reader*

          Part of interviewing to to determine if you would like/be good fit for the job. Is there a downside to checking this job out? Is it expected that you only apply for jobs that you would accept an offer for? Would turning a job down effect her in the industry?

      2. De (Germany)*

        I am partial to the Braunschweig/Wolfsburg/Hannover area, but I am biased :) Lots of jobs in research and development, low cost of living.

        1. Christian*

          Yes, I like that region too. At the moment we are stuck near Osnabrück. While I like the city, finding alternate jobs is a HUGE problem because there so much…nothing in most directions.

    5. BeBe*

      Your fiance should start searching for another job!
      While she is still working, she should begin collecting references and contacts regarding her duties so that she has them if the company does do layoffs.

    6. Anon1234*

      Best advice? Create a lifestyle that requires one income and frees you to have kids.

  20. Evil Evaluations*

    Did you ever have to give a negative annual review to an employee you don’t think you’d be able to get rid of even if the work didn’t improve and this person would spread negativity because of a negative review?

    I think that’s what I’m facing.

      1. Evil Evaluations*

        They may be able to be fired but I’m guessing a fear of lawsuits. This person has been around for a while and is part of at least one protected class.

        They may not want to deal with a potential lawsuit, even if there is documented poor performance/attitude, unless the overall is highly substandard not just run-of-the-mill substandard.

    1. KrisL*

      What kind of negativity would the person spread?

      If this person is a bad worker, that person might already not be taken very seriously by co-workers anyway. In my personal experience, many of us really dislike those few people who can’t get the job done and don’t even seem to be trying. If someone like that starts bad mouthing management, I think most of us would think “Yay! They’re finally getting tough with the person.”

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The first thing I would do is talk to HR/my boss/TPTB. State your case. Employee has done A, B, C and D (poor/bad choices on his part). “I want to include them in his annual review. I want a plan for him to improve. I anticipate he will become very negative and infect the rest of the group, then there will be a larger problem.”

      “Do I have your support? What steps would you like to see taken before this is escalated?”

    3. Clever Name*

      So, if this person “can’t be fired” what’s the point of doing a review at all? Yeah, yeah, I’m sure there’s a company policy of having annual reviews, even if they are meaningless. Do you by any chance have to force all of your employee’s reviews into a nice Bell Curve? Maybe you could mold this person’s review into a rating slot that you need most. You know, make lemonade.

      I realize my response is highly cynical, but I’m pretty much over playing stupid games. If your company were, you know, functional, you’d rate the person honestly, and put them on a PIP if necessary.

  21. Perpetua*

    For those of you who have done a lot of hiring (with the emphasis on interviewing, but not exclusively), what were the things that proved to be most useful to you? The most important things you have learned or the best advice you would give to someone starting out?

    1. SC in SC*

      One of the things I’ve found to be critical is to REALLY think about the requirements of the position and what skills are needed to excel in it. If you have top performers in the same or similar roles, what makes them so good? Then think about how to interview for those skills. That gives you a direction but now the work begins. You’ll need to prepare just as much as the candidates. Dig into their resumes and flag areas for deeper probes particularly those that you’ve flagged as critical to your open position. Prepare open ended questions for discussion since that’s what the interview should be with them doing most of the talking.

      As for the interview itself, be prepared with open, experience based questions but don’t just follow a script. You need to listen more than talk and dig deeper with follow-up questions. Get candidates to clarify their answers and give examples. If you’re inexperienced doing that, I’ve found that interviewing in a two person team helps. It’s not as intimidating as a panel and it allows you to listen better without thinking about your next question. However, if you do that, you’ll need to work with your partner to make sure you’re looking for the same information from the candidate.

      Last and probably best advice, read through the AAM archive. Plenty of great advice and discussion on the subject.

    2. YALM*

      I agree with SC in SC.

      You don’t have to be tied to a script, but do have a list of questions you will ask of all candidates for the position. It gives you a tool for comparison. Practice asking them. Make sure none of them (or almost none) will prompt the candidates to answer with a yes or no.

      1. YALM*

        Stupid machine…

        Also, for each candidate, really review the application material closely and identify some areas that you want to explore in detail. Make sure you have questions to help guide that part of the conversation.

        Leave time for the candidate to ask questions. Prepare and practice your answers to the questions the candidates should be asking you. Remember, good candidates will interview you.

        Try to be pleasant and calm if this kind of thing makes you nervous. You want to have a conversation; the interview shouldn’t be a grilling.

        And as you go through all of the other advice available here at AAM’s blog, pay attention to the insights on bailing out of a bad interview. That’s the part of interview prep most interviewers forget about until it’s too late.

    3. Artemesia*

      All good advice. BUT for me the most important thing of all is to listen to what you are hearing and not project your hopes onto the candidate. I have seen situations where the candidate clearly showed what his or her flaws in the position would be, but everyone was in love with the resume and their image of what the person was that they overlooked the evidence of bad fit down the road. Every bad hire I was involved with made their flaws evident if anyone had listened and not just wishful thought. Most of these did have the strengths they were hired for, but alas in some cases, the weaknesses were disastrous. And they were never a secret.

      1. fposte*

        This is an excellent point. It’s really easy to latch onto positives and then shape the narrative to fit the situation. Similarly, I find it useful when you do have roughly equivalent candidates to mentally acknowledge that, and to think about complementarity and advantages of each rather than trying to frame one as worse.

        1. ADE*

          Yeah, and don’t fall into the trap of wanting to hire somebody because they remind you of them (e.g. similar hobbies.) I’ve seen that one come back to bite somebody… we always said that he hired an activity partner, not an employee.

          For some positions, “vibe” and “feel” are important. For others they are not. Some of the best “vibey” candidates also have the most backstabby professional ethics. Ugh.

          And yes, if there is a way to evaluate the candidate’s job functions in the interview, do it. And collect your flags so you have questions to ask references.

    4. SC in SC*

      This is all good advice. Reading back through it just reminded me of something. DO NOT SETTLE! The absolute worst hires I’ve done were the ones where we got desperate after multiple rounds of interviews and we chose the best of the group. The absolute best were after I got burned by settling and absolutely refused to do it again. We knew exactly what skills we wanted and kept looking until we found them in a candidate. He’s still in our group and one of our top performers. The two we settled with were both eventually let go plus they were poor performers for several years.

  22. robot chick*

    Alright, since that’s been a bit of a theme lately: Cultural Differences! (What better day to derail the conversation from America, amirite? Ech. Sorry. I’m just bitter because we don’t have national holidays with bbq and fireworks).

    Today’s topic: Hiring practices. This goes to both non-Americans and those that have been abroad in the line of work:
    a) what different things do/did you hate or love?
    b) when dealing with a sattelite of an American corporation, just how ‘Americanized’ is the process in your experience in contrast to pre-globalization local standards?

    1. robot chick*

      D’oh. Forgot to say my own part. And there’s so many things to rant about in German hiring!

      – stuff like photos and date of birth steadfastly refuse to die out as “to be put on top of your resume”, although we’ve thankfully retired atrocities like “occupation of parents” and religion…

      – we’ve only over the last decade or so phased over from Diplom (~M.Sc.) and Magister (~M.A.) to Bachelor/Master, and a good portion of hiring managers still don’t know what to do with 21/22 yr old graduates. They seem fluctuate between treating them like fresh from high school and expecting them to have the same knowledge as someone with the old 4-5 year degree.

      1. Stephanie*

        Photos with a resume blow my mind. (I’m American.) I don’t even have a professional headshot.

      2. De (Germany)*

        When I am next job hunting (which hopefully won’t be soon), I will totally refuse to put a picture on my resume. It’s such a strange custom that really has no place in the process…

        1. robot chick*

          god, yeah. Since most of the companies I’ll be applying to (soon-ish) are international, I’m banking on getting away with a mostly American-style resume – question part b) is very unsubtly fishing in that direction…

        2. Weasel007*

          From what I was told, no picture and they won’t consider you in Germany. I hope that isn’t the absolute case.

    2. De (Germany)*

      I like that we don’t have as many “rounds” here when it comes to interviews, or at least it seems so. I have usually had a short phone screen and one in-person interview, sometimes even without the phone screen. Going to three in-person interviews just sounds like a lot of stress for not much gain to me.

      Hate the pictures, same as you.

    3. YALM*

      I’m an American working and living in the US, but I do a lot of hiring in Asia and Eastern Europe.

      The 7 or 8 page resumes we get from many Asian candidates drive me crazy, frankly. It’s way too much information to sort through. I like the shorter CVs much better. I’m getting used to seeing pictures on them. In the US, a resume with a picture would almost always go straight to the circular file, but that’s not the case elsewhere. The last person I hired had a picture of herself in a rock t-shirt at the top of her CV. But a good candidate is a good candidate.

      I follow US standards when asking questions–I stay away from personal stuff like age, marital status, kids, religion, and the like. I’ll never be comfortable asking questions like that, although my German boss does it all the time.

      I have an employee in the local office do the initial screening. This really helps. There are some cultural cues I will just never pick up on that a local will, and it’s even more difficult to do so over the phone or Skype. It’s probably easier on the candidate, too, to start the interview process that way.

      Every candidate in every location takes the same test.

      for European candidates, we usually have an initial screening and then a phone/Skype interview. It’s rare that we need a third round. It’s the same when we hire in the US.

      In Asia, it’s far more extensive. There’s an initial screening, and then in-person interviews with several local managers from related departments, and then a phone/Skype interview, and then about half of the time a follow-up interview with a higher level of management.

    4. matcha123*

      I work in Japan.

      Big differences?

      – There are job listings in English and Japanese that specifically ask for people of a certain sex.
      (ex: “Great job for a housewife.”, “Applicant is looking for male aged 21-35.”)

      – A lot of companies have an age requirement. This is especially true for what might be “entry” level work. Sometimes the cut-off is 25, sometimes 30.

      – Profile photo attached to resume with your birthdate listed. Photo booths are all around the country and you can pop into a camera store and have your photo taken and printed within 30 minutes. The cost can range from $5 to $30.

      – So many different types of resume based on how long you’ve been working/out of school and what type of job you’re applying for.
      The typical resume has a spot for your photo on the top right, then a space for your name/address/age/email/phone number.
      Under that is a space for schooling. You start from high school and some places ask you to start from elementary school. You list the name of the school and the dates attended.
      Next, there’s a spot for work history where you start from your first full-time job (part-time jobs are not listed, and anything before you became an “adult (20)” is not listed for university grads.
      Then you list qualifications/hobbies and “self-PR” which is really a blurb about why you work well with others.

      A totally separate paper allows you to SLIGHTLY expand upon your work experience.

      Oh, and did I mention most companies expect your resume to be written by hand?

      – I’ve been told that compared to the US, where you go into an interview with a “0” and have the chance to raise your points; in Japan, you go in with a “100” and do your best not to lose too many points.

      – When it comes to hiring, in a large number of cases I don’t think the best person is chosen for the job. There are so many arbitrary things that factor into hiring decisions. That’s true in the US, but I think that in Japan, hiring managers make assumptions and hold them as truths: “Women will quit their jobs as soon as they get married,” “Foreigners don’t want to use Japanese,” etc.

      I’ll stop there for now… :p

    5. PX*

      Was thinking about this today as it came up – but including a hobbies/interests section! I’ve seen this come up on AAM before where people dont like it, but in the Netherlands where I am, its an absolute must. In general employers absolutely want to know that you are not just a robot and have some interests outside of working.

      Luckily the photo isnt standard, but date of birth/nationality is, as well as whether or not you have a drivers license :D (Random, I know)

      1. Jen RO*

        I never thought about this, but it is indeed odd (it’s standard in Romania too). I hate driving so I always lied that I didn’t have a license.

        I also don’t include a photo, even though it’s common to do so (but less common than in other countries I’d say – when I helped with screening, less than half of the resumes had photos). Also, they are very rarely professional headshots… which sometimes leads to funny/sad things like duckface resumes (or CVs, as they are called here; we don’t have two separate concepts like in the US).

        1-page resumes are not common in my experience – most are 2 pages and include education, work experience (responsibilities – I don’t think I’ve ever seen accomplishments on a resume), foreign languages (English is a must for most office jobs), computer skills. Hobbies seem to have gone out of ‘resume fashion’.

        I haven’t noticed a difference in hiring practices between locally owned and foreign owned companies. I did have a (Romanian) hiring manager who kept pushing me for my ‘future plans, from a personal point of view’. It took me 2 days to figure out that she was asking if I was planning to get pregnant!

  23. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    4 more weeks until I’m relocating to Paris to start a new job! I’ve been reading AAM’s posts on starting a new position and gotten some good advice in the comments last week about helping the person who replaces me.

    Some shallower questions:
    – Any tips on building a (women’s) business formal wardrobe that is still comfortable in the heat? My current dress code is pretty casual so I will have to step it up… and the building I’m gonna be working in is ancient and hot.
    – Is it okay to bring food on the first day? I wanted to bring some local Belgian chocolates just to break the ice and introduce myself, but I’ve heard some conflicting opinions on bringing food into work.

    1. Stephanie*

      Be picky about your fabrics. Stick to cotton or other organic fabrics (save for wool, that is). Loose-fitting is key as well.

      1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        Thanks! I’ve been trying to avoid buying things in polyester and rayon but I love me some cheap, trendy H&M/Mango/whatever stuff :(

        1. Stephanie*

          H&M made this cap-sleeve blouse I (and apparently every other 20-something woman in DC) loved. I had it in multiple colors. I had to give those up in the summer as whatever mystery poly blend H&M used just made me too damn sweaty. And the piling was insane.

          If your feet get sweaty in shoes, footies or knee highs are really good. I also try to alternate my shoes to let pairs air out.

              1. Audiophile*

                That’s cute.

                I don’t have one, but I WAS on their website last night, looking for ideas for a work wardrobe.

                Current job involves uniform and my weekend clothes are jeans and T-shirts. I have nothing work appropriate, so whatever I get next will require some shopping for work clothes.

              2. Jen RO*

                I was so sure you meant that one! I own two, my mother had one, and at least one coworker has one too!

              3. MelNotMissy*

                I used to have it! Bought it a few years ago while in Germany, and saw it in DC when I moved there a year later.

      2. EE*

        Wool can be light! In fact, one of my favourite suits was bought in Lyon. 100% wool, lightweight, excellent in summer. I recommend wool suits highly.

    2. robot chick*

      Totally understand the impulse, but I’d try to keep the treats for the end of your first week or month, as a “thanks for welcoming me so warmly”. Then you can better gauge the people and culture already, and people’s preferences – maybe they’d rather have something typical from where you’re from? Or half of them are vegans? Also, chocolate in an office so warm you’re worried about wardrobe gets sticky very, very quickly, in case you hadn’t considered that.

      1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        The chocolates would be typical for where I’m from, but good point about them not being great in hot weather. I guess I’ll wait it out a bit like you’re suggesting. Thanks!

        1. robot chick*

          Oh yeah, I kind of snagged on the “Belgian chocolate = local for Paris”, but ignored it for some reason. My brain works in mysterious ways :/

    3. UK Anon*

      I’ve been finding that a vest top with something see through but pretty over it and then a light scarf to cover the top, slightly more exposed part, is a very cool way of looking smart enough for business.

      Light grey trousers are also a Godsend. They are surprisingly cool, even in melting sunshine or humid heat, and they generally allow you to get away with a *slightly* more casual top (so you can choose something lighter and cooler than a blouse) because of the formality.

      Dresses can also work well, if you can find some summer office ones. There’s some fairly lightweight ones out there that will help to keep you cool – and again a light scarf can help if the cut isn’t quite right.


    4. BeBe* always has good advice on building a professional wardrobe and even some specific articles about surviving the heat. You’ll find lots of suggestions.

      That being said, I think Talbots is always a good bet for classy work wardrobe. For the budget conscious (like me) I really like the Liz Claiborne line at JCP for everyday suiting separates.

      P.S. I’ve heard it can be hard to find clothes in Paris unless you’re very small (like a size 0-6). My boss lives there and always clothing shops when she comes to the U.S. Who would’ve thought?

      1. Stephanie*

        I went on vacation to Paris with a size 0 friend (I’m a 14/16 with large feet). Shopping was rough. She found tons of stuff. I ended up reading in cafés a lot while she shopped. I did manage to find one thing in a vintage shop.

        The Euro was pretty strong relative to the dollar at the time. When I was flying back to the US, the flight attendants asked if I was from DC. They had a free day in the US, and they wanted to know where the outlet malls, zoo, and beach were in relation to DC.

      2. Jen RO*

        That’s a exaggeration. I’m an US size 8, I think (EU 38), and I’ve never had issues. I think it can be hard yo impossible (in regular stores) if you’re over European size 44 (US 16).

    5. Puddin*

      Clothing wise I like tropical weight wool. It is not cheap, but you can wear it wear round, does not wrinkle much even in the heat, and travels well too. Sleeveless shirts with a light shrug/sweater over them are good too. You can remove the outer layer while in your cube/office and put it on when meeting others if your office prefers a more covered look. Maxi dresses are your friend, some are very casual, but if you can find a basic black or navy, top it off with a lightweight blazer, and is professional enough for many settings. Many department stores offer free personal shopper services (in the US) maybe get some advice from them as well…good luck and best wishes for the new job!

    6. Artemesia*

      ahh Paris. How wonderful. Since AC is not the norm and you know the building will be hot, put together a wardrobe of linen, cotton, maybe a little tencel — I travel a lot in warm climates and most ‘travel clothing’ is made out of poly. It packs great and looks great but it is like wearing a plastic bag. So all my travel stuff is cotton or linen unless it is a skirt — poly in a skirt because of the airiness of a skirt is not a problem. I would put together a very few neutral outfits in linen/cotton and then wait and see what others are wearing in the office and build on your basics.

    7. Windchime*

      Check out a blog called the Vivienne Files for ideas on how to build a professional wardrobe where she suggests versatile ways to build a wardrobe. Highly recommended. Some of the pieces she features are expensive, high-end things (Hermes scarves!), but you could substitute with more affordable options.

      1. Jam Wheel*

        OMG – THANK YOU for this blog tip!! I have a very difficult time shopping for clothes and really just wanted to build a simple, but interchangeable, wardrobe but had NO CLUE. This is so helpful for me and exactly the kind of guidance I was looking for!

    8. Karin*

      I’m not very familiar with France, but I work in Belgium and it’s relatively common to celebrate birthdays or retirements or whatnot with food. We’re a pretty international office — French, German and Dutch colleagues — and everyone has brought so ething at one point or another. The way my office does it is that we leave the food i. Our kitchen and send an e-mail around saying it’s there. Sometimes people will pop in and offer something, but it’s more common to leave it in a common area and allow people to help themselves.

      1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        I work in Belgium now in the same type of office! Also, we bring lots of food and eat all day long haha

    9. matcha123*

      I work in a country where most offices turn UP the office temps in the summer!

      I would say to definitely wear undershirts! I never wore them in the US, but they help to: hide my bra, catch sweat (omg, there’s a lot of sweat).
      If you can find some from Uniqlo (sarafine), they are nice. The other good thing about them is that you can wear a thinner, larger shirt over them. I also wear a lot of polo shirts to work.

      Also, plain t-shirts with a cardigan (I buy most of my clothes used or at uniqlo). If you get hot, you can take off the cardigan and tie it around your shoulders (if it’s that kind of office).

      Bottoms…I will assume that the US has tights that are cool in the summer. I wear those with shorts or skirts.

      But, if you haven’t seen the other people in the office I’d wait to see how the other women dress and copy that with items that fit your budget.

      For bottoms,

      1. Stephanie*

        Uniqlo! Every time I go to NYC, I stop by there. Their tops are really good about not getting stretched out.

    10. KrisL*

      I wouldn’t bring food the first day. Wait until you have a better feel for the culture. You can bring food in as a “thanks” for the help your co-workers give you (if bringing in food seems appropriate).

  24. Intern*

    I’m currently doing a summer internship and the contract ends in early September. I have another internship offer from a different company starting September (no overlap). But before I got this offer, my current manager asked me what my plans were after summer. I said I’ll be going back to school (since I’m not sure I’m going to get an offer for Sept – didn’t tell her this). However, ever since I started this summer internship, my manager has been giving multiple direct and obvious hints that she wants me to stay after September. At this point, she thinks I’m going back to school since I did tell her that before.

    Closer to September, I’m sure she’ll speak with me for potential part-time involvement with the company but I am sure I cannot commit to that, as the Sept Internship will be on the other side of the country and the schedule won’t work. When the “talk” does happen, how do I tell her that I have another internship for fall when she thinks I was going back to school? I’m afraid she’ll think I didn’t consider staying when she had been giving me so many side remarks that she wants me to stay. (I personally didn’t want to stay longer than summer though).

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

    1. ItsMe*

      You’re overthinking it. Just say “thank you for the offer, but I’ve made other plans that will make it impossible for me to take the part0time job.”

      1. Colette*

        And don’t lie. You don’t want her telling a future reference checker that you left to go back to school when the next person they talk to makes it clear that you didn’t.

        1. Intern*

          Thank you, ItsMe and Colette! Will definitely want to avoid lying. Thank you for your feedback!

    2. BritCred*

      Can you bring it up in conversation…. “oh hey, I know I was saying I was going back to school in September? Well I’m not, another good opportunity arose and I just felt I couldn’t miss out on it….”

      Deflects the annoyance that you didn’t stay with her and gives you ways to see if she’ll be annoyed that you didn’t automatically hang around for them. Also means she isn’t planning on you taking that role and then gets thrown when its time to hand it out.

    3. Karin*

      Why don’t you just talk to her now? I wouldn’t balk at an intern bringing up something like this on their own accord, particularly if I had already asked about it. You can just say something like, ‘I know you were curious about my plans for after September and I’m really happy to tell you that I was accepted for another internship at xx. This obviously has changed my plans, but I’m very excited about this new opportunity.’

      Bringing it up on your own will show her at best that you are aware that this could have an impact on the organisation and you want her to know as soon as possible that your availability has changed. At the very least it shows her that your experience at her organisation helped you nail another position — you can even work this idea into the conversation.

      I would be a little annoyed if an intern let me go one assuming they would be available after their official end-date, even when their plans already changed, particularly if I was indicating to them that we would like them to stay longer.

      1. Intern*

        Thank you, Karin! Your feeedback is appreciated. Will do as suggested and tell my manager early. And just to clarify, I never said to my boss I would be available after Sept. :)

  25. Lurker*

    I’ve been reading AAM for a few months now. The insight and advice is definitely useful. With the open thread, I figure I’ll jump into the comment foray with a quandary of my own…

    I’ve worked at my current job for several years now. About a year ago, we had an influx of new managers. One of them went out of their way to make my life a living hell for several months. They eventually moved on a couple months later, but not before their behavior had me seriously considering employment elsewhere. I applied to a few things I thought were interesting and also to some positions internal to my company (we’re pretty big). I was quickly offered one of the internal posts, which I accepted. Our usual reporting for transfers is within a month, but my management negotiated with the new department for me to stay for several months. The other department grudgingly accepted this and my wait began. The old place didn’t really *need* me, but wanted to drag things out a bit.

    Fast forward to a short while ago. One of the external applications I put in forever ago bore some fruit. I was offered a pretty solid position in a different part of the country w/ a different employer. Now I’m potentially left with the unenviable task of telling the upcoming department that I won’t be joining them and will instead be leaving the company all together. The other offer isn’t just a regular deal; to me, it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime type jobs. Maybe that’s not a sufficient mea culpa excuse, but I feel like I need to say that to them. The question is, is there any way to do that gracefully?

    The other question is regarding the awesome offer. We inevitably ended up talking about salaries and benefits and they eventually said they couldn’t move forward without a range. I said X (min) to Y (max) and they came back with X plus some decent benefits. Many of my trusted friends and colleagues insist that I should negotiate. I’m wondering, isn’t that bad faith though? They pushed me into a range, I said it, and they offered the low end of that range. I wouldn’t have stated it if I didn’t want it. While I think the pay may be a little low for my qualifications, it’s not really low for the position itself. My thought is to go in, prove myself, and advance based on merit. Is that a silly pipe dream or do I have something to lose by negotiating? I’m just scared to death that they’ll rescind the offer!

    Sorry for the long comment. Any advice is appreciated :-)

    Happy 4th!

    1. Stephanie*

      Hmm, if you’re legitimately satisfied with the offer of X plus the benefits, I don’t think it’s worth negotiating just for the sake of negotiating. I would just triple-check the benefits. I’ve mentioned this before: I was desperate to get out a prior job and the next job just offered me the same base salary. I just looked at the number and failed to notice the significantly higher insurance premiums, so I ended up with a noticeable pay cut.

    2. Perpetua*

      I’d lean towards not negotiating further, especially under the influence of a very recent experience at my company. We asked the candidate for a range, they said X as minimum, we offered X + a bit less than 10% more (which is a fair and competitive salary for the position and the job, especially for someone with no formal work experience). Then they asked for another 10% and frankly, it left quite a bad impression (coupled with the manner in which it was executed), bad enough that we are thinking of not giving him an actual offer. The money is not the issue, the attitude is.

      I agree that you should check the benefits and conditions, however.

      I think this is why one should think really hard about the salary range that is truly acceptable and then stick to it. Then again, I’m not in America, so some cultural difference may apply as well.

    3. BRR*

      I’m going to just avoid the first question.

      I wouldn’t negotiate. You told them you would be ok with X. I’m not a fan of the advice negotiating just to negotiate. I understand people who say that but going with Perpetua, it can leave a bad taste. If you weren’t ok with X you shouldn’t have said X. The difference from that situation to this one is you have some merit.

    4. BritCred*

      Question 1: I’d go with a polite “whilst I appreciate the work that went into giving me the role a One in a Lifetime offer came to me unexpectedly and its not something I feel I can turn down”.

      And offer your help in transitioning based on the issues at hand – most likely they will say nothing you can do since you haven’t started the role but making the offer will help retain some good will.

    5. alfie*

      Your current company made your life a living hell and then when you made arrangements to move your current managers and future managers both dragged their feet on the transition. In the meantime you got a better offer. In my mind, that is reason enough, let alone that it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I think perhaps they shouldn’t toy with people unnecessarily, especially if they have been motivated to look for something different. If they are looking within a large company they are likely looking outside as well.

      I think if new company asked for a range and you gave them one, it is not unexpected that they offered you the bottom of your range. Unless you could negotiate for moving expenses or sign-on bonus or something, I think it won’t make you look good to try to negotiate further.


    6. Artemesia*

      I would not feel very apologetic about the old company. THEY horsed you around leaving you in the old position apparently just to mess with the other department and you. One of the consequences of treating people badly is that they might leave.

      I would express regret but not much more than that. This will give the new department a little more leverage to not let themselves get jacked around like this next time. The consequence for them is that they lost a good candidate by allowing the old department to block the transfer in a timely manner.

      The bottom of the range offer is a red flag though. You might express surprise at being low balled and find out what the raise policy of the new place is. You will never be in a better position to negotiate. If you are convinced that this really is the dream job and that that the benefits are exceptional, you might just let it go. But I would be inclined to probe more about their raise policy since they made no attempt to woo you but went for the lowest possible offer they could manage.

    7. Observer*

      You don’t really have too much leverage to negotiate. After all what are you going to say? “I said I would accept x but I didn’t mean it.” If it were a lousy benefits package, you could point to that and say that your assumption was that the lowish pay would be made up for by great benefits. But, you say they are offering decent benefits.

      As for the move, I think you are over-thinking this. You would be taking this job, whether or not you had gone into this other department, right? And, it was not YOUR decision to delay the move, either. But, in a way it works out better for them, because they haven’t invested in getting you up to speed. So just tell them (with as much lead time as you can safely do) that an opportunity too good to pass up came your way and you will be leaving the company.

  26. Audiophile*

    More good news: my second round apparently went well on Monday, because one of my references let me know they were contacted yesterday for a reference for me. I don’t want to get too excited or get my hope up, because as we all know, it’s still up in the air, you don’t have an offer until you have an offer. This is exciting though! Please think good thoughts for me.

  27. Freelancehelp*

    I have a freelance client that I need to end things with. Advice on doing so?

    My part-time job is rapidly becoming full-time and the freelance job that was pitched to me as tech consulting is really tech support. Which is fine, but the client doesn’t listen to what I say and really struggles to stay on task when we meet which makes our appointments both unproductive and frustrating.

    I’d like, ‘No, I can’t’ to be a complete sentence rather than an opening to negotiations.

    For what its worth, this is not what I ‘do’, it’s a side job, and while I’d like to leave on good terms, I’m not worried about references.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      There’s 50 ways to leave your lover.

      Be helpful in transitioning them to a new solution, a month’s notice maybe?

      It’s funny (odd, not ha ha) for me on the other side of things to read how anxious other folks get about quitting something. It’s just business. The responsibility for whatever you are doing running smoothly rests with the person to whom you report as a freelancer, not on you . All you owe them is in help in the transition solution that they create.

      1. Wonkette*

        “There’s 50 ways to leave your lover.” Ha! I just wanted to say that I love that sentence.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Heh. I can also advise you on knowing when to hold ’em, and knowing when to fold ’em.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              I have, seriously and somberly, said:

              “Never count your money while you’re sitting at the table.”

              During a senior management financial planning meeting, discussing mid-year returns. No celebrations yet, people.

              You’d have thought I was quoting Warren Buffet, the gravity I gave to the wisdom. But it’s true!

      2. Freelancehelp*

        Oh gosh! Just did it and she replied very nicely but then included a random rant about the current political situation where I live (I’m not US based), women in politics, birth control, and abortion.

        Sometimes the universe sends your decisions are good ones.

    2. Sara*

      Just be clear and direct. And be prepared to keep repeating the “No, I can’t” – they can’t negotiate if you don’t negotiate. Stuck record time, just keep calmly and politely saying no until it sinks in.

  28. Stephanie*

    Need some help figuring out databases. A nonprofit organization I’m involved with wants to create a searchable training material database for members. From what the director’s told me, he wants something where members can submit material that’s searchable based on different tags.

    Anyone know of a database or shared folder scenario that could work? My initial thoughts were a Dropbox or Sharepoint with a lot of categorized folders, but there are probably more elegant solutions. I don’t know Access right now, but I think I could figure it out. Also, I don’t think this database needs to be anything particularly polished. Thanks!

    1. robot chick*

      I’m (tragically) by no means a DB whiz, so there might be something better around on that front, but I’d use a web interface, like a wiki.
      There you can start out with the basic folder tree structure, but also create meta pages to group content and generally very conveniently use links cross reference from one article to another or to downloadable files. Pre-made software also generally comes the option of varying writing/editing privileges among the members, if that’s relevant to you, the ability to track who made what changes, and a search function.
      Then again, you could also code something from scratch, with some not too outlandish html/javascript.

      btw, we actually used that system to organize the student workers at a research project in college, so I can speak from experience.

        1. robot chick*

          clicking my name now should lead you to an article about different options for free wiki platforms (that isn’t mine or anyone’s who is in any way affiliated with me ^^).

          I personally liked DokuWiki a lot in terms of flexibility and documented-ness, although it might be a bit unintuitive to navigate for people who aren’t super computer savvy (but that might be mitigateable by putting more effort into customizing it appropriately).
          I’ve also heard good things about XWiki and MediaWiki, but can’t stick my neck out for those.

    2. Sydney*

      I would use WordPress. You can get a free site or a cheap paid one that’s more secure. Users will be able to add/edit with a rich-text editor. There is a very active developer community, so there are tons of plugins and themes available, both free and paid.

    3. BRR*

      I was thinking sharepoint. We have it at work and I like that you can search and it will search through the documents as well, not just titles.

    4. SharePoint*

      You could very easily do that in Sharepoint with a document library. Sharepoint will search within the documents (as long as they’re not PDF), like BRR said. You could even create columns with the relevant tags that you need, and could have a defined tag list or allow users to create new tags as well.

      This is basically exactly what sharepoint is designed to do.

    5. Observer*

      Access sounds like a totally inappropriate solution here. Sharepoint might acutally not be a bad idea here. Or a decent document management system. The suggestion of a wiki is also a good one.

      A real question here is what kinds of materials are you going to be dealing with? And, are you going to keep copies of the materials in your system or are you just going to link to them?

      1. Stephanie*

        Probably Word documents, but transcription could be an option.The nonprofit is an organization that runs support groups for kids with disabled siblings. The director wants some kind of database or resource for group facilitators where they can look up activities for the groups. He wanted the activities to be searchable by different tags like “high activity” or “good for small groups.” I think he also wanted editing or submission to be restricted to group facilitators (or approved volunteers) only.

        The Wiki or WordPress ideas sound pretty good for these purposes. I’ll suggest those and see what he thanks. Thanks everyone!

  29. OriginalEmma*

    For the public health folks out there, two questions –

    1). How would you recommend applying for jobs in public health areas in which you have interest, possibly related skills, but no experience? I have disease investigation and emergency preparedness experience, but am interested in chronic disease and injury prevention…really, I love bikeability/walkability and want to work on those issues. If you’ve successfully done this, could you explain how you did it?

    2). Related to Q1: Would getting an MPH make me a better candidate for such a transition?

    1. Masters Degree Searcher*

      1) I applied to think tanks, nonprofits, and used the website as a very useful tool as a way into the industry. Are you my doppleganger? I’ve got experience in emergency preparedness too! I did this after my education. It’s been successful to a degree in that I have work experience, but the downside is it’s been it’s all contract positions. Currently searching for my next break, and hoping someone will give me a chance. (See my other comment in this thread too). It’s hard.

      2) It might make it harder. I’ve got a law degree, an international certificate, and a masters in law from a European institution, and an Ivy degree and even then, it seems like it’s not enough quite yet. I know people working minimum wage at my old job with an MPH. But, there are jobs out there that specifically require an MPH–epidemiologists, field work, international affairs, NGOs, etc. It really depends.

    2. Meghan*

      I have no idea where you’re located, obviously, but if you’re interested in walkability work I would suggest reaching out to Mark Fenton – I think he’s a bigwig in that field.

    3. EB*

      It really depends on what positions you are going for. I know individuals who have jumped into alternate transportation without a MPH or experience in the field, BUT they were being hired for a position where experience in the role was more important than experience in the subject area, and more transferable skills were involved. You may be seeking positions where not only experience and in-depth knowledge of the field are required. You may be seeking positions where they need someone with not only a MPH, but who is certified. It really depends on the role you are seeking.

      Re the MPH- it really, really depends. Many state and federal jobs require MPH or equivalents at certain levels. If you are looking at a county-level job entry level positions will not require them but they will be needed for advancement. For NGOs it’s really hit and miss, but often management has a masters in some kind of health area (at super high levels a PhD, MD, or JD). The content of the MPH, grant writing experience, program implimentation experience, and ability to publish can be really important as well depending on the role you are seeking and the organization in question.

    4. Celeste*

      For walkability, is it possible that you might like to be a city planner? That’s a branch of it. Your emergency preparedness experience would also be a boon.

      1. Melly*

        I’m late to the game here, so not sure my response will be read. I work in a local public health department (county), and the chronic disease/walkability side of things are generally not what county health departments receive funding for, so I’d avoid those. I suppose non-profits, possible research universities would be more likely to have this kind of programming.

        I have an MPH and it has definitely opened career doors for me, but depending on where you live, you might be able to get into those fields without it. I would not recommend taking out a bunch of loans for an MPH (ahem).

        1. Anx*

          I studied environmental health and interned for a while at my local health department.

          Would you agree that if you’re interested in topics like aging in place, transportation, and the like that it might be useful to focus on bread and butter topics and hope to form or join a committee if possible when employed?

          1. Melly*

            That’s a good question. We (as a society) definitely need smart people thinking about aging. Again, not sure I see that happening at the local health department level, but our County has an Office for the Aging as a part of our Human Services Division. Also our community has a couple of good non-profits that address these.

            If you do land in a local health department, NACCHO is a great organizations that has work groups on all kinds of topics you can apply to join. Surely there are other national organizations you could look into also.

            Transportation would be a department all of it’s own, perhaps more likely at the urban planning level.

        2. OriginalEmma*

          Hi Melly, thanks for your response. I’m honestly very surprised that chronic disease doesn’t receive much funding, given the current societal focus on obesity reduction. Or do you mean that there isn’t much funding related to walking-and-biking programs, specifically, vs. your general standbys in obesity reduction of nutrition education?

          1. Melly*

            I think chronic disease gets lots of funding at the State/Federal level, and in medical centers/research universities, not so much at the local public health department level. I’m in New York State, so this certainly may not be true in other states, though NY has very active local health departments with lots of mandates. We are mandated/funded to do: communicable disease, emergency prep, environmental health, and maternal and child health.

            There have been some big CDC grants lately that focus on chronic disease. In our community, they mostly went to the local medical center with us as a partner. At the local government level, there is an effort to NOT hire new permanent FTEs (benefits, pensions, etc) so bringing non-mandated grant work in house is difficult with current staffing levels.

      2. Anx*

        Do any local schools offer an urban planning, public admin/policy, or age studies as well as public health?

        1. OriginalEmma*

          There are a few dual programs for public health and urban planning. Portland State, UNC, UCLA, Louisville all come to mind. But you must apply to the two programs separately – there’s no truly melded program that I have been able to find that doesn’t want distinct public health AND urban planning experience.

      3. OriginalEmma*

        Thanks for the suggestion. I have looked at city planning. I’m not sure if it’d be the right fit for me because those jobs look at the long game…and I’m not one to sit and write plans and proposals that’ll only be completed 20 years from now.

        But I’m the first to admit I don’t know toooo much about what a city planner does in their day-to-day work or how quickly projects can be implemented and completed.

  30. KayDay*

    So after 9 years or so of using gmail personally and 2.5 years of using it at work, I’ve started working for an organization that uses….lotus notes.

    I honestly never did a great job organizing my email using lotus notes or outlook, so does anyone have any tips about how to create folders/generally organize my email so I can find things easily?

    I’m trying to keep my inbox for action items and follow up items only, and filing old stuff in folders. Constraints: I’m new, so I don’t have a great feel for what’s important yet. I work in an office that uses cc a lot, so many of the email I get are FYI (but they are important, we are expected to be able to pick up where a colleague left off if necessary).

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Lotus Notes still exists?!?

      I have no suggestions, for helping you as we migrated off Notes over 10 years ago (I hated it. Hated it), I just needed to express my amazement that the program is still out there.

    2. Sabrina*

      I hated Notes, complained about it every day for 10 years. Then I went to a company with Outlook. I miss Notes. Anyway, you can make folders that are similar to Gmail labels. I don’t think they can be in more than one though.

    3. rkflower*

      Ugh, I feel for you. I was at a large company for a little over a year that used Lotus Notes. I was so happy to get back on Outlook again when I left for a new company.

      After 9 years of being in a professional work setting, I only just recently started organizing my emails in folders and leaving only emails requiring follow up in my inbox, as you mentioned. I don’t remember how to do it in Lotus Notes, but another thing I’ve started doing is attaching a pop up notification reminder to emails that need follow up by a certain date. It helps me to keep my tasks organized, because sometimes I get slammed with work out of nowhere, so it’s convenient to get a pop up/alarm telling me I need to follow up.

      When I used Lotus Notes, there were more meetings with my position, and I found it useful that I could easily check my coworkers’ calendars (everyone kept their calendars up to date), before I sent a meeting invite because then I didn’t have to waste time trying to coordinate a meeting and it was less likely someone would decline because of a conflict.

      I get daily reports from people now that I have set Outlook up to route those emails to a folder. I don’t need to review the reports each day, but I do use them for analysis at a later date so it’s nice to have them all in one place.

      I curious about this topic though. I’d like to know what else people do to manage their emails. As I mentioned, until recently, all my emails sat in my inbox and I’d miss things that needed follow up. I wish I would have used these tricks before. I probably spend 15 minutes a day moving my inbox emails to folders or deleting unnecessary ones. I used to think I didn’t have time for that, but now with the volume of emails I get, I realize that if I don’t, I’ll spend more time searching for emails or look bad because I missed a deadline.

  31. Loquaciousaych*

    My job description at my day job changed to include something HUGE and scary. I have real, legitimate reasons to be reserved about this change and expressed them to management. I was promised by management that every opportunity would be taken to assist me with the transition and that I would have careful coaching and mentoring with the new HUGE scary thing.

    My last day of training was Monday, and I honestly didn’t feel confident that I have a good grasp on the BASICS of the new duties, much less mastered them.

    Yesterday, I was pushed into performing the new duties – without supervision, mentoring or assistance; and this was at my manager’s insistence.

    Basically, my boss lied to my face about this new job and how it would be handled. I’m super frustrated but can’t afford to leave without a backup.

    Any ideas on how to handle this professionally so I don’t come across as bitter and terrible at work?

    1. K Cat*

      Ugh that sucks. The only thing I can think of is to keep a list of specific issues you run into and then ask for help with them. Alternatively, if it exists, look for courses, books, ANYTHING on the topic and ask that work buy them for you.

    2. KrisL*

      What K Cat said.

      Management can usually do something with specifics, so make sure to have those in hand.

      It might help to know more about the scary thing so we could help.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I hate to suggest this because it involves using your own time. I don’t do this unless I feel I am in over my head and I need a plan.

      Look for resources outside your company that would help you. If it means taking an online course and spending some money- then do it.

      See if you can find someone who is doing similar work that would be willing to talk with you.
      On that same line is checking out books at the library.
      I know this sounds really basic. But sometimes on my way to the library/mentor/other outside source I stumble across someone who actually can support my concerns. The idea being I put myself out there and said “hey, I need additional inputs here”. The inputs were not exactly where I started looking but if I had not started I would never, ever have found the help.

      1)IF you think you are in danger- speak up. “Boss, I cannot lift 75 pounds. The most I can lift is 50 and that is on a good day. If I try to lift that I will probably get hurt.”

      OR “Boss, the law requires certification for doing X, I do not have that. I could jeopardize the company by working on this project without that certification. (I’ve had jobs where I could go to jail for lacking the quals. NO way. Just NO.)

      So target the worst of the worst problems first. Keep yourself physically safe and keep yourself out of jeopardy with the law.

      2) When ever I have had to break down a responsibility there were parts that actually went okay. Then there were parts that I had no idea at all….. at that point I would start looking around at my coworkers. Get their inputs if possible. Perhaps there are outside vendors or others that I can call. Sometimes I could get lucky and get the boss to actually say something useful. Bosses sometimes do better with specific questions than they do with describing the whole process. OTH, the boss could just be waiting for you to have done some of the work and then he will start coaching. (Stupid, I know.)

      3) Worst case scenario: You truly cannot lift that 75 box (or whatever the insurmountable aspect of the responsibility is). Go back and tell the boss. I can’t do this because _______. Push comes to shove you can remind him that this is not what you were hired for and most certainly you never would have applied for a job that was beyond your abilities. Say it in a tone that shows respect and concern. Show that you know you are coming up short and you are looking for solutions.

    1. ScaredyCat*

      I’ve had to go through a 3 month notice period about a year ago… and it was horrible. One of those everything was nice and fine until you decided to quit, type of experiences.

      I had this good friend at work, with whom I could discuss overtime and the “meanness” about me leaving. And I had booked a 2-week holiday right after my last day. Just the thought of it, did a lot to make things at least a bit more bearable.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      The only thing that even begins to work for me is that I have to look myself in the mirror.
      If I know I have done my best right up to the end, there is something soooo very gratifying about that. And you never know who is watching you and noticing that you took the high road. That high road action might come back around in years to come. “Oh I remember you. We worked at X Company and they gave you the short end of the deal. But you held it together.” Mental images like that help me a lot.

  32. Monodon monoceros*

    Not sure if I have a question, but any thoughts would be appreciated. I am 1 year in to a 3 year contract, which can be renewed if I want to stay, and if they want me to stay. My boss will retire next February. So I am thinking that about the time my boss leaves, I should be renegotiating my contract. My worry is that when her replacement comes, I won’t have much time to get a feel for them and whether working for them will be OK. It is a small office, and I feel like whoever is in that position will make a huge difference in my job satisfaction.

    Otherwise I like the job, and am leaning towards staying in the position. So I guess I should just renegotiate a new contract and just see how the new boss is, and suck it up for the length of the new contract if they are terrible.

    1. Colette*

      By next February, do you mean February 2015? If you’re one year in now, you wouldn’t have hit two years yet. How soon do people generally start to renegotiate? That seems early.

      1. Monodon monoceros*

        Yes, 2015. Things seem to move really slowly at the board level, so I was assuming that I would start negotiating Spring 2015. It may be way too early. The job is also overseas, so a big move would have to happen if I decide not to stay, which is partly why I was thinking of getting another contract set up so soon. It will be hard to find another job in the US in my field, too, so I would feel like I should start looking a year before I would expect to leave.

        I’ve been thinking of talking to my current boss soon about how far in advance to talk about a new contract. I guess I’ll do that soon and then see what she says.

        1. Colette*

          Personally, I wouldn’t start negotiating an extension until 6 months before the current agreement expires, but obviously you should be guided by the norms in your industry/company. I agree talking to your boss now about how soon to start thinking about the renewal is the way to go.

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            Thanks! I am a planner, and like to have things figured out in advance, but I am always having to pull myself back and realize not everyone needs things figured out as far in advance as me!

            1. Chriama*

              I actually think negotiating sooner is better. After your boss leaves, give the new boss a couple months to get to know you. Then, if you decide you want to stay, proactively bring up the contract renewal. A move overseas + a job hunt is high stakes and I don’t think a year is that much time, so I think it’s fine to start talking sooner rather than later. You don’t even have to nail things down in concrete yet — just talk about how you’d like to stay, see if the new boss is amenable to the situation and open the door for future discussion.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Depends on your boss’ style/personality, but maybe she can tell you something about your new boss once she knows who it will be.

          I had a boss say “You guys think I am bad, wait until you see the next boss.” She gave examples.

          That sealed the deal for me. I left.

  33. Cruciatus*

    Does anyone have any tips for interviewing for your local County government? And if I am offered a job (administrative assistant, if it matters), is it possible to negotiate a parking spot? I have been told parking is a nightmare–everyone fighting for spots on the street which will get worse when the local universities start back up. Is it naive to ask for something like that? Especially since I’ll be lowest in seniority?

    1. Cruciatus*

      And somewhat relatedly, I fear that I’m a job hopper in disguise. I’ve been at my current employer for over 3 years but spent over 1.5 years in my first position and now I’m hitting the same amount of time in my current position and I’m already looking for another job. I know it’s better than just months but I fear I get antsy to move on too quickly.

      1. Brett*

        I do interview for local gov tech, so job hopping tolerance is higher. But I wouldn’t blink at all at three jobs in five years.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        If this is all at the same employer then don’t even worry about it. I do a lot of resume screening and wouldn’t consider two 1.5 year jobs to be job hopping, even if it were at different companies. I get lots of resumes with six 4 or 5 month jobs in a row (not temp jobs). Those are the ones that raise red flags.

    2. Brett*

      Negotiating parking spots is impossible for the county gov I work for. Very strict seniority combined with executive privilege. It probably would not be viewed as naive, it just would not get very far. And even if it did work, people lose their parking spots all the time when new higher level hires came in, so it would not be a very secure perk.
      As for interviewing… First round will probably be a set script. If that is the case, it is very important for you to ask questions back to go off script at all. Make sure you understand who you will be working with. Since county jobs can last decades, fit, and your ability to be that fit, is extremely important. Also, find out how well funded the position is. For example, are they working with modern versions of key software, do they routinely pay for training and critical industry specific conferences. Do your research and find out if the county has been raising taxes or cutting budgets. Budget cutting might mean questions about how that department is faring and if there is any restructuring planned.
      At the offer phase or if you get Q & A with HR, make sure you understand the benefits in detail. Counties can have very complicated pto and multitiered pension systems.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Honestly, I don’t know if that would be wise. I’m also an admin and you know we are always last on the list for this kind of thing. If it’s that much of a hassle, there’s probably already a waiting list. It can’t hurt to ask something like “I’ve heard parking around here is a problem; do you have any advice on that subject” – but if they lowball you on salary then I think you have an opening to try to get a spot. good luck, I hope you get the job!

    4. Gene*

      First, the interview process won’t be “normal”. Usually there is a mass test and the top 15 or 20 are brought in for interview. There will likely be a panel with a list of questions they won’t stray from and a set time frame. You won’t get any feedback. Typically, the top 3-5 from that round are invited back to interview with the hiring manager.

      And I can pretty much guarantee there will be no negotiations, they’ll offer the job and ask when you can start.

      I’ve been working local governments for more than 30 years and that’s what I’ve seen below the Asst Director level.

    5. Jamie*

      County government? In my experience you need to know someone, have worked on someone’s campaign, not worked on the campaign of someone in the other camp according to the hiring manager, donated to the right campaigns out of the goodness of your heart, had the right lawn signs up last election, have gone to school with the cousin of the hiring managers bosses kid…

      Or maybe that’s just my county. Things are a little different in my neck of the woods. (And I’m sure it’s just hyperbole and Cook County politics are completely above board at all times.)

      I will say that governmental perks seem to be far more regimented than private business. They have less latitude as a rule regarding the parking, pay, vacation thing since it’s based on position, time, etc.

      1. Gene*

        Yeah, the county I worked for and have interviewed with , and the cities I work and have worked for try very hard to keep politics out of hiring. But we’re in the West, Chicago is…different. Politics there is small town writ large and take no prisoners. The Machine is all powerful.

      2. Brett*

        Chicagoland is very much like that. I was rejected for a Cook job without even a screening call at the same time Google was recruiting me for a similar position.
        But most counties are not like that in my experience. They have barebones budgets and cannot afford bad hires that stay on the payroll for decades doing no work. We actually have enormous difficulty hiring in the first place with most professional positions staying open for months past the deadline, so nepotism and cronyism does not even have to be a factor. I’ve been covering another position in a separate department for 4 years now because we have been unable to get a qualified applicant who could pass a background check.

    6. Cassie*

      My dad works for our county, in one of the offices downtown. There are county-owned parking structures (directly under the high-rise buildings) but there’s a waiting list. It also costs about $180 per month but the employees do get ~$75 a month to defray parking costs. There’s also private parking lots a bit further away (~10-15 minutes walking) – my dad parks in one of those for about $60 per month, so he’s making an extra $15 per month :)

      I’m pretty sure the upper management (CEO, named positions, etc) do have parking spots allocated to them, but as for the rest of the employees? They either use the private lots, the county lots (if they can get in), or many people just take public transportation.

  34. KMC*

    We’re hiring for an accounting assistant position at work, but the candidates applying aren’t ideal (either too experienced, or too far away – the boss wants someone with less than an hour commute!). (I’ve posted the job listing on, Craigslist, and one of the local university’s job center, and we’re thinking of putting it on LinkedIn next week.)

    My concern is that we’re doubling the work load in 45 days, and I’m already at my max. However, I really don’t want to hire someone who isn’t the right fit.

    I’m thinking about telling them that we need to hire someone through Accountemps or another temp agency just to take the pressure off until we find the right person.

    I’ve never worked with a temp before, and definitely not while I was trying to hire someone full time. Any suggestions on how to phrase this to the higher ups and/or on working with a temp agency?

    A lot of the stuff I could hand off without training would be administrative anyway – do we need to go through Accountemps, or would another temp agency work as well?

    1. EE*

      Do the major accounting temp agencies not have branches where you are? Robert Walters, Hays, Robert Half, and all those? There is nothing easier to find than a temp accountant. Assistant accountants should be easy to find as well.

      As for speaking to them, go ahead and say: “I haven’t worked with a temp before, so I need somebody who can get up to speed quickly.” Be clear that the opening is short-term. Plenty of temps are perfectly happy with roles that won’t go perm.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I’m a big fan of temp help in situations such as you describe.

      Bear in mind, you need some budget for temp help on a professional level, it’s not cheap, but it’s worth your time and money in the right situation. In addition to getting work done now, the temp help might work out to be your full time solution.

      I suggest contacting a minimum of two and maximum of three agencies. More than three is too much. Your HR dept may help you with this whole thing or you may be on your own. If you’re on your own, prepare to invest time in making the right temp arrangement.

      Write a job description and your expectations for the position clearly so you can send it to the agencies. In addition, take time on the phone with your contact at each of the agencies to describe what soft skills make someone a better match for your environment.

      Fees: you’re interested in what hourly range is appropriate for the job that you need filled + what % over that the agency will charge and, please do not miss this step, how long the temp would have to work with you before you could hire them fee free. This is usually negotiable **do it up front** in case you end up wanting to hire the temp. I won’t do longer than 90 days, firm. Some want 120 days, but I can get them down to 90 days.

      Interview! As long as you are offering enough $ hourly, each agency should be able to send you 3 to 5 resumes of people who are at least marginally appropriate for the position. Select a couple from each agency to interview but don’t screw around with that. Bang the interviews out within a day or two of getting the resumes and be prepared to make a fast decision or you’ll lose the candidate you want to another assignment.

      Throw them back if they don’t work out. This is one of the things you are paying for with your temp agency fees, the ability to return someone who isn’t working out as quickly as you identify there’s a bad match.

      Good luck! This isn’t cheap. You have to offer decent money to attract the right candidates and the best service from the agencies but it can be a win/win/win for everybody.

    3. SherryD*

      As someone who’s looking for a job outside my town right now, I have to admit I gnashed my teeth a bit when you said your boss wanted “someone with less than an hour commute.” I understand that when recruiting for a lower-level position, employers want a hire that will be relatively quick and easy. But on the other hand, if they know where your office is and they’re applying anyway…

      But of course that’s your boss’s prerogative. Maybe when I’m King of the World, we’ll have anti-zip-code-discrimination laws. ;)

      1. Stephanie*

        There was teeth gnashing from me as well. I live in a sprawling area and an hour commute for me could just be going from one suburb to another.

        Just ask the candidate if they’re ok making the commute (and scheduled the interview at rush hour to give an accurate picture).

        1. matcha123*

          I’m peeved for my mom who has been passed over for jobs because she’s “too experienced” or “too something that has nothing with getting the job done.”

          The rent doesn’t care where the money comes from.

          …sorry for the rant m(_ _)m

      2. KMC*

        I know – but the last person we had had a long commute & they were unreliable, so I think the two are connected in his mind. I’m reviewing the resumes & if it’s someone who has worked in town before, I’m not ruling them out, because they know what the commute will be like.

  35. A Masters Degree Searcher*

    I was laid off late May, I got an offer for July but the government contract award didn’t go through. I had an interview last Thursday for an upper-level position but now it’s July 4th and I haven’t heard back. Oh, and I made it to the finalist stage in a federal job and 2 past mentors promised to put in a good word (that was 2 weeks ago).

    I have awesome mentors/references (I keep in touch with them regularly) but I applied to 200 more jobs in the past few days. No word from anyone! It’s a frustrating process. How do I get a job? I have a double masters, a top 5 undergrad degree in fairly marketable fields (law, international health) I networked more with alums on LinkedIn too but I feel doomed. If I don’t hear back from anyone soon, I’ll lose my apartment. I’m in my late 20s and this is not how I thought my life would be…any words of advice?

    1. Rebecca*

      Is there anything you can snag in the meantime to keep your apartment while you try to get a better position? I’m talking retail, fast food, anything even though it’s way below your skill level just to earn some money to pay the rent?

    2. Liz*

      I am so sorry you are in this boat. It took me 6 months to find a job when I got laid off. In the mean time is there anything you can do to get money coming in while you search? Bartender, dog walk, temp, anything? It takes a long time for companies to sort through resumes, and respond, if they do at all. I have also learned that desperation comes through in interviews. 2 months unemployed in a specialized field isn’t all that long, even though it is an eternity to you. Do you have any contacts that you can ask about free lance work? Maybe place an ad that you will review legal or health docs, and set your own rates? Saying a prayer that something comes through. It is a scary time.

      1. Liz*

        Also, have you tried temp agencies that hire and place legal professionals. Not sure where you are, but in the DC area, there are legal profession temp agencies.

        1. Masters Degree Searcher*

          Thanks for the kind thoughts.

          Yup, I’ve tried Robert Half Legal (wild goose chase there), various other recruitment companies, I’ve even tried using my skills and applying for editor positions, writing roles, technical writer positions, communications expert things, public relations (had an interview). I’ve interviewed with think tanks, FFRDCs, you name it, I’ve done it.

          It’s pretty annoying. I actually coauthored a publication sent to a major pharmaceutical government entity and even that doesn’t help.

          If nothing turns up in the next 2 weeks, my parents want me to move back home with them. I’ve done **everything** I possibly could. I’ve prepped for every interview, read up on the latest news for companies, talked about my HIV research, ICH health regulations, graduate studies–everything.

          Every contact/the govt contract award fell through–nothing’s come through–at all. It’s the worst possible nightmare scenario and I’m living it every day.

          Yeah, I’m pretty much screwed.

          1. Liz*

            Try to look at it this way. If you can move back with your parents, it will be a roof over your head, and you will have that stress removed. I know it will be hard going back, but they are willing to have you. With a place to live, that is one worry removed from you. Then you will have more time to think clearly about your options, and how to best proceed. That may also give you a chance to be more selective about the positions you choose, thereby increasing your chances of getting something .

            1. Masters Degree Searcher*

              Thanks. They’re nice, my parents, but very strict and overprotective to the point of stifling. Plus, I feel like I’m already such a burden and drain on resources so I’m trying to exhaust other opportunities if at all possible. I don’t want to burden them.

              This morning (July 4th), I applied to 72 more jobs–and expanded my job search to include (besides the DMV/DC area) New York, Boston, New Hampshire, the Netherlands (I have a European masters degree), UK pharma companies, twelve regions of Canada (I’m moderately fluent in French), and writer positions in California.

              I guess I want someone to give me that opportunity. If I have that opportunity, I will excel. I know I will. It’s just getting there that is an (exhausting/hellish) challenge. I’m trilingual, have an Ivy League degree, two masters, and have introductory knowledge of German.

              1. Diet Coke Addict*

                72 jobs in one morning is a ton. Is it possible you’re coming off as just resume-bombing instead of writing detailed, thoughtful cover letters and tailoring your resumes accordingly?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  That was my thought. Up above, it mentioned 200 jobs in the past few days. There’s no way that those are customized applications, with customized cover letters. I know it can feel like the more you send out, the better your chances, but actually sending fewer out that are of higher quality will get you better results. That means a cover letter that’s truly customized to the opening and doesn’t summarize your resume. That’s a few a day, max.

              2. Tricia*

                You’re probably coming across as overqualified, and you’re overdoing it. 72 applications? In one day? How can you possibly be doing a great job on all of those?

                I think you need to re-evaluate. Desperation is not attractive in applicants any more than in dates, I’m afraid.

                Take a look at some of the posts on here about job searching for advice. There’s some good stuff there.

                And try to relax a bit – it’s only been a few weeks. In the current job market, that’s not really long at all.

              3. Stephanie*

                Ok, I was coming here to say it sounded like you were applying to a lot, but others beat me.

                Re your apartment, how friendly are you with your landlord? Is it a rent-by-owner situation? Depending on your landlord, he may be able to work something out. My landlord would have preferred to get some rent from a known, responsible tenant than go through the whole process of trying to find a new tenant and all the risk there. Granted, I don’t think you could go several months without paying in full, but it could be worth talking to him for this upcoming month.

                Are you collecting unemployment? It’s not that much (maybe $450/week in DC), but it’ll help.

              4. Liz*

                I think with your educational background and experience, you need to consider the comments mentioned by others in regards to coming across as applying to any old job. I was in a very specialized field, and even with my background, during the months I was searching, I only applied to 90 jobs. I have to admit, some weeks it was to meet the unemployment commission quota so I could get unemployment for that week. Some weeks there really was nothing so I would do it just to say I did. I am not understanding how with your background you could have found almost 300 jobs total to apply for in 2 months. That is probably why you are not hearing back. You mentioned a few you interviewed for that have promise. I learned that an employers timeline and mine are not the same. As a matter of fact, I gave up any expectation of hearing from the company I am currently working for. Take a deep breath, slow down, and please consider Stephanie’s advice about contacting your landlord. Maybe you could even trade some basic maintenance or lawn care on the property in exchange for staying there.

                1. Kinrowan*

                  Yes, this.

                  And this is the end of fiscal year/mid-year closing/4th of July week/summer/school is out, people are on vacation time so things may take even longer than at other times.

          2. Sarah in DC*

            I would really encourage you to also apply for retail/service industry jobs as Liz mentioned above. They generally suck, but money is money. Also try looking for babysitting, tutoring or other unofficial type jobs. You mention that you speak multiple languages which can be in demand for tutoring. You may also have luck with formal tutoring/test prep companies, although they may require teaching licenses or other certifications. Good luck!

            1. Stephanie*

              If you’re still reading, I second the test prep companies. I think half the twentysomethings in DC are trying to go to grad school, so if you did well enough on your grad school entrance tests, that’s a source of cash. I interviewed at Kaplan (or maybe it was Princeton Review) for SAT tutoring. They were looking for at least 90th percentile. If you met the score cutoff, you got at least a phone interview. A couple of companies (that pay better, accordingly) might be a bit picker about the percentiles (I think Testmasters wanted 98th percentile on some tests).

      2. Trillian*

        Another possible thought for casual, quick-paying work to tide you over: Hospitality. I used to live in a place where the tourist industry expanded the job market hugely over the summer. If you’re in DC, it’s a prime destination, you know the area, you have languages, and with a European masters, some experience with cultural differences. I’m afraid I don’t know where to start, aside from visiting a tourist information office and asking them – and I trust more knowledgeable people will have more to say, or contradict this suggestion if it is not useful.

        Also, if you are due benefits, and you haven’t applied, do so! You will pay them back many times over during your career.

        1. Masters Degree Searcher*

          @Trillian: I did apply for benefits, but I was rejected because I applied too early and had been working up until the end of May–I’d applied right after.

          I guess a lot of employers may think I’ve got lots of degrees, but when I do interview for senior research roles, I look very young for my age (I’m mid20s but am petite and look like a 20 year old). Plus, I’m worried that people will stereotype me based on my nationality and assume I’m just a “quiet, hard worker” which is problematic because the roles I’m interviewing for require policy knowledge and a fair amount of autonomy and introductory leadership.

          Then, I’m concerned this will lead all employers to deem me ‘not a cultural fit.’ After all, I’m female, I look quite young for my age, and nationality-wise may be boxed into the ‘demure’ category despite the fact I’ve held graduate school leadership roles in the past.

          @AskaManager: Thanks. I did try that awhile back, but I received so few responses I automatically went into panic mode and ended up applying to 60 jobs a week later (having heard from no company before that).

          I have 10 days to come up with *something* out of literally nothing, and kind of hope employers aren’t all ageist, racist, anti-female and all that. I’m usually a happy bubbly person, but I feel pretty hopeless.

    3. BRR*

      I’m really sorry you’re in this position. In job searching timelines, what you mentioned hasn’t been that long.

      I’m wondering if you appear over educated and employers think you’ll get bored for the positions you’re applying for. Have you asked for any feedback?

      1. Masters Degree Searcher*

        Hi BRR, I suspect so (see above post).

        In the meantime, I started my own copyediting website on WordPress today and listed my credentials so I’ll see what happens while I continue this (nasty, brutish, and hopefully short) search for the ever-elusive job.

        My website:

  36. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

    It’s 11.22pm on Friday night here in New Zealand.

    I am still at work.

    My next train is at 12.14am… I’d quite like to be on it.

  37. RR*

    I just started a part time job this past week. Before I took the job, my boss knew that I don’t have a car (I bike to work), yet it has become an issue for her since there are more errands to run that requires a car than she expected. Should I wait it out and hope that it won’t still be an issue later down the line?

    1. CAA*

      What would make this issue go away in the future? Are the errands especially linked towards this time of year or to a particular project that is ending soon? If not, this is going to continue to be a problem.

      If you are able to drive but just don’t have a car, try googling carsharing and see what comes up for your area. This might be something you would sign up for yourself, or your boss could sign up for a corporate membership. If you pay for it, your boss should reimburse you for the trips you make for business. If you were using your own car, she should also be paying you for mileage, so this is not much different.

    2. Nicole*

      It sounds like this is her issue to figure out, since she presumably asked if you had a car and was OK with your answer. I’d keep doing the job via bike (and asking, “I can’t get to so-and-so errand on my bike – how do you want me to handle this?” if need be), but keeping in mind that it may become an issue later down the line so you may need to find other work then.

    3. BritCred*

      Day time errands that start and end at the office? And does she have a company car and spent most of her time at the office?

      If so could you be put on her insurance so that these can be accomplished?

  38. RT*

    I work for a small startup (5-6 people), and I am the head of sales and marketing. I’m excited because I have opportunities to lead and influence the company’s strategy, which is the direction I want my career to take. There is another woman in the company that is still a grad student, but she’s very proactive and excited. Technically she is “below” me though in this small company the organization operates as all are equal. Unfortunately, I’m having trouble because I get the feeling that she disregards my experience and is trying to manage me.

    When we were first starting out, I noticed there were a few tasks we were both doing that she was excelling at, so I let her own those tasks, and moved on to other tasks that I would be a better use of my time. I wonder if she saw that weakness in me, whereas I was trying to make the best use of the team’s time and let us each focus on our strengths. Everything I do, she wants to share, or she’ll heavily critique my work if I did it on my own, but everything she does is “hers.” My response so far has been to be breezy (“Thanks. I’ll look into your suggestions” and then trust my gut) but she always has to have the last word and will persist if I don’t follow her suggestions. We’re both motivated, but I’m more humble and reserved, so maybe she sees me as not being confident? Her personality is more narcissistic (At team meetings, my updates are 5-10 min and focus on things that are important to the team, hers can be an hour because, to her, everything she does is important. She also acts like all of her successes are hers, while my successes are ours.).

    I’m trying not to focus just on her. I think the rest of the team trusts me and values my experience. The issue that scares me is that I’ll be on maternity leave in the winter / spring, and partly scared that she will use my maternity leave to take over everything I do and will feel even less respected upon my return…maybe I’m being paranoid, but in the meantime I’m trying to focus on being invaluable to the direction of the company.

    My questions are: (1) Any advice on how to manage her / establish (to her) that I have valuable experience and that she should look to me to lead? (2) What can I be doing to establish myself as being important to the leadership / strategy of the company?

    1. ClaireS*

      Ugh. This woman sucks. I have a few thoughts:
      -people see through this behaviour easily. I’d be shocked if other team members don’t see her as a bit of an irritating schmuck.
      -is there anyway you can work with management to establish clearer boundaries? It’s my experience that clear boundaries actually fosters better collaboration. On my team, one person “owns” a project but we all contribute.

    2. Artemesia*

      Your problem isn’t her, it is your own boss and your concern should be with what your boss’s impressions are.

      I once worked with someone like this. She had a very powerful presentation of self and was ALWAYS right. ALWAYS. And most people were bowled over by her and her brilliance. I was a bit cowed until the day she was just as insistent and confident and vocal about something I knew a lot about and she apparently didn’t. I realized it was her style. (when you finished a conversation with her, her words were printed on your chest — ) From that point onward, I stopped deferring and assuming she was right and eventually established a more equal relationship.

      I think you need to be a bit more assertive with her as not “I will consider that” but ” I have it covered, I don’t need input on this.”
      Don’t let her see you sweat. And arm yourself with neutral dismissive comments for when she overreaches.

      Her poaching on your job when you are on leave is a given. So everything depends on your boss. I would work with him or her to have a transition plan for your projects and your return and then be particularly open to being brought up to speed, the first week or so you are back and then to confidently take over your projects and deflect her input.

    3. RT*

      Thank you both for your advice. The problem with small startups, this is my 2nd, is that a lot of times the founders (they are still running the company) don’t want to deal with management like this, it seems petty to them. It’s frustrating. I’ve thought about defining boundaries – I’m close to doing that, especially as we get closer to market and the consequences are bigger. Thanks also for the advice on being more assertive, I have to work on that.

      1. fposte*

        I’m with Artemesia–she’s a Chihuahua, and you’re treating her like a Rottweiler. Politely shut her down, walking away if need be, and stop giving her mental real estate; transfer that energy to kicking ass at what you’re supposed to be doing, which matters a lot more than she does to your return from leave.

    4. CP*

      Can you use your leave to deflate her?

      Can you work with your boss to establish a clear plan (like others have said) that makes clear who is responsible for what?

      Use this opportunity to take away her ownership of key responsibilities now, by arguing that you need at least 3 people to be trained on these and to know how to do these functions when you are gone. You have been correcting and overseeing pushy subordinate, but with you gone you want 3 sets of eyes overseeing the project. So now three people will own the functions. If that is not possible put 2 people in charge of checking up on pushy while you are gone. Have them cross train and start doing the check (or co-ownership)now. When you come back, leave it that way.

      Divide up management responsibility so that it is spread out among your team. Make sure the potential poacher and others knows her limits – she is only in charge of overseeing X project while you are gone, nothing else. All the other projects belong to someone else.

      I also agree with everyone else. Start pushing back now. You have everything in hand and don’t need her advice. When she offers it, say that you have everything in hand. Cut her off.

      Make clear to her that her meeting times are excessive. One of her performance goals will now be to learn how to have more effective meetings so that the time you spend with her is equivalent to other co-workers. You are going to help her learn how to do this by cutting her off in meetings and giving her a time limit.

      You might look for a competent but not pushy subordinate who you really thinks can step up to the plate and put that person in charge temporarily when you are gone. Go to your boss with this by arguing that pushy woman is good, but that she is talk and over inflates her accomplishments, which is why you haven’t given her more responsibility. Other subordinate has a history of delivering and not over inflating.

  39. Kristina*

    I’m starting a 3 month temp job doing data entry for a law firm. I’ve never worked in a law firm so I don’t know what type of data entry I’d be doing. Any ideas? Any advice on being a temp? This is my first temp position.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Could be any number of things from client contact info to scanning documents and inputting case information into a database.

      On being a temp because I’ve been there – don’t expect to be included in the office activities. It can be rough being a temp and feeling like an outsider, but for all intents and purposes, that is what you are so they may not invite you to the company wide lunches and so forth. Law firms tend to hire a lot of temps for certain activities so being hired on full-time may not be an option even if you’re being told it is. Just keep that in mind since I’ve seen the carrot dangled in front of temps like that and then nothing came of it.

      Be aware that you may be stuck in a windowless back office with several other temps.

      Otherwise, it’s the same as anywhere else – professional dress and demeanor, respect for the person whose your boss.

  40. kas*

    I applied to a job earlier this week and the posting stated the email address to send resumes too. The company also posted it on LinkedIn with a completely different email address. The different email address is also on their website where they say something like “we’re always looking for candidates …” Should I just hope the one in the posting on their website is correct, should I send to both (I’d feel annoying if they got my resume twice) or …?

    Am I stressing over this for no reason?

    1. Colette*

      What’s the difference between the two addresses? I.e. Is one a personal address and the other one Are they both generic? If one is a personal address, I’d re-send noting that you already submitted to the other address.

    2. Nicole*

      Ahhhhh I would be stressing too! It’s probably fine, but I see why you would be worried.

      Does the email that you sent it to seem like it’s an actual email? (Firstnamelastname@company, or HR@company, or something?)

      If it seems like an email that would have gone to an actual person, I’d leave it alone. If it’s HR and the SECOND one said to send it to an actual person, I’d probably send the same materials and say “I am really interested in this job and saw the LinkedIn instructions to send materials to this email address rather than [other email address]. I wanted to send it again to make sure it got to the right place.” Good luck!

    3. Brett*

      Send to one and cc the other? At least if they get it twice, it will be at roughly the same time, and it will be clear why they got it twice.

      1. Brett*

        Oh, you already sent to the first. I would go with Nichole’s idea of sending to the LinkedIn email too, but specifying at the top that you emailed to the other email earlier in the week. That makes it easy for the receiving person to handle it.

  41. PoliticallyNeutral*

    I hate office politics. I also hate bosses who don’t listen and are unethical in some ways. It’s hard especially when you’re still new. I am not into office politics at all. I just want to do my job and go home. UGH.

    1. robot chick*

      not sure if this slipped and was meant to be a response to some other thread, but I just want to say I completely agree. I’m usually entirely oblivious to gossip, hidden agendas and the subtler aspects of personal interaction, so most of it goes straight over my head – until it tripps me up somehow, at which point I start to over-analyze everything and fall back to my high school levels of social anxiety. Which is about as performance boosting as one would think. Ugh indeed. /rant

      1. PoliticallyNeutral*

        It wasn’t meant to be a response, it’s a stand alone venting. I just get so tired of dealing with this kind of thing, I’ve been doing it a long time and it’s just irritating some days. Thanks for understanding and commiserating robot chick.

    2. Artemesia*

      Politics is a given of any human organization whether it is the local dog rescue (the politics in those is epic), the PTA, the church, the job. It is simply a fact of any organization. You can not like it all you want, but you will always be immersed in it.

      I always straddled the divisions i.e. in every group I have ever been in I always tried to have a good relationship with members of different cliques within the group. That means not conspiring with one subgroup against another or gossiping a lot about the boss or other factions. It also helps to focus all complaints or requests on productivity and not personalities. I got the office I wanted, the tasks I wanted etc because my arguments were always about ‘getting the job done’ and what I needed to ‘get the job done.’

      Also just as a reputation for truth telling and being straight will serve you well on the rare occasion you need to lie, a reputation for not meddling in office politics will serve you well on the rare occasions you need to manipulate office politics. I still remember with pleasure 25 years later, a meeting I wired and without management noticing what happened got an outcome they didn’t expect and that worked for me.

      1. PoliticallyNeutral*

        It is simply a fact of any organization. You can not like it all you want, but you will always be immersed in it.

        I’m very well aware of this having worked for many years. I just needed to vent.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I learned the hard way. If you have an unethical boss, try to be aware of what is going on and the degree of the problems. If your boss is breaking the law (and you know this for a fact) then start making your plans to get out. You will only end up sprayed from the stuff that comes off the fan if you stay.

      Please remember that in order for him to run his unethical agenda that he will have to ignore what is being said around him many times. That is how his agenda stays alive and operating. Deafness and lack of ethics are two solid partners.

    4. Prickly Pear*

      This is me. Why can’t people just be professional and friendly, do their jobs and go home, satisfied with the day’s work? Everyone at my job assumes I’m leaving because of our Hated Boss, but it’s really because I can’t make an offhand remark about another coworker without the whole place picking it apart. Good god, I got over this in high school.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Sometimes I think that people feel they have to be underhanded because if they played a straight game they would fail. Some people have bigger problems than that. But I do know that one lie seems to beget ten more lies, to support the first lie.

    5. Clever Name*

      I am right there with you. I have no patience for that kind of nonsense. And respectfully, I also hate being told “it’s a fact of any organization”. It’s a cop out and encourages politicking, IMHO. What’s wrong with the only agenda everyone has is to do their damn jobs?

      I’m also the type to be gleefully oblivious until I am painfully awakened. It sucks, and it brings me back to high school, when I didn’t put up with that crap either.

  42. lia*

    So I’ve got a coworker who’s relatively new to the job world (hired in January, straight from grad school) and she frequently arrives late to work. I’m not talking 5-10 min late, it’s like hours late – we start at 8am, she strolls in sometime around 9am, 10am, sometimes even noon. She also leaves exactly at 5pm everyday, regardless of when she came in, and also regardless of how much work she has. Her boss has tried saying that our hours are from 8-5, but to no effect. She’s also falling asleep/not paying attention during trainings and isn’t getting her work done. He’s become extremely frustrated with her and yesterday gave her somerhing to do that required a task to be completed every hour on the hour until 6pm. The work was meaningless, he just wanted to make her do it so “she could see how important our work is and what needs to be done.” This bothers me. I think she’s fresh from grad school, a little socially inept and isn’t recognizing cues, and needs a lot more direction. My boss has offered to take her on for two weeks to try and help. Anything I can do to help her not get fired? She was put on a PIP last week for the late thing.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I don’t think there is anything you can do to help a person who is as much as as four hours late to work and thinks that’s OK. This isn’t about being inept and not recognizing clues, this is about being horrendously unprofessional. Here’s the thing – she should have long since been fired, but she hasn’t been. She’s basically been shown that being that late on a regular basis is no problem because nothing has happened to her. She’s been put on a PIP, but I wonder if it will lead to a firing or not. I’m guessing not because frankly the being late, not paying attention in meetings, and sleeping on the job (WHAT??) would have been enough to get her fired in many other places.

      The boss needs to tell her in no uncertain terms that the hours are X to X and that she needs to be there when the doors open, period. That falling asleep is unacceptable as is not getting her work done. Consequences of all of the above are X.

      It’s long past time for the boss to have a frank conversation with this woman and lay out what the expectations are and what the consequences are for not meeting those and then to follow through on all of that. Otherwise, why should she bother doing anything different? After all this egregious behavior, she still has a job so she’s thinking it’s not big deal and she’s right because that’s how the boss is acting. She’s not green, she’s unprofessional. Green is not understanding office politics. This is insubordinate and unprofessional behavior and the boss is the only one who can put a stop to it.

    2. Colette*

      Getting fired (or not) is up to her, not you. If she is hours late to work, getting fired might be a good wake up call.

      It sounds like her manager is terrible, though.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Yeah, it sounds like a place where they haven’t come across somebody this bad before and they don’t have the skill sets to deal with her. The manager’s assignment was bizarre, but what I find more bizarre is that this has been allowed to go on at all.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I’m about to start the formal disciplinary process with an employee who seems to be similarly clueless and the more I’ve thought about his issues the more I realize that what Colette said is true, getting fired might be the only way for this kid to realize the very few rules we have apply to him too.

        1. Artemesia*

          With the number of well qualified people struggling to find work, I cannot imagine why anyone would put up with this. This is the sort of thing that should have been made abundantly clear in the first week or two of unprofessional behavior and when not corrected should have been dismissal. I can guarantee you there is a SAHM looking for a job again who would be better, or a person who graduated a year or two again and has been underemployed who would be thrilled to do a good job.

          It is shameful to allow this behavior to go on. Yes, some people need explicit feedback on that first job, but ignoring that feedback should mean dismissal. There are also jobs where the hours aren’t important e.g. the software developer who starts at 11 but works at 10 PM and is productive is another issue. But in cases where face time is important, firing is the appropriate choice.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            Find me a stay at home parent that wants to work part-time from 3:45-10:45pm, every weekend, and every holiday and I’ll give serious consideration to their resume.

            I had three applicants for my last opening. Three.

            1. Chriama*

              That sucks. It’s hard when the nature of the job attracts candidates who really don’t have better options and there’s nothing you can do to change it :(

              Have you tried expanding your search pool? Unemployment centers, YMCA, community centers? Are there any programs that you could work with to funnel applicants to you? Prison release is the only one I can think of off the top of my head. If they’re non-violent offenders, this could be a way to get really dedicated employees, e.g. if they get fired, it affects their parole (I’m not really sure how this works and the nature of the job might make this idea unsuitable, but maybe similar programs e.g. young offenders could be an option).

              Anyway, good luck with your employee!

              1. ExceptionToTheRule*

                Thanks. This particular kid is just hell bent to learn this lesson the hard way. The sad thing is, he’s good at the actual work, which is why I’ve invested so much in coaching and counseling him. It’s the down time that gets him into trouble. And we have a lot of down time between newscasts.

                I also appreciate the suggestions on expanding the search pool. I could look at doing more outreach in the community. I’ve got a friend who runs an Upward Bound program at a local community college. She might be a good place to start.

            2. Anx*

              Is there a possibility of giving a few days off near, but not on a holiday?

              As someone who has worked a lot of holidays, having the opportunity to take a few days off to see family near the holiday can make all of the difference in choosing employment.

              Aside from the holidays, those hours look phenomenal to me, as a night owl (although I know there are serious downsides to working alternative schedules–such as safety and public transportation).

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      These are serious, serious, serious problems. It’s not the kind of situation that you should have high hopes for a turnaround in.

      I’ll be damned if I’ll have to work with a grown up to get them to understand they need to show up to work on time.

      This makes no sense to me:

      Her boss has tried saying that our hours are from 8-5, but to no effect.

      If her boss tells her directly that the job requires her to show up at 8am and she can’t come within hours of that, how does she still have a job?

      Anyway, it sounds as if you all are a kind group of folks. I can’t think what you could do at peer level to help someone who is performing this poorly. She’s firing herself.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I’d imagine that she knows that the PIP thing (or indeed, any discipline) is fairly toothless. The admin woman at my job is quite similar–shows up late randomly (half hour here, three hours there), takes hour-plus lunches, leaves early, etc. Even after our boss has spoken to her multiple times and said she needs to be on time–she knows he won’t really do anything about it. So it gets worse.

        But there’s nothing a peer (me, or lia, or anyone) can do about it, which is the worst thing. The only thing we can do is advise the boss when it’s affecting our work (like, for example, when a project of mine didn’t get delivered on time because our admin woman didn’t FedEx it in time) and let the boss proceed with it.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I don’t know. In this case, it sounds like the people are just going way too far out of their way to try to help the new person and/or are so conflict adverse they won’t deal with such an obvious problem swiftly.

          In your case, it sounds as if you have lazy management and sorry about that.

        2. fposte*

          The PIP has as many teeth as management puts in it, though; it’s about management, not the PIP process.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          p.s., one of the things I counsel people outside my division to do in situations like yours to make sure the pain flows upwards. Management in not-my-division isn’t great at addressing issues somewhat as you describe. People sometimes come to me for advice on how to deal with issues and I counsel them to, judiciously, not run around compensating for other people’s fails but to let some things just happen so the pain flows upwards and management has to deal with the effect and also hopefully the cause of not managing better.

    4. Reader*

      No real advice, just wondering why it took 6 months for a PIP for lateness instead of an outright firing? I’m a concerned that her boss hasn’t been more direct to begin with. It would appear that both the worker and her boss need a wake up call.

      1. lia*

        Mostly because as the above commentators have said, we’re all too nice about it. Aka we all put on our blinders and try to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. This is the first time her boss has been in a management position.

        1. fposte*

          Urgh. Excuse oncoming caps: THAT’S NOT BEING NICE!! That’s being bad at managing.

    5. Rebecca*

      Has anyone sat down with this girl and asked her point blank why she comes to work 1-4 hours late, leaves promptly at 5 PM, and thinks this is acceptable behavior? Either she’s partying too much, leading to the late arrival and falling asleep at work, or there’s something else going on, like a second overnight job or family issues (like taking care of a parent with major health problems).

      Either way, she needs a wake up call. It’s not fair to the other people in the organization for her to come and go as she pleases when others are expected to arrive to work on time and perform their tasks in a timely manner.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I wouldn’t ask why because I don’t care. I might ask why-ish, without being intrusive, if a long time good performer suddenly went into the toilet, but I’d never ask a new employee why she can’t show up to work to get work done. Basic as you can get to the job market: get job with 8 -5 work hours = work from 8 to 5.

        Asking why would imply that the why matters, which, it doesn’t.

        1. fposte*

          Though I do like Jamie’s use of it in a followup query, and I can’t find her original script so I’m badly paraphrasing–“Monday I told you you were required to be in at 8; today you arrived at 12. Can you tell me why you didn’t meet the standard I reminded you of?”

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I love Jamie’s script.

            I don’t think I’d use it in this situation, since arrival time is objective and this woman’s performance is so off the rails anyway.

            I might use it with a long time employee but maybe not even then about arrival time. I don’t want someone to feel obligated to disclose personal problems and in that case a “why” might make them feel like they have to disclose their nasty divorce, the husband through them out, they are living in the Motel 6 and their alarm broke.

            I’d be why-ish in that case, leaving a door open for a why but not asking directly why.

            1. fposte*

              I might do it anyway as a basic “WTF?” query. But honestly, I can’t imagine letting something like this take root in the first place.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                I just giggled, thinking about all of the times I’ve to restrain myself from:

                “What is wrong with you? No, seriously, I need to know, for my own curiosity, what is wrong with you?

                1. anon4this*

                  I actually had that yelled at me by my last boss. I asked him to be specific. He stared then started laughing. After he stopped, we got down to specifics and had a good meeting, with specific problems and goals.
                  And it worked.

      2. lia*

        I’ve tried asking in general terms (“missed you at that meeting this morning, everything ok?”) but get a general shrug or a “something came up.” Regardless, I don’t want to pry if she’s got personal issues. Sometimes I feel like she’s still in school-mode, where it’s ok to skip classes as long as you pass the test.

        1. Nina*

          She’s not even giving a real answer as to why she’s not coming in on time. This has gone on too long, and it’s time to law down the law. Alison is right; this isn’t PIP territory, this is “either be here on time and awake tomorrow, or you’re gone” territory.

    6. BRR*

      If her PIP is only for showing up on time that is not that difficult of a problem to fix.

      I would put out the offer of help but nothing more. If she doesn’t want the help you can’t force her to take it.

    7. fposte*

      It’s also possible that somebody who can only make it in to work at 12 when work starts at 8 has a bigger problem–health, substance abuse, domestic–than her workplace can solve for her and certainly than a co-worker could.

    8. BritCred*

      Suggest a mentoring system for her as part of the PIP? If its a colleague who is mentoring her then it could make it easier to do things like say “Jane, why were you late this morning? What happened” or “Jane, attention at work is important, what do you think distracts you from it or causes you to fall asleep?” “Jane, because Task X was your responsibility and you didn’t come in on time/fell asleep this is the consequences for our client/whoever. How would you feel if that happened to you because someone decided (reason) was good enough to fail to do their job properly?”

      If that leads to comments about “but its not important” or ” I was out last night, I’m tired and bored, so what” then its easier for the mentor to have a chat about “Jane, whilst life is important work isn’t just a diversion and a paypacket. To succeed and get your bosses approval and make a career you have to…”

      But – I would only do this if you have a GOOD reason to care about her and her keeping the job. Its going to be hard work.

      1. BritCred*

        Side point: I would suggest this for two reasons: 1) for the employee. 2) for the management.

        Let me explain 2: management obviously like going easy. Thats ok but when an employee doesn’t improve? its not.

        This way the mentor can sit in front of the management team – including the easy going ones – and say “I went through all the reasons, laid out the effects on the company and clients and Jane still didn’t see why it was important to be on time/be attentive. There is only so much we can do to support a new graduate and it pains me to say it but I have no more ways to motivate and support Jane in this role”.

        That way no one can be in doubt that Jane being asked to leave or is being harsh.

    9. Lily in NYC*

      My advice is to keep your distance from her because she is going to crash and burn at this job.

    10. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t a PIP kind of situation. This is an “our hours are 8-5 and I need you to be on time every day — can you do that — if it turns out not, I will need to replace you” situation. It’s so black and white; it’s not really PIP territory.

      1. Artemesia*

        No kidding. The one who needs to be on a PIP is the manager. Her boss should be saying “I see you have employees who don’t show up for work on time and are allowed to drift along for months not pulling their weight, unless you can correct this behavior within the next month, we will have to let you go.”

    11. In progress*

      I’m just shocked she wasn’t fired the first time she came in hours late without calling in. “Be at work on time and complete your assigned tasks” just seems so obvious it is beyond a lack of professionalism or multiple talks with the boss.

      Since I take the bus, I’d understand the occasional emergency (they just don’t show up sometimes!) that makes you at most an hour late. You notify, apologize, and make up the work. I get flustered if I’m going to be 5 minutes late. I just can’t imagine this.

      1. Cat*

        At a lot of jobs, there’s a pretty good amount of flexibility re arrival time. It sounds like this isn’t one of them, but it may be the kind of place where the odd late arrival is okay if it’s made up (which this chick isn’t).

    12. Not So NewReader*

      No, lia, there is nothing you can do to keep her from getting fired. You cannot go to her house every morning and drag her out to her car and push her into the car. She is repeatedly choosing the same poor choices over and over.

      And then there are many more problems once she arrives at work. This is not fixable until she decides to fix it.

      I would not be too worried about the work your boss gave her to teach her- bosses teach. And sometimes it is hard lessons. She put herself there.

      Businesses are not there to offer remedial services for people who do not know how to hold down a job. Business are in business to make money. Sometimes we can point things out to people and they quickly correct the problem. This happens often and life goes on. Sadly, this is not what is happening in your coworker’s situation.

  43. vibrant spf*

    I could use some input on getting a work visa for Spain as a US citizen. I have a job offer from a Spanish company, as part of an EU work-PhD program. I thought the employer would follow the offer with a step-by-step of what to do next to get a visa, but not so. Following the offer, they set off on a 2-week vacation, so maybe the pieces will come together once they return. In the meantime, I’m trying to navigate what to do. From what I have found, I need a document from them, the employer as part of the visa application materials. I’ve also read that there are preference laws for non-foreigners to be placed in jobs instead of foreigners. Hopefully this isn’t an issue, but I’m not positive of that yet. The position is in Spain, the PhD is administered through an Italian University and the grant which funds the program is EU-wide. Thank you for any suggestions and advice.

    1. PX*

      Not sure what kind of arrangement you agreed – in some cases an employer will arrange this for you – but in some cases, its up to you to do it yourself. The simplest thing I’d do is look up all the requirements needed by the gov, and start assembling all your documentation so that its ready by the time your hiring committee are back. At which point if they will be handling it, great, everything is ready. If its you, then start getting everything you need from THEM together asap, and be prepared for a lot of bureaucracy!

  44. Brett*

    Tacked this onto the end of last thread, but that was just so I could remember for this week.
    We recently moved offices, so I went through all of my files and looked at my past annual reviews. I’ve been recommended by my boss (two different ones even) for a merit raise on seven straight reviews. The last three have been high merit (top 5% and best of our unit). And I have been turned down without explanation every time, or even a signature from whoever turned it down.
    I knew it was bad, but had not realized just how bad. My boss is stumped. Leaving is not an option for at least a few more years.

    Anyone have any ideas what I should try? I work in a large county government.

    1. BRR*

      Are these annual reviews? If you haven’t gotten a raise in seven years I highly doubt it’s going to happen.

      1. Brett*

        First one was my probationary merit review. Other six are annual reviews, so it has been six years. This is actually pretty common in our org, since merit recommendations are rare. I’m just at the point where I am willing to push any way I can. My bosses have all been very close to retirement and unwilling to push (out of the four levels directly above me, there have been nine retirements in the last five years).
        I have seriously consider things like taking a case straight to the merit commission or county council even. You can appeal a merit review, but no one has ever appealed a denial of a merit review. If I went to a council member, it would be to try to get the review process changed rather than to get a raise.
        So, basically, I am willing to try radical ideas requiring structural change, just trying to come up with potential ideas to follow.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      I think you should talk to your boss BEFORE your review and tell him/her that you’ve had 7 years of good reviews with no raises and that you’d like that to be rectified this year. It’s up to him/her to talk to their boss and say they need to approve your raise this year because you are a good employee that should be recognized for your hard work. Your boss obviously isn’t going to bat for you and probably for reasons that have nothing to do with you (scared of the big boss, non confrontational, etc). Make it clear that this is not ok. I didn’t get raises for 5 years for this very reason. Then a new boss showed up and he was an advocate for his staff and everything changed for the better and I got a nice raise.

      1. Brett*

        Pretty much he has his points for full retirement and doesn’t care (he has been looking for a retirement job for over two years too). I think the frustrating part is no one seems to know where these rejections are coming from. All four levels above me are signing off on the merit raise, and then the merit raise assessment never happens.

        1. BRR*

          Without an advocate for you that’s higher up than you it’s going to be difficult. It sounds like you need an expert of the bureaucracy at your employer and not something we’ll be able to help with due to lack of intimate knowledge.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          But have you been vocal about it before? Tell your boss he needs to take care of this before he retires. Just start being a slight pain in the neck about it. Ask why you haven’t gotten 3 merit raises in a row. Ask for a meeting with the highest person or HR. This is ridiculous!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Stupid question. Is the paperwork for your raise actually getting over to the accounting department???

      1. Brett*

        No. It has to go to the merit board first to determine the amount of the raise, and that is not happening. The raise recommendation is actually getting rejected somewhere along the line, but no one is putting their name/department on the rejection. The rejection is not coming from inside our department.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Oh, this is intriguing. So who is on the merit board? And who is the merit board accountable to? There must be someone who is in charge of the board or someone the board has to explain their decisions to.

          1. Brett*

            The merit board is accountable to the county council only. They have not formally met since I started working here.

    4. Brett*

      Well, extra side note. Just found out that our boss has put in his papers for retirement (and has not told any of us). He is apparently keeping this a secret, as he did not tell his boss or his boss’s boss that he is retiring either.
      So, I get to start over with a new boss sometime soon.

  45. All the Projects*

    I went from wondering what I was going to fill my time with at work when 2 projects that were supposed to happen earlier this year were pushed off until next year, to now having 2 large, organization wide, very important projects on my plate which I’ve never had to deal with before. Now I’m wondering when I’m going to schedule time to breathe.

    1. NylaW*

      I know that feeling. Except now I have my boss trying to take away a small side project that I really want to do because he doesn’t want me to get overwhelmed with the bigger projects I’m already working on.

  46. K Cat*

    This isn’t so much asking for advice but just asking for other’s experiences.

    How did you know when to change jobs? When to move across country? How do you get over the fear of such a leap? (Leaving friends, family.) What about when your decisions affect your family?

    My situation: I’m 36 and have been in the same midwestern state all of my adult life. My husband has been here all his life. I’ve worked at the same place 8 years (and I like my job), he’s been at his 18. I’ve recently applied for a job on the west coast, and I am torn with indecision. My workplace has said that they will likely counter whatever is offered (common in academia, from what I gather), so I will likely have the option of staying, which would be easy. My house is cheap, my friends and family are here, and the logistics of selling one house and buying another halfway across the country leaves me stumped. My husband and I are both introverts (him much more than me) and I worry one or both of us won’t be good at making new friends. Plus I am not at all sure he’ll be able to find a comparable job, but his current one sucks anyway. The potential city is lovely – really one of my dream locations to live. I really like what I have heard about the workplace, too.

    In short, I am a mess and wracked with indecision. I feel like this is an impossible choice even though other people seemingly have no problem making these kinds of choices. Staying would probably be better financially as the other job wouldn’t be a huge step up in pay (plus I’d probably be offered the same or more in counter) and it’s more expensive there, but I’d probably put myself in a better career path.

    1. Brett*

      Will you be happier? Sounds like you might be. Thanks to Facebook, it is easier to stay in touch with old friends halfway across the county, especially if you can visit occasionally (like at holidays).
      Would you be able to live on just your pay for a whole if you have to?
      For the housing part… talking to a realtor could really help. It is their job to manage these type of situations for you.

      1. K Cat*

        I really think I might be happier. Not so sure about my husband – and he isn’t either. One of my fears is that we’ll get there and he’ll be miserable. The other is that we’ll get there and one of our parents will have some sort of medical problem they need us for.

        On the other hand, now is probably the time to do this, since we likely have a few years before parents are old enough to really need help, at which point we may have to live here.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          You can worry all you want, but that doesn’t guarantee those things will happen. If you let the worry stop you, then it’s guaranteed that NOTHING will happen.

          I would give my left arm to get out of here (I love my job and could do it remotely but I hate where I’m living), so my opinion may be somewhat biased.

      2. K Cat*

        Oh yeah and as for living on my pay – here we could, there we could not. But we have a good deal of savings since we’ve basically been living on my pay for years and using his for savings and to pay off the house (house should be paid off next year if we stay).

        I’ll definitely look up a realtor if I end up getting an in person interview, which seems…. fairly likely at this point? I’ve had two phone interviews.

        1. Meghan*

          You mentioned that you were in academia…some universities are really helpful in paying a lot of your moving costs, and some will even help you find a house.

    2. anotheralison*

      I’m in the middle of reading a book, Stumbling on Happines, that deals with the psychology of happiness and how we are bad about guessing what will make us happy in the future and can’t correctly interpret how happy we were in the past.

      I think the real answer is you will probably be happy either way. That doesn’t help with the decision, but I don’t think you can truly evaluate the decision analytically. If you feel good about it, why not.

      1. fposte*

        I think that helps a lot, actually–you can feel like your happiness hangs on what decision you make here, and it’s useful to realize that it quite likely doesn’t.

      2. Chriama*

        This is actually my favourite book! I’ve read it 3 times and I actually almost picked it up again this morning. I agree that a lot of the time our brain “equalizes” things so we’re more or less content no matter what the situation. However, I remember a part of the book that mentioned we regret the chances we didn’t take that led to success more than the chances we did take that led to failure (I’m paraphrasing, I think the example had something to do with stocks). What that means is, it’s probably better to take a risk and backtrack (and it sounds like you’re in a position where you could do that pretty easily) than to keep wondering ‘what if?’

    3. BRR*

      Moving across the country is not something one has to do. Different people are happy in different areas and if you found a place you’re happy at there’s no reason to leave. Also if it isn’t financially feasible then don’t do it. There’s no reason to deplete your savings. I’m also concerned how you said you may need to move back for your parents in a couple years. Then you have another job hunt.

      I can’t tell if your job is a professor or just in academia doing something else but if it’s in a non-professor position you should read Alison’s post on counter offers.

      1. K Cat*

        I’ve read all the counter offer posts but it’s just a different culture. Several of my coworkers have gotten counteroffers and then stayed many years in better roles. My bosses can’t just offer more money or restructure roles even if they want to, administration can but won’t unless there’s a chance of losing someone. *shrug*

        I don’t think it’s likely I’ll have to move back in a couple years – I said “a few” which is imprecise- I think it’s likely in 10-20 years we’ll need to be around, and in the 5-10 year range possible.

        As for being happy here – on this beautiful 75 degree day I am happy. But I am pretty miserable when it is -20 degrees out. It’s hard to remember that when it is nice, though. :)

    4. Anon1234*

      Rent the house out? Assuming you get job, go out first and try out job, leave husband here. I couldn’t leave my spouse, we don’t roll that way, but if that’s doable- it’s an option. And then have him apply from afar, decide when he moves.

      Sounds lovely and ya know, you only go around here once. Leaving my hometown 17 years ago changed my life for the better.

      1. K Cat*

        We thought about renting out the house here. That’s scary too given some of the horror stories we’ve heard, but we might be able to find a friend to rent to. I could see us doing a month or so apart so I could hunt out there and he could sell out here, but even that would be hard. We’re definitely not the types that can do long distance long term. :)

        1. Daisy*

          I rent out one house, and have for years, and it works fine. However, I use a property management company. I’m not from the city (or state) that this house is in, so for me it’s easier to let them get the calls regarding maintenance and to collect the rent. They take 10% of the monthly rent. Since you’re from there and have family/friends there, it may be easier to do it yourself.
          This might be a better option. That way you have a place to live if you need/want to come back.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Use a vacation week to go to lovely city and walk around. My husband was very visual, he had to see it first hand. Follow the local news every day you are there. Get a feel for how it is. Check out jobs for him. Drive around look at houses for sale.

      And finally, if he digs his heels in and does not want to go– very seriously look at that.

  47. Jackie*

    I am one of two candidates moving on to the final round of interview for a really awesome job. I also just found out that I’m pregnant. Because I’m only a few weeks in and I’ve had miscarriages before, I am proceeding as usual (despite the morning sickness and all that fun stuff). I am worried however that it would reflect poorly if I needed to go on maternity leave within my first year on the job, like I was withholding important information. I wouldn’t say anything at the final interview, but should I mention anything if I receive an offer?

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


      I wouldn’t say anything. Finding out a new hire is pregnant and will need maternity leave within 6 months isn’t great timing but it’s happened to me before and it will happen again. People adapt.

      I’m fuzzy on what the differences are in maternity leave available, your first year in a new job. You should look into that for an informed decision, if you haven’t already. (topic: US, I think FLMA doesn’t apply, but I don’t know much more)

      1. fposte*

        In case Alison is off celebrating and isn’t moderating posts with links, yes, wait until you get the offer, but don’t wait until you’re hired. Good luck to you on both fronts!

        1. fposte*

          Wow, somehow this managed to post as a reply to a comment I hadn’t even seen yet. The Internet is a strange thing.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            We’re so in sync today, you could reply to me before you ever read my words. :p

            I have long reply to another post, TheSnarkyB’s request which has been stuck in moderation for many hours. (One of those weird times where a post gets stuck for no discernible reason.)

            Alison is off grilling cat nip for the babies I think, as well she should be.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        In case it isn’t obvious, everybody else’s advice is better than mine so do what they said, not me.

    2. fposte*

      Congratulations on the hiring prospects, and good thoughts for you on the pregnancy!

      Alison votes for telling when you get the offer:

      Are you outside the US? I’m thinking you might be, between the date today and your confident use of the term “maternity leave.” Just in case you’re in the US, be aware that there’s no federal provision that guarantees you leave this early in your employment tenure–you won’t have been there long enough for FMLA–and that pay is never guaranteed by federal law, so all of that would be based on the arrangement you privately come to with your employer. Especially if you’re in the US, then, you want as much employer good will as possible, so it’s good to avoid making them feel like you sprung it on them.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Reading the comments on old posts is sometimes very weird. Occasionally I’ll come across an old post that people have been commenting on after obviously googling it, and posting random things or arguing with commenters from four years ago or whatever…it’s very weird!

        2. fposte*

          Oh, wow, I didn’t scroll down when I grabbed the URL. I guess anything that touches on the Mommy Wars will ignite argument for years.

        3. Ash (the other one!)*

          WTF. I am reading them now and, wow, just wow. I think my favorite line thus far is “crotch droppings”….

    3. Cat*

      I would. Not because you’re legally obligated to but because this is your best chance to negotiate maternity leave (since in most jobs, their formal policy doesn’t kick in for a year) and because, yeah, you don’t want your manager to feel blindsided. The people I know who’ve been in this position have usually ended up negotiating a certain amount of leave unpaid.

      It might make sense, though, to tell your manager that it’s earlier than you’d normally disclose and that you’d prefer it not be common knowledge until later. A decent person would respect that request.

    4. Anon1234*

      I didn’t say anything when I interviewed at 3 months pregnant! They can’t discriminate based on the baby- so do not say anything.
      You will be screwed in USA as far as leave- you have no right to any save any sick/vacation you accrued. I was given a month off for the birth. My director acted miffed at first, but then when I did a fantastic job- I got promoted the next year.

    5. Sarahnova*

      Congratulations! I was in a very similar situation; I got the job offer the day I had my 12-week scan. (I’m in the UK and now at 20 weeks, enjoying the role and dressing my rapidly-expanding bump.) I kept my lip buttoned until the offer had been agreed, and then told my new boss the first time we spoke, a few days before I started. I would honestly have felt safer keeping quiet another month to prove myself, but I wanted to get the telling over with and not feel under pressure to hide it.

      Honestly, my new small company flapped and squawked a bit (not in my direction, or with anger, but they were more shocked than I expected) but they got over it quickly, and now all is cool. Taking mat leave within your first six months on the job is not ideal, which I acknowledged, but this is life, and it’s a situation any organisation has to be prepared for. Other than acknowledging the non-ideal side and reaffirming my commitment to the role, I did not apologise, and I advise the same.

      A lot depends on your legal protections and entitlements, though. I had legally guaranteed mat leave so all I had to do was manage the telling. You are almost certainly entitled to keep quiet just as long as you see fit, though.

  48. anotheralison*

    Happy 4th everyone. Just here to celebrate a great work week. I got a new internal position that I start in August. My sister got a great nursing job — her first professional position after quite a struggle in the job market with her other degrees. She looked for 2 years for a teaching job, got this job in 2 weeks.

  49. Cori*

    I’d been clashing with the director of my company for over six months before I finally quit. I fully intended to serve my notice period but on the day that I handed my resignation (which he accepted and acknowledged, by the way), he started with giving me the cold shoulder and eventually blew up at me over an unrelated matter which he was even mistaken about (but refused to back down despite proof of his mistake). We had a real screamfest in the office. It was my first time talking back to him and boy did it feel good! When it was over, I decided that I no longer wished to tolerate being yelled at…so I packed up my things and left. Yep, in the middle of the day. I realise that it’s not professional but I was so tired of the abuse. I’d been very stressed and getting sick a lot and I wasn’t about to sit through one more minute of it.

    A few days later an email from him turned up in my personal email inbox – a so-called “termination letter”. Whatever. I ignored him. As far as I and my coworkers know, I didn’t get fired; I quit. However, I found out soon after – through former coworkers who I’m friends with – that he’s been going around telling people I used to associate with (vendors, etc.) that I was “sacked”. And just today I found out that during the interview with my replacement, he informed her about how “terrible” of an employee I was. I admit to have been bad at my job the last few months, but in my defense, I was being criticized and accused of things that were not my fault day in and day out, that I simply lost all my confidence and kept bungling things up.

    What do I do about this guy? I’ve already found a new job (in fact, just signed my new contract today! Woohoo!) and a part of me knows I shouldn’t care what he says and move on. But I’m angry that he is going around badmouthing me and angrier that he feels that the last six months has been 100% my fault and none of his. I guess being the owner of the company he can think and do what he wants. But I… *shakes fists*

    1. alfie*

      I am looking forward to hearing other answers to this, but can you send a letter, or have a lawyer put together a letter, to the company/HR saying he is lying and he needs to cease and desist? He is basically defaming you. You did not get fired, you quit. And if you are in the same industry, this stuff gets around.

      (I am in a similarly bad situation with a manager that I am thinking of posting about so I am HAPPY to hear you got a new job, and interested in answers to your question.)

      1. Cori*

        I did briefly consider getting a lawyer but thinking of the fees doing that might incur I never gave it a second thought. But finding out today he is STILL at it, more than a month after I walked out, is putting my blood on reboil. My new job is not at all in the same industry but he has to be stopped!

        Sorry to hear you’re in a similar situation. Have you done anything about it except be in a stew over it, like me? :)

        1. BRR*

          Sometimes you can pay a lawyer just to write a letter on their stationary.

          Did you have any sort of agreement when you left? Sometimes disparaging remarks are covered although it’s usually about the employer. Have you tried shooting an email to their boss or to HR. As HR’s jobs is to do things in the best interest of the business, they might reprimand him for exposing the company to a lawsuit.

          1. Cori*

            I can? I’m gonna look into that. Thank you.

            Seeing as I walked out on the day of handing my resignation – without consulting him or anyone, of course – no, there was no agreement. I slipped out while he and several others were out in a meeting. There was one guy there when I left (he’s one of my abovementioned friends) but, bless him, to this day he acts like he had no clue I’d left in the middle of the day.

            The problem is that this guy is the owner and director of the company. The highest level person, really. There is no one above him and there is also no HR department. I was officially the office manager but I was also the receptionist and pseudo HR person. I haven’t taken any action on this matter except risk hypertension in the near future by stewing. :)

            1. fposte*

              I would vote for pay a lawyer to write a letter (I’ve heard as low as $25 for that, though obviously it’ll depend on where and who) and then turn to letting it go. “Letting it go” includes telling the people who are passing this on that you’re not interested in hearing about it any more.

            2. BRR*

              I’ve usually seen this in regards to renters trying to get their security deposit back. You pay a lawyer a small amount, they send a letter saying return the security deposit or else it will go to court. In this case the lawyer would ask the boss to stop defaming you.

              Do other people like the boss? Do you have a good reputation? If yes I agree with fposte and let it go. Nobody take psychos seriously especially if they’re trying to talk smack about a good employee.

              1. Cori*

                Hi BRR, if you see my comment below, I’ve decided not to pursue this matter any further. But just to answer your questions:

                1. Nobody else likes the boss, not even his favourite employee. :) I was the third person to leave this year and two more will follow suit by the end of August. All because of his micromanagement and intolerable attitude.

                2. I do have a good reputation. I did everything by the book and my conscience is clear. The former coworker who keeps me posted on the goings-on in the office is still disturbed by the screamfest on my last day. The longest-serving employee (that’s me) did not deserve that sort of treatment, he says. He actually told my replacement (she started this week) the true story about me because he couldn’t stand the boss besmirching my name. He is a true friend. :)

                Anyway, I’m going to let this go now and focus on my new job and my life. Thank you for your input.

    2. alfie*

      Actually, I think there was recently a post here that had a similar situation. An employee had resigned and the company was saying they were fired but they weren’t.

    3. CP*

      One problem is that you left without notifying the boss that you moved your resignation date to “immediately.” So in a sense he did fire you. You said you were leaving at X date, then you refused to show up to work, so he terminated you immediately.

      This is the reason you never quit by just walking off a job. In your own head you resigned, but all the paperwork now supports horrible boss’ story and not yours,

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I missed that you didn’t serve out your notice. Yeah, that’s going to complicate things. You could still try the letter-from-a-lawyer route, but it might be better to not to prolong involvement with this place even through that, and just to move on.

      2. Kiwi*

        Its sounds like the ex-boss’ actions constituted “constructive dismissal”. The employee was essentially forced off the job. This is very different to the picture that the ex-boss is painting. I’d forge ahead with the legal letter.

        1. Cori*

          Kiwi, I had to google what “constructive dismissal” meant, because that concept does not exist where I live (SE Asia). And while I totally agree that it was the hostile work environment that made me do what I did, it doesn’t make what I did right, either. If I were to go the legal route it would just complicate matters.

          I’m going to have to agree with CP in that by leaving earlier than I stated in my letter, in a sense he did fire me. I’m just angry that he is going around shaming me, I guess.

          fposte, I’m going to listen to you. I accept that I had a part to play in it, and let go of this whole thing, and move on with my life.

          Thanks, you guys.

  50. Anon1234*

    One request….please name your kitties when you post pic. I think it is “illegal” not acknowledge them in photo credits! /catlady

    1. James M*

      The image name usually has the name(s) of the cats featured. Firefox shows the image URL at the bottom of the window when you hover on it (I’m not sure about other browsers).

  51. Golden Yeti*

    Hi everyone. Happy 4th!

    I really think I am burning out in my job. I noticed some signs before, like cynicism (which had been there a long time), not taking care of myself, etc. But now, new signs are cropping up: it’s getting harder to focus, and instead of the usual simmer, my frustration seems to be boiling up more (I kind of feel like Bruce Banner trying to keep the Hulk in).

    I am trying to find a new job, but I’m stuck here in the meantime.

    So, with all that being said, I’m wondering:
    What are your burnout stories? How did you cope in the meantime? Are there any trigger points to especially look out for?


    1. Ali*

      I asked pretty much the same thing above. Are you me? Haha. I don’t have much good advice since I feel like even when I’m not working, I should be doing “something productive.” The other day, I actually left my computer for about 10 minutes and walked around the block since I work from home and this is encouraged if we need a break from the computer. It helped clear my head and I went back to work and felt a little better.

      But please take care of yourself. I swear by my workouts, teaching myself to eat better, try and drink enough water, etc. Exercising helps me with my frustrations. I’m not saying you *must* workout, of course, but have at least some outlet where you can get away.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Yeah, I realized that just now when I came back to check the comments and searched for burnout, haha. Oops. Sorry about that. I’ve never been the best about taking care of myself, but when I’m not living paycheck to paycheck, I’d like to look into kickboxing or something that could be a good outlet. Over the weekend, I actually pulled out Left 4 Dead and played a few rounds, which helped a bit. Maybe next time I’ll go DC vs. Mortal Combat, haha. The main thing that’s dropped off is my meals–used to be 2/day, now it’s just 1, with maybe a snack before bed. It’s not because I don’t have an appetite–I actually love food. It’s because I’ve started seeing a lunchtime meal/snack as something I will have earned when I get out of here. But until then, I don’t feel I’ve earned it because I haven’t reached my goal yet. I know it’s kind of messed up, and there is nothing inherently judgmental in food, but that’s how I view it these days.

        1. fposte*

          Do you have any access to counseling? That might help too. I really don’t like the food negotiation for two reasons–one, it’s problematic to deprive yourself of basic food and hold it out as a longterm reward, and two, it’s locking you into a mode where change is something that’s only going to happen later, while I think you need to find some things you have control over to change right now. I think that lunch business might be an important sign that you need to find a different way to take care of yourself.

          (And it’s free to take a walk, and it’s incredibly good for your mental health.)

    2. Jamie*

      You sound like me. I do a wild careen toward burnout a couple of times a year and my first signs are losing my sense of humor and finding myself irritated with coworkers who typically do to bother me, and just having to work harder to keep my annoyance under wraps.

      I’ve tried to be better at taking a long weekend when I feel it starting and scheduling one for after intense periods. I’m not always successful though.

      I’m looking forward to the answers others have, because I’ve found that a little PTO and a careful restructure of priorities (which I’ve gotten much better at) is helpful, I haven’t been able to eliminate this and I worry that someday it will become my permanent mental state.

      Weirdly enough I was supposed to be off this week, due to my big project being moved to end of month, but I’ve worked every day because other people needed stuff. Even though it’s been a light week I’m more frustrated than I’ve been in a long time.

      Ugh – I need answers to this, too.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Haha, we do sound somewhat alike because I’m finding that my humor is getting more and more wry and sharp. I basically discharge my frustration in little spurts by disguising it as humor, but only where I know for sure I can safely get away with it. It throws everyone off because I am normally a laid back, unassuming (many say sweet) person. But some of the comebacks that have come out of me lately are at a different level than my norm, for sure. I basically told someone (who likes to joke) to shove it the other day. Everyone is impressed by my amusing bluntness, and laughs. And it doesn’t seem to be offending anyone because I am so careful about where I let the beast out. But that doesn’t mean it’s my norm, for sure.

    3. SherryD*

      I’m not sure if this would apply to your situation, but one thing that helps me avoid burnout is to focus on creating portfolio-worthy pieces or achievements at work. If you’ve been at your job for a while, there may be some things you can do with your eyes closed, and you can then devote your real energy to things you can brag about in a job interview.

      Tell your boss that you’d like to get better at Task X, and see if she can regularly review your work in that area and give you feedback.

      Also, stay out of the bitch and moan sessions with coworkers, as much as possible. A little of that is healthy, but it can go out of control very easily. You don’t want to look back years from now and be embarrassed about your behaviour (I’ve been there!).

      1. Golden Yeti*

        (To SherryD, fposte, and Incognito Kitty)

        I do have some portfolio pieces I’ve scrounged from my work, so that’s good. My trouble at times is that witih this being a small business, I’m all over the place. So opportunities to focus on what I’d really like to develop are scarce. And almost everyone in my office is related, so nobody to really complain to there, so I’m good on that one! :)

        But, I do gripe to family and friends. I try not to do it too much, but I should probably be more conscious about restraining myself more in that area. I actually think having a pet could help quite a bit, but I’m renting, so no pets allowed.

        1. fposte*

          Any possibility to volunteer at a shelter? Ours has dog-walking time.

          I would also not underestimate the regular stuff you do. Track it, gold star yourself when you complete stuff, and at the end of the day note how awesome you were. It doesn’t matter that it’s stuff you may not think is hard–it’s stuff that would have been undone, and it’s done now because you did it.

          1. Golden Yeti*

            I haven’t given volunteering much thought, but that’s definitely a great idea. I like to think that I don’t underestimate what I do, but the variety and volume is undervalued by management.

    4. fposte*

      I would say 1) if you have vacation days, make sure you take them (my personal weakness), and 2) make sure you get enough sleep and exercise (including moving around periodically at work rather than staying in the chair all day) (okay, that’s another of my personal weaknesses).

      I’ll also second all of SherryD’s advice–avoid the bitching cycle and find a way to feel like you’re achieving.

      1. Incognito Kitty*

        Yeah – and stay out of the cycle even at home. I don’t complain at work, so my issue is not droning on at home about it. It’s not fair to my family, but not good for me either since it keeps me entrenched in disgruntlement (it’s a word) and keeps me from recharging .

        So my rule is I can complain about work for 10 min when I get home. But has to be after I change, eat dinner, and cuddle with a pet or two. If I come in and start before my purse is off my shoulder it will be unending – if I impose this restriction the vast majority of time I don’t even bring it up because I don’t feel like talking about it and getting riled up.

    5. KrisL*

      Can you take some vacation time? Is there anything you normally do outside of work that you can let slip for a while?

      Is there something fun outside of work that you can do more?

      Are there a few things at work that do make you happy that you could do more?

      1. Golden Yeti*

        I could, but it would be difficult. We have no sick days, and we only get vacation as each month is worked. So, if it’s January and I have a new year of 2 weeks vacation, I actually only have one day as of the beginning of February, and so on. So I try to save them for illness, interviews, etc.

        I try to get out sometimes outside of work, but options are limited. Far as at work, my biggest stressor is the work environment/management. I don’t get a lot of autonomy in my work priorities.

        1. Rebecca*

          What Elizabeth West said – take your breaks! If you are entitled to X minutes twice a day, plus a lunch break, take every minute and get away from your desk if at all possible, even if it’s just to go outside and walk around. I find this has helped me immensely. Also, I found other things to concentrate on outside of work that I can think about during the day while I’m stuck there.

          The other thing I do is make myself comfortable at work. I have real plates, silver plate utensils, a tea cup with saucer, etc. in my drawer, my own Mini Moos for coffee, and a stainless steel water bottle. Eat good stuff, too, not nagging or being the food police here, but if you eat fresh fruit, veggies, etc. you should feel better physically.

          Good luck!

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Try to leave work at work. I know it’s tempting to vent about it with family and friends, and it’s fine to discuss serious stuff with them or here, within limits. But I found that when I was constantly talking and thinking about work stress off the job, I was working myself up into a frenzy that made it even more intolerable when I was at work. I was much better able to cope when I designated my commute time (short as it was) as my transition. Once I left for the day, I did not think about work until my butt was in the chair the next day. I was able to relax enough at home to sleep and take care of myself.

      Also, take your breaks. Don’t work through lunch–let yourself have downtime. Do something to unplug, like read, or get out for lunch instead of eating at your desk. Even if you go into a break room, physically leave your work space on your breaks.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        To Elizabeth and Rebecca, you’re on the money. It’s not unusual for me to go through the day and not have a break. Or if I take breaks , I just stay at my desk and read articles online or something. And there have been times when it backfired–things like I have 10 minutes of my break left and the boss calls an office meeting.

    7. C Average*

      I’m like Jamie: I burn out and recover on pretty predictable cycles, and it’s helped me a lot to figure out WHY I’m burning out.

      I don’t think it’s a simple matter of hours worked. I think (and again, this is just me–your experience may differ!) I burn out when I start to find my work less meaningful. So when the burned-out feeling starts to creep in, I realize that I need to connect with reasons why my job matters.

      For me, this includes making time to connect with people who can offer me some validation. For example, some of the content I create has a specific audience with one of our vendors, and I’ve been striving to spend more time on their site getting feedback on what they do and don’t like about the content I give them. Seeing that they regularly look at what I’m writing, and that my effort to write effective guidelines for them, makes me see that my work matters.

      I also try to connect regularly with people who are positive and helpful and build me up rather than pile demands on me. I’ve found a handful of colleagues to be positive, constructive, creative people whose company energizes me. We’ve explicitly made a pact to build each other up when burnout encroaches. Sometimes this means we schedule a meeting that’s really a walk outside, during which we brainstorm. Sometimes we meet for beers after work. The key thing is we make time to have positive, constructive conversations about our work.

      Finally, do you have a place that’s what I call a productivity vortex? A place where you lose time and get nothing done and come away feeling happy and refreshed? My productivity vortices are Powell’s Books, my parents’ house in the country in Idaho, Forest Park (a big park with lots of running trails), and the comment section in AAM. If you have these places, visit them.

      1. Golden Yeti*

        Knowing that your work has a real purpose is a big thing, and it’s a thing I’m lacking. As I commented in Ali’s original post, I’m kind of the pack mule for other people’s chores and ideas. (And my bosses don’t like the word “no.”) So, it is pretty rare that I can point to the agenda of what I’m doing and agree that it is valid. Also because we are small, I don’t really have a group like you do, though that would be awesome. It’s probably a lot easier to stay on the rails when you have people backing you. Regarding productivity vortices, most of mine involve things that are unfeasible (travel, etc.). But it’s probably not a bad time to make myself find some that are more local. Thanks for the suggestions!

  52. De Minimis*

    Ugh, wanted to write a long message but got exhausted just trying to describe it…

    Basically, I’m supposed to work with this other department in reconciling information between two separate reporting systems. The manager of the other department is a notoroius slacker, and doesn’t always get me the information I need, so we often have long stretches where it doesn’t get done for months, and then all of a sudden he’ll come through with all the data and I’ll have to do a ton of it at once. Our regional office has adviced us the best way is to update the spreadsheet weekly.

    Now my boss is getting on me about the stuff not getting done the way they want it, but they don’t seem to get that the manager of the other department is responsible for most of it and is the reason why this isn’t geting done. They want me to reach out to him to get it done, but he doesn’t respond to things very frequently and honestly it’s not my place to ensure he is holding up his end of things since he’s a supervisor and I’m not. They should be managing him.

    A lot of it is also due to the general lackadasical attitude from our regional headquarters [the ones who want the report.] We get no feedback from them until months later and last summer all but one of our facilities quit doing the report for the rest of the fiscal year. We all started up doing it again this year, but now we’re getting complaints about stuff that happened nearly a year ago.

    Oh well, end rant. I’m trying to keep it from ruining my weekend but I keep dwelling on it. Just really want to get that other job. Tired of having zero support or anyone to come to for guidance. I know the other job will have its own set of problems, but I’m so tired of this place for so many reasons.

    1. EB*

      Can you cc your boss and the regional office when you ask him for stuff? Then cc them when you “proactively” ask him if there is anything you can do to help. Then cc reminders. Then email them asking for suggestions on reaching out to him. Basically make it their problem too?

      1. De Minimis*

        I think I’m going to probably CC my immediate supervisor when requesting the info. We’re big on chain of command here and there’s always this adversarial relationship with the regional office–it would be a big problem if I were to start involving them.

        I guess this is typical for a government job, but there’s always this mentality of trying to keep the regional office out of things as much as possible–when they need something we try to do whatever we can to satisfy them and keep them out of our hair.

  53. Sabrina*

    All yesterday morning I kept wondering when this thread was going to be posted. Short weeks mess me up, but it’s a good problem to have. Happy Independence Day to those in the US and a belated Happy Canada Day to our neighbors!

    1. The IT Manager*

      :) For me yesterday felt like Friday because lots of meetings were cancelled since a bunch of people are out.

  54. Lara*

    I work as a concierge for a company that supplies concierges for luxury apartments and condos. I was checking my schedule yesterday and I noticed that I am not receiving holiday pay for working today,(4th of July) while other associates who have the same position as I do, but work in different buildings, are receiving holiday pay. Neither I, nor my co-worker who works the evening shift are receiving holiday pay, but during the last holiday (memorial day), she received holiday pay and I did not. I also looked at the schedule for other apartment buildings and there are some workers within the same building who are receiving holiday pay and some who are not, for the same exact job. I know that holiday pay is not required by law, but can an employer pick and choose who to give holiday pay to? (We all receive hourly pay)
    I emailed my employer yesterday and he just stopped by my place of work and I asked him if he saw my email. He said no, and walked out before I could get in another word.

    1. fposte*

      Unfortunately, yes, an employer can pick and choose who gets holiday pay so long as the choice isn’t based on a reason forbidden by law (race, religion, gender, etc.).

    2. BRR*

      Are there any rules written about holiday pay? My fiance works retail and they have to be there a certain amount of time before they receive holiday pay.

      As long as they are no paying based on gender, religion etc it’s legal.

      I might just try asking, “What are the rules regarding holiday pay?”

    3. Lara*

      He will have to give me some kind of reason, but I think it’s really strange. It seems to me that most businesses would either pay everyone across the board or not pay everyone.

      If he doesn’t respond to me by late afternoon, I will ask him about the rules like BRR said.

      I don’t want to be childish, or over think it, but I’m wondering if it’s because he doesn’t like me. We don’t get along that well, but I take my job seriously, and have received compliments from residents. Some residents, as recent as last week, voiced their approval to him, which he passed on to the property manager.

      1. fposte*

        Remember that he doesn’t actually have to give you any kind of reason. He can duck the question or say “Umm” forever.

        That being said, it sounds like you’re a good employee with value to the organization, and I could see asking him to clarify the vacation day policy and asking what would have to happen for you to get vacation day pay in future.

    4. Chriama*

      If you have an company handbook or operating guide that states rules for holiday pay, I think that’s seen as legally binding (depending on how it’s worded, e.g. “an employee *may be* entitled” as opposed to “an employee *is* entitled” ).

      So it may actually be semi-illegal to not give you any even if it’s not discrimination based on a protected class.

      1. fposte*

        At that point, though, it would be breach of contract, rather than a breach of law, so there’s no enforcing agency.

    5. Lara*

      I had an idea though, I believe that the property manager pays extra to have us work during holidays, and if so then my manager would be over charging the property, because he isn’t paying us.

      1. fposte*

        That’s definitely sleazy, if so, but still not illegal, and it doesn’t guarantee anything for you–that’s between your manager and the property manager.

    6. CAA*

      Holiday pay is what you receive when you don’t work on a holiday and get paid anyway. It’s usually (always?) at your straight time rate, you’re just getting paid as if you had worked your normal week even though you didn’t.

      If you’re actually working on the holiday, some businesses will pay you time-and-a-half or double-time, and I think that’s what you’re asking about here. Extra pay for working on holidays is completely voluntary unless it pushes you over 40 hours for the week (or 8 hours for the day if you’re in California).

      It may be that your colleagues who are getting extra pay for today’s work are covering for people on vacation after working their regular schedule and are therefore reaching overtime limits. Or your company may have offered an incentive to some people to take shifts on the day that’s normally part of their weekend.

    7. Jamie*

      I don’t have anything to add to the practical advice, but this is crazy. Holiday pay if it exists has been spelled out in any handbook I’ve ever had, and I find it unconscionable to apply it to some and not others especially in the same position.

      Really weird.

    8. ChiTown Lurker*

      There may be rules about this. I once worked for a company that had a very goofy way of determining your eligilibility for holiday pay and/or 1.5 pay for holidays.

      In order to receive holiday pay, you needed to work both the day before and the day after the holiday.

      In order to receive 1.5 pay for working holidays, you needed to have worked a minimum of 40 hours (25 p/t) in the week prior to the holiday and the day before the holiday. If you worked 32 hours and had 8 hours of vacation/sick pay, you weren’t eligible. For 1.5 pay, the week was Sunday – Saturday. The work schedule was Monday – Sunday. It was written this way to pretty much guarantee that new/junior employees whose off days were always weekdays did not receive any overtime/holiday pay.

      Needless to say, this led to many confused & angry employees.

  55. shellbell*

    I’m a new manager. I have 12 direct reports. My previous management experience was managing 1 intern. My team is a good team. They are professionals. For many years, this department had flex time time policy: must work 40 hours a week and be in the office between 10am-3pm, but other than that come and go as you wish. The management was pretty relaxed. Then the dept got a new manager. She managed the department for 2 years (right up until I took over a few months ago). She tried to solve some performance problems by managing folks arrival times and hours worked per week instead of the actual quality of their work. She micromanaged some things that were pretty petty and didn’t result in improved performance. How do I repair the damage, and go back to a more flexible environment without swinging too far the other way of not enough oversight.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      What works for me is this. We run hours from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm. I ask people to pick whatever hours they’d like, and then stick to them.

      For us, knowing when to expect somebody to be in the office to collaborate with, or to schedule a meeting with, or whatever, is important. Having agreed to hours produces efficiencies, while people still have flexibility to call or text, “stuck waiting for the cable guy, will be in an hour later today”.

      Would that help you? It’s freedom without a free-for-all.

      1. shellbell*

        I guess I really don’t care if folks keep set hours. In fact, the job sort of prevents it. We don’t collaborate with each other much. We collaborate with outside clients. Sometimes, you might have a call at 7am so you come in early. Sometimes, you might have a call that goes until 7pm so you come in later and work later. I only care if the clients are happy and stuff gets done. If we are all in the office between 10am-3pm together, that is plenty of time for the limited collaboration we do with each other. I just don’t want to be viewed as sooo much more lax than my predecessor.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Great feedback.

          Dunno, it sounds to me as if the old policy was fine then.

          You aren’t more lax than your predecessor if what you stress is the high value on customers being taken care of. What that means is, you don’t want to hear that a customer needed someone available at a certain time and one of your people wouldn’t accommodate the customer.

          That’s a pretty high standard. I don’t see you being lax in giving people the ability to meet it. You need the right staff members to use the freedom you give them toward the goal of serving the customer, that’s all.

          1. shellbell*

            Ok. Thanks. You really validated me. It sounds so reasonable when you put it that way.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Why not go back to the system that was working well before your predecessor changed it? You’re not going to be viewed as overly lax if you show that you’re not overly lax in areas where it actually matters.

      1. shellbell*

        I think you are both right. I don’t think anything was wrong with the old system. I also don’t have the mental energy to keep track of folks at a micro level. I really only care about the quality of work.

        1. Artemesia*

          The crucial variable is do you have a way of assessing each person’s productivity and the quality of their work? This is easier in some jobs than others. If you can discipline or more closely manage people who are not productive then your system is fine. Do you have some way of identifying and dealing with easy riders?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I like what you have said here. I think you should tell them this point blank.
      Leave out the part about their previous boss micromanaging them. But start by telling them what your expectations are for work hours. And tell them that you expect them to do what is best for their workload. Move on to saying something like “My focus is quality. That is what you will be hearing me talk about a lot.” Expand on this train of thought.

      Then it’s a time thing.
      When they see your talk matches your walk they will slowly start to exhale.

    4. Graciosa*

      Don’t get too focused on the hours individuals are working (whether you decide that they are or are not an issue, you’re still thinking about them). Focus on results. Telling your employees not to worry about hours is only part of the message – you also need to communicate what you DO care about.

      If the team is recovering from a bad manager, you’re going to need to keep repeating these messages for a while before they sink in. Keep the messaging clear, simple, and consistent. Make sure your actions match your message.

      If you tell them you don’t care about hours, but you do need four new teapot designs a month, you’re going to have to take extra care not only to measure and comment on the number of new teapot designs each month but also to be very sensitive to any messages about hours worked.

      Even what you think may be an offhand, casual comment – like noting that someone got an early start when you come in early and see them already filling their outbox – will be scrutinized for critical meaning. Assume this will go on for months – you’ll know you can relax a bit when your team has relaxed around you.

      Cleaning this up is a worthwhile thing to do, and I wish you the best of luck.

  56. Sarah*

    Anyone know of a good task management app to manage many small deadlines during the day? I’d like something a little heavier-duty than your average to-do-list app, preferably where I can organize things by deadlines and ideally have a space to put in the estimated time allotment. I don’t need full-on project management software, though. My job involves completing one short phase of many different projects, so there are a lot of small tasks with short turnaround times and I’d just like a nice interface for keeping up with what’s on my plate, when things are due, and how much time each thing should take. (My company provides a spreadsheet that they suggest using, but I find spreadsheets a bit clunky and just plan to use that for record keeping.)

    A browser version is ideal but iOS would be okay too. I came across today and it looks pretty good, but not ideal (I like that you can mark a goal start time in addition to the deadline). I’ve used before but it isn’t great for this type of work.

    1. shellbell*

      I use tasks in outlook. I like it because it is easy to drag and drop an email onto tasks and turn it into a task. I also get those pop up reminders. Works great for individual tasks, not for assigning tasks to others though.

    2. Meghan*

      Two that I’ve used and liked: Todoist and Wunderlist (both available in browser + iOS). I don’t want to post a link and get it stuck in moderation, but Lifehacker did a recent post about the best to-do list systems. I hope you find one that works for you!

      1. Sarah*

        I’ve actually been using that one for a couple of days and I love it! For me it’s more helpful for personal and health-related things, though, rather than work.

    3. Sydney*

      I really like Asana, which is a super fancy task/project management app. It’s free for individuals or teams up to 15 people or so. You can have separate workspaces and projects, tasks and subtasks, tags, priorities, all sorts of great features. I’ve been using Asana personally and professionally for a few years and LOVE it.

  57. alfie*

    Long time listener, first time caller:

    I have worked for a very large nonprofit for 7 years. Two years ago I moved to a new work area with a boss who is new to nonprofit. She took an immediate and irrationally-intense dislike to me and has made my life hell since. She runs her division like a junior high school clique and I am obviously the outcast.

    I have been a high performer throughout my time at the organization and am/had been generally well-liked. I have many people within and outside of the organization who will provide references for me.

    This has destroyed my confidence and emotional well-being and it is beginning to have an effect on my physical health. I am planning to take 12 weeks FMLA in a couple of weeks from now. I am concerned that she will take the opportunity while I am gone make it even harder for me to do my work when I return and to badmouth me in the company and in the broader community. Several people have told me she already regularly does this in meetings I am not a part of.

    Basically, I am thinking that salvaging my job will not be possible and that she will make it very difficult for me to get another job. But I really need a break from this toxic environment. I genuinely am beginning to fear for my health.

    My question is this: How can I get the most out of this break that I can in terms of rebounding from this horrible experience, and how can I try to mitigate whatever rumors or lies may be said about me, and how can I ensure I can step back into my job and at least remain employed long enough to get another job after I get back?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Since it sounds like you have a lot of credibility and political capital in the organization, is there a higher-up there who you can talk to about what’s going on?

      1. alfie*

        The only person above her is the president, who gets all of her information about me through my boss, and she has gone out of her way to intimate that I am not performing well, which is not true by objective measures.

        I have a good relationship with three of my boss’s peers (VP level) and have told them, but they don’t want to get involved(and I didn’t ask them to) as it would be inappropriately stepping on toes, and I understand that. They all said they would be happy to be references for me.

        So no, there really isn’t anyone I can talk to who is above her. However, two of my colleagues/peers saw what is happening and complained (completely unbeknownst to me and not prompted by me), so the president is aware. But I am being scapegoated as the bad apple/problem.

        True to the methods of the queen bee in Jr. High, she has kept this all remarkably hidden. Even if the higher-ups at the organization were to believe me over my boss, it’s pretty clear they will back her, as senior management, as a matter of course. My guess is I will leave, voluntarily or involuntarily, and only then will they deal with her.

        1. misspiggy*

          You suggest that your work is measured. In that case, make sure you have plenty of evidence of your effectiveness and take it home with you. Be as calm and brazen as you can with her at work, and make it appear like it’s all water off a duck’s back to you. If this was me, I’d make sure I was performing well, calmly reject all accusations with evidence, and make sure I had a good employment laywer. I’d wait to be fired rather than resigning, and then make sure I had legal support in place to show that I wasn’t dismissed for fault. Tl:dr – don’t give her the satisfaction of going quietly.

    2. BRR*

      Try and plan things you like and that are relaxing to you. It sounds like your coworkers know that you’re a good employee which is good. I would start applying to a couple positions as the hiring process takes awhile.

    3. Anon1234*

      Use the time off to get another job. If you can’t go around her, you have no choice. I am sorry, I detest junior high mean girl behavior.

      1. Ruffingit*

        This. Seriously, use the leave time to job hunt ferociously so you can step into another position and never have to return to the land of pain and suffering.

    4. Sarah*

      If you can’t go above her head, could you speak to managers in other departments who you have a good relationship with about moving into their department? It sounds like you have some people watching out for you, so you may be able to find another position within your organization and get away from this lady. If it’s just irrational dislike, then she may be okay with just not having to work with you anymore. The managers wouldn’t have to choose whether to back her or you to the higher ups, they would both be able to make themselves look good as people who agreeably resolved a tense situation with no one having to get fired. (If she is the controlling type, of course, she may fight not to allow you to leave her department just so she can keep ruining your career.)

  58. Ellie*

    I have an interview next week for a college administration position. Any last minute advice?! It will be working in office of communications….

    1. fposte*

      Are you up to date on the current challenges facing the college and any recent mission statements? Do you have a sense of how the institution thinks of itself (commuter college serving busy adults, small liberal arts school focusing on self-actualization, flagship institution for state, etc.)? Have you investigated current communications, ranging from social media to print, coming out of the office? Just some thoughts in case you haven’t explored those already.

      Good luck!

    2. Anx*

      Are you familiar with other communications outlets associated with the college? Athletics department, community-college alliances, student government, research offices, etc?

      I worked in communications at (but not for) my college as a student (so from ‘the other side’) and I think it could be helpful to understand how the students, faculty and administration differ in the way they present themselves and the institution to the public. Also make sure you are familiar with fact that students are often young and inexperienced and sometimes oblivious to the outsiders’ perceptions of their actions because of the university bubble effect.

      1. Anx*

        I’m sure you’ve already read many of the press releases for the school, but check the websites of individual schools within the college and university, too, for pr material and communciation info. Are there separate campuses? They may advertise their events and news differently. Check the student paper, too. It’s summer where I am, but many schools offer a scaled down version year round.

  59. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I mentioned this in last week’s open thread, but it either got buried or no one finds it as interesting as I do, but I have an update on this old post about the time I hired an AAM reader / regular commenter a few years ago:

    The update is … it’s happened again! She’s going to start working with me at The Management Center on Monday, and I’m super excited about it. And I think it’s once again such a good illustration of how just being a smart, thoughtful, generous person on the Internet (and in real life, obviously) can build your reputation and pay off in weird ways that you’d never expect. (And this is also probably the last time I will talk about Kimberlee here, at least without her permission, because as of Monday that will become officially inappropriate.)

    1. fposte*

      I was out of town so couldn’t comment, but I thought that was delightful news, and from what I see of her I think you’re lucky to get Kimberlee.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      This is fantastic! Now I can’t help but worry about the only other person in the US with the same name as me – she has a blog about her doll collection and I fear a prospective employer will google my name and think I have a fetish for scary looking dolls.

    3. Stephanie*

      That’s great news!

      I haven’t landed a job from this, but I’ve connected with other readers offline (off blog?) and gotten job referrals and advice.

    4. De (Germany)*

      I’m confused – is this the same Kimberlee as in the old entry?

      Anyway, Congratulations to the new employee!

  60. Blergh*

    I wrote last week about the terrible morale situation and bad manager I have at work. Well, it was confirmed that they just plan to counsel her to have her work towards being a more trustworthy and effective manager. This was disappointing news (as we hoped she would be transferred or let go). However, today I have another question regarding the workplace.

    How do you deal with coworkers who hoard work? I’ve been in my position for just over a year, and I am still struggling to find work to do. I have let my manager and her manager know that I feel underutilized, and they say they are working on incorporating me more. However, I think my coworker is part of the problem. She comes in early, stays late and works at night and on the weekends.

    My coworker grabs every project that comes through, while I spend 80% of my time twiddling my thumbs. If she isn’t included in a project, she throws a tantrum about being excluded. Never mind the fact that I feel excluded from projects 90% of the time. She has been in her role much longer than I have and definitely has a better grasp on the subject matter, but I’m never going to learn if I’m not trained or included on any projects.

    Aside from management getting involved and delegating projects more effectively or putting their foot down on my coworker and telling her to share the work, is there anything I can do to make sure I am better utilized? Any tips for how to spend my down time?

    1. Jamie*

      This is definitely a management issue. They need to get involved in how things are delegated – I would talk to your manager proactively about how you want to make sure your time is being used effectively and so you need projects.

      Don’t mention her working late or weekends – just focus on what you need and now what she is or isn’t doing.

      1. Blergh*

        Thanks, Jamie. I had this very conversation with my manager last week. It was a good conversation and I am hopeful that things will change. The situation has just got me down this week.

    2. Student*

      I’m not sure whether this will work, but you could try enlisting your co-worker’s help directly. Ask her to train you on stuff. Ask her to delegate stuff to you. Ask her to tell you about projects that you’re interested in.

      If you remain 80% idle, then you should either look for self-directed ways to add value to your company, or find a different job.

      1. Blergh*

        Thanks, Student. Our previous manager used to delegate tasks to me, so I didn’t feel quite so underutilized. I still felt like I could contribute more, but at least I was given projects from time to time.

        I’ve tried letting my coworker know how idle I am, but she just brushes off my concerns. My manager pointed out that because she’s extroverted, my coworker is good at saying Include me in X,Y, Z Project. I’m an introvert and I’m not as outspoken. Apparently I need to learn to be more outspoken in order to compete, so to speak.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      People usually do this (in my experience) when they feel threatened or can’t deal with change. Jamie and Student have great suggestions. I had a hard time getting stuff from a team member when I started at NewJob–she wanted things to change, but she was afraid to relinquish control. I tried to frame my changes as ways to make HER job easier. As a result, she gives me lots more to do and while I can’t directly assist her on everything, the part on which we collaborate has smoothed out considerably. She also is liking it that I do more and she doesn’t have to do it, LOL.

      If this coworker is working this many hours to get things done and you’re barely working at all, there is a huge imbalance here. She may be feeling important –“They can’t do it without me! See how work-oriented I am!”– but if I worked that much and had 80% of the projects, I’d burn out fast.

      1. Blergh*

        Great advice, Elizabeth! The problem for me is that I think my coworker relishes how much work she has to do as it makes her feel relevant. When I used to have more projects (delegated by our former manager), I had to ask a lot of questions. I believe it made my coworker feel that it was easier to just do things herself.

        I should point out that it’s not just me. We are a five person team. This coworker works well/shares work with two of the five, but seems less inclined to share work with me or the fifth team member. She’s also very vocal in her dislike of the fifth team member. Drama!

  61. Incognito Kitty*

    I will try to keep this brief – let’s see how that goes…

    Was supposed to be off this week but two issues have got me rethinking my career path.

    Monday I had errands planned and an appointment. I had to go into work because a coworker didn’t leave their computer on and needed to remote in (they were out of state.). While there needed to do some emergency transactions that they should have done, but couldn’t remote in and time was now an issue. Later that afternoon I got an email from this coworker that they couldn’t remote in, even though I asked them to check to make sure they remembered how before leaving last Friday – and was assured they were good. I had to remote in to the laptop and reconfigure the VPN connection they somehow deleted.

    Monday night we had a storm from hell in our area and we lost power at my house – along with a couple thousand dollars worth of damage to our property.

    I was grateful that at least work had power.

    Tuesday same coworker needed me to correct an error they made the previous Wednesday -despite that this should have been checked prior to leaving on Friday. This is a critical and time sensitive task so waiting was not an option.

    I had to correct this is the data tables on an iPad because I didn’t have a power converter at the time to run my laptop. 10 minute task took an hour with me sitting in the car trying to stay charged. I was told the major critical task was being done that night.

    Next morning (Wednesday) I wake up to find work has no power. My first thought was a very bad word, but at least major critical task was done last night so there’s that.

    Until I get a text that they didn’t do it the night before, they were going to do it that morning but no power. Super emergency needs to be done by noon, no later. Comed has no idea when they will get power back since several hundred thousand customers were still out.

    Without power no phones, so the mainline is routed to my cell. So I’m taking company calls on my cell and sending messages via text. And I have no power so I’m tethered to my car so I can stay charged.

    I ask them to call me to find a solution – I’m told they have a lot of noise in the vacation house and will call me when they can. Now I’m aggravated.

    Finally speak to them and ask how far long the process is and is the data on their desktop or still in system on servers? This sounds cryptic, but that’s here…I was specifically asking them if XYZ was done and what part of the process so I could get a plan together. They were adamant that it was done through Y so all the data needed was on desktop. Not servers? Desktop. I have texts of them stating this as well as my bending over backwards to make damn sure on the phone. Desktop.

    This is a coworker with whom I’ve always had an excellent relationship and prior to this we were actually friends. I’ve helped them a lot with different things often – over and above my job because she would freak out about being in over their head so I helped her a lot with training and explaining stuff.

    I asked why this wasn’t done the night before – because that was the reason I had to fix their error last night so she could do it and if they’d said it once they’d said it 1000x that they were planning on doing it Tuesday night. The tone that came back at me blew me away – apparently they didn’t have to do it early and they couldn’t know the power would go out, and they don’t need me being snippy because “you know, I’m on vacation.”

    I wasn’t snippy before, but …holy shit…like I wasn’t on vacation? Like I wasn’t killing myself to figure out a way for this to get done while they take their time calling me back?

    So while they want to discuss if I’m mad at them, I say I need to know one last time if everything is saved to the desktop – so I can arrange to move their pc to a place with power so they can get in.

    I do this. I make calls, get another employee who loves near with power to pull their pc, take it home, get it online – I test the remote – tell now not friend coworker that spathes can log in. NFC says they can’t get in through the VPN. Well, duh, which is why I said to use logmein which is what I already told you. So have to send that info again – even thou given to them multiple times in past. They log in and text me that they can’t do it because they can’t get to the shared drive.

    What part of is everything saved to your desktop because there is zero access to the servers which you answered in the affirmative 7 times would lead to this question.

    I am at this point so frustrated by their lack of understanding direct and clarifying questions – because I know they aren’t computer savvy so I was as clear as if it was an explain like I’m 5 thread.

    I tell them I can get a power converter, hook it up to my car battery and power the server long enough for me to pull the file but I need more time – since were now almost at the deadline. The response?

    Oh no, that’s okay. TPTB said to do X – so I don’t need it. Casual as can be.

    And don’t forget while doing all of this? I’m taking all the company calls on my cell.

    Okay so so much for being brief.

    TLDR – can one shitty phone call ruin a working relationship which previously had been good? I submit that it can and the phrase, “I am on vacation.” can easily kill a work friendship.

    I don’t even care – I work very well with people I don’t like all the time. But this person is known for being really needy when they think someone doesn’t like them – they have a deep seated need to be liked by everyone which I am not equipped to understand. It’s just going to be awkward at work. And I may be overreacting – but I’m tired of people acting like doing their job is some kind of imposition.

    Upside? I have power again as of this morning and the sound of my washing machine/dryer is making me ridiculously happy. I would have made a horrible pilgrim – I need electricity in my life far more than love or companionship.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Does this coworker know that you were on vacation also? If not, that could explain part (but not all) of the attitude.

      I think you should spell out for her exactly what the impact was on you when she returns — making it clear how much of your vacation week you spent at work and dealing with work from home because of her. I have to think she doesn’t quite realize it (even if she should).

      I also think you need a real vacation, and you need to go to your boss next week and say that you need to schedule a week when you’re really, truly away, and when everyone behaves as if they would if you were in Tahiti and totally unreachable (even if you’re actually just at home) — because they would figure out a way to get through a week without you if they had to. And if that’s truly impossible, then your company needs to hire someone to function as your back-up when you’re not supposed to be working.

      1. Incognito Kitty*

        Oh absolutely – we’re on shut down so the office is closed – totally knew I was off. They had this thing to do and I was available for emergencies, but we were getting comp time for that so it wasn’t like doing this task was a favor to anyone – it’s her job and she agreed to do it over break.

        She knew I was without power and all the damage because like I said, we were friends, and I texted her pics of the wtf that is my property right now and I offered to drive over to her place to see if there was damage before all the chaos started. She knew what I was dealing with.

        And yeah, the power going down was an emergency totally my job to help deal with – but she knew I was dealing with answering the company calls and comed – and she wasn’t listening when I asked her direct questions and she made this much more complicated than it needed to be because of her lack of attention.

        I am not a “not my job” kind of person – but the impulse was there to just say look – act of god the power is down good luck with everything. I couldn’t do that because this task was critical to the whole company – but the tendency to rely too much on other people usually doesn’t bother me much with her, but it came to a head when she got snotty. And I was shocked – because she’s usually overly nice and she picks now to bust out the attitude? When I’m dealing with company phones, no power at home or work?

        I got the feeling she felt this was more of an inconvenience to her because she’s away on vacation and I’m just home – and to be honest my time home is as precious to me as time away and the attitude just grated.

        I definitely need time to recover from my vacation and will schedule a significant block Monday. And yep – off the grid. They did it when I was out for a week on medical last year, they can do it again.

        And definitely a conversation Monday where there needs to be a checklist of what she needs to have done before leaving where she has to do X remotely and a plan B for how she will do this should there be another outage. I think she just assumes I will take care of stuff and that needs to stop – she needs to have a plan for how she will manage things and what she needs from IT in those cases.

        1. Chriama*

          Do you think it might be a good idea to make it a habit of yearly ‘unreachable’ vacations? Get them into the habit of coping without you — and also make them more grateful when you come back ;)

          1. Girasol*

            (Aside) I wish real “see you next week!” vacations would come back into fashion. Vacation is too much like working from home. I’m not complaining about my company but about the general American (at least) working culture that expects people to work 40 hours a week in the office and as much as needed all the rest of the time.

        2. EB*

          You are more forgiving than i am. I would be reporting the failure to preform critical tasks and install vpn before leaving, along with failure to follow directions when employees are pulled out of vacation to help troubleshoot to her boss. Her refusal to follow directions could have cost the company significantly. If she failed to follow your directions will a checklist really help? She may need to know there are consequences to not doing things.

          From what she got you to do for her, she doesn’t need to really do anything before leaving on vacation because you will fix it and spend all the time and effort instead of her.

        3. Colette*

          Yes, this is definitely time to implement consequences – including being openly irritated with her. What she did was not ok.

          I think this is a similar principle to giving someone a ride because it’s easy for you – and then having them expect constant rides, because it wasn’t a problem before. If you’re too helpful, some people will be insulted by any attempts to be less helpful.

          (I was off this week, too, and I’ve been sick all week. I couldn’t even sit up for five days. Sounds like your week was worse.)

        4. Elizabeth West*

          A checklist is a great idea. Now that you know this could be a thing, it’s best to be proactive about its continued eventuality. And yeah, I ‘d let her know I’m not happy.

          I can’t imagine anyone needing me while I’m gone this autumn, but with internet I can check my email just in case. That doesn’t mean I can do much from 4,386 miles away. Knowing my boss, she won’t bother me unless it’s a total disaster in the making. And I have procedurals for everything I do, so if someone had to do it, they could.

        5. Kiwi*

          When your office and home are out of power, most reasonable organisations would consider a periodic attempt to login to be sufficient effort at your end. Holing up in your car is really not necessary (though I admire your tenacity and work ethic).

          Your bitter colleague sounds like a fair-weather friend and a user. She was always super-dooper lovely to you because you were always helping her get her own work done. The second you couldn’t do this (despite really going above and beyond), she turns on you.

          Time to be less helpful (i.e. no more so that you would for anyone else and let her sink or swim. Sorry, but she’s not your friend and you owe her nothing.

        6. Trillian*

          I can just see the steam coming out of your ears. Yikes.

          Does your company have a newsletter, so you can communicate some basic lessons in disaster-proofing (again?)? Even if it does not penetrate to people like your coworker, it might get through to her manager and those higher up. And if there are better programs or apps for the kind of emergency support you were doing, now might be the time to ask for them.

          With your coworker, I’d watch for her playing the victim if you communicate your annoyance. Stay task-focused. Done is done; what you need is for this not to happen again.

          And – vacation, yes.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Oh, girl, I’m sorry.

        My IT dept uses me as their stress relief also and so I know that these kind of antics are too terribly common.

        I guess the only thing I can say is that it’s a “fool me once” sort of situation. The co-worker is now on the list of people who can’t be be believed when she’s crying wolf (or giving technical information, ffs).

        You have the power to choose whom you extend yourself to. There are people in my company who couldn’t get ice water in hell after what they’ve put IT through/how they have treated them.

    2. Shell*

      You are a better person than I am–I would’ve been tempted to answer their “I’m on vacation” with “well, I am ALSO on vacation, except I’m now spending my vacation cleaning up YOUR mess.”

      Okay, don’t take advice from me, the remark above won’t make you any friends. But…wow.

      …I know you don’t like hugs, so I’m sending you e-cookies through the internet. And muffins.

      1. fposte*

        I was going with “Actually, *both* of us are on vacation, but only one of us is bitching about it.”

      1. Incognito Kitty*

        Ha – that’s funny. I didn’t mention the minutes of my life I lost explaining the answer to this question: “I don’t understand why I can’t remote in just because we lost power at work – I have power here.”

        I get that people have various degree of technology knowledge – but, really?

        I appreciate the empathy from everyone – really made me feel better.

        I’ll be professional when I handle it on Monday. I’m just cranky now because my vacation sucked worse than being at work, my yard is trashed and garbage cans full of several hundreds of dollars worth of freezer food which didn’t make it – go figure in summer freezers need electricity to stay cold. I just hope my neighbors cans smell as bad as mine do.

        And the one thing I was planning to do over break? Didn’t get done because of the power troubleshooting so I’m starting next week already back logged. I could do it today but I not gonna! :)

          1. fposte*

            Presumably her power was out too long for her to be confident of the food’s safety.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think I would tell the company that I worked X time during my vacation, and I need to have those days returned to me.

      As I read along, I thought “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” If only things were that simple.

      While you are talking about getting your vacation time back perhaps you can talk the company into getting a generator OR a back up system that would be accessible when their own system is down. (Disaster planning?)

      I think their reliance on you is way too high and is unrealistic.

    4. Graciosa*

      To answer your question, yes, this can ruin your working relationship if you don’t find a way to resolve this. You are feeling put upon – very understandably – and you need to stand up for yourself and enforce some boundaries.

      Part of that is the conversation Alison mentioned with your co-worker, and taking some real time to take care of yourself – but another part is making the commitment to take care of yourself regularly in the future. That means setting boundaries – even if you have to give up your image of yourself as someone who will never let anyone down at work and who will do whatever is needed to get the job done. Sometimes saying (politely), “I’m sorry, I can’t help you” is the right thing to do.

      You’ll notice your co-worker had no problem saying she couldn’t do the task and TPTB found an alternative. You need to find ways to do this yourself – before you get as close to the breaking point as you are now.

      Good luck.

  62. Tris Prior*

    So, Partner’s job has recently turned even more toxic than it had already been, plus now there’s a threat of layoffs. He is now looking. I used a lot of the great info that I’ve found here to help him redo his resume to focus on accomplishments – even when he insisted “I haven’t really accomplished anything,” together we were able to find and describe ways that he really HAD – complete with numbers! Yay!

    I’m just worried because he’s got several strikes against him, in my opinion:
    * he is in his mid-40s,
    * no bachelor’s degree,
    * generally gives off a geeky/weird/nerdy vibe that many corporate types find off-putting (sadly, he is not in tech where that would be an asset!)
    * no clear idea of what he wants to do. He has always done general office manager/admin work and is perfectly content to do that. He doesn’t feel a need to climb a corporate ladder or have increasing responsibility; he is an artist and his ideal job is one that he goes to, does, and comes home from so that he can then work on his art.

    So, he really has no idea even what industry to target, other than, “someplace where my work can help people rather than hurting people.” Unfortunately, his present job involves the latter. :/

    I’d suggest that he look for work in the arts, like me, but the reality is that he needs to make a certain salary and arts jobs here pay SO poorly (speaking from personal experience). Or nonprofits – but again, salary could be an issue and I’ve heard good and bad things about them. Also, he is incapable of faking allegiance to a cause he does not believe in, so it’d have to be something he feels strongly about. (no judgment; I am the same way.)

    Just venting, really. This weekend we’re going to try and brainstorm some fields that he might be interested in.

    1. BRR*

      I work at a university and right now they’re hiring for two types of business management positions both in art departments. Could that be a possibility? I think having someone who understands art but who has the track record of doing business stuff would be a great candidate.

        1. BRR*

          Nope sorry :(

          If I were you I would make a list of the art organizations he would be interested in (I like bigger ones so this might be different for you) and check them regularly, apply as good fits are posted. I have found in arts any interest in the arts translates across all arts. So I worked at a music organization. There were many museum people. So many have no interest in the arts that sub specialty doesn’t really matter. Also the universities.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking colleges and universities as well, though those jobs can be very competitive.

      But I also agree with you that this is tough, and I think that between the three factors of limited qualifications, salary threshold, and a significant “won’t” category he may need to pick two rather than hold out for all three.

      1. Onymouse*

        Yes, and even if he gets an “evil” job, he can donate additional monies to charities of his choosing, if that would help.

      2. Tris Prior*

        Several people have suggested universities to us recently, so it sounds like that is something to pursue. Thank you!

        And, I’d disagree that he has limited qualifications… he’s got a ton of experience. Just no bachelor’s degree, only an associates. Going back to school is, unfortunately, not in the budget at this time. (and, I’d argue that at his age it shouldn’t matter given that he’s been in the workforce for more than 20 years, but I can see how not having the piece of paper is often a dealbreaker for employers.)

          1. fposte*

            And in case it needs emphasis–network the hell out of the situation. People are a lot less concerned with qualifications when they know the 3D person.

          2. Persephone Mulberry*

            Agreed with fposte on this one. IME it is REALLY hard to get a job in higher ed without a degree. The ATS often auto-rejects if a degree is set as a required qualification.

    3. Chriama*

      In reading your post I’m reminded of those house hunting shows where people have a budget and a list of demands. Usually they end up settling by increasing the budget or giving up some amenities. I feel like your SO might be in that situation. To be honest, a job that pays well but also lets him completely unplug at the end of the day sounds like a bit of a purple unicorn. Most admin/clerical jobs don’t really pay well because so they get filled with people and the beginning or end of their careers. If he’s somewhere in the middle, where his earning potential is hitting its peak, entry level isn’t going to cut it. Maybe an admin role with more of a managerial role (e.g. office manager where you oversee other admins) might be better?

      Since he’s ambivalent on the actual position, he might be better off brainstorming lists of:
      a) salary he could live with
      b) job tasks he could live with
      And then looking for jobs that intersect those 2 lines. I wouldn’t focus too much on industry because companies vary so widely. I suspect he’d do better at a small company, just because someone who doesn’t want to move up the ladder at a big company is usually made redunant.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree he needs to sort out what are his real deal breakers and what are his preferences – because he could look a long time and not find something to meet those specific criteria.

        I do suggest that if he takes a job in an industry that isn’t a cause for him that he keep that to himself at work. I’m not saying be gung-ho about making widgets – but talking about how making widgets is evil and hurting the country and how do widget makers sleep nights is tiresome conversation in a widget office. I worked with someone like that once.

        To their credit they eventually left to do a similar job at a non-profit they believed in and took a huge pay cut to do so. I admire that – but could have lived without the moral lectures for a year or so prior. (And the evil industry was marketing – not even marketing harmful products but marketing in general was against her principles because she was anti-capitalist. That was the first time I was aware that was a thing.)

        1. Tris Prior*

          I agree that he needs to sit down and get some of this on paper. I’m a big fan of making lists like this and seeing where things intersect. His skills are very transferable but I think that sometimes that can mean casting too broad a net, and I think he needs to get clearer on what he wants and what he can live without.

          He’s not the type to share much personal about himself at work any more (having been burned in the past), so I don’t think he would go off on how all corporations are evil or anything like that. I don’t think he even really believes that. (of the two of us, I’m the one more likely to feel that way! One reason why I work in the arts.)

          But it is important to him that whatever company he is at is not actively in the business of screwing people, as his current company is. This means changing industries, so he needs to figure out which industries are a better fit.

          1. Chriama*

            Wouldn’t it be easier to look at positions and companies and work his network rather than choosing industries? Some industries/companies might be a no right off the bat (e.g. collections calling for medical bills), but I think most of them will be neutral for him. That’s why I think he’s better off deciding what kind of a job he wants and then working his network.

            The only risk with transferable skills is that they aren’t a substitute for direct experience. That’s why deciding what he wants to do, figuring out how his interests align with his skills (measurable achievements!) and then looking at positions.

            I would say the degree thing may or may not limit him. If he has no related degree and also no direct experience, yeah, that could be a problem. Otherwise (especially at small companies or positions gotten through networking!), I think employers are going to look at him as a whole package.

    4. Graciosa*

      Does he have any interest in going into business for himself? Finding a well-paying job without even a bachelor’s degree is not going to be easy. I don’t know whether his art offers any possibilities if that’s really where he wants to spend his time. Could he do anything to earn money by helping other artists (teaching, open a gallery – do artists have agents? – setting up a co-op for studio space)?

      He needs to make some pretty important decisions about his life – what is most important to him, and what is he willing to do to get it?

      1. Tris Prior*

        I have my own business and I’m pretty sure that has turned him off to starting his own because he sees the hell I go through! :) He has shown at galleries and sold a few pieces but not regularly enough to make a living from it.

        I really appreciate everyone’s input. I don’t think he’s being realistic, especially since he thinks he’ll have this sorted in a couple months. (huh??? Clearly he does not read this blog. :) To be fair, though, every time he got laid off he had something else within a month, even after the economy tanked, so that is what he is used to.) But at least now we have somewhat of a place to start.

    5. Sarah*

      First of all, I’d like to say that my intention here is to be pragmatic, not judgmental, so if something sounds harsh, it’s because I didn’t want to mince words and not because I’m having any negative thoughts about your partner as a person.

      I would suggest, rather than looking at fields of interest, that you look at possible job functions where social skills are not necessary to thrive. (Because if he is going to make a salary that isn’t a pittance without either getting into a field where faking your way into a prescribed industry culture is nearly mandatory or dealing with a very demanding job, he’s going to need to be someone who thrives in his field imo.) A good thing to look at may be areas where he is simply providing a service, and the quality and speed of the service he provides is the only thing that the company cares about – he wouldn’t need to be working closely with others, seeing clients, etc. Graphic design, freelance writing or translating, technical writing, or other positions like that may be a good option.

      It’s my experience that even if an industry allows for certain quirks in the production workers (like the engineers at a software company), the same quirks may not be tolerated in people in management, administrative, HR, etc type positions. My experience in tech is that people (especially women) in HR, marketing, sales, etc need to be super cool guys, cheerleaders or den mothers. I don’t know if the same is true for arts and nonprofits, but I would be surprised if it weren’t to some extent. People might not be cast out for seeming more nerdy than cool, but they definitely need the ability to fit into a corporate culture and fake allegiances (because I don’t know of anyone who never has to enforce or inform people of or otherwise support the occasional person or rule that they don’t agree with, and it’s unprofessional in many cases to express your disagreement). The only way out of it is to be someone whose job is strictly production rather than administration or management, and even then it may occasionally be required. A government job where it takes a lot to fire someone might be doable – since he wouldn’t be fired for not having the prescribed attitude about things – but again, you’d probably need to at least come across as someone who drinks the kool aid to move up (and therefore get any salary bumps).

  63. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    Geeze, almost forgot my shout out to AAM with help on a significant problem a week ago.

    A year or so ago, we added full time writers under someone who is under me. (Translation: I’m the boss’s boss.)

    Well the first year was pretty much a disaster. I gave the boss a lot of rope to form his own team. He was a new hire and highly skilled in many areas but, turns out, management isn’t one of them. Painful time, we rebooted staff, and this time out, we’ve agreed that I’ll keep a bit closer eye to help him along. One of the things we agreed to is that any a certain type of writing piece will need my sign off before it is published.

    The first packet of copy I get I’m like, ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. It’s not my job to edit but this really needs to be rewritten, what do I do???

    Well, there was a conversation here and I don’t remember if it was Alison or a reader who highlighted the difference between the writing style of an academic paper vs business writing but I was right in the middle of my UGH phase when I read that.

    Called the group together and said hey, you guys have a great start here, let me tell you what I’d like to see re style. This reads more like a college english paper. I’d like it to be more like business writing so would you please keep the same content, but make it 25% shorter. There are a lot of extra words. Find spots where you are using five words where one would do just as well. How does that sound?

    I waited to be stoned because criticizing other people’s writing is touchy but damned if they weren’t quite receptive.

    What happened next was: a week later I got revisions that were straight on the money. I about died with happiness!

    Ya’ll can take a bow please, thank you very much!

    1. Chriama*

      +1 the power of crowdsourcing. It especially rocks when the crowd is so excellent to begin with.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


        This was so important to me and I didn’t even have to ask the question to get the help.

        I was focused from the other direction, worried about how it would look to people if I broke out a red pen and started doing actual edits (and worried I’d be stuck with that work if I did it once, also).

        Just brilliant how it all turned out.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I get that reinforced here and I really appreciate it.

        My biggest weakness as a manager still is not knowing when to press the pedal down and when to let up.

        In the case of the prior year’s fail, I made the decision (I think rightly) to stay out of his way and let him build his team and his product. The fail was pretty big so I then had the fear I was going to over correct and create another year’s fail by managing too closely.

        Yay again for AAM and company. :)

        1. Chriama*

          Just remember what Alison says — it’s ok to admit if you don’t know something or made a mistake. Feedback is good.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          You’re doing better than I would. I’m afraid I would be a huge disaster as a manager. If I ever have big success and have a staff, I’ll be on here all the time going, “Halp!” And frantically downloading Alison’s manager book.

    2. Tris Prior*

      As a former writer – you did great! This is exactly the sort of feedback I would want, rather than a vague “your style is wrong,” “your writing isn’t good” or my personal favorite, “this needs to be better.”

  64. SadNews*

    My SO is the manager of a 10-ish people department, and I wonder if he could have done something better in a recent situation involving the death of one of his reports. One day last week one of people in his department didn’t come into work on time, so he called them and didn’t get an answer. In the afternoon after no one being able to contact this person, someone went over to where they lived, saw their car was still there and knocked on the door. After getting no answer that person went back and reported to my SO they couldn’t get an answer. At that point a welfare check was called in, and the police found the person dead. A company wide email was sent out with the news that day (I have no idea if family had been contacted at that point.) My SO didn’t explicitly ask if anyone had a problem with the situation and needed some type of accommodation like go home early, and also didn’t offer to let people work at home the next day. His response to why he didn’t was that work had to be done. I think he could’ve managed it better. What do other managers think?

    1. Chriama*

      Death of a coworker is a BFD and I think your SO flubbed it.
      I don’t know if letting people work from home is really the answer (they still need to get work done, so it kind of implies “get your work done but deal with your grief somewhere I don’t have to see it), but he definitely should have let people go home early that afternoon. He also should have made a point of pointing employees to the EAP and gotten in contact with the employee’s relatives (I’m assuming no spouse or the employee would have been missed sooner, poor thing).

    2. Shell*

      …huh, I honestly think I would’ve reacted like your SO. If there was a family member of the deceased coworker on staff then yeah, no question, let them go. And I could see suggesting EAP. But I wouldn’t think to just let people go home or work from home.

      I once had to call 911 for a coworker after he splashed his face with conc. acid, and a few of us (myself included) who were there scrambling to help while the ambulance showed up were definitely shaken. But this incident didn’t happen on premises, and even the coworker who did the home check didn’t see the scene, they were just told what happened. To me, there was no outright traumatizing incident to the rest of the staff (even though a death of a coworker that you like is traumatizing, it’s not…an acute incident).

      I don’t know if I’m wording this well, but even with my closest coworkers, I’d not expect to be sent home or otherwise accommodated, absent an incident that happened while I was physically there OR if I was a family member of the deceased.

      I’m assuming your SO did attempt to contact the family members of the deceased staff member, though.

      1. De (Germany)*

        Many of my coworkers are people I consider friends. Receiving those news would certainly make me unable to focus on work for a while.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      We had a co-worker pass away several years ago. Our circumstances were a little different in that it happened over a weekend, but we’d all worked with this woman for 15+ years and the loss was still very fresh on Monday.

      We couldn’t really let anybody off work, but we had a grief counselor come in, information about EAP was distributed, accommodations were made so that everyone could attend either the visitation or the funeral and we planted a tree outside the building in her memory.

    4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Ideally, your SO should have had some help from HR to make choices. He was shocked by the death also. Routine is a comfort and staying in routine is one of the ways that people cope.

      I definitely wouldn’t rehash it with him.

      1. Anon1234*

        A person died and work just went on? That is awful. One day off and time to attend funeral if they want to. This happened once where I worked- and they handled it right. We were met at door of office, told what happened and told to go home. We weren’t close to this person, but it was what you do when someone dies- acknowledge it.

        1. Cat*

          I definitely think you should acknowledge it but I don’t know if sending everyone home is standard acknowledging procedure.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          That’s not an actual thing, an office or a business closing when a co-worker dies. It’s not a tradition or given practice.

          There are many reasons it isn’t practical: you’re customer facing, you provide essential services, closing would reduce pay for hourly workers, etc. etc.

          What is or should be a thing is HR being able to help with grief services for people who are affected and managers being sensitive to co-workers with special needs. If the co-worker’s best friend works there also, if people break down, if somebody says “I just can’t work, I have to bolt”, then you let those people go.

          The OP’s SO did what he thought was right. Rehashing it with him as an outsider to the situation is out of place, that’s what I think. I wish he had help from HR to look out for an identify anybody who needed extra care that day.

        3. Jamie*

          I understand the sentiment and yes, people who were particularly close to them should be able to speak to their managers about what they need – but it’s not practical in all instances to shut down an entire company when someone dies.

          As WT mentioned it costs hourly people part of their salary, can cause customer issues, and in some places like law enforcement and health care could endanger others. I’m pretty sure there are people at my work who would be sad if I died – but I’d certainly expect work to continue.

          1. Anon1234*

            Most offices can let people from that dept. go- of course, I am not referring to entire medical teams/police forces, but even then the people effected would most likely go home.

    5. fposte*

      I don’t see why you’d let people work at home the next day. If people need time off from work, they need time off from work, but working at home doesn’t seem to accommodate that. I also don’t know if I’d have closed the office early.

      I think you’re phrasing it as if the only/most important way to support people was to let them not be in the office. I think it’s both possible and usually preferable to support people in place.

    6. Jamie*

      In some industries going home early or working from home isn’t an option even in these horrible circumstances.

      I take huge issue with sending out an announcement before getting the word that family had been notified. All it takes is for one coworker to know how family, assume they know, and call expressing condolences to people who have no idea.

      That’s awful – and something they need to keep in mind should something like this ever happen again.

      1. fposte*

        It sounded like it’s possible the family was notified, though–Sad News just didn’t know whether they had or not.

        And you know, that’s going to vary anyway. My colleagues are going to note my absence a lot quicker than my distant relatives, and will mourn me more. (Some of them are my emergency contacts and presumably would have been involved before any official announcement.) Maybe I should affix an In Case of Emergency note in my office saying “Don’t wait to hunt down next of kin–just let everybody here know right away.”

        1. Jamie*

          I was thinking of immediate family – if you waited to inform my distant relatives about my death my coworkers would wait for years to be told I’m not coming back. I don’t even talk to them while I’m alive.

          I was just thinking if it was me I have people at work who know my husband and kids. If his first notification of my death was one of my coworkers calling to see if there was anything they could do it would just make a tragic situation worse.

          So for sure I think parents, children, spouses, SOs – I just think they should wait for confirmation that they’ve been notified before making an official announcement or at very least tell people they don’t know if next of kin has been notified so they don’t start dialing too soon.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Awful story:

        When I got word that my first husband had died, I was at work. I was at work, my kids were at daycare and my husband’s mother was at my house.

        I got someone to drive me home, we were racing to get to my mother in law so I could tell her. Before I left the building, I called the daycare to tell them (a friend of ours ran it) and ask my friend to keep the boys until we could get to them.

        Unfortunately, my friend called the house and spoke to my mother in law to express sympathy before I got to her.

        It was awful.

        1. Jamie*

          I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine.

          People need to hold their calls.

          Totally different scenario but I raced home from out of state when my dad was sick, but I had no idea it was the end. When I got to the hospital and my sister hugged me and told me they had just given him last rites. She meant that to be comforting, she assumed I knew he was dying – but I didn’t. If I heard it from anyone else and over the phone I’d have lost it.

          Of all the communications in the world this one needs to be micromanaged.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            He was her only child, it was sudden, and he was 28 years old so, just about as awful as that could get.

            There was traffic that day but, even though it felt like hours in the car, it couldn’t have taken more than half an hour to get home.

            By the time we pulled up… it was awful.

            Oddest day of my life. The time distortions were unreal. Everything in slow motion, the feel of every moment burned into my memory.

            Anyway yes, people need to hold their calls. News travels even faster now but some folks must be told in person.

            1. fposte*

              It’s so weird how the timestream changes, and yet outside the individual plummet down the waterfall it all keeps flowing on.

          2. fposte*

            Seriously. Even when everybody knows there’s a decline happening, there’s always a certain shock to the irreversibility of death.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            She’s the impulsive sort.

            To make up for it, she’s the matchmaker who introduced to me to my husband of the last 16 years (as well as the adoptive father who raised my boys!)

            So…… yes, she’s still my friend. :)

    7. The Other Dawn*

      I agree with Jamie that the email should not have gone out until he was certain the family was notified. It’s a small world and you never know who is related to whom.

      Even though a company-wide email went out, I would hope that he had a short meeting with his own staff to relay the information. At that point he could have asked if anyone felt they needed to take a break or a walk or something. I don’t think sending them home or having them work from home the next day is necessary.

    8. Daisy*

      This happened in my office this week. I think our manager was just caught off guard and we all understand that it is an unusual and sad occasion. We did take things easy and coped with it in our own ways at work. We are still working through things but we all know that our manager is approachable and we are all adult enough to realize that we can always ask for time or space or whatever we we need from them. Our manager took time off and we all have the option of taking time off as well – it wasn’t said but the office is very flexible with things.

      The question I have to follow up on this is – we have been unable to find out what the funeral/memorial arrangements are or when they will be. We would like to possibly attend or send flowers. The death was on Monday and it is now Friday with no word from the family. We have searched local newspapers, local funeral homes websites, etc. for information. Does anyone have any ideas on how to find out more? The next of kin is a relative that we are not familiar with and who is coming from out of town. Would it be odd for us to approach the company’s HR to get the brothers contact information? Would it be rude to contact the brother?

      1. Jamie*

        This is typically something HR should announce if the family gives them the information. And when possible the company should accommodate attendance for those who desire to go, IMO.

        No harm in asking HR if they know anything, but if it’s not in the paper and the the company hasn’t been informed I’d assume it was a private service. It’s pretty standard protocol or put it in the obit if it’s an open service.

        If anyone contacts the brother it should be one person and someone who officially has access to the contact info – HR should never give it to anyone no matter how kind the motives. They will need to contact the next of kin for final paycheck arrangements, any life insurance through work, 401k liquidation, etc. Whoever is handling that should ask if they want to announce arrangements to coworkers.

        I’m not good at the whole end of life thing, so those non-negotiable protocols like putting it in the paper along with in lieu of flowers were so helpful – saved a million calls. And if private they could have stated that in the paper as well.

        1. fposte*

          I think people who diss ritual have never tried to get through a hard life transition. It’s tough enough to follow a prescribed course, let alone to make stuff up as you go.

    9. Elizabeth West*

      We lost a coworker at Exjob. It happened over the weekend. When I came in on Monday, the GM came over to me and told me. He was very well-liked by everyone (yes I did cry at my desk, but no one said anything). It was a very hard day and we got through it. The atmosphere around the office was subdued and gloomy for a couple of weeks, but the boss and HR didn’t say a word about our glum attitudes.

      The funeral was on the weekend, so we didn’t have to miss work (I didn’t go), although they were usually pretty good about people attending services in general. I don’t think it even occurred to anybody that work would stop–we just did our jobs as usual.

      The only thing that really pissed me off was at the quarterly meeting a few months later. They were going over the events of the quarter and didn’t even MENTION it. It was as if he never existed. I don’t know whether they had been asked not to mention it by his boss (who was also his friend), or whether they were worried all the guys might mist up, but it seemed kind of cold to me. As Chriama said, it was definitely a BFD.

      1. Girasol*

        That’s sad.

        In my company a great and well-liked coworker lost a battle with cancer. The department announced an annual award in his name for the person who best exemplifies his values. It’s been years now and they’re still awarding it.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Aww, that’s really nice. :)

          I still get mad when I think about it. As I said, it might have been requested that they not say anything, and I can definitely see this manager not saying anything because HE was uncomfortable, but grrr.

    10. SadNews*

      Update – No EAP at SO’s workplace, and he had no help from HR either. No company wide procedure for what to do either, but it’s a medium sized company with multiple locations, so it probably should (it’s dysfunctional in other ways too). SO was working with HR to get family contact info before contacting the police but there was none on file. At the point SO contacted the police everyone in the department knew there was a problem, since multiple people had already tried contacting that person, and more than likely the person who want to check on them told everyone that person wasn’t answering the door. As someone who has had a family member die suddenly and another family member was the one to find them, IMHO contacting the police for a welfare check is so much better than trying to contact a family member to do so, especially if you don’t know the family. As of yet no word on funeral arrangements, but SO is trying to organize a dinner with coworkers as a sort of memorial for the person who died. I think the major problem I have with the situation is how HR handled it, not so much how SO handled it.

      1. Chriama*

        I think he knows his workplace best, so business as usual might have been the best option for people to cope. The only other thing I would recommend is keeping a closer eye on his team in the meanwhile to see if anyone takes it especially hard. There are probably community-funded resources available if someone needs them.

        I know one time someone I know died — he was married to a friend of my mom’s and I really didn’t like him. I thought I was perfectly fine and then like 2 weeks later I randomly started crying. Death does that to people.

        If they really want to get in touch with the family or find out about the memorial or whatever, he might also try getting in contact with the police, but at this point it sounds like the coworker was kind of isolated. There are people like that in the world :'(

    11. CAA*

      This has happened a couple of times when I wasn’t the manager, and once when I was. The typical protocol seems to be to send out an email announcement after the family has been notified and then a follow-up with information about the funeral for those who want to attend. I wouldn’t close the office and send everyone home though.

      The one time when I had to deal with something similar as the manager, we were in a remote office of about 20 people, 12 of whom reported to me; and the wife of one of my employees committed suicide. Although I did not know her, several other employees attended the same church and were friends outside of work. They were very shocked and upset, and I did tell people if they needed to take the afternoon off to please do so. Of course we gave the employee who had lost his wife as much time as he needed and he did come back and work with us for another year or so.

    12. Sarah*

      I’m not someone who tends to get very emotionally invested in my coworkers so your SO’s reaction would not have bothered me. However, when a coworker died at a previous job of mine, the owner reacted similarly and specifically said that if people needed to take breaks during the day to collect themselves during that day or the next day, he was fine with it. Several people were really offended by it — they thought he should have let people go home and were pissed about the implied deadline to their grieving periods (he said “today or tomorrow” but I don’t think he literally meant that no one could take a crying break after 3 days, and I honestly think that he is just an all-business type of person who meant well). So while I personally wouldn’t have been upset with your SO, my experience with other, more emotional people tells me that yes, he may have messed up.

  65. Is This Legal*

    In U.S., does man walk in front of women or behind women say when going to lunch?

    1. Chriama*

      I think they walk side by side if they’re talking. If one of them is a guest, the guest usually trails a little behind the host (because they don’t always know where they’re going). I’m super modern (turning 21 in 3 weeks! woot!) so I don’t know the official ettiquette, but I also probably wouldn’t observe it even if I did :p

    2. fposte*

      Yes, generally people walking together wouldn’t go in single file. A committed male door-opener might make a point of getting to doors first to open them for the woman to go through, but that’s on the old-fashioned side for business etiquette.

    3. Jamie*

      I had to stop and think about this because yes, people walk along side when there is room. But when others are passing in a hall or sidewalk, going through doors, etc. men step behind unless going ahead to open the door and the they wait for the women to walk through.

      I don’t wait for or expect men to open doors for me, but almost exclusively men do so at work and I certainly raised my boys to open doors and allow women to pass first (but not insist if the woman declines.)

      But yes, ime when going single file men follow behind women.

      I don’t think it’s anything anyone does consciously at work – just ingrained habit. My dad used to open the car door for us, since he died I’ve had to manage all of my own car doors.

    4. Is This Legal*

      I’m confused because from my background men walk behind women (If anything happens to them we’re in position to protect) but in U.S. I have to think about it for fear I might be perceived creepy to look at women’s asses

      1. Sydney*

        When you’re walking down a corridor or the street, the person who best knows where they’re going should lead if forced into a single line. I’ve also noticed that the faster walker will tend to let the slower walker go first, to ensure they don’t get a block ahead before realizing they left the turtle behind.

        If going down stairs, typically the man will start down the stairs first, in a position to protect* the woman. If going up stairs, the man will be behind.

        *I think this custom is foolish because sometimes the woman is stronger, more agile and less clumsy than the man. I’ve seen more men fall down stairs because they weren’t paying as much attention or as careful when walking than I have seen women in a business setting. Bars and late night shenanigans are a different story, heavily dependent on the shoes involved.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        My experience it’s less a male/female thing with co-workers than a superior/subordinate thing. The superior walks a step or so ahead of the subordinate, regardless of gender.

        Or maybe it’s just that my superior has longer legs than I do that makes it seem that way. =)

    5. Sarah*

      When you are walking down a hallway or across a parking lot, say, you walk side by side. There is no gender rule for this. In situations where one person really needs to go before the other, though, the etiquette is generally that men should let women go first. (For example, when your group reaches a door, the most polite thing is for the men to let the women go through first. If there is some mud on the sidewalk and only a narrow part can be walked on, the men should let the women go in front.) Also, according to traditional etiquette men should walk on the side of the sidewalk that borders the street — however, that rule is fairly archaic and you would never need to follow it in a business setting.

  66. Gwennie*

    I have a question about internal promotions. My supervisor was promoted and I am applying for her vacated position. I’ve never applied for an internal position before, and I’d love some advice on how to frame the cover letter. My supervisor would again be my direct supervisor if I were hired, and she’ll be heading the search committee as well. To whom should I address the letter, and are there any specific things that I should be aware of?

    1. KJ*

      Address the letter to the head of the search committee, and you can address it to her in the way you address her at work. (So if you call her “Jane” at work, don’t call her “Ms. Doe” in the letter.)

      When you write your cover letter, for the most part treat it as any other cover letter. Don’t assume you can write a generic one because they know you’re awesome–it’s still part of how you present yourself. Also, as an internal candidate, you’re expected to have a better sense of the job than an external candidate. For example, if your department has a big project or goal for the next year, you might talk about how you would be great at managing and leading that.

      Good luck!

    2. Vancouver Reader*

      I would also mention in the cover letter if you’ve done any of the duties that are part of your supervisor’s position (ie. covered her position when she was on vacation). Like KJ said, you have to write your cover letter so that even those who don’t know you can figure out from your letter why you’re suited for the position.

  67. Anonyby*

    How do you handle downtime without internet access and without looking too unprofessional?

    I’m a receptionist, and because of the way things are set up I have a significant amount of downtime where I’m just waiting for the phone to ring or a client to walk in. I used to spend it doing a bit of internet browsing (since in my mind that’s a lot more subtle when clients walk in), but recently corporate has started a crackdown on non-work internet usage. This has left me scrambling to find a way of handling my downtime without looking unprofessional when clients do walk in.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      You could ask if anyone needs assistance on projects that you could do at your desk. Sorting documents, data entry, etc. I did that and when no one had anything for me, I plugged in my flash drive and did my own stuff (while still available for phone and visitors). It makes you look busy and fills up the time.

      1. Anonyby*

        Sadly, there isn’t many people whose projects I can work on! The office is mostly contractors, with the pay being separate. (They would have to pay me as an assistant, rather than simply allowing it to be a part of what the company pays me as an employee.)

        I had been using Google Drive… That was so nice. Not only did it automatically save, but I could use it anywhere with an internet connection without worry (which was very handy for the personal projects).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That’s why I like the flash drive. I don’t need internet for that (although some workplaces don’t like you plugging anything in). When I’m writing a book, I bring my computer and work at lunch, but once I transfer it from my writing program to Word, I can use the flash drive at lunch or if I’m waiting on a document or something.

      1. Anonyby*

        Ha! I’ve already done that with some of the threads on cover letters and resumes!

        1. Chriama*

          Have you tried asking your boss? Maybe there’s something professional-ish you could be doing online (e.g. online open course), and it might go over better to ask permission for that than for general permission to surf the web.

    2. Vancouver Reader*

      In one of my temp jobs, I kept my phone on my lap where it was hidden from people coming in the door and read my e-books.

      1. jesicka309*

        I used to download pdfs of books and read them on a small screen off a USB – no internet required. Or, if you can have headphones, watch TV shows. I watched all episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Breaking Bad, The Office, Friends, and lots of other shows that way.

        I was doing mindnumbing data entry though, and for me, having it running in the background made the boring work a bit more bearable. I’d definitely recommend the book strategy for you though. :) If you can get it in a text file, it looks like you’re reading HTML or code. :)

    3. Sarah*

      Given your position (where it’s normal that you’d have downtime), would you possibly be allowed to read business- or industry-related articles online? If you can access LinkedIn, Forbes, BusinessWeek, AAM, or any websites that relate to your industry, ask your boss if it would be an acceptable way to pass downtime – and if IT sends an alert about non-work usage, your boss can explain. If the internet is blocked or if it’s a bandwidth issue rather than a productivity issue, idk. I usually write lists when I have some screen-free bored time, and clients would probably assume you were writing for work. You could also try downloading books from a DRM-free source like Tuebl and converting them to PDFs (try Calibre), then sending them to your work computer on flash drives or google docs.

      1. Anonyby*

        Unfortunately, the order is coming from corporate, above my boss’s head. And it is about non-work usage (my supervisor and the other receptionist got hit with calls from IT about it and I’ve been avoiding everything since then).

        1. Paige Turner*

          In my past receptionist jobs, my bosses knew that I would frequently have periods of downtime, and I wasn’t required to pretend to be busy (yay!). If your boss is okay with it, you can read (book/magazine/kindle), do crossword puzzles, etc. If you have anything that you’d like to study, sitting with a textbook or flash cards looks like work even if you’re just learning French or whatever for personal development :) Even if you can’t access it at work, you could look at for ideas for topics you’d be interested in learning about. If all else fails, make grocery lists and plan out your meals for a week.

    4. Anx*

      If reading is aloud, could you read trade magazines/newsletters. Is it possible to download a bunch of industry-related articles from the internet and save them to flash drive and read them on the computer?

      Could you visit the library if the cost of hard-copy magazines or books is too much to bear?

      Could you do some light cleaning of the reception area? Organize the work area?

  68. StudentA*

    I interviewed at my dream company for my dream job, in my dream industry. I never thought I could get an interview there, let alone work there. I was rejected a couple of weeks later, and had to prod them for their decision.

    My interview performance was ok. I didn’t mess it up, but I wasn’t spectacular. I could tell throughout the interview that they weren’t falling over themselves in excitement over me, not because I did anything wrong necessarily, but probably because they had their eye on someone else.

    I must say I am heartbroken. To the point of tears. I’ve been looking for 3.5 years; I was unhappy at a previous job, moved into an even worse job, then lost that job a while ago, and have been looking ever since. My industry is hard to get into, so I am exhausted from all the looking.

    I tried to get feedback from my interviewers, but got nothing in response. And in the same email, asked if we can stay in touch. I have to say I am hurt