open thread – August 22, 2014

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

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

{ 1,033 comments… read them below }

  1. The Other Dawn*

    I’m in banking, and after 17 years at one place I have decided I want to move to the core processor side. Just can’t deal with any more compliance checklists (any bankers out there will know the feeling) and nothing has coming up that sounds remotely interesting. And I’m unhappy where I am now (previous bank failed and I’m at a different bank now).

    I’ve been applying to jobs at core processing companies the last few weeks and haven’t heard anything yet. I know it can take a while, but I’m just so eager to move onto something different. I applied to two positions at one company (qualified for both and would love either one of them) and one at a similar company. But just when I thought, “nope, no more working on the bank side,” an awesome position came up at a bank that sounds like it was almost written for me. It’s at a level I was at before (management) and encompasses several areas. Lots of variety. So, I applied. I hesitated a bit at first since I’m looking to do something different, but I thought about what I’m really missing and how I could feel fulfilled. I really miss the variety of Old Job. I miss being in management, making decisions, having some say in things, and being free to control my own workflow. This position would give me all that. And I wouldn’t have to deal with the boring compliance checklists. Yes, it involves some compliance (all banking jobs do), but it’s more on the IT side so I’m OK with that. The job I’m in now is focused in one area, no management responsibilities, low key and not enough work to keep me busy. I’ve become a clock-watcher. That’s what I thought I wanted after 17 years of controlled chaos at Old Job, but I’m really bored and unchallenged.

    When I applied for the bank job, I noticed that their applications go to an HR firm that my former bank contracted with for years. I know a few people there. Would it be inappropriate for me to reach out to one of the people I know and ask the salary range? Just from the job description, it appears to be in the range of what I used to make at Old Job, but since we were a very small bank and not profitable, we were under market. And since I was in one place for so long, I just don’t have a handle on standard salaries. I already applied so I’m not looking to change my desired salary. I asked for more than Old Job, but didn’t go hog wild; I asked for what I feel is fair market value for my skills and experience. It’s more just to get an idea as to whether I totally low-balled myself, or blew myself out of the water. I want to also ask about the hiring timeline.

    Anyway, I’m hoping I hear something soon.

    1. Fact & Fiction*

      I’m not entirely sure on the etiquette of reaching out to contacts at the HR firm to inquire about the salary, but I share in the frustration of knowing what is a good number to ask for. I really wish discussing salary wasn’t so taboo, and that there were online tools that were more accurate we could utilize when deciding what salary range to ask for in jobs that require it. I just interviewed yesterday for a position that had requested a salary range, so hopefully it’s in the realm of what I listed since they put me through two rounds of screening tests and then brought me in to interview, already knowing what my range is.

      Good luck with finding a role that challenges and excites you! =)

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I would say they’re OK with your desired salary if they did all that. Good luck!

        Yes, the salary thing is frustrating. I worked in a tiny bank that wasn’t profitable, we were paid under market, and there were salary freezes from time to time. What complicates it is that I was a Jill-of-all-trades, so I don’t really fit into one category. I just want to know that I’m not way out in left field with the salary since I asked for 15k more than what I made at Old Job. I tried to think about that job description, management level, and all the experience I have and how that factors in. Hopefully I’m close. And what sucked is that Current Salary was a required field on the app so I couldn’t try to put it on them in an interview.

    2. ClaireS*

      I think it would be fine to reach out to a contact but I wouldn’t ask about salary. It might put them in an awkward position – they want to help you but they don’t know if it’s fair or allowed. It’s best to avoid putting people in that situation.

      Although, I agree that it’s frustrating not to know, you will find out eventually if they are interested in you. Good luck!

      1. Dan*

        I never like “it’s not fair” arguments (not from you in the post per se, but when people do it IRL). Truth is, life’s not fair, and the older you get, the less you expect it to be. So, “it’s not fair” as a reason for doing (or not doing) something is an argument I’d like to see thrown out the window.

        Besides, job hunting isn’t about being “fair” it’s about finding the right person for the job, and the right job for you.

        1. Artemesia*

          Here, here. Of course one wants to be tactful and can phrase such a query in terms that allow the person to say ‘I am not allowed to discuss that’ but of course reach out to contacts for the information you need. It isn’t about fair; it is about getting a job. Of course, murder or breaking and entering should be ruled out, but using connections to figure out your best approach is well within common sense. I got my first major job when a classmate crowed to friends in the row behind me that she was a finalist for a job that I had been previously considered for, but had to withdraw because I did not yet know where my future husband would be attending grad school. I had found out that morning he would be staying locally and was going to follow up to see if the job was still open. But it would have been too late the next day. Because I knew they were on the verge of awarding the job, I was able to immediately call and let them know I was available. The words from the hiring manager’s mouth ‘Oh we were just going to make an offer this afternoon, can you come out for a final interview?’ I did. I got the job. Fair?

          1. The Other Dawn*

            reach out to contacts for the information you need

            That’s how I feel. The HR firm the bank uses is the same one Old Bank used for the whole 12 years we were open, so I know a few people there. I’m not afraid to use my resources, but this whole having to look for a job thing is pretty new to me. I’m trying not to do something that would cause a company or HR person to flag me or not call me. Seems like that’s an easy thing to do without realizing it.

        2. Observer*

          Firstly, the fact that life is not fair is not a good reason to act in an unfair manner. You can’t control the weather. But you CAN control your behavior.

          Job hunting / hiring is about finding the right fit, sure. But that is NOT mutually exclusive with being fair. Being fair means giving everyone a fair shake, whether they fit your stereotypes or not. Being fair means hiring the best candidate, not the one who you like best, who pays you off, who you know from way back when, or who fits your stereotype. And, it’s about hiring the best person even if that person fits one of the prior categories (except paying you off, because that will ALWAYS be a problem) and people might wonder about it. In this case the interest of the employer and fairness are in sync.

          Some time fairness and self interest are not so clearly in sync. By your reasoning, in those cases, people should just do what is in their self interest no matter if it’s fair. And then people wonder why we have so many horror stories of horrible working environments. These bosses are not crazy in many cases. They are just following your stated philosophy of “lifer is not fair, so I shouldn’t let fairness be a deciding factor for my behavior.”

          1. Anna*

            Seriously. I am beginning to feel like people who say that should add “right up until it’s not fair to me, and then it’s a travesty”. Don’t say “life isn’t fair”. It’s an adage that has no meaning and is usually an excuse to be a jerk.

            1. the invisible one*

              My view on it is that life’s not fair, and it’s a good thing.

              Because if life were fair, that would mean we’d have deserved every crappy thing that happened to us.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s unfair. Of course, it IS important to be not be too pushy and to be clear that you don’t expect them to break any rules (written or unwritten.) But asking for information that doesn’t seem confidential (and pay scale should not be) is not out of line, in my opinion.

    3. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I’m a compliance officer for an investment bank and I really enjoy the work, haha. Other bankers always look at me like I’m crazy when I say that.

      As for your question, I think it wouldn’t hurt and might even help you to reach out and say you applied, but also ask about other things than salary while you have the chance!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I thought I enjoyed compliance, but at Old Job I had such variety that when I got New Job in compliance, I suddenly realized all the variety in other areas made compliance only tolerable. Learned VERY quickly! LOL

        1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

          I guess it’s just my thing! I work for a big bank and my job is really connected to current affairs (sanctions etc) so there’s plenty of variety, I really like it.

    4. Malissa*

      I’d reach out and ask if they can tell you more about the job. It might get you the salary range with out having to ask for it.

    5. the gold digger*

      Hope this info helps: I have a friend who is the HR director at a small bank in the Chicago area. She makes $130K, which sounded great to me until she told me that’s what she earned 15 years ago when she was an HR director at [major Chicago food company].

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Wow!! The bank I applied at isn’t a big bank like Bank of America, but it’s bigger than Old Bank and also New Bank. I think it’s about 30 branches. I’m thinking the salary I asked for is reasonable. I feel it’s what I’m worth and also what the job demands. I just would love the extra assurance that I’m right.

        1. Madtown Maven*

          Have you looked at to see if you can figure out a reasonable salary range? Their free service can be pretty helpful.

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Just did…and I’m wayyyy on the low end with what I asked for! But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll get a call. It’s still 15k more than I make now so I’d be happy with it.

            1. bagworm*

              In my experience,’s salaries are very high, at least for our area. I think it’s good that you’re at the lower end but in a range you’d be happy with. Good luck!

    6. West Coast Reader*

      I barely decorated my office. I have one stuffed monster toy, a print out of a funny graphic designer joke and a card from a coworker……

      I don’t nest. My BEDROOM is barely decorated. I just don’t really give a crap about putting stuff on walls. This might change when I actually have my own suite (vs renting a bedroom). My room came with some furniture. I didn’t want the expense of buying new stuff and the hassle of finding transportation.

    7. fluffy*

      I help people look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. I looked up bank compliance officer and learned that the median salary is about $76k. This is national, but there is a larger discussion. I haven’t used this for my own job search, but it’s been useful for people exploring careers

  2. Ash (the other one)*

    So just wanted to pop on and say I’m a week into my new job and loving every moment of it.

    Also question (I think this is work related enough, but feel free to tell me to take it to Sunday):

    How have you decorated your office at work? I have a much larger office than previous and debating buying a few things so would love suggestions!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I have a cube at the current job, but at Old Job I had an office and brought some personal stuff in. Pictures I took of the sunset, framed. Cat stuff because I’m a cat freak. Stuff like that. My former co-woker brought in a big throw rug (BIG) and a nice lamp, plus a few other things, like sock monkeys. As long as it’s not over the top, it’s fine. Look around at what other people do and you’ll get a good idea of what’s generally acceptable.

      And congrats on loving you new job! (I’m so jealous.)

    2. Fact & Fiction*

      One of the women at the law firm where I worked for almost ten years had her office _completely_ — and I do mean completely — decorated in NASCAR memorabilia. Apparently, she was a superfan. I couldn’t walk past her office without grinning, just because it looked so unexpected in a huge, conservative law firm.

    3. ME*

      I will be honest and say I rarely decorate my workspace. I have a small cube like space so anything creates clutter. However, if I had an office, I would have a coffee maker…..and for decorations I would have personal photos and company memorabilia (if your company has a rich history and has lots of goodies to use).

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, I like to “nest” in my offices. I have two framed photos, a few small vases and statues, a large painting, and an impressive blown glass paperweight. I don’t think I bought anything specifically for the office – I just decluttered my home a bit.

      I’ve tried on two occasions to bring in plants but both times I got invested with plant gnats! I strongly suspect they came from a co-worker’s potted plants. Now I’m considering a fake plant.

      1. Mouse of Evil*

        I had a great fake tree that I used to decorate with seasonal lights (hearts in February, ghosts in October, etc.). It was so much fun. People would stop in and comment on my tree all the time. Which may or may not be something you want. :-)

    5. CTO*

      I always like to have a floor lamp and desk lamp so I can use those instead of the overhead fluorescent lights–much more calming. I’ve sometimes had plants and always have a few photos or other momentos. I like the containers on my desk (pens, file holders, other stuff) to be decorative as well. At some workplaces my coworkers and I have added inexpensive window treatments (like Ikea curtains) which was totally appropriate there.

        1. CTO*

          Two jobs ago I had a (frosted) external window that I could even open. Those were the days… in my last job and my current job I have internal-facing windows on hallways, but some natural light filters into them so it’s better than what many people have. I’ve been fortunate to work in smaller organizations with nice workspaces.

    6. Michele*

      I say go for it. Add some personal touches but not too personal. I have always decorated my work space with photo’s of family, friends, my dog, and work peep’s.

    7. Celeste*

      Ours don’t allow any kind of hanger on the wall due to its flimsy construction. People end up bringing in shelves or tables to put things on. Just mentioning this in case you haven’t checked to see if nails, etc are allowed in the walls. Congratulations!

    8. Elizabeth West*

      In my cube, I have nerd posters (Star Wars, the Enterprise, a huge Quidditch banner–Gryffindor, of course, because that’s my house), a plant, and a little shelf made from a plastic divider stuck in between the wall panels with a tiny Batgirl figure, a jar snowman my nephew’s fiance made, and my name tent from DISC training on it. Oh, and a printout of the Gate of Moria near the entrance with “Speak Friend and Enter” at the top. And a Death Star toy where you push a button and it spins around and makes sparks. :)

      Some people on my floor have lots of plants and even lamps in their cubes. In the IT department, I’ve seen Star Wars plushies and all kinds of nerd toys (I so want to go sit down there with those guys!). Our company is pretty loose about what you do with your cube as long as it’s not too crazy and doesn’t bleed out into the aisles.

      1. mina*

        That sounds awesome! Especially the LOTR stuff. I have Thorin pics on my desk here at work, but I don’t actually have an office.

      2. chewbecca*

        I would LOVE to geekify my space! Sadly, my desk is in a public area, so I try not to keep anything valuable or desirable on it. I do have Timmy the Monkey sticker pinned to my cube, though. And I’ve thought about getting an Adipose stress toy because I tend to fidget A LOT.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I have a Doctor Who alarm clock, a Golden Snitch, a Wall-E action figure, a knitted Dalek (yes, I knitted it), a TARDIS mug, a K-9 bobble head, an Om Nom (from Cut the Rope) plushie, a Fluttershy (from Build-a-Bear) plushie, a feathered mask (that I bought at a Shakespeare Festival), a Jane Austen plushie doll, and my original wand (real wood from Whirlwood Wands; I just bought a resin one at Ollivanders– I got to have the wand choose me in the little show thingy!–when I went to WWoHP in July but haven’t brought it or my Butterbeer mug to work yet). It’s all on one shelf that I call my Shelf of Geekery. On the bulletin board outside my cube, I have a printout of this cartoon, this cartoon, a sign that says “To err is human; to really foul things up requires a computer” (by Bill Vaughn), and a pic from when I got to meet Dean Cain. On the whiteboard inside, I have a drawing of a TARDIS my cousin’s kid did (I work with my cousin) and a big “I Believe in Sherlock Holmes” that I wrote. :) I also have pics of my nieces and nephews. I bought Sherlock and HP Houses mini-posters at LeakyCon in July, but haven’t brought them to work yet either, alas.

    9. littlemoose*

      I’ve got photos, a bulletin board with various personal and non-personal items on it (work phone list, postcards, drawing from my nephew), and my framed professional license. I’m planning to rearrange the furniture a bit, but once I do that, I may buy a small decorative bookshelf if I have space for it. I figure I’ll put a lamp on it, as one corner of my office gets kinda dark), and maybe some other tchotchkes. I’m considering a low-maintenance plant, like African violets, for the windowsill. One of my coworkers has a bunch of plants, some decent-sized, on his table in front of his office window. Another coworker has a teapot collection displayed on floating shelves in her office. I do have coworkers who have brought in wall art, lamps, framed sports memorabilia, etc. Admittedly it is a fairly casual office. (I also have some small toys on my desk and windowsill, like Simpsons Legos.)

    10. stillLAH*

      YouTube has failed me. I was trying to find a clip of Josh Lyman telling Joey Lucas not to decorate her desk with “bottles of lotion” and then Margaret walks in with flowers from Leo.

      1. Afiendishthingy*

        I have been thinking about that clip lately because I am two weeks into a new job and also thinking about cube decor! “Your staff decorate their desks with hand lotion?” “I’m saying some might want to and we don’t do that stuff here.”

        Sadly the question is academic because the department is growing and they haven’t figured out where to put me yet. I’m finally supposed to get a laptop and phone today if the single IT person can get down here today. But when I do have a desk I want to make myself a mini succulent terrarium and put up pics of kitties and family and friends.

    11. Joce*

      I just started a new job as well and thus far my decorating is limited to a little Batman and Robin stuffed toy my wife found for me in the sale bin at Petco and a robot dinosaur that can walk across my desk and roar, to the endless amusement of my coworkers. I have wild plans of some subtly understated comics nerdy things, but I wanted to ease into that a bit rather than showing up on day one with an armful of framed Captain America posters.

      1. Dino*

        I would love to know more about this roaring robotic dinosaur, I know multiple people for whom that would make a great gift…

    12. Anon Accountant*

      I have a few personal items such as photos and decorate for holidays with a wreath on my door, a small lit tree in the corner, for other holidays festive candy dishes on my desk and small decorations, etc. I have a flower pot as you enter with fake flowers that get changed with the seasons and a vase with fake flowers in the window.

      A few have added floor lamps.

      1. Manager anonymous*

        After a year and half at the job in a really great office, I finally “settled” in. Got rid of the round conference table (became a dumping ground of “what do you want to do with this?”) Brought in a couch from IKEA. (plain, grey, two seater) small coffee table and two colorful pillows.

        (Building manager said I could bring in anything that I want as long as it left when I left.)

    13. SherryD*

      I once had a coworker who was known to be actively job hunting (well, I knew, and any reasonable person would have assumed), and she kept her workspace decoration-free. Almost a hostile, “JUST SO YOU KNOW, I’M NOT STAYING.” Nice person, good worker, the job was just a bad fit.

      1. CC*

        Huh. I suppose not decorating could be seen that way (or was it her attitude on top of the lack of decoration?).

        I’ve never been one for decorating my work space. It was useful when I was surprised by a layoff; everything personal fit in the bag I normally carry to work: my CRC, my mug, and a poster I picked up at a conference — and two of those things were work related, just owned by me instead of the company.

        I just … never felt the need to personalize my space at work.

        1. Vicki*

          I used to really decorate my cubicles. It got tiring when I had to move. So, over time, I did less and less.

          When I was laid off, I had one box, my chair (I use a “knee chair”), and a plant.

      2. Aam Admi*

        My workspace is decoration free by choice. I have a good size private office with a beautiful L-shaped wooden desk. The only personal items I have in the office are a decorative mug to hold the pens and a nice calendar. Rest of the desk surface is occupied by a computer, dual monitors and a heavy printer. My co-workers would say I am a nice person, a great worker and they also know I love my job. I have been here almost three years. The person who had this job before me had too many personal items in the office but did hardly any work. She was let go and it took the admin days to pack her stuff.
        Though there is a common perception that an empty office is a sign that the person is ‘ready to leave’, my experience has been completely opposite. At my last job, I had a huge private office and my boss hated to see the bare walls. So I bought a bunch of stuff from Ten Thousand Villages. I stayed just one year at that job.

        1. De Minimis*

          I only have a handful of personal items…bring a wildlife calendar from home and have a bunch of knick-knacks on a shelf. My boss brings us all refrigerator magnets any time she goes on a trip or travels cross country for work, so I have four of those. Never been big on decorating, though….

      3. Cautionary tail*

        My office is completely bare except a thank-you letter I received from a work colleague and a thnk-you clock I received from the company for leading a large project. Very few other people in my Fortune 500 company decorate. And I’ve talked to others in this merger/layoff prone industry and they generally keep spartan offices too. I see this as a huge departure from yesteryear when my office was an extension of me and showcased some of my personality.

    14. Mints*

      ThinkGeek and Modcloth have really cute and nerdy office accessories (like pen cups, paperclip sorters). I’ve got my eye on a few things I want, but I don’t feel like decorating this desk.
      (Plus Ikea; I love Ikea and they have everything furniture-wise)

    15. Mike*

      I just bought one of those color changing LED lamps and it’s pretty neat, can change the color with the little remote.

    16. Chuchundra*

      I just wanted to pop in and say that at the end of September I’ll be getting a cubicle of my very own.

      Sounds like a silly thing for a grown man to be excited about, but in all my working years I’ve never had my own workspace. For the last two decades all I’ve had is my little corner of the Control Room and part of a shared workbench.

      Of course, I’ll still be in the Control Room most of the time, but that cubicle will still be mine.

      1. Windchime*

        I like having a cubicle. I’d rather have an office, but a cubicle gives me a sense of “this is my own private little space”, even though it’s not private at all.

        My cubicle walls are covered with a brightly-colored fabric shower curtain that I cut to fit and then edged with ribbin. I only have two pictures; one of my kids and one of my cat. I have a couple of strategically-placed mirrors (so I can see who is sneaking up on me), some certifications and a bunch of empty pop cans. I’m not a tidy cube dweller.

    17. AmyNYC*

      I’m lucky enough to be by a window, so I have happy a little plant (with a toy dinosaur to complete the scene). Also a calendar and images of current projects (I’m an architect). I keep meaning to bring in a personal photo, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    18. nep*

      Good for you. Congratulations.
      A former boss always had some of her favourite pieces of art in her office (eg statues / sculptures that were a good size to put on the floor in a corner) — it was pleasant and made for a nice atmosphere.
      And plants are always great.

    19. Natalie*

      I just have a few things – a plant, a few photos, one xkcd comic, and a plastic Zoidberg. As long as you don’t have a totally black thumb, I say get at least a plant.

    20. Vicki*

      My favorite decor idea was a co-worker who brought in a 4×6 patterned carpet for the floor. She pinned brocade fabric to the cube walls and covered the work surfaces with faux woodgrain self-adhesive contact paper. The carpet was a close match for her “oriental carpet” mouse pad.

      It was awesome.

    21. 15*

      I have an amazing fake succulent (it looks soo real!) I use as paperweight a small figure related to my field that I got printed from a 3d printing service (shapeways).

    22. Al Lo*

      I’ve brought in a ton of stuff. I have quite a large office that I share with one other person, and I’ve brought in stuff like a couch, a mini-fridge, a coffee maker (Starbucks Verismo), and the makings of my own standing desk.

      We have a wall of (mismatched, donated) file cabinets, so I brought in some spare curtains from home that didn’t find a place in our last move, and hung them in front of the shelves/cabinets so they look a little less raggedy.

      As for my desk — I’ve got a couple of framed photos and some little knick-knacks, but I’m always on the lookout for more, better geeky stuff to personalize my own space, as opposed to making the office itself a nicer place.

    23. skyline*

      Ten years ago, I had a great office with a view of my state’s statehouse. I’ll never have that again!

      Right now, I have an office, but it’s windowless and full of mismatched furniture. Our facility is scheduled to get new carpet next year, and depending on what’s chosen, I may request that it’s painted at that point. In the meantime, I should probably get my art up on the walls. (It’s been a year already!)

    24. ECH*

      I have some pictures of me with my family, some pictures of me with co-workers, some pictures of friends, but mostly little cute newspaper clippings, cartoons, pretty cards, humorous typos from competitor newspapers, whatever. Our department looks very “homey.”

  3. ME*

    Hi Everyone,

    I have been having some personality issue with a higher up I work with. He is very short tempered and unapproachable. While I am not his direct report, I interact with him a lot for reporting purposes. I am fairly new in this organization and while I had high exposure to higher ups in my last job, I never had to deal with someone so unpleasant. He makes my bro-like last higher up I worked with seem like a dream compare to this.

    I always feel like no matter what I say to him or submit, he either provides no feedback so I assume no feedback means the reporting is ready for distribution or the little feedback I get is unclear and indicates he is unhappy. Asking for clarification is a nightmare because he does not like follow up questions. I feel like a spaz around him. I probably annoy him more than anything but I have to interact with him for certain things and there is no getting around that.

    In other instances I have had to randomly approach him about system issues for which he is a user and I am an admin and it is so unpleasant as he would prefer not hearing anything about it. The downside to this for both of us is that when he notices issues with the system he gets on my case about resolving these issues. I am very young in my career and am so nervous about ever running into people like this again in the future. It is so awkward.

    Anyone else ever been in this situation?

    1. ClaireS*

      I’ve never been in this situation but I would recommend talking to your direct manager about it.

      I’d frame it something like this: “I’ve been struggling to read Mean Manager and as a result I’m concerned I’m not being as effective at This Important Task as I could be. Do you have any tips on how I could adjust my ways of working to better suit his needs? I’ve tried x, y and z and still haven’t been very successful.”

      Maybe you’ll hear this guy is just an ass or maybe she’ll reveal the 3 Simple Tricks to Working with Mean Manager.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Can you ask for feedback via email? I find it’s much easier to pin people down in an email, and since they have to compose the text, they are often more specific in an email than they would be verbally. I feel your pain, even though my clients are generally really good. Any chance your direct supervisor can advise you about this person? My boss does a great job running interference when our clients get a little too demanding. (Not the same thing, but similar.)

      1. ME*

        thanks guys! i have seriously considering talking to my direct boss about this. I would not mind either a shift in responsibilities away from this person or some guidance from him. The email thing is probably the best way to go. This higher up sits literally 20 feet from me so I would have thought direct face to face questions every once in a while (like 2 times a month when I have to talk to this higher up) would have been okay but maybe this interupts him.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I have found what helps in communicating with guys like this is to be very prescriptive in your interactions. “Here is the report. I’d like to distribute it by Friday. If you have feedback, please let me know what you would like to see added/changed/removed. If you could kindly let me know by Thursday at noon, I will have time to integrate”.

      I always phrase my messages to people like this in a way that makes it clear that silence implies acceptance. Then the door is open for them to provide feedback if they want, you won’t subject yourself to their ugly personality if they don’t have feedback, and you won’t irritate him with follow up questions.

      1. Observer*

        I like this. And, do it in email. And, if he gives you a hard time later for distributing a report that he did not approve, you’ll have the trail, for your manager. Also, you would also want to start cc’ing your boss on these emails.

        But, do talk to your manager first, as suggested.

    4. Anoners*

      I’ve dealt with someone like this, and sometimes, there is just nothing you can do. For me, I just had to learn to ignore his snarkyness and do my job. “Oh sorry, my totally normal question is inconveniencing you? Well winter is coming and I need to publish this report so deal with it”. Obviously way easier said than done. It’s hard, but you have a job to do so you just have to try and let it roll off you. In my case he ran the company, so I got out ASAP. In your case, if he is dealing with a lot of others in the same way, there is hope that someone above him will set him straight. If there is someone you trust you could talk to them about it. Maybe not in a super desperate way, but in a “any tips on dealing with this monster” kind of way. Good luck!!!

  4. AVP*

    Does anyone have experience working with the UN?

    I just applied for a job in their New York office and, this is preliminary, but I’m curious about how they work out their payscales.

    This job is rated a P-2, requiring an advanced degree plus two years of experience (or no advanced degree but equivalent experience). However, from their screening questions I would hazard a guess that they’ll end up hiring someone a little higher up than that, because it’s essentially not possible for someone to be able to check “yes” to all of their boxes after two years of work. (I checked yes to 13/15, and I have no masters but 6 years of directly related work experience.)

    Is their salary info online anywhere, or is there a set min/max for people at the P-2 level? I’m mainly curious because this function is a very small part of what they do, which doesn’t usually relate to non-profit work, so I have no idea how they would place compared to my current job…

    1. BRR*

      I searched “United Nations Salary Grade,” clicked the first link, then got a list of types of jobs. There was a click hear for professional jobs and it downloaded an excel chart with the p-2 grade.

    2. Lulu*

      Everything is posted on their website, just google UN salary scale and it will be the first link. Don’t forget to read the post adjustment part.

    3. misspiggy*

      Whatever the role, UN payscales are pretty generous. UN HR can be unbelievably slow and bureaucratic, so you may need to be very patient indeed.

      1. AVP*

        heh, that’s actually what I was banking on…I can’t really leave my current job for another few months, but I figured it would be like government hiring where you start now in order to have a new job by next summer.

        1. Davey1983*

          As a US federal employee, starting now and having your start date in less than a year would be fast. While it has happened, it is uncommon. My former manager, for example, took over 2 years from his initial application to his start date. Mine took about a year, and that was considered fast!

          Coincidentlly, I was in a meeting just a couple of days ago where the higher ups in my agency was asking what our staffing needs will be in 2-3 years so they can start getting those positions advertised and posted (assuming we even have the budget to hire new poeple– my office hasn’t had a new hire in over 4 years, despite loosing about half of our employees).

    4. AVP*

      wow, that was much easier than I expected, and the rate is higher than I thought it would be. Thanks all!

    5. nep*

      In my experience working with the UN, I often heard of posts being advertised just because UN HR must do so, even when someone has more or less been selected for the position. No telling how often this is the case — just a factor to have in mind (and I reckon it’s not unique to UN).
      In the UN posts I’ve held (consultancies and longer-term), the pay has always been decent.

  5. De Minimis*

    First, or at least close…

    My wife has a phone interview with her old employer next week. If she gets it, we’ll be heading back.

    I’m not sure if I should tell my co-worker there’s a possibility I might be leaving. She is about to put in for retirement. Originally, I was supposed to be her replacement. She has an appointment to go to our regional office to formally put in for it next week!

    If my wife had an offer, I would have already told my co-worker, but I’m not sure what to do about an interview.

    I don’t think my co-worker would change her plans if she knew I might be leaving–she has hinted at possibly staying, but that’s with the assumption that things would remain as they are now, with me taking on a good deal of the tasks and her continuing to handle a few key duties. I don’t think she would be thrilled with staying on and going back to being the entire finance department which is the way it was for years prior to my arrival.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      She’s worrying too much about what the company will think, or is feeling guilty for leaving. That has no bearing on you. It’s a business; they’ll deal with it.

    2. Ash (the other one)*

      Don’t say anything. It’s part of the cost of doing business and you have no concrete plans yet. I am the same way — incredibly loyal and guilt ridden for leaving people in a tough place, but it is what it is. Wait until your wife has a firm offer and then break the news.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Agreed. Your coworker may hammer out a deal to come out of retirement. Or she may work part time after retiring. Or she could end up just being happy she retired.

    3. Dan*

      “Might be leaving” isn’t actionable information, unless you want them to act on it by pushing you out. For sake of argument, what happens if the boss were considering you for a promotion, then you told him you “might” be leaving, so he yanks your name from consideration. Your wife’s offer falls through, and bam, you’re stuck.

      My mother had a part time job that she was trying to leave for another gig. She informed her employer that she “might” be leaving. Potential job drags out process. After about three months of that, mom’s employer started taking steps to replace her, because if she “might” be leaving, they want to replace her on a timeline that words for them. New job actually shut its doors, leaving mom scrambling. Somehow she held onto things.

      Moral of the story: Never tell anybody you “might” be leaving.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Back when my husband was interviewing he had several gigs fall through last minute. The job would be cancelled or the business folded, merged or split etc etc. We got very careful about even hinting at a new job until the contract was signed. Once you might be leaving, they start thinking of life without you and your own chances or promotion or even keeping the job diminish. It is nothing until she has a firm offer and start date.

        1. De Minimis*

          Not planning on telling my boss anything until that point. Never even considered telling her about it at this stage, for the reasons everyone has given.

          Thought about telling my co-worker more as a courtesy, but after reading here and thinking about it, I think I’m just going to see what happens first. It’s just too early in the process, and depending on what happens my co-worker very well could be already out the door by the time an offer happens for my wife.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      She doesn’t have an offer–there is nothing to tell yet. I wouldn’t say anything. Anyway, this is your boss’s problem if you leave, not your coworker’s. I doubt she would stay on just because her potential replacement left. If I could retire, I’d do it so fast you’d be eating my dust.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t tell my boss at all, I was just considering maybe telling my co-worker in case she might want to adjust her retirement plans, but I don’t really think that she would. She has said that she has been having second thoughts due to her husband going back to work.

        In the last few weeks I’ve learned that other facilities can get by without finance staff, so it’s not going to be some kind of disaster if ours has to go without one on a temporary basis. I think they just have the regional office handle the functions until they can hire a replacement.

  6. Notice Nanny*

    My hands are tied. I have a job offer and they want me to start immediately. Is it reasonable to quit with only a few days notice in this predicament? P.S. I’ve been waiting for this job offer for months and it’s a job I really really really want!

    Also, I feel like I am being reasonable because they want me to begin Monday but I asked for a few more days to start this job.

      1. fposte*

        When is the internship technically scheduled to end, and is it for the same organization that has the funded position? Are you okay with losing your recommendation from the internship?

        1. Notice Nanny*

          Technically, it was to end today. The other interns are leaving today. But next Friday I was to be offered an extension where I would be transitioned into a temp for the Agency for a few more months.

            1. fposte*

              Right, and it’s aiming at a temp position, which is pretty leavable, anyway.

              I think there might be room here to say “I appreciate your willingness to extend, but I’ve just found out about another job, and I’ll have to stick to the plan that today is the last day.” But you still might be burning the recommendation.

          1. J-nonymous*

            I think this changes the matter pretty considerably, and you can let your current employer know that you are not accepting the offer of an extension. That’s different than not giving notice, particularly since your internship ends today.

          2. Anjum*

            Given that the internship ends today and you haven’t yet been offered an extension, full-time job >> temp for agency. You would be fine to let them know that you enjoyed the internship, learned so much, want to stay in touch, etc etc but that you are taking a full-time job at another organization.

            re the job offer start date – it’s a little odd they want you to start the week before labor day weekend, unless they want to get the HR/orientation stuff done so you can “get down to work” after labor day. depending on your feel about the new job’s flexibility, you could ask to start after labor day but offer to complete any paperwork you need to do prior to the start date?

      2. Dan*

        Honestly, if you are comfortable burning that bridge (ie not putting it on your resume or using them as a reference) then I’d say you’re fine.

        If you never admit to working there, no future employer is going to know to call them up and check.

        1. Notice Nanny*

          The bridge might not be totally burned. My direct boss knows and she accepts and is excited for me. Her boss won’t be, but that’s on him. I might be able to still use her as a reference in this case, as she knows me best.

          1. Joey*

            Do it. The internship becomes way less important once you have a real job under your belt. Just list your direct boss as a reference and you’ll be fine.

      3. Artemesia*

        It is odd that the new place would not automatically honor the two weeks notice requirement that is pretty standard. that strikes me as a read flag.

        I would not hesitate to leave an internship on a dime. If it genuinely would cause a problem i.e. you are just completing something for them, then see what you can do to ease the transition. But of course an intern is looking for a permanent job and owes little to the current situation when a permanent offer comes along.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Why do they want you to start immediately, and are they clear that in asking that of you, they’re asking you to leave without normal notice? Generally that’s a red flag — a good employer won’t push you to do something that’s commonly understood to harm your reputation. Are there any extenuating circumstances here?

      1. Notice Nanny*

        Yes, the position is grant funded. They wanted to hire me months ago, but ran into delays with their funding. They didnt want to offer me the position in advance in case funding fell through, so when they offered the position (yesterday), they had to ask that I begin immediately due to the nature of the work (I will be working with high school students who begin school in 2 weeks and there is preliminary work that I will need to do prior to working with the students).

        1. CTO*

          I understand why there’s a rush in this case (I’ve worked with grant-funded positions), but it’s still not reasonable to leave you waiting for months and then rush you to quit an internship without notice. I don’t think it speaks well to them being organized or professional.

          Can you start working for them PT around your other internship hours? They need to be willing to be flexible given that they left you hanging for MONTHS.

        2. The LeGal*

          Sometimes those positions (grant-funded, or government jobs) require hard start dates to obtain the funding. They might have some flexibility though. The organization may allow you to officially start on Monday (i.e. work that whole day), but then have two weeks off to allow you the chance to complete the professional 2-week notice period / maintain your reputation. Ask! Good luck!

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Perhaps you should go to your current boss, since you need to give notice anyway, and explain the situation. If she knows the circumstances, she may be ok with less notice. Ask what you can do to make the handoff better, either by working part time, coming in on the weekend, perhaps by giving one week notice. If you sound like you really want to work with the current boss, you understand how un-ideal this is, she may be more willing to just let you go.

        4. AcademicAnon*

          There are several mitigating factors for this job offer to have come after months of consideration and the short notice. If it’s a grant by a state agency and the potential place of employment has a fiscal year that ends/begins june/july, then the potential place really did offer it to OP as soon as they could, which is as soon as they had funding approved and available. And working with students means you need to be there and trained before classes start, but they couldn’t offer you the job until they had funding so it makes sense for them to ask for you giving short notice. That doesn’t even mention leaving a job and a upper manager who you don’t like or doesn’t like you.

          1. AcademicAnon*

            A local example for the funding – my county just got the assessment back what their budget will be next year due to what is projected to come in with property taxes, and found out they needed to cut a lot of things, like now. Suddenly jobs they may have come open due to retirements and people leaving, they’re not filling, and they haven’t even started talking about cutting funding to other agencies/departments or not-for-profits the county government deals with.

    2. Ash (the other one)*

      Most jobs, even those pushing for “immediate” will understand 2 weeks. Give the standard 2 weeks. Leave on a good foot. You never know when you’ll need a reference from them.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      I think you need to give 2 weeks–especially if you’ve been waiting on this offer for months and now they want you to start immediately, without notice. Not nice.

      Don’t burn a bridge. A good employer will understand.

    4. Colette*

      Have you tried explaining that you want to give your current employer two weeks notice?

      You can quit without notice (barring any contractual requirement), but it will hurt your reputation. I once had a coworker quit with no notice, and I wouldn’t consider recommending him for a job or putting him in touch with people in my network , for example.

    5. illini02*

      In my opinion, their reasoning makes sense. I once had a situation like this. I interviewed on a Monday, they offered me the job Wednesday, they needed someone to start on the following Monday. It came down to me being the first choice, but they said if I couldn’t, they would have to move on. Sometimes there really are extenuating circumstances. If its a job you really want, and you aren’t happy at your current place, go for it. My boss wasn’t happy, but I told her I was willing to be available to help train my replacement as necessary, so it made it a bit easier.

      1. Notice Nanny*

        So, did you end up leaving? My direct boss is happy for me, but suggested that I push for 2 more weeks. i tried and can’t. My boss’ boss is a different story. He is a difficult man and I know he will look at me as irresponsible. I don’t care. I am not even remotely interested in this field and only took it up because I needed a job. I did take AAM’s earlier advice and will send an apologetic and moritifed email to my boss’ boss and tell him that my hands are tied.

        1. Dan*

          Your hands aren’t truly tied, so I wouldn’t use that BS. Man up and own the decision that *you* are making.

          1. fposte*

            I’m inclined to agree with Dan here. This is a professional decision you’re making, not a tornado you’ve been hit by.

            It also sounds like you may have had next week off anyway, if the internship ends today and the extension wouldn’t start until the end of next week.

        2. illini02*

          Yes, I left. I still wouldn’t necessarily list that job as a reference, but I think if they were called I wouldn’t get a bad review either. I wish it could have been handled differently, but in the end, it was the best choice for me, so I don’t regret it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Can you work part time until you are ready to go full time? This might work if they had self-paced orientation for you to do. It sounds like we are just talking about a couple of days here.

    7. A Teacher*

      I’ve done it once–to start working at a school midyear. I couldn’t give notice before because my job was contingent on board approval, which we got on a Tuesday the week before we started the new semester. I put in notice on a Tuesday and my last day was on a Saturday. I might have given more notice (the board approval was pretty much a given) but I couldn’t trust management in my company, and if board approval had not come through I’d have still been without a job. I’d seen how they handled other resignations and it was ugly. Schools often need immediate start and don’t allow you to delay, its just a different system to work in. It may hurt your future ability to use people as a reference and burn a major bridge, I don’t know the situation well enough. Ultimately you have to decide what consequences you’re willing to deal with.

    8. Just Visiting*

      Disagree with others. Permanent job that you actually want > internship at a place you don’t even like. Don’t let this opportunity slip through your fingers. You’re not even really working at the internship place. Trust me, if you were to be let go they wouldn’t be giving you two weeks.

  7. Diet Coke Addict*

    I posted a few weeks ago about my new coworker having some training and onboarding troubles. Unfortunately there has been little to no progress thus far–she is still asking me about very basic procedures that we covered in the first few days, and I covered in my written desk manual I passed to her. The processes she is doing are not being done correctly, and she’s been making up her own (incorrect) processes for others–my boss doesn’t seem to care, though, since I also found out that she’s being paid more than I am and her commission structure also gives her a bigger cut.

    She’s been having trouble with some workplace norms as well–I wouldn’t think to instruct someone that when the boss is standing there addressing you and one other person, that isn’t the time to pick up the phone and place a phone call that didn’t need to happen that second. But as usual, my boss ignored it and said nothing.

    I would greatly appreciate good vibes in the job hunt! The lack of anything approaching acknowledgment is the worst.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. There is just so much wrong with this picture.

      Many good vibes heading your way.

      I hope you are telling her how to locate the answer to her question rather than answering the question itself. And I hope that you are handing work back to her rather than fixing it yourself.

      And there are so many people out there that WANT a job and would bust their backs to keep it, yet here she is. (Am shaking my head.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Ditto – first response to questions that you have already addressed is, “Have you checked ther manual?”

    2. UK Bod*

      I was training a guy who would repeatedly ask me the same questions and likewise I had done a manual for him too. I had to repeatedly refer him back to his own notes and the manual but he still continued to ask me. I think it was laziness on his part – more convenient to ask me, so i eventually phyisically moved to a computer on the other side of the office, so he had to trek over to me, and I continued to repeated the same advice when he asked questions he already had the answers to (check your notes/the manual then ask me if you’re still stuck). It took time but it worked. I didn’t manage this guy. If I had managed him, I could have made one of his goals to be “become self sufficient/able to work autonomously” and describe the behaviours i want to see “when approaching a task, check resources to see how to approach it then come to me if further clarification is needed” then held him accountable to those. I like behavioural objectives and have used them successfully to address softer skills since.

  8. Trixie*

    So, cover letters. From the AAM archives, I know what separates great letters from the rest. I’m wondering about those with TMI. I have 1-2 details I need to address early on, but am trying not to overcomplicate things and come across as high-maintenance. Any one else experience this?

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      Can you give us a sense of the issues you need to address? Perhaps they are things you could bring up later if and when you got an interview?

      1. Trixie*

        It’s pretty much explaining a 3-year employment gap which was mostly chosen on my part. I’ve keep busy otherwise with family (parents) and volunteering, plus recently became a PT instructor at my gym. My goal is to address this gap early on , but then quickly move to bulk of the letter.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Volunteering and gym training gigs are both things that can be on your resume. I’d say that’s the place to mitigate that gap, not the cover letter.

        2. the gold digger*

          I explained my five-year gap in my cover letter: that I had been laid off, then gotten married and moved to a new city. I think I said something about how our financial situation had changed, which was why I was returning to work.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. It sounds like you’re talking about accommodations/limitations. Cover letters aren’t for those.

        1. Befuddled Squirrel*

          Or it might be to explain a gap or something else unusual in the resume. It’s hard to say without an example.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Yep, those discussions are for after you’ve received an offer.

          Now, if it’s an explanation of a gap on your resume, I might say “I did have to leave X job due to medical/family issues, but they are now resolved, and that is something I would be glad to explain in an interview.”

          1. Mouse of Evil*

            I took several years off when my child was born with a completely unexpected medical condition and needed a LOT more care than we could get from any of the daycares in our area (at least, without being on the waiting list for a year or more). I never address that in the cover letter; instead I focus on the things I’ve done that relate to the job, even if they were a long time ago (pre-gap). I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work and some occasional freelance work in the meantime, so if it’s applicable, I put that in too. I haven’t had a problem getting interviews, and I always discuss the gap openly in the interview. For the most part, people understand. I’ve been offered three jobs, two of which I didn’t even apply for (one was at a place where I had turned down a previous offer, but they called me back; I took that one).

              1. Mouse of Evil*

                Thanks, Trixie! I’ve actually since left that job (it was several years ago–right in the middle of the recession), but I did mean to offer a ray of hope to anybody who’s worried about a job gap and wondering how to address it in a cover letter. :-)

  9. Lia S.*

    I submitted a PTO request for 3 days off the first week of September during the first week of July (two months notice, much more than the required two weeks). I didn’t hear back. Ideally, I should have followed up after a week or two, but it slipped my notice. Now I’ve paid for flights, a deposit on a rental house, and booked a car for that time period, but still don’t have official approval. I sent a followup on Monday of this week, and still no response.

    I’m in a different location from my supervisor, so it’s not a bump-into-him-in-the-halls and ask type thing; he prefers emailed communication. I know I have enough PTO in the bank, but it’s getting closer and closer to my trip–what would you do?

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      At this point I would send an email like “Dear Supervisor, I just wanted to remind you that I submitted my PTO request on [DATE] for [DATES]. I will be out from here to now for a brief trip with family. Thanks, Lia”

      1. Canuck*

        I would actually advise against this, unless you know specifically that your boss doesn’t mind the “negative billing” approach. Myself, I get irritated when people do this to me – because this is basically you telling me you are taking time off, as opposed to getting approval. There may be reasons why I have to deny time off, so you shouldn’t assume you can have it, just because you state it.

        Yes, I know in your situation you have asked multiple times and not heard back, so it is pretty frustrating – and poor management on your boss’s part. But I would suggest a phone call to ask about your PTO, and would still advise against outright stating you will be gone (again, unless you know your boss doesn’t mind).

    2. Katie the Fed*

      Call him ASAP. But I wouldn’t mention that you booked the flights right away. I get a little annoyed when people book flights before leave is approved – I feel like they’re cornering me into it (that being said, I’ve never denied any leave requests)

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I understand forgetting to follow up initially, but it’s something that should happen before you book anything.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            He did it upwards of 5 times in under 3 years of employment, and his performance wasn’t good enough to protect him.

            The last straw was that he booked a 2 week european vacation before getting the time off, was out during a peak time and failed to put his out of office on while he was gone, resulting in some large problems.

      2. skyline*

        +1. People who do this or seem to be planning to do this get a very clearly worded email from me on how the *request* process works. There are no guarantees I can approve things.

    3. Lisa*

      As the other readers have recommended, you should definitely call to follow up. However, keep in mind that you made quite a faux pas by purchasing tickets, making reservations, etc. *prior* to that time off being approved.

      As a manager, employees who do this (and thus leverage the time off request with the guilt of financial woe / plans) get put on my naughty list. It would be in your best interest to approach the call apologetically, pointing out that in retrospect you realize it was unwise to make plans prior to receiving formal approval, that you’ll never make the mistake again, and offer to do everything within your power to ensure the time off will not interfere with your work/workplace. This will ease the frustration for most managers. Also – then do all of those things!

      1. Eden*

        I’m not sure how much apology is truly called for in a situation where she requested the time off two months ago and followed up with an email…and still hasn’t received a response. I think the manager has forfeited the right to get sniffy over the leave booking if he or she hasn’t responded to two requests.

        Having said that, I’d probably suck it up and be apologetic also, because the manager that will respond to leave requests with two months of radio silence is probably the same one who will deny the leave if he or she finds that you’ve already booked it.

        1. N.J.*

          This is an interesting point, but she didn’t follow up by email until Monday of this week. That means she maintained radio silence for two entire months. It doesn’t matter if she was legitimately too busy to follow up or her manager is a very poor manager without basic communication skills. Due to waiting for so long to follow up, she has lost most of the moral high ground to take the approach of telling her manager she is taking vacation versus asking.

  10. Chocolate Addict*

    I’ve read on here that typically no one works at a 100% rate all the time (understandable). Can you elaborate on that? I put pressure on myself to always be “on and working” but know I can’t sustain that.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Well, some jobs don’t have steady tasks all day every day anyway. In mine, I have set tasks I have to do at certain times of the month and the rest of the time, I’m working with my team or on other projects. But those don’t always come steadily–they travel a lot and I could finish something up and then find myself at a loose end. There are e-Learnings I can do to fill time, along with maintenance tasks on some of our documentation.

      But honestly, I can’t concentrate all day for eight hours. That’s why I make sure to take my breaks every day. In fact, I stair climb on my morning and afternoon breaks–not only does it clear the cobwebs, but it is keeping me healthy (and getting me in shape to walk/climb everywhere on vacation!).

      It’s important to give your brain a little downtime.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This. My job has some of this–ebb and flow of workload throughout the week, month, year–and a lot of my job is actually just to be here. (“Office coverage” is the fancy term for it!) They need someone here if work does arise, and it arises on kind of a random basis so they can’t just schedule for the exact times work happens. Plus my presence is also a security measure to keep people from digging into confidential files. There’s often some non-urgent work backlog to chip away at during downtime, but sometimes there isn’t much.

      2. Bea W*

        I’m never at loose ends in my job. We have more work than people to do it, and there are some days I have to slow down, break, or switch to something that doesn’t require much thinking in order to keep my sanity. I don’t plan it I just go with what my mind and body tells me I need. My job is more flow than ebb so i have to create my own ebb, while still getting things done.

        1. Aam Admi*

          My current job is similar Bea W. There is never a free moment, not even time for coffee or lunch breaks. My brain is fried by end of the week. So the last few hours of Friday afternoon, I try to do something that does not require much thinking.
          The job I had previous to this had only enough work to fill 3 weekdays. I kept asking my boss for more to do. She realized I was not sufficiently challenged and sent me off with a great reference to my current employer.

          The two people sitting in the office next to me at my current job chat all day about personal stuff. I wonder how much work they really do.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not sure what kind of inputs you are looking for but I will try this one.

      I know that just after lunch I drop- I lag. I get a little coffee or drink some water and I find that energy to go through to quitting time.

      Fridays can go either way for me. I can spend the day wrapping up loose ends for the past week or I can stuff the pipeline with things for the upcoming week. None of which shows any immediate results. I really like Fridays like this- it feels like less work than the rest of the week.

      Did someone link it here? I read an interesting article that said to do your special projects in the morning when you are fresh. Then as the day wears on do the routine stuff that takes less brain power or less energy.

      This has been my idea that I divide my work into the energy draining tasks and the coasting tasks. If I can set my own pace I go back and forth between the two. Do one draining task then do a coasting task to help myself gear up for the next draining task.

      The trick is to pace yourself out. If you are totally wiped out by noon it’s time to restructure how you are handing things. If you find yourself making a lot of mistakes that is another clue that you might be doing too much, too fast.

      Look at the coworkers you admire. What are they doing? What does the boss say about your work levels?

      1. Kelly L.*

        I also divide it into tasks that are mental work and tasks that are physical work. If I’ve been staring into a screen for three hours fiddling with Excel and my neck hurts and I’m going stir-crazy, that’s exactly when I want to break from that and do a task that involves walking something to a different building, or even just filing since it gets me moving differently and doesn’t use my whole brain.

    3. MaryMary*

      Do you have billable hours requirements, or time to response metrics, or anything else at your job that might require you to be “on” more than the average employee? Otherwise, I think the 80/20 rule applies. If you are actively, productively working 80% of the time, the other 20% is the time you spend on personal things (getting coffee, going to the rest room, friendly chatting with coworkers), general professional development (reading professional articles and blogs, checking out your company’s intranet, training) and administrative tasks (cleaning your desk, tidying up your inbox, catching up on filing or shredding). I’d stay away from thinking of every day in terms of 80/20, and spread it out over a week or more. There are those days that are super busy or when you have a looming deadline when you need to be 100% (or 110%) on task. There are also Friday afternoons when your brain has hit its productivity limit and you shouldn’t feel bad about filing old emails and reading AAM’s open thread.

    4. LBK*

      My coworker and I were actually just discussing that this morning! The answer to this is really obvious if you think about your work capacity like a motor attached to a rechargeable battery. If you run the motor at top speed, the battery drains faster, and by the time it’s done running the battery is dead. This is fine to do once in a while when you really need it, but keep in mind you’ll need to wait longer for the battery to fully recharge – if you run it at top speed every day, it’s never going to recharge completely, and eventually it will just die. You’ll burn out and you’ll quit.

      By contrast, if you just run the motor at half speed, the battery only drains halfway, so by the time you need to run it again, it’s going to be back at full capacity. You’ll be able to keep working because you won’t feel constantly run down and tired.

      (Note: this metaphor not based on actual physics/electrical engineering knowledge.)

    5. Anonymous*

      Yes. Work at a rate that is sustainable long term and leave some capacity for you to take on additional things. Because you will get additional things sooner or later

    6. Sidra*

      I am very much a “roller coaster” worker, and also consistently a top performer… I just think everybody works a little differently and you just need to focus on your results. I don’t feel bad not being “on” all the time because the “off” gets me ready to be much better when I am “on”, if that makes sense. I also am never “off” if someone or something is waiting on me.

      So yeah, I don’t feel guilty! Just remember that working the best way YOU can is how you can contribute the most, and be honest with yourself about what that best way is.

    7. Cassie*

      Like many jobs, my work flow ebbs and flows. When there’s nothing to do (e.g. I’m waiting for responses from other people), I’ll work slower. I don’t have to type as fast (while doing data entry), I can triple-check my work, and I can organize/rearrange files.

      I have some coworkers who will wander around and chit-chat when they don’t have any work to do or if their boss is out, partly because they get bored. I try not to do this – I can always find menial work to do, I don’t want to bother coworkers who may be working on something important, and I’m fine with downtime.

  11. Is This Legal*

    Early this year I started a new job, the senior and manager who interviewed me left before I started and I wasn’t aware of this. A new senior and manager were transferred from another department and now I’m stuck with two people who don’t know what they are doing. This was a dream job at first but everyday I’m saying arrr. I have more experience than the senior but she don’t want to listen to my advise. Sometimes I let incorrect things go through only to come back be redone. How can I work with her?

    1. Malissa*

      Try approaching it from the perspective of it’s your job to make her look good. Ask her how you can help with that. Something like:
      “When I see mistakes do you want me to fix them or should we discuss them?”

  12. Mallory Janis Ian*

    I have a new job! And I have some people here to thank for it. Alison for all her great advice and for providing the forum, and everyone on the July 25 Open Thread who helped talk me through my decision to apply — especially Not So New Reader, who gave me the final push to go for it after I’d regretfully decided that I probably didn’t meet the qualifications closely enough.

    Here’s the comment thread where it all happened:

    I’m giving a five-week notice and will start at my university department head’s private design firm, as his bookkeeper/office manager, on October 1. It is about a $10K raise for me, too!

    And a final thank-you to all the commenters on here in general, because it from absorbing all your combined wisdom that I was able to get through this process with some aplomb, instead of blindly fumbling my way through it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Look at you go! wow. Just wow. I was thinking of you the other day and hoped you would come back on to say what happened.

      Many happy years of employment. He sounds like a fine boss who now has a fine employee.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        He was actually surprised and flattered that I would want to leave the university and come with him. He thought of me as a very dedicated university employee (which I am/was) — but now I’ll be a very dedicated private employee.

        So, the way that I applied for the job was by talking to his wife at the coffee pot when I visited their firm to do some university work with my boss. I was a little intimidated to broach it with him first (because I still didn’t know if I was qualified enough, and it would suck to get rejected by him), so I asked his wife questions about what the job would be like and if she thought someone with little experience could do it. She talked to her husband/my boss, and he came to me the next day full of enthusiasm for exploring the possibility of my coming to work for them.

        Once I saw that they were nearly as excited to hire me as I was to be hired, I formally applied with a resume and cover letter.

        I’m so glad you weighed in on my decision, NSNR. I was about to give it up as too much of a stretch, and your advice got me excited again to try.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I love this follow up stuff. This is a great story about just having the brass to keep going when everything seems to be saying STOP. That was a great idea to talk to his wife. And isn’t it usually the case that we just don’t know what others are thinking? Good for him for explaining that to you.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      GET OUT!

      That’s terrific.

      I hyper focused on the financial projections part of your question instead of the bigger picture. NSNR wins the prize and you win the job.


      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        @Wakeen’s Teapots You really encouraged me, too! I didn’t recognize his pattern, until you said something, of expecting overly much (she keeps books! she does graphic design while simultaneously — just for fun — running financial projections in her head!!). When I realized that it would be just like him to overstate the requirements, I also realized that the job description might be pretty fluid. I thought then that I could probably persuade them of my vision for the position.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I just wanted to pop back over to make clear that everyone who commented on my dilemma helped me. All the feedback, from the more skeptical to the more “what do you have to lose — apply anyway!” was an information point that went into my ultimate decision to go for it (while remaining aware of the potential pitfalls to not having the exact experience).

          From the more skeptical responses, I was able to see what I needed to directly address with my boss and his wife to help them see their way clear to hiring me. I think that if I hadn’t acknowledged my potential shortcomings to them, in a very direct way, they would have wondered if I was unaware of the knowledge gap.

  13. Anon*

    Hooray, I’ve been waiting a couple of weeks to ask this one. Sorry it’s so long, I really tried to condense to the most relevant facts.

    *tl;dr: Was working with an agency who does not seem to want to work with me anymore. Every other agency in my city works with the same giant employer. If I register with a new agency, should I disclose that I have already gone on a couple of interviews with this employer to avoid interviewing twice with the same departments? How can I avoid one agency contacting the other to find out why they aren’t working with me anymore?*

    Registered with a staffing agency who contracts exclusively with the multi-billion dollar financial services company in my city. Haven’t interviewed in 8 years, have been freelancing for 6, currently working part-time and will continue with this work even with a new job. Have moderate-severe social anxiety. Sent on two interviews. Interviews are terror and the worst way to get to know me.

    –1st formal; uncomfortable, weird vibe and traumatisingly poor performance. Needed 2 weeks to recover before trying again.
    –2nd informal; “getting-to-know-you”, delightful, friendly people, instantly at ease, seemed to like me and my resume. Felt extremely positive and hopeful–really wanted to work with these people.
    Both times they went with someone else for reasons that, based on feedback, could be directly attributed to my social anxiety.

    I never asked for it, but the agency suggested things they could keep in mind when submitting me and setting me up for interviews. Gathering lists of potential questions, giving me lots of detail about the interviewers, etc. Lots of detail allows me to prepare extensively, which makes me less anxious.

    After 2nd interview, gave agent a heads up to a poor response to the last question in case it was mentioned by the interviewers. Suddenly she stops responding to my emails and I knew they wanted to make a quick decision, so I wrote her colleague (whom I’ve since learned is actually the branch manager) who confirmed she was actually in the office and went over feedback with me instead. ??? Colleague, with whom I’ve never worked before, calls again the next day saying they have another formal interview. She has no information, has never worked with the department before, hadn’t run the job by me first and gave me only a day’s notice.

    Turned it down, saying I’d rather avoid formal interviews. She suddenly kind of flipped out on me, accused me of not being willing to go outside my comfort zone, saying “This is what interviewing IS”, and generally gave me a lot of attitude. That they’d passed over other qualified candidates to give these interviews to me (sounds like a very dumb thing to do?), and acted as though I was weak and ungrateful for not being desperate enough. I still turned down the interview, told her I felt she was misunderstanding me and I didn’t think it was going to be resolved right then, but that I would just wait for the next one. She said I may not hear from them again until they had “the perfect position that doesn’t require an interview”, which was never something I requested, and frankly, she was just being rude at that point.

    So a couple of things:

    1. Was it me? I know they’re paid (or supplemented) by placement. I did my best in the interviews but now that I know they’re not all as traumatic as the first one, I’d rather put my energy toward informal situations that make it easiest to set myself (and the agency) up for success.

    2. Since I have no idea if I’m actually going to hear from them again, I want to register with another agency. They all work with the same employer (it is truly a massive company). I’ve since changed my name (first, middle and last), and while it’s unlikely I’ll be sent to interview with the same people/department I have before, there is always a chance. Do I mention I was working with the original agency? Will the new agency call the old agency to ask about me? The old agency’s reference will obviously carry more clout than my explaining that they overreacted. I’m new to this city and am trying to maintain a sterling reputation wherever I go, and it’s not starting out very well.

    1. Colette*

      Turned it down, saying I’d rather avoid formal interviews.

      This is odd to me – you can’t really avoid formal interviews if you’re looking for a job. Certainly the agency should work with you to help you be comfortable, but interviewing is a big part of how companies hire. Are you taking steps (therapy, for example) to help you be more comfortable in interviews and to help you recover afterwards if it doesn’t go as well as you’d like?

      I think you have to tell a new agency about interviews with the company (assuming they’re recent) because this may affect who the company is contractually obligated to pay if they end up hiring you. I don’t think you have to give the new agency the rundown on why you’re not working with the old agency, though.

      1. Anon*

        I’m not in any rush to find new work. I’m already freelancing part-time and I have the luxury of taking my time to find something new. I feel this may have been unclear to the agency–I was glad to be offered the interviews, but I also felt no obligation to take anything and everything I was offered. I like what I do and will continue to do it in the evenings, but I feel like I’m ready to get back into an office and make a normal paycheck again. I am not in therapy, but I am taking my own personal steps to manage anxiety, so yes, it’s being addressed. I feel better about interviewing today than I did before the first one, so it’s already looking up. My concern is that if I need to disclose the interviews, they’ll want to know how those interviews were achieved and that will lead them to contacting the other agency, who I feel will no longer speak positively about me.

    2. AVP*

      I wouldn’t mention that you’ve interviewed with the other agency – there’s a good chance they know people there informally to ask about you, or they could see it as a red flag. Apply at the second agency and take your chances that you won’t end up with the same interviewer.

      Also, I don’t know what the agency overreacted – it sounds like your contact was unprofessional, but really, their job is to send people to the company who will get hired and earn them commission, and your role is to help them do that as much as possible and to reflect well on them. It just sounds like it might not be the best match. I don’t know that you can truly avoid the formal interview situation in the future – you can work with a recruiter to try to find the right placement, but if you read these boards you’ll see that everyone walks into unexpected, sometimes uncomfortable interview situations on the regular.

      Is there a chance that you’d be open to some short-term counseling for social anxiety, and a lot of practice interviewing for conditioning, and then trying it out again?

      1. AVP*

        Oh, just read Colette’s great point about the contractual obligations for placement…I wasn’t thinking about that and have no idea how that part would work.

      2. Anon*

        your role is to help them do that as much as possible and to reflect well on them

        That is actually exactly what I was trying to do by attempting to steer myself toward the informal interviews. I am confident I can perform well in that type of situation. A formal interview, especially with the type of freelance work I’ve been doing the last 6 years, doesn’t lend itself to allowing me to display what an attractive candidate I can be.

        Is there a chance that you’d be open to some short-term counseling for social anxiety, and a lot of practice interviewing for conditioning, and then trying it out again?

        One of the reasons I felt so shaken by the first interview was that I had actually done quite a bit of role-playing the night prior with my husband with the questions the agency gave me. Only one of the questions I had prepared for were asked, and I rapidly lost my confidence as I stumbled on question after question. I am not really open to therapy with a therapist, I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m smart enough to figure this out myself.

        1. AVP*

          Oh, I get that, but I think they don’t always have that option to steer you toward those kinds of interviews, and now you’ve given them a red flag about yourself. So if she knows that she has an open position to fill, but the interview could go either way and she hasn’t had a heads up on whether it will be informal or not, she’s definitely not going to send you because there’s a 50/50 chance she won’t make a placement. I think she was just trying to be honest but got unprofessional in the way she phrased it.

          1. Anon*

            Yeah. All of this was so unexpected and is very disappointing. I felt up to that point that I had acted professionally throughout (based in part on tips learned from this site). I was trying very hard to make all the right moves and it still turned out poorly. I’m actually not sure what to do differently with a new agency now. Do I mention the social anxiety? Do I just suck it up and go on every interview they offer, even if I don’t find the position attractive? They seem to think I should be willing to take one and all, but I don’t feel I should be penalized for turning down an interview for a position I know I won’t like.

            1. Colette*

              There’s a difference between turning down an interview because it’s not a position you’re interested in and turning down an interview because it’s not the kind of interview you like to do. The first one is normal and unlikely to cause hard feelings with a reasonable agency, the second one is not.

              A while ago, we had someone ask a question about whether they could ask the employer to use facetime instead of Skype for an interview. This is a similar kind of thing – you can’t tell the employer how to hire, if you want to get the job.

              1. OtherAnon*

                Agreed. Having restrictions on type of company, type of work, etc is 100% normal. The recruiter may try to sell a job on you anyways, but they won’t hold having standards against you. If you have a dealbreaker that rules out the vast majority of jobs, though – like no “formal” interviews, or you will only work from home, or you must come into work at 11am every day – that is something that needs to be disclosed up front before the recruiter spends time matching you to jobs.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, I don’t think you can work with recruiters if you say you’re not willing to do formal interviews. If that’s the case, I think you could only get a job through networking — but even then, you wouldn’t be safe from formal interviews, because they could end up wanting one at some point in the process. I don’t think the solution here is to find a way to avoid formal interviews; it’s to find a way to be okay with formal interviews. I understand that’s easier said than done, but I just don’t think “avoid formal interviews” is a workable solution (and it definitely won’t sound like one to staffing agencies).

        2. Colette*

          I am not really open to therapy with a therapist, I don’t think that’s necessary. I’m smart enough to figure this out myself.

          It’s not about intelligence – it’s about having someone give you a different perspective and help you see things in a way you can’t see them.

          1. BRR*

            Agreed, plus these people are trained to deal with things like this. Seeing a professional was amazing for my depression/anxiety.

          2. stellanor*

            Also by saying “I’m smart enough to figure this out myself,” you’re implying that those of us who are in therapy are what… too dumb to work out our issues?

            I’m sure Anon isn’t intentionally insulting anyone who’s sought therapy, but the implication is there, and it’s probably worth examining your issues re: therapy rather than discounting it out of hand. Especially since if you’re refusing to do formal interviews, you’re obviously not successfully handling what’s going on.

            1. Anon*

              It doesn’t imply anything, and I’m sorry you’re reading that into it. Perhaps it was just poor word choice. If you are in therapy and finding it useful, that’s great. I chose not to elaborate on the steps I’m taking to handle the anxiety, but I am not just sitting here wishing and hoping. I am actively dealing with it, but a counselor is just not something I will consider.

              1. Colette*

                Obviously, you know what steps you’re taking and whether they are working for you – but if you’re at a point where a bad interview can affect you for weeks or you avoid interviews, I think it’s worth considering whether you’re really being as successful at dealing with it as you want to be. Maybe you are – you say things are improving – in which case you can just keep doing what you’re doing, but if not, it might be time to think about what other options are available to you.

              2. Kathryn*

                I hear the “no therapy” drum and that is your choice.

                I will add that many people don’t understand what a therapist’s job is and make their choices from that mis understanding. Therapists don’t take crazy people and try to make them normal, they take people who are stressed and help them find better ways to cope. Knowing that your social anxiety is hampering your ability to be seen well in an interview is exactly the kind of problem statement that a decent therapist can focus on and help you find more resources to support your own work and progress. I’ve found therapists who work very well with “here is my goal, here are my challenges, what tools do you know of that can help me work?” (and therapists who aren’t up for that kind of thing, I replace as needed. I don’t need a hug or random wandering discussions, I need a professional with a bigger toolkit than mine.)

                All of that said, the solution here isn’t to find a job without a formal interview, but to figure out how you can survive a formal interview and shine in it.

        3. OtherAnon*

          The problem is that for almost any position, even if they start with an informal interview, there will be a formal interview before you can get hired. In the recruiter’s mind, you’ve been knowingly wasting her time by presenting yourself as a motivated candidate when you aren’t actually going to complete the interview process for the majority of positions because you have this dealbreaker that applies to the vast majority of jobs that you didn’t tell her about. You absolutely are not obligated to accept any job they suggest and can make it clear that you aren’t interested in certain types of work or work environments or companies. However, it’s usually pretty safe for the recruiter to assume you’d be interested in interviewing for a job if you’ve already been interested in a very similar job in the same company, so I could see why she would be taken aback by you turning down an interview, especially if it’s because you don’t like the interview style. It’s a little different than saying “Oh, thank you for the opportunity but I am not interested because of this job-related reason.” Without the social anxiety context, it sounds like you just don’t want to deal with wearing a suit and behaving formally. I totally believe that you had good intentions, just trying to explain why it might come across very badly to the recruiter.

        4. Liz*

          Have you thought about trying Toastmasters? Not a member myself, but know a lot of people who have joined, and have grown in confidence from the tips they learned there. I think being nervous about interviews is normal, but anything you can do to help you be more confident in all aspects of your life will come through. People, interviewers especially , pick up on all kinds of cues we may not even realize we are giving off.

    3. anon*

      Did you change your name to make it easier to register at another agency? I’m just curious/nosey because I’ve never heard of anyone changing their entire name before.

      1. Anon*

        No, I’ve been using this name for several years already socially and have known for much longer than that that I would eventually change my name. I knew I wanted to begin looking for new work and didn’t want the confusion/hassle of using one name socially and another name legally/professionally, so I got the process started around the same time I registered with the first agency. I made them aware of it from the beginning and when all of this went down, the hearing with the judge had just been scheduled.

    4. Michele*

      I am sorry that you have such anxiety but you really need to get a handle on it. As suggested therapy needs to be an option for you if you are not already seeking help of course.

      When dealing with larger recruiting companies/agencies it is very much the norm to receive a calls from someone you have never met and requests for interviews with only a days notice. I have gone to interviews with little information about the job and it sucks but you have to find a way to roll with it.

      There is nothing wrong with working with more than recruiter/agency. I am currently working with 3-5. The key is to be up front and honest with everyone you have reached out to and definitely let the new team know who you have already interviewed with that way they can send you to other departments.

      1. Anon*

        I am getting a handle on it on my own. I really don’t see the point of pursuing expensive therapy for this one purpose. Once I’m in a position, I adjust rapidly. The social anxiety only becomes an issue in formal situations like interviews. I am quite easily comfortable with other people when in informal settings (and even informal interviews). Part of the reason interviews are especially difficult are because I don’t enjoy sharing about myself, and unfortunately that is exactly what an interview is. I am gradually learning to roll with it.

        I have worked with agencies before, but not this way where the entire branch contracts with just one megacorp. In the past I have used multiple agencies, but I was also in a much, much larger city and there was no risk of assignment overlap. Thing is, the second department I interviewed with is still very much a group I would love to work with, and I would welcome the opportunity to interview with them again and possibly even address the feedback I received and assure them their reservations would not be a problem. I almost want to withhold that information from a new agency on the slight off-chance I might be able to score another interview with them simply because they don’t know my new name.

        1. Sarahnova*

          Sorry, but I’m going to continue to suggest therapy. What you’ve said does suggest you have some rooted ideas about not being “smart enough” if you need someone’s help to figure this stuff out. I think that is exactly the kind of stuff therapy could help you unpack. The same with the division you’re making between “formal” and “informal” situations and interviews. It seems that your anxiety ABOUT your anxiety is getting in the way of your being able to productively address your anxiety, and getting some help might be a positive step in the direction of stopping beating yourself up for this.

          Nobody’s too smart to need therapy, but those of us who get hung up on being “too smart” (by which we secretly mean our fear that we could be revealed as “not smart enough”) maybe need it more than most.

          1. Anon*

            It was poor word choice, and I didn’t mean to offend. A counselor, however, is just not an option.

            1. fposte*

              That’s your choice, of course. The problem is that going without an interview isn’t really an option in most hiring either. It sounds like freelancing might still be the best fit for you until interviewing is less of an obstacle, and you can network while you freelance, which is how most non-interview offers happen anyway.

        2. Sophia*

          The problem is that it sounds like you’re not handling it on your own if it takes you two weeks to recover from a formal interview. As many have said, most jobs, even ones with networking, will require a formal interview though I’m glad you have had some success since you’re already working part time

    5. Not So NewReader*

      It could be my misunderstanding here- but I don’t think your problem is the agency. I think it’s your refusal to do formal interviews. So this means the next agency will have a similar reaction if you say this.

      I understand that you are not in therapy and you can indeed fix it on your own. Did you get Alison’s book? It’s cheap for what it can do for a person. How about checking out mock interviews- perhaps there is an employment agency (governmental) near you that would help you practice.

      Lastly, read everything you can find on this blog talking about interviewing. Especially the comment section. That is where you see what other people are going through and how they handle it. One thing that could have gotten by you is that how to interview well not in our genes at birth. Almost everyone struggles with some aspect of interviewing. Please don’t expect more of you than is humanly possible. Interviewers know we will stumble a bit and it’s not the stumbling that bothers them. It’s how we respond to our own stumbling that they watch.

      1. Anon*

        No, I don’t have the book. I’ve considered purchasing it now and then, but since I always intended to use an agency, it didn’t seem like something I needed since they would be doing all the heavy lifting for me and all I really needed to do was show up. I may take another look.

        Thank you for your comments. I feel ashamed from time to time that this socialization thing doesn’t come as easily to me as it does to others, and the entire job acquisition process is at odds with who I am. Your words made me smile and feel a little bit better about that today. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Agencies don’t do the heavy lifting for you though! I think this misconception might be at the root of some of this — they will connect you with jobs that you might be the right fit for, but you need to interview and sell yourself, just like you would without the agency. The only exception here might be temp-to-hire, and if that exists in your field, that could be an option for you, because it would allow you to get to know the employer without the pressure of a formal interview. But outside of temp-to-hire, you’re still going to have to do formal interviews…

          1. Anon*

            Heavy lifting in that I was able to eliminate the job hunt and persistent cover letter/resume submission bits and jump straight to interviews. I just had to sit back and let them roll in.

            1. Canuck*

              I would still suggest that taking this mindset is not the most effective way to go. If you rely just on an agency to send you to interviews, you will miss out on a large percentage of jobs that don’t use agencies for hiring!

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                And also, even agency-arranged interviews aren’t a case of “all you have to do is show up.” You have to spend time preparing beforehand, you have to be impressive during it, and you have to handle follow-up appropriately afterwards.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          We use agencies frequently and we always interview candidates for a match, including unskilled warehouse workers. If we were looking for a designer through an agency, there would probably be two interviews. With multiple people.

          I want to say this as gently as possible but, the problem isn’t the agency you were working with. The agency gets you in the door but you do have to still win the assignment on your own. And that means interviewing, most of the time. (Interviewing also lets you decide if you want the assignment because you can ask as many questions as you want right back.)

    6. Anon*

      They are likely to ask you if you have been submitted as a candidate to an employer they’re working with. If so, then it would be unethical to lie. The company wouldn’t get a commission from you being hired and you would essentially be “stealing” their time.

      If they don’t ask, you don’t have to tell them, but it would be a good idea if they’re sending you on an interview for what seems like it might be a position that you’ve already interviewed for.

      When I worked for a staffing agency, we never called other agencies to get references, and I’ve never heard of this, so I think the probability is pretty low. It’s also never assumed that you’re exclusive with one agency unless you say so, so there is no reason not to register for every agency that you can. However, it gets complicated when they’re recruiting for the same jobs because the rules for commissions can be tricky. Sometimes if you’re in that company’s database at all, if you have ever submitted an application or been submitted by a staffing agency, the company will not pay a commission. Other companies place the limit on having interviewed or applied or been submitted by an agency within the past year. Your luck with other agencies for this employer specifically will depend on the company’s contracts with the agencies.

  14. AVP*

    Some quick and exciting news – one of my things that I do here is plan screenings of our work all over the world, and then it’s on me to try to get people to go to them. Well, we’re having one in Kosovo right this second and my bosses are there (so, REALLY important that an audience shows up) and….it’s sold out, standing room only! Wheeee.

  15. Malissa*

    Since I’m not ready to quit my day job yet, how does a person deal with a paranoid, macro-managing, mind changing boss?
    I’ve been asked to double check others on trivial thing because he doesn’t believe them.
    I’ve been told to do things one way, and then get told that way is wrong 6 months later.
    I’ve been asked to do thing that are impossible because I’m not given all the necessary information.
    I’m also constantly blocked from doing the job I was hired to do.

    I realize shortly after I took this job that I was given a mission impossible. I was hired to reform the ways of my boss, who actively blocks everything I try to do.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Just remember that you have the luxury of searching for a better job because you still have this one; if you ever got so sick of it that you wanted to job-search full time, technically you could quit at any time. But don’t let it go from bad to worse, make sure you find not just any job, but one that’s a better fit for you.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Who hired you to reform the ways of your boss? It would need to be someone above him, right? Perhaps you should go to that person and ask for guidance, suggestions for alternate ways to get your job done, new approaches to try.

      1. Malissa*

        Sadly my boss hired me. He’s one of three owners. I know I’m still employed only because of the grief he’d get from the other owners if I left.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Ah, so the other 2 owners said “You need to do these things differently, hire someone to make it happen.” So you were hired, but boss-owner doesn’t really want to change, he only wants to appease the other owners. He can pretend he’s trying to change, and now can blame the lack of success on you.

          That’s a situation that it would be nice for Alison to respond to. Because I sure don’t see a way out, at least not in your current job.

          1. Malissa*

            In short it means that he was/is in charge of the books and things are quite up to snuff. It was implied (not told or ordered) to me that I was to push back and make sure things are right.

    3. Malissa*

      I think what I really gets to me is that I find myself picking up new and annoying habits, because that’s the way things work here.
      I’m annoyed with myself about getting defensive, and picking up other bad habits in this environment. Granted a couple of bad habits are to protect myself and are necessary at this point. But that leads me to slipping into other bad habits that are really not okay by me.
      How can I minimize this?

      1. Snork Maiden*

        I manage this by reading AAM (I hadn’t realized how bad it was here until I started reading Alison’s posts and getting super defensive), journaling, and making sure I have enough contact with normal people outside work hours (and regular exercise). The fact that you can recognize slippage is the first and most important step to modifying behaviour. Keeping long-term goals fresh in your head lets you roll with short-term aggravators.

    4. Anon*

      Things that worked for me in a strikingly similar situation:
      – Pro-actively update him on things; set up weekly one on one meetings with him and go with a list of 10 things to update him on. Seriously, this worked wonders for my micro-manager.
      – Over communicate about what you are doing, including cc him on emails – enough for him to feel more in touch with the day-to-day of what you are doing (this went against the grain but it helped with his paranoia about me).
      – When he sets tasks, verbally echo back what he said then email a summary of the discussion. I used that email thread to update him on progress/completion. If it was a project, I’d do a project brief and get his sign off before I started and used other project documents to report on progress that he again had to sign off.
      – With checking up on others, I used to email the other person, ccing my boss, and say “Boss was asking me about project X, can you give him an update/show it to him please?” I didn’t want to be his little spy in the office so I just kept getting everything out in the open. Your co-workers will know what he is like and will understand why you’re doing this if you choose to.

      If you are being defensive about his criticisms, I strongly recommend reading AAM’s advice about receiving feedback – because of my boss’s goal changing behaviours that you mentioned above, I gradually became defensive to all feedback from him. AAM’s advice helped me to keep my game face on and not react defensively in the moment. I got very good at listening to his feedback, thanking him for it, then privately weighing up to see if it was fair and simply discarding it if there was nothing in there that I could act on or saw value in acting on (he wanted me to be a mini-him and I really did not admire the way he conducted himself, so a big “No thank you” to anything that pointed me in the direction of becoming him!!)

      I think the key thing to remember is that you can’t change this person as you are not in the position to do so. They were doing this before you arrived and will be doing it long after you leave. Someone above/to the side him needs to manage this and implement consequences of him not changing.

      As a coping mechanism, I recognised that I was likely to come across this type of manager again in the future so I read up on how to deal with a boss like this and experimented with different things. I tried to see this as a learning experience as much as possible and if you can find things that work, it really will give you valuable skills for the future.

      You can absolutely trust me on this last point – the bad habits you mention aren’t natural to you and they will soon dissipate when you leave his sphere of influence. (But please don’t wait too long. In hind sight, I left three years after I should have and my confidence and energy were at a serious low by then.)

      I know this is long, but it struck a chord with me. I feel for you and I hope this helps.

  16. Stephanie*

    (1) Has anyone tried the “I’ll be in X town between [dates] and would be available for a possible interview” line with any success? (Poor wording, but that’s basically letting an employer know I’d be available to meet in-person if there’s interest.)

    (2) Related to (1), I am heading to Houston to meet with old professors about grad school options (yeah, I know there’s a lot of debate about the usefulness of grad school here, but I’m having a hell of a time switching fields and keep running into the ‘must be within a year of graduation’ requirement for a lot of roles). Is the Houston market as good as I keep hearing for engineering? Is it worth extending my trip to stay out there to try and find something or meet with people? My own experience has been mixed, honestly, but I have been looking as a long-distance candidate (and I do think there is some issue with being outside the usual engineering recruiting cycle in my case). My friend is moving there to be with a SO and hasn’t had a ton of luck with long-distance searching either. Thoughts?

    1. Malissa*

      I would include when you will be in town in any cover letters you send that way. I’d also include that you are willing to come in at another time if necessary.
      Something like, “I will be in your area on these dates and I plan on future trips to the area as well”

    2. Dan*

      Grad school is a good option if you have a legit plan on what you’re going to do with it — that tends to the be advice floating around here, and I’d vouch for that from personal experience.

      Houston market for engineers? When I think Houston engineering, I think energy. Is your MechE background useful for that? For energy, I always think about petroleum or chemical engineering.

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, it’s mostly energy (and some medical-related things, but that’s less MechE-related). Oil/gas hires a ton of mechanical engineers, but I’m wondering if with that stuff I’m having the same issue as with a lot of engineering roles (i.e., I don’t neatly fit into the new grad or experienced hire roles). I’d guess too, since it’s an industry hub, companies get the top talent as well.

      2. Glorified Plumber*

        I spent a lot of time at a complex 225,000 BPD refinery. I would estimate there was more mechanical engineers than chemical engineers there. Not by a lot, but probably 10% more.

        At any EPC firm that does full service stuff and has their pipers in their own department, you will probably see the process:mechanical department ratio be about 1:1, maybe 1.5:1.

        So, the answer is, YES, refining hires TONS of mechanicals… and they do cool stuff. Rotating equipment, vessels, reliability, metallurgy, lots of random FEA’s and design of stuff machined locally, etc.

        I spent even more time at an EP firm, and the chemical to mech ratio was about 1.5:1. They were the two largest engineering departments (piping was bigger and not full of engineers… because… pipe).

    3. Manager anonymous*

      I did to make the final interview round for a position in March. In May, I found that I would be in that city. I emailed the hiring manager and asked for an informational interview for the following Friday. She emailed back that the position was still open and did I want to come in and discuss it

      That is the job that I have had for the last year and 1/2.

    4. Glorified Plumber*

      Hi Engineer Stephanie… for the downstream energy industry in particular, I have some suggestions on how to get in on the owner/operator refining side which, given what I have witnessed, is everywhere you want to be.

      You are correct in that most of the owner/operators hire directly out of school (and generally via direct school recruiting), but there is an alternate path that gets little publication, but it requires solid 3-5 years of investment. That investment is not that rough in and of itself, but it isn’t a direct path.

      Go to a place like Houston (or any other “HUB”) or look on a map of refiners in the US and find clusters (there are others, Philly/NJ, Bellingham WA (seriously, 4 major refineries within 40 minutes), the area between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, etc.) and there will be SMALLER I.e. 200-500 person firms (e.g. Not Fluor, not Jacobs, not CB&I, not Bechtel. For example in Bellingham, look at URS, CH2M HILL, Anvil Corporation, and Jacobs) that serve a local market. Houston is a REALLY cliche hub, there are “EPC engineering and EP engineering firms” everywhere. Houston is not a bad choice, it just might not be the best choice because it is Houston.

      These EP/EPC firms are MUCH more likely to hire someone with some years of experience in “not oil.” I went into one of these firms c. 7 years ago (with one year of NOT oil experience), and of the 17 people in my freshman class, about 5 (which was actually ALL the ones who wanted to) made the transition to the client and now work for refiners. Sadly, only 3 still work for the same firm, 2 got preggo and quit, 1 became a math teacher, and the others work for the competition.

      Anyways, it took them 5-6 years of making contacts, being known for rocking it out, waiting for an opening in the refinery project/process development groups, and then pouncing on it to make happen. That is the ONLY way into these operators without knowing someone high up, or being a “fresh grad” that I am aware of.

      If you want to go into more upstream/midstream stuff, its an even longer con. 4-6 years with an EPC firm, transition to a vertically integrated client, then do 2-4 years there, then transfer internally.\

      If you are midlevel now (i.e. in the 5-10 years experience range, roughly 27-35 years of age), I think life will ultimately be quite good for working in these firms. Oil and gas is EXTREMELY top heavy (thank you to ultra cheap oil post gulf war and the crash in the early 80’s). There is an enormous hole in the mid level folks… which, when all the baby boomers finally retire with their fat 401k’s (oil and gas = fat 401k’s), there will be a HUGE vacuum for people with “some experience”.

      Good luck!!!

      1. Stephanie*

        Ooh, thanks! This is really helpful, interesting stuff. Would you be willing to talk further? If so, my email’s stephanie dot m dot jennings AT gmail dot com. (I’m also in the AAM LinkedIn Group–last name’s Jennings).

    5. Lamington*

      Hi Stephanie. I work for big oil and another way to get your foot in the door is through an internship from grad school. im in Communications but our intern was a MechEng too:) At least for this company, they like grad degrees. My previous job an oil and gas service company preferred no degree but field experience.

  17. kacey*

    I have 10 years of marketing experience, and have recently decided that I want to get into a more office manager/reception/admin type role.

    My reasons for doing so are because I am a comedian and the stress of my old marketing job combined with long hours made it impossible for me to perform as much as I wanted to. I am looking for a more structured office job that has kind of set hours and tasks and less stress. I’ve been temping in these kinds of roles and really enjoying them.

    I am totally fine making less money, and think my project management, office, and communication skills could translate well into this type of role.

    My question is: How should I phrase this to potential employers? Is this a crazy transition to make? I’ve just concluded I don’t want to do marketing anymore.

    Also, I quit my last job because it was toxic and I had money saved and some freelance gigs lined up. I am wondering what to say. I don’t want to bash my old company, but I had to leave to preserve my mental health. Would it be wrong to say I had to help with some family issues so needed a more flexible schedule (they don’t need to know that the family member is me) that are now dealt with, and so I am back looking for more full-time work?

    1. Anonymous*

      Do you actually have experience being an office manager, receptionist, or administrative assistant? These are not necessarily things you can just step into and do well from the start. If you get a call, how would you address your lack of experience in the particular area? I think saying, “My background is in marketing. I am also a comedian and want that to be my primary career; I am just interested in being your office manager to pay the bills,” is not going to be very impressive.

        1. kacey*

          I am gaining experience in those areas through temp to perm, and have done administrative type duties as part of other marketing jobs (ie setting up for meetings, sending out mailings, etc). I’m not planning on laying it out quite like “I just want to be your office manager to pay the bills” but people will ask why the transition and I plan to say something like I have realized I enjoy this type of work much more and try to sell them on the fact that my project management and organizational skills would translate. That’s why I was asking for advice on how to phrase it to potential employers.

          I’m looking at jobs where the duties align with my past experiences. ie not high level exec assistant work which is quite different, but more “ordering supplies, answering phones, arranging travel plans, setting up meetings,” type roles – I’ve done all those things in professional settings before. I have a 5 week assignment for a company as an office manager (though I will not be handling ALL her duties as major things will be put on hold until she returns from sabbatical) and I think that will help me get a better feel for this type of work.

          But also, every job is to pay the bills. Pretending otherwise is annoying.

          1. Sadsack*

            What I was getting at with the comment about just paying the bills is that I think employers may look for people who are interested in their company or industry for specific reasons (even though most of us are working for money!). I was worried that they may be skeptical about your interest because it may seem like you’d be looking for a lower-level role than you held in marketing, which is unusual. I didn’t know about the additional details that you provided, which make a difference. Maybe you could discuss your interest in pursung something where you would be doing more organizing/planning than when you were in a more creative role. If your most recent job is in an office manager position, you may not really need to explain the transition.

            1. kacey*

              Yeah that’s the tough part because my previous job was high-level, but I am looking for a lower-level. My salary was way above market for a variety of reasons, but I am fine making less. I think I will just highlight that I have learned that I prefer the more organizational aspects, and say that while temping I have come to realize that’s what I am better at, and also maybe downplay my past job a little bit?

    2. Julia*

      Have you looked into staffing agencies? A temp to perm role might help you find that position and give you some more relevant experience to put on your resume.

      1. kacey*

        Yes! I have a 5-week assignment coming up, it is temporary as the person is on sabbatical but I am hoping performing well at this might give me more opportunity for them to place me in another assignment that might be temp to perm.

    3. Dawn*

      Re-do your resume to stress skills that are being asked for in an office manager role. Emphasize your PM/communication/office skills. In your cover letter, address the positive things that drew you to changing your career- more structured environment, interested in the work, etc etc.

      When the “why did you leave your last job” comes up, just say that you had freelance gigs lined up and wanted to shift your emphasis to those instead of staying at your old company. No need to mention toxicity at all.

      You’re in control of your story- you can make it however you want it to be!

  18. Anon-y-mouse*

    Going anon for this one.

    What are people’s thoughts on coming out at work? I’ve always had at least one foot in the closet in my professional life, which has always left me feeling pretty uncomfortable at work. I’d like to be out, but it’s a little tricky for me as I am both queer and transgender.

    Is it worth coming out at work, assuming I have a welcoming environment? Has anyone had a good experience coming out as trans (especially as a nonbinary)? I would hate to work at a transphobic or homophobic environment – any advice on how to avoid either or both?

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I don’t have advice, but I wish you the best of luck and lots of support via the Internet! And curses upon anyone who makes you feel bad about yourself at work

    2. A Teacher*

      Just be you, so people find out something they didn’t know about you, that doesn’t fundamentally change you as a person. None of my co-workers make a big issue out of who they are seeing or arent’ seeing. It might come up in casual conversation like “Oh sally and I went to see this movie” or something like that but that’s the extent of how I know my boss is a woman seeing a woman. Most people care more about HOW she does her job versus who she’s in a relationship with, at least at my job.

      1. Cassie*

        When it comes to my coworkers and other people at work, I honestly don’t care. I know one staff member and one faculty member are gay; another person talks about her roommate a lot which could be a euphemism for significant other or could simply be a roommate that she hangs out with all the time. I don’t know and again, I don’t care – the less I know about my coworkers, the happier I am :)

        I know one coworker comes from a somewhat conservative culture and may be a little uncomfortable about LGBT issues – for example, she’s the one that told me the staffer (who is out) is gay. The fact that she felt the need to tell me, like it was some big secret (when it’s not), was pretty telling.

    3. Calla*

      I just act like I’m already out to everyone; as I’m sure you know form experience, generally we only have one big coming out moment, and the rest of the time it’s small mentions. So when I’m in an interview, and they ask why’d you move to this state (I’ve been here three years, so still fairly new), I can say “Oh, my girlfriend, now fiancee, her family lives here.” (And if they reacted oddly, that would be a red flag.) In the office, I mention things we do in passing like anyone with a boyfriend or husband would do.

      Now the problem with that, at least for women, is I’ve had a number of people, after I talk about living with my girlfriend, “our cats,” blah blah blah, still refer to her as my “friend”! I have no way of knowing if they’re purposely doing this or assuming that I mean girl (space) friend. It’s also harder to drop that casually if you’re not in a relationship. In those cases, I correct obviously wrong assumptions when it’s appropriate. But I have to be okay with knowing there are gonna be some people who, a year from now in the same job, still assume I’m straight, cuz that’s the world we live in.

      IF you know you have a welcoming environment, and IF you’re comfortable, I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be worth being open about that part of it.

      Not being trans, I don’t have any specific advice, but I imagine the difficulty would depend on the level of outness needed (like, do you just want a different name used among your team, or does HR need to know that you are transitioning in order to handle paperwork appropriately, that type of thing).

      I wish you the best of luck!

      1. Dan*

        As a straight guy, I’ll be honest and say that women referring to their “girl friends” (space or no space) always confuses me. When I was younger, I thought women had “girl friends” in the same sense that guys had “girl friends”. It took me a long time to realize that’s just how they refer to “friends.”

        I take “partner” to mean a same-sex significant other.

        1. Calla*

          I thought only older women did it for a long time, but maybe now because I’m in a metro area, I hear women my age do it, and it’s confusing for me too, because I don’t which they mean either. Are you saying you’re one of my people or are you talking about another straight friend?!

          1. Fact & Fiction*

            I think this term became popular again for women using with women who are just friends when the phrase, “You go, girlfriend!” (and variations thereof) became extremely trendy in pop culture. I personally try not to assume that someone is straight if using that term, but it can be difficult to determine if they mean just a friend or an actual romantic partner in some situations.

            1. Calla*

              We’re so limited on options! If I say “fiancee” people assume it’s a guy, if I say “girlfriend” people may assume it’s a friend… I could say “partner” but that sounds too mature personally (I associate it with the older community, and also people who have been together like 20 years).

                1. Mints*

                  If you’re outing yourself on purpose, maybe “wife-to-be” or “soon-to-be-wife”? Or assuming she has a distinctly feminine name, “Jane, we’re getting married in February.”

              1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                I know people have discussed this in Open Threads in the past, but using “partner” also runs the risk of people assuming you mean business parter, or like that you’re both partners in a law firm or something.

                As someone who is about to celebrate 10 years of being with my guy, but who objects to marriage as a concept, I hear you on the insufficiency of language! We use “teammate” but that’s just cause we’re pretty nerdy. I also use the “mother-in-sort-of-law” which is a bit of a mouthful.

              2. Jenny*

                Yeah, partner sounds too business-y. I usually use the term “sweetheart.” Pretty clear for most people.

          2. CTO*

            I, too, have found younger women also using “girlfriend” to describe people who really are just their friends. It’s so confusing! It’s not that I really care what gender(s) other people date, but it is sometimes helpful to know whether someone did something with their SO or just with a friend.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Why? Why does it matter if a co-worker’s off-site activities are with a SO or just a friend?

              I’m not trying to be snarky, but it seems we want to categorize others, and maybe we should let that go a bit.

        2. LBK*

          The “girl friends” thing totally threw me off growing up too! My mom never used it but a lot of her and my dad’s friends did. I just thought my parents knew an exorbitant amount of lesbians.

        3. Kelly L.*

          My mom always said that, and then when I did have an actual romantic girlfriend at one point, especially older women would hear me say “girlfriend” and assume the platonic meaning automatically.

          I never know what to assume about “partner.” My landlord is always talking about his partner, and in other ways I’ve also gotten the impression he might be gay, but the guy is also his business partner so it could just be that! I’ve been too awkward to ask so far.

      2. ClaireS*

        Calla’s got great advice. My best friend (who also works at my company) is gay and handles it just like Calla does. I know her attitude is that she would rather everyone just know so it’s no longer a “thing.” I have said a few things about her to others at work (normal things e.g. I met her through her gf) and once someone asked if I should be outing her like that. But, we had already had that discussion and she’d rather it not be a secret.

        For what it’s worth, I work in a very conservative industry and it’s a non-issue (well, not a complete non-issue, but close). I think it helps that we work for an international company and live in canada.

      3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Calla – good point about the “girlfriend” language. I have an female employee who I was pretty sure was gay or bi, but I was stuck calling her girlfriend her friend (or roommate) because the language she was using could have gone either way (not criticizing – it’s just English in its current state). I knew that she knew I wasn’t homophobic (I had initiated a project to increase outreach to LGBT clients), but I just don’t feel like it’s my place as an employer to ask someone questions about their sexuality, and I ended up feeling like I was making something awkward or trying to cover up her relationships, which felt awful. All I knew for sure is that she’d had a past LTR with a man. She eventually said something direct to me, and I was really relieved to stop talking around – and I felt honored to be trusted. If she’s been a peer, I wouldn’t have been so hesitant to ask. As it turned out she wasn’t really out and was being careful with that info until she told her family. Are there any signs that could help you guess how safe this is in your workplace, Anon-y-mouse?

    4. Anon*

      I’m going anon for this too.

      And I’m just going to come out and say it (pun not intended): Transgender weirds me out. Call it my problem if you want, but if you were my co-worker, I’d rather not know.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Well, if your coworker were transitioning, at some point you would know. And then it would be on you to be professional about it, regardless of your personal feelings.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Exactly. I support anyone’s right to have the feelings or opinions they have, but it is unacceptable to allow those feelings or opinions to affect how you treat a fellow worker (or human being, for that manner) in your dealings with them. In a professional environment, it is incumbent upon you (general you) to treat that person with the utmost respect and courtesy, no matter how “weirded out” you might feel. In other words, it’s okay to disapprove of something or to have it make you uncomfortable; it’s not okay to treat someone else as “less than” because of those emotions.

        2. nep*

          Yup. And this applies to so many things — be professional about it regardless of personal feelings or biases.

        3. OfficePrincess*

          While I agree that the transgender person’s feelings and comfort are definitely more important, I don’t think it’s 100% necessary for others to know. Obviously, people who knew the person pre-transition would need to be told, but if I were to meet someone who is already presenting as their preferred* gender, their sex at birth really isn’t any of my business and I wouldn’t expect to be told.

          *I know this isn’t exactly the right word, but my vocabulary is failing me right now.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Anon, is it helpful to think about the fact that at one point in time, you might have also been weirded out by other stuff that also felt different and outside the norm you were used to but which now (presumably) doesn’t elicit that reaction in you? I mean, some people used to be weirded out by gay people, interracial marriage, other races…. (Some people still are, of course, but it’s widely recognized that that’s a bad thing.) If you can see this as something that’s weirding you out because of lack of exposure (both as a concept and in real life), and that that’s a cycle people’s brains sometimes go through until we get more used to something, it might help you start to feel more comfortable. Or at least strive to feel more comfortable.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          This is such a good point! It’s really helpful to think of discomfort as a transitional state or part of a process, rather than as a permanent condition.

      3. BRR*

        I used to be weirded out even as a gay man. What really was an eye opening experience was hearing personal stories. For me it was a lack of exposure and hearing about it made me understand a lot more what they were going through. I would recommend seeking out stories. I’m not saying you need to change your mind but exposing yourself to something you might not be familiar with (I wasn’t) is important.

        1. Noah*

          Agree 100% with this as a bisexual man. What really made a difference for me was reconnecting with a high school friend that mad the transition. Speaking with her and learning was a big eye opener. I think there is a big avoidance factor regarding transgendered people. The situations can be awkward and most people don’t know how to react. I don’t think most people mean to be hurtful and in fact actually fear being hurtful so they just avoid the situation instead.

    5. Sharon*

      My suggestion would be to just be yourself and not make any big deal out of it. If your work culture is “inclusive”, you should see that coworkers and management will also not make a big thing out of it.

      For example, when I was hired for my current job, I was told I would report to “Fred”. A few weeks into it, Fred casually mentioned that his husband’s name was David. I was like, “Cool, my husband’s name is David, too! We might have to number them to keep them straight in conversation.”

      Or in other words, just like heterosexuals make casual reference to their families, you can too. No need to get into details, if they don’t. (And if they do, and I’ve worked for a couple places like that, then they deserve what they get! LOL! (Not saying that gay “details” are gross, I’m thinking more about the place I worked where the women would talk in graphic detail about giving birth in front of the men, etc. That kind of stuff is best left out of a professional environment.))

        1. Kelly L.*

          My BF’s mom decided to start in on birthing horror stories with me a few weeks ago. It kind of came out of nowhere–I’m not even pregnant.

        2. MaryMary*

          No one, male/female, gay/straight, wants to hear about episiotomies. I’m pretty sure even medical professionals don’t want to talk about them if they don’t have to.

      1. Simonthegrey*

        When I was hired at my last retail job, there was a guy hired around the same time as me and we went through training together. We were on registers, making small talk, and I asked if he was married (just being polite/keeping conversation going, not trying to hit on him or anything). He said, “Yes. Well, no, I mean, we can’t legally, but ….” and trailed off. I replied something like “that’s cool!” and we just kept talking. It wasn’t a big thing, and later, once they COULD legally get married, they did.

    6. Ash (the other one)*

      Well… since ENDA hasn’t passed yet, you first HAVE to check whether your state has work protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. It is awful that this is still the case, but you could very well be fired for coming out without recourse (I won’t get into politics here, but this frustrates me so much).

      Once you decided that you can safely come out, I’d be prepared to answer a lot of questions. Many might be well meaning but kind of offensive, but just know that people are trying to come to terms with what your revelation means — are you going to now use a different wash room? Are you going to have surgery? Will you dress differently? These are things that should matter to no one but you, but people will want to know so have answers ready and be patient for others to come around. And I would also make sure that for the first few weeks after you are on your “best behavior” so to speak work wise, so you can demonstrate that your coming out has absolutely nothing to do with your work product.

      1. Anon-y-mouse*

        I’m very lucky to live in a state that has protections for sexual orientation as well as gender identity and gender presentation. Hooray! (If I didn’t live in a place with those protections, I wouldn’t even be considering it, to be honest.)

        Thanks for reminding me about the questions – I’ve been lucky enough to have friends who are (mostly) understanding about gender issues, so I’ve not really been faced with too many of that kind of question yet. Especially given some of my current coworkers, I have a feeling there would be LOT of that kind of questioning going on.

        1. Natalie*

          Perhaps you could find a trans 101 website or something you could direct people to. Hopefully people are fairly understanding that answering the same questions over and over gets old fast.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I think having some sort of resource or FAQ is a great idea. Maybe one or two friends in the office could be in charge of directing people to an appropriate website or organization? If you have close friends at work, you could also ask them to help address some of the more frequent/inappropriate questions. I’m not saying give them The Official Anon-y-mouse Is Queer and Trans FAQ (although I kind of love that idea), but you can speak with them first so that they’re prepared to say, “Anon-y-mouse hasn’t spoken with me about his plans for his genitals, and it’s really none of our business.”

            1. Anon-y-mouse*

              Note to self: write an Official Anon-y-mouse Is Queer and Trans FAQ. Maybe I’ll print it on business cards so I can hand it to people who ask me weird questions. :)

              I don’t have any close friends where I work now, and my current coworkers have thus far been very good about asking me directly for questions related to me (like when I’m sick or what have you). I know not all businesses are like that, though, so it can’t hurt to be prepared for the next workplace.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                I have to add: Trans coming-out is in the air today. Just a few minutes ago, I learned that a longtime friend is transgender. How did I learn? He posted an article about himself on Facebook, and the article began, “Trans professional Philip J. Fry…”

                So that’s one way to do it!

          2. Cath in Canada*

            This is a great idea.

            We got an email a few weeks ago about an employee in a different department who’s beginning their transition, sent by that employee’s direct manager. The email included links to informational resources for people who have questions, as well as information on the employee’s preferred pronouns and a reminder about / link to our Respectful Workplace policy. It was very respectfully done – so well done that many people commented on what a great example it was of how to handle this type of situation. I’m absolutely not saying that this is the right approach for every workplace, but it worked very well in our particular context.

            1. Cath in Canada*

              I should say “beginning the public phase of their transition”. At least I think that’s what I should say; please correct me if I used the wrong phrase!

      2. Henrietta Gondorf*

        Seconding Ash here regarding legal protections in your jurisdiction. Even if your co-workers are currently awesome, there’s no guarantee that a future boss will be too. If you work for, say, Lambda Legal or a nonprofit working to advance LGBTQ rights, it’s a much different situation than if you work for a smaller private employer.

    7. LBK*

      From my experience about coming out as gay at work, I didn’t make a formal thing out of it – I just casually mentioned things that made it clear as they came up in conversation, like if we were discussing summer vacation plans I’d drop that I was going to a certain town known for being extremely gay-friendly, and once I started dating someone I’d mention doing such and such with my boyfriend when discussing weekend plans. Working it in naturally like that makes people less likely to have any kind of reaction – they might take half a second to process it, but in my experience no one has ever stopped the conversation dead to say “Wait, you’re gay!?”

      Regarding coming out as transgender, I know there’s at least one really good post about it on this very site, maybe a few. Try the search feature as I know people have written in about this issue and Alison has a contact who’s an expert in the subject and has contributed to answers about it before.

      1. Ash (the other one)*

        Just going off the experiences of my friends who are either LGB or T, coming out as trans at work is a much bigger deal in that its not always just business as usual. You’re not typically bringing your significant others to work etc. but when you are trans, you do have to use a bathroom, you do have to dress “appropriately” etc so it’s a much more visible change. From the OP’s description, its not clear how much of this hir will adopt, but I do think its a different scenario to reveal gender identity than it is to reveal sexual orientation.

        1. Ash (the other one)*

          Oh also, there was a really interesting 2-part episode of the Broad Experience on the experience of both trans men and trans women in the workplace. I highly recommend it.

          1. LBK*

            Although weirdly, in this situation coming out at trans might completely take care of coming out as gay/make that part easier – if OP is presenting as male currently, for example, coworkers are probably accustomed to the OP discussing being attracted to women, so that’s one thing that actually wouldn’t change with the OP transitioning/starting to present as female. Unless the OP is already presenting as desired and wouldn’t be switching that at work.

            (disclaimer: trying really hard to make sure I’m using the right terms/say this in a way that’s not offensive, someone please let me know if I’m not as I’m still learning)

    8. Christine*

      I don’t have any personal experience with this; however, for someone else’s positive experience as coming out as a transwoman, check out this article: Emilia Schatz is a game developer at Naughty Dog, and in Part II of the linked interview, she talks about her experience in coming out as a transwoman at the company. They were extremely supportive of her, which was really great to see.

      Hopefully other people with personal experience will chime in, and I wish you the very best!

    9. Felicia*

      Check to see if it’s legal to fire someone for being trans in your state. It is in most of them. I am Canadian so i’d have more legal protections, but that would terrify me. Maybe try to let it come up naturally. That’s how I’m (mostly) out as a lesbian in my workplace, except to a few coworkers who I barely talk to. But who you’re attracted to comes up a lot more often (more than the average straight person realizes). Like i’ll casually mention i’m going on a date when someone asks what i’m doing this weekend, or when someone mentions the attractiveness of a male celebrity and asks if I agree I’ll be like “well actually…” It’s easier for me to not make a big production of it and treat it as no big deal (because it’s not). If you don’t make it a big “coming out” thing, it’s maybe less scary? And I was totally closeted at work beofre, and now that i’m not I feel so much better, so it’s worth it. Good luck! I think you’ll feel better about work no matter what the reaction

      1. Anon-y-mouse*

        I am lucky enough to have protections in my state, huzzah!

        It’s a little harder to bring up the trans aspect naturally, than the queer aspect. The feeling of correcting someone on pronouns is weird to me – it’s not something I’ve much experience with. Frankly I get some bad second-hand embarrassment, so pulling out the “actually, you’ve been referring to me as the wrong pronouns for the past six months” would probably make me panic a little.

        It’s doubly hard because I actually prefer nongendered pronouns, which are hard to explain to people who barely know that being trans is a thing, let alone that there are more than two genders, each with their very own pronouns. I would be perfectly happy to switch to he/his pronouns, but I worry about the expectations (re: appropriate dress, surgery, etc.) that would come with such a complete reversal.

        1. LCL*

          I once referred to a transgender person by the wrong pronoun, during a casual work conversation. The 3rd person in the conversation corrected me, I apologized, and the person I had misgendered accepted my apology. It was all really no big deal.

    10. MaryMary*

      I’m straight and cisgender, but I’ve had a couple of coworkers come out to me. What my friends did is formally come out to a few people they were close to at work and trusted, and let things naturally take their course with the rest of the office. I agree with the other commenters about just being yourself with everyone else. People will guess or figure it out, word will slowly spread, and it’s likely some people will approach your work friends to clarify your status if they’re not comfortable asking you directly (which most people aren’t, even if they’re supportive overall). It also gives you the option of letting the sweet but ultra-conservative lady in accounting continue to believe that you have a “roommate” if you decide it’s simpler that way.

      Good luck!

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          I know it’s no longer Friday, but oh my god I love that your reaction to meeting the unfamiliar term “cisgender” was to look it up and then thank MaryMary for introducing it to you. Sadly that is not always how things go, elsenet. So yay for you and for AAM.

    11. Jennifer*

      It REALLY depends on where you live and the work culture and if both of those are okay with anything or anyone being out of the norm. If you are at all hesitant about it, what are your reasons for being so? And where do you live?

      Also, when you say you are transgender, does that mean you have or haven’t officially (please excuse me if I get that wrong, which I probably am doing) changed gender publicly in the office already? Because if you are going to go through a public transition in the office in the future, that’s a lot different situation than if you’ve already completed that and it’s more of the case that nobody knows you were thought of as the opposite.

      1. Anon-y-mouse*

        For clarity, and to answer your questions: I haven’t changed my gender markers on any official paperwork, nor do I plan to. (I’m also not planning to change my physical appearance any.) I’m actually nonbinary, although I’m generally more comfortable with a male presentation.

        So basically, my dress and mannerisms would not change, or would change very little. All I really want is for people to use the right pronouns and name (and, hopefully, not question me on the fact that I use the men’s bathroom despite having breasts).

    12. CCT*

      I’m a cis lesbian, so I’ve only dealt with the one coming out process, but I would say that it is 10000% worth it to come out if you have a welcoming environment. I was out to all except one of my direct coworkers (who I was quickly tipped off about not coming out to by a couple of my coworkers I’d judged safe, including a lesbian), and it shocked me the amount of times I censored myself to avoid coming out to her. Having to be careful about the most basic small talk (e.g., why I moved to the area=”…ummm my ‘best friend’ is going to grad school here, and so I decided to move with her [to somewhat unremarkable Midwestern city]” ) was exhausting, as I’m sure you know very well. I was always grateful that I didn’t have to be in the closet to everyone (and totally respect anyone who makes that choice for their own comfort/safety/continued employment) . The way I found said (mostly) welcoming environment was being honest about the relocation question in the interview with my future boss. I figured if he used that as a reason not to hire me, then I didn’t want him as a boss anyway. If it doesn’t come up organically, then I’d come out when you get a job offer, raise any concerns you have, and see if you’re comfortable with their reaction/answers. Within a week of starting, I’d decided most of my coworkers were safe to come out to, and answered their “get-to-know-you” questions honestly. I know that coming out as nonbinary isn’t as easy as just mentioning previous partners in conversation, but if anything, I imagine it would do even more for your comfort level if you have a safe environment (I didn’t mention my girlfriend every day, but people were calling me by my preferred name and pronouns all the time!). I’d recommend interviewing under whatever name you’d like to use (you can provide other names you’ve gone by for background checks, etc.), and once you’re offered a job, figure out whether you want to ask your boss for an inside scoop on the office culture as a whole and make your coming-out decision(s) based on that or just go for it. Maybe you could enlist a supportive boss in your coming out efforts by referring to you by your preferred pronouns? I’d like to think most people would get the hint that way, and then you could figure out what you’re comfortable saying to those who don’t. (Just for what it’s worth–I think starting out of the gate with your preferred pronouns will be easiest. People might still slip up–I felt SO HORRIBLE when I occasionally screwed up my genderqueer friend’s pronouns when they first came out to me, since I hadn’t used “they” for someone before–but hopefully they’ll learn all the more quickly for not having gotten used to using an undesired pronoun.) All my best to you, and I hope you find a supportive workplace!

      1. CCT*

        Hah, all these responses showed up before I hit send. I’m so glad to hear that you’re in a state with employment protections! I just moved out of one, and while I’ve made the decision that I want to be out at work regardless of the risk, it pisses me off. Also, since I got confused and it sounds like you’re staying at a job you’ve been at for 6 months, please don’t let that stop you from coming out if you want to. I think that the advice of me and others to tell someone supportive who can then tell others is right on, and would relieve you of at least the initial conversation with a lot of people.

    13. Turanga Leela*

      Anon-y-mouse, if you’re thinking of coming out as a non-binary gender at work, have you thought about what expectations you have for people once they know? For example, do you want people to use gender-neutral pronouns when referring to you? Do you plan to dress in a way that contradicts usual gender expectations (e.g. facial hair and a dress)? A lot of people won’t have experience with that kind of gender presentation, and I would think hard about how to educate people in your workplace and how to manage their reactions.

      On the other hand, if there’s little you plan to change about your or other people’s behavior, and you just want to be open with people about your identity, and you’re in a fairly accepting environment, I think you can come out fairly easily. You’ll still have to do some education, probably, but if people already know and like you, they can accept your gender identity as part of you.

      I don’t know what your particular situation is–and you don’t need to share!–but I have an acquaintance who was born female, identifies as transmasculine, and has never transitioned to being male. She is very open about her gender identity and has blogged about her experiences with pregnancy as a masculine-identified person. This person is currently my go-to model for how to be out about a non-binary trans identity.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Just saw your responses above. If you’re fine with masculine pronouns, I think people will find them easier than neutral pronouns—some otherwise accepting people get very conservative when it comes to grammar. I’d see if you can come up with a short way to explain your situation, maybe along the lines of, “Can you call me ‘him’ instead of ‘her’? I’m not planning to change the way I look, but I think of myself more like a man than a woman.”

        1. Anon-y-mouse*

          Thanks for your input! That was my thinking re: pronouns as well. I might run a few possible short explanations by my friends to get their opinions, to see which options sound best.

          Also, thanks bunches for the link. I’m adding it to my to-be-read list. :)

    14. BRR*

      What a tough situation. Even if there are openly gay coworkers it’s still tough to gauge for transgender. Is there anybody you could confide in first to keep a first hand judgement of the situation?

    15. Tinker*

      I have… many thoughts. Some of them follow:

      Provided an environment that seems likely to be welcoming, I think there’s a lot of value in being out (which kind of implies at least a small event of coming out). There’s a lot of talk nowadays that’s very down on “being yourself” at work or about pursuing one’s own comfort, and while I think a certain amount of flexibility, it makes it easier to pursue the important things (like getting things done) when you’re not also working to maintain a highly inauthentic persona that you’re outright uncomfortable inhabiting. That feeling of discomfort you identify matches with my own experience, and is IMO not insignificant. Among other things, social interaction with folks you’re working with serves as a lubricant for the work aspect of the relationship (humans be humans), and sharing the superficial aspects of your actual identity is one of the better fuels for social interaction.

      As far as avoiding transphobia and homophobia, I’m not entirely sure. I work in a region and in an industry that has substantial scope for tolerating these differences, so that helps. It is also not an accident — it’s something that I made a priority and have enough economic leverage to implement. That latter, obviously, is a sticking point that may make it a bit hard to go and do likewise.

      In that context, I think it somewhat helps that I present myself, consistently, in a way that works for me — for instance, I interviewed for my present job wearing a #3 buzzcut, a charcoal grey suit, a men’s dress shirt, a binder, and black boots. If they were one of those folks who have strong feelings about Women Gotta Be Attractive And Feminine Or Never Advance Professionally (which I have heard A LOT about from family)… well, they can’t say they weren’t warned. That’s my theory at least, although I don’t have enough data to say that it definitely matters one way or another. I think it matters. And I rock the suit, which might be the other thing — IME you can get away with quite a lot if you present it as an awesome fait accompli.

      As to the experience, I’ve been out in my last two jobs, mostly in a low-key sort of way. The previous job, I called myself queer, described (in polite terms) things like going to Pride and some of the aforementioned complications of gender presentation. Mostly put it in terms of “folks like me” and “so, I favor doing things this way”, without driving home the point that, say, the importance of strength training vis a vis my body image is DEFINITELY TRANSISH Y’ALL. At my current job, I’ve said straight out that I’m queer and on the transgender spectrum (that latter in the context of getting into a technical discussion with the other trans person who worked in the office at that time). I also wear men’s clothing pretty much exclusively, go by a masculine variant of my legal name (although I’ve done that my whole life) and generally am much with the being incidentally flaming. Result: folks become aware, they say “oh, I see, I think that’s neat”, they don’t otherwise much care. If anything, I think it’s an element of my (spit) personal brand that adds a bit of character.

      Overall, the times when I’ve come out have ended up being decidedly anticlimactic compared to the drama I expected, and I think that might be more the rule than the exception nowadays (although I’m a somewhat optimistic person in a carefully curated environment, so don’t take that as gospel).

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Tinker, this is beyond great. I love your description of your look/gender presentation as “an awesome fait accompli.” It’s so clear that you treat being queer and on the trans spectrum as a feature, not a bug, and I think people respond to that.

      2. Anon-y-mouse*

        Wow, your comments really made me fell a lot better about the option of transitioning and coming out at work, so thank you! I think presenting my gender as fait accompli, as you said, might be a great way to manage what I want to do. I’ve been slowly transitioning to a more masculine look over the past couple of years, and I’m finally getting close to the presentation I want.

        Luckily I have a big work-related transition period coming up (since I will be graduating from grad school next summer and moving into more full-time, professional work), so if I can get my ducks in a row (and afford a binder or two) before that big change it will hopefully be easy enough to present myself from the first in a manner that matches my identity.

        (Also, I’ve had pretty much the same experience as you about coming out situations being less dramatic than expected. But I also made a point to cull many of the transphobic and homophobic people from my life well before I came out, so I’m sure that helped.)

        1. fposte*

          I also think that having other people in the know and on your side helps with the message, so that your preferred pronoun usage disseminates even when you’re not there.

          1. another anon*

            I can second this. I started a new job where one of my coworkers was trans. On the first day I was introduced to everyone. When we got to Mike, the person doing the introductions said “This is Mike. She works in accounting.” I made a mental note that Mike uses female pronouns and that was that. In addition to giving me factual information about pronouns, it also alerted me to the fact that other people in the office thought being transgendered is normal and not something to gossip about.

    16. cuppa*

      We had someone transition at work, and as far as I know, it was a non-issue. However, we do have a clear anti-harassment and discrimination policy that was updated before the person transitioned to answer most questions (about bathrooms, etc.). And it was explained to everyone about names and pronouns ahead of time. I am assuming that your experience might be a little different if you are post-transition, but I just wanted to share a positive experience.

    17. another anon*

      Coming from the other side, I wonder does anyone has advice on how to be welcoming to all genders and sexual orientations? Is there any thing I could say or do to signal that I am a safe person to be “out” to? I try not to assume that people are straight, for example I would ask if they are seeing anyone, rather than asking if they have a boyfriend. I also mention things like going to Pride. But I also try not to pry into coworkers’ lives so I usually let them bring topics up first. I would hate to think that one of my coworkers feels uncomfortable at work because he or she isn’t sure how the office would react.

      1. Anon-y-mouse*

        Honestly, the thing that stands out to me the most is just talking about the subject in a non-judgmental or supportive way. Just a simple conversation like, “Hey, did you hear about the judge who overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Florida? It was on the news this morning. Isn’t that great?”

        From there, it’s up to other people what they tell you. As long as you don’t pressure or pry, just being open in your support can help people feel comfortable around you. Just remember that not everyone wants to come out, and even if they do come out, they may not feel right coming out to you, specifically. That’s their call to make, all you can do is be as welcoming as possible.

        1. Anon-y-mouse*

          Also random side note re: trans issues, since they don’t come up in conversation all that often. I’ve had quite a few good conversations on the topic that started with “So I was browsing around wikipedia last night, and I found out XYZ. How cool is that?”

          1. another anon*

            Thanks for the advice. I would never want someone to feel pressured to talk about their personal life, but I don’t want my lack of asking to be interpreted that I am uncomfortable. The wikipedia idea is a good one. I am already known for bringing up random topics. :)

      2. Felicia*

        I think it’s great that you’re not assuming that people are straight until proven otherwise (I’ve literally never met anyone who didn’t assume everyone was straight until proven otherwise, even the most 100% open and accepting people have made assumptions about you. Also not everyone wants to come out, even if they know you’re 100% ok with it. Sometimes they’d be ok to be out to you, but they wouldn’t want to be out to everyone and wouldn’t want to have to ask you to keep a secret, or they just want total control and telling even one person means they loose some control. Or you can never be totally sure how someone will react, so they don’t want to take the risk. Just keep up never making assumptions and mention it in a positive light when it comes up (e.g casually mentioning a same sex couple you know, or how cute a celebrity same sex couple is or your positive support of any equality legislation). And if people don’t want to come out to you it’s probably not about you, and that’s ok soon. “Coming out” is not a one time thing, its something I have to do (or not do) with every new person I meet for the rest of my life, and sometimes I don’t want to bother, especially if it’s a coworker I’m not particularly close to.

        1. another anon*

          People who are in the closet have my sympathy. While I understand there are many good reasons to not be “out”, Monday morning chit-chat about the weekend shouldn’t be so difficult. It is easy for me to say my husband and I went to the movies or whatever and I’m sad that not everyone can talk about such basic things so easily.

          But, as you said, it’s a choice everyone makes for themselves and I respect those choices.

    18. Dang*

      I’m gay (female) and have been out for 10 years, but I always find coming out super awkward. It was easier when I could mention having a girlfriend (although I ran into the same thing people are mentioning, lots do times people thought I just meant a good friend) and I would occasionally use partner, but I really don’t like that term (it makes me think “grab your partner, dosey doe!” Don’t ask). Sometimes I would just use her name. There were almost always ways to mention it and I was out at my last job and the one before that, and I definitely wasn’t the only queer!

      At this job I’m still a temp and I haven’t come out yet. I mentioned my ex and everyone assumed it was a man because I’m feminine. And then I was just worried about it getting awkward. It’s really stupid but it throws me off when people dont realize I’m gay. It seems so obvious to me. And it hasn’t presented it as an option since. Since I’m single, I can’t really use a relationship to bring it out. Two of the higher ups are openly gay so I don’t know what my problem is. To be honest I hate any kind if attention and have trouble sharing even small details about myself, so it’s mostly how I am naturally…. But I hear you. I wouldn’t want to work for homophobes or transphobes either.

      One of my coworkers at my last job was trans. He came out to me after a few years… I’d already figured through Facebook, but he told everyone in our office because he was having a baby. I asked what the reception was like and he said overall very positive, one of our bosses was awkward but he thought that it was just legitimate surprise.

      I hope you have a great experience with coming out, OP. I’d just suggest the obvious, come out to one or two coworkers you trust and/or think would be the most supportive and go from there. And no one is forcing you to come out yet. You don’t have to if you’re not ready or you don’t want to.

      1. Felicia*

        I just wanted to say I have the same experience with people assuming i’m straight, possibly because I look feminine. Also I’m not sure why, but it really bothers me when people are so surprised all the time….i think if they’re surprised I think(possibly irrationally) “why are they surprised? Do they think theres some sort of look or stereotype to a lesbian? Do they not believe me? Are they one of the majority who assume everyone is straight until proven otherwise?” I’m also super cautious about sharing anything about myself so we have that in common too. I mean I hesitate to tell my coworkers I went to a fanfiction, show or an atheist group over the weekend too because I worry they’d judge.

        1. Dang*

          I have the same reaction. “Yup, we all look the same. And yes, we all know each other too.” Haha.

          And that’s interesting that we worry that they’ll judge other things too. I think when you get used to flying under the radar it starts encompassing more than just one or two things. Especially if it’s important to us. Sometimes I wonder if people find it strange or if they don’t even notice.

          1. Felicia*

            Have you ever gotten the “You don’t look like a lesbian” before? That’s the worst. And of course we all know each other! There are meetings ;) I’ve also gotten “Do you know Jane Smith? She’s a lesbian who lives in Toronto too!” Um it’s a city of 2.5 million people and we really don’t all know each other, that’s unlikely.

            I mostly think people don’t even notice. I think when you don’t want to be seen as outside the norm in one way, you don’t want to be seen as outside the norm in any other way. With friends they understand my nerdiness and understand that my sexual orientation has nothing to do with my interests, personality or physical appearance, but really coworkers are more on the friendly aquaintance level soo there’s no guarantee they’ll get that.

    19. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      In this case, I might go to HR first. Especially since you live in a state that has LGBTQ legal protections. Back when I worked in HR, we had a team member transition (male to female), and she went to our HR manager first, who then helped to pave the way with her bosses and other team members. The HR manager even had the management staff and other HR staff watch a news story about transgender individuals so we’d know why John suddenly had hair extensions and was wearing a nametag that said “Bianca.” We were able to change her email and ID and nametag to her new name, but unfortunately, until she legally changed her name, it had to remain her old name and gender on the official company books (had to match with Social Security). I thought it was great how much HR worked to make the transition as smooth as possible for everyone involved– and this took place in an incredibly red state, in a Mormon-owned company. So anything is possible.

    20. A Different Anon*

      It would be very difficult to come out as non-binary in any industry. Even in more creative industries or in a role that isn’t customer- or client-facing. I used to work in a medium-sized LGBTQ resource center with a large number of transgender coworkers and clients and even there it would be very difficult to get clients, community members, and coworkers/supervisors to, for example, consistently address someone with a constructed/neutral pronoun.

      It sucks, but I would not recommend addressing being non-binary in a work setting at all. You can adopt a more androgynous presentation to the extent to which you feel comfortable, or even to transition to a more gender-neutral nickname or legal name, but otherwise, I would keep it under my hat. It is a whole different kettle of fish from coming out as a binary transgender person and I can almost 100% guarantee it will adversely affect how people perceive your professionalism.

  19. Joie de Vivre*

    Hard to believe it, but today is my 20th anniversary at CurrentCompany.
    Funny how a 3-month temporary position turned into a much longer career.

    1. TAD*

      Congratulations! I had the same thing happen. I was temping while waiting on some other things and have been there 27 years next month.

  20. Vanilla*

    Has anyone ever felt so intimidated at an interview that you just stumbled all over yourself? Also, have any of you ever had to turn down a role because of travel/not being able to honor other committments?

    I had an internal interview yesterday (3rd round). Until this point, I had been very excited about the role. When I met the manager of the department, I just got the sense that I was being judged from the minute I introduced myself. They kept looking me up and down and (I think) giving me disapproving looks. I know that no one can make you feel inferior without your consent but still – I just felt like I wasn’t “good enough.”

    I’m normally very calm and composed in interviews but this time I couldn’t get my thoughts/responses in control and kept stumbling. Even though I’m pretty sure I won’t be offered the job (it’s down to me and one other candidate), I decided not to take it anyway. Other than the manager intimidating the heck out of me, there is significantly more travel with the role that I anticipated, and I have committments outside of work that I would like to honor, and I don’t think I would be able to if I took this role.

    1. Colette*

      I had an interview once where it seemed like they hadn’t read (or understood) my resume and were somewhat antagonistic as a result. A few minutes in, I decided I definitely was not getting the job and decided to treat it as an informational interview, focusing on questions about their company and environment.

      1. Dan*

        Same here, although the guy had no problem figuring out what *wasn’t* on my resume and asking me why it wasn’t there.

        I was about three seconds away from just bluntly telling him off. I was a bit more subtle about it, and I think he go the message. I have a niche skillset, and I think he thought he had me over a barrel and was going to have fun with it. When I told him him that he wasn’t the only fish in my sea, you should have seen the look on his face. But by then it was too late. “But but this field has to be very small!” Sure it is, I told him. “But it doesn’t matter how big it is when you’re good at what you do.”

    2. Stephanie*

      Yes. I had an interview last fall out-of-town. The interview city was way more humid than my home city (er, most places are since I live in the Southwest US). It wasn’t even hot, but it was super muggy. I walked to the interview from my friend’s apartment in my finest poly-blend suit and showed up sweating. I figured it’d subside but nerves just made me keep sweating. I was like five or ten minutes in and was still sweating and could feel sweat dripping down my face. I paused and asked if I could head to the restroom to dry off. The interviewer was super understanding like “Oh, I can empathize. I have my father’s genes and sweat myself.” Super gauche. I also ended up not getting that job, but it might have been more because a lack of one skill set versus sweating like a farm animal.

    3. stellanor*

      Ugh yes. I was called in for an interview for a position that, on examination, I was completely unqualified for. They kept asking me about resources and methods I had never heard of, and that they had no reason to think I’d heard of because they weren’t mentioned anywhere in my resume.

      Also it was a panel interview, so six people taking turns asking me questions. There was no back and forth — they read the questions off a sheet of paper and then stared blankly at me while I answered. They offered no feedback about whether the answers I was giving were in line with what they wanted. They didn’t even really acknowledge that they were listening to me. Most of them kept total poker faces for the entire interview.

      Needless to say I didn’t get an offer.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Oh boy, memories. Am shaking my head. I thought the job would be a fun as well as an interesting career move. I fit a lot of the criteria, so I accepted the interview.

      First red flag. I got in the place and it was creepy, old, and sent my intuition into warp drive. “Get out!” So, of course, I stayed.

      Second red flag. I talk to several people. I talked to the person whose job I would be taking. “I don’t want to do travel anymore because I have X.” Wait, I have that same constraint.

      Third red flag. I asked the person who seemed to be the one I would report to how much travel there was. “Oh a couple times a year.” Over several conversations that changed somehow to once a month, then to every few weeks. Okay, they know how much travel is needed and they are refusing to nail it down. I felt a bait and switch going on.

      The last straw came when they suddenly could not figure out if they wanted to even hire for this position.
      I withdrew my application and kicked myself for letting this unnecessary drama drag out for so long.
      Take away: Some interviews give you butterflies in your stomach. And some interviews give you knots in your stomach. Keep an eye on that and when the knots happen, stop. I had knots on the first day with in the first five minutes of being in the building. Should have paid attention.

  21. Stephanie*

    Indulge me in a second question here. :)

    Does anyone else feel like she’s bad at networking? Like I’m solid at talking to friends or professional acquaintances about jobs openings or their companies (i.e., someone where I already have an established relationship) or talking to second- or even third-degree connections. That I can do. It’s the strangers I’d meet at an event or contact via LinkedIn (or whatever) where I feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. After an initial chat, then what? Maintaining the relationship always feels strained as I don’t feel like I have a ton to offer that person (maybe time to volunteer with a pet project?) and am feigning the relationship for slightly mercenary reasons (i.e., I want this person to get me a job).

    1. Ali*

      I find networking awkward too at times, especially since it really hasn’t paid off for me beyond gaining new contacts. I would know people who offered to put in a word for me if there was a job I wanted, but it would never get me an interview or an offer.

      I still get nervous when making new contacts too. Just saying you’re not alone!

      1. Mimmy*

        You could be my twin! For me, I get people who invite me to contact them to set up a time to chat; yet, they always find a way to put it off or don’t even respond back. I think that’s why I’ve scaled back on my networking, but I should think about ramping it up again.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t feel like I have a ton to offer that person (maybe time to volunteer with a pet project?) and am feigning the relationship for slightly mercenary reasons (i.e., I want this person to get me a job).

      I always feel like this! I have no advice to offer, just wanted to say you’re not alone.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      YES! I am seriously bad at small talk, and I don’t always have lots of hobby overlap with people (not many DC professionals play Magic: The Gathering…), so I end up feeling like my networking ends up focusing solely on the business part and nothing on any sort of other mutual interest.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Nope, you’re not alone–I hate it! Of course, it may be that I don’t have anything to talk about (being an admin is kind of like, well, I do this and that’s basically it). It’s much easier for me when I’m doing it with other writers.

      I’d try coming up with a list of topics you can keep in mind, and some questions to ask people. Rehearsing ahead of time helps me when I’m nervous about talking to people in these situations.

    5. Dan*

      When I’ve been in your position, I’ve always felt that way. It’s particularly hard when you’re early in your career, and don’t have much in the way of accomplishments/services you can offer to a prospective employer.

      “Networking” is so much more easier and natural when the conversation isn’t charged with preconceived expectations.

      Although, I’ve been attending a lot of technical meetups in DC lately, and at those groups, there are *always* someone with a job on offer. In that case, I’d feel much more natural approaching them.

    6. Mimmy*

      Networking is so challenging for me. I always get excited when I see a networking opportunity; yet, once I’m at said event, I go all gibberish. I’m not very good at small talk or determining when it’s okay to join a group either. I think a huge part of it for me is: 1) I’m introverted, and introverts tend to have trouble with large networking events, and 2) I have a really hard time articulating my interests and tentative goals. Even describing what I’m involved with now (volunteer councils, school) is hard.

      What I’ve found that helps a little is to remind yourself that you don’t have to meet everyone in the room! I tend to just sit/stand quietly, but sometimes I get lucky and I make eye contact with someone and we just get talking. If I have a good chat with even just one new person, I’m happy.

    7. Mints*

      Me too. I think, if I wanted to network more/better, I would try going to professional activities, instead of just “networking events.” Like if there’s a speaker or a book signing, and then a reception. I do much better when I have something specific to talk about, and I can prepare with cool related things. Throwing myself into a crowded room, like “Okay make friends now” ends with me just hanging out by the punch bowl and smiling and not talking.

    8. the gold digger*

      What? I think you are fabulous! You are so fun and so nice and so easy to talk to. You networked with me and we have never met in person!

      Just talk to people. You have the knack. Perhaps the key is to not think of it as “I am using this person to find a job” but “I want to build a relationship with this person I met, so that entails asking her about herself and learning about what she does.” That is, make it about the other person and not about you.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. I don’t know, Stephanie, maybe pretend you are typing to us on AAM, when you are talking with other people???

    9. Anonymous*

      The best way I’ve found to network is by sending potential candidates to people whose jobs aren’t a fit for me. Maybe they’re looking for new grads and you happen to know a few. Maybe they’re looking for something specialized that I don’t have. It’s that type of back scratching that can lead to a reciprocation down the line. That’s how both my wife and I got our jobs. She got a heads up on a job from someone she helped get his job. I got mine by telling colleagues about jobs that had different needs and wants than I did.

    10. OtherAnon*

      I get it. I have an all-business but smiley, transaction-oriented, charming personality that I can use for job interviews, one-on-one conversations where there’s some clear end goal in mind, any situation where I’m selling myself or trying to sell something else. But networking where you’re just trying to form relationships for the sake of having relationships with no immediate goal for what you want to get from the person and what you have to offer in return, I am horrible at. My natural modes are sales mode, intense conversation with a stranger in the corner mode, and totally disinterested in other people mode. I have no natural sense of the appropriate balance of sales-versus-personal talk or how interested I need to act in them as a person outside of what we can offer each other professionally.

      In group small talk it’s even worse, because I often have nothing to contribute to those conversations and wind up sitting silently (then everyone thinks I am painfully shy, and I get self conscious about that and actually AM a little shy). I don’t have cable, I don’t watch or care about sports, and I don’t really go to restaurants or concerts or anywhere of common interest that I could talk about. In a one-on-one situation, at least there’s a shot at finding a niche mutual interest to steer the conversation around. I’ve wound up in an intense conversation about kale within minutes of meeting someone, lol.

      1. V. Meadowsweet (formerly samaD)*

        My natural modes are sales mode, intense conversation with a stranger in the corner mode, and totally disinterested in other people mode.

        I’d add in ‘listening to a group converse’ mode (part of the group, but being part by listening rather than talking) also, but pretty much….yep.

    11. Stephanie*

      Thanks for the commiseration and suggestions, everyone. This was pertinent as I just got back from an event hosted by one of the big local employers. Event was fine and I met a lot of people and got business cards. So the next step is where I struggle. I’ll send out emails afterwards like “Hey! Great meeting you at the Teapots, Inc Professional Development Seminar.” After that is where I find it difficult to maintain the relationship. How do I go forward?

  22. Rebecca Too*

    I applied for an internal role, was interviewed, and found out yesterday I didn’t get it. They went for someone who has more experience then I do. So, I’m disappointed, but fair enough.

    But I do feel ready to move on from where I am, but right now I feel completely unmotivated to job search. I’m working 12 hour days right now, and usually about 8 hours on weekends, and I’m exhausted. I feel completely stuck and am starting to question my ability to do any job, never mind move up. All the cover letters I try to write sound terrible, just very blah blah, and I can’t seem to sound excited about the jobs I’m applying for.

    So, does anyone have any tips on how to get motivated to keep looking? (And, I think this has been addressed before but can’t find anything when I search, so if anyone can point me in the right direction if would be very appreciated.

    1. Paloma Pigeon*

      I think you need to schedule some personal days if you can, and allow yourself to recenter. Once you relax and get rested, you’ll have a better idea of what might be an area you want to pursue, and go from there. You can’t write a great cover letter about why you are passionate about working somewhere if all the passion has been burned out of you. You need to recover that first. Good luck, I was where you are last Feb.

      1. Polaris*

        Agreed. When I was feeling burnt out, it helped to take a day off and do something fun that was completely unrelated to my job. It put me in a more positive mindset that helped me figure out what I wanted to do next and get excited about moving on to something new.

        1. Rebecca Too*

          Thanks. Unfortunately I can’t take time off right now, but I’m taking long-ish leave in October. Unless I see something I can’t possibly pass up, I might leave the job search until then, as hopefully after it I’ll feel more relaxed.

      1. Rebecca Too*

        Unfortunately, sick leave isn’t an option. We’re generally expected to work unless it’s something major, and as I live where I work, people would notice.

        But I might try to not work this Sunday, either to apply for jobs, or just to do something that isn’t work.

    2. Newsie*

      No advice, just letting you know I’m in the exact same place as you. Good vibes from over here. I hope you’re re-centered by a few days off…

  23. Ali*

    I’m not really looking for advice here…just a vent. (Though I’m not against words of wisdom if anyone has any.)

    I feel a bit down because no matter how much praise I get between the supervisors at both my jobs, I never seem to be a “superstar.” My regular job does a “shoutout” in the team meetings we have where my boss recognizes someone who’s been doing great work, stood out the most in our review cycle (we get reviewed every month, which can be tough in and of itself), etc. No matter how much good work I do, even on a project that I was specifically selected to help with, someone else is always getting the praise in front of the rest of the team. I am not saying I deserve kudos just for showing up or anything, but I feel like I get an ego boost if my peers just get a chance to hear that I’ve worked hard or stood out above the rest.

    There is a similar situation in my internship. That company will add interns to their team page that has employee bios/photos. Despite repeated recognition from my boss privately that she likes me and that I do great work, and the big boss saying she likes me work and that they are proud of me, other interns seem to be ahead of me in getting the recognition on the company site, whereas mine comes privately. However, I have twice been named intern of the week.

    I guess if I were to ask for advice, it would be to figure out how to distinguish myself more at my jobs. No matter how many times I get told oh you are great, you have good ideas, and so forth, the public recognition goes to someone else. And at my full-time job, it’s been hard to swallow with others getting promotions or leaving for better jobs (including one colleague who got recruited away after being here four months). I guess I feel like that even though I have talents, I don’t seem to be acknowledged as anyone special or the star of the company.

    I am not bashing my coworkers…just wondering what I can do to get that special something that puts me into the “rock star” category.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      This might not apply to you, but I’ve found that sometimes it comes down to personality, too– do you mesh well with your boss? Your coworkers? Other higher-ups? It’s easy for a manager to give kudos to someone they like and remember.

      1. Ali*

        I always feel awkward when thinking about if other people like me haha. But that said, would I say my coworkers and bosses are my best buddies? No. However, at my regular job, I have been to functions when I can travel for them (I work remotely and live 2.5 hours away), and at the last one, people were asking me when I was coming back again and saying they enjoyed meeting me. Whenever I show up, I get hugs and happy greetings from my coworkers (which is funny since they’re mostly all guys and you think they wouldn’t be into the hugging and all that…haha). My company’s culture is a generally social one so we add each other on Facebook even when we’re working together and sometimes chat and joke on Twitter away from work. I would say despite me not being in office, I still feel part of the team and have never really felt disliked or excluded. I recognize it can have its disadvantages, though.

        I’d also say I mesh well with people at my internship even if, again, these aren’t my best friends. My direct supervisor actually lives overseas right now, but the CEO has built the company so that you don’t have to relocate to work for her. The other interns don’t really socialize that I know of, so my connections are more with the full-time/permanent staff members. I knew one before I had even heard about the internship opportunity.

        Again, I was mostly just venting in my post, but that’s a good way to think about things. I generally feel like I get along with everyone, so maybe I am looking at this wrong? My friend at my regular job told me he doesn’t care if he gets a shoutout on our calls and that he just wants to do his job and keep our bosses happy. I guess it doesn’t help that I grew up with an older sister who excelled at almost everything she did and I always felt like I was in the shadows. And now in the work world I still feel that way…

      2. anon123*

        I was going to say exactly this! I’m a great employee but I really don’t like making small talk with coworkers because it always feels forced unless we truly have things in common and I avoid all social functions at work. It’s a tradeoff but I don’t mind not being publicly recognized.

    2. A Teacher*

      Have a “thank you folder” that you keep at home. There’s been times when I’ve saved text messages or cards or emails for co-workers and students/parents. I will sometimes share this with my assistant principal, used to do it with my manager when I had a job in corporate. You have to be your own cheerleader sometimes. I always frame it “it was so awesome to get a text from a former student telling me that something they learned in class benefited them” or “a former patient just let me know those exercises I gave him are really working” little things like that which fit within our conversation. Your manager may not know everything you do day to day so save the kudos you get and share them occasionally. I get its uncomfortable, I like to just do my job and never know what to say when someone “thanks me” for doing my job but I’ve learned to save the “kudos” because I’ve needed them.

      1. Lucy Ricardo*

        This! While my boss is very vocal about how much he appreciates me, I still have a folder in my inbox labeled good emails. This is where I save any complimentary emails both from him and other coworkers. Just helps me feel good if I’m feeling down on myself.

      2. Artemesia*

        Great idea. A few of these can really cement an impression. Of course you have to be judicious about it but no one usually knows unless you highlight your achievements. One way to do this effectively is in very informal contacts e.g. at the water cooler, in the cafeteria line, waiting for the elevator — take that short moment to tell a little anecdote — something wonderful a student did, something that pleased a client you just worked with, something you noticed on social media or overheard about a project you worked on for the company etc etc. These little stories stick and the boss may even forget where he heard them just that ‘Susan must be a great teacher, her students are doing wonderful things.’ or ‘Clyde really has a way with clients’ or ‘Francis’s project is getting a lot of recognition.’

      1. CC*

        Interesting… and true.

        Engineering is largely an invisible profession. The general public only notices engineering works when they fail: bridges falling down, chemical leaks, sewage plants overflowing, that sort of thing. When they work properly, most people think nothing of it. I know TPTB aren’t the general public, but what I do is often invisible to somebody at C-level. The 30,000ft view? Whatever you call it. They care that the facility is built and commissioned on time; they often don’t know the details of what exactly happens to get that facility built, because that’s not their job, it’s mine, and it’s a lot of quiet, detailed cross-checking of drawings and lists.

        I’m generally happy doing good work and not getting lots of praise for it, but it can become an issue if stuff like compensation doesn’t follow for the invisibles but it does follow for the visible workers. There’s this whole school of thought offering work advice that says that “doing a good job isn’t enough, you have to be *seen* to be doing a good job”.

    3. NM*

      Ali, I hope you will take this in the spirit I intend it in but I have seen a pattern in your comments over the past many months. You do a lot of venting here, usually talk about being unhappy about things and have mentioned (if I recall correctly) that friends have mentioned that you vent too much. I wonder if you have thought about this negative mindset and whether it might be the common denominator amongst all of the issues you have brought to the group here. If you are coming across as sour in real life it could cause many of the job search struggles you have had. I am worried for you that that is what is at the core and that if you don’t focus on addressing that you will continue to struggle with these things. Again, I mean this with compassion and hope it comes across. Best wishes to you.

      1. Ali*

        I have thought about it, but trust me that I am different at work save for some struggles under pressure. I don’t get any comments from my supervisors that I’m too negative or whatever. Although, try telling my ex-boss that. He read a lot into things I sent that he thought were negative, even though he’d follow up with oh I know you weren’t trying to be that way.

        I suppose I’m just burned out on my current line of work and am desperate for a change, and seeing everyone else getting new jobs and promotions can get depressing when it’s not you. I wish I could’ve foreseen that I’d have problems down the road when I picked my field (sports media/journalism). I would’ve run away. I now realize I made the wrong choice, but some days I feel like a change is never going to come.

        1. anonime*

          It sounds like your ex boss *was* identifying it as a problem, even if he later backtracked. You have mentioned that your friends have said it is a problem. It is definitely at the point where when I see a comment from you, I know before I read it that it is going to be negative. That worries me for you. If you are feeling so negative, it is affecting the way you are coming across even if you don’t see it yourself. If you really believe it is not a problem, maybe it is worth reexamining your comments here over the last months to see what others are seeing?

        2. Artemesia*

          People don’t usually come out and criticize attitude or negativity; even bosses don’t do that. But they notice and penalize you for it. The fact that your boss DID comment on this suggests that it IS coming across. And usually that sort of thing doesn’t get noted unless it is perceived as pervasive. Don’t assume because you aren’t getting formal feedback at work (or in your personal life for that matter) about something, that nobody notices or cares.

    4. Us, Too*

      It depends on the job. In many places, you can simply ask, though, what it takes to distinguish yourself.

      “Every week you do shout-outs in the meeting. Obviously these are folks you think are doing a great job. What would I need to do to be recognized in that way?”

      “I noticed that some interns are featured on the website. Can you explain the criteria for that?”

    5. nep*

      Just to understand better — for you, what’s the value in the acknowledgement / praise? Is it satisfaction in the acknowledgement and attention in and of itself? Or are you thinking about how such recognition and accolades could help in your career?

      1. Ali*

        I guess I think of it as a career benefit more than it being about me, although who doesn’t like to be recognized? Haha. I mean, we talk on here so much about how top candidates always have options, employers want obvious superstars on their team, etc. But at the same time, I feel those who are more publicly recognized are seen as top team members or more valuable or something. I work with a lot of smart, good people though so maybe it’s just a matter of getting above the competition.

  24. Camellia*

    I would like to examine a common mindset: “Goals and deadlines should be challenging, but not impossible.”

    It seems like everyone says this and repeats it often, including our beloved AAM. :) The point of the sentence is that goals and deadlines should not be impossible. I have no argument with that.

    What I want to examine is the rest of the sentence: that they “should be challenging”. Not just a goal, but a ‘stretch’ goal.


    Who decided that?

    I’m guessing the bottom-line answer is companies trying to get as much as possible from their employees under the guise of ‘helping the employees succeed’ or ‘realize their potential’. Contributing to this is ‘lack of planning’ and ‘inability to estimate correctly’ or ‘failure to believe the people who actually do the work when they tell you how long the work will take’.

    Otherwise I have a hard time picturing employees doing this to themselves. What would that internal conversation look like? “I think it is going to take me 3 weeks to finish this project, working 40 hours per week and doing my best work. So, hmm, just to make it challenging, I’m going to only give myself 2 weeks, ‘cuz I just luv me some unpaid overtime and hey, who can’t use some extra stress in their lives?”

    What do you all think? Where did this concept come from? Is it valid?

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think challenging necessarily means more time consuming. I think it can also mean requiring creative solutions, or informally managing people when that’s not usually in your job description, or having you coordinate with other departments you don’t normally interact with. Something non-challenging to me is the data integrity cleanup I have to do – it’s really menial, it requires basically no skill and it’s just all about getting it done quickly. Something challenging is working on an escalated client issue, because it requires exercising my knowledge of our procedures, researching what went wrong and how to fix it, possibly reaching out to some managers or analysts I don’t know in order to get their assistance, etc. I hugely prefer that challenging work over the boring stuff.

      1. LBK*

        Also, to follow your example – making that project challenging may not be a case of cutting the timeline down, but rather if the project requires a team of 3 people, your manager might put you officially in charge of the project and step out of it, just checking in once a week for progress reports but otherwise relying on you to manage your coworkers and complete the project appropriately. That would be challenging work to me.

    2. AVP*

      I don’t think challenging means “do this is half the time it normally would take” – or at least, it shouldn’t.

      What I think this idea is referring to is that plenty of employees, myself included, will take the time you’re giving them to get something done, even if it’s more than I need. And then fill in the extra time by checking my email and AAM and whatever else…this is human nature. If you light even a very gently and tiny fire under my butt, I will stop wasting time and actually do the work that you’re paying me to do. And honestly, I’ll do better work, because distracted work is not as good as focused work. I just work better if I’m given a bit of a challenge, and it stretches me as an employee and makes me more efficient and better at what I do.

      There are absolutely companies who plan poorly and understaff and expect way more than they give you the tools to achieve. Maybe you’ve had experience working in them. But the good ones will give you a reasonable amount of time to complete something, without giving you enough of a leash that you hang yourself with it.

      1. TK*

        +1 to all of this. The second paragraph lays out what I was trying to say about myself below. A bit of a challenge, just a gentle and tiny fire, can go a long way toward productivity.

        1. AVP*

          I also think that the mindset of always stretching yourself a little bit is what will lead you to your next role, or next step up…not everyone wants to do that, and some people would be happy to stick with their current job for the long haul, and that’s cool too. But if you are looking to improve, or learn more, or get a promotion, having someone else set those goals for you and challenging yourself to get there is a great way to do it.

    3. TK*

      Personally, I don’t do good work if I’m not challenged at least a little. Part of my frustration with the job I’m about to leave is that I didn’t feel I was being challenged– the work is all easy and relatively mundane, I wasn’t given much latitude to make important decisions, and there’s rarely a sense of urgency about anything. Obviously, you can have too much challenge, but for me not having enough just makes me procrastinate, and be complacent, and overall not really perform to my potential.

      To me, this is like “works well under pressure.” So many people say that and it seems paradoxical, but for me I know it’s really true. Part of the problem with my soon-to-be-ex-job is that the people here don’t work well under pressure– not just some individuals, but the whole place, culturally, has come to be designed in such a way that only people who can’t deal with pressure can thrive here, if that makes sense. I have to be somewhere where deadlines and at least some sense of importance to getting things done quickly are emphasized, or I’m not going to do my best work.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on the context. Sometimes goals really just need to be maintenance goals — like to keep something working well. But sometimes goals are about driving progress, and when that’s the case, you want them to be the right mix of ambitious and realistic. In advocacy work, for instance, some of the most powerful progress happens when you think not “what can we achieve this year?” but rather “if we were aiming to make Ambitious Thing X happen, what would our plan need to be to get it done?”

    5. Colette*

      Challenging work keeps people engaged and interested, as opposed to mindless, repetitive work. Doing boring, repetitive work in a shorter timeline is not, IMO, challenging in the way I’d be interested in.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Also, none of this should be about ” ‘helping the employees succeed” or “realize their potential.” It’s about the organization getting results. If someone realizes their potential in that process, great, but it’s not the point. If you’ve got an employer talking in those terms, they’re doing it wrong.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        Thank you for saying this. I find it so patronizing for some uninvited person to “help me realize my potential”.

    7. Elsajeni*

      I think you may be overestimating the level of “challenge” that’s meant to be suggested. I’d say that, in your hypothetical, 3 weeks is a challenging deadline — if you’re going to finish that project in 3 weeks, you’ll have to be doing your best work and staying focused on that one project the entire time.

      On the other hand, I don’t know that the phrase really makes that much sense as applied to deadlines. The “challenging but achievable” balance is really about motivation and self-improvement; when you set a goal for yourself, you want it to be challenging enough that you’ll have to work and improve your skills to meet it, but not so challenging that you’ll be inclined to give up. With deadlines, unless part of what you’re trying to achieve is to get faster at [type of project], I’m not sure why you’d need to set yourself a challenge.

    8. MaryMary*

      I used to joke with my old manager that my goal was not to get fired. She told me that was a low bar and I should aim a little higher.

      So to me, that’s what stretch goals are. Aiming a higher than the bare minimum. Particularly if you’ve been in a role for a while and you’re proficient, it’s going beyond checking the box and just doing your job. So that might be volunteering for a project, taking on responsibilities for training or documentation, working on things usually done by someone in the next role, or bending over backwards for a client.

    9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Dunno, we’ve collected a group of people at work who love to go go go. There’s a tipping point where we are yelling for more help (this week!) but they all get a bit nutso if things go slow. They don’t work past 40 hours. It’s about the game of figuring out how to do things both quickly and accurately within the work hours, also juggling to shift priorities as needed.

      It’s definitely challenging. People are bored and antsy during any slow periods and begging for more work.

      Obviously about culture. We look for people who enjoy working this way.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I tend to go in a different direction with this question.

      Start looking at the sustainability model of business vs the constant growth model.

      What we are using now is the constant growth model. If your business is not growing then it is dying. There is no middle ground. (It’s a theory some folks have and live by.)

      In order for the business to maintain constant growth, everything has to work better. This means the employees have to reach beyond what they did last year, for example. So if a company has a group of employees (a department, let’s say) that is not growing there is a potential for a domino effect. One department can bring down other departments. Going in even closer, if one employee is not growing that raises the potential for the whole department to tank.

      I see many, many flaws with this type of thinking. But companies can think this way. Not naming any names, but there are companies out there that should have gone under years ago. And they are still here. I think we all can name a few.

      My father worked for Very Well Known Company. He had to find cost savings each year. The first year, not realizing what this was, he found (making up numbers) $50k. He was so surprised, the next year when he was told his new goal was $90k. Then he caught on- that number was going to keep going up regardless of whether or not it was with in his realm to achieve it.

      (Funny part: The company gave him 3 new desks inside of two years. He told them to quit giving him new desks! “There’s your cost savings”, he said. Not what they wanted to hear.)

      Constant growth, in everything.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


        You just wrote out exactly our challenges right now.

        I have wanted to get to open thread to have a conversation about this for weeks but, ironically, I’m too caught up in the “challenge” to have the conversation during the work day.

        As you have probably picked up from my postings here, I hate horseshit goals. :p And I will never be one to press people just for the sake of pressing them or because I read it in a business magazine.

        We are blessed enough, after a lot of hard work, to be running at 25% growth atm, and it is so very hard to keep those domino implosion things from happening. My people are great, but you are so right that everyone is having to get better in order to keep exactly what you wrote from happening.

        I like strategy games but this one is a doozy.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think the fatal flaw with the constant growth model is that it presumes people will buy more widgets this year than last year. Or it dictates that people have to buy more. But companies cannot control how much people buy.
          Oh, wait. There are ways of doing that, too.
          But we saw after 9-11 no one went shopping. And then we saw the Great Recession where many people just bought necessities. Constant growth is not appropriate for every setting.

          I don’t necessary believe that if we aren’t growing the default answer is we are dying. But flipping over to the sustainability model -this is more like doing the same thing each year for the same income. (Or to cover the same expenses, should prices go up.) I wrestle with that concept because where is the challenge, except for looking for ways to fight the boredom and finding new ways to stay motivated- all the while doing the same thing year in and year out.

          More to the point: Some companies find stupid ways to keep growing. They pick stupid targets of irrelevant points and hang their whole company on those targets. And most companies have a dead horse on the dining room table- everyone sees it but no one will say anything. Like my father and the steady parade of desks. His comment made him real popular (not).

          With BS goals, I have told my crew to play the game, we all need to eat and pay the rent. But I have also admitted that I was not behind the idea. “But I am going to do it anyway, because it is required of me,” I would tell them. I would not let our group turn into a pressure cooker for some BS thing. So they saw me doing it along with them. Life went on. (yeah, I pretty much said it this way. The goals were so stupid I could not even pretend to believe in what the company was doing.)

          Sometimes you can tie it into a life lesson. You can frame it as “we should be looking for ways to grow ourselves in our private life,too. It makes it easier at work, when we are doing a similar thing at home.” For growing at home, I did not mess with that much except to say it can be pretty much anything a person choses. Learn something new. Get better at something old. Does not matter. Invest in you.

          (I had a prof in college that went home and did nothing all weekend. She had a big screen in her living room and that is all she did. It showed. Believe or not, it showed that she just hung around and watched tv. I knew that was what she was doing before she said it.)

          One final comment: Once in a blue moon, I could go to the big boss and talk about a BS goal and get the goal removed. So there is that, too. I saved that manuver for the worst BS.

          May the force be with you. Seriously. I know some of this stuff gets way out there.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Yeah, I’ve bought that tee shirt for sure.

            We had to retract after the economic collapse and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l. In addition to the immediate problem (higher ups everywhere pushed the “hold” button on all budgets, meaning, we had no orders), the longer term issue was people’s buying habits changed drastically. So, also had to completely revamp our models and shrink while we were doing it. Layoffs, salary freezes, just painful. 2008-2009, going into a good chunk of 2010.

            You will get no complaining out of me regarding the opposite problem. Our growth targets are specific based on profitability projections and also the ability to promote and reward people who have been with us a long time (you need a bigger company to have room to promote up and keep people moving).

            The strategy game to handle the actual business is a challenging one though. My theme the last couple months has been “systems, processes and flows!” and I’ve been known to call out “widen the roads, dammit!” :) (that’s in reference to having to make what was a job for one person a team job, which brings its own issues, but when a single person maxes capacity, they have to widen the roads even if they don’t want to give up complete control of something they have always been able to control.)

            Anyway, there’s not a lot of room for worker bees in this kind of growth and it worries me. Because, everything worries me. :)

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Widen the roads, dammit.

              OMG, yes. I almost fell out of my chair laughing. How true.

              And your sandwiched in the middle trying to navigate this one. Nice.

              The people doing the work can instantly grasp the pitfalls of a plan. It takes the people who came up with the plan at least 6-8 months more to figure out there might be a problem or two.

              Do you find that you look back on the things you used to worry about and now think “I am done worrying about problem x or y.”? I found I could only carry around so many worries, if I needed to add a new one then an old one would have to get dropped off somewhere.

  25. LBK*

    I’m really close to asking my manager to try out working from home on a regular basis – working in my noisy office has started to drive me insane and it would be a huge work/life balance benefit to me, especially since salary increases are looking unlikely. I’d be the first person in our division to be authorized to do this, though, since remote work is pretty frowned on and just not part of our culture – it’s usually only done if you’re out sick or it’s a snow day.

    Any tips on what to say or how to bring this up? I don’t know whether to frame this more as a business case or a personal case, and I want to steer clear of the usual impression I think working from home gives, which is that I want an excuse to goof off when I’m supposed to be working.

    1. CTO*

      There have been some good posts on this. I’d start with making the business case, because that’s ultimately what your manager cares about. If you have a good relationship with them, you could also get into the personal case and point out that working from home would lower your stress and burnout, etc.

    2. MaryMary*

      Concentrate on the business case. You’ll be more productive, you’ll have fewer interruptions, etc. Also address potential concerns, such as how you’ll communicate with your coworkers. But in general, employers aren’t interested in the personal benefits for you, they want to know how it will benefit the bottom line.

      1. LBK*

        My worry that if I frame it as improving my productivity, that will imply that I’m *not* productive when I’m in the office, and I’d still have to do that frequently (probably a bare minimum of 2 days a week, but more likely 3-4).

        For a bit more context, my manager and I had a conversation a few months ago about increasing my compensation/recognition because I was feeling extremely undervalued. At the time I focused more on rewriting my compensation plan (I get a month bonus that accounts for about 1/4 of my paycheck) and threw in working from home as an aside. We worked on the comp plan for a month before it was ultimately determined that because we’re down on sales, it’s just not feasible to change it, at least not dramatically enough that it would really change my paycheck (we’re talking literally $10 more per month on average with the newest version of the plan).

        I want to bring this up as an alternate way to reward me since the monetary reward didn’t really work out, but I don’t know if that makes sense.

        1. CTO*

          I think it’s fine to point to this as a form of “compensation” since you and your manager have already had conversations about that. They might be thrilled to know that there’s a non-monetary way to keep you happy.

          1. LBK*

            That makes sense – and he was totally on board and agreed with me when I said I felt undervalued, so I don’t think it would come out of left field. I’m just nervous since there’s no precedent here.

            1. CTO*

              Then it might help to have an outline in mind of how it would work: how you’d set up your home workspace, what you plan to do around hours/schedule, how you’ll be reachable, what equipment you’ll need, etc. If you’re blazing a new trail, show that you’ve thought this through and can make it happen with minimal inconvenience or work for your boss.

        2. MaryMary*

          In terms of productivity, try framing it as more tasks accomplished, or accomplished in a shorter timeframe, instead of just genericly more productive. For example, “Last month, it took me a four days to finish the teapot design specs for the ABC account, but if I could work at home interrupted, I could finish a similar project in two days”

      2. Nina*

        This, 100%. They’re more concerned with how this benefit the company rather than you, so frame it that way. Higher productivity, meeting deadlines faster, etc.

  26. Recent Diabetic*

    I want to throw this out to all the current and ex-SAHP’s.

    Alison has covered a lot about how to break back into the work force after taking care of children, parents, sick relative etc etc. My case is about my children, almost 3 & 5 yrs old. The best advice that I’ve read on this blog so far is to keep current on your skills, volunteer, write reviews, blog, and so forth. I honestly don’t know how SAHP’s do this. I know that all children have different temperaments and that schedules vary. But, I am so so exhausted by the end of the day that I can’t do any of the above mentioned things.

    My day starts at 7am and ends around 8-8:30pm. This is when kids go to bed. Then I take care of household chores, eat dinner, and spend time with my wife. I have maybe an hour or two to do things in the evening, but I am so mentally exhausted that all I can muster is just to take a break in front of the tv or do something mundane.

    Btw, I am in the non-profit sector. I just don’t know how to follow the advice on what to do in the interim between jobs (btw, which is great advice). I am really frustrated and don’t know what to do as I am going back in the labour market and I don’t have much to show for the last ten months. I am trying to get a job and it seems that the last ten months might spell doom for me.

    Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Paloma Pigeon*

      Volunteer if you can, and take on meaty projects. This past summer I joined the board of my children’s school, and since the larger organization has no staff leadership at the moment (don’t get me started), I took on a database conversion, wrote a development plan, and worked with their communications person on creation of new marketing collateral. There were real vacuums and I jumped in. The best part? You are a volunteer, so if life comes up and keeps you from meeting a deadline, you have an excuse – since you are doing the work on your personal time. Not all organizations need that level of support from lay leadership, but many do.

    2. CTO*

      If you have a great record before the past 10 months, you might not be in such bad shape. It’s not like you’ve been out of the workforce for 5-10 years.

      Could you spend just a little bit of time on things that look more impressive than they might really be? For instance, writing one weekly blog entry, going to a training/networking event once a month, taking a short-term Coursera course, volunteering for a work-from-home project that takes an hour a week? Could you afford to hire a teenage “parent’s helper” to come help out for a couple of hours each week while you work on these things?

      I hear you on the exhaustion. It’s tough. Don’t let yourself feel too much guilt because you’ve been busy being a devoted parent.

    3. SherryD*

      I don’t have kids myself, but I do sympathize!

      It sounds like your kids are important to you, but that getting back into the workplace is also important to you, and that you feel like volunteering could be a key stepping stone to getting back into the working world. I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but we all get 24 hours in a day, and it’s up to every individual to set their own priorities. Is it possible to sit down with your wife and say, “I want to make volunteering once or twice a week a priority for myself over the next year. Could you help me make time and energy for that by [watching the kids sometimes/helping with chores/having PB&J sandwiches for dinner sometimes/whatever]?”

      Good luck, and good on you, too! Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and you’re doing a good job taking care of your family.

      1. ClaireS*

        This is a good idea. Could you find a play group or other supervised activity that would free up an hour or two of your time where you could pursue these opportunities?

    4. Recent Diabetic*

      Thank you everyone for your wonderful responses. You have some great ideas and I think I am going to negotiate some personal time with my wife, and keep a day on the weekend just for me. I have some projects in mind that I could do and some places I could volunteer my skills. I’ve just been too exhausted all the time to really carve some time out just for my career growth. Thanks again and I will post an update once things are in gear.

  27. HeyNonnyNonny*

    Just a vent…my husband and I work pretty much the exact same job (unintentionally). We have the same education, training and experience, and we’re even in the same department, but he’s a Fed and I’m a contractor. I make more than he does, but I am always super jealous of his amazing telework/RDO benefits, and it’s dumb and makes me grumpy that my department doesn’t let contractors telework. Bah. I’d so much rather skip the commute!

  28. EM*

    Need some advice or maybe just someone to chime in that they understand what I’m going through?

    I’m suffering through a pretty bad bout of depression right now. I’ve struggled with it on and off all my life, but this one has been pretty bad. Work stress is not helping, but it’s not the cause by any means. I’m doing all the right things:
    -I’ve told people I need help
    -I’m seeing my GP next week to discuss my meds
    -I’ve started meditating/taken up exercising again
    -Tried to decrease stress in my life as much as I can

    But I’m still feeling frustrated with myself. It’s leaving me very unmotivated at work, and while I’m pushing through as best I can, I’m still being pretty hard on myself. I have ups and downs, and right now I’m on an up swing, but I know that a down swing will be coming soon and I’ll be back feeling tired and lethargic and sad.

    So yes, there’s really no question here, but I had to put this out into the universe.

    1. fposte*

      Ah, EM, I’m sorry. I think illness in general can be frustrating because of how little control we have over it. You’re doing everything right, and it’s advantageous to do so, but unfortunately it doesn’t come with the immediate reward of not being ill any more. After all, going to bed and drinking lots of chicken soup doesn’t mean the cold will be gone the next day either.

      It’ll happen. Good luck to you in having it happen soon and getting through it in the meantime.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I went through some really bad depression a few years ago, and it definitely affected my work. Do you have a boss/coworker at work that you can use as an ally? They can help push you or cover for you on the days you really need it, and it can make work less terrible if at least someone in your office knows what’s going on and is prepared to give you support.

    3. A Teacher*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. I’ve been there too, when meds weren’t enough sometimes it helped me to find something humorous about my day or even just interrupting my day with something funny from the internet. It didn’t make my depression better but it allowed me to not focus on how crappy I felt or how run down I was. Good luck and wishing you the best!

    4. littlemoose*

      I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this. It sounds like you are doing all the right things, but it will probably take a little time to kick in. Would you feel comfortable talking to your manager? I don’t think you necessarily need to disclose that it’s depression, but maybe say something like, “I have a health condition that I am currently working with my doctor to better control with medication. I do not foresee any serious complications or absences, but I wanted to let you know.” Whether this would be helpful is hugely dependent upon your manager and your office culture, but if you think it would be well-received, perhaps that could be an option to take a little pressure off yourself at work?

      It sounds like you are still getting your work done OK, so maybe there’s no need to go in that direction. Depression is a jerk because it distorts our perception of reality and makes it difficult to have a good perspective. From the outside, it sounds like you’re still getting through work OK, and sometimes that’s as good as it’s going to get when we have other things going on in our lives (whether physical or mental illness, family problems, etc.). When we are dealing with other factors, sometimes work is not going to get 100%. You are taking steps to improve the situation, so please try to cut yourself some slack in the work arena for the time being. Best wishes to you.

    5. Miss Kitty Fantastico*

      Just chiming in to say I understand and am in the same boat, sort of. I’ve been wading through a bout of depression as well – brought on by personal stress, work stress, and health stress. I started taking an anti-anxiety medication for the first time ever, and it’s making me feel so fuzzy (trouble reading emails, staying focused in meetings) at work. This makes me more stressed out because my anxiety is brought on by really, really intense Imposter Syndrome at my new-ish job, so feeling fuzzy makes that worse. I also just hit my 5-year cancer anniversary, and while my family is celebrating I’m feeling kind of ambivalent about it and realized last night that my emotions have been really dulled by my anxiety/depression. I started seeing a therapist last week, though, and she seems great so far – taking me through baby steps and breathing exercises to start controlling my anxiety in the moment.

      This is very new for me – I’ve always been very positive and upbeat, but the anxiety hit like a ton of bricks about two months ago and has steadily gotten worse since then – mostly brought on by the Imposter Syndrome.

      This kind of got long, and isn’t totally work related BUT my point was to say I sympathize :-)

    6. Elizabeth West*

      *HUG* I have no advice, other than just keep plowing through. It’s hard but you’re doing what you need to do.
      Remember that when the downswings come, they don’t last forever. If you have a down, then the next thing will be an up. I use this to get through very bad nights.

      1. fposte*

        Elizabeth, I keep meaning to say how amazing you are at being in people’s corner. You’re like some kind of Support Superhero.

    7. Bea W*

      When I’m in that spot I have to keep reminding myself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Some days I can take 3 big steps. Some days I can only take one small shuffle, but eventually I walk far enough that you come out the other side. Just keep rinsing and repeating and acknowledging that I sure feel like crap now then reminding myself I’ve been there before and came out okay.

  29. TK*

    I don’t really have a question, I just want to share: I accepted a new job this week! The main reason I’m excited is because it means a move back to my hometown, which is something I’ve desired but never thought would happen anytime soon. My field is small, there are very few positions for it where I’m from, and it’s totally the norm in my field to move all around the country every time you change jobs. I’m only 2 years into my professional career, and it just so happened that a job opened up in exactly the right place earlier this year. I knew I was very qualified for the position, but the market is so competitive that I just didn’t know what my chances were. But the interviews went well and everything worked out! Actually in my field there’s often a significant advantage to having local connections and knowledge of the geographic area you work in, and from what the hiring manager said when she made the offer, that was a key factor in deciding to hire me.

    And… the new job will have more varied and interesting work than what I ‘m doing now, provide more opportunities for professional growth, and is much closer to the sort of place I’ve always envisioned as my ideal working environment than my current job. AND it’s a nearly 30% salary increase, which is just unbelievable. I’m still sort of in shock that this is all real and actually happening, this early in my career… it just seems too good to be true! The imposter syndrome has set in a bit, and I’m worried about making a good first impression and really getting off the ground running, but I keep telling myself that I know I can do this and there’s a reason they hired me. Mainly, though, I’m just thrilled.

    1. StudentA*

      It is so nice to hear happy stories! Congrats on your new job! Glad you get to move back home, where you want to be.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That’s terrific~ how cool.

      Let your worry help you stay on top of your game. Worry used in a good way can help you stay sharp and stay focused.


  30. Sharknado Survivor*

    Private Sector vs Public Sector Dilemma
    Last year, I left a very challenging private sector (casino) job where I was highly respected (for the most part) by my co-workers and subordinates. The pay was great with yearly raises and bonuses. I knew everything about the job, but was not entuhused about the crazy hours. I was lower level management so I had some say so about policies and procedures, but not quite enough as I wouldve liked after 6 years with the company. After the birth of my second child, I had some scheduling issues (amongst other things) that led me to resign from that company (the company itself was not horrible by the way). A few months later I started a public sector job at a university with an awesome schedule, my own office, no real stress, but HORRIBLE pay and very little opportunity for advancement or raises.
    The other day I received a call from another private sector company in the same industry as my previous job. I have an interview with them next week. I do have 2 small kids and a husband who works so life balance is important to me, but so is salary. I am thinking about returning to school for another degree which is another issue in itself (Am I crazy?) . The university Im eployed with gives discounts but you can only take 2 classes at a time. The privat sector job doesnt have discounts for attending school, but offers tuition reminbursement.
    I know I have to do whats best for me and my family, but I would just like to hear some pros and cons from some of you as to which sector would benefit you and why. It just may help me see thing objectively. Thanks

    1. De Minimis*

      Would the new gaming job be an advancement?

      Never worked in gaming myself but it’s a fairly big industry here and I’ve known people who work in it and applied for a few jobs myself…seems like the crazy hours are pretty standard, even with a lot of back office people.

      If the casino job was some kind of career progression, I’d seriously consider it if I otherwise enjoyed it. Work/life balance and low stress are great, I have that with my current job, but low pay and lack of progression are pretty tough to deal with.

      1. Sharknado Survivor*

        It would be the same level I was at the other casino, which would be advancement from my current position, but Id be right back to where I was last year. I guess its just a mental block I have about not really moving past my level at the casino then taking a pay cut and lower level position just to have a better schedule. There seems to be better chances for advancement at the gaming industry as there are more departments and its easier to network (from my experience) because you always end up meeting people in other areas.

    2. BRR*

      It’s a personal preference on salary vs. personal life. I’m at a stage in my life where I need money and don’t have children. One thing you didn’t mention is what type of work do you like doing more. Not the industry but your own duties.

      Do you need another degree to progress? You sound pretty successful and often times you don’t need/ it doesn’t help to have another degree. If you do NEED it, I would calculate how much it would cost if you were in the private sector versus how much salary you would lose being at the university for the time it would take to get you the degree. That shouldn’t be the decider but it might help.

      1. Sharknado Survivor*

        Well if I want to advance in my current job, I would definitely need another degree. All of their job qualifications require at leat a B.S or B.A. and all say Master preferred. One in particular say B.A. required, Masters preferred and it only pays $20,000 a year. I dont want that position but it just gives me insight into my career development without a further degree. On the other hand in the gaming industry, they usually just require some kind of degree. Once you are in, its all about networking your way to the top.

  31. SnoopyDance*

    Have you and your manager ever applied for the same job, and if so, how did it turn out?

    Back story: I applied for a Teapot Maker role a few months ago and last week, got a call from the recruiter for the position. I interviewed with the recruiter and subsequently with the manager of the role. This is an internal position. In our company, they strongly encourage you to discuss these kinds of things with your manager, so I did.

    One day after my interview with the manager, my current manager (who is a Teapot Manager) came to me and said they had just applied for the Teapot Maker role. The role is technically a step lower than what they are currently doing, so I was a little confused as to why they would be interested in the role. Then I found out that they are really unhappy in our department and are looking to get out, so that made a little more sense.

    I also found out during this same conversation that another member of my team applied for the Teapot Maker role and was rejected w/o even interviewing. My current manager couldn’t fathom why I got an interview and my teammate didn’t and (in their words) “You must have an awesome resume and that’s why you were selected.” I replied, “Well, I do have experience designing teapots from a previous job, and my teammate does not, so perhaps that’s why.”

    It’s just a super weird situation overall.

    1. Jennifer*

      Wow, that is really weird.

      I think if I were you, I would mentally kiss that job goodbye. Admittedly, I’m biased because when something similar happened to me, the manager got the job….

      1. SnoopyDance*

        I ended up getting a second interview for the position, which took place earlier this week. After hearing more about the job, I’m no longer interested and will turn it down if it’s offered to me. After my second interview took place, my manager came up to me and asked how it went (because they wanted the 411 on the job itself and the hiring manager). I shared my concerns about the position and said that I wasn’t as interested as I had been before.

        I think there may be some jealousy on their part because I’ve been getting interviews for various internal positions and my manager hasn’t had a single one yet.

        1. Anonymous*

          If you truly are going to turn down an offer, I would suggest contacting the hiring manager and withdrawing from the process. Allowing them to continue with you under consideration is wasting their time. Also, it could be damaging to your reputation. A rejected internal job offer looks worse than if someone withdraws with some feedback that you appreciate the consideration and are looking for new challenges but after hearing more about the job you realize that it’s not an ideal fit.

  32. Blueberry*

    Hey everyone, I’m sure variations of this question have been asked before, but I could really use some advice. I just lost a parent and am also in the middle of a divorce. My stress level is off the charts. I am having panic attacks, the whole bit.

    It is greatly affecting my work. Aside from yoga (which I am investigating) and medication (which I cannot take due to vertigo), does anyone have any suggestions of how I can refocus myself at work and get back on track? Any little tricks to help get your head back in the game? I don’t think my boss has noticed yet, and I’d really like to keep it that way for as long as I can. Of course I will tell him if I need to.

    In the meantime, I am forgetting things, having trouble understanding emails, and am really stupid in general. Any tricks to help comprehension, retention, and avoiding procrastination would be greatly appreciated. Thanks everyone!

    1. fposte*

      Have you looked into therapy (do you have an EAP?)? Have you gone through the medication discussion with a doctor, or have you ruled them out yourself? Maybe there are some that are less likely to complicate vertigo. Also, do your best to get some sleep, including turning off screens for a period before bedtime and getting to bed at a decent hour.

      Good luck; it sounds like a tough time to get through, and I can understand why you’re finding it difficult.

      1. Blueberry*

        Yes I am going to therapy 2x a week. It’s helping, but I’m still really struggling. And I have tried most forms of medications already, so the doctor ruled them out at this point. As for sleep, I wake up 5-8 times a night. Have tried meds (makes me dizzy) and quiet, no screens, etc. you are right, it’s a big problem.
        Thank you, fposte!

    2. Anon for This*

      I am so sorry that you’re going through this. Although I did not have a parent die, I recently divorced under very traumatic circumstances. Counseling helped TREMENDOUSLY. I highly recommend it. It takes a little while to get used to it, but has been a helpful lifeline. These are some pretty big changes. It helped me to have someone that I could talk to uncensored and who could give me neutral advice / helpful skills w/o feeling like a burden. The very best of luck to you.

      1. Blueberry*

        Sorry you went through all of that, AFT! Hope everything worked out for you! Thanks for reinforcing the counseling. It is helping, but I am still having a lot of trouble focusing on work, which creates more anxiety. It’s a loop I can’t seem to get out of.

        1. Anon for This*

          Be gentle with yourself, Blueberry. It has been 10 months for me. I am now much better at focusing at work, and feel not so lonely when I go home. I still wake up a lot at night, but less often. For me, my religion helped me. I also started a journal where I wrote down uplifting quotes. I read that before I go to bed. It gets better. You sound like you are doing the right things. The old saying that it just takes time is partly true. It takes time, and the hard work that you are doing in counseling. Sorry you’re going through this too! Cut yourself some slack, and realize that this is a hard time for you.

    3. Eden*

      Oh Blueberry,
      I’m sorry to hear this. Two years ago my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away while I was going through my divorce. I had anxiety and panic to the point that I went to a doctor convinced I was having a heart attack, but of course my ECG was fine. I saw myself in your post.

      I cannot encourage you enough to experiment with yoga. I think yoga almost literally saved my life. I am not strong/stretchy/athletic and I still essentially suck at yoga, but the focus on breathing, and the exercise (I did hot vinyasa so it was a workout) really really helped. I tried for 3x/week and ended up with mostly twice weekly practice. I don’t mean to discount the support of friends and family, but doing something for you is really important I think during these times–you tend to focus on what everyone else needs, which feeds the anxiety.

      As far as your work is concerned, do your co-workers know what’s going on with you? My boss knew because we were also friends; whether you tell yours will have to be your call, that could go a number of different ways. Unless he’s a monster, I can’t see how it would hurt to maybe just let him know your situation (focusing on divorce/loss though, not the anxiety/performance worries). My workplace was really supportive, and I found myself in the same situations in a position that could not be forgiving of errors (think medical drug dosing). I learned to delegate the critical stuff, or at least, double-checking of the critical stuff.

      I have no advice for how to refocus on work, because that was just kind of lost for a while. Momentous life moments seem to throw into sharp relief how unimportant most of our jobs are. I did find that my fuzzy-headedness (I had a massive forgetting problem) was greatly improved by yoga and by sleeping through the night, which I wasn’t doing. It probably took a few months before I was back to my more normal self.

      I don’t know if xanax/alprazolam is a med you can’t take due to vertigo; if so, I’m sorry to bring it up, but it helped me a lot. I got a script filled for 30 .25 mg xanax, and took 1/2 of one on nights I found myself with the hamster-wheel brain thing going on, not sleeping. They lasted a year. Even a little bit was enough to anesthetize the brain hamster.

      But mostly, keep waking up and putting one foot in front of the other and stuff. I know it probably sounds like a stupid cliche now, but the worst does pass, and you will be stronger for the experience.

      1. Blueberry*

        Eden, so sorry to hear you have gone through all that! I truly appreciate you sharing your experience with me, it really makes me feel better to hear about light at the end of the tunnel. I will look into yoga this weekend, and taking half a low dose is something I did not try. You’re right about the hamster-wheel-brain thing, that’s a big problem for me. And yes, I have decided to tell my boss, even tho that’s probably going to be awful.

        And thanks for the one foot in front of the other it’s definitely what I’ll have to do. I hope that things are peaceful for you now, thanks for taking the time to help me. It’s much appreciated!

    4. Sarahnova*

      If you trust your manager, I would tell him. I think that in itself would help take the pressure off you to “perform” at your normal level. If he is a supportive, empathetic human being, he will probably want to help you identify ways to reduce your workload and get more support. Seriously, if this is at all an option, tell him and tell him you need to reduce your workload/shift into “neutral” for a while so you can cope. If you need time off – ask for that too.

      You are dealing with a huge amount, and every bit of help and support you can get will be important. Be kind to yourself, and do what you need to do to get through each day. I wish you support and lots of kindness.

    5. ACA*

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I know when I’m verging on a panic attack, sometimes I can “settle” myself with a few minutes of deep breathing and repeating Psalm 23 or the Rosary in my head. Obviously those wouldn’t work for everybody, but most people have something that they know by heart – the times tables, the lyrics to “Hakuna Matata”, the Declaration of Independence, whatever – anything you can use to draw your focus out of your head and onto something familiar and safe until you’ve calmed down enough to return to work.

    6. Natalie*

      “I don’t think my boss has noticed yet, and I’d really like to keep it that way for as long as I can. Of course I will tell him if I need to.”

      Obviously you know your manager best, but if at all possible I strongly urge you to tell them now. Get out in front of this before it becomes a problem. IME people notice these kinds of things slowly, and by the time it becomes conscious they are usually pretty annoyed.

      You don’t have to go into extensive detail, just a heads up that you are getting divorced. Presumably your boss knows your parent died recently?

    7. OriginalYup*

      On the practical side:

      Cut out the caffeine as much as possible (coffee, soda) because it amps up the symptoms of panic attacks, and try to make sure you’re drinking plenty of water.

      Find a short break activity that helps you to feel better, like going into a quiet room and doing deep yoga breaths, or taking a brief walk across the parking lot.

      Make your desk or work area a relatively pleasing place to be, whatever that means for you personally — cheerful photos, a plant, clean desktop files, whatever. (I personally find that keeping my work area really tidy helps eliminate visual clutter that increases my stressful feelings.)

      Let people help you. When in a stress spiral, it’s really easy to get into negative self talk when you beat yourself up about what you should have, could have done. But if you’re safely able to let your boss or coworkers know, “Hey, I’m having some stressful personal stuff right now, I apologize in advance if I seemed distracted,” they can help you if they notice that you forgot something you normally wouldn’t, or didn’t get back to them right away like you usually do.

      And remember that this too shall pass. It won’t feel like this forever, so be kind to yourself and take care. :)

      1. cuppa*

        +1 to the cutting out caffeine. It helps my anxiety as well.
        Check out the Headspace app for mindfulness practice. It helps me a lot.

        And, good luck! I’ve been there and it is really tough. But it does get better.

    8. blueberry*

      Thank you all for these suggestions, and for taking the time to write them.

      fposte and AFT, thanks again!

      Eden, I will be looking into yoga this weekend.

      Sarahnova and ACA, thanks so much for this advice. I will try to be kind to myself (this was shocking to me that I didn’t realize i needed to, but you’re right!) and take deep breaths.

      Natalie, that was something that didn’t occur to me, and i’m so glad you said it that way. So yes, i will tell my boss. I just didn’t want to because he’s so intimidating and…well, not cold, just very…i dont know. Stiff? It’s going to be an awkward and very uncomfortable conversation, especially after just taking 2 weeks off for my stepmother’s death. I just don’t want to be seen as a drama llama (as someone on AAM said, i love that phrase – as long as it’s not about me). I’m not the drama queen, my soon-to-be-ex is!! I swear!!

      OriginalYup, these are also things that did not occur to me, and the line about “having some stressful personal stuff, sorry if i’m distracted” is great. Appreciate it, I will be trying your suggestions.

      Cuppa, i will look into the Headspace app, i’ve never heard of it! Thanks!

    9. Not So NewReader*

      If you can stand one more comment, here goes…
      You are facing two griefs at the same time. Yes, divorce causes grief in most people.

      Grief will bring on all the stuff you are talking about. It will take your brain away so that now 2+2=5.67. And you won’t see anything wrong there. That stupidity is your grief.

      Grief books.

      Whole foods- fruits, veggies, meats. Simple meals. No artificial sweeteners- in some people they can double or triple the panic/anxiety.

      Breathing exercises.

      When the panics hit, gently but firmly make yourself look up. You are probably looking at your shoes. Look up, look around at things that are at eye level. This is hard. Go slow, you will make it.

      Cry. If you want to have a better day tomorrow, sit and cry tonight. If your tears are bottled up put on some sad music that helps to push the tears out.

      Tell your boss that you are a bit off your game because of at home pressures. Tell him you are working on things every day, but some days are better than others. This takes away the pressure of having to pretend life is okey-dokey. Life is not okey-dokey right now but you are doing your best. You do not need the additional pressure from pretending.

      If you have not already done so, build yourself a support group. People that you can trust, that will help in the ways they can. Does not have to be big- two or three people might be enough.

    10. V. Meadowsweet (formerly samaD)*

      I am so sorry.

      Self-care is huge. Eat foods you like, wear colours that lift your mood, listen to music that makes you feel good, and read books that soothe, make you smile, or just grab you (I keep Calvin & Hobbes for when I can’t handle any more words and cookbooks with lovely pictures for the days a bit above that :) ).

      Sleep is huge. Valerian can be a good option – the best is the tincture (dilute in water), but it does smell like dog poo :/ It lasts about 4 hours, but does give some people very vivid dreams. Friends have had luck with melatonin and calming teas (even just camomile).
      St. John’s Wort helps me let the hamster out of the wheel for a bit – whatever’s bothering me is still there, I just don’t care :) It can interfere with hormonal birth control though and does make you more sensitive to sunlight.

      Trying yoga sounds like an awesome idea!

      Breathe. It’s so easy to start taking the shallow panic breaths.

      One of the biggies for me is when I’m feeling especially stressed I limit the amount of time I think about. If I can’t handle planning more than an hour in the future then I put most of my focus on the next hour and stay periphally aware of the rest of the day/week. Big notes in at least 2 places about deadlines and important events past that hour/half-day/day/etc, but I focus on the time-frame I can handle right then.

  33. Ineloquent*

    So, how do you get over a lack of trust in information that others provide?

    I work in compliance in an area that most people veiw as a road block, but is actually vitally important to my company to be able to continue doing business as we do. I have to solicit extremely detailed information from tons of people asn provide it to a government agency, so it has to be right. Fairly recently, I’ve had people stright up lie to me about their information, or attempt to sidestep my function all together. It’s made me a bit paranoid, I think, so I’m spending excessive time double checking information sent if I don’t feel 100% comfortable with the source. That may be a good thing, I don’t know, but we really don’t have sufficient resources to do that all the time. Any thoughts?

    1. WFBP*

      One of my friends is going through the same problem. In her case, since her own boss (the head of the auditing dept!) was being a big problem, she actually went to the president of the company and made him aware of the problems. He is taking steps to assist her in getting what she needs.

      Also, no matter what, get this info in writing! If it’s wrong, you need a trail leading back to the person who misinformed you. If they’re not responding, send emails stating what you need, that you have not heard back from them, etc. CYA!!

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Escalate this issue to management. They need to make it clear to everyoe that the company could face very serious repercussions for reporting false information to the authorities or attempting to mislead them. Just look at some of the multi billion dollar fies that have been handed out by US prosecutors to certain banks in the last few months.

    3. MaryMary*

      You have to make sure everyone understands how important compliance is, and the consequences to the organization if you don’t provide the required information to the government correctly. Some of that understanding can come from you, but it needs to come from leadership too. It sounds like one piece might be education. Another is to create incentives/disincentives. What happens when someone lies or obstructs you? It needs to be clear that lying is 100% not acceptable, and that failing the audit is serious, and there have to be consequences for individuals who do not comply.

    4. Ineloquent*

      Fortunately, we are doing all of those things. The importance of this peice of compliance is being shouted from the hills, and we’ve got support all the way up to our CEO. The consequences of failing in this compliance issue is the loss of hundreds of contracts and millions of dollars. But people hate that I’m delaying them in their stuff, and try to work around me. I always work in email and have a solid chain of evidence in case something happens and I have to get our legal department involved. People have been fired for violations, if they’re bad enough. It’s mostly just a few bad apples that are making me twitchy, but they’re making me twitchy for everyone and everything. Maybe I just need to learn to be twitchy more efficeintly.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yep. Target the bad apples. It sounds like you are buried in work and feel you do not have time to follow up about the bad apples. However, it seems that is exactly what you need to do. Your company backs you, so, yippee, on that one.

        I prefer to take on one monster at a time. So maybe I would need to go person by person through the bad apple list. But maybe you can make a list and hand it off, I don’t know.
        Can you get someone to help you? Maybe just someone to do the more mundane tasks so you can focus on the bad apples.

  34. anonintheuk*

    I think I have some kind of Stockholm Syndrome.
    Employed somewhere with no promotion prospects, below market rate, oceans of work, etc. Finally the market has started to pick up and recruiters are calling with actual job prospects – but the idea of moving on fills me with ‘but what if’s. Partially because a move would also involve a house move, but still…
    Anyone else, or just me?

    1. matcha123*

      I don’t really have any advice other than to say that I understand where you’re coming from!

    2. Jennifer*

      It’s not just you. I have a hard time applying for things because I hate the idea of upsetting the rest of the apple cart, as it were. Like I should look for jobs in other towns and industries and then I go, “But I don’t wanna commute to Podunk Town or Big City all the time….”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Saw this with my depression era parents. It’s real.
      Move on. Do not allow this impoverished thinking to take over you life. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck thinking like this for the rest of your life. Yeah, it can happen. In the 1990s the Great Depression was still alive and kickin’ in my father’s mind. Fifty years.
      Don’t let this happen to you.

  35. Anon for this*

    So I’m asking this question on behalf of a friend. She made out with her coworker, who is now in the running to be her new supervisor. Is there anything she should do?

    1. fposte*

      How recently was this? Are they still seeing each other, and if not did the clinch end amicably?

      I don’t think this necessarily must be addressed, but if it was on the larger/more recent/emotional side, she might consider a brief conversation with the co-worker saying “It’s all cool, that’s behind us, working for you would be fine.”

  36. MaryMary*

    Did anyone else read this study this week: Study: Fear Of Being Replaced And Poor Communication Prevent American Workers From Taking Time Off, “Work Martyr Complex” Emerges at Expense of Americans’ Health and Well-Being

    While I don’t disagree that many Americans do not fully utilize their time off (when they have time off, which is a separate issue from what’s discussed here), I do disagree with the interpretation of the study’s results (in Yahoo’s defense, they are quoting directly from the study). The study says, “Workers cite returning to a mountain of work (40%) and the feeling that nobody else can do their work (35%) as the top reasons they leave PTO unused. The effects of a tough economy still linger, with one-third (33%) of respondents saying they cannot afford to use their PTO, and a fifth (22%) of workers expressing concern that they do not want to be seen as replaceable.” If 75% of your respondents say they feel unable to take PTO due to work load or lack of a backup, it doesn’t seem correct to lead with “fear of being replaced” as the main reason people don’t use their PTO.

    I also take huge issue with interpreting “returning to a mountain of work” and “nobody else can do their work” as a work-martyr complex. At my job, I am the only one who acts in my role. I have no backup. When I am not in the office, the work I am responsible stops until I come back. I admit that I’m bad at taking PTO in general, but part of the problem is that I have to arrange my workload to get to a point where I can leave things alone for a couple of days. In my previous job, there were multiple other people who did the exact same things I did, but on other teams with other clients. It’s difficult to jump in and out of projects and clients, and we were structured so that there were things that only the head of the team (me) could approve. So again, I had no real backup and anything I was responsible for would be on hold until I got back. Maybe someone else could help in an emergency, but all the every day things just piled up until my return. Companies are staffed so lean these days that it’s not a delusion of grandeur to say no one else who can do my job, there is LITERALLY no one with the knowledge and capacity to do my work except me.

    Sorry for the rant. I’ve been waiting for the open thread to share with you all, my people.

    1. fposte*

      It’s a self-publicized study by the U.S. Travel Association. I’m not going to worry a lot about what it says.

      But yeah, I mostly don’t have backup when I’m out so I’m not out much, and now I’m looking at a surgery and I have to time it right so that I can make sure the work’s done when I’m out. I join you in thinking that’s not that uncommon, but I also think that it’s a habit people can get into even at places where they do have some coverage.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I think I actually took this survey through TripAdvisor.

        I have a lot of control with my workload, so I don’t have a problem taking PTO. But I also work next to accountants who have work pouring in 24/7. If they take a Monday off, they have 3 days of work to catch up on and it can be almost impossible to meet their monthly goals after that. I understand that they would rather keep working than take a day off.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I agree, and I have a huge problem with ‘use it or lose it’ policies– don’t tell me when to take my vacation time! I’ll take it when I’m good and ready >:(

    3. Jennifer*

      Oh, I agree. I was all, “why is anyone shocked and surprised by this?” I have two other people as backup and that still means they’ll leave a ton of stuff for me to have to do when I get back.

      I am going on vacation for a week next month and I really should not be doing it because my not doing work for a week is going to mean that we all have to start working on weekends this fall (seriously) because we have a Big Giant Project of doing 10,000+ records going on right now. Sixteen people are sending three people (down from four) a giant load of work, and we have to do BGP in between public service and every other insane thing we have to do here immediately or else someone complains. Theoretically the “deadline” is December 1, but it really is now “immediately/as soon as possible, how’s mid-October, why aren’t you done yet?” I have been doing BGP for over a decade (it used to literally be all I did for 40 hours a week until my job got transferred) but the other two are new to it and find it really hard to do and don’t get more than 10-20 done in a day (if that), so if I’m not doing 90% of it…you get the drift. The other two aren’t really helping me so much.

    4. Anonsie*

      I also take huge issue with interpreting “returning to a mountain of work” and “nobody else can do their work” as a work-martyr complex. At my job, I am the only one who acts in my role. I have no backup. When I am not in the office, the work I am responsible stops until I come back.

      Same here. And not just because I’m the only one who knows how to do my tasks (which is something that could be fixed) but because they’re restricted to me for legal and regulatory reasons. I’m pretty sure my colleagues do not believe me for a single second when I say that and they think I’m being a big office martyr, too. If I handed off a phone call or something to one of them, we would be so deep in hot water from so many different directions!

      1. MaryMary*

        Yes, that was an issue at my old job. There were financial transactions that only I could sign off on. The bank would not release funds without my signature. I had to fax over a signed form, because the bank thinks it’s still 1994, so I couldn’t easily sign off if I wasn’t in the office.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I used to be this way, but no more. Though I didn’t take enough PTO this year and lost a little–it wasn’t because I felt irreplaceable, but more that 1) I had nowhere to go; 2) I was in school and couldn’t; and 3) in my mind, it’s not relaxing to waste vacation time just to stay home and do chores and clean out closets. I guarantee this will not happen this fiscal year. I have a feeling I’ll need every bit of that PTO coming up.

      1. Windchime*

        It’s funny you should say this (“cleaning closets”). I’m taking this next week off from work to paint and re-do my bedroom. There will probably be some closet-cleaning happening. :)

        I haven’t had any real time off since May, so I’ve basically spent the entire summer in the office. I have a ton of work that will be waiting for me when I get back and a very short time to complete it, but I’m taking my vacation anyway. My work is frequently high-pressure and there are always looming deadlines; so even if I waited until October to take my vacation, there would be a new, important deadline that I would be in danger of missing. So yeah, I’m just going to go ahead and take my time.

        Part of my week will involve painting, which I love beyond measure. I love the way it changes how a room looks in a short time. I can’t wait.

    6. Sabrina*

      At my job it’s not that no one else can do my job, it’s that no one else will. There’s 30 of us, but they are all busy with their own work. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t worry about it though. Management is supposed to be working on fixing issues with our system and staffing so that we won’t be crazy overworked. If it happens, great, but I’m not going to work myself up about being behind when I can’t control it. I do what I can.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Saw an interesting thing about news reports regarding studies.

      I think you are looking at a two part problem.

      The study itself. Which maybe flawed for various reasons.

      The reporter’s understanding of what the study actually says. Here’s where it gets interesting. I like to go back and read the original study sometimes. I would guess that at least 75% of the time the study does NOT support what the headlines say. Reading down through the reporter misses key information in the original study. In short, I no longer believe headlines regarding studies. (I did not read this here because I would like to finish reading the open forum before midnight.)

      I could go on and on about how reporters have messed up stories in my area. A big chunk is that they do not understand the subject they are reporting on, therefore they are not able to accurately convey the information to the public.
      Okay. mini rant. sorry.

        1. MaryMary*

          I love the comic! But I did go back and find the original study on this one, and all the conclusions and wording I have problems with are in the actual study. To be fair, as fposte noted, the study is from the US Travel Association.

      1. CC*

        Yeah, I see that all the time when I’m reading stuff for my blog. I get ideas for posts from headlines. Sometimes (well, regularly) the headlines are only tangentially related to what is actually new behind the “news”. Sometimes they completely missed something I think is amazing, but more often they totally oversold the new thing.

        Mind, the people who write the press releases that the reporters use as reference for their articles aren’t exactly innocent of overselling…

  37. Paloma Pigeon*

    Just a quick update from last week’s open thread post: I decided to follow the advice of most who responded and do nothing. If I continue to get solicitation emails from the organization and the person who got the job, I’ll ignore them. The good news is, I received an offer from another organization, and start a week from Tuesday! Thanks AAM!

  38. Gina*

    I’m wondering how to professionally (but in a way that shuts down the conversation) respond to someone who always has to have the last word even after a solution has been found.

    Context (similar conversations have happened with her but this is the most recent): a colleague dropped off a stack of papers to be placed into packets. One of them ended up getting water damaged because she left it right next to a drink I had which condensed a lot before I got back to my desk. I gave her the completed stack and said I’d pull up the damaged doc and print a new one. She was looking through the pile and said there was a packet missing. I tried to ask which document it came from so I could print it while I was printing the damaged one but she kept insisting it had been in the pile. This was a huge pile and I had no idea what was even supposed to be in it. I kept trying to reassure her that I could print a new copy in seconds but it was “No, I know it was here when I left it for you.” By the end I really felt like she was accusing me of hiding it. I really wish I’d known something professional but firm to say about how I didn’t appreciate the implication and how we needed to move on. I’m not good at coming up with my own words but sometimes when I see other people’s I think, that’s perfect.

    1. fposte*

      I don’t think that sounds like a “shut her down” conversation anyway–I think that sounds like one where placating and/or disengaging is going to serve you better; I’m not hearing an implication in what you’re relating, and it’s often effective to ignore one even if it’s there. “Yeah, I hate it when stuff isn’t where I thought it would be too, but let’s just print it out again and we’ll be good to go!” And if she kept nattering, “Okay, just let me know if you decide you want me to print it again” and don’t respond to subsequent statements unless they’re direct, unavoidable questions.

      It might also be worth finding another place to leave your drink–if it’s SOP for people to leave papers on your desk, it’s reasonable for them to expect that to be a place they can be left undamaged, so that might be what started to wind her up; I also would just have printed the damaged one on my own and included it without discussing that.

      1. Gina*

        I had to bring it up to ask her where she stored the file of the damaged printout…it’s also not SOP to leave things on my desk since it’s not something I usually do. I was really only asking for help on the wording. Thanks, though!

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, people wouldn’t be leaving stuff on my desk, so it’s not ready for that either; wasn’t clear if yours was or not. (And extra advice beyond the question is always free at AAM :-).)

    2. AMD*

      I hope others have a better suggestion, but when customers come up to me and want to figure out who’s to blame for a problem, I usually try to just state what I can do about the problem. “If you tell me what the document was, I can reprint it now, or I can go back and look for it on my desk,” without engaging in whose fault it was. “I can do X, or I can do Y.” If it doesn’t work after a few tries, switch to, “I am going to do X,” and leave.

      1. Gina*

        I like your progression. It’s actually kind of embarrassing I couldn’t think of it myself, but I tend to get embroiled in people’s drama and end up in the whole forest for the trees trap. I especially like how after a while you just say what you’re going to do because then they either have to switch gears or deal with a solution they don’t like.

      2. Malissa*

        On trivial things where people want to blame somebody, I find it’s way easier and less complicated to take the blame and move on to the point.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah, agreed. Sometimes people just want to spew and, depending on the issue, it can help to say “Yeah, you’re right, I screwed up, what can we do about it now” or “I’m going to do X to fix this.” I don’t like to get into the blame game myself, but some people have to do that so letting them blame you so you can all move on works sometimes.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Just think of this as someone trying to steer the conversation to get you to talk about something without asking you outright, and although they may not realize they’re doing it, they probably are just used to manipulating conversations for one reason or another. I hate dealing with situations like that, too, but what I find most effective is to stay calm and firmly steer the conversation away from the accusation and towards the neutral solution to the actual issue. For example, “Oh, well, I can fix that, don’t worry!” “Would you like me to print that out for you?” “I understand, but we need another copy, don’t we?” “Well, how about I print out another copy and get that ready to go?”

      Don’t apologize and don’t explain, because that’s engaging, and they’ll be like a dog with a bone.

      1. Gina*

        I like the third one best, or repeating the second one! I apologized at first but then felt like kicking myself because I didn’t do anything wrong, she’s a coworker and not a customer, and the whole project was a favor anyway. You’re right, almost anything you say is engaging them. Thanks for the phrases, I’m going to give give them a workout I think.

      1. Eden*

        I pulled over on the way here, set it on the ground, and lit it on fire. Hang on a sec while I print you out a new one!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      She’s not dramatic much, eh?

      Sometimes, I might say “Okay, just calm yourself. No need to fall apart. We will fix this in a flash.”
      Not suitable for everyone or every setting. And when I use it I am totally fed up with the nonsense.

      What will this woman do if there is a real problem?

  39. GoingCorporate*

    I am in a senior leadership position of a state-wide nonprofit, based in higher-ed, after a career spent mainly in international non-profits in a much larger city. I have been approached by a corporate recruiter for a position in a global firm, based in my new, smaller city. I have experience with the longer hours and increased stress that I imagine this job would bring and I didn’t have any issue dealing with it before.

    My current job is okay, maybe even good in the sense that I have a lot of autonomy. But being in a higher ed environment is difficult for me – I’m not used to everything moving so slow, and I’ve been told I need to work slower, not be too innovative too fast. It is grating and a faster paced environment seems like it would suit me.

    Have any of you made the move from non-profit to corporate? I feel like it’s often the other way around. What should I consider. I have a minimum salary set before I will even consider it (about $15k over where I am now – I definitely want to feel compensated for longer hours and possible stress.) Usual things like retirement matching, vacation time, flexible hours, health benefits, etc.. But what do you wish you have known?

  40. Lauren*

    I know this falls under the “don’t listen to your parents’ job-searching advice” heading, but can you confirm for me that there is no way to write “some university” on a resume? I am applying for jobs, some of which officially require a high school diploma. I have two master’s degrees but I only list my bachelor’s degree for jobs like this. My father spent an hour last night nagging me that I’m still appearing over-educated and I need to just tell them that I have some university. I kept trying to get him to tell me what “some university” looks like on a resume, to no avail. I just list “Hon.B.A., Major, 2002-2006/__ University, Location, Province.” I don’t think that could be simplified any more, could it?

    1. Cruciatus*

      If you really were a person with only “some university” then, depending on the job you were applying for, it might be appropriate to write how many credit hours you completed, especially if it’s relevant to the position. But yes, don’t listen to your dad. My mom told me I should go to HR where I currently work and basically tell them “Hi, I’d like a salaried job, please!” I told her it didn’t work that way and she wanted to know why. She taught at the same university for 37 years and never really had to go through any of this!

      I am also over-educated for what I’m doing. I just applied to a job that only asked for high school diploma. I have a Masters but I’m leaving it on my resume–otherwise I’d have huge time gaps on my resume.

      1. Lauren*

        Ah yes, the gaps. I’m hoping that it’s assumed that I was at home with kids during the time since all I have for those years is periodic retail work, and that interviewers won’t want to touch that issue.

        Parents, eh? So well-intentioned, so you can’t tell them to stuff it…

    2. CTO*

      I think you’re right and your dad is wrong. Do you put the education on the bottom of your list, below your experience? I think it’s silly to downplay it any more than that when you’re already leaving off two master’s degrees.

      1. Lauren*

        Thanks – yes I do. I also tend to assume that when a job asks for high school, they mean that they want to keep it open to internal applicants who finished school at a time when university attendance was less common, and that most applicants will have a BA or community college diploma.

    3. BRR*

      I just learned something that is sort of relevant. I work in higher ed and the library is hiring for a position, really basic stuff. They ask for high school required, associates preferred. I was talking with a higher up at the library and he said the last two people at that level they’re hiring for both had an MLIS. The reason is most of the higher up jobs go to internal candidates so you have to start low. I don’t know if this is just because it’s the library field but it really surprised me because I know somebody who is applying and they asked me about being over educated.

      1. Lauren*

        That is interesting! One of my degrees is actually in library science (which is why I’m looking for customer service rep jobs *sob*). I have heard that that can happen, but also that union rules prohibit hiring anyone with an MLIS for anything other than a Librarian position at a lot of libraries, mostly public but also academic. I try to play it both ways, sometimes I tell them I have the degree, sometimes I just pretend that all my student work was just contract work terms. So far no one has called back so maybe it’s not even relevant.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Tell him “yes, dad” and then do it the way you want. It’s not worth the hour discussing it- when he has already decided he will never understand your points.

      I loved my father dearly. But there were times where “yes, Dad” saved lots of arguing and lots of time and he was none the wiser.

  41. AMD*

    As of May of this year, I manage about 7 people, and as the company is changing have had to push them to expand their roles, learn more, and develop more, to handle the workload. 6 of them have embraced change, are learning and teaching each other, and I give them frequent positive feedback in public and targeted critical feedback in private. However, one of them, “Bess,” balks at any mention of change or of asking her to do more or learn something new. She is afraid of computers – which, honestly, should disqualify her for working my department at all, but she has worked in the same position for ~10 years – and doesn’t know some fundamentals of her own job.

    I try to give her positive feedback when I can, and reserve critical feedback for when we’re alone together, but she balks and argues with me so openly when I ask her to do something or make a neutral suggestion for change that I end up having to say negative or critical things when there are others around. (Not insulting or threatening, just “You need to change how you do this” kind of statements, or “You should already know how to do this.”) Bess demanded, in front of others, to know why I’m picking on her and not everyone else. It is because she is the only one who openly argues with me.

    I have given serious critical feedback to others, who have taken it to heart and improved their performance, but I have done it in private as much as possible, so Bess is unaware it has happened. I think she honestly believes she is the only one I “pick on.” Is there a way I can dispel this impression of picking on only Bess, while still pushing her to improve?

    (She does have a timeline for improving her performance issues, and regardless of her attitude towards me, if she doesn’t improve I have a plan for moving her out of our department.)

    1. fposte*

      You can most certainly give her feedback on her problems with receiving feedback. There are several relevant AAM columns on this if you search for “feedback.” This is a big problem that’s going to hurt her career. You also don’t have to go into a discussion right then just because she wants to. (“We’re actually talking about implementation right now–I’m available to talk privately about other concerns.”)

      Two things, though. First, “You need to change” and “You should already know how to do this” are pretty in-your-face statements–you might try amending your own phraseology to see if it makes her less adversarial.
      Second, she sounds like a dud employee–why are you talking about making her the problem of somebody else in your organization rather than firing her?

      1. AMD*

        You’re right about in-your-face statements. I’m a new manager and haven’t really worked directly under a manager before. I know that I don’t really know how I sound when I’m giving feedback, and it’s something I’m trying to be more aware of. Generally, I get more factual and blunt when I am surprised and stressed and haven’t had time to come up with a “script” – like Gina above, I do better when I have ready-made phrases to draw on. I feel like I am usually fairly gentle and diplomatic when I’ve had time to think about what I’m going to say, but when I’m surprised in the moment by argument, it’s hard for me to quickly figure out what to say next.

        For the second, I work in a large retail setting with a lot of bureacracy behind coaching, moving departments and firing. I don’t know how much power I really have to fire someone for anything except serious misconduct – plus, an attitude problem and a dislike of learning new things don’t seem like reason to fire someone when they could be easily moved to a minimal responsibility position somewhere else and possibly do much better. (A lot of her poor performance is related specifically to tasks required only in my department.)

        1. fposte*

          An attitude problem and a dislike of learning new things seem like great reasons to fire somebody to me, but I’m not you. Can I suggest that you at least find out what kind of firing authority you have? That’s fairly important to know as a manager in general, not just for this case.

          I think you might find it helpful to take more control over when these things get brought up, so that you can take the time to phrase things the way you want to (I totally understand about surprise not really helping expression). You don’t have to answer a question just because she asks it, you don’t have to deal with a subject just because she’s raised it, and you don’t have to digress from the topic on the table just because she wants to. But you also don’t want to shut her out completely, so it might be good to talk to her one on one when you’re not in the heat of things. Tell her you understand that she’s been frustrated, but talk to her about the receiving feedback problem as a problem–that you and she need to work together on making sure expectations are met, and feedback is an important part of that, and making it difficult for feedback to be given makes it more difficult for her to perform well.

          It’s a cheap trick, but I do find avoiding “You” statements to be helpful. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the word, and it doesn’t have to be all “I” statements ether, but I think it’s easier to hear “The expectation is that Teapot Technicians should be completing this work independently” rather than “You should already know that.” I don’t know that it’s going to help a ton in this situation, but it’s a good time to practice ways to make being heard as easy as possible.

          You’re getting some good experience here, even if it doesn’t always feel like it! Hang in there.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          An attitude problem is absolutely a reason to fire someone — one of the most clear cut, in fact. I’m seconding fposte that the first step here is to find out what firing authority you have. Managing effectively relies on being able to set and enforce consequences, and you need to know what your abilities are in that regard.

          And on the defensiveness:

    2. Sadsack*

      Like fposte wrote, if Bess has a timeline for improving, why would she be transferred instead of fired for not improving? I think you need to get HR involed adn learn exactly what authority you have in this situation. If you have no authority, better get talking with someone who does.

      1. Sadsack*

        Sorry – I just re-read your response to fposte re firing. Good luck to whomever ends up with Bess.

    3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      So – you’re trying not to give her negitive feedback when others can here. That is admirable. I think that there’s a way to put her in control of this situation so that she understands what actions are leading to her feeling “picked on”. You could have a conversation with her where:

      You let her know that you’ve heard her concern that you are correcting her in front of others. Let her know that you want to avoid this when possible. If you are giving her directions, and she pushes back when others are around, you’ll have to let her know that what she’s doing is not okay-right then. However, if she will take the time to take your feedback on board in the moment, she’s welcome to bring up concerns during x amount of time the next time you have a private meeting.

      That way, she’s got a choice about whether she’s in the situation of hearing negative feedback in front of others. I agree with others that it’s also appropriate to give her feedback on how she receives feedback. Be prepared that she…ummm…might not receive this feedback well. You might have to give her the feedback and then end the conversation by telling her that you want her to consider your feedback before she responds, and that you’ll check in in x days.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Is she getting offensive because that is a good defense to protect her lack of computer skills?

      Is there a community college near by where she could take a course in computer basics?

      As far as being “picked on” you can say “What I talk about with other people’s performances is private. Just like what we talk about here is private. I will not be discussing other people’s settings with you or anyone. Please do not mention this again.”

      Or “Hearing critical or instructive feed back is part of any job. Accepting it in a professional manner is also part of any job.”

      Really, it sounds like this woman does not even have basic skills in place to hold down a job. Ten years? How could you show up for work every day for 10 years and not learn something about computers?

  42. Bend & Snap*

    I’m at the beginning of The Big D and…it sucks.

    For the divorced folks, when did you disclose to your employer what was happening? I’ve talked confidentially with my friend in HR to find out what resources are available to me, but I really don’t want to tell my manager or team until it’s over.


    1. CTO*

      I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t think you need to disclose anything unless you need some work accommodations, like time off for appointments or a bit of understanding on a bad day. Then I think it could be in your favor to give a brief, “X and I are in the process of a divorce, so it’s affecting my schedule a bit for the next few months. I’m looking forward to getting fully back on track very soon.” That way your boss knows that you’re in a rough time but that there is also (hopefully) an end date in sight.

    2. MaryMary*

      I had a coworker who told her manager and one work friend when she was going through her divorce (at the point where it was definite that she and her husband would no longer be together, but long before the papers were final) and explicitly told them to spread the word because she didn’t want to deal with telling everyone. We worked at a large company that had a pretty good retention rate, so it was common to work closely with someone, then move to another project and go for months without talking, and then randomly see them in the elevator or cafeteria. She didn’t want to deal with dozens of well meaning people asking how the family was, or if her husband would be running a marathon again this year, or making jokes about high school sweethearts. It worked: her friends spread the news, adding that she was doing fine but didn’t want to talk about it, and the poor girl skipped lot of awkward conversations.

    3. Dan*

      I told my manager when sh!t started going down hill. Basically, the big d is the hugest distraction you will ever go through (ok, I don’t have kids, so I don’t know about them) and I wanted my manager to know that in case my performance started to slip, there was a reason, and if it became noticeable, I’d want to talk about it before it was too late.

      I had “extenuating circumstances” and some of my coworkers were invaluable with advice to help me get through. But if I had a “normal” divorce where we just decided to part ways, I would have kept my mouth shut until it was over. And even then, I’d just tell HR so I could drop them off my benefits.

      1. Waiting Patiently*

        Yeah lucky you, my ex dud(I love auto correct for this one… I’m keeping the dud here…lol) did everything he could to continue dragging me in court. We did it pro se. I thought it would be normal.
        Once we were finally granted the divorce, he met me outside the courthouse and said “you win”. I stood there thinking like really ‘is there a such thing of winning in a divorce’ (sigh)

    4. Bend & Snap*

      Thank you. We do have a baby so I anticipate that single motherhood will be extremely difficult, and I’ll have to disclose once I’m operating completely on my own.

      Until then, I don’t want anyone to smell blood in the water.

    5. Waiting Patiently*

      I disclosed to my supervisor, once I realized how many days off I needed to attend court dates. I think it was around the 2nd court date. Such a huge PITA process. I don’t generally discuss my personal life with my coworkers, I’m the type of person that will say it once and move on. Plus it was my first year and within my 90 day probation period when I was going through the divorce.

    6. lifes a beach*

      Other than changing your tax forms – status or Beneficiary on retirement or coverage on insurance paperwork . Why is it your employer’s business? Even if you need time off to go to court or for appts with lawyer, it is no one’s business why you are taking the time. Unless, you are denied and then I would explain to my boss why I have to be out. As far as other employees, tell them when you feel comfortable.

  43. Maxwell Edison*

    Longtime lurker, first-time commenter.

    Very excited because I have a marathon 2 1/2 hour interview set up for Monday. Will be talking with HR folks, senior director of the department I’d be joining, and colleagues in that department.

    Should I let HR know that I have a vacation planned in December? Flights and hotel are booked already. I’m happy to take the time unpaid as there’s no way I’ll have accumulated that much PTO by then. I just think it would be underhanded to not tell them until they make an offer.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not underhanded; that’s the appropriate time to tell them, unless it’s like a 6 month committment somewhere.

    2. littlemoose*

      How long will the vacation be? If it’s not crazy long, like a month, then I don’t think it’s that disingenuous not to mention it until the offer stage.

      1. Maxwell Edison*

        About a week and a half. Plane leaves the 18th and I’d be back at work on the 30th. Going to Disney World!

        1. Alara*

          Depending on the company, they might have a slow period or some holidays around Christmas. I wouldn’t bring it up until they make you an offer and roll it into questions about their holiday schedule.

          1. Maxwell Edison*

            It’s a university, which is new territory for me. I’ll wait for the offer and then let them know.

            1. ACA*

              The university where I work gives everyone a paid week off between Christmas and New Year’s – if yours does the same, it might not even be an issue.

              1. TK*

                Yeah, I’m about to start at a university and they close down completely from 12/24 to 1/1. It’s one of the best perks of the new job in my mind. Though I’m sure this is more common with smaller institutions– I’ll be working at a moderate-sized, regional-based state school– than big research universities.

  44. TwoYearsIn*

    I’m currently about two years into my career and was recently promoted. I do lots of data analysis and some economic analysis. The things is that I feel like I screw up all the time — but I must be doing something okay to have been promoted, right?

    At some level I realize that there’s a lot of learning that goes on with data analysis because every time is slightly different and a lot of this is uncharted territory. Can anyone that works with a lot of data tell me more about a “normal” trajectory of learning? Will I ever feel more confident in my abilities?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m a data analyst and in my past two years my whole routine has changed. We used to report on x, but now we focus on y. I don’t know if it is the same with others, but I feel like it is a very fluid position. Programs change, available data changes, and you just need to be ready for whatever the wind brings.
      I’m not sure what normal learning would be. But, as long as I feel confident with my analysis, I feel confident in what I am doing.

    2. FatBigot*

      This is classic imposter syndrome, in other words the high-functioning Dunning-Kruger fallacy. Read their original paper if you can find it. While their finding is normally encapsulated in the ” inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude”, they also identified a failure with high functioning people.

      These people are skilled in the task. One of the signs that you are skilled in a task is the ability to spot your own errors. The mistake is to assume that everyone else is also able to spot your errors, and is equally capable of doing the task. In other words, truly skilled people are likely to be overcritical of their own work. Does this sound like you?

  45. Nervous accountant*

    So it’s been about 2-3 weeks since I started posting about my crazy boss.

    I’m not exaggerating when I say, he makes you feel stupid for even being alive.

    The man is verbally abusive and emotionally unstable.

    On more than a few occasions he’s called us (or our work product) idiotic/retarded, drops the f bomb all the time.

    Insults my background (granted I come from a volunteer/nonprofit and not big 4 and I still consider myself relatively new to this field).

    Takes his anger at current and previous coworkers out on us.

    The other day he smashed a pen. No reason at all other than he didn’t like it.

    Screamed at me for almost 20 minutes over a staple that was “shitty” and “sloppy.”

    You never know what he’ll explode at and and answer calmly.

    I stop everything and listen to his long rants about others and I nod along–“do you even understand anything? or you gonna look at me with a dumb expression?”
    If I try to answer back or have a discussion, well cue the insults.

    So you get an idea of how crazy he is–he calls the state/IRS and right away they tell him “sir if you keep speaking to me this way I will hang up on you.”

    He justifies his rants/outbursts by saying “don’t take any of it personally. It’s not a jab at your personality or character. that’s just how the business is, you have to be great at it. I want you to be great at this, you have lots of potential; stick with me you’ll be a star” with promises of higher pay later on etc. (pay right now isn’t ideal but I’m ok with it).

    Im still waiting for my first paycheck. Payroll is a messy issue right now for various reasons and I’m scared to ask for a firm pay date. I was told this Friday but the person in charge of it had to leave unexpectedly and when I asked my boss he said I’ll have to learn it because it’s not worth his time to do it himself. (It’s not that I’m not willing to learn–I have 0 experience in it and I am willing!). We have to record all of our time, billable and nonbillable and I’m scared of an ugly confrontation regarding my hours.

    And–as crazy as it sounds, when he actually isn’t red faced and cursing you out, I don’t mind him that much and it feels kind of good when he *does* praise you (maybe it’s some kind of tactic? tear them down, build em up?)

    I *may* have something else lined up but I’m not pinning my hopes on it.

    I feel like if I stay a second longer it’ll be a waste since I can’t even put this on my résumé. But I need the money. I thought this was a godsend since my unemployment had actually run out by that point. I want to quit so badly but I want my check in my hand before I leave. Is it useless to wait around? Because frankly after everything I don’t trust them to pay me either if I’m not physically there to ask about it.

    1. AMD*

      Keep job searching. I don’t know if ti’s better to leave the job on your resume so you’re obviously currently employed, or leave it off. Don’t mention the boss when you’re interviewing and they ask why you’re leaving your current position – “The company is having trouble with payroll” in neutral words and tone is probably a great reason for leaving.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with this!

    2. fposte*

      “when he actually isn’t red faced and cursing you out, I don’t mind him that much and it feels kind of good when he *does* praise you (maybe it’s some kind of tactic? tear them down, build em up?)”

      It’s pretty standard reaction to abuse, actually. Whether it’s a conscious tactic or not, I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly another reason why you should get the hell out ASAP before that starts seeming normal to you.

      Check Monday with the payroll person, but remember they owe you the money for what you’ve already worked if you leave now or not.

      1. StudentA*

        “It’s pretty standard reaction to abuse, actually. Whether it’s a conscious tactic or not, I couldn’t say, but it’s certainly another reason why you should get the hell out ASAP before that starts seeming normal to you.”

        YES! I know from experience and from reading accounts of bully-boss victims. Unless you have the strength and patience of Job, you will walk away from this job with scars. I understand you need the money, but this person is certifiably abusive, and you owe it to yourself to find yourself a different situation. Worry about the resume after!

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Seriously, contact your state department of labor about the pay issue. Generally they’re not allowed to delay your pay at all, and they’re especially strict about last paychecks.

      And yes, it feels good when he acts normal because he’s an abuser and manipulator, and knows that if he was like that 24/7 no one would put up with him. The good news is that probably everyone else in the field knows he’s a psycho, so you may not need to explain why you left. :)

    4. Blueberry*

      Go to and look at the entries on bosses. You’ll have your answer.

      By the way, I’d run screaming. Start looking for jobs right now before you are mentally and emotionally destroyed. Oh, and don’t expect a good reference from him. These people just don’t do that.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I’m sorry to hear that. What’s funny is when I read the description of the boss it reminded me a lot of the stuff I hear in the Raised By Narcissists subreddit.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I don’t know, it sounds like this boss should be adding Xanax or Valium to the water cooler as a health benefit…I know I’d need it if I worked for someone like that!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Keep looking. You need to get out of there ASAP. This person is abusive.

      It’s up to you whether you can take it until you get paid. But I would be emailing Payroll every damn day about it. DO NOT be afraid to ask for the money you earned. They have to pay you.

    6. Natalie*

      God, that sounds awful.

      It really might be best to quit. An environment like that is going to mess with your head something fierce and you probably won’t even notice it happening. I’d rather eat beans and rice three meals a day in peace and quiet.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      You need the pay. I understand.

      But he’s not paying you. So there is no pay.

      Go home and call DOL.
      Just my two cents. This guy is a very sick person.

    8. Nervous Accountant*

      Thanks everyone! really appreciate all the replies and getting confirmation that it’s NOT just in my head and my ego isn’t overinflated or anything. I’m a professional person, yes I’m still a newbie, and I know I have a lot to learn and I’m OK with that. But I dont’ know if that’s just how this field is. And maybe I’m already being affected by his abuse because I find myself thinking: “Ok maybe I can ride this out as long as I can.”

      Most importantly, I did get my paycheck. It actually wasn’t as hard a confrontation as I thought it would be. He understood it, and didn’t make me feel like shit about it……which is what I was worried about.

      Honestly, I’ve been struggling for such a long time now to find a place where I can stay and grow. That’s all I want, really. I’m willing to work hard and learn, but not in this situation.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. It does not have to be THIS hard. Time to move on before this place zaps you entirely.

  46. Elkay*

    I’m looking for tea and sympathy more than anything else. I took a huge mis-step in my career and now I’m desperate to get out. Unfortunately I left a job without another one lined up a couple of years ago (my mental health was really suffering) and I really don’t want to make a habit of it.

    I’ve got a couple of feelers out but nowhere near what I should be doing. I had a contact a few months ago who mentioned they might need someone with my skills but I’m not sure how to reach out and keep that contact if I ask about it and don’t want to do it (essentially turn down and opportunity without burning the bridge).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am not sure that contacts always know if you applied or not. Try to figure out if your contact would realize you failed to apply(if you decided you were not interested in the job). Then proceed accordingly.

  47. summercamper*

    A higher-up at work has an annoying habit of sending mass e-mails with political themes to everyone in the company. It’s driving me crazy.

    This week, he sent a meme with a picture of an empty witch’s costume crumpled on the ground and the headline “Nancy Pelosi took the ALS ice bucket challenge.” Previous cartoons have been along these same lines.

    My workplace is a conservative, religious non-profit. I assume that most people who work here are politically conservative – for the record, I am too. But I don’t think that this sort of “humorous” jab has much utility in civil discourse, and it has nothing to do with the mission of our organization. I’m irritated every time these messages show up in my inbox, and sometimes outright offended by them.

    The sender is our vice president of communications, and I’m a lowly entry-level staffer. Is there any way I can approach this with him, or am I better off making good use of the “delete” button and resolving not to let it get under my skin?

    1. matcha123*

      Just delete.
      I’ve found that with political things seeming like you might possibly disagree with someone because they are too extreme labels you are a member of the opposite party and people will try to find ways to show that you are “like them.”

      I might be pessimistic, but that’s because I have personal experience with things like this. The mentality of someone that sends emails like that is “You are with us or you are against us.”

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I concur. I work at a very liberal, minority-owned small business, but we would never send around stuff like this. We’ve had a few die-hard conservatives work here, and we just discussed politics a little less and with less vehemence while they were around. We still had some of those discussions with them, though, as we all got along very well, but the tone was definitely different.

        My point is, it depends on the corporate culture. In your office, it’s apparently considered OK to send around those types of things. I rarely send my co-workers non-work-related emails — those that I like I have Friended on FB and Google+, and that’s where I post my political rants. :)

    2. Karowen*

      I’d also suggest trying to set up a rule so those emails go straight to your deleted items. This can be very tricky if there’s not a consistent subject line, but it might be worth a shot. He gets to send the email, you don’t even have to worry about looking at it.

      If there’s no way to set up a rule…Then it’s time to start making tick marks every time you get an email and do a shot for each one once you get home.

      Sorry you’re dealing with this!

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I’m with everyone else–just delete it. I get annoying glurge from someone if I email her for ANYTHING–she starts sending me all this syrupy sweet inspirational stuff I’m not interested in. I just delete it without responding until she stops.

  48. matcha123*

    I’m enjoying my new job. My coworkers are people I’ve know before. The work is challenging, but interesting (even when it feels like I’m pushing my brain to it’s limit).

    But, due to the nature of the job and the contract I am not in any position to ever move up/start projects on my own/be solely responsible for something and other things that I assume future employers would be interested in. Others with similar jobs who have moved on to work in the US seem to have been able to find some success. So, I know it’s not impossible.

    But, I really do not know how to sell myself or the things I do. When I talk privately with various types of people about my job, they seem impressed. And when I was job searching a good number of people thought that I’d be a shoe-in. It’s certainly possible that I was passed over for better candidates, but based on the types of things said to me in the second round of interviews, I feel that I failed to impress.

    So, I’m wondering how does one sell themselves when they aren’t given traditional job responsibilities, but do have a job that demands a high skill?

  49. Zillah*

    Happy news!

    So I just got my MLS this spring, and I’ve been super stressed about finding a job. I needed a little bit of a vacation from life (I did my degree really quickly), so I only really started job hunting in earnest this month. My aim was to find something by November.

    However, to my great surprise, at this point I’ve definitely secured one PT job doing something that really interests me, and am in the final stages of another (I’ve been offered the second job, and I’m waiting to see if the scheduling will work out). Between them, I’d be working a full 40 hours a week, and the pay is decent. Not amazing, but decent – enough to make ends meet and start to pay off my student loans (twice as fast as I’d be able to do otherwise).

    The downside is that they are both temporary positions – come January, I’ll be needing a new job. But still, it’s in a much better place than I thought I’d be in September, and I guess building my network is never a bad thing!

    Anyway. I totally attribute both of them to the advice I’ve gotten regarding resumes, cover letters, interviewing, etc, from AAM and you guys. Thanks! :) :)

    1. Manager anonymous*

      Congratulations. It is a hard market for the MLIS. My big advise on your part-time positions is to look at the next step…. look at the requirements and job descriptions for the full-time positions and try to get as much experience documented for your resume. Is there a cataloguing backlog?- asked to be trained. Be pleasant and present. Where I work these temp jobs are the pool of workers that we are most likely hire full time when one of those open up.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I so want this person to write Alison.

      RED ALERT. What a bunch of Einsteins running that company. Brilliant.

  50. Thinking about It*

    How does a person know when the time is right to leave?
    I’ve been at my about a year now, and overall its not horrible. I’m a lawyer in a big market (DC), but in a small field. Just generally, the legal market is bad. My pay is good, and I’m in the field/practice area I want to be in. But I see some writing on the wall that I might not want to be at the firm I’m at forever – general things I just don’t agree with, the desire to one day expand my practice beyond what we do… how does a person make the decision to leave? I feel like its probably too soon, but honestly, if the right offer came along I could definitely be swayed.

    1. matcha123*

      I’d wait for the good offer if I were you.
      Until then, look at ways to do the best job you can, maintain a good reputation and save up money in the event you just can’t take it anymore.

      Also find some kind of hobby! Doing something that’s not related to work or something that IS related to work, but you really enjoy, and making time to do that thing can help so much!

      1. Thinking about It*

        Thanks! I guess I just don’t know if I should proactively be interviewing, or just keeping my nose clean and generally putting myself out there. I feel like if I just wait for something to come along, it never will, but I also don’t feel like things are bad enough to actively pursue running away (especially because my boss would be pissed if he found out – they take people leaving very personally).

        1. Malissa*

          You have the luxury of time. If something really interesting pops up, then apply. But you can afford to be picky and find the right path for you.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Why do things have to be bad in order for you to move forward?

          Start investigating this now. Figure out what you would like to learn/do. Then locate what firms would be working in those areas. And go from there.

          1. Thinking about It*

            Good point. I think the problem is that I want to do what I’m doing now, but in a place that’s a little nicer to their employees. I can’t help but get “the grass is always greener…” feeling. Plus one year is not a lot of experience before jumping ship, and I’m worried about how it will look, I suppose.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              If you start looking now it could be another year before you “jump ship”. You are assuming that you will apply and get accepted inside of a week- and that probably will not happen.
              Don’t wait until you hit crisis level. Start collecting up facts/tidbits/names now.

  51. Perpetua*

    I know we have many writers and some editors here, so does anyone have an idea where to search for freelance story writers (specifically in the mobile gaming industry)? Something similar to what Behance and Dribbble are for artists, if such a thing exists? Or any other, unconventional ideas?

    Related to that, we could also use some English native-speaking editors, are there services you’d recommend?

    (I was torn on whether this qualifies as work-related and I’d be happy to repost it on Sunday if it turns out that it doesn’t!)

    1. literateliz*

      I haven’t a clue about story writers, and I’m a book editor so I don’t know about the demands of mobile gaming specifically, but Editcetera ( is a pretty well-regarded association of freelance editors in the SF Bay Area. I haven’t used them myself, but I have colleagues who have. (Now that I look at the website, it looks like they have some freelance writers too, although I don’t know if they would match up with your needs.) I do hire freelance proofreaders at work, but I do so mostly through word of mouth or the occasional unsolicited resume that comes through.

      Do you mind if I ask what exactly your editors would be doing? I’m always vaguely wondering about non-book editing work and video games sound like the coolest option yet! (I once saw a job listing for what was basically a more senior version of my job, but instead of editing cookbooks, it was editing everything Pokemon. I still daydream about that.)

      1. Perpetua*

        Thank you, I will check Editcetera!

        We haven’t yet defined many parameters, so the work our editor(s) would be doing would depend on whether we find a story writer who’d write well directly in English (the preferable option, since it cuts out a step – translation from our mother tongue to English). In general, what we need is for the story to flow naturally and for the words to be completely appropriate for a given context, since we’re not in the US, but a large part of our players is. We do mostly casual gaming, so the games are not really story-centric, but still, we want all parts of the product to be as good as possible. :)

    2. CLM*

      Post an ad with at FreelanceWritersDen dot com, or check out Contently

      Check out chapters of the International Game Designer’s Association

      Behance does have writers on the site as well.

      And actually, I’ve got some experience in this area myself. Would you be willing to say post it to the LinkedIn AAM group so I can connect with you?

      1. Perpetua*

        Thank you, this is exactly the kind of information I was hoping for!

        I came upon IGDA just recently in my Google searches, it’s on my list to check out more thoroughly ASAP, and I’ll be adding FWD and Contently to that list as well. :)

        I’d definitely be willing to post it after ironing out the details with my bosses and figuring out what it is exactly that we want/need! If you’d like to connect even before that, feel free to send me an e-mail at

        1. literateliz*

          I was having so much fun this weekend that I forgot to check back in on this thread until now, haha, but I hope you don’t mind if I piggyback on this and send you an email as well! My skills may or may not be a match for what you ultimately end up needing, but it sounds like a fun and interesting editing job. :)

  52. Karowen*

    I’m in charge while my boss is out today, and I’m struggling with something so wanted to put it to the group…
    Typically, when my boss is out, my job is to make decisions that have to be made that day and to keep my boss in the loop of what’s happening. We have a problem of people not getting in on time, goofing off, etc., so I give him a run down of when people get in, if they’re gone from their desk for a long time for no reason, etc.

    One of my co-workers is having a really rough time personally. I would not wish what she’s going through on anyone. I can more than understand someone in her position having moments of panic or sadness and having to step away from her desk to take compose herself. But I feel like what this woman is doing is going beyond. She has been out of our office talking about her personal issue more than she has been in it. When our other co-worker asked her a work question (granted, the work question was asked with no small dosing of attitude), her response was that it could take a back seat because she’s having this personal issue and that she didn’t bleeping care.

    Now I’m trying to figure out if I’m a horrible person for telling our boss that she’s essentially not working today. We’re salaried so it shouldn’t really matter, but she’s not a great worker on her best days either. What’s more, she has things that she needs to deal with that she’s not – and she’s not delegating them either so that they can be dealt with. On the other hand, her work ethic has made me less than enamored with her, so I’m not sure how much my emotions are coming into this. If my co-worker with whom I am friends was doing this I would probably still tell our boss, but I honestly don’t know…and at the moments where I think I would cut my friend more slack I tell myself that’s because the friend works hard for more than our 40 hours every week and that she would never say “I just don’t care because personal stuff.”

    I’m hoping that it’ll have resolved itself by the time I send my end of day email, but…what are my responsibilities here? Am I an awful person for telling my boss that today has basically been an ATO day for her and for reporting the “I don’t care” comment? Or am I just doing my job?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Remember, your boss probably sees this every day. IMO you shouldn’t feel the need to talk to Boss about this, unless you feel it must be addressed, and for some reason you couldn’t or shouldn’t do it while they’re gone (like firing someone).

      If it were me, I’d probably tell the co-worker in the gentlest voice possible “I know you’re having a tough time, and we’re trying to be supportive, but if you really feel that you can’t help Alice with the Teapot Report, maybe you should take leave for the rest of the day, and come back when you’re up to pitching in again.”

      1. Sadsack*

        Good advice – compassionate while reminding the coworker of the responsibilities you all have there.

      2. Karowen*

        Thanks for the advice! She has actually disappeared again – I think she may have gone home of her own volition – but if she comes back I’ll try that.

    2. Colette*

      If this is something different than how she behaves when the boss is in, I’d mention it. He’s asked you to tell him this sort of thing, and he presumably also knows about what’s going on in your coworkers life. You’re not saying “Fire Jane because she never works”, you’re saying “FYI, Jane seems pretty consumed with her personal issues, and X, Y, and Z aren’t getting done”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I think that you pretty much have to mention it to the boss. Since he already knows it’s not a surprise. If you leave it off, that could be kind of odd.

  53. Lulubell*

    After nine-plus years in the same job, I accepted an offer at a new company this week. Yay! And also, OMG! My new position will be managing a team of four, which I haven’t done in about 10 years. And the last time I managed people, I probably wasn’t the best at it, because I was very young and less secure in my own knowledge about my industry. Over the past nine years, I’ve become much more knowledgeable and secure, and taken a lot of mental notes about what good managers do vs bad managers (including reading a lot of great advice here). Still, I would love any advice the hive can share about getting started on the right foot, any books to read on the subject, etc. I have two-plus weeks before the new gig! Thank you!

  54. Bitter*

    I have a job where, among other charming traits about it I mentioned last week, our clientele can and frequently will complain to as many higher-ups as they can get a hold of whenever you tell them no about something. (This week’s charmer: a guy writing insanely long rambling e-mails to my boss and everyone else’s e-mail he could find about terrorism, Reagan, his dead mother, how our state ruined his life, how he didn’t attend Berkeley, blah blah blah…. because she told him he couldn’t get a refund for dropping out at the last minute. RUINED HIS LIFE, mind you.)

    Does anyone have any tips on how to handle this kind of situation? Because while god knows we have to move mountains to give you whatever you want here, there are some things that are just not under our control, and then people throw shit fits and you end up having to have an awful meeting with higher-ups to account for YOUR behavior. I feel like I’m risking my life or at least my job every time I have to tell someone no about something.

    1. fposte*

      How much do the higher-ups actually care, and when they have meetings with you about saying no, what is it they tell you to do instead? Most of the higher-ups I know would just want to know that they don’t have to worry about answering crazy Reagan/Berkeley person because I was handling it.

      1. Bitter*

        Generally speaking, the higher up the complaint goes, the less the higher-ups are going to be on your side. But what they say about it varies. Some days it’s clear that the client was insane and they’ll get off your back, other days…. But generally speaking, they feel obligated to scold you if someone complained, period.

        1. fposte*

          Can you pin it down as Cosmic Avenger asks so it’s clear this is cosmetic? “So are you saying I should have said yes and you want me to say yes to such requests in future?” “Is there phraseology you’d prefer I’d use when saying no, then?”

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yeah, I’d be asking for very clear written guidelines on what is and what is not allowed, and if called into a meeting about it, state “OK, so I should have allowed them to get a full refund on the last day of class? I’m sorry, I was specifically told I couldn’t do that, and I wasn’t informed of the change. I’ll cross that off the ‘not allowed’ list. While I’ve got it out, is the rest still current?”

  55. Marcy*

    Not a question…just needing someone to send good vibes my way today. It’s been a year since I started my nightmare job (my predecessor literally quit the first day I started, leaving me with an (unpaid) “promotion” to team lead and additional duties to train a junior person without any support). Since I came to the job with a lot of experience, I’ve managed to pull together a process that makes some semblance of sense in the work that I do. I’ve gotten a lot of praise and the promise of a promotion from my manager…then the organization re-structured, and I’m getting weekly “what exactly is it that you do here?” questions. Today my manager came into my office and said his boss is not happy. “With what? With me?” No idea, she’s just not happy. Keep your head down. “What should I do?” Not sure…everyone’s just very unhappy. You do good work but everyone’s unhappy.

    I couldn’t help it, I just burst into tears. I’m so embarrassed but I just didn’t know how to respond to this vague unhappy grilling from my manager. And yes, I’ve been looking for another job for the last year without luck. At least it’s Friday.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oh gosh, I hate when people insinuate stuff. I always think it’s about me. But this may not be about you; it could be that Boss’s Boss is just on a rampage today and you should just keep quiet and look busy.

      If you think you might be RIFed, it sounds like your manager would be happy to give you a reference, at least. And it also sounds like you’ve got good accomplishments to put on your resume.

      Here are some good vibes: ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

      1. Jennifer*

        Yeah, this kind of thing is a “keep your head down and look busy and don’t talk to the boss unless you absolutely have to” alert. Not personal–it’s just that so-and-so is cranky and lashing out at anyone in the vicinity.

  56. Crystal*

    I’m a hiring manager at a mid-size non-profit organization. One of my goals is to really improve our hiring process and make it a great process for the candidates as well as our organization.

    This question is for job seekers — what do you wish hiring mangers did? What do you wish they didn’t do? What are some characteristics of the perfect hiring process?

    What would make you feel more comfortable in interviews? I really want to use your feedback, so tell me anything and everything you wish hiring managers knew!

    1. CTO*

      The best interviews I’ve ever had included:
      – Really helpful information about the day-to-day of the job
      – Some discussion of office culture, both the good and the bad
      – Genuine interest in me as a person! Having a real conversation, not just rote Q&A from questions on a sheet
      – Opportunity to meet both my potential supervisor and at least one other person I’d be working with (boss’ boss, coworker, etc.)
      – An honest, informative, detailed job description including salary, typical hours, etc.
      – Handouts are sometimes helpful, like an org chart or benefits summary
      – Making sure someone is prepared to greet me warmly, offer me water, and make small talk as we walk to the meeting room
      – Information about the next steps
      – Clear information about parking, entrances, who I’m meeting with, etc. before I arrive. It lowers the opportunity to get flustered or lost on my way in.

        1. De Minimis*

          A big second to the conversation as opposed to questions from a sheet…..those interviews were always awful, and I don’t think I was usually able to give a good picture of who I was as a candidate.

          The only exception was one time, when the questions were open-ended enough to where they were more a starting point for discussion.

          1. Stephanie*

            Yes, please ditch question sheets if you can. (I know that in some government jobs, interviewers aren’t allowed to deviate from predetermined questions.) Or if you have to use a rubric or predetermined list of questions, be sure to practice asking those that it sounds natural.

            I’d also suggest not asking too many “yes” or “no” question or phrasing them such that they’ll elicit a more substantial response. You’ll get a better answer from candidates asking “Tell me about your experience using CAD software?” versus “Do you know CAD?”

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Above all else–please, please reply. Even if you’re not advancing someone to an interview, the courtesy of letting them know that is tremendous.

      For the interview process, can you be flexible? Can you meet with people outside of standard business hours–early or later? And avoid “weird” questions–don’t ask anybody what kind of tree or sandwich they’d be. Really try to stress the culture of your organization, and let people know that upfront–whether it’s very busy and intense at certain times and dead at other times, or medium all year round, or what. Can you put a pay scale in your job ads so people can self-select out? Can you tell people ahead of time about their interview particulars, so that nobody is taken aback–i.e., “We’re very casual here, we all usually wear jeans, so no need to wear a suit. You’ll be meeting with Percival, Lucinda, and Wakeen” so your interviewee isn’t overdressed and facing down a three-person tribunal instead of the one-on-one they had planned for?

    3. Stephanie*

      A heads up about the type of interview (if it’s not a standard behavioral interview) and names of the people you’ll be meeting with (if it’s not you and you have that information available). Also, let people know if there will be multiple interviewers–I’ve gotten the interviewer tribunal without notice (i.e., it was me sitting at the head of the table talking to six people) and that’s really unpleasant if you’re not expecting it.

      I like companies that acknowledge the downsides of a job or culture.

    4. Joey*

      Talked salary from the get go.

      Talked about performance metrics.

      Asked me to address their specific concerns about me.

      Minimized the hoops.

      Followed up timely.

      Thought about salary in terms of what it will take to keep me long term as opposed to what it will take to get me immediately.

      Were clear about the challenges of the job.

      I sort of like structured interviews. It shows the manager has a clear methodical plan.

      1. De Minimis*

        Yeah, unstructured is another extreme to avoid….that’s actually worse than the rigid “questions on a sheet” method because the applicant has no idea where they stand or whether this is the right opportunity.

      2. CTO*

        “Asked me to address their specific concerns about me.”

        This is a great point. If I’m going to be judged for any worrisome aspect of my candidacy, I’d love to have a chance to address that. In my interviews for my current job (which I just started a few weeks ago), multiple people candidly asked me, “This would be obviously be a sector switch for you. Why are you interested in that? Are you worried about being less happy in this kind of role?” I was prepared for that question and was happy to openly discuss it. I’d much rather talk about it than be rejected because they mistakenly assumed something that isn’t true.

        When I’ve hired, asking those same tough questions has been so revealing. When I have failed to ask them I often regretted it.

    5. Tiffany In Houston*

      If a candidate takes the time to come in for a face to face interview, please let them give them a status if they did/did not get the job. I understand you cannot necessarily notify every applicant, but someone you interview it’s a must. Most people either have to take vacation time or in my case as a contractor, I actually lose money coming to interview, since if I don’t work I don’t get paid. So PLEASE let interviewees know something!

    6. Ruffingit*

      Others have covered a lot of stuff that is helpful, but I’ll add this one – BE HONEST. About everything. Tell people if the job is posted as 8-5, but it’s actually more like 7-6 on a regular basis. In other words, if the culture is such that people actually work well before/after posted hours, let people know that upfront so it’s not a big surprise when they walk in on day 1. If lunch is an hour, but the company culture is that everyone takes 30 minutes and eats at their desk, again BE HONEST about that. Don’t let someone walk into your company not knowing the true expectations and norms.

  57. Anon Accountant*

    This past week when a coworker picked up a prescription she was told there was no insurance coverage. After checking into it we found out our health insurance coverage ended June 3o. Our employer generously pays 100% of the premiums so nothing is withheld from our checks.

    Our company is less than 20 employees so I think we’re exempt from certain regulations with updated healthcare coverage. The company didn’t pay premiums for July or August so for 2 months we haven’t had any health insurance. Our coverage is supposed to be reinstated as of September 1 so we will see. About 4 months ago the dental insurance wasn’t paid so that coverage was cancelled also until payment was made.

    I’m a total wreck because of this and am afraid to be without insurance because I have epilepsy. My head is still spinning.

    1. Elysian*

      Holy cow, that’s horrible. I’m so sorry you have to go through that! There must be some way to hold management accountable… Don’t they have to offer you COBRA or something? Maybe you can report them to someone for something like that?

      1. Anon Accountant*

        They were totally oblivious!! Like they were shocked a company would cancel health insurance over non payment!

      2. Anon Accountant*

        I’m unsure if COBRA kicks in for this but could be wrong. I’m definitely kicking my job search into high gear. If they’d have said we had to start contributing to health insurance that’d be okay. But to just have it cancelled and not have taken care of it? I’m worried next is paychecks bouncing.

    2. AVP*

      oh my god…nightmare.

      Start looking, because insurance premiums are right before payroll and office rent in terms of what bills get cut last. Unless you know your bill paying people are just incompetent…and even then.

      1. Eden*

        This, exactly. When this happened at my last job, the next thing to go was getting paid on time.

    3. CTO*

      Red flag red flag red flag. I hope you’re looking for new employment, because your employer is either financially unstable, exceedingly poorly run, or both.

    4. BRR*

      In addition to red alert it’s weird you got no notice of your coverage lapsing. Can you ask whoever is in charge of insurance to send notification if it happens again?

      1. Anon Accountant*

        We did so hopefully they will. It’s odd because the insurance items for explanations if benefits etc comes by email or when claims post but apparently the notices had been arriving via mail for a while but they did nothing about it to stop insurance from cutting off coverage.

    5. Joey*

      That’s weird they would do that AND pay 100% of premiums. Both say they’re not very savvy business people.

      1. Anon Accountant*

        It is weird. It was almost too good to be true that they’d cover all the premiums but I’d hoped for the best when taking the job.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I am vaguely remembering something about retro-active insurance payments. Maybe I am dreaming, but if the insurance is ongoing and it just lapsed for a short bit you maybe able to argue for coverage, during that uninsured time? Again, I might be dreaming. Maybe you can check with the office of your state’s insurance commissioner?

  58. Seal*

    Recently I interviewed for a position that would have been a step up for me. I thought the interview went well. The HR person told me that they had a few more people to interview, but told me they would make a decision by a certain date. She also said they always call everyone they interview to let them know whether or not they got the job.

    So the specified date rolls around and an HR assistant emails me to schedule a 15-30 minute phone call later that week. My references think this must be good news, and tell me to be prepared to discuss an offer. So you can imagine my disappointment when the HR person tells me that they decided not to hire anyone this time around, because after interviewing what she called “good candidates” they decided they need to reconsider the responsibilities of the position because they felt the job would be took much for one person.

    Although I strongly disagree that the job as posted was too much for one person – in fact, the job description and responsibilities were fairly common for that level in my profession – at this point there really isn’t much I can do beyond chalk it up to an opportunity to practice my interviewing skills. What upsets me more than not getting the job itself was the way the HR person handled it. I tried not to get too excited about the upcoming phone call in case it wasn’t an offer, but everyone I talked to thought it couldn’t be anything BUT an offer. Why on earth would someone schedule a 15-30 minute phone call 3 days in advance to reject you? If they absolutely had to talk to me in person, couldn’t they ask to speak to me that same day?

    1. Colette*

      It’s a little weird to schedule a phone call to reject you, but I’ve also never had someone schedule a phone call to offer me the job.

      Keep in mind that you can’t tell from the outside whether the job really was too much for one person – they have more knowledge of their organization than you do.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      That sounds odd they scheduled a call to tell you that you weren’t hired. Very odd

  59. Anon Aussie*

    I’ve been a fan of Alison and this fabulous blog for literally years. When I found it I read every previous post, and I’ve been pretty much a daily reader since (and I always catch up on posts I missed). I just think it’s such a great resource, and the community is wonderful.

    So here’s my question: I moved from the US to Australia several months ago, but (due to having to plan a wedding) didn’t really start hardcore job-searching until a few months ago. Other than one company I got a call for because I happen to have a great friend who works there (almost got that job… so close) I’ve gotten no calls or responses to my applications whatsoever. I suspect this is at least partially due to Aussie companies being reluctant to hire someone who is not a permanent resident or citizen yet (it’ll be a couple of years until I qualify for PR), so since I’m fighting that, I need to make sure my resume/CV is absolutely en pointe. Thanks to Alison’s advice, I had a really great (American-style) resume, and I’m a writer, so my cover letters are generally pretty stellar. But now that I’m in Aus, I need to do as the Aussies do and tailor my resume to be Aussie style, and there’s a LOT of conflicting advice out there on what is the “right” way to do things. I really need a definitive answer on how these things need to be formatted from someone who actually know what they’re talking about. I keep getting suggestions from well-meaning friends and family to use resume services, but we all know how totally off-base they can be. Can anyone help?

    1. Megan*

      Hi! I’m Australian!

      I think I’d need some more information about what industry you’re in, but for me (marketing/communications/community services/social work) I find all of Alison’s advice pretty spot on – I just ignore any American-specific stuff like ‘is this legal’ or medical insurance and the like.

      I’ll check this post again over the next few days and see if you reply so I can maybe point you in the right direction or help.

      I’ve found that some government websites have job application tips, ie DHS in Victoria has a web page dedicated to getting job and resume ready.

      I sat in on a session ran by a freelancer who said take the key selection criteria and use that as your cover letter, so maybe try that? She suggested even making a table, with the points along the left and your answers on the right. Other times, I’ve used a numbering system and said, ” I am extremely experienced in Teapot Designs and Teapot Colouring, with 5 years spent doing…”

      Re the PR issue: could you write on your CV/cover letter “I am legally able to work in Australia” or something similar to companies know?

  60. Andrew*

    Any advice for managers promoted to be above their peers and former supervisors? I hadn’t even been in my former position 6 months before the assistant manager position I start next week opened suddenly and I decided to go for it. At least I don’t have to worry about hurt feelings, since none of my co-workers applied for it. However, this will be my first management experience, so any advice is welcome. I work at a federal government library if that helps you tailor your advice at all.

    1. CTO*

      Alison has lots of great posts on this in the archives, and I’ve also heard that her book is awesome for new managers.

  61. Anonyby*

    So, I’m using Craigslist as one of my resources for looking for jobs, and I’m hoping someone could shed some light on something.

    Why are so many of the job ads posted without any real information on who the company is? I’ll see a promising ad and want to reply, but end up passing it up because I don’t know who the company is and thus can’t do any research on them. It’s frustrating.

    1. Stephanie*

      Some might be scams. I’ve also heard that companies do this to prevent jobseekers from showing up in person or contacting the company unsolicited. Blind ads also let the company contact who they want.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      What Stephanie said. The times I’ve decided to risk it and apply, if I was contacted, it was a real company. I don’t typically do that, however, because like you said, I can’t do any research on them.

      At the end of Last Job Search I had to–there just wasn’t anything to apply to. One of them contacted me and it was a company I had been fired from, though they had changed their name. They were actually listed on my resume, on the second page, which I guess the caller didn’t read! I had to explain that I had worked for them before and was let go, and if I had known that, I wouldn’t have applied. It was kind of embarrassing for both of us!

    3. CollegeAdmin*

      Recruiters. I replied to several postings when I was job-hunting a few years ago, and just about all of them ended up being a bait-and-switch with temp agencies. To be fair, I did end up working with one temp agency that placed me in a temp admin role for a few months, but most of them were useless.

      *Note: I know there are some legitimately good recruiters out there (including a few who post here), and I’m not knocking recruiters as a whole – just the questionable ones I worked with.

      1. De Minimis*

        I had several interviews with legitimate companies from anonymous Craigslist ads, but it really depends on the market—these were all very small companies, and that was the typical employer in my area. Many were also pretty far behind as far as technology and marketing [many had no website or the type where it hasn’t been updated in years.]

        Only fell for one scam ad, but it was a case where it should have been obvious to me while I was responding to it. It was a huge pain to deal with, though, started getting a lot of junk texts for months afterward. The scam ads tend to be “too good to be true.”

  62. Pontoon Pirate*

    So here’s a strange little situation:
    I posted last week about an unexpected opportunity to move out of my current job. I’m interested enough to take a meeting, but not entirely sold. The pay would be a tremendous increase though. Currently, I’m part of a department with one manager/director and three direct reports. My manager is pregnant and will go out on maternity leave in October. My coworker in this office is slightly senior to me in title, but I don’t report to her. I have a peer colleague in another office in the central part of the state. He’s the same in title and probably pay within a few thousand dollars.
    My senior colleague just put in her notice on Tuesday. I just found out my peer colleague is actively interviewing for a new position as well. And I’m having an informal meeting next week that may end up in a move for me.

    All of us have various reasons for looking, but I can’t help feel really bad about the situation with my manager. She’s quite decent and a lot of process and culture issues we have are outside her control. We’re a very top-down, sideways-communications kind of company.

    It could very well happen that she’s left without a department right before she herself goes on maternity leave. Has anyone ever experienced anything similar? How did your company handle it?
    Oh… and I doubt that I would be offered the senior position. It’s just as likely as not that they’ll eliminate it in a cost-saving move and redistribute the workload.

  63. Simonthegrey*

    I’d like to recommend a cover-letter-writing resource to my husband. He still tends to do a very formulaic – and long – recounting of his work history. I’ve sent him links to the AAM sources and examples, but he still doesn’t quite “get” how to do that. He likes me to look over his letters, and I have taught business writing in the past, but only ever because I got stuck with it and not because I knew what I was doing. Is there a website/book that people might recommend, or a place that’s reputable that could look over his application materials for a fee?

    1. AVP*

      Have you looked at Alison’s book, How to Get a Job? There’s a section in there on cover letters.

    2. BRR*

      I also recommend Alison’s book. This might not be as helpful but I had great luck when somebody was applying to an organization that had a list of employees and they asked the employees why they liked working there (nonprofit) (also gag). Most were boring but one had a lot of enthusiasm and really jumped off the page. I read 3 or 4 and asked, which one of these people do you want to meet? I could see the light bulb turn on.

  64. passive aggressive?*

    I’ve been on my team for three years and lately, my manager really seems to go out of her way to exclude me. One example is birthdays. She has forgotten my birthday two years in a row. When she remembered this year, she offered to make me a cake (she loves to bake and makes amazing cakes), to which I said, ” thank you – that sounds great. I love cake.” Two months go by and she never made a cake. This week she announces to our team that because I didn’t remind anyone of my birthday, she will be bringing in a cake to celebrate it. Well, she ended up bringing in muffins from a bag mix instead. I don’t like muffins and they were gross but I ate one anyway and told her thank you.

    She makes comments constantly how my work is “perfect” and no one can measure up to me. I know that’s not true and I will respond with, “hey, I’m a human being and make mistakes, just like anyone else.”

    She has a favorite on our team too. This person is a good performer but not excellent. They have worked together for several years and are friends outside of work as well.

    I think part of the problem is that she inherited me from a past team. To complicate things even more, I had originally applied for a role in her team years ago and she passed on me because she thought I was too qualified to work on the team. Her counterpart hired me for their team and it worked out well. The decision was made to merge the two teams and thus, my current manager inherited me.

    1. Colette*

      How is she as a manager, though? Is she clear about what you need to do? Does she give you feedback (other than “you’re perfect”)? Do you get rewarded for doing well?

      I’d let the birthday thing go – that’s not a work requirement, and expecting her to remember and do something about it will just result in you feeling bad when she doesn’t.

  65. eek*

    Well, our company is having us all do the ice bucket challenge today, filmed edited for facebook and complete with rewind and slomo. Usually I would be upset about being opted in to something like this, but I’m down with the cause and it actually sounds refreshing as it’s hotttt today. Wish me luck!

  66. De Minimis*

    And just a brag from me, at close of business today I will have officially been in this job 2 years, and I finally feel like I can make it in this field.

  67. illini02*

    So I’d like to restart a conversation that was had a couple days ago. It was regarding what it is reasonable for an employer to expect out of their employees if they don’t pay very well. Many people said that, morally, its not right for the employer to be able to expect employees to have a phone, and even extended it to things like transportation. I guess I just think that if someone takes a job, its their responsibility to make sure they can meet the expectations. As I mentioned, if I take a job in the suburbs (I live in Chicago), its my responsibility to be sure I can get there, not my employers. If that means a 2 hour bus/train trip, thats on me, not them. Now, as I mentioned, I’m all for being sympathetic, but if you have a policy, such as calling in by a certain time, you can’t not enforce it because some people don’t have the money for a phone. You have to uniformly enforce it among everyone. Other thoughts?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Sure, in theory it should be uniform. What if the CEO uses his helicopter to get in to work in 5 minutes, so everyone who is on-call is required to be in the office withinin 10 minutes? It’s your fault you can’t afford a helicopter!

      (I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m just making an analogy.)

      So sure, you can say you need something from the organization’s perspective, but if you don’t pay people enough for them to meet that need, then you can either fire them every time they fail to meet a demand that they really can’t meet without living out of their car or foregoing food or medication, or you can try to find a better solution that can meet the business need without putting out your employees so much.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it depends on your employee base….if it’s only a handful of people who are having issues following the policy, that’s one thing, but if a significant number of the employees are having trouble [and if they’re otherwise good employees that you’d like to keep] at that point I think it’s worth considering a policy change.

        The phone issue is unique in that there have been big changes in a short period of time, and I think a large number of people have kind of been left in the lurch.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yes, I think the base is an important part of it. Of course it’s appropriate to discipline one or three people who can’t or won’t follow the procedure. But if it’s 30% of your workforce, you need to consider that something in the policy is the problem. And even if that 30% of people are fired, if you replace them with people in the same socioeconomic place, you are going to run into the same kinds of issues.

        2. illini02*

          Totally agree. It seemed in the letter I’m referencing that it was only a handful of people. I think you can’t have 2 sets of rules though

            1. illini02*

              Because they are doing the same job. Its the same reason in my opinion my co-worker shouldn’t get to come in late frequently without consequences just because she has kids, whereas someone without kids would get punished. There are different needs, but the expectations of the position are the same, so you need consistency in how you are enforcing them.

              1. De Minimis*

                I disagree, as long as there’s an overall feeling of fair treatment, I think it’s okay if there is some give here and there. It isn’t junior high and people should be mature enough to have some give and take. I think it’s fine to allow parents some kind of leeway if non-parents are allowed leeway elsewhere. This of course assumes you can’t be flexible all of the time. Strict, inflexible rules usually produce low morale and a bad workplace.

                1. illini02*

                  Well yes, if your office culture doesn’t have hard and fast start and end times, that is fine. In my office, we don’t have this, so it wouldn’t be a problem. But I had jobs where when people had to stay late, it was always the people without kids. Not that I minded occasionally, but overall it just wasn’t fair that I always had to stay late and others never did. And there was nothing that balanced it out as far as a perk I got that the parents didn’t. So that is what I mean by an unfair enforcement of the rules. If Jim can’t afford a car and has to take public transit, you can’t just let him skate by coming in late many times, whereas Jane with a car is held to a different standard. That would quickly cause resentment.

      2. AndersonDarling*

        I think about this with clothes. You can’t pay someone $8/hr and expect them to wear suits or the hippest designer clothes for the season. I’ve worked for companies that expected their receptionists to make this happen. It can’t happen.

        1. illini02*

          I somewhat agree. One of my first jobs was at Sears (I was in high school). We had to wear business casual attire (khakis, a button down, and a tie is what I usually wore), actually it was a more strict dress code than I’ve had in many professional settings. Anyhow, I got paid a bit above minimum wage, but not a lot. Yes, I could get the employee discount of like 15%, but realistically I still had to conform to their dress code and spend money on the clothes. Thing is, this was made abundantly clear to me before I took the job, so it would have been ridiculous for me to 2 months in complain that I didn’t make enough money to purchase nice clothes.

      3. Mints*

        I agree. The slippery slope goes both ways in this argument, and you really need to look at the specific case. What’s being asked, what the pay is, what it would cost to have the requirement (both actual money and other opportunity costs that better off people tend to forget about).

        And generally, paying employees more ends up surprisingly good for business. Undercutting everything is short sighted and unsustainable.

    2. Colette*

      I agree that the employee is responsible for making sure they can do what the employer requires, but I also think the employer has to look at the big picture. If they have an employee who does 25% more than everyone else but twice a year they call in sick two hours late, should they get rid of that employee in favor of someone who does 10% less than the average but always calls in before her shift starts?

      1. AVP*

        I agree that the big picture is important – and not only in terms of your company (although that’s the part that you can have the main effect on). It doesn’t help society as a whole to make it so that people can’t take jobs because they can’t afford extras like cell phones (while the jobs that they qualify for don’t pay enough to be able to afford them…), so it behooves us to work with people and try to find a system in which people like that can support themselves.

        1. Colette*

          I don’t agree that that is the business’s problem, though. There might be overlap – if the business can’t hire anyone, they need to change their requirements or raise pay – but the business doesn’t need to solve society’s problems.

          1. fposte*

            On an individual level, I agree, but there’s also the broader level where I don’t when we’re talking the US. The problem in the US is that we’ve created a system where businesses actually *are* relied on to solve society’s problems–like having access to insurance and thus health care–and there’s a lot of belief that meeting people’s basic needs is a free market issue, not a government responsibility. In countries where the government is agreed to be the place that should make sure people have health care and food, I can get more behind the “it’s not business’s problem.”

            1. Elysian*

              I think this is part of the required outlook – morally I think that people have to be taken care of, either by the government or by their employer. We can disagree over whether it should be one or the other, but I can’t get behind a philosophy that says “neither.”

              Here I think its a little of both – the business has certain needs, and I think that if the need is reasonable (that’s key) that people should need to meet it and ‘its not the business’s problem’ if they can’t. Because there are some people who might want a lower paying, part time job that doesn’t pay enough for a person or family to survive – maybe a parent who only wants to work when the kids are in school, or someone supplementing their main income, etc. Those jobs should exist.

              But especially when the economy is this bad, those jobs are going to be taken up by people who need better but can’t get it, and I’m happy to pay higher taxes so that the government can supplement those individuals’ incomes.

              1. fposte*

                One reason why I brought up the US aspect is that I believe Colette is in Canada, which isn’t quite as focused on private enterprise as the solution to everything as the US.

                I agree that it’s a benefit to some people if part-time jobs as you describe exist, but I don’t know if I’d go so far as saying they “should” exist. I don’t see that they’d have to be the price of full time work getting decently paid, but if they are, I still think that might be an improvement.

                1. Colette*

                  It’s true, my Canadian perspective might affect how I see this. I was mostly responding to the thought we often see here that individual businesses should make decisions outside the norm because it’s better for society as a whole, and that just doesn’t seem practical to me – the most likely outcome is for that business to go under, which helps no one. I’d be fine with the government raising minimum wage if it’s too low, because then there’s a level playing field for all businesses.

      2. illini02*

        Completely agree its about big picture, and in general, star performers are given a bit more leeway.

    3. Rebecca*

      I’ve been thinking about this too, and I’m glad you posted the question. Everyone seems to criticize Walmart for paying such low wages so their employees are eligible for food assistance, public assistance, medical assistance, etc. What is so different about this agency depending on the taxpayer to provide phone service for its employees? I didn’t see the same level of criticism. Had this been a Walmart store manager, I’m sure he or she would have been flamed to cinders.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        The difference is that Walmart produces massive profits for its owners, whereas the organization in the letter was a small nonprofit (which by definition has no owners and any revenue it has is invested back into the organization’s mission).

        1. De Minimis*

          Also the percentage that Wal-Mart is putting on the taxpayers is a huge portion of their employee costs.

          I do think if the OP had worked for a private company the reaction would have been more negative, although it really was out of the OP’s hands anyway.

        2. Manders*

          I was also wondering if these low-pay, low-hours jobs were originally intended to be someone’s only source of income. A part-time job could be ideal for a student, or someone with a higher-paid spouse who would otherwise be volunteering, without being enough to pay for necessities in an expensive city. I could see a small nonprofit creating positions like that with the assumption that they were doing a kind thing by paying *any* money for work that could be done by volunteers.

          I’m all for paying a living wage, but now this nonprofit may be in a sticky situation where it would have to fire most of its part-time workers to pay a small handful of full-time employees.

          1. MT*

            The problem is, the volunteers they could get, prob wouldn’t stick to a call center schedule. Moving shifts around and forced attendance. I would imagine the non-profit, just like a for profit business, saying what is the minimum that I can get away with paying for people to show up to work.

            1. MT*

              But the question is, is one person’s charity more worthwhile that one person’s hard work? Starting a non-profit to help other people. Starting a business is to help yourself.

              1. MT*

                A charity may help a lot of people directly. But a large business will help a lot of people directly as well. How many companies have stock that people are dependent on for their retirement?

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think most people see a difference between not being able to afford great wages because you’re running on a shoestring budget to provide community services versus not paying great wages because you’re pouring massive profits back into the wealthiest family in America (in the case of Walmart).

                1. De Minimis*

                  It should also be pointed out that a good deal of the money spent by non-profits and government agencies goes directly into the private sector as they purchase goods and services. That doesn’t even take into account the money that employees spend from their paychecks. I know during some months we spend tens of thousands each week with private companies. And many of our vendors are smaller, local businesses [or at least located within our state.]

      2. illini02*

        That speaks to a larger point that I kind of posed the other day. If these jobs, like Walmart or McDonalds, are low skill jobs that a high school student could do, why is it their responsibility to pay more money for that? As I mentioned, I worked at Sears years ago while in high school. It doesn’t take a lot. So in my opinion they aren’t responsible for paying a higher rate for the same type of work. To be clear, I think minimum wage should be raised. However I don’t think its fair to say a company needs to pay their workers more because now there are less high school kids taking these jobs.

        1. fposte*

          Are a lot of people saying that, though? I think in general we shy away from “the job should pay x because the kind of people taking it need y money,” because that gets into “You don’t have kids so don’t need the raise” territory.

          I think there’s a problem when companies can only get workers at a low wage because public assistance fills in the gaps–that basically, Wal-Mart couldn’t cheap out on their employees if you and I weren’t making up the difference. But I also think we have a huge cultural investment in getting stuff cheap that we’re not prepared to collectively give up, and that makes getting employees at rock bottom hugely advantageous.

          1. illini02*

            Maybe on here people aren’t saying that, but the argument of “companies need to pay a living wage” tends to come up often. But a “living wage” doesn’t always go hand in hand with the skills people have. Some jobs were intended to be part time jobs, not full time. Just because your population changes, that shouldn’t change how a company intended the job.

            1. fposte*

              Most of the conversation I hear is focused on wages that aren’t a living wage even if they’re full time, and I think that’s a fair goal–working full time should make enough money that you don’t need public assistance. I don’t think retail or food service are intended to be part time, full time, or any time; they’re just the jobs that need doing and in different markets and times different people take them. If they’re hiring you full time, then it’s got full-time obligations whether it was part-time for people in 1970 or 2001 or whenever.

              1. illini02*

                So are you saying that if they hire 2 people to stock the shelves, one part time and one full time, both hourly, that the full time should get a higher wage because they are full time? I get giving them full time benefits, but as far as the hourly wage, I don’t agree. (If that’s not what you are saying, sorry)

                1. fposte*

                  What I’m actually saying is that minimum wage should reflect the minimum that human beings can actually live on, and that companies and consumers should accept that. If that means that part-timers make more money per hour as well, I can deal with that too.

                2. Elysian*

                  Fposte – I think this is where you and I might disagree. I am totally fine with the minimum wage being set at something lower than a subsistence level. There are lots of jobs I just don’t think are set up for people to subsist on, and I am totally fine with those people getting lower wages. Mind you, I’m not talking about full-time burger flipping, I’m talking more like “microwork” or things with part-time and inconsistent hours like tutoring, or some kinds of summer jobs.

            2. Anonsie*

              The thing about that, though, is that we need people to do these jobs regardless of how much skill they take. People focus on the fact that the jobs could be done by anyone, but the thing is they must be done by someone, so there’s no escaping a person having that role. Even if everyone in the country learned valuable skills and got fantastic educations, we would still need some of those people to stock store shelves and clean the floors and answer phones. When you consider that these are in fact vital services that must be provided, it seems silly to say that those people then don’t deserve to be able to survive on the money they’re paid for it.

          2. De Minimis*

            What gets me though is that you have companies like Costco, Trader Joe’s, and In-n-Out Burger that pay their employees very well, and none of those companies are hurting financially nor are they passing the cost on to the customer. And the employees tend to work there long-term.

              1. De Minimis*

                Not that I noticed. When I lived somewhere that had those options my costs were generally a lot less than they are now when I’m stuck with Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

                With the executive membership at Costco, I rarely paid more than $10 per year for membership once the reward credit was taken into account. Some years it worked out to where they essentially were paying me to be a member, even if only by a few dollars.

                1. MT*

                  they paid you because you purchased soo much, that the profit they needed to make from you they made from the products you bought.

          3. MT*

            Companies only get cheaper labor, because society puts a price tag on the labor the person provides. If there is a large population that has a skill set, than that skill set is not valued. If people were more willing to pay a 20% markup on their groceries and other items, from a store with a higher paying workforce, then that store would exists. That store does exists, COSTCO, people are willing to pay $35 to $100 a year just to shop there plus the larger markup per item than at walmart.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s quite that simple, though; it’s not just the value, it’s the ability to get people to work at that wage, which is influenced by the subsidy issue. Though I’m in total agreement that the customer end matters here as well.

      3. Turanga Leela*

        Also, didn’t the writer say the employees she manages make $9-10 per hour? Not sure where she is, but that’s well over federal minimum wage. Wal-Mart workers can make significantly less.

            1. Elysian*

              Walmart is actually moving into more cities recently, which surprises me partly for this reason. I know they’ve opened or are opening a few in DC, where the min wage is 9.50. There was actually a bill that would have required “big box” retailers like Walmart to have an even higher minimum wage, which is another interesting debate. (The bill eventually died, but DC is progressively raising its minimum wage in general).

        1. Anonsie*

          Depends on where you are. Big box store workers here make around that much and you could not live on it.

    4. Anonsie*

      I don’t think uniform enforcement makes any sense in pretty much any circumstance, though, and I think the general attitudes we have about personal responsibility with money are clouding this one.

      Say it snows here. I live nearby my work on a snow bus route, so I can still get in almost entirely on time. If it’s so bad the buses are canceled, I can walk and be late. But there are people who live extremely far away or up in the mountains, where there is not a way for them to get here in any sane amount of time. In very bad weather, they are more likely to have to call out because it’s not safe to try to travel.

      Our official policy is that you are supposed to come in no matter what. That includes having a backup driving buddy who has all wheel drive and can make it even if everything is shut down. But there is a point at which a shut down is going to be workable for some people and not for others, and at that point we would not crack down on the people who live in different places because they were not meeting the requirements of the job. This is such a rare occurrence and so far out of their hands, there’s no sense in it.

      Everyone has a system that works and different circumstances will cause different people’s systems to break down. If you have a good employee who once has an issue with their car and can’t get to the phone they normally use to tell you on time, why crack down for a rare occurrence that was out of their hands?

      1. Elysian*

        I think you’re right about rare occurrences, but then I think that everyone should get a couple freebies, especially if they’re a good employee generally.

        But I think the situation is different when we’re talking about habitual problems. For instance, it doesn’t matter to me whether you’re habitually late because you can’t afford a car or habitually late because you party all night and can’t wake up in the morning – the rule for habitual lateness should be the same in both circumstances, I think, and it should be uniformly enforced.

  68. Anon for this*

    I need advice on when to move on from a job that’s decent, but isn’t necessarily what I’d like to do long term. I graduated from college a little over a year ago, and at the time I took the only job I was offered, an instructor position with a test prep company. I do like the job, and the pay is good, but for a couple of reasons I don’t think this would be a good long term job:
    1)No benefits–I don’t know what they’ll do when the ACA employer mandate kicks in, but my guess is we’ll be limited to less than 30 hours a week.
    2)Constant travel–I teach classes in whatever city they need someone to, so I am often sent to a random city for a few months. If I just took a job in one city, I wouldn’t be making nearly as much money.
    There isn’t much room for advancement in my current position, but I think I could advance to a different position (designing courses, basically) but I have no idea what the details would be.
    At this point, my other option is to apply to law school (and yes, I’ve done lots of research about the legal market; I have the numbers to get into a top school with a scholarship). I think I’d like being a lawyer (I interned at a law firm and enjoyed the work, and my talents definitely lie in research and writing).
    I think part of the reason I’m hesitating is just that I have pretty bad anxiety when it comes to this sort of thing (applying to schools, and then the prospect of interviews to find a legal job), and even though my current job isn’t perfect, it is comfortable. I guess I’m worried about falling into a rut if I stick with my current job, because as long as I’m constantly moving the rest of my life is basically on hold.
    Any advice?

    1. Graciosa*

      This seems like a pretty basic Is-This-What-You-Want-Out-Of-Life question, which means no one else can answer it for you. Some thought starters:

      1. Ten years from now, where will you be if you do this / don’t do this? How will you feel about the decision then?
      2. What would [Someone you admire and respect] do under similar circumstances? What do you think that says about [Someone you admire and respect] as a person? What does your choice say about you, and does it reflect the person you aspire to become?
      3. What will you get in your life as a result of each choice, and what will you have to give up to get it? Which is most consistent with your values and your plan for your life?

      My only read comment is that people tend to have more regret over choices not to pursue what really matters than they do when they go for it and fall short. If you go for a gold medal and only manage a bronze, you’ve accomplished a lot more than someone who never entered the race.

  69. barefeet45*

    I have an online application quirk question! When you are required to fill in your earliest available date to begin working… what the heck are you meant to put? Hiring takes an unknown amount of time, but theoretically, I can start 2 weeks after getting an offer. How do you reflect this in the required field select-a-box-on-the-calendar application?

    1. CTO*

      I usually choose a date 2-4 weeks from the application date and assume that the hiring manager is smart enough to actually ask about this in an interview, rather than relying on a poor online application system. If I can write anything (not just a date) I put “2 weeks from accepted offer.”

  70. anon in tejas*

    I hope that you all can help me.

    I’ve been under an immense amount of stress lately, and part of it is work, part of it is financial and part of it is personal (not with my partner, but within a close group friends). I am really struggling to not take it out on my co-workers. I normally work out, but I haven’t been able to do that because of the stress, and the time consuming nature of WHY I am stressed.

    I want to yell at folks for simple mistakes, slam doors, yell/scream, bring every little thing to my boss about how I don’t agree with x or y.

    Suggestions on how to manage? I am hoping to add some exercise back into my schedule/life, but right now, it’s just not possible with time and health constraints.

    1. CTO*

      Do you have an EAP? Also, would it help to make your lunch breaks (if you can actually take them) really great? Leave your desk, read a book, go for a walk, chat with a non-stressful friend, etc.?

        1. anon in tejas*

          I will try this next week. I’ve been taking shorter lunches because of the work so that I can leave the office at a decent hour, but now I am seeing that is maybe not actually helpful, since I am not leaving that much earlier and I just am not as productive.

    2. fposte*

      Is it possible you’re locking yourself into an “all or nothing” place on the working out? I know when I’m stressed and can’t do anything, I tend to find ways to support the narrative rather than admitting I could in fact take a ten-minute walk around the block. (Okay, Texas in August, so maybe not, but a 10 minute walk around the building might even be helpful, or a few minutes of pushups, jumping jacks, whatever.) Smaller solutions can mitigate somewhat until big ones become more possible.

      1. anon in tejas*

        I downloaded the 7 minute work out app from johnson and johnson a few months ago, but I haven’t used it. Maybe I should try to use that at least once a day, and when trying it out… I don’t have to be in full work out gear to make it happen. I think that might help. Walk around the building is a good idea, but hard to execute in 100+ heat.

        I am being a bit all or nothing with the workouts, as if I can’t go for a run or bike ride or swim, it’s not worth doing anything.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I know that feeling. I’d say it’s one worth fighting–just standing up, stretching, pumping your arms for a minute, things like that can help. The goal isn’t to achieve a workout, it’s to reduce stasis any way you can.

  71. Double-dipping*

    I interviewed for a job about three years ago (maybe a little longer) where I ended up withdrawing my application for two reasons: first, they had a hard-and-fast desired start date that conflicted with a family obligation, and second–and more important–the department seemed seriously crazy and dysfunctional, and the questionnaire they gave me to fill out before a second interview made me want to run screaming for the hills. So I did–giving them the first reason but not the second. (I saw on LinkedIn that the hiring manager who’d interviewed me left the company shortly after.) Another, more senior, job that sounds promising has now been posted at the same organization. It looks like the division head is the same; I’d interviewed with her as well as the hiring manager. What are the odds that it’s any less dysfunctional an environment? Is there any way to assess that other than by applying? And will they remember that I withdrew from the process several years ago?

    1. MJ*

      They probably won’t remember, but you gave them a great reason for withdrawing which respected their needs, so I wouldn’t worry about it. I would go through the process – if it’s still dysfunctional you will probably be able to tell, and this time you will withdraw for good!

  72. Brian_A*

    Found out late yesterday that I didn’t get an internal promotion I had interviewed for. I shed a tear or two yesterday, and am still bummed about it. I love what I do now, but I am still more disappointed than I expected about not getting the job. It makes me wonder if I should be looking more seriously at other opportunities, inside and outside my current organization.

    In any case, thanks for the encouraging words and help in preparing for my first management-level interview in previous open threads. Much appreciated!

  73. voluptuousfire*

    I had a really great phone screen yesterday and was invited in for an in person interview. Yay! It’s a pretty sweet job: straight 9-5, summer Fridays, back office admin (which I’ve been looking for. My last two positions were customer service and I’ve been dying to get out of that), and my commute goes from a 2 hour plus ride on PT to a 15 minute drive. It also involves working with a software I want to keep my skills sharp in, which is awesome. Only downsides are taxes (NY/NJ does not have reciprocal tax agreements, so that should be interesting) and and salary, which is OK (my previous salary, which was lower than I was looking for, is smack in the middle of their range. I’m hoping I can convince them to toss me the few extra grand. My experience does call for it.)

    It just felt great though because I finally connected with the recruiter. I’ve batted a thousand with my job search these past few months, not making it past the initial screening in the majority of cases. It was great being on the same page as her and when I asked what personality types worked best in this role, she loved the question and I got a nicely detailed overview of the position and the company itself. It was a true conversation, not a one-sided monologue.

  74. Beebs*

    After 18 months of job hunting, and 10 months of unemployment, I have made the decision to move to another big city with a much higher cost of living with nothing lined up. This is the city I had hoped to find work in, and I think that not being there already has been a factor. At this point my primary objective to find any source of employment however menial and then hopefully be able to refocus and go back to job hunting for a position in either of my 2 fields. This was not an easy decision, and I am incredibly stressed and anxious about it. Any advice, thoughts, or support is greatly appreciated.

    1. Julia*

      Good luck! I have been toying with this idea as well and know how you feel. Get involved with the professional orgs in the new city and start making contacts.

  75. Haleyca*

    Any advice for a new grad starting their first ever job? I’m just wrapping up my first week at a very small nonprofit (the executive director and another person senior to me who works remotely are the only other employees) and definitely want to be making a good impression and integrating well. The executive director is also new so a lot of things are changing and my “training” has been very sporadic. Any tips/general thoughts would be greatly appreciated!

  76. Natalie*

    Wah, Friday already!

    I’m sending a gift to a friend that just started her first ever office job (we’re in our early 30s). I was thinking of putting together a little dopp bag she can keep in her desk with those various things you sometimes need during the day. This is what I’ve thought of so far:

    sewing kit
    clear nail polish
    stain stick
    bandaids or liquid bandaid stuff (she works in a library, so… paper cuts)

    What else do you find handy to always have in your desk?