open thread – September 19, 2014

Olive at restIt’s the Friday open thread!

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.

{ 1,091 comments… read them below }

  1. The Other Dawn*

    I’m thinking of applying for a job, but wondering if it’s too much of a stretch. I’m someone who learns quickly and is always ready for a challenge. I’ve never met a challenge, yet, I can’t handle. At first I dismissed this posting because I don’t have the larger scale experience. But this job has been posted for several months now and I wonder if maybe I have a shot. Job postings tend to get filled quickly at this company (from what I can tell) so I’m thinking maybe they haven’t found the right fit and I might have a shot.

    It’s in my industry, although it’s on the service side. Meaning they service other businesses in the industry. The position is for a disaster recovery/business continuity plan manager. I have the 10+ years of industry experience on the client side (the businesses they serve) and I touched most areas of the business so I’m rounded out in that sense, but I don’t have the project management experience or a high level of familiarity with disaster recovery solutions. I have the basics of those two things, though. (In my prior job I handled disaster recovery for my little company.) I have the basic understanding of networks, computers, and such, as required. And, of course, I have the MS Office skills and other basics required.

    What do you think? Should I go for it, or do I risk coming across as naïve? I’m hoping that my industry experience and diversity of experience in my industry would be the push I need to get over the hump.

    1. JMegan*

      Ooh, that sounds really interesting!

      I’m always of the opinion that it’s worth applying. You can always withdraw later in the process if you decide the job isn’t right for you, but by not applying you’re denying yourself the chance to even find out. Send in your resume and see what happens from there. Good luck!

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I don’t think it’s always worth applying! I’m screening for a VP role in a very competitive organization. An advanced degree is mandatory, as is 4 years in a big mgmt. consulting firm. I got three resumes from executive assistants yesterday – not one had an advanced degree or even a tiny bit of relative experience. So I’m sitting here slightly annoyed at the waste of time and am wondering why they thought applying was a good idea. OP seems to have some relevant experience so I guess it can’t hurt, but I think the lack of project management and disaster recovery experience will hurt his/her chances.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I totally agree. If it said that an advanced degree was required or something similar, I wouldn’t waste anyone’s time like that. I’ve been in a position to hire and it’s annoying when people clearly don’t come close to the qualifications.

          I do have some of the experience, just not at a larger company. I have worked on projects, but again not large scale. I think this would go either way. But I think it dies help thay I’ve been in the industry on the client side for 17 years.

          Interestingly, I was contacted this morning by a recruiter for a position I thought would be too much of a stretch. I told them to contact me to talk further.

          Hoping I’m onto a more exciting job very soon. Very bored and unchallenged right now.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Yeah, I think your circumstances are different than assistants applying for jobs way out of their league. I hope it works out!

        2. Robin*

          I think part of the problem is that a lot of people post requesting an advanced degree, when that isn’t really legitimately a requirement for the job. I’m not saying that’s the situation in your case, but I’ve unfortunately seen a lot of cases of “Masters required” or “Masters preferred” where the best candidate was ultimately someone without that degree, but with relevant work experience. I think that has 2 bad effects: 1) people who have seen that happen no longer take degree requirements as seriously, and 2) it scares off qualified applicants, and studies suggest women are more likely to not apply if they don’t fit all the criteria.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I agree in many cases, but on our job ad, we make it very clear that they must have an MA in Economics, an MBA or an MPA in order to be considered. We even use the phrase “mandatory qualifications”.

        3. LisaLisa*

          I think it’s usually worth it in the sense that there won’t be any negative repercussions for applying. It’s not like interviewer will remember you specifically among the pile of under-qualified applicants they get. It may be annoying for the company you are applying to but you can’t know if you annoyingly under-qualified or hire-ably under-qualified so I don’t think you can really factor that in unless it’s VERY obvious you are way under-qualified. The only thing you have to lose is the time it takes to fill out the application and hopes you get up (so see it as an opportunity to polish up your materials and don’t put too much stake in the app).

          1. Lily in NYC*

            True, I’m looking at it from the opposite angle, as the hiring manager. I can’t believe how many completely unqualified people apply. The job requirements could not be any clearer. I think the problem is that we have a new HR recruiter who posted the opening on sites we’d rather not use (like Monster). We usually only post on alumni job boards and a few other targeted places.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Are the apps screened through someone first? At my last company we outsourced HR and they would screen the apps first. It astounded me how many apps were put through for people who clearly were not qualified or who hadn’t done any kind of similar work.

              1. Lily in NYC*

                Yeah, by me! I am the first person who looks at them and I pull out the ones I think my boss would like. Our HR recruiters suck at it and if left to their own devices will only send us people who would be at a low end of the salary range.

    2. C Average*

      Do it!

      The worst-case scenario is that people you’ll never meet at a company you don’t work for will glance at your resume and conclude that you’re naïve. The potential up side (getting an interesting job for which you do have many of the qualifications listed) seems worth that very low risk.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I would try, if I were you. Do your best writing work, submit it and forget it, just like Alison says.

      I think you present yourself as having a, b and c but not d or e, then it’s up to them to decide if they are interested in your skill set.

      If nothing else it might open up an interesting conversation in the future.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      DO IT. I moved from the client side to the vendor side last year (different industry). It’s a BIG help– you can connect well with clients because you know exactly what they need.

    5. NOLA*

      I have a colleague who is the disaster recovery/business continuity plan manager here at a financial services firm. Not sure if it will exactly parallel, but I thought I’d give you some insight into her day to day.
      She is accountable for making sure the plans are accurate and up to date across 100’s of systems in multiple business lines. Each system is classifed by the # of hours it can be down in a disaster scenario (recovery time). Some are critical and must be up immediately and others could be down a week without significantly impacting our business.
      Because of the breadth of knowledge required, she is not expected to be an expert in these systems. She is expected to understand what business functions they perform, but not the nitty gritty technical details. She does need to establish great dialogue with the tech experts and business owners to get input into the plans and make sure the classifications are correct. She is accountable for making sure the plans are accurate and signed-off, but she isn’t responsible for creating all the content of the procedures. All of this documentation is subject to extreme audits and scheduled testing.
      In summary, her qualifications are….great communication (gathering requirements and writing up procedures), good understanding of the business and ability to grasp concepts quickly, clear understanding of broad technical concepts (backed up to the cloud vs replicated to a server vs nightly back-up), but no specific technical background or expertise required.
      YMMV since the company you are considering applying for serves as a DR resource for other companies, but this is what the job looks like from inside my industry.
      Good luck!

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Actually this is a great example! It’s at a financial services service bureau. I’ve been in banking for 17 years on the bank side. It doesn’t sound like it would be providing the DR services to the banks. It would be making sure the service bureau’s plan is managed, tested etc. But that does spill over to the banks since they depend on the bureau for core processing and other things.

        Thanks…you confirmed what I was thinking.

  2. Swarley*

    Good morning,

    I’d love to get your input on a work situation. Two of my coworkers have resigned within the last 6 months and a majority of their responsibilities have fallen to me. The second coworker resigned only two weeks ago. Given the performance of these coworkers, I’m actually happy to take on the extra work. As it stands, there are no immediate plans to try and fill these vacancies. How long should I shoulder the extra work before bringing up an increase in salary to my manager?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Artemesia*

      The longer you wait the more it is ‘just your job’. I would sit down and discuss ways to shift some of your load (if there is a way to do that), discuss priorities and discuss the ‘changes in my position and my increased responsibilities’ and some sort of timeline for review and consideration for more appropriate compensation. The focus should be on the increased workload and responsibilities and the importance of the work to the operation and in framing it as essentially a new and more responsible position. There is a subtle hint here that your leaving for another job would put the office in jeopardy; one doesn’t say this of course, but by focusing on the increased responsibility you have and the importance of the work you are doing so well now, there is that subtext. i.e. this is an employee we want to keep happy.

      You have already taken on one additional workload and done it well (I am assuming) so with the second, I would asap identify your contributions, evidence for your productivity and then your redefinition of the role and its need for greater compensation.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        100% agree. If you wait too long, then it has already become “your job” in your boss’s mind and you don’t have much leverage. I’d at least ask your manager what they are thinking for the future. Are they planning to hire for both positions, or just one. Do they think you can handle all the work forever since you have managed it for two weeks.
        And remember, if the workload is too much for you to do alone, it won’t do any good asking for a raise thinking that extra $$ will help you manage it. It would be really bad to say that you can handle all the work if you got a raise, then 2 months down the road, everything is falling apart.
        Either way, I hope they help you out!

        1. John B Public*

          I think you’re at the point now to ask about the positions being filled, and about what their opinion is on your work product since you’ve been covering two positions. If they’re going to have you keep doing two jobs, and they’re satisfied with your work, at that point ask them about bringing your salary more in line with the additional job duties you’ve undertaken.
          The third position is a bit of a wrinkle. This entirely depends on whether you feel like you’re up to handling the work. At this point you, at your original salary, are covering three positions. Very cheap for your company, and not in line with their previous valuation of the positions. So I think at this point you need to decide (based on what they tell you about filling the positions) what you’re worth and what you’re willing to do.

          1. Artemesia*

            This is why I think part of the talk is about reorganizing the job and taking some lesser things off the table. If you can do all the work then you don’t need a raise to just do the work. But chances are some things are going to slide, so how do you rewrite the job to tackle the most important things for the business and how can you move some routine lesser things off your plate. In reformulating the job, expecting more compensation for a more important job is a natural part of the conversation.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I agree with Artemesia and AndersonDarling, and have nothing useful to add. I just wanted to compliment you on the excellent HIMYM reference. :)

    3. Brett*

      Make sure too that you are really comfortable with the extra responsibilities in the long run. I’m one of what used to be three positions. When I handled the work of open positions in the short term, that led to the positions being cut in the long term and me being stuck with what has evolved into an overwhelming workload with longer and longer hours.

  3. Me, not me*

    I have a doozie this week. Gonna go anonymous for this.

    My team is having a two-week global summit, meaning our team members from Japan, China, and EU are in town in addition to our small US-based team. The US team reports to my manager, the others dotted-line report to her. She is very clearly in charge of this team and this event.

    Yesterday, my manager began telling us a story somewhat related to the topic under discussion. It was about a man from whom she once bought a motorcycle, and she mentioned, as an aside, “He didn’t seem like much, but he always dated the most beautiful Asian women.”

    She then digressed into this whole soliloquy about the attractiveness of Asian women, some observations about typical Asian body types (“they have NO breasts,” stuff like that), etc.

    Everyone (including the two Asian women in the room) was just sitting there looking uncomfortable. The EU guy actually said, “Awkward silence.”

    Then my manager said, “What? Did I say something not PC? I’m just telling the truth! I’ve had Asian girlfriends. I have an Asian girlfriend now! If I said something inappropriate, I want to know what.” She then reiterated the observations she’d just made about Asian body types.

    We all continued sitting there in really cringey silence. Fortunately at that moment she got an important phone call she had to take, and after she got off the call she dismissed the meeting and we broke for the day.

    She left with the three people on the team to whom she’s closest. The rest of us hung back, looked at each other with a kind of “whoa, THAT just happened” expression, but didn’t really say anything.

    We’ll be in meetings together all day today.

    Should someone say something to her, or to HR? If so, what? I don’t even know where to begin. We are a rowdy and often informal team, but no one here has ever crossed that kind of line, especially with non-US team members in the room.

    1. Sadsack*

      I think she’d probably talk about it with her friends later, and hopefully they will tell her, “Yeah, it was awkward because you were talking about the breasts of our coworkers in front of everyone. Talking about anyone’s breasts, ever, at work is on the Do Not Do list.”

        1. Bea W*

          Yes. It started badly, and then the breasts comment just pushed the already awkward racial stereotyping completely over the cliff.

    2. Squirrel!*

      I would say something to someone. I mean, it’s one thing to talk about your own personal experiences, for example, “All the Asian women I’ve dated have had small breasts” (not that that’s appropriate for work, but it’s better than making a generalization). I think if she had apologized afterward and admitted she crossed the line, that would be fine on the scale. But she got defensive and challenged everyone to say something to her and then kept ranting. That’s not cool.

      1. Tomato Frog*

        If my boss started talking about my race’s breasts, in a room where I was one of only two representatives of my race, I really don’t think I would mind less just because she prefaced it with ‘in my experience’.

        1. Tomato Frog*

          I’m worried this comment sounds snarkier than I meant it to. What I wanted to get at is that I think her sexualizing and objectifying employees outweighs other considerations.

    3. Sunflower*

      Like all your colleagues *wow*. Was there anyone in the meeting that was at the same management level as her? I would maybe have someone at her level pull her aside and tell her that ‘yeah that wasn’t PC at all- actually the opposite’ . Not sure I’d go to HR though- she shouldn’t have taken it that far but it doesn’t sound like she meant it offensively even though it could/would be offensive to many people. Did anyone seem offended or just surprised?

      1. JaneJ*

        Agree w/ first half of your comment. Disagree on the HR thing though. Doesn’t matter what her intentions were. What she said was so wildly inappropriate for work, and even worse w/ representatives from different countries/cultures in the room. This is in no way an attack on your opinion, but I don’t think “I didn’t mean it to be offensive” is an excuse for behavior that’s so widely accepted as inappropriate. E.g. “Asian women have no breasts” is very different from an accidental offense like “I really can’t stand Capricorns.”

        She must know that talking about people’s bodies can be a danger zone at work. What could she have to say that she felt was so compelling that she would even go down that road?

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Right. She a) engaged in racial stereotyping, in a very public way and b) discussed sexual characteristics of women, in a very public way. Both of those are Very Big Deals.

    4. Cheesecake*

      being an “EU” person, i can tell you that here we take it easy. Meaning that noone is going to quit tomorrow because of that. At this point it is NOT an HR thing. Just tell your boss you picked a vibe from the room after she left that it was awkward and you just want to share. The important thing here: you are not judging, you want to share to help. Let her make her own decisions about the info

      1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

        I’m not sure how being a EU person is relevant here, but being one as well, I would absolutely NOT take this lightly. (And I would be judging my boss – hard – before telling her straight up that what she said was very inappropriate).

      2. Melissa*

        I’m not European, so disclaimer there. But I’m willing to bet that just as Asia is a vast continent with billions of people, most of whom are different from each other, the European Union is also a vast collection of countries with millions (billions?) of people who are very different from each other. I’m from the U.S. and I couldn’t say what definitely would not offend my fellow Americans or what they would/wouldn’t quit over.

        1. Stars and violets*

          I’m originally from Europe too and I can tell you that in my little corner of the EU these remarks would have been met with a very frosty silence followed by complaints to her boss and/or HR. This is not acceptable.

    5. Artemesia*

      It is astonishing that someone with so little sensitivity is in a position of authority. She hasn’t noticed how much trouble commentators have gotten into discussing African American body types in athletics? It doesn’t matter if the observations are accurate or not, discussing racial body types is insensitive in the workplace. Lots of things that may be accurate observations are taboo for polite discussion. And all the more so when she will be managing people internationally. Heck many national stereotypes are fairly accurate generalizations about norms in various countries. I would think rambling on about these differences would be the third rail in a meeting with people from various countries.

      1. Anonsie*

        There’s a weird thing where people still seem to think it’s totally ok to talk like this about Asian people specifically, even though they would never say similar stuff about any other demographic.

        It came up on another post here some months ago, actually, where several of us were saying we encountered this a lot with people saying insanely inappropriate things about our male partners because of their race, and how common it is for people you don’t even know well to just launch into it out of the blue (just like this boss up here). No one was specific but I’m 90% sure all our partners are Asian.

        1. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yep. I remember that discussion–it was equal parts horrifying and heartening to see how many people have had this exact same discussion. It’s like people haven’t quite made the leap that “okay, I can’t talk like that about black people or Hispanic people” but they haven’t extrapolated to “I need to just keep my yap shut when talking to other people about the race of their partners.” It’s weird and very, very common.

        2. Mints*

          It is weird how people that otherwise think of themselves as totes not racist, still talk about fetishization as if it’s positive. “I’m saying I like Asian girls! They’re demure” or “But Black guys ARE good in bed right?”
          It’s like the last bastion of falsely positive racism.

        3. Mephyle*

          About “people still seem to think it’s totally ok to talk like this about Asian people specifically, even though they would never say similar stuff about any other demographic.

          I think it could be due to the relationship between status awarded to different races in society, and race. Some people may think the reason you don’t run off at the mouth about racial stereotypes is because ‘those people’ have ‘less status’; if Asians suffer less from lack of respect and are not attributed lower status in the society they don’t think it’s ‘racist’ to talk about them in those terms.
          Also, what Anonsie said about failure to recognize the difference between what you can say between friends and what a boss should be saying at work also makes sense for this situation.

          1. Sophia*

            But Asians, especially Asian males in the US do have a lack of respect, and Asians are a vast and varied group. Some Asian immigrants tend to have higher socio-economic statuses (Japanese, Koreans), while others are refugees (eg Hmong) and other still tend work in low-status work (eg Vietnamese).

          2. Cucumber*

            Late to the party, reading back, but some great food for thought here. I have noticed that some people will say things about Asian-Americans in particular, that they would never say openly about blacks, Latinos, etc., and never thought about whether their perceived success/status has something to do with it.

      1. Anonsie*

        I just had a thought– she says her girlfriend is Asian, right? I have a theory. Boss has some Asian friends with which she has these sorts of conversations or hears this kind of stuff, and she’s repeating it without realizing that the context and the speaker are really really important even if you’re not at work. She might have even realized quickly that she was making a mistake but then kept digging hoping she could tunnel away.

        Like, my friends and I will gripe about hair texture and skin tone and body type and compare annoyances. No one would find that weird if they overheard it. But if I go into a different room by myself and start repeating the stuff my friends said? Would sound pretty different.

    6. Lo*

      Well, is this something that happens often–her going off topic and saying relatively offensive–or, in the least, not work appropriate–things? Is this the first time it’s happened? I think it’s okay to sort of feel out how others are feeling, it might be easier to go to HR if you feel that’s necessary if you have a few people with you or supporting the statements you make. I think this is a problem if she’s constantly interacting or managing international folks especially, but honestly, even if she wasn’t, this is not okay… Maybe she just assumed that your “rowdy and often informal team” extended to this type of conversation, and she will reel herself in after noticing that everyone was uncomfortable. On the other hand, though, if this is a pattern…I think it’s worth considering bringing it up to someone.

    7. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      Ugh, barf. I would say something to her, though I’m not sure how to go about it after the fact (though I completely understand you were too baffled to call her out in the moment, especially as she’s your boss).

      I feel so bad for the two asian women who were there. It’s so demeaning to have a person with authority over you discuss your body like that as if it’s totally acceptable. Been there, it sucks.

      1. TL -*

        I would definitely talk to her about it – she picked it up in the atmosphere anyway. Something like, “Boss, I think you picked up on this yesterday, but it’s actually considered inappropriate to generalize body type by race, any race, and to identify a person by “he dated the most beautiful Asian women” [barf]. It comes across as stereotyping an entire continent of people and I know that’s not the impression we want to give, either to each other or to our international coworkers.”
        I once had a friend tell me “it’s not racist if it’s Asian,” only half-joking. (She also made a really awful Holocaust joke in front of a Jewish friend – not that it would have been okay otherwise – so her judgment was clearly off. We called her on it, but she didn’t seem to get it.)

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I think someone should have spoken up in the moment, but that’s just me. I have no tact. But I think you should pull her aside and say, “hey since you asked…” and then say it made people uncomfortable and that she shouldn’t make comments like that. Or however you want to say it to get your point across but not be too harsh.

      1. Jenny*

        I agree, it’s really hard to do but every time I’ve spoken up in a moment like this I’ve felt good about it afterwards. And in a few cases I’ve noticed that it seems to change the persons behaviour so they stop talking like that in a public/professional place

    9. S*

      I am an Asian female, and I had a boss (C-level) who also said something offensive towards Asian. We were at a work party in a conference room, when he opened his gift – baoding balls – and started mimicking/mocking an Asian accent. The whole room laughed awkwardly except for me (the only Asian) who shook her head with a disappointed “smile” on her face. People deliberately avoided looking at me while they laughed awkwardly but I could tell they were trying to see if I was laughing with them. I wasn’t.

      I later had a one-on-one conversation with him. I told him how mocking an ethnic accent was offensive to certain ethnicities and I didn’t appreciate it. His response? “I was only doing it because it was a Chinese gift…” Akin to, “It was only a joke.”

      So if you talk to her, you might hit a wall, like I did. I felt good I brought it up rather than just take it. I didn’t think it amounted to an HR issue so I didn’t go there.

      If she gets defensive and says “Hey, my best friend is Asian” — which by the way is the worst defense to racism — or “I say this to my Asian friends and they don’t care,” just respond that it’s all fine and good, but it’s not appropriate in a work environment. I really think you need to say something though, or else it’ll happen again.

      1. Buu*

        Ughh def not the kind of thing you want at work, some people get defensive over anything they percipience to be a criticism even when arguing is much harder work than showing empathy.

    10. Bea W*

      Um. Awkward. Since she just seems clueless I think someone should just talk to her informally and privately and explain why that conversation was awkward.

    11. Me, not me*

      Update: It seems obvious from everyone’s behavior that we all wanted to move on and pretend this never happened. Although the incident wasn’t mentioned yesterday, the tone of all of our interactions was much more professional and on-topic, and my manager seemed more restrained than usual. I don’t know whether someone talked to her or not, but she seems to have self-corrected for the moment. We still have a week left of activities with this group, and I think the moment to say something has passed and it makes sense to preserve harmony within the group by not creating a scene.

      I think that after my international colleagues have headed home, I will take her aside and tell her those comments were really inappropriate and made several people visibly uncomfortable, and that I hope she’ll use better judgment in the future and save those kinds of observations for non-work environments.

      I may also direct her to a couple of online classes that are available on our website about communication styles in different cultures. I think commenting on other people’s bodies at work is inappropriate regardless of your culture, of course, but I think taking the class will really bring it home to her that in some Asian cultures in particular, there’s a higher level of formality in the workplace (meaning the comments would’ve been perceived as even more inappropriate) and a higher level of adherence to hierarchy (meaning the people who were most likely to have been uncomfortable with the comments would have been unlikely to express that discomfort because she’s their boss).

      I took these classes myself before a work trip to Japan and found them really valuable, and I’d offer them up in that spirit, rather than in the spirit of scolding her. She’s herself from a different country (South Africa, though she’s lived in the U.S. for over a decade) and may honestly not be unaware of some of these things.

      1. Lizzie*

        I’m an American who spent several years living and working in South Africa and surrounding countries, and found that, in general, commenting about or discussing people’s bodies is far more socially acceptable (including in work settings) there than it is in the U.S. (To be clear, this is not to excuse the boss in question for making comments that offended, just my two cents based on personal experience.)

  4. Dan*

    I’m stuck in Tableau class for four days. I skipped classes all the time as an undergrad, so thanks for the distraction.

      1. Betsy Bobbins*

        Tableau gives me the sads since they took over the old Sound Mind and Body building, it was the best gym in Seattle, or at least the one with the best view.

      2. Dan*

        Nope, onsite training. My company’s huge, we can justify our own onsite.

        The Tableau survey asked about the food onsite. It sucked, but I don’t think telling them is going to make much of a different.

    1. Noah*

      For whatever reason, we use both Crystal Reports and Tableau. Grew up with Crystal, but I’ve grown to love Tableau once I get people to understand that the visualization of their data might looks a bit different than they are used to. Also have to force people to get past the printed report because the whole point of dashboards is interactivity.

      1. Weasel007*

        We looked into Tableau and I really like it. We were over ruled for something internal but I was reallt excited about the product.

  5. Sunflower*

    I have a question for people who walk to work. I live in a city and would like to work in the city so I can walk to work. I currently work in the suburbs and my commute is about 40-50 minutes each way by car every day and I feel like it’s killing me. However, I also feel like I’m cutting myself off from some opportunities by limiting my job search to jobs in city limits. So for people who walk to work- do you feel it’s that large of a benefit to you? What would it take for you to go back to driving to work?

    1. Squirrel!*

      I take the bus to work and I love it. Sometimes I get dropped on in the mornings by my boyfriend if he gets up early enough, but I find that’s a little more stressful. People are insane when they are going to work; they drive angrily and take risks, we almost get hit all the time. If I moved further away from my job and had to drive, it would take quite an awesome job (with a great paycheck and benefits) to make me do that. Otherwise I would find a closer job.

    2. C Average*

      I *love* walking (or sometimes running) to work. I’m three miles from my office and absolutely treasure the couple hours of solitude I get each day. I enjoy the exercise, the fresh air, the chance to observe the changing seasons and learn the layout of my environment . . . it’s my favorite part of the day. I consider it a huge benefit and would be really reluctant to make any job changes that would threaten it.

      1. Rat Racer*

        Do you keep your work clothes for the next day at work, and then shower/change when you get there? I’ve considered in the past running to work but could never figure out how to transfer my clothing back and forth. How do you make it work?

        1. Brian_A*

          I sometimes go mountain biking from work (there are trails nearby, but they are in the opposite direction from home). I basically bring minimal things to work that day, but take all of my exercise kit in a bag that I can cycle with. At the end of the day, I leave my work clothes and lunch bag at work, and just go riding. The next day, I ride my commuting bike as usual, but bring a larger bag, and bring my clothes from the previous day home at the end of the day.

          1. Rat Racer*

            See if you have a bicycle, you can bring a bag. But running? I can’t imagine running any kind of distance with a backpack. I’m sure people do it though. Ultra marathoners and folks of that ilk.

            1. Brian_A*

              If I were running, I would walk or transit to work as usual but also bring running gear, and basically leave everything at work except my keys and run home. The next day, regular commute, and pick up all the stuff left behind on day 1. No running with bacpack needed! I only do it once a week, and it may not work for frequent runs. It’s also not a good system if your job requires your laptop at home!

        2. C Average*

          It takes some logistics for sure.

          On days when I don’t have meetings or only have meetings within my team, I’m fortunate that I can just hang out in my running gear. I run at 5 a.m., so it’s chilly out, and I’m not a big sweater, so I’m fairly confident I don’t stink. My company is a sportswear company and I wear our brand, as does everyone who works there, so wearing tasteful running clothes at work isn’t a dress-code issue.

          On days when I do need to look good, there are a couple approaches I take. If I know ahead of time that I need to dress up a bit, I’ll bring a stash of civilian attire down on the weekend and stash it in my file cabinet drawer. I actually keep a couple of outfits in that drawer at all times so I’m always prepared for surprises. The other option is to carry something in my running backpack. I have the Mountain Hardwear Fluid Race VestPack, and it’s ideal for carrying a few small items. I keep a basic pair of black shoes at the office and can easily fit a dress and other small items into the backpack.

          Really, the only thing that regularly interferes with my run commute is my laptop. I check in after-hours pretty regularly, but there are limits to what can be accomplished on an iPhone. And running with a computer is horrible for the hard drive, so I don’t do that. So some nights, I’ll run home and then wind up driving to the office to retrieve my computer, working in the evening, and then driving my computer back to the office so I can run in the morning. It defeats the purpose in terms of being green, but it does allow me my sanity-saving run commute.

          Finally, I always walk down to the office on Sundays to leave off anything I need for the coming week and collect anything that needs to be taken home and washed.

          1. C Average*

            Also, I forgot to mention: we do have showers in my building, and I keep a set of toiletries and a towel at work so I can shower there when needed.

    3. Anoners*

      I walk to work, and I’m not sure what could make me go back. It would need to be something pretty stellar for me to give it up. The commute was actually giving me borderline rage blackouts (seriously, streetcars in Toronto are a NIGHTMARE!). The cost of living is a bit higher though, since I work / live downtown, but the benefits really outweigh that for me. It would need to be a pretty hefty pay raise for me to consider having to take public transit again. But I know people who commute 1.5 hours each way and love the suburban life, and it’s fine for them. So it’s really all about what’s going to make you happiest/ give you the best opportunities.

    4. TV Researcher*

      I walk to work, and I love it. My walk is only about 1 1/2 miles, which I think is a bit too short to be used as any kind of exercise barometer. My previous gig was about 2 1/2 miles away from my apt, and I think that’s a perfect distance. It was a good 45 minute walk and if I walked just 5 minutes out of my way, I could wander along the river.

      But, I live in a very crowded city and I learned that when I took public to work, I often arrived in a grumpy mood. Now, that happens less often (except for the holiday season when the entire area surrounding my office building becomes ground zero for tourists).

    5. Manders*

      It’s a huge benefit to me, to the point that I would give it up only for a significant salary increase. I live about 1.5 miles from work, up a steep hill, and the walk is keeping me fit even though my job is sedentary. I also feel more alert and less cranky than I did when I was commuting by bus, both because of the extra exercise and because I have an hour of solitude in my day now.

      In my city, we have a few months where the days are so short that you’ll come to work and leave work in darkness. If you’re in a latitude like that, make sure you feel safe walking alone in the dark in your area. I bought a bright white coat so drivers could see me, since the streets aren’t always well lit.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I used to have a 10-minute walk to work and now I live an hour away by subway. I miss walking SO much but it’s way too expensive to live here now (I work near Wall Street in NY). One thing I’ve noticed is that I get sick so much more often now that I take the train every day but I guess that won’t be an issue if you drive. And it was nice to be able to run home quickly if I forgot something or if I had a wardrobe malfunction. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a 45 minute drive as much if I had free parking at work. I think it’s the crowded subway I take that is my main annoyance.

    7. Frances*

      I’ve been lucky enough to walk to my last two jobs (in both instances I got hired shortly before I needed a new apartment anyway, and happened to find places within walking distance). I *LOVE* it. I actually think my walk to work now is a little too short (4 blocks); when I was walking about half a mile to work each day it really helped me get my mind in order in the morning and blow off steam at the end of the day. But not having to depend on traffic/the vagaries of the public transit system really reduces my stress level. I am also not a morning person, so not having to be alert enough to drive helps a lot.

      My city is super expensive, though, and my SO and I have been discussing what we’d want if we move elsewhere. I really don’t know if I could go back to driving to work (I could go back to mass transit, if necessary) unless there was guaranteed parking and I could work hours where I could avoid some of the rush hour traffic.

    8. Kristen*

      I LOVE walking to work!! I restricted my most recent search to only walk-able and bike-able areas, and it worked out for me. I did make exceptions then for certain positions that seemed like a really great fit for me (like those elusive “dream” jobs), but I found a great position nearby after all.

      Walking and biking makes me feel SO much better, especially because I now have a sit-at-a-computer job whereas I used to be outdoors or back and forth in a lab. By the time I get to the office I feel awake and energized, and the walk/bike home does the same to wind me back down. Plus I save so much money on parking/gas, and it’s nice to not feel guilty about treating myself to coffees/lunches out because I saved the money and will burn off the food :)

    9. Dan*

      In some senses, your question is much broader than what you’ve actually asked: “How can I be happy with my commute?”

      How far are you willing to walk? I wouldn’t want to walk 40-50 minutes on a rainy day, a cold day, or a humid day. If you want to keep your commute down to a 20-minute walk, you’re looking for jobs within a mile of you. Or you have to move. None of that sounds fun or optimal. So yup, you’re limiting yourself big time.

      While I don’t walk to work, I have four options that I choose from: Drive on the express road and pay the toll (fastest and most expensive), drive on the back roads (cheaper and longer), take the bus to the subway station and use the subway (most time consuming option, so-so cost wise), drive to the subway station and use the subway (slightly more expensive, but faster than using the bus.)

      Which one I use depends on what I’m doing. I live and work in the suburbs, but go into the city a bit after work. If I’m going to the city, the drive in during PM rush is terrible. Plus I have to park. So on those days, I take the subway, and drive to the outer station.

      If I’m running late on a day where I’m not going out after work, I’ll pay the toll.

      So “not driving” is a better option when it is cheaper, quicker, or gets you some other benefit like exercise, or the ability to work during your commute. If you can save the expense of a car, it’s a huge plus. But if you’re going to keep the car, trying to avoid using it for the sake of it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

      People who currently walk to work probably live in a city with paid parking. They likely wouldn’t start driving again unless they got a new job that required driving.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        That’s a good point about the weather; I pay extra to park in my building (at work) because I don’t want to have to walk outside in my work clothes in all kinds of weather, even though I love to walk.

        But that reminds me that if you’re walking to work, you’re probably saving $20-50+ a week on gas alone, not even counting repair and insurance savings, so you can probably invest in walking gear like a nice pair of galoshes or weatherproof boots, or a really nice rain coat, things I specifically mention as examples only because they’re things I currently don’t own.

        1. Dan*

          If “walking” is not a metaphor for “not driving”, well, no, your gas bill isn’t going to be that expensive. I put 400 miles a month on my car, with almost all of them going to work and back. My gas bill is $70/mo, or $18/wk.

          If I’m walking to work, it’s less than mile each way, or about 40 miles/mo. That’s two gallons of gas, or about $10.

          If “walking” is a metaphore, then you’ve got other expenses you’re incurring. For example, Metro in DC, is darned expensive. It costs me $140/mo to use Metro vs $70 in gas.

          1. Bea W*

            If you also have to figure in cost of parking, you’d probably come out ahead not driving. Paying over $100/month for parking isn’t uncommon around here. Many companies in my area subsidized monthly transit passes as a benefit. I pay something like $25 for my pass which makes my commute dirt cheap. I think i put gas in my car every 6-8 weeks.

    10. the_scientist*

      I lasted about a month and half commuting 90 minute EACH WAY from the suburbs. It was killing me, and my interpersonal relationships suffered because I was miserable and exhausted all the time. I honestly don’t know how people do this long term! I felt like I had zero time for anything other than transit; sometimes I could read on the train but I get motion sickness so that didn’t always work, and I just felt like I was adding another 3 hours of sedentary behaviour into my day. Anyway, I moved to shorten my commute because my office was scheduled to move even further away. I had about a 20 minute streetcar ride for a while, and now I walk, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. The improvement in my quality of life is enormous.

      As for limiting your options, I guess it depends on your field and your maximum desired commute time. Jobs in my field are more or less centrally located in my city; there are two companies outside of the city limits but most are downtown. So I can be pretty confident that I could change jobs and not have to relocate to keep my commute manageable……easier to do in a city where there are good public transit options, obviously! Although, if I was to change jobs, I might not be able to continue walking. That’s a trade-off I’d be okay with, but I’d like to keep my commute under 45 minutes each way for as long as I possibly can.

    11. the gold digger*

      I was working downtown and taking the bus to work, now I am out in the burbs where there is nothing to do at lunch (I can walk to the grocery store a mile away – but I have to walk on the road because there are no sidewalks), no bus. I have been riding my bike to work, but will need to drive once it is really cold.

      Other than being in a cubicle again after having a window office, not being able to have someone else transport me and being in the middle of nowhere are the worst things about the new job. The work itself and the people are great, but I am already plotting my return to downtown in a year. Once you have tasted convenience and downtown working, it’s hard to have anything else.

    12. bridget*

      My walk to work is about 8 minutes door-to-door. I love it, and it’s one of my favorite things about my life right now. Before this, my commute was like yours – 40-50 minutes each way. I feel like my quality of life has hugely improved. I can sleep so much later! I can see my husband right after work! I get some exercise and fresh air every day! I saved $400/month in gas! Sometimes I don’t even get in my car for a full week!

      The other benefit for me in living and working in this area is all the OTHER things I can walk to easily without using my car (this may depend on your city). Within a 1/2 mile of my house are the following: work, gym, shopping center, library, several parks and other recreation areas, grocery store, and public transit for getting anywhere else in the city (a little less quickly or conveniently, but it’s doable without a car). It is WONDERFUL.

      I think it would take a lot for me to take a job with a commute again. I think I would only give it up if: 1) it were not an indefinite job (i.e. it was a professional stepping stone, with probably a 3 year maximum [which is how long I commuted 40-50 minutes]); 2) it would have major ramifications for my future career, meaning it’s not just a great job now, but it is necessary to help me achieve my long-term professional goals; or 3) the legitimate needs of my spouse demanded it. My current salary and benefits are great, so I don’t think I would (or really even could) move for money alone.

      That said, I don’t think you have to refuse to apply for jobs that aren’t walkable, but if it were me, I would absolutely prioritize job prospects that are.

    13. Haleyca*

      I live in a city and walk to work. I don’t own a car and have never driven to work so I can’t really compare the two, but I can tell you about my experience walking. It definitely has pros and cons, but for me the pros outweigh the cons. First of all, it saves me money. Even the cheapest public transportation option would cost me about $80/month to commute both ways 5 days a week (I can imagine the cost of gas, parking, and car maintenance would also cost quite a bit). I also really enjoy the time it gives me to sort of zone out and think before and after work, which I don’t think I would get driving and having to pay attention to the road. It is probably also good for me to get some exercise and time outside and moving around before I go in and sit for 8+ hours at my desk. Finally, I think it is a lot simpler and more reliable to walk to work and I can do so without having to leave extra time for traffic or delays in public transit.

      Weather is probably the biggest drawback. It really sucks to have to walk to work in such wind and rain that you end up soaked even with a jacket and an umbrella and some days it is just bitterly cold and that is no fun. But, at least where I live, these days don’t happen often enough that it is a real concern of mine.

      Finally, I would say that one thing to think about is where you live and where many places to work are. I have had a few different walking commutes (ranging from 45-20 minutes) and all have been doable, but there definitely are places in my city that I am not able to walk to as it is just too far, or there isn’t a very good route. A lot of this is possible because I live in a place that is pretty central and is within walking distance to many different offices (before my current job I interviewed at a few places in my city and I was able to walk to all of them because I live in a good location). This definitely makes my rent higher, my living space smaller, and my area busier (lots of noise, people, and activity), but it is worth it to me when compared to places in other neighborhoods or on the outer edges of my city. I don’t live where I live just because of walking to work (I also like the neighborhood and my place is close to public transportation, grocery shopping, cultural centers etc) but it is a factor that plays into it.

      Overall, walking to work is a huge part of my life and it would take a lot to get me to change to driving to the suburbs (a lot of it is because I would have to buy a car and because of how long it would take me to commute in crazy city traffic).

      Tl;dr: I love walking to work!

    14. AdAgencyChick*

      I don’t walk, but I don’t drive either. For a while, when my husband was working in the ‘burbs (and we had just moved in together, not yet married), he kept trying to get me to consider moving out there. I told him no way was I going back to owning a car.

      As annoying as NYC subway commutes can be (see the Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train Tumblr feed for examples), in no way, shape, or form does any of my commute approach the level of annoying that driving to work does. Although walking would be less nice than a subway ride in some ways (so much for reading the newspaper), it also sounds lovely to stretch your legs in the morning and after a long day of sitting.

    15. Kelly L.*

      I liked walking to work back when I lived close enough to do it (about 1 mile from one apartment and about 2 miles from the subsequent one). When the weather was horrible, I’d take the bus instead. I was in a lot better shape then than I am now! It also gave me a nice block of “buffer time” between home and work.

      These days I work 15 miles from home and there’s no way. I miss the walks and I’ve been trying to sneak them into my routine in other places, like walking to the bookstore or library or drugstore that are all near my home.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        The “buffer time” is so important. On days when I take transit I find myself thinking about work on both my morning and evening commute; when I’m cycling I’m just thinking about cycling (and smelling everyone’s dinners cooking on my way home, mmmmmm!). It makes it much easier to switch off in the evenings.

        1. AVP*

          I have the same thing! I bike to work about half the time, and my head is so much clearer on both ends than if I take the train.

    16. LAI*

      I used to drive to work and I actually enjoyed having the time to listen to the radio. Since I stopped driving, I never know what new songs are out. Now I take public transit and then walk, which is fine. For me, there are several downsides to walking though, such as occasionally arriving at work in a sweaty state on a warm day (or wet, on an unexpectedly rainy day), or not being able to ever bring anything that’s even slightly heavy or bulky.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Hee, I never know the new songs now that I don’t go to a laundromat anymore. The one I used to go to played Top 40 so I always learned the new songs; when I’m at home I get into such a rut of only listening to stuff I already have.

    17. Anonsie*

      Honestly, having a commute that’s short-ish and doesn’t involve driving is such a huge boost to my overall quality of life that I wouldn’t take another job that required a driving commute unless it was a really, really spectacular job.

    18. fluffy*

      There are more options. Most people who work here use transit–either buses or trains or a combination. I have colleagues who routinely bike to work in all but the most dreadful weather. One has a 7 or 8 mile trip, another a 5-6 mile, a third a 9-10 mile. It helps that we have showers here. Adding the biking option could extend your range.

    19. Anonathon*

      I used to have a commute like that, and it almost made me kooky. (Only NPR kept me sane.) I now live within biking distance, and it’s awesome.

      If you are able, I would certainly recommend adding biking to your “means of transport” list. You maybe can’t expand your search area as much as you could with a car, but you can do a lot via bike. I had to go to meetings across town a couple days in a row last week during rush-hour. I drove once and biked once, and the latter was actually faster!

      1. Melissa*

        Yes, given that I have to park and then ride a shuttle from the lot I think that biking – once I got used to it – would actually take me about the same amount of time as driving + shuttle.

    20. QC*

      I used to walk to work every day about 3 miles one way. I loved it when the weather was good but the bitter cold of last winter pushed me onto public transit. I loved how fit I was and the fact I could out walk my husband if I wanted to (He loves to walk and up until then I would be done a good hour before he was).

      But now I live 40-50 min drive one way to get to work. We moved for financial, and job prospect reasons for my husband. It turned out that moving away and sucking it up and paying for more gas for my car still put my rent and bills to be $500-$600 less per month then living in the town I work in.

      But if I am ever able to walk to work again? In a heartbeat.

    21. Melissa*

      I used to walk to work (10 minute walk tops) and now drive to work (it’s about a 10 minute drive, followed by a 15-minute shuttle ride from the parking lot). If I time myself correctly I could take the bus (20-minute bus ride).

      For me this is more about time than anything else. I don’t mind driving 10 minutes to work; I think I would mind it much more if I had to drive 45 minutes to work (especially if there was traffic or a lot of highway driving involved – I don’t mind highway driving, just it would suck to do that every day). Likewise, I liked walking to work, but walking 10 minutes is very different from walking an hour. I also don’t mind the bus, but riding the bus for longer than about 40 minutes would annoy me. Basically…I just don’t want my commute to take more than ~30 minutes, period, lol.

      So I think perhaps a different way to frame it would be to think about how long you are willing to commute – and is that different for each mode. So are you more willing to walk 30 minutes but you simply don’t want to drive more than about 20 minutes? Are buses a viable option? What about bicycling?

      1. Bea W*

        Some people simply don’t want to drive as a commute. I will gladly use public transit for an hour commute, but you couldn’t pay me enough anymore to have to drive an hour one way to work. People ask me why I don’t drive to work. Wouldn’t it be faster? Nope. Not during rush hour. Doesn’t the T suck a lot? Yup. I do draw the line when it comes to the Green Line. In that case, driving is often better.

    22. Elizabeth West*

      I wish I could walk/take public transport to work. It’s too far–I live on the north side but work on the south side. There is only a very slow bus system and the weather sucks (really hot in summer, really cold/snowy/icy in winter). This (mid-sized, Midwestern) city is not pedestrian or bike-friendly. Half the big streets don’t even have sidewalks in some places. People get hit all the time. And you always see people in wheelchairs IN THE ROAD because there is nowhere for them to go. I hate driving across town here because everybody is a jerk.

    23. Tris Prior*

      I used to walk to work and god, that was fantastic. 10 minutes door to door. Could walk home for lunch or for kitty cuddles on my lunch break if I was having a rotten day.

      The only down side of living within walking distance is that I was the poor bastard who had to haul myself into the office when we got 2 1/2 feet of snow one day, while everyone else got to take a snow day. (To be fair, the roads were impassable and transit was barely running so it was literally impossible to get in by driving or train. Still sucked though. The snow was up to my thighs!)

    24. Cath in Canada*

      “not within cycling distance” is an absolute dealbreaker for me. I don’t always cycle – I took the bus today because I’m going out for drinks after work – but I usually cycle at least 3 days a week and I need to at least have the option.

      I have friends who live close enough to walk. Their rent is more expensive, but if your whole household can go car-free, it really saves a lot of money. Pretty much everyone I know who’s in this situation has a car share membership – there are several options here in Vancouver, and they’re great if you live somewhere pretty central.

    25. gem*

      I walk to work – I don’t drive at all – and I love it. Two miles each way and I can listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and I have a friend and we’ve gone from writing letters to recording them so that walk is perfect for that.

      The only transit option for me is car or via and I get so terribly motion sick that taking a bus into the city centre would be miserable for me.

    26. HR Manager*

      I walk to a subway and commute to work, but having grown up in city center, walking is my preferred mode of transportation. Whether it’s worth it will depend on your line of work and what you want out of your career. I’m lucky that many professionals jobs in HR are still plentiful in the city center, even though the high rent has started to push some businesses outward.

      I find the biggest benefit is that it is often the only exercise I get in the work week, and my job otherwise is quite sedentary. Helps me burn off the calories from those snacks I sneak from the reception candy jar.

    27. John*

      Walking to work is huge. I walk two miles each way and it’s so much less stressful and you arrive home at day’s end already having exercised. No frustrations of sitting in traffic or stuck with loud/smelly people on public transit. Plus, if you’re in the city, you usually have the ability to pop home if you absolutely need to. I wouldn’t/couldn’t go back to commuting.

    28. Just Visiting*

      I used to have a fifteen minute walking commute. Yes, it was that large of a benefit to me, and I stayed at that job until the money ran out. I would be willing to take a major pay cut for the ability to walk to work again. Now I bike, and while I love doing that too… nothing beats walking. I don’t drive at all. It would have to be a truly exceptional job to go back to public transportation, and even then I think I would get sick of PT very quickly and be looking for something else. I do think limiting yourself to walkable locations only is a bit of a constraint. Are you open to biking or PT?

      1. Just Visiting*

        P.S. You might want to open yourself up to biking or PT because walking more than a mile to work isn’t feasible for a lot of people. My new city is very bike-friendly but also quite sprawly so if I worked downtown I’d have to live there, which isn’t financially feasible (I also don’t want to live downtown). The place where I walked to work, I didn’t work in the city center. Are you using “walking” to mean walking or just “not driving”?

    29. hnl123*

      Just adding to the non-driving love here.
      First, I switched from car to moped. I loved the feeling of the air, not having to listen to crappy radio or my old CDs, or getting angry at other drivers. Even though I share the road with the same drivers, somehow not being in a car made things way more pleasant to me.
      Then I switched to walking. It’s about 25 min each day. I LOVE IT. I listen to my music, I get sun and exercise, my blood pumping from sitting all day, and I find it does wonders to clear my head. Even when Im exhausted, somehow by the end of my walk I am in a MUCH more pleasant mood. I hope I don’t have to go back to driving.
      It also helps that I live in Hawaii and the weather is beautiful year round. I like being outdoors so much better than being in a car.

    30. Bea W*

      Short commute and not being forced to drive are huge plusses for me. I’d love to be able to walk to work and only use public transit on super awful days. Biking would be great too. I live close enough that I could bike if the roads didn’t suck or if I somehow developed a death wish. My first job as an adult was not quite 2 miles from my house. I would sometimes walk during nice weather. Otherwise I just walked the block up to the subway and went 1 stop.

      Some people just don’t want to live that close to work. I like having everything nearby and convenient. I love not having to depend on my car to get to work, especially when it snows and I have to shovel it out.

      It would take being desperately unemployed and the only offer being outside of the city to get me back to driving to work. You could not pay me enough money to do that again. When I’ve had time to bide, I’ve limited myself to places within a certain radius from home. In my field there are a lot of companies within that narrow area so I’m not necesarily limiting myself by not casting the net as wide as I did when I was first starting out and couldn’t afford to be picky and cranky about having to drive to work.

      I’ve always been a city person, even growing up in the suburbs with no public transit and nothing within walking distance. I think a lot of it depends on your personality and lifestyle preferences. There are people who would love to walk to work but they dislike the city too much to accept the trade off. For someone like me who is more comfortable in any urban environment, it’s win-win.

  6. Squirrel!*

    Any tips for finding a job after you move to a new area? I’ll be moving across the country and will need part-time work while I work on finishing my degree. Unfortunately I won’t have time to look before I move, but I’m financially solvent and all that.

    1. Polaris*

      Use your network. Let people know you will be looking for a job after you move and that you’d appreciate leads and recommendations for the best places to find jobs in the area.

      You could also ask a librarian at your local library after you move if there are any good location-specific job banks for that area.

      1. Squirrel!*

        That’s a great idea about the library, thanks! I use the library where I currently am all the time and didn’t even think about that.

    2. Robin*

      Are you looking for work relevant to your degree, or are you just looking for something to pay the bills? If the latter, you can probably figure something out when you get there — you probably want something close to home or school, so it’s hard to get a sense of that ahead of time. If it’s the former, network, network, network. See if your school will connect you to resources. Ask current and former colleagues if they know anyone.

    3. De Minimis*

      Wife’s interview is next week. Really hoping she will find out one way or the other pretty quickly, she is very close to her former manager so I think they’ll let her know as soon as they can. It’s down to her and one other person.

      Been applying to jobs there, there do seem to be a lot of opportunities, but I’m not sure how likely it is that I’ll be considered as a long distance candidate.

      Starting to feel more overwhelmed here, and I’m worried that once my co-worker leaves I’m going to have trouble handling everything…basically the whole impostor syndrome thing, except I think for me it’s a somewhat rational concern.

      It’s weird to be applying for jobs again–the funny thing is the last time I was really looking I was still under 40, and now I’m not…a lot of the government jobs I’m looking at always ask if you are over 40 [more for data purposes I think], and I keep realizing that yes, I actually am.

  7. Rebecca Too*

    I’ve just found out that my contract isn’t been renewed after December. So, I have to start job hunting again. So, it’s going to be a rough couple of months. And one of the reasons for this is that I find it very hard to do what Alison suggests, and move on after submitting an application.

    Anyone have any suggestions on how to do this? I think it would mean that job hunting would stop been such a horrible nightmare, so I’d like to try.

    1. Squirrel!*

      Could you pretend that it’s like messaging someone on a dating site? You’re interested and shoot them a quick message, and then you move on. If they reply, great! If not, there are other fish in the sea to message / send your resume to. ;)

    2. Sunflower*

      Start reaching out to contacts and your network NOW while you’re still employed. By doing that, you might be able to bypass the miserable job application process. Even if you do have to apply through systems, it might gain you an edge or at least make the search a little easier.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. My SIL will be looking for jobs in the next couple of years so he put his toes in the water with contacts and had a couple of offers. He is not ready for the move yet, but it was good to know there are options. You have 3 months or so while still employed to be interested in moving on. Hope something comes up to make this less painful — job hunting is no fun.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I have a email folder of job applications, so I save the info but keep it out of sight. Just moving all my cover letter and resume drafts somewhere else helps.

    4. JMegan*

      Meditation or yoga, or any practice that teaches you to be “mindful” or to “live in the moment.” Of course it doesn’t work all the time, but you can often get useful strategies to remind yourself to focus when your brain starts obsessing over the job hunt.

      Also the Serenity Prayer (the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.) I consider myself an atheist, so I leave the “God” part out, but again it’s a useful reminder of where I should be focusing my energies and my thoughts.

      Good luck, both with the job hunt and the trying not to stress about the job hunt!

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I went for living coaching a while ago. She was all about being deliberate. After you submit an app do you have something lined up to do next? Ideally an unrelated activity that fills up your mind. Let’s say you love to cook, so have a new recipe handy and go for it.
      The problem is follow through. It’s much easier to stew and stew over something than it is to make yourself move on to the next task. But you can frame it as a commitment to yourself. You already have committed to yourself that you will find yourself another job. So why not commit to yourself that you will give yourself a mental reprieve from job hunting at predetermined intervals?

    6. Haleyca*

      Apply to so many jobs that you can’t keep track of when/where you applied. I’m not sure if this is the most practical advice for everyone based on how much time they have and what kind of jobs they are applying to, but a few months ago I was a new grad applying to a few jobs a day I couldn’t keep track of when and where I sent applications. Because of this I wasn’t able to think “I sent in my application to X Corp 3 weeks ago, why haven’t I heard back yet?” I kept my cover letters/applications organized on my computer and made sure to keep track of any interviews once I did hear back, but I didn’t keep track of when I sent out applications. This really worked for me.

    7. Rebecca Too*

      A bit late, but thanks to everyone for the ideas and suggestions. I will definitely be making use of them, and I do feel slightly less panicked now. Still quite panicked, but slightly less, at least.

  8. LizB*

    I just got a message from my boyfriend saying he got let go from his job. I have zero details, and I’m freaking out. As far as I know they hadn’t given him any warning that he wasn’t doing well — he just gave a presentation for his team on Tuesday that went fine, and he’s been working on a few different projects. Yesterday he failed a certification test for a software tool and was beating himself up about it, but I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal… but maybe it was? This sucks.

      1. LizB*

        I guess that’s possible. They’ve hired a few new people recently to do his same role (they need multiple people in that role), and maybe one of them was better? I don’t know. I’m just sitting here obsessing over all the little things it might have been and worrying that he didn’t tell me about something huge.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If they hired a few new people for one role, I’d bet it’s budget–they’re looking to do it cheaper maybe? You’re right–this sucks.

          You won’t know until you talk to him, so don’t work yourself into a frenzy.

          1. De Minimis*

            Maybe it was failing the certification? But I assume he would have known that at the time….I’ve had jobs where you had to pass or complete something by a certain time, and we were always well aware of it.

            1. LizB*

              He asked about that, and was told that wasn’t the issue. He certainly wasn’t told up front that he had to pass in a certain time frame — he took two tries to pass another certification test, and they were just fine with that. I think it really was just a fit issue.

    1. Dan*

      I’m having a hard time trying to figure out if you have a question or are looking for advice, but I will commiserate and say that yes, it does suck. Last fall I got laid off with no notice and a whopping two-week severance package. Keep in mind you have no idea how much of the “truth” your bf is telling you, but involuntary terminations always suck, even when people should have seen it coming.

      1. LizB*

        I’m mostly looking for commiseration/to get it off my chest, so thank you for that. The thing I hate the most is that either his company decided to be shitty out of the blue (which they’ve done before), or he hasn’t been totally honest with me (which we’ve never had an issue with before), and I have NO IDEA which one it is.

        1. Dan*

          Combination of both, probably. (Remember the three sides to everything — your side, my side, and the truth)?

          But if this was a truly shitty company, he just got forced to do something that he didn’t have the balls to do on his own. BTDT.

      2. Anoni*

        This might just be me but I’ve noticed that your replies have been snarky lately (and I usually enjoy reading your thoughts and perspectives). It almost makes me hesitate to comment because I’m afraid you’ll leave a reply that will make me feel as if I asked or said something stupid.

        1. Dan*

          You know it’s funny… people read snark where no snark was intended. There are people who leave a monologue that makes it nearly impossible to figure out what kind of conversation they want to start. Saying “I can’t figure out what your question is” isn’t snark.

          I’m very blunt and direct IRL, and that doesn’t always translate well in writing. Since this the internet and most of us are anonymous, I don’t worry too much about how style comes across in writing.

          And if I ever come close to calling someone an idiot, I will always leave a constructive comment. Take the guy the other day who wanted to sue his employer for giving him a lump sum retro pay. He got retro pay and wants to sue! Sure, I didn’t go out of my way to avoid snark, but he got a very constructive post discussing exactly how wronged he was. I got a lot of followup talking about how helpful that was.

    2. Janis*

      I’m not saying this is what happened with your boyfriend, but here’s what’s going on here at my place:

      We are compiling a case to fire someone for grossly falsifying records. We’re getting reports to make sure we’re right, we’re meeting to brainstorm if there could be anything to explain these discrepancies other than downright lying, and we’re working with HR for the inevitable because we really, really don’t think there’s any other answer. She will be let go and excorted from the building that day because there’s no warning or PIP for deceit writ large. So, yeah, firing by surprise does happen.

      1. LizB*

        I know that can happen. His message said “let go”, not “fired”, but people sometimes use those terms interchangeably. I really hope it’s not the case, and hate that I don’t have more information.

        1. Dan*

          “lay off” and “fired” are generally not the same (the former is generally not for cause, and the later generally). “let go” AFAIK is ambiguous.

    3. LizB*

      I just got off the phone with him — they didn’t really give him a reason, just said it wasn’t a good fit. He tried to fish for more of an explanation but didn’t get anything. The bad fit part was true, and he was going to start job-searching soon anyway, but it sucks that they just let him go with no notice.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        It does suck, but if it really was a bad fit, then now he’s free to find something that is a good fit. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for him. Hopefully the right job is out there, wondering where he is!

        1. De Minimis*

          It depends on how long he was there…

          Been let go for “fit” before…in some ways it feels worse than being let go because of something you did. Hope he finds something else soon.

      2. Nina*

        Ugh, the same thing happened to me on a job once. Being told that you’re “not a good fit” is so vague because it could mean anything: your personality, the way you dress, the way you work…there’s really nothing constructive you could take from that phrasing. My sympathies to your boyfriend.

        1. De Minimis*

          I know when I’ve been told that I wanted to say, “Well, I guess you should also be firing the person who interviewed me…”

    4. Wonderlander*

      Ooof, so sorry to hear that. Sending positive thoughts your way! My boyfriend was let go suddenly from his job about this time last year and it ended up being a blessing in disguise, even if we were tight financially. He learned a lot about himself while being unemployed. My point is, don’t let it get you down too much!

      1. LizB*

        Thanks for the positive thoughts and comment, Wonderlander! I’m hoping he ends up in a job that’s a better fit.

        1. Wonderlander*

          He actually got a better job about 9 months after being let go. It pays better, has benefits and he gets close to 30 paid days off if you count vacation days, sick days, and holidays! I’m super jealous. His previous position was at a nonprofit so he looked up their 1099 on Guidestar and he actually makes more now than the executive director at his old job! So point being, sometimes things happen for a reason :)

  9. Lily in NYC*

    I’m updating my resume. I’m an executive assistant but used to be a manager in print journalism. I worked for a national news magazine in production – should I mention that I was the first (and only) woman and first (and only) non-writer to be asked to join their comedy-writing team? I’m not sure if it’s relevant.

  10. Dan*

    My company recently announced that they’re no longer going to do “forced rankings” for annual reviews. They’ve made it clear the pool of raise money isn’t going to change, and they still want to reward high performers.

    That sounds like much ado about nothing.

    But at the same time, I’ve worked at places where if they “had” to place you at the bottom, they’d come up with all sorts of BS to justify it. (How many forced ranking systems will put a guy at the bottom but then give him a review that says “he’s wonderful”?)

    Because reviews are important, it’s a system that I hate seeing abused. I actually want to have a constructive conversation about how to improve, instead of having a political discussion.

    So hopefully this process will feel more fair, even if the raise pool is still the same. I’m new at the company, so I can’t say I’ve been through the old process and can talk to the shortcomings.

    1. danr*

      Take a good look at who they consider ‘high performers’. My old company did this at the end. Oddly, they were all in sales and marketing . The people who did the real work behind the scenes were ignored. There should be a balance between the people who produce the product and the people who sell the product.

  11. Holly*

    Work’s been tough. There’s a lot of moving projects and I may be getting a bit grumpy about it.

    Specifically, we’ve been working our arses off on creating a brand new website for the company, which we were given a deadline of Thanksgiving to do. Meanwhile, as per usual, a bunch of other projects have popped up and refuse to go away, even when we told others it would be difficult to complete this projects while still delivering the website on time. Yesterday, we met with the owner and, in her usual style, she went on a spiel about how she wants a product catalog done and ready for the new website, and wants X project and Y new project, and I think we all left feeling a bit overwhelmed.

    Anyone got any tips for dealing with those feelings on an internal level? Because bringing our boss’ attention to it won’t do any good. The projects aren’t going away or getting delayed no matter what, really.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      When there’s too much to do, I remind myself that I can only do what I can do. I will do it as well as I can, and make sure the boss knows what isn’t getting done, but I have a limit to what I can do. It’s the boss’s job to worry about getting things done that are beyond my limit. If I take on my boss’s worry, then I only make myself less effective, and reduce my own limit a bit.

      1. Bea W*

        This is so important to remember. You can only do what you can do. Be mindful of your work-life balance. I find it too easy to take my laptop home at night and continue working, and I still can’t alwats catch up.

        Sleep. Getting enough sleep makes a difference. So does eating well, exercise, and giving your mind long breaks from work.

  12. Southwest*

    I applied for an internal position about 6 weeks ago. I have had 4 interviews, with the last one being about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been told I’m the front runner for the position, though I’m never one to “count your chickens before they’re hatched.”

    Any tips for staying engaged until I get this or another position. I’ve been on my team for 4 years. Things are not looking good for department (i.e. my manager was told by the hire – ups that they didn’t see our work as necessary), so it’s very hard to stay motivated.

    1. Sascha*

      Remind yourself that you’re doing this for your next position – you want to leave on a good note. I understand though! I’m having a hard time staying motivated myself but trying to think ahead helps.

  13. Jubilance*

    Anyone have experience having recruiters reach out to them a lot via LinkedIn? I want to learn how you’ve accomplished that.

    Backstory: a coworker recently announced his resignation, and he shared that he found this new role via a LinkedIn recruiter. I had a conversation with a different coworker and he also shared that he’s been approached by lots of recruiters but so far none of the positions have been a good fit for him. And finally, a good friend found his “dream job” via a LinkedIn recruiter when he wasn’t even looking, and he’s super happy in his new role.

    I am looking casually, but 90% of my job search is me applying to open positions online. How do I set up my LinkedIn profile so that I can get more hits? Do I need to use more keywords? Should I switch to a different format? Any ideas appreciated!

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I recently got offered a job via a recruiter that contacted me on LinkedIn. He had three or four jobs that needed particular skills that I had listed on my profile, I assume he just searched for the skills and the town I’m from and found my profile.

      I suppose that doesn’t really help much, as I didn’t do anything much to make my profile stand out or know what caught his attention.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      This isn’t going to be very helpful to you but it reminded me of something I noticed the other day:
      I recently changed jobs to a type of position that is currently very in demand in finance. Suddenly I’ve got linkedin requests from all sorts of recruiters. Where were you last year, guys??

    3. chmur*

      I’ve found that updating the Skills section is a great starting point. I got contacted a lot more often after they implemented that feature and I think recruiters search on it.

      I’ve also found that being a member of relevant groups is helpful. I tend to join groups in my industry and geographic location.

      There is probably a lot of advice out there to post and participate in groups, which makes sense. However, I don’t do either and I still get contacted about once a month.

      It helps that I’m in a fairly specialized field and the market for it here is pretty tight.

      Just my experience.

    4. QC*

      I have been contacted pretty consistently over the past 2 years of having a LinkedIn account. I have very specific keywords and job experience listed that funnels the ‘right’ people to look at my account. Typically I get one every 1-2 months (not a lot I know but in my industry there just aren’t a lot of positions) and of those I have only followed up on 2.

      Best of luck!

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      To answer what you asked, I’d say look at job listings for positions that are in your field and take your cues about keywords and such from them. But to answer what you didn’t ask, have you seen the social networking/blogging side of LinkedIn? I have friends who write articles/blog posts about their fields and publish them on LinkedIn, and I’ve started using it for posting links to articles relevant to my work (most of my friends would find that incredibly boring if I posted the link on Facebook anyway). Posting my take on developments in my field along with a relevant link doesn’t take that long, and it’s a good way to give a little boost your visibility and professional reputation.

    6. Nat Fish*

      I’m hoping I can answer your question without pulling back the curtain too much! There are some recruiting firms that have entire teams of people dedicated to finding talent to fit specific roles. These people do boolean searches for specific job titles and skills in order to narrow down the talent pool. So yes, your best best is to add as many relevant keywords as you can: take a look at job descriptions you’re applying to and add those keywords to your profile (as long as you actually possess those skills!).
      Additionally, see if you can connect to people on LinkedIn whose job title says Recruiter or Talent Acquisition. They can be at companies you’re interested in, or with firms in your industry. That will definitely help.

      Hope that was helpful!

    7. RR*

      I am contacted fairly regularly by recruiters through LinkedIn, and my company’s internal recruiters routinely reach out to folks via LinkedIn. What I know from our internal recruiters, and assume is the case for the external recruiters, is that we are searching using some fairly specific technical criteria. I know for my field there are certain standard terms and phrases, and I make sure these are in my profile summary. I would suggest looking at job descriptions and listings for positions you are interested in and see if there are common terms of art you’d want to include in your profile.

    8. Jubilance*

      Thanks for the feedback everyone. I do have keywords in my profile for the type of work I’m looking for – Six Sigma, Six Sigma Black Belt, process improvement, continuous improvement, project management, etc. Should I be more specific? I don’t think I have anything in the Skills section so I will also update that as well.

      1. Anonanom*

        Be specific on the industries/projects you have used those skills on. Project management is a pretty broad term. Project management on a new teapot design electronic software launch? Someone is looking for that odd combo, I assure you. That is where linked in comes in handy.

    9. HR Manager*

      My experience with using LinkedIn for recruiting is that certain industries or types of role do very well on LinkedIn and some do not. You can kind of gauge this by searching on LinkedIn. Does your company have a profile there? Are your competitors there? Do you find a lot of hit for your types of roles? If yes, maybe it’s worthwhile to adjust your profile by making sure you have the right industry terms embedded in your work descriptions. Don’t just use the bare bones profile (i.e., no descriptions beyond titles).

      Try to get endorsements from your co-workers as well, and of course, try to broaden your own network of connections. I wouldn’t overdo it though by just soliciting connections with anyone (there are folks who are serial connectors who only want something from you..). A good start outside your colleagues are any industry groups on LinkedIn. You can network quite a bit in those discussions, even if you aren’t always active. If you happen to be active all the better.

      1. HR Manager*

        Forgot the most important – you should make your profile viewable by those who are 3rd connections or no connection. Believe it or not, a picture (appropriate one of course) also helps.

        1. louise*

          Picture is definitely helpful. Makes it seem like you are using the site, not just on there because you’re supposed to be or something.

    10. Another HR Pro*

      I would recommend you make your profile as complete as possible, updated it periodically, at least once a week go out to LinkedIn and connect with new people and join a few LinkedIn groups that are related to your position, industry, etc.

  14. Ali*

    Another week gone by, and another week of no calls for interviews. Boo. However, I did still have a pretty decent work week:

    -I’ve been working my new schedule for about two weeks now, and I can safely say that it’s less stressful, even when people are taking time off, which will be happening more now since our company does “use it or lose it” for PTO. I feel a lot more sane.

    -I started to think about what I might do if I change careers, and I’m starting to consider working in fitness/wellness. I’m not sure if anyone else is here who does that kind of work, but I know that I would want to teach group exercise and then find another sort of full-time job in the business. I just don’t know what a good FT gig would be right now. However, a community college by me has a program in what’s called “fitness leadership” that sounds interesting and I’m keeping my eye on it. I’ve lost 20 pounds and my part-time job is with a nutrition company, so it’s really peaked my interest as a career idea. If anyone else who works in the industry sees it and wants to talk job options, that’d be great!

  15. Jen RO*

    I need help. As I was suspecting, I got promoted this week. I was doing the lead job unofficially, but now my boss announced it to everyone. I wasn’t really looking for this, but I’m gonna roll with it.

    The problem: one of the guys on my team just… doesn’t seem to use his brain sometimes. Often. Someone makes a decision, everyone else gets it, Guy asks for clarification and still does it wrong.

    The second problem: he is very eager, very helpful, very into getting more responsibilities. He answers all questions even when he’s not asked… and he’s wrong half the time. I don’t trust him to bring me an apple, I’m afraid I’d end up with an orange. This stuff happens on a weekly basis and if he says ‘yes yes, I understand’ and then screws up one more time, I’m gonna snap.

    He is also very eager for my feedback on his performance… what do I say? How do I coach him? And, most importantly, how do I tell if he is just inattentive or he just can’t do more?

    (Background: I’ve been with the company for 4 years, in this team for a few months; I think this is his first job and he’s been here for about 6 months.)

    1. Sascha*

      I’m dealing with a somewhat similar situation work, though I’m not the guy’s manager. My coworker seems to be inattentive and just not “getting it,” it feels like we (the team) have trained him over and over and it’s just not getting through his head.

      So my manager is the one who is talking to him, but was in agreement that he may just have to be put on a PIP and have the consequences of making mistakes and being inattentive really hit him hard. While my coworker is a nice guy – he’s helpful, he’ll do what you ask, he gets along with everyone – I’ve noticed that he doesn’t pay attention to details and gets distracted really easily. It’s been almost 8 months and he should not be making so many mistakes, so he really needs to understand the consequence of not getting it together, somehow, is losing his job. That may be what is needed here. My coworker seems to kind of brush off mistakes, he will say he understands why it was a problem, but then does the same thing over again. I don’t think he gets the impact of what he’s doing (and not doing). Hope this helps!

      1. Jen RO*

        This sounds depressingly familiar. Like Artemesia said below, I really need to get my manager’s support (I don’t have hire/fire authority). He was really impressed with Guy in the beginning, he will probably be disappointed to know he is not performing well….

      2. Angora*

        Question for both of you. Are they taking notes in which they can refer to? I found that sometimes individuals can come across as not retaining things or not paying attention, but they are ones that need to repeat a task a few times in order to retain it.

        They need to be taking notes as they are being trained. I am not of these that cannot learn by watching others, I need to do it myself and write out my own notes if there isn’t a training manual.

        1. Sascha*

          My coworker is taking notes, every time we train or correct him on something, he takes another note. I think we will need to start doing the thing where we have him explain the process back to us.

    2. fposte*

      Oog. Can you meet with him to basically outline what you’ve said to us? “I love that you’re enthusiastic–that’s great. But your accuracy and productivity don’t match your enthusiasm. I see your enthusiasm lead you to answer questions before you’ve fully comprehended them, so the answer isn’t right; I think there may be a similar problem in the rest of your work, where you dive in rather than thinking it through before taking action and as a result aren’t doing work accurately. Can we talk about ways to fix that?” I’m trying to think of steps that might help that don’t make a lot more work for you–I think you might try to have him reflect back a statement of action to you rather than just saying “Yes, I understand,” for instance.

      1. LAI*

        Wow, this sounds like a great answer. I especially like the last part, where you ask him to reflect back what he understands. I work with international college students who sometimes have a limited grasp on English and I use this technique a lot because they will just nod and say they understand when they really don’t. So when I follow up and say “ok, and now what you are going to do when you leave my office?”, then I’ll figure out whether they actually understood or not.

      2. Jillociraptor*

        This is a great.

        I would definitely have him repeat back in his own words what he’s going to do in response to your request, each time you assign him something. If you ask him to bring you an apple, at the end of the conversation you can say, “We talked through a lot — can you walk me through the next steps you’re going to take?” and then you can quickly assess if he’s getting it or if he’s about to go off on a totally different path. Heck, this is helpful even when your staff member typically performs really well: sometimes your message sounds differently than you intended! You can set up this norm in the initial conversation fposte suggested.

      3. Jen RO*

        Thank you! This is exactly what I was looking for – a way to say what I want to say *nicely*. I’m going to talk to him next week and report back.

    3. MaryMary*

      Next time he asks for clarification, and tells you he understands after you explain, have him describe the process he’s going to use to you before he goes ahead and completes the work. Right now, he says he understands, but isn’t doing what you need him to. Next time, make him talk through what he’s going to do. This gives you an opportunity to do some immediate coaching (“no, no, the tree on the left is an orange tree, you need to go to the tree on the right to get an apple”) and will hopefully help you understand where the disconnect is. Maybe he needs more/better/different training, maybe he needs to take better notes, maybe he doesn’t understand the big picture…or maybe this is not the role for him. You need to get a better idea of where things are going wrong before you can tell how much time and effort to invest in fixing the problem.

      1. danr*

        Exactly. I had a similar problem with instructions from my manager. I was constantly going in the wrong direction on some things. When I insisted on instant feedback on instructions and explained why, we figured out where the problem was and solved it.
        It may not be that simple with your employee since he’s new to work, but it should show where the problem is. Whether it’s fixable is another story.

        1. Jen RO*

          Thanks for giving me hope! I really don’t want this to end badly, he’s so enthusiastic that I always feel a bit like I’m kicking a puppy every time I dash his hopes. (Though I admit that sometimes I feel like he’s one of those annoying little doggies you *want* to hurt.)

          [I promise I’m not a psycho, I just have a team of 3 people with only one I can trust to do a good job. And I already felt in over my head before I stated noticing the problems!]

          1. Anon1234*

            I have that guy, too! And it’s so frustrating because everyone loves him even though he’s completely incompetent.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is probably someone who needs firing so your first job is to provide feedback. Since this is a pattern, you need to discuss the pattern — not just ‘I asked for an apple this morning and you assured me you knew what I needed and then brought me an orange. Can you discuss what went wrong here so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again?’ but ‘I have noticed a pattern where you tell me you understand I need to have a macintosh, a jonathan and a delicious apple and yet in each case you brought me citrus fruit. This is a pattern. Why do you think this is happening? —- I need you to get this consistently right; what can you do to correct this?’

      Rinse and repeat adding eventually ‘If you cannot correct this pattern, you will not be able to continue in this job.’

      You are new in authority so you need to be sure YOUR supervisor has your back on this, so a discussion of this pattern with your boss is important with a focus on team productivity and your concern with this employee. I would probably provide the inept employee with feedback first; see if it changes his behavior; if it doesn’t then talk with your boss about the threat to productivity and possible firing.

      But it is a pattern and it is odd that someone asking for feedback hasn’t been getting it. Time to give it and also focus on the pattern not an individual instance.

      1. Jen RO*

        Thank you. My boss is already aware that there are problems, though he is remote and can’t witness them for himself. The other team lead in my location has my back because she has witnessed some of the issues (my guy sometimes gives wrong advice to people on her team).

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      I’ve been there and I’m sorry. It’s not a fun situation to have to give negative feedback to a nice person.

      The first thing to do, if you haven’t already, is address the *pattern* of mistake-making. It sounds like you’ve been correcting him each time you observe a mistake, which is good. But most people have an amazing ability to think of their behavior as one-offs, rather than a pattern that needs to be fixed.

      1. Jen RO*

        This is why I never wanted to manage anyone :( But the alternative is the team going to hell… at least I know I can make a difference.

    6. Frances*

      Are you just giving him the instructions orally, or is it written in email? When I was working with student workers, I found that written instructions usually got me better results because they could refer back to them as they worked (part of this is on me — I give much clearer instructions in writing than in conversation). Someone was talking yesterday on the messy desk post about the different learning styles — maybe he needs to be taking his own notes or processing the instructions he’s given differently but doesn’t realize he should figure out his own system since it’s his first job. Or maybe he thinks once he says he understands he can’t come back and ask follow up questions if he runs into a problem.

      You should probably sit down with him and encourage him to make an honest assessment of why it’s happening, then go from there. If he makes an attempt to figure it out, he may turn it around, if he blows you off, you have your answer about whether he’s worth keeping.

      1. Jen RO*

        Both. Last two batches of instructions he ignored/was confused about happened over email – I also like having something to refer back to, so I insisted everything be in writing.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I was afraid of this, because what I’d want to do there would make more work for you. And that’s make sure the email instructions are in numbered steps, and have him check back step by step for the next process or two. If that’s not enough to get him to completion on individual steps, Artemesia’s surgical approach is probably the only way out.

    7. Observer*

      Next time he says “Yes, yes, I understand” ask him to repeat back to you what he understands. If he asks why, tell him that there have been misunderstandings before, so you want to make sure you are both on the same page.

      Next time he messes up ask him why he did what he did. Hopefully it will help you to understand what’s going on.

      Start making notes of what’s happening. When you have a conversation with him (sooner rather than later), tell him that there is a pattern of these mistakes, and give him a few examples. Ask him what he needs to change the pattern.

      1. Jen RO*

        I’ve started taking notes this week. I hope the examples make an impact – I don’t think he’s taking it too seriously yet.

    8. Jen RO*

      Bonus questions (can you tell I’m anxious about this?)
      1. Would it be odd if I went into the meeting with Guy and had a written-down list of things to say? I will be stressed as hell and I’m afraid I’ll forget something important.

      2. Should I tell him that almost everyone else in our department (~10 people) find him tiring and annoying because of his enthusiasm + cluelessness? I am leaning heavily towards ‘don’t tell’, because it would essentially mean for him to change his personality… Then again, some peeps have started avoiding him because of it and that’s not good either, is it?

      1. BRF*

        1) No, that would seem quite normal to me. I never go into a meeting without notes.

        2) I wouldn’t. Work on the behaviour and try to solve the cluelessness first. If he can fix that, people might be less annoyed by the enthusiasm. If it doesn’t help, you’re going to have to let him go anyway, most likely. If he fixes that cluelessness but the enthusiasm is still testing, you can work on that then.

      2. fposte*

        Not only is it good to have notes, you should have an email followup so he has something to refer to about what was said.

      3. MaryMary*

        1. I don’t think it would be weird at all. Also think about following up your conversation with an email. It gives you a paper trail (so to say) as well as giving him something specific to refer to.

        2. I wouldn’t. Address the performance related issues, don’t spend time on the interpersonal issues.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        If you solve the main problem #2 will dissipate and eventually go away.
        The list is a fine idea, though.

        1. Manager Anonymous*

          Notes are a good idea when meeting with the employee who brings oranges instead of apples.

          Chunking the tasks.
          Big idea – 6 Dozen Apples are needed for the Friends of the Fruit (FOF) Horticultural Meeting, Wednesday October 22nd.
          Steps to achieve big idea- we need 6 dozen of a local varietals apples for Wednesday Horticultural Meeting
          1. Go to Apple Storage
          2. Fill out paperwork for Honeycrisp (if there are no Honeycrisp, you may substitute Jazz but check with me about apple inventory before pulling 6 dozen of another variety)
          3. Date/time of deliverable.

          Review steps. Note where you may have not given all of the information.
          A. oh, yeah before going to Apple Storage, call Mr. Stark and ask when would be a good time to stop by and tell him what we are looking for.
          B. The paperwork form for retrieval is on the Wiki under forms. Here is a copy of one filled out accurately- use the same finance codes.

          Have Guy repeat back the steps. Follow meeting with an email with exactly this.

          Guy succeeds- verbally and in writing give positive feedback
          Guy screws up- document in writing in an email, where he missed the mark. Note that the expectations for the positions is the ability to take direction and deliver accurately and in a timely manner.
          Establish that there is a pattern of behavior by documenting performance.
          Talk to your supervisor about next steps.

  16. Dani X*

    Is there a way to tell someone “don’t bother coming to the interview after all”. A friend of mine is hiring and she sent out an email asking when the person come to the interview and the response back included a line that said they would bring their kid to the interview if that was okay and they would understand if it wasn’t. Bringing the kid is not okay and now my friend is wondering what she is going to do for childcare if she gets the job if she can’t even find someone to watch the kid for an interview. She is wondering how she can easily get out of it now. Not sure if this is important but the job is for a few bucks above minimal wage and pretty labor intensive – you really won’t be able to watch your kid and do your job at the same time. But… it’s also at an animal shelter so I sure people think “oh junior can play with the animals while I work” and but that isn’t acceptable.

    1. Squirrel!*

      Why doesn’t she just say that 1) the woman can’t bring her kid, and 2) that she has concerns about her childcare issue if she can’t even find someone to watch the kid for an interview? She could even mention that it’s a very labor-intensive job, the kid wouldn’t be welcome there during the day to play with the animals, etc. It might save everyone time if the applicant knew about this before the interview.

    2. Sadsack*

      Seems unfair to count her out because she has a child. Why not tell her that there is no place there for her child to wait while she is interviewed, then see how the interview goes and see what is the child care situation?

      1. Bend & Snap*

        It wouldn’t be counting someone out because of a child–it would be counting her out due to poor judgment/lack of professionalism…right?

        1. Sadsack*

          This might sound really crass and judgmental, but I don’t mean for it to be. If the job is just above minimum wage, what level of professional experience is the candidate expected to have? I agree with the poor judgment part, depending on how the matter of bringing the child was phrased, but it still seems wrong to not interview her considering her experience warranted it in the first place. I think if your friend will already be judging the candidate harshly based on that interaction, then maybe it is best to not go forward with the interview.

        2. AMT*

          I would feel the same way about an applicant asking to bring her dog or husband. It demonstrates a lack of that little voice in the back of your head that says, “Wow, is that ever a terrible idea.” You need that little voice if you’re going to hold down a job.

      2. Ezri*

        Agreed – she already like her materials enough to interview her, might as well tell her ‘No’ to the kid and see how she responds. If the candidate really said ‘I’m bringing my kid if that’s okay’, I can see that being a red flag though. There are much better ways to phrase that if she really can’t find an alternative childcare option for that day.

    3. Sascha*

      Ehh…I’d probably still offer some interview times but say it’s not okay to bring her kid, and make it clear the job has a strict “no kids on premises” policy or something like that. The candidate might back out on her own.

    4. Sunflower*

      Tell your friend not to assume that bringing the kid to the interview means she plans to bring her kid to work/not have childcare for the kid. I respect your friend saying it’s not okay to bring the kid to the interview but she is making a lot of assumptions over a simple question. Maybe the interview was last minute and she can’t find child care this late. Also the response asked ‘if it’s okay’. Maybe she can get child care if it’s necessary but she would prefer not too if it’s not necessary.

      Does your friend think this person is qualified for the job? If so, write back ‘I’m sorry but due to the nature of the facilities, we can not have unattended children in the building. Please let me know if you would still like to come in for an interview’ and go from there. And tell her to reconsdier making such large assumptions over a simple question.

      1. Dani X*

        It’s not a last minute interview – Friend told interviewee that she could set the time and date as long as it is within the next 7 days. So it is worrying that she is not willing/able to get childcare for an hour of time that is most convenient to her. If she doesn’t think that getting it is necessary for an interview – when you would want to put your best foot forward, then will she think it is necessary for her job? That is the concern.

        Qualified is kinda a sticky thing – it’s mainly cleaning the animal areas and feeding the animals. It’s something most people would be able to do. So it’s more a matter of finding someone who wants to do it full time (I did it a few times to help out and I really would not want that to be my job) and isn’t going to burn out quickly.

        I don’t think it really is a large assumption – I think it is a pretty basic assumption. I know I have read more then once on this blog that bringing someone with you to an interview is not a good sign.

        1. fposte*

          Interviews and jobs are two different things. Interviews are one-offs; jobs are ongoing.

          I would raise an eyebrow and up my scrutiny of the candidate, but I really wouldn’t pull an interview just over this. The HM should tell her that children can’t be brought along to the interview or the job and go forward from there.

          1. AMT*

            The fact that she had advance notice and the opportunity to choose a time would be a dealbreaker for me, personally. I could be sympathetic to an interviewee who called me the morning of the interview and said, “I’m so sorry, but grandma’s out of town and preschool is closed.” But an interviewee who has the poor judgment and lack of courtesy contained in, “Hey, just FYI, I’m going to bring my kid!” is someone who stands a good chance of creating problems going forward, whether or not she demonstrates this poor judgment in other ways in the interview.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t agree, especially for the kind of job Dani’s describing. I think I would factor it into a decision, but I wouldn’t yank an interview over it.

              1. Stars and violets*

                I would still interview her but I’d be a little concerned, given the nature of the job, that she intends to bring the child with her when she’s doing it, if she gets it.

        2. Anx*

          I think the major issue here is that she might not have any money for childcare now. When you’re looking for a job, in theory, you want to pour everything into every interview or job application. The fact that she may have been looking for other other jobs doesn’t mean she is any less enthusiastic for this one. But maybe she’s already spent money on childcare for past interviews (and gas, a haircut, etc.) and literally has nothing let and no paycheck. Even if the job doesn’t pay very well, it’s still more than 0. Paying for childcare so you can go to work is different from paying for childcare in the hopes that you MAY get a job.

          I do think it’s perfectly reasonable to have reservations about her ability to do the job if professional communication is a huge part of it.

    5. Weasel007*

      Your friend needs to just directly say that she can’t accomodate a child during an interview, and that there is no place or resources to watch a child during the appointment. I can’t believe that anyone would think this is okay…but I’ve seen worse.

    6. Blue_eyes*

      Perhaps the woman can’t pay for childcare right now because she doesn’t have a job, but once she has paychecks coming in she will be able to pay for daycare.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Or the sitter just canceled. It is a really strange request for an applicant to make, so I am guessing this is an unusual situation which is why the applicant isn’t embarrassed to ask. It would be easy enough to do the interview and ask about the childcare arrangements and have the real answer instead of assuming anything. Or just call her now, ask the question, and have the answer. The interview could be canceled then.

      2. Colette*

        Perhaps, but … day care is expensive, and if the job you’re interviewing for is a low-paying one, I’m not sure that you’ll be able to afford childcare.

        (Maybe in the US childcare is cheaper, but here I believe we’re around $35-45/day.)

        1. Dani X*

          This is a low paying job. I am not sure it would be worth taking if you had to pay $45 a day for childcare. Plus weekend work is a must and I am sure it is more expensive on weekends. (yes that was in the ad)

          1. Anx*

            That is not your decision to make, though. What is she supposed to do? Just stay home and raise a child with no income. If she is low-income, perhaps she could maintain employment if she can afford childcare and receive assistance. Employment is a requirement for several forms of assistance.

            1. Colette*

              But the point is that if you’re making $35/day net and you’re paying $35/day in childcare, you’re not actually making money – which means you probably won’t spend the $35/day in childcare and instead try to cobble together other solutions, which won’t be as reliable and will likely make this an ongoing problem for the potential employee and her employer.

              I agree that that’s not the employer’s call, but I do think it’s a reason to be concerned if a candidate can’t get childcare for an interview planned well in advance.

              1. Dani X*

                And that’s the other side of the problem. This isn’t the type of job that if you don’t come in today then the work will just be waiting for you tomorrow. The animals need to be cleaned and fed and if you don’t come in that means everyone else will have to pick up your slack. And it’s a non-profit so everyone is already doing more work on less money so having someone with potential childcare issues is a huge issue.

                I did advise my friend to tell the interviewee that she can’t accommodate children and please let her know when she can do the interview without her child. And with any luck if the interviewee doesn’t have reliable childcare that will be enough for her to say that she can’t go forward. And if she does then my friend will really stress that kids can’t come to work with their parents and see the reaction and work with that.

          2. Zed*

            In my state, a low-income parent who works more than 20 hours a week is eligible for subsidized childcare. In order to even apply for the subsidy, though, you must have been offered a job that will start within 30 days. So, you could easily have trouble arranging childcare for one day but would be able to arrange childcare on a regular basis once employed.

        2. Robin*

          Haha, I pay about twice that, but I live in a relatively wealthy section of a major metropolitan area in the US.

    7. Nerd Girl*

      Was the interview request same day? If it was, I can see where finding childcare on such short notice might be an issue. If it was a request for an interview later in the week, then yeah, I can see that this would be alarming. That’s enough notice to find someone to watch a child.
      To be fair, I have actually brought my kids to an interview after my sitter cancelled 10 minutes before she was supposed to be there. However, I called to reschedule the interview and when I explained why the manager suggested that I come and “bring the kids with you”. She even had crayons and paper ready for them (though I brought several quiet toys for them as well). I would NEVER have brought my kids with me otherwise and even with permission to do so I sat there feeling weird. The manager seemed to enjoy it, and I did end up getting the position.

      1. Dani X*

        Interviewee was told she could pick the day and time of the interview – it just had to be within the next 7 days. So plenty of time to make arrangements.

        1. Nerd Girl*

          I think your friend needs to tell this candidate that she can’t accomodate children during the interview.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Uh… no, but I give the interviewee credit for asking first. If she’s a really good candidate, I would advise your friend to write back and ask if there’s another time the interviewee can come in, sans kid, because the work environment is not a good one for children (or, flat-out, kids aren’t allowed unless they’re visiting/adopting a pet with their families). I wouldn’t necessarily assume the interviewee has overall childcare issues. Start with giving the woman the benefit of the doubt.

                1. Natalie*

                  I just sat through the elastic/inelastic part of Econ this week, and all I could think about was Stringer trying to explain elasticity of demand to his corner boys.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Natalie, my SO teaches economics, and trust that he will be discussing Stringer Bell’s lecture on elasticity to his students!

    9. Artemesia*

      Day care while employed is a different problem than casual day care while searching. I might have some empathy and make it clear that reliable day care will be a necessity for the job.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think that this is about empathy – it’s about recognizing that the applicant is going outside business norms before even being hired. You can have empathy about the difficulty of affording childcare without wanting to hire someone who makes their problems your problems.

        Similarly, you can understand that someone who lives 2 hours away needs a job while still worrying about how often they’ll be late if you hire them.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Regarding business norms, though – Dani X described the job as “a few bucks above minimal wage and pretty labor intensive,” which to me sounds pretty entry-level and/or blue collar. Someone applying for a job shampooing rescue dogs (or similar; that’s a semi-wild guess) may not have the office-type business experience to have learned those norms. If the job was something like “head of advertising” or “director of finances” and an applicant asked to bring their child, I’d consider it much more of a red flag.

          If I were the hiring manager, I’d go into the interview cautious on this front, but if this was the only potential issue I would go ahead with the interview.

          1. Dani X*

            The job is cleaning and feeding the animals. So it is very entry-level and no real chance of moving up. And it is hard – I did it as a volunteer a few times and there is no way you can do this job and keep an eye on kids at the same time.

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              I’m not in any way saying that your friend should allow employees (or interviewees) to bring kids to work – just that in a position like this it might be legit to think of this as a thing that she might need to teach a new employee. As a parallel, sometimes Alison gets letters from people who have college interns who aren’t dressing appropriately for the office environment and need to be told (kindly but firmly) that they have to dress more professionally.

              I think it’s all about the reaction the interviewee has to being told no – does she say something like, “Oh, I wasn’t sure – I definitely won’t do that anymore” or does she push back? Same as if the imaginary college intern seems a bit embarrassed and shows up in khakis from then on (good) or rolls her eyes comes in a week later in a miniskirt and argues that it’s okay because it’s a fancy brand of miniskirt (bad). An employee who doesn’t know everything but is quick & willing to learn can still be a good employee.

            2. INTP*

              But if this woman hasn’t done that job before, she might not realize that you can’t do it while keeping an eye on kids. If she has years of experience in animal shelters and still didn’t know better, maybe that’s a sign of social obliviousness or bad judgment. But assuming not, all she has done is fail to know for certain the norms of the workplace ahead of time. It’s a plus when picking up on norms comes intuitively to candidates, but I don’t think that it should be a complete dealbreaker for an entry level job in an environment that not everyone knows isn’t child-friendly.

          2. Colette*

            Yes, I think caution is a better approach than cancelling the interview, but I often see people here come up with possible reasons why someone brings a child along and respond to concern about the behavior with “have some empathy” – that’s the part I was responding to.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              That was me, and it was in response to someone asking why someone would bring a kid along when picking up an application. You can have empathy AND think something’s a red flag. In this case I would – not that she has a kid and/or childcare issues but that she didn’t seem to realize what an inappropriate question it was. But I’d still give her a chance in the interview, just factoring this in. If there was any indication that childcare would be an ongoing issue, I probably wouldn’t hire her, unfortunately.

              1. Colette*

                It’s not just you – it happens a lot. And, to be clear, I think there is value in saying “maybe she’s dealing with something you aren’t” in general, and in this case specifically. I only have an issue with it when that becomes a reason to expect less of someone, because it penalizes all of the people who are also dealing with things but work hard to avoid burdening others with them.

    10. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This reminds me of this news story from over the summer: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/06/23/shanesha-taylor-arrested-for-leaving-children-in-car-during-job-interview-speaks/

      My inclination would be to go ahead with the interview, telling the applicant that she cannot bring her child to the interview and then during the interview making it clear that employees can’t have their kids around while they’re working. It sounds like this might be a fairly entry-level job – if so, she might be an entirely suitable person for the job even though she’s not familiar with all the professional norms yet.

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

        Yes, I was thinking of this exact story! When I first heard about it I thought it was nuts… but then I read the story and thought – you know, this is a woman trying to do the right thing and made a mistake…. I don’t think this should be an automatic deal breaker to pull the interview. Def requires more of a conversation!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is the first thing I thought of when I read this. At least she did not decide to leave the child in the car while she interviewed, she asked instead.

        My two cents is that she might totally be familiar with work place norms and she may have no other recourse at this moment. She’s applying for a back-breaking and potentially heart-breaking job. Not everyone can do that. If everything else about her seems okay, I’d say talk to her.

    11. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It sounds like this applicant is not very familiar with an office or professional environment, where you generally shouldn’t ask for special treatment or favors unless you’ve developed a level of trust between manager and employee. And I can see why this would be disconcerting, as we’ve all heard the horror stories (most of them from AAM!) about employees who don’t act appropriately in the workplace. But, I agree with the other commenters that your friend shouldn’t read too much into the request, just use it as another data point in addition to the resume and interview, and maybe even ask the applicant about it during the interview if she’s still concerned about it by then.

    12. INTP*

      The woman has given her an easy out – asking her if it’s okay to bring the kid. The interviewer can now say “I’m sorry, but you can’t bring your child because…” (children aren’t allowed in the workplace, for insurance reasons, whatever).

      If the candidate really can’t get childcare, she’s been knocked out of the interview process. If she can get childcare, I think she should still get a chance. She may be low on funds for childcare because she’s unemployed but will not have issues if she gets a job, there may have been an issue with the person who usually watches the child that she didn’t think it was appropriate to get into, etc. I’m not saying that it isn’t a red flag, and I would make sure she knows that it isn’t a child-friendly workplace and be on alert for any other hints of flakiness, but I don’t think asking that is a complete dealbreaker given the workplace and job.

  17. Nerd Girl*

    I’ve been waiting for this all week!
    I am having the worst time with time management this month and wondered if people might share their tips on how they juggle several projects. I am starting to feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I have going on.
    A little background: I work full-time, and will be starting a part-time position next week. I’m a mom to two school-aged kids and am currently the PTO co-chair and a Junior Girl Scout leader in my community. This workload doesn’t normally overwhelm me but right now BOTH of my volunteer activities have me working on big annual events that are significant money-makers for both organizations.
    Both events are taking place within the next six weeks and there is a substantial amount of work involved with them. I have been placed solely in charge of the event for the Girl Scouts and am merely assisting with the PTO event. I know that this is a short term project, but with my regular responsibilities and now with the added part-time position I am feeling very stressed. I know
    that the projects will get done, but does anyone have any tips for managing time or stress so that I can make this a bit easier on myself and my poor family who has to deal with me?
    Thanks!

    1. Ali*

      I had this problem two months ago during a crazy busy time at work. I reached out to a mentor/professional contact who told me how he makes a schedule every day of what needs to be done the next day at work. So basically, it was putting tasks into 1-2 hour time blocks depending on what needed to be done that day. That, and he advised to always expect the unexpected in terms of projects that would come up and needed to be done right away, for example.

      I’m still not great at taking curveballs with a smile, but I adapted his strategy of scheduling my day and it has helped immensely. I don’t feel crazy stressed or unproductive anymore. Things are getting done and I feel like I can actually breathe at the end of a work day and not want to cry.

    2. Robin*

      For the event: Make a to-do list of everything that needs to happen to make it a success. There are templates out there, or see if the last person to organize this has something. Whatever you can delegate to someone else, do it. Everything else, do as soon as possible. There are some things that really will have to wait until the last minute, but you want to make sure those are only the things that had to wait (until you had final numbers for attendees, for example). Give everything timeframes and deadlines, and make sure you are meeting them. Give yourself a cushion, when possible, for last-minute stuff that will inevitably come up.

      For work, do what you can to get ahead now. Focus on staying as organized as possible.

      Make sure you are taking care of yourself: eat, sleep, exercise.

      After you are over the hump, do something nice for yourself.

      Good luck!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Tell the Girl Scout leaders that things have changed and you need more hands. Make a list of jobs that you can delegate. Ask if people will help with these tasks.
      Do the same with the PTO event.

      I know I would struggle with all this if I was working FT and PT. You may want to just take a step back from both activities while you work part time.

    4. krisl*

      Take lots of notes. I have 1 file that has summary level info about what I’m working on. I also have individual files, usually several for each project. One thing that’s important when you have multiple files for a project – be careful labeling them so it’s easy to figure out what’s what!

      For me, taking notes saves a lot of time in the long run.

  18. BridgetteB*

    Has anyone going through a compensation study at work? My company is starting one, and every employee is supposed to submit an updated job description, as in, what we currently do in our jobs. HR is saying that this information will be used to set fair pay and compensation practices, but will not result in either raises/promotions or demotions. This is kind of worrisome to me, as my job has transformed so much over the last 3 years that my bosses have agreed to a promotion. I’m worried that if I submit what I currently do as, under the original position title, HR will just say, “Well that’s what this job is now – no raise/promotion.” Of course I’m going to talk with my bosses about this before I submit anything, but I wanted to get others’ thoughts on this process. Thanks!

    1. PEBCAK*

      In theory, your new responsibilities would be compared to the market rate, and you’d get a raise/promotion. That’s assuming everyone acts in good faith.

      If I were you, I think I’d lay out the basics that you’ve been doing for three years, and then put the new stuff you’ve taken on in a separate section, along with a title common in your industry, and show how your position has evolved.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      We had a compensation study last year and we didn’t know it was happening. All our job descriptions are kept up to date, so we didn’t need to do anything. A few people got little raises, but it was mostly our pay scales that were adjusted. The ceiling on my pay scale was raised, so I have a lot to look forward to, but some found out they already hit their ceiling.
      I’d make sure your job description lists any decision making you need to do, and anything you do that requires special education or skills.

    3. Brett*

      We are in the middle of a compensation study right now following this same idea.
      The study has taken over 12 months to complete. I have no idea this is typical, but realize that your promotion could be completed before the study is ever finished.
      Only major job categories were considered for our study. I am the only employee left in my job classification, and I was ultimately left out of the study completely because it was not worthwhile to establish market rates for one employee.
      What might be most relevant for you though is that the job descriptions were used to match titles to duties so that they could be matched to similar jobs in other organizations. This did not directly result in raises, but rather in changing the pay bands for positions. (This is also why one-off jobs were eliminated from the study. Since a single employee defines the median organization pay, if that employee is below median pay then they would have to get a raise to move the entire band to median market pay.)

      I wrote my job description as if it were being used to hire someone new for my position. The spooky part is that I know the description I wrote has been shared with other organizations, because I have seen it turn up word for word in other job postings.

    4. HR Manager*

      This is a standard step in creating a compensation structure, including a job grading/leveling system and possibly salary ranges.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    How do you deal (or do you even try) with a team member with terrible social skills? My team, in general, is very social and friendly – they get lunch together every day, they hang out outside of work, etc. It’s a very collegial group, and also pretty young (late 20s, early 30s)

    We have a newer employee who is quite a bit older (late 40s/early 50s) and has just terrible social skills. He tries to be funny but ends up making weird jokes that make everyone uncomfortable (not in an EEO kind of way….just weird). He’s just….odd. And he’s trying too hard which makes things even worse. So the team doesn’t like him, which is frustrating him more. They’ve legitimtaely tried – invited him to lunch, etc but he just makes things uncomfortable.

    His work is also not very good, but I’m taking steps to address that.

    So my question is – do I try to help him adjust those things that are making everyone not want to talk to him, or do I just leave them all be? I don’t want to play camp counselor but I hate that there’s someone on the team who’s an outcast.

    1. fposte*

      I think “weird” comes up as more of a problem in the early days when there are few data points giving the person compensatory merits. When you’ve worked with somebody a while, they often become a weird guy, but our weird guy. I also think this is the downside of the very close unit–the person who isn’t in gets framed as a problem. I’d be more inclined to tell the rest of the team to ease up than I would to talk to him, and I’d remind them of his valuable work that they rely on (presuming that there is and they do); people are a lot more appreciative of personal foibles when they’re associating them with stuff that helps their work.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        I like the “they become our weird guy.” I was thinking along the same lines. If the person is an overall nice guy, then I try to find the weirdness endearing.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        ” remind them of his valuable work that they rely on (presuming that there is and they do)”

        There’s not. His work is..not good.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Then it sounds like they may be frustrated with him, and that’s coloring their social interactions with him. Which is perfectly normal, and you can’t make them like him. As long as they’re being civil and pleasant during work-related interactions, I don’t think it’s a manager’s job to get involved…unless one of them comes to you and asks for advice or intervention, in which case it still might not be, but the bar for stepping back would be higher.

        2. fposte*

          Ah. That may be the real problem, then. I still might ask the veterans to ease up on him, but it seems like they may be minimizing the slack they cut him because he’s not that useful. I certainly wouldn’t waste time talking to him about likeability when there are significant work issues.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            OK. I’ll tell them to make sure they’re being nice/professional, but I won’t force them to go to lunch with him. And I’m working on the work issues. Sigh.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I agree, groups will try to put up with some level of weirdness if the person is doing the job. But if he is not pulling is weight, then he is a sitting duck for their banter.

            1. krisl*

              No matter how nice someone is, if they aren’t pulling their weight, I probably won’t be a big fan of the person. Especially if the person’s lack of work is causing me more work or more emergencies.

        3. LD*

          Yes, working on the work issues…how new is this person to the role? Is he also new to the organization as well as the role? Inexperience in the organization or the role may be exacerbating the “weirdness” factor. So he has a weird sense of humor and comes across awkwardly in his interactions with his team; does he seem to recognize that others are uncomfortable or seeing him as very different from the team “norm”? A very collegial team can be unwelcoming to new people or those who are different. Obviously the work quality needs to be addressed and that may help with some of the way the rest of the team view him. It may also be helpful to coach the team on how to better welcome and coach a new employee on the “way we do things here” and how to help that new person get better acclimated. Just something to consider…

      3. INTP*

        Good point about new-ness. Also, after a period of time you have shared experiences to talk about – weird clients, things that happened at work, gossip, etc. But without that, sometimes people just do not have enough in common to enjoy talking to each other. Senses of humor are different, interests may not overlap, etc. I like to think I’m not unlikeably weird but I still sometimes have issues being able to contribute anything at all to small talk with new groups because it tends to center around sports (don’t watch/know/care about them) or local events/restaurants/bars (I don’t go out much, hate concerts, don’t eat the kind of food people here are usually excited about).

    2. danr*

      Your team will have to adjust and stop laughing behind his back. Or, let him wend his own way. If there is a big common area he will probably find his own lunch group. Or, are folks from different departments discouraged from socializing?
      As someone who was never part of a big social group for long, I know that I can work professionally with people that I dislike “hanging out with”.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      Is his “weirdness” age-related? Ie, does he make cultural references to Leave It To Beaver and nobody gets it? Or is he just ‘out there’?

      I don’t know a lot about “Life Coaching” (and I’m not sure it’s even something you’d want to touch WRT this situation), but there’s a fellow I know who had some pretty serious issues with “weirdness” – and at one point his wife set him up with a “Life Coach” – and I ran into him (the “weird” fellow) about a year later and it was like the difference between night and day. I’m nervous even tossing the idea out here because I know so little about it, but I’ve personally seen someone go from “uncomfortable / undesireable” to “smooth”.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        No, he’s just weird. I can’t even come up with examples because they’d make no sense out of context. He’s just uncomfortable weird. Like Michael Scott without the heart of gold.

        I love the idea of a life coach. I’ve thought I could benefit from it myself at times.

        1. Mister Pickle*

          Me too! I once did a round of “personal improvement” therapy and it was well worth the effort.

          The “Life Coach” thing may be way, way past the boundaries of what’s appropriate in the situation you outline above. I just mentioned it because we’ve all dealt with people who are a little bit off. My experience with the fellow who turned himself around made me rather happy – it’s just a single datapoint, but it’s nice to know that, at least sometimes, ‘weirdness’ is not a permanent condition, and sometimes people can move forward.

    4. INTP*

      These social issues don’t sound like something that you can coach, unfortunately. It would be one thing if you could say “Your lack of eye contact makes people uncomfortable” or “people feel that the questions you ask are inappropriate and too personal” or “People feel that you react defensively when approached with a request.” It sounds like he’s just not cool enough for the cool kids, though – and I don’t mean that derisively towards either side, sometimes people just don’t have enough in common to find each other enjoyable to spend time with. You can’t tell him to tell funnier jokes or say things that the others find more normal and entertaining – if he knew how to do that, he’d already be doing it. This is a tough situation because normally people can just not be close with coworkers that they don’t enjoy socially, but it sounds like here everyone is close except for this guy.

      Basically…I do think that you have to just focus on his work output. If he can make things easier for his coworkers by doing his work well, they will probably become a lot more tolerant of him, even if they never wind up hanging outside of work. (And I also agree that you should require everyone to be respectful and civil in the office, but not mandate that they invite him for lunch.)

  20. ForScience!*

    I thought this might be an interesting discussion point. I have volunteered as a test subject for the Ebola vaccine tests that are currently taking place. It’s going to require me to take some time off work (not a lot, a few hours for several days in the coming month), and as it happens we are in the run up to our busiest time of year – we are not normally allowed to book PTO during this period. From a personal ethics standpoint, what do you guys think of volunteering for the study anyway? On the one hand, the Ebola situation is a huge crisis and I feel like I should do anything I can to help. On the other hand, I am actively chosing to do something that will impact on our busy period (though not for personal gain). Thoughts?

    (In my specific situation, I have already resolved this – I have awesome managers, so before signing up I brought it to them to check what they thought. However, if my managers were less awesome I might have wanted to be cagey about it and just say I had some doctor’s appointments. Hence the thought train about the ethics of that!)

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Do it! I always give blood when the Red Cross comes to my work. Yes, it takes time out of my day and I lose that productivity, but I think it’s a net benefit to the world in general :)

    2. Ezri*

      It sounds like your managers are already aware of what you’re doing, so if they don’t mind I can’t see you have anything to worry about from an ethics standpoint. If it was a serious enough detriment to the business, I’d expect one of them to mention it.

      1. ForScience!*

        Yeah, like I said, in my case it’s not an issue because I am comfortable talking to my managers about it and they okayed it. But what about in broader situations? What if they’d said “No way, we can’t lose you even for a few hours, and what if you get Ebola and give it to us all!!” or what if I hadn’t felt comfortable telling them and they’d assumed it was a personal medical situation? I just thought it was an unusual and interesting situation, since it’s a choice but not one that is made for personal gain.

        1. Ezri*

          At that point I’d say it’s a personal call to make – do you feel like participating is hurting your company enough to be a bad idea? It seems like to me you’re making a good call and trying to help with a serious issue, but you might encounter jerks who wouldn’t understand. In that case, if you still felt it was important to do, I’d go with the ‘medical appointment’ reasoning and not make a big deal out of it.

          Of course, if your managers did make a big deal out of your leaving to the point where your job was in jeopardy, then it goes beyond a personal ethics issue and becomes a ‘hill you want to die on’ issue. Ethically, helping out with the Ebola situation generally seems okay to me. Practically, you may find roadblocks.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I think of it as if you were donating part of your liver to a stranger. What you are doing will save lives, and I would be happy taking up my co-worker’s work while they were doing that. . . even during the busy time.
      Oh, and I’m glad you are volunteering! Thank you!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I would do it too. It’s important. Ebola is a horrible disease and if we can find a vaccine for it, it will help a lot of people. It’s much easier to vaccinate people (and educate them about the dangers) when things are calm than to try and do it in the middle of an outbreak. If your bosses are okay with it, then you should be too.

      I give blood too, like HeyNonnyNonny. We have a mobile unit that comes to our office. I’m going to miss this next one because I won’t be here, but I’ll make sure to do it the time after that.

    5. Jen RO*

      Someone was doing an AMA on Reddit yesterday about being a ‘lab rat’ for Ebola tests – the bits I read were pretty interesting.

      1. ForScience!*

        I don’t know yet if I’ll be accepted into the trial. Waiting for blood test results. :) Hopefully it will be very uneventful!

    6. HR Manager*

      Can you ask if they have some flexibility (i.e., unusual hours for that period) that might allow you to still be productive but be very helpful to a worthy cause as well?

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Just make sure you know how much time this will entail. Ask for worst case scenario time frame.

      1. ForScience!*

        Worst case scenario is an immediate anaphylactic reaction to the vaccine that would put me straight in the hospital. It is, however, extremely unlikely – the part of the vaccine that would trigger something like that has been used in several other trials with no problems.

        Medium worst case is a less dramatic reaction, for example pain or irritation around the vaccine site or a lot of flu-like symptoms caused by the immune system reacting that might mean needing to take a sick day. That’s a more likely outcome, but in my case I have a history of taking vaccines well – I don’t tend to get any systemic symptoms and I’ve never had pain or blistering around the injection site.

    8. skyrat*

      I did it for several vaccines with NIH (I was also a medical researcher, so…). I believe in the work that the researchers were doing, and know that without healthy volunteers it wouldn’t move forward, so easy call for me.

  21. PitaChips*

    Anon for this. My horrible, horrible supervisor has had two phone meetings with a consulting firm for a job at another organization, and now has an interview with the firm’s head of the search. How do I know this, you may ask? I’m her assistant and manage her calendar, and she’s foolish enough to put these meetings on her calendar with copies of the emails she received about them. This means she might be leaving – hurrah!!! This Friday is off to an AWESOME start.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I hope she leaves! I am also an assistant and had the opposite thing happen – I loved my former boss and when I was entering his business cards into his contacts I noticed there were a bunch from executive recruiting firms (I don’t think he realized I would recognize the companies). So I knew the end was near and was really bummed. He was such a good boss and his replacement is a nightmare.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Awesome! I had a boss who was being recruited and used to have LOUD conversations with the recruiter and I would do a little glee dance every time I heard the recruiter’s name. Fingers crossed!

      1. Jen RO*

        I had a horrible coworker about a year ago. Every time she took a ‘long lunch’, we all crossed our fingers that her interview was going well. The day she announced she was leaving was the best.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      But if she’s really, truly horrible-to-the-Nth-power – she might have faked all of that stuff just to get your hopes up!

      (Just kidding! I mean, it’s possible, but it seems unlikely she’d go to that much trouble. Here’s hoping her interviews continue to go really really REALLY well!)

    4. Megan*

      That’s awesome, and enough to keep a smile on anyone’s face while dealing with a horrible supervisor. Woot!

  22. Captain Sparkles A Lot*

    I’m in PR/marketing. I started my career at a well known agency, then at a non profit, and now I work in a corporate setting. I’m really at a crossroads as far as my next move is concerned. I like the corporate setting for the most part, but I’m bored to tears about the industry (insurance/healthcare). I enjoyed the agency setting but the pay and instability really got to me. I make a decent living working in a corporate environment, so admittedly, I’m suffering from a little bit of “golden handcuffs” syndrome.

    Has anyone else experienced this?

    1. Kai*

      Not the corporate aspect so much, but the problem of making a decent living while being bored by the subject matter? YES. I am one of those types with a need to be doing something fulfilling and meaningful–if I have the choice (which I know that many people don’t!) it makes a lot more sense to me to spend my working hours on something that’s at least a little bit meaningful personally.

      And in PR/marketing, I think that can be extra difficult, because your whole job is to promote and be an advocate for something that you may not care about at all. It pays the bills, but I’m sure that part of it can be taxing.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Maybe a startup? There’s certainly no boredom there; it’s its own challenge.

        I moved from a long-term agency career into corporate a few years ago and am very happy, but I work for a huge, dynamic company and am not bored in any way.

        I’ve also been able to break out of the traditional “PR” role a little and get new ideas off the ground, which really helps me stay engaged.

        There’s not enough incentive in the world to get me back into an agency, but that’s just my personal POV.

    2. Too early*

      My advice would be to find some causes that you care about and go volunteer for those. I think sometimes people go looking for their passion in their career, when they really need to explore it in their personal lives. This way, you can have a job that pays well and supports your lifestyle, but you still have the opportunity to work on projects relevant to something you care about.

      1. Nerd Girl*

        I said this same thing last night! People have this idea that “do what you love” refers to paying job only. It can be so much more than that.

    3. Renee*

      Yes. I am bored bored bored with my job after moving from a stressful law to administration. However, I make almost as much as I did as an attorney (and will probably make more after the new year), and there is virtually no stress. I occasionally go through spurts of dissatisfaction but then I go to an interview and go home to tell my husband, “they would actually want me to do work — can you believe it?” And then I go back to being relatively satisfied with getting paid to do very little. The kicker is that my boss loves me because I handle things so efficiently, being used to a much more frantic work environment.

    4. cuppa*

      I know how you feel. I took a path in my career because I needed a job and this is what opened up and hired me. I like some aspects of my job but not all of them, and I know that I don’t want to be doing my same job for the next 20 years. I’m just getting to the point of figuring out my next steps, but I ‘m not sure what those should be. Also, I just looked into an opening for what would have been my “dream job” six years ago, and now I would be looking at taking a $16,000 pay cut, so I definitely get the “golden handcuffs”!

  23. Weasel007*

    For the love of all things green and crunchy, what is it with people requesting a meeting at 4pm on Friday? Ugghhhh…..and it is for a project that doesn’t happen until 2015! Two people did this today. They both got a big fat NO. Let me repeat myself: “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part”. Especially when I’ve already worked 65 hours this week. Rant over.

    1. Trixie*

      Friday meetings should pretty much be banned. No one is fresh at the end of the week, and should wrap up the week’s work while prepping for next week. I remember a former coworker used to block out Friday’s on her calendar so she wasn’t available for meetings. I thought that was brilliant.

      1. Anonanom*

        I LITERALLY just walked over to my coworker’s desk and said “Can we ban meetings on Fridays? They just put everyone in a bad mood!”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Is it not normal to have meetings on Friday afternoons? I wouldn’t think twice about scheduling late meetings on a Friday. I just looked at the calendar for my boss and she has meetings until 6:30 tonight.

      1. Ali*

        I guess it depends on the workplace. My old boss used to have our team meetings at 4 p.m. on Fridays. One week, he moved it to 5 p.m. on a Friday and our team was just not energetic. He was the only half-perky one and was asking what was wrong, why did no one seem engaged, etc.? We all just stared at him like he was crazy. And that was the last time he ever moved our call to Fridays at 5…

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I should have mentioned I work with a bunch of overachieving types. It’s rare for any of them to leave before 8pm. And then they still work when they get home! Thank god they don’t like paying me overtime so I leave between 5-6 pm without guilt.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Oh my bleeping god. You know how they say there are no stupid questions? There are stupid questions. And “Why is no one engaged at my 5 PM Friday meeting?” is a stupid question.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Any meeting after 1pm on a Friday and nobody is paying much attention because they’re too busy thinking about 1) the weekend or 2) how much they hate you for scheduling this damned meeting. :)

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            YES. It drives me nuts that I can’t propose a new time from the webmail interface we use! I have to wait until I’m in the office to do it!

      3. AdAgencyChick*

        In my industry it happens all the time, but if the meeting is not about anything urgent, you’d better believe there’s a lot of eye-rolling going on at whoever called the meeting.

      4. Judy*

        Our company has a stated policy of no recurring meetings on Friday afternoon, and suggested no meetings on Friday afternoons. We also have a “summer hours” policy, where we can work more earlier in the week and then take off early on Fridays, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Even without summer hours, I pretty much leave on the dot on Fridays, I’m usually done in.

      5. GeekChick603*

        I think it depends on the department / company culture. Some run late into the evening (Friday or not) while others slow down about 4pm with an idea of starting the weekend early. The biggest issues happen when there’s a disconnect between employees and the culture.

        I wouldn’t schedule a 6pm meeting for my team, we’re on the ‘slow down by 4pm Friday’ side of things. On the other side, I know engineers who wouldn’t think twice about a 6pm meeting any night of the week.

        1. Us, Too*

          Agreed.

          I’ll also point out that if you work with international teams, you really are forced to schedule what most folks think are suboptimal time slots just to get on a phone call. I’m in Texas (CDT), USA and work with colleagues in Sydney, Australia (AEST). There just isn’t any mutually agreeable time that isn’t outside normal business hours for one of these locations. My 4 pm call has my AU colleagues starting their work day at 7 am. Naturally, nobody in the US wants to have a 5 pm conference call as that is typically when normal work days are over. Therefore, we alternate. One day we use 4 pm and the next 5 pm. We’re all equally pissed off that way. It’s bonding. It’s also interesting to hear my colleagues sipping their cups of coffee while we’re all ready to crack open a beer. :)

          1. Parfait*

            This. I hate scheduling meetings on Fridays, but sometimes I have no choice. Due to time zones, there is pretty much exactly one hour of the day when I can schedule something if I need folks from our European team and our west coast USA team to attend. We are all extremely busy and sometimes 8AM Pacific / 5PM their time is booked up for weeks on end for at least one party. I hate doing it but it’s a necessary evil occasionally.

            I would NEVER put a recurring meeting on a Friday. Nevair.

      1. Stars and violets*

        Same for us. Plus beer o’clock starts at 4pm on Fridays. That’s a sort of informal meeting.

    3. Dan*

      At my company, the only acceptable meeting times are between 11am and 2pm, no matter what day of the week. One guy leaves at 2pm, and a bunch of us doing like coming in before 1030.

    4. Us, Too*

      You know, I may be the scrooge here, but while I understand that many people share this sentiment, I simply don’t get it personally.

      I do expect folks to be available at 4 pm on a Friday. Or 9 am on a Monday. Or any other time during our normal business hours. And I expect them to not just attend, but to participate. Because it is their job and that is what we pay them for.

      Also, we began our 2015 planning process several months ago. So it doesn’t strike me as odd at all that during business hours you would be planning for 2015 when it’s less than 4 months away!

      1. Trixie*

        Your good employees will always be available because yes, that’s the job. IME, most folks are just tapped out by Friday. I’m sure I’ve read articles quoting studies that its better to start a new project/topic on Monday after a weekend respite. (Probably read said articles on a Friday which is why I can’t find them now.) More often than not, things can wait.

          1. Us, Too*

            This has nothing to do with the timing of your meeting. This is the result of poor meeting management and can and does happen at any time of day.

            In fact, some of the best (most efficient, productive) meetings I’ve ever had have been hosted on Friday afternoons. Folks are very motivated to not screw around and hurry up to get the work done so they can leave. i.e. someone starts to go off the rails and one of us will interrupt with “hey, let’s parking lot that for some time other than Friday at 4:10 pm”). :)

        1. Us, Too*

          I’d challenge your assumption that “more often than note, things can wait”. This is an organizational culture thing. Some orgs are fine with a slower pace than others. It also depends on your boss/leadership. And the topic, of course. :)

          But I don’t inherently have a problem with the idea of having employees work during business hours when needed.

      2. Judy*

        Our location’s “standard hours” are 7:30-4 with 30 minutes for lunch. Therefore, I’d really not expect someone to call a 4 pm meeting any day. We’re in central timezone, and work a lot with locations in the eastern timezone, and they have standard hours of 8:30-5, which is why ours is skewed earlier. Even if I work later many nights, I usually don’t do that on Fridays, I’m usually out of there right on time.

        I’ve worked several places with “core hours” of 9-3, where flextime requires you to be in the office during those times, but your schedule could be anything from 9-5:30 to 6:30-3 or 5am to 3pm with 1 hour lunch.

        I

    5. HR Manager*

      I was scheduling a candidate recently for a phone screen, and with a wide array of options open, he wanted Friday at 4:30pm. While I won’t disqualify someone for that, I do remember. Always.

      1. Windchime*

        It might have been the only time that the candidate was free from his current job. It’s not always easy for people to step away from work during “normal” business hours.

  24. Cruciatus*

    Does anyone have experience as a contract administrator for software products? I found a job ad that sounds pretty interesting and they will train people, though the duties and requirements posted are things that really could be listed for most administrator/administrative positions out there (in a word, generic). They are an international company and the job ad is pretty appealing to me (those generic duties and requirements are things I do now and am good at). I meet the minimum qualifications, but don’t have the pluses (legal/contract experience, salesforce.com or quickbooks). What might a typical day/week be like. Is it a desk job or might traveling be required (I of course scoured the job ad, website, and sites like glassdoor to see if I could find out more but found nothing for this specific position)? What kind of person is needed for a position like this?

    1. voluptuousfire*

      I’m curious to this as well. I’ve applied for similar positions but I do have Salesforce experience. That usually makes a difference,

      1. dustin*

        My company is hiring for something similar, international software co. A good friend is in that department and it’s very admin intensive. I would like it to being a contracts admin at a law firm. Fantastic experience. Lanyon is our Co name, you can use this name if you apply.

  25. Help!*

    Need Advice: I have been looking for a new job for upwards of 2 years now and finally in the final stages for a new position with a different agency in the local government where I work. The position requires an extensive application and background check process, including the notification of multiple references. My current supervisor and I do not have a good working relationship (for multiple reasons), so I specifically did not use them as a reference for this position, and requested they not be contacted. I did elect to use a former supervisor from the same agency I am currently at, and gave them a heads up.

    Come to find out yesterday, my current supervisor has found out about my potential new job (I suspect new job contacted them in order to verify my employment) and made a point of both telling me this and not so nicely reminding me that I should be responsible and give appropriate notice. I have not been offered this position yet, and would never not give 2 weeks notice. Because of this development the relationship with my supervisor is further degraded and uncomfortable.

    Suggestions on how I can deal with this professionally? Words of encouragement also appreciated.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I would just tell her that. “It’s a background check right now – I haven’t been offered anything at this point and it might not come through. Of course I would give you plenty of notice! Thanks in advance for your support.”

    2. bwds223*

      I’m sorry to hear that–having a rough relationship with your supervisor is no fun. I hope you get the new job!

      Until then, I’d do nothing out of the ordinary in terms of quality of work (not that I’d suspect you would otherwise–but just be more aware of it, so your current supervisor has nothing to pick on you about, if that’s something they’d do). If supervisor makes a comment like “remember to be responsible and give notice” or another ‘friendly’ reminder of something you had already planned to do and gave no reason that you wouldn’t do–remember they may have been burned by someone else in the past. Try not to take it personally, and just positively affirm what they’re saying without any expression of surprise (or one that says, “Oh, I had never even thought to do that!”)

      Continue to be professional–on time, working hard, contributing well. Until you *know* you have the new job, continue your work and your mindset as if you’ll be there for the foreseeable future–and let your words and phrasing emphasize this: “Next year, we’ll adjust how we do this project” vs. “Next year, the leaders may want to adjust how this project is done” –with yourself still as an active agent in the future (adjust as naturally fits how you speak and what makes sense in your job context). **The key is to not mentally disengage** because you want to be working elsewhere (or give your supervisor a reason to consider that you’re disengaging). Actively listening to your own phrasing will help you be aware if you’re doing so subconsciously.

      Key: Remain committed and professional through the end of your employment there. If it helps, try to journal/blog out some of your frustrations with your supervisor or talk with a friend…and check on your work-life balance so you can remain committed and professional. Eat well, make time for loved ones and people who support you, sleep enough, etc. Don’t think about work drama too much.

  26. bridget*

    I’m a new lawyer, and have recently been assigned a secretary. When I asked the HR director what kinds of things I should ask her to do v. do myself, she just said that usually lawyers and secretaries work it out between themselves. The dynamic is weird for me – I’m a female in my 20s, and she could be my mom and has lots of experience in the field. She has a reputation in the firm for being unhelpful or difficult if you get on her bad side, but does her job well if she likes you. So, I want to navigate this relationship carefully. So far we get along fine, but I have only used her for things that are very obviously secretarial, like filing things with the court.

    I want to balance using her as a resource (because if I do it instead of her, the client gets billed for it at a significantly higher rate) and not asking her to do anything that isn’t her job or abusing her help in any way. As an added wrinkle, she also provides secretarial support to 3-4 other attorneys, all of which are senior to me, so I also understand that she may have to prioritize their work over mine.

    What I tentatively plan to do is take her out to lunch or coffee, and see if I can get her thoughts on the subject. I am prone to awkwardness in situations like this, but if it’s a good idea, I want to plow through and act like the professional that I am learning how to be. So – is it a good idea? What sorts of more specific questions should I ask her? For those of you who have been in positions like this before (either mine or hers) do you have any general advice for navigating this?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think it’s ok to tell her that you’re new to having a secretary, and ask her to tell you about her background and what she’s previously done for other lawyers.
      To give you an idea, I worked as a legal secretary in college and I did stuff like prepare correspondence to clients, billing, track down bank accounts for probate purposes, research things, etc.

    2. Marcy*

      Can you ask the other attorneys that she is assigned to what types of work they give her? I think taking her out to lunch/coffee is a good idea just for relationship building purposes, but I’m not sure I’d ask her to define what her job is. Depending on whether she’s a difficult personality, that might lead her to resent future assignments that are objectively appropriate, but that she doesn’t like and might have told you is not a part of her job.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I’m an executive assistant and think you are handling this the right way. Right now, my boss is a woman who is probably 12 years younger than I am and we have a great relationship (but I don’t have a chip on my shoulder about working for young’uns).
      .
      What makes a good boss in my eyes: be respectful of her time; don’t routinely dump last minute stuff on her . If she works overtime, don’t hassle her about her hours. Show up to meetings on time (it’s awful when someone comes in for a meeting and my boss is nowhere to be found). Say thank you, praise her when she does good work. It’s amazing how far “kind words” go. Don’t ask her to do personal work unless it’s part of her job. And most importantly (this is what drives me nuts about our division head) – answer her questions! It can be a huge pain to manage someone’s calendar and when the person won’t respond to emails like “are you going to the 3:30 meeting at city hall” it makes my job that much more difficult.

    4. LD*

      All the responses have great suggestions, and maybe I missed seeing this one, but ask her for her suggestions about things she can do for you, not only about the types of things she has done for others. A good assistant is really valuable and can be so helpful in handling things for you that you might not even recognize. It can be a challenge if she has to prioritize others before you; you may want to talk specifically about whether any of her other bosses have given her guidance on that. Even better, if you can, get clarification with the other lawyers she’ll be supporting. Don’t make it her responsibility to choose between you. I hope you and your assistant work very well together!

    5. anon+in+tejas*

      I would caution expressly about going out to lunch to work it out. I had a similar dynamic when I started practicing and my paralegal had grandkids my age.

      I would suggest having an in person meeting– scheduled. Ask her what she does for other associates, what her strengths are, what she feels comfortable doing. It was hurt me that I tried to be more friendly that authoritative– especially because she didn’t see me as a authoritative, and when I had to be (because her work product had a lot of problems), it was a lot more emotionally tough.

      When I last had a secretary, she handled my filings, file maintenance (organizing, ordering, tabbing), hearing prep (mainly copies, etc.), phone calls, managing my schedule/appointments/hearings/meetings.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Honestly, my first thought would be “take her out to lunch and talk about it”, but the more I ponder it, the more I think anon+in+tejas is correct: this is probably better done as an actual business meeting: you’ll be able to take notes, you won’t have to deal with any awkward pauses or interruptions, you’ll have better control of the ambient noise level, and you’ll avoid a whole array of possible issues that can arise when eating a meal with someone you don’t know well (she might not like the restaurant, she might object to talking business during “her” lunch break, she might have unusual allergies, she might be one of those people who is critical of what other people eat or how they eat it, etc).

    6. Mister Pickle*

      I think asking for her input is a great idea. The only thing I can think to add to the other good suggestions that people have made is, re “prone to awkwardness”: make an effort to spend more time listening to her than talking to her.

      (many of my own ‘awkward’ moments began with me using too many words).

    7. INTP*

      Can’t advise about specific tasks to ask her to do, but I think it would be a great idea to ask for her advice if you come across any occasions where it might be helpful to you. She’s very experienced and engages in power trippy behavior, which tells me she wants to be respected and have influence — this gives you a chance to show that you respect her judgement and respect her as a seasoned professional rather than someone who is just capable of secretarial things. (It doesn’t have to be legal-related, it can be about firm politics or whatever she might know about.)

  27. Southwest*

    It’s been discussed a lot here but I still don’t know how to not take things so personally at work. The older I get, the more sensitive I seem to be.

    I’ve gotten to the point where I can barely stand to be around my team members because I feel like they act like a bunch of mean high school girls.

    Any tips? I’m at a loss.

    1. Nerd Girl*

      My mother has been working in an office for several years and recently started working for a manager 20 years younger than she is. This new manager is very enthusiastic and has a lot of great ideas on how to move the company forward. My mother hates her. She feels like she’s being targeted because of her age and feels like every new idea is a threat to her. She takes everything personally. Recently the company decided to enforce a long standing, but often forgotten dress code. It meant that my mother had to start wearing suit jackets as part of her role. She refers to this manager by hateful names because the email about the dress code came from her.
      I’m not saying this is how things are in your office. For all I know, you might work with the real Regina George. However, my tip would be to look at the things you’re taking personally. Are they really about you or are you making them that way? Sometimes, like my mom has done, we take something we don’t like and turn it into drama when really it’s nothing more than office politics.

    2. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      I’m gonna quote an old AAM post with the advice that has served me best when dealing with ridiculous coworkers (I’ll link it separately below):

      “My sister always advises me, when visiting annoying relatives, to pretend to be one of the many long-suffering characters in Jane Austen novels who have to be pleasant to and patient with irritating relations. It’s remarkably effective; it reframes things in a much more amusing (and bearable) context.”

      Also: Ignore. Don’t participate. Let it roll off your shiny impermeable seal skin. And remember that you get to go home at the end of the day and be without these people.

      1. Ezri*

        The Jane Austen idea is great. I actually just started reading Emma, because I saw some comments about it on a thread last week. :D

    3. Who do I think I am?*

      I hear you, “a bunch of mean high school girls” sounds exhausting to deal with. Are they mean towards you? Towards another colleague? Are they just cliquey and you feel excluded?

      My hope for myself is that I’ll get less sensitive the more experience I get, but I can also see how you’d just get tired of seeing inappropriate behavior from grown people.

      I guess I would say that if you’ve reached the point where you can barely stand your coworkers, try to take some distance. Not by avoiding them, but by recharging somehow when you leave their company. Go somewhere quiet, and refocus your energy on yourself, and what you’re doing there.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      This may seem like an unrelated comment but my suggestion is to invest in yourself. These situations are such a drain. Get something going on in your life- a new thing- that you are excited about and buoys you up. Make sure you are getting enough rest, also. When I am low on sleep my coping tools seem to go away.

  28. BRR*

    My Fiancé is applying for a couple of positions on my field. It’s a fairly niche field where he has some transferable skills but on his resume he listed a couple of additional skills I taught him to make him a more appealing candidate. He also only knows of the field because it’s what I do. If he gets an interview, how should he handle questions regarding where he learned the additional skills? I feel like it would not be great to say I taught him.

    1. BRR*

      Also how to explain how he learned about the field. Is “my SO does it and it seems interesting” a bad answer in terms of learning about a career from a relationship. Obviously he would explain why more eloquently.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Not knowing the skills, how did you teach him? Is there an online course/textbook that you used in part that he could reference?
        Or just, “I pursued these skills during my free time” might be enough and could focus more on his initiative.

        I’d say he should just not mention you at all. It’s like if someone asks why I like watching a TV show– they want to know what I like about it, not who introduced me to it.

        1. BRR*

          They skills are familiarity with online sources that charge a fair amount of money to use and that you would only use being in the industry. It’s possible to read about them in a book but hands on would strengthen his candidacy.

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            I think in that case it would be best to be upfront that you trained him in the hands-on use of the sources. But if he can just focus on what he learned and what skills he has, I can’t imagine it would be a problem. (I’m in the same industry as my husband, and people care more about the work than our relationship, so I think it won’t be a big problem for your fiancé.)

    2. Artemesia*

      “It is something I got interested in so I read up on it and practiced the skill; I am kind of a self starter when it comes to learning new things.”

      1. Artemesia*

        If he has to justify the hands on part — it is ‘A friend of mine does this kind of work and let me practice with the equipment.’

  29. Ann Furthermore*

    So aggravated. Yesterday on a call with some users, a developer and I asked about an extension that we’re working on to accommodate a complex billing requirement. When we started discussing it they said, “Why are you doing that? We don’t need that.” I replied, “Because that’s how you told us it worked.” They backtracked, said they’d have to discuss it and get back to us. I found the email from them that laid it out exactly as I’d explained and forwarded it. Then hung up and banged my head on my desk. Grrr.

    1. Blue_eyes*

      My husband used to work in financial software development and this is pretty much how all calls with the traders went. They would ask for stupid things and then complain when they didn’t work right.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      In software, people don’t always know what they want until they ask for something, get it, and see that it is not what they want. Keep reminding yourself of this. At that point, I usually point out the email, and say something like “Obviously, now that you’ve seen this, it isn’t really what you need after all. What parts are wrong? How should they be instead?” You won’t get the right thing on the next iteration either, but you’ll be closer. (I have the advantage of being salaried, so if it takes them forever to figure it out, I get paid the same.)

        1. Us, Too*

          It’s also why a lot of orgs do agile development and begin with a goal of having a semi-functional prototype asap. Once users see/use something they start to figure out what they really need.

  30. Bend & Snap*

    Following up on my post from last week re: coworker stealing my ideas. Someone else actually called her out on presenting an idea as hers when I wasn’t there.

    “I heard Bend & Snap present that last week. Were you working on that together?”

    Apparently CW was embarrassed and I haven’t heard her do it since.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      How often does that happen? Almost never, very cool ending to that situation! You have a good friend who has your back.

  31. MJ*

    I have a job interview in two hours for a position that seems almost perfect for me. I’m so nervous! I feel like I’ve prepared adequately, but there’s always that part of my brain that worries I’ll trip over my feet on the way to the conference room, or something will fall out of my nose while I’m talking, or my stomach will suddenly growl loudly, or, or, or… I’ll be fine, really.

    Anyway: job interview! Yay!

  32. ThursdaysGeek*

    Arggh, it’s difficult speakin to me work mateys in Pirate when I don’t speak fluent Pirate meself!

    1. Arrrrrrrrrgyle*

      Arrrr, it be hard speakin’ to me work mateys in Pirate when I be too bloody embarrassed to be the only swashbuckler speakin’ it in the office! Talkin’ broken Pirate be a sight better than no Pirate, says I.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      When I was learning to speak pirate I started with the alphabet, but it was confusing as there were 7 C’s

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yarr! Happy TLAP Day, matey! All I could do ta-day was wear me skull and crossbones earrings–me glad rags ain’t suitable fer Pirate Day at the mo. Nobody be participatin’ so I’m sittin’ here by meself workin’ on me spreadsheet. Feels like I’m in the brig!

  33. anja*

    Hi Alison!

    I’ve been reading your website for quite some time and would like some of your opinion/advice:

    How to be professional, or rather, make people perceive you as a professional at work? I work in an MNC but the environment is pretty casual. I felt I’ve been perceive as unprofessional/immature, not in a totally negative way because it helped me to build strong connections with my colleagues and my bosses – they treat me like a “kid”, because I’m the youngest, and have showed me lots of guidance.

    However, I believe that I need to be a professional adult in order to me assign more complicated tasks and be considered for various opportunities.

    This is my first job and i’m just about 6 months into my job as a fresh grad.

    Would really love your advice, and if possible, some advice on dressing. I’m not sure if my dressing also contributes to such perception. I usually wear work pants and shirt, but that didn’t stop them from perceiving me as a kid. Any suggestion would be great.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Dawn*

      It’s because you *are* young. Six months out of college means you are super duper wet behind the ears- just like everyone else was when they were six months out of college!

      Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my professional career so far (10 years out of college right now):
      1- Hone your listening skills. By that I mean listen, listen, listen. Listen to everyone. Really strive to HEAR what people are saying, not just the words they are speaking. Take notes. Go over your notes. Heck, follow up with people after you’ve had a chance to go over your notes.
      The trend I see with fresh grads is seventeen pounds of enthusiasm and about three drops of know-how. How do you get more know-how? You listen (and learn) from people who’ve been there long enough to have it!

      2- Cull stupid phrases from your vocabulary. Don’t say “like” every third word. Don’t add “and stuff like that” to the end of every other sentence. Don’t call your co-workers “dawg” or “homie”. I’ve had elevator trips with individuals and would walk out jaw agape at how they talked about professional stuff- “So like the VP was like, ‘schedule this trip for me’ and I was all like OMG do you know how much work that’s going to be! Like I can’t do all that! I have like, this thing on Saturday I need to go do and like the VP just doesn’t understand!”

      That brings me to #3:
      OK this is going to sound really harsh and draconian and whatnot, but PEOPLE ARE WATCHING YOU. They’re noticing you in the elevator, in the bathroom, in the break room, all the time. You don’t know who’s watching you. It sounds paranoid, I know, but it’s true. Soooo…. basically don’t “break” professional attitude at all anytime you’re within a 500 yard radius of your workplace during the workday. Car cut you off right before your turn into work? Don’t flip them off- it might be someone you work with. Feel like parking in a handicapped spot in the deck because you’re lazy? Don’t- people will see and they will know. Feel like taking a charged emotional phone call outside where people can see your body language out the window? Don’t.
      After you’ve established yourself in the workplace you can ease up on that kinda stuff, but for the first year or so be on your best behavior at all times.

      4- Dress. I’d say look to the managers in your department for how to dress and follow their lead. Make sure your clothes are clean, free of stains and rips, and fit well (not super baggy or super tight). Go easy on makeup, accessories, crazy patterns and colors (including for things like purses and shoes), super high heels, etc etc.

      5- Observe everyone, figure out who is regarded as the smartest and most respected people in the office, and start paying super close attention to how they do things. I learned SO MUCH from my last job just by observing who had the most respect and then trying to figure out why they had that respect.

      6- In all things, be yourself. Cultivate a professional version of yourself, but make it authentic- don’t try to pretend, or lie, or be something you’re not. If you’re upbeat and bubbly, OWN IT. I had been told my whole life I was too loud and boisterous but in my last job my gregariousness (honed with professionalism and appropriate for a work setting) endeared me to a great many people. I have seen countless fakers fall flat on their face once people caught on to how slimy and underhanded they were- eventually liars will be rooted out and will lose all respect anyone ever had for them.

      1. Kai*

        These are great! And I would also say that if you’re young, you’re probably entry-level or close to it, and it may be hard to recognize that the people above you likely have much greater responsibilities and concerns than your development on the job. As a newbie, I know I was guilty of the “how dare he make me do this dumb thing, I’m a college graduate!” internal reaction to certain assignments, and I was also convinced that as a new hire, I must be the number one priority on my boss’s mind. Not true, of course, but it took me a while to figure out.

        Anja, not saying you’re like that at all–but it’s terribly common! Just watch others closely (I love Dawn’s point about emulating the people who seem well-respected) and try to learn as much as you can.

      2. krisl*

        Also, if you have a lot of ideas about things that should be changed, write them down, and then either give them a few months and review them then or wait until something comes up where an idea is perfect for an issue at work.

        New people sometimes have great ideas and also sometimes have ideas that won’t work because of things they haven’t learned yet. I’m an idea person myself, but someone coming up with a bunch of ideas and telling everyone about them all the time gets annoying. You might not be doing this at all.

        I do think ideas are great, but you do want to be cautious before telling people about them. Less is more, usually.

  34. Who do I think I am?*

    Good morning,

    I’ll spare everyone every little detail of what I’ve been dealing with for the past six months since I started my new job, but I’d like to hear what people think generally about dealing with rudeness coming from a supervisor. I know mine knows better, because she is respectful towards her superiors and towards those from whom she needs something. However, in addition to generally being dismissive and contemptuous in subtle ways (neglecting to say please and thank you, for instance) she also constantly talks disparagingly about our colleagues. This is something that I’ve brought to her attention once before, in terms of: “I’m concerned about the talking about our this team member, I think it might be unproductive, etc.” She reacted defensively, with sarcasm, and basically with the accusation that I was out of line and that it was inappropriate for me to “lecture” her.

    I would probably be annoyed too if my subordinate came to me with concerns about my management, but I really think that her negativity, contempt, and lack of respect (flippantly referring to our colleagues as b—-, retard, dumbass) is not only counterproductive but destructive. Frankly, it doesn’t inspire trust or respect for her.

    As the most junior person in this office I have long hesitated to communicate just how hard this has been for me–I wouldn’t tell my colleagues this but I’ve sought professional help for stress management, I’ve started meditating, etc. I have reached the point where I am ready to tell my boss(es) that if I have to choose between this job and my sanity/dignity, the choice for me is clear. I think someone with lower self esteem would have left or had a breakdown a long time ago.

    A few questions for you: For the sake of due diligence do I have to talk directly to my supervisor, who I know from experience will not respond well to criticism? Am I overstepping if I tell our higher level boss that I’ll be gone inside of six months if this person continues to be my direct supervisor? Am I out of line to communicate a concern about basic management and workplace-appropriate language and tone? I know my supervisor sees me as uppity, but my gut tells me that even if I’m the newbie, this is not something that I should have to tolerate.

    Thanks for reading.

    1. Anonsie*

      If I were you, I wouldn’t say anything to her first. While normally my motto would be that you should always try diplomacy first, you have a pretty good set of evidence that doing that will go very badly. After all, you did talk to her about it once, and she reacted by turning it back on you.

      1. Who do I think I am?*

        Thanks, Anon. I think I’ve also spent a lot of energy trying extra hard to take the moral high road because I’m horrified by the idea that I would be thought of as a whiner. I’ve realized that it’s actually really hard to stick up for yourself because you have to put yourself out there and say, “I’m hurting.” I think that’s why when I did confront my supervisor it was about how she was treating a colleague of mine, and not me.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Once my boss called me into her office and she was on the phone with another manager bad mouthing a co-worker. When she was done, I asked is she didn’t do that in front of me, since I work closely with the person they were talking about. She really had no idea she was saying anything bad. She didn’t even remember what she had said 10 seconds before. I guess that is just the way some people communicate.
      And I was on her bad side from then on. So I’d just bottle it up, ignore it, and think about the day when you have a better manager.

      1. Who do I think I am?*

        Ouf, that is depressing. The problem is that I haven’t been able to ignore it. I know on some level that I need to learn how to not let things bother me, but my fighting self can only accept that to a point. I am definitely looking forward to just moving on from her, because I don’t think she will change, but there are other opportunities I can pursue in this office so I’m not ready to write off the organization as a whole.

        I’m still under 30, so I’m sure a lot of people would tell me that I need to just relax and ignore things. Maybe I’ll become more patient with time. But, I also have a pretty heightened sense of right and wrong, and so learning to tolerate what no one should have to tolerate has only worked in very short bursts, a few days at a time, until the next time something upsets me.

        Best case scenario, I can “make it” a year by continuing to ignore this problem, but for what? I have a manager who doesn’t have anything positive to say about me, I feel stifled at work because one person is obnoxious, and I’m always exhausted.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      Well, you already have tried to address it. I would definitely go over her head, but avoid saying you’ll be out in 6 months etc. if no changes because it sounds like a threat.

      I would communicate that it makes the environment a very challenging one in which to work, you wonder how you’re being disparaged when you’re not around as it is definitely a pattern and it’s hard to trust your boss when you see this type of behavior.

      1. Who do I think I am?*

        You’re right, Bend & Snap. Six months feels like a long time under the circumstances but I know I’m just freshly arrived so even if I did make a threat it wouldn’t carry a whole lot of weight.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. I would not threaten to leave but I would be right now today beginning to seriously look for a better position so that if things don’t change — and I suspect they won’t you can move on. It is also possible that when discussing this with higher ups they might know of internal positions where you would not have to deal with this and suggest lateral moves. All this depends a bit on your judgment about those higher ups though. You probably need to be prepared for disaster.

    4. Girl With An Attitude!*

      I’m dealing with the same thing with my supervisor. She is exactly the same way and no one on our floor wants to deal with her anymore. She has been very rude and condescending to me as well. I let her know on several occasions that I will not allow her to treat me poorly or talk to me rudely just because she is my supervisor. We had multiple conversations about this and I have also talked to HR and the COO about her behavior.

      The hard part is she really thinks people should not take her actions or the things she says personally and can’t understand why people have an attitude with her including me. I overheard her telling someone that I do great work but I have an attitude with her. Really???? How am I supposed act? I really don’t understand why supervisors think they can be rude jerks and expect people to just go along with it.

      I personally can’t do it. I stand up for myself because I won’t be the person who has to go out on sick leave or break out in a rash like one of my coworkers because our supervisor is a class A jerk! Sometimes I wish I could play fake and say it is them and not me. I’m sorry if someone is a jerk and treats you rudely that is personal they can say it is not but it is and yet you are expected not to take it personally because it is coming from a supervisor.

      Personally I don’t think you can say you don’t like how she talks about others but I think you can say please do talking negatively about others to me. I think it is totally appropriate to say it makes you uncomfortable to be in any conversations where other people are being referred to negatively.

      But it is a struggle to deal with a negative supervisor who doesn’t get it and when you do stand up for yourself you are the one who has the problem. I struggle with not trying to take rudeness personal all the time but to me it is personal. I refuse to take someone else’s crap! I don’t care who they are. That whole notion of its not you it them doesn’t fly!

      1. Who do I think I am?*

        I can so relate to your comment about standing up because you don’t want to be a casualty of stress. I even spend energy trying to figure out whether I should respond.

        1. Girl With An Attitude!*

          There are times where I just let things go for my own sanity but if it is really bad I say something. People mess with the people they can mess with. I let them know I am not the one to mess with because I won’t take it.

    5. AnonAsAlways*

      We get only one chance at life, and it’s my belief that life is too short to spend it with negative/drama-filled individuals. You can leave the job, or you can change the way you are treated, but you should not ignore bad behavior nor self-medicate to deal with it.
      If you stand your ground, things will change, and I believe they will change for the better, because you are seeking higher ground. If you have trouble standing up for yourself, I’ll say that it comes with age and experience (at last it did for me). But to get by for now, simply imagine your dear beloved _______ (I’ll go with Grandmother) is sitting beside you. Be as outraged by your supervisor’s language/behavior as your grandmother would. Speak up on behalf of all grandmothers! Imagine how this supervisor is when dealing with others in her life. Maybe you challenging how she behaves will start a tidal wave of change in her life and yours for the better. I just know that I’m tired of sitting by while others act like jerks. This is a free country, and I’m free to be treated exactly how I let myself be treated. When the language comes up, maybe say, “I can’t conduct business using that kind of terminology. I’ll leave and let you consider a different way to communicate with me more effectively.” Then follow up and go away. Perhaps to HR to document the inappropriate and verbal abuse. Because that is what it is. It won’t be easy, but you’ll be living out your belief system and I think at is huge. Best of luck to you.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Start looking for a new job. It will take time so don’t worry about how short a stay you may have here. And start reading on toxic bosses. Knowledge is power.

      I call what your boss is doing BS. There’s lots of BS out there. And who knew there were so many varieties and forms? wow. In an ideal world no one should have to tolerate it. But reality is at some point most of us do tolerate it. We need to eat and pay the rent. Some work places have less crap than others.

      For the immediate term, pick your battles. If you don’t, you will totally exhaust yourself or worse.

      1. Who do I think I am?*

        Toxic bosses! Googling…now. I saw a video on haters, and what they said about hater bosses is this: they don’t hate you for who you are now, they hate you for who you’ll be one day.

    7. Mister Pickle*

      Going above your supervisor’s head is one of those things that some companies are okay with – but some are not. And official company policy may not reflect the truth about how such behavior is regarded.

      At random:

      – Yeah, you should probably look for a new job. Some Tough Love: If you encounter similar issues at your new job, you may need to consider that part of the problem is on your side.

      – Are you able to talk to any of your co-workers about your supervisor? (You don’t have to disclose that she’s driving you to professional help). Sometimes just knowing that you’re not alone can help you face the day.

      – Can you find a mentor? Someone you click with, who has more experience at the company, might be a helpful resource in numerous ways.

      – If you decide to go over your supervisor’s head, you need to be very prepared. Don’t threaten to leave. It might be best to lead with “I’m looking for advice on how to work with [supervisor].” Have a list of concrete incidents and issues (“on 20 Sept she called [person] a ‘retard’ in front of the entire department”). Avoid stuff like “she’s respectful to people when she wants something” – my gut feeling is that, if you decide to go this route, your only hope is to present a compelling and impersonal case that your supervisor is unprofessional to the point where she is adversely affecting the business. And even if you can pull that off, it might not do any good (you didn’t know that your supervisor is Godmother to her boss’s son? oops) and you might find yourself the target of retaliation.

  35. Parcae*

    I have a new job which seems to be better in almost every conceivable way than my old job– better pay, more interesting work, supportive boss, etc.– but I just discovered that, just like my old office mate, my new office mate clips her fingernails at her desk. WHY?

          1. Jamie*

            Oh I get IT now…ha…and you know this is why it’s so hard to google stuff for IT because it’s not only one of the worlds most common words but those letters are in everything!

  36. Treena Kravm*

    For folks in non-profits or health/social services–does anyone sit on collaborative or coalition meetings in your community? Are they helpful? What makes them helpful? What are the types of organizations you have/would like to have? What are the challenges and if you have solutions that worked for you, please share!

    1. NJ anon*

      I work at a nonprofit. We belong to several groups. It is extremely helpful to find out how other agencies are handling things like funding, government grants, staffing, etc.

    2. Mimmy*

      I’m not working at the moment, but I sit on a county human services advisory council, and a lot of the members are agency employees, usually management level. NJ Anon (hello fellow NJ resident!) is correct–I’ve seen quite a bit of information sharing at meetings. Plus, a big part of what the council does is review grant proposals for annual county freeholder funding, so that’s another way we see what goes on at the various agencies and how they handle the issues NJ Anon refers to.

      As for recruiting members – Our current members are encouraged to recruit others who might be good members (our by-laws say we have to have a certain percentage of community or consumer members, in addition to the agency personnel on the council.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am kind of involved with a coalition for my county. The collation is focusing on health. It’s not going well. People are so stretched that it is hard to launch anything, no manpower. Additionally, many projects we consider have no funding.
      Because we have a wide diversity of towns (rich/poor, big/little, rural/city) that seems to make matters worse.
      And the logistics. It boggles the brain.
      I was interested in alcohol treatment programs and rape/abuse counseling programs. There are just not enough service providers. There probably never will be.
      I hate to sound like negative Nancy, but this is a lot like banging our heads against the wall. I keep going, because maybe at some point something will click.

      Another group of mine just closed up shop. It was sad. But it was for similar reasons. I talked with a woman in another town who runs a business group. She said that people work all the time, whatever time is left is for family or church. After that people have no energy for anything else. I think she nailed that answer. She felt for a community group to survive there had to be paid leadership, volunteer leaders fade out, paid people keep showing up.

      Not helpful, I am sorry.

  37. LAI*

    I started a new job about 4 months ago. Because we have such a large unit (about 40 people), we are divided into smaller teams, each with their own supervisor. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter which team you are on in terms of workload or projects, but we do have small team meetings occasionally. I recently realized that all of the senior people in my role are on one team, while my team consists almost entirely of new staff (myself included) and support staff. I wouldn’t care that much except I do feel a little bit like I’m missing out on the experience and knowledge that everyone on the other team has. Also, our team currently has 2 positions vacant and a couple of part-time people, so their team is a lot bigger; essentially, their team has 2/3 of the people in my position. It just kind of makes me feel a little left out when we all split up and almost everyone from my role goes in to their team meeting. I’m fairly sure that the reason for this uneven distribution is the person managing my team – I’ve been getting along with her really well and haven’t had any problems but I’ve heard some offhand comments that make me think others don’t really respect her. I’m still new so I definitely feel like there’s nothing I can do. And there’s nothing about this that actually makes it harder for me to do my job or gain experience, because I still have plenty of interaction with the senior staff members outside of these particular meetings. I guess I just don’t want to be left behind and start to be associated with a weaker team… Anyone have any suggestions?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Who decides the teams? Can you talk to that person about mixing up the experience levels within each team? Explain that there are synergies there- when groups are mixed levels of experiences. There is a lot to be said for experience and there is a lot to be said for fresh eyes.

      Key: Focus on how this benefits everyone. It’s okay to use yourself as an example but don’t make it about you. So you could say “For example: I know that I need to be around experienced people and I think that some of my team mates might be thinking this too.”

    2. Mister Pickle*

      I do not know if it really matches your situation, but I have sometimes been involved with projects where there is a group of “senior” people and a smaller group of “non-senior” people, and while the senior group has many meetings and talks a lot, it is the smaller group that actually does the work / gets things done. I’ve found it’s possible to distinguish myself by getting in there and making things happen.

  38. Gwen*

    How would you feel if you and your SO applied for the same job in your very small shared field and they got it over you? (This happened in my friend group recently and spurred a lot of interesting discussion, so I’m curious what the commentariat here thinks!)

    1. AVP*

      A little bummed, but I mean, happy for my SO I guess? It would help if I could see why they got it and I didn’t, and whether or not I’m offered an interview would make a difference too, I think.

      1. Ezri*

        Well… There’d probably be some ‘neener neener’ comments from the one that got the job, followed by an inadvisable suggestion about where to shove that job from the one that didn’t, and then a Hearthstone duel to establish who is alpha for the week. Which is a joke, because the cats are in charge.

        But my marriage is weird.

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      Yowza. I think it depends on the context. It’d be cool to find out that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, if that ended up being the case. Then I would be saved one bad experience. I’d have to have an agreement in advance with my SO if we routinely would be competing for limited jobs in our shared niche.

      1. Elsajeni*

        Ooh, I feel the opposite — I would really not want to hear complaints about that job (assuming in this scenario that I’m job-searching because I’m un- or underemployed, not just looking for a change). “Gee, I’m so sorry you hate that new job of yours, honey. It’s too bad they weren’t able to find AN APPLICANT WHO WOULD HAVE APPRECIATED IT MORE.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I think it would sting a little. But it’s a situation where even if I lost, I still won because my other half got the job. I am framing this based on how my husband was about stuff. If my other half was a gloating fool, that would change my answer.

  39. AVP*

    Do you all think it’s possible to be both a big-picture person and a small-details person? Or is that like someone who says they’re great at both working individually and in a group (i.e., you’re always going to be stronger in one area or the other)?

    1. l*

      I think I am – but, at different times and dependent on the situation. Not at the same time, that’s a little silly, and not efficient.

    2. danr*

      Sure. If you know what the big picture is, you can get the details that make up the picture right. There’s nothing worse than having a person so detail oriented that they don’t realize when they’ve drifted off track. .. Nose to the ground, right over the cliff.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Ditto. I have a very hard time doing a task if I don’t grasp the big picture, but I’m also clued into important details.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        My boss can be this way too. He’s very pedantic and if in the course of trying to solve X by tomorrow, the question of Y comes up, but it isn’t relevant to the resolution of X, he can. not. move past Y until it is answered. He sometimes misses deadlines (the ones that don’t incur penalties), but otherwise, it’s annoying/frustrating because he will wait until the last minute to do his part & then leave us scrambling our tails off to get everything else in on time. On the other hand, his carefulness has caught a few of my mistakes before they were finalized.

        1. Observer*

          This does not sound like my boss. Very detail oriented – but not generally distracted by inconsequentials.

    3. soitgoes*

      I’m both, but I’m also not the most popular person in the office. Having the ability to imagine the progression of any given situation means you have to correct people a lot.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I can go either way also. BUT. If I do not know what I am doing, I suddenly become very detail oriented, as part of learning the process. I have been told I lose my big picture focus when I do that.

      Well, yeah, duh. If I have to go inch by inch through something I am not looking at others things simultaneously. Grrr. I find that type of remark shows a lack of understanding. I do see that certain types of bosses make those comments and other types of bosses don’t. Some bosses understand that if you are totally unfamiliar with something you must stop all other tasks and concentrate on learning the new task.

  40. Noise*

    We are a small office, 5 people in cubes, supervisor in an office. The problem is noise, or rather, one specific noise. We are allowed freedom in tech preferences and one person uses a mechanical switch keyboard. He says that he prefers the feel and can type faster and more acurately with it. Another person hates the noise.

    We don’t have radio or thermostat wars, just this keyboard skirmish. The mechanical person refuses to change to something that will slow him down, the noise sensitive person already uses earbuds and needs at least some awareness of ambient sounds.

    Any suggestions?

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Well, rather than adding radio wars, how about asking if people would like an indoor fountain? The running water might be soothing and just loud enough to smooth out the other ambient noise. I’ve been looking at perhaps getting a small one for my cube, probably set well away from my laptop and docking station. :)

      1. INTP*

        I don’t mean to poo-poo your suggestion – I’m sure it would work well for many people – but wanted to throw in that this might hurt more than help. I’m a noise-sensitive person and adding white or soothing noise on top of another noise just makes it more irritating, since I now have two conflicting noises to deal with.

    2. danr*

      Imagine working in an office with manual typewriters and your job involves a lot of reading and understanding. You learn to ignore the typewriters.

    3. Gene*

      I happen to love my mechanical keyboard. The satisfying audible and tactile click when the keys are hit. No doubt that you’ve actually hit it. SWMBO has a membrane keyboard on her computer and my typing speed is about 60% on hers when I use it. Hates it, I does.

      The only advice I can come up with is to put them as far apart as possible and tell noise hater to suck it up. But I’m biased.

    4. Ezri*

      One of our computers used to have the satisfying-loud-clicky-click keyboards, and I have a love-hate relationship with it. Sometimes it doesn’t bug me, but there were days when DH was furiously responding to reddit and I was trying to do homework that I went wife-zilla over ‘ALL THAT BLOODY NOISE’.

      I’m on the side of saying a loud keyboard is a home-thing, and not an office-thing (because some people are really distracted by certain noises – if you chew with your mouth open near my cube, I hate you with the fire of a thousand suns). But it ultimately depends on culture, I think.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Would something under the keyboard soften the noise a bit? I know if you’re on a hard surface it seems to be louder….just a suggestion?

      I like the fountain idea ThursdaysGeek suggested, though it would probably make me sleepy.

    6. Jamie*

      Is this posted twice – because I replied downthread.

      There are several mechanical keyboards out there with are advertised as quiet – I haven’t used any personally, so maybe he can read reviews and the office can get one to replace the one he has.

      As much as I hate noise, that’s how much I’d hate to change to a keyboard which I didn’t love – so I totally see both sides of this. Although one of the noises I love is the sound of typing – so this wouldn’t bother me – but I get it.

      1. Jamie*

        That was me quoting my own post from below – as meta as it gets. And I just got 25 mechanical keyboards delivered to me the other day (don’t ask) so if I were feeling malicious I could distribute them to the office mates of the noise averse people who’ve been irritating me lately. :)

      2. Shell*

        The noise level of mechanical keyboards are due to the type of switches they have though, so if this particular coworker is married to the feedback of a particular kind of switch, switching to a quieter keyboard might not be the answer. For example, Cherry Blue switches are louder than Cherry Brown (I believe they’re the two most popular types of switches, though there are many others), but Browns have a “bump” whereas Blues have a “click”, and if the coworker likes the feedback of Blues, switching to a different mechanical keyboard that has quieter switches might still affect his performance which was his whole reason for not using a membrane keyboard.

        It’d probably be less drastic of a change than switching to membranes, but if he’s that particular about it… Plus mechanical keyboards are super expensive, so he might not want to buy another one.

        1. Jamie*

          This is interesting – I didn’t know that about the differences in types. And I know they are pricey so if he found one he liked it would be nice if the office bought it for the sake of harmony. He shouldn’t have to go out of pocket.

            1. Gene*

              I will definitely have to look that over, my work keyboard is OK, but not great for feel. Plus I learned to type on a manual typrwriter, so gentle touch isn’t one of my things.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      The now ancient manual type writers with the glass top keys used to have an accessory pad that you put under the typewriter to lessen the sound of the keystrokes. (I know this existed because I have one here. Love antiques.)

      My suggestion is to look for some type of material that you could put under the keyboard and see if that lessens the noise. I am thinking along the lines of a thin foam pad- but am offering that idea as a starting point for considering what types of materials would deaden the sound.

  41. Kevin*

    I’m hoping to get people’s opinions on this. I’m part of the interviewing panel for a position. I found out the hr person who does the phone screens asked what other positions the candidates were applying for. I said how I don’t think it’s any of our business. The hiring manager thinks it helps gauge how badly the candidate wants this position (it’s a mid-career position) by hearing what other positions they’re applying for. What do you all think?

    1. Evan*

      In one phone interview, I was asked once what other positions I’d interviewed with. I was taken aback but answered honestly that I’d interviewed with this one other company and was waiting on a decision. Based on that, they fast-tracked my in-person interview and gave me an offer just before the other company’s deadline. So, yes, it can be a good question for some purposes. But not your coworker’s.

    2. Anonsie*

      Since only a fool would restrict a job hunt to only one company, it seems like an extremely useless data point.

      1. Trixie*

        And nothing can be verified whether you say answer one company or multiples. And if you’re on feet you could spin either answer in a positive manner.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      If they have been on many interviews, it may show the candidate is looking at many options, but it may also show how hard they are being recruited, because they are awesome. The interviewer doesn’t have enough information to make their assumption.

    4. LAI*

      Agreed, you don’t need to know that. How many other positions they’ve applied for doesn’t tell you how badly they want your job — because they can’t know how badly they want your job before they’ve even interviewed for it. Also, most people who are job searching are applying for dozens of jobs, so does your HR person really want to know all of them?

    5. fposte*

      I can stretch my mind to think of situations where it might be relevant (“Have you also applied for our Junior Teapottery position?”), but that’s clearly not what this person is meaning, and I think what the person is meaning is absurd.

    6. Observer*

      I certainly hope this is not typical of the HR person in general, because if it, she’s the wrong person doing the screening. This information tells you nothing about how much she wants a job, and certainly not how much she wants THIS job.

    7. Mints*

      I’ve had them ask this as a follow up to “Why are you interested in Department/Industry?” but I’m pretty young and applying to entry-ish roles, so I assume they’re gauging if I’m interested in this longer term, and applying for similar jobs. I don’t really get it for mid-career, since that’s your clearly your career

    8. INTP*

      It’s normal for recruiters to ask this to figure out where you are in the application process (i.e. are you seriously looking, are you pending an offer, etc) and pick up on whether they need to move quickly to avoid you accepting another offer. Candidates are always free to say that they aren’t comfortable sharing. It’s never been information I bothered sharing with a hiring manager, though, unless the person was on the 2nd or 3rd interview with someone else and I needed to let them know to move quickly.

      I don’t think that using it as a way to gauge how interested they are in your company is a good idea, though. People who are actively job-hunting need to apply widely, not only to the jobs that they want the most.

  42. Manders*

    I have been teetering on the edge of burnout at work for a month or so, and I’d like some tips on snapping out of it. A lot of it has been due to personal issues (a big move, some side projects that took up a lot of mental energy), but there have also been some big changes at work and I have a lot more responsibility than I used to.

    While I have PTO (2 weeks combined vacation and sick leave for the year), I used it up visiting a sick relative, which wasn’t exactly relaxing. I just got back from a vacation I took unpaid, and while it was refreshing at the time, I immediately started worrying about how much money I had spent when I got back. My job’s not really that strenuous, which makes me feel especially guilty about feeling so run down.

    Is this the kind of situation that can be fixed by changing your attitude, or do I need to start taking things off my plate? This is my first professional job out of college, so while I’ve felt overwhelmed by responsibilities before, the problem usually resolved itself at the end of the semester.

    1. Treena Kravm*

      It can take some time to adjust to the non-stop of work life vs. college life with built-in breaks. I would start by taking things off your plate. Let cleaning slide a bit, and don’t overplan your weekends or evenings. Just set aside time to relax.

      1. Manders*

        I didn’t even think of that, but I definitely have been overplanning my weekends. I don’t get to see my friends during the week, so I try to make up for it by cramming everything into the weekend. Thank you!

        1. Treena Kravm*

          When I feel like seeing friends but am stressed/exhausted, I make my friends come to me! Movie night, take-out, baking night. Something really low-key, with yoga pants.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          That is such a good point. You don’t get breaks like you did in school. It really is hard to adjust to every.single.day for like 30 years, minus limited vacations being the same without big breaks. I am well out of college, but I have a couple of younger colleagues who have struggled with exhaustion burnout, and as it turns out, they are just totall wearing themselves out. I really believe that our bodies can’t do at 25 or 26 what they did at 21. You have to slow down a little…I mean, not “grandpa in the recliner” style, but actually using some of your time off to chill. Friends are fun, but it’s not rest. It’s more of a balancing act.

      2. Sunflower*

        I want to second this. It’s weird adjusting to it but I usually only go out one weekend night. I come home on Friday’s and usually make dinner and watch a movie with my roommate. I spent Saturday doing productive things and go out on Saturday night then spend most of Sunday unwinding. Give yourself time to really disconnect from work

      3. krisl*

        Yeah, what Treena said. Let the non-essential stuff slide (maybe not so much at work, but at home). Breath. Take it easy on the weekends. Treat yourself a little.

        One thing I sometimes do with vacations is to take a staycation. I take it easy, read, watch TV, lounge. It’s very relaxing and can really help a person feel more energized when getting back to work.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      How long have you been in this job? It’s really hard to be new somewhere – being new is inherently stressful in some ways, even if the job itself isn’t inherently stressful. This advice might sound pat, and I don’t meant it that way – but it’s what works for me:
      1. Eat properly. Eat nutritious food at least 90% of the time. Don’t drink too much coffee or beer, etc.
      2. Do whatever it takes to get a good night’s sleep. You can google “sleep hygiene” for ideas. At the very least, plan enough time for 8 hours of sleep, go to bed and get up at pretty close to the same time, don’t sleep till noon on the weekends, etc.
      3. Get some sort of exercise every single day, even better if it’s outdoors. Just go for a 20 minute walk after work if that’s all you have time for. You don’t have to do CrossFit, just get some exercise somehow. Try to get some good, solid excercise a few days a week.
      4. Plan something fun that you can look forward to at least twice a month, but make sure it’s not too exhausting (ie, don’t go out clubbing all night)
      5. Eliminate non-essential personal things that aren’t fun, relaxing, etc. Eliminate anything that makes you feel stressed or pressed for time
      6. Get your head out of work when you get home. Whatever that takes – watch something on TV, go for a walk, take a shower, whatever – just shift your day away from work time and into personal time. It makes it feel less like work is taking over your entire life.

      And, by the way, 2 weeks of PTO sucks. You should have no less than twice that. Do you get more after the first year?

      1. Manders*

        I’ve been at this job for about two and a half years. There have been some big changes in the last two months: the person who used to supervise me day-to-day is now working on other projects, and there is a new employee I helped train and now supervise.

        2 weeks of PTO is standard for everyone at this job, and there are no increases. Most of my coworkers take significantly more time than that off unpaid. I could do that too, if I was all right with taking the hit to my budget, but my partner is in grad school right now and his funding is so unpredictable that dipping into my savings to pay for a vacation stresses me out. I do feel guilty for complaining about not having enough PTO, because many of my friends are contractors who don’t get any paid time off at all.

        1. Dan*

          For comparison, I get 4 weeks PTO, accrual begins first week on the job.

          Contractors get a higher rate to compensate for the fact they don’t get paid vacation. Yes, they’re not getting paid while not at work, but while at work, the pay is higher.

          Frankly, your PTO is on the low side. Usually companies used to give 2 weeks vacation + 1 week sick, and the ones that shifted towards PTO went to two weeks.

          I’d say you have every right to feel that your PTO is on the low side, and shouldn’t feel bad about complaining about it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Excellent list!

        One thing I have added to the list for myself is to routinely keep an eye on the finances. Keep looking for ways to save money. Take nothing for granted and leave no stone unturned.
        Some days the best I can do is turn out a light that is not in use. But then there are jackpot days- like the day I refied my house and cut my mortgage by hundreds per month. Just recently, I had a recurring bill that I knew for a fact could not get reduced. I was certain I was stuck with this recurring bill at the current rate. Then a friend told me about what she was doing and I can now reduce that bill by 75%. What I thought was impossible is now doable.

        To offset the worry about money, my suggestion is to just make it a “hobby” of yours to keep looking for ways to reduce expenses. It’s amazing how that can help reduce some stress. I have reduced my household expenses by at least $800 per month. I like thinking of it as a hobby, it’s helped me reframe my concerns and how I handle my concerns. I chose to focus on the expenses that I CAN do something about, the other expenses go to the back burner until a fresh idea comes up.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      I’ve been dealing with this too after a string of long absences from work (dead relative, long business trip, vacation). What helped me was 1) to make sure I was 100% on top of my stuff at work and 2) make 0 social/personal plans for a little while, to rest up and gain control of my personal life (clean house, stocked pantry, etc).

    4. Ezri*

      I completely sympathize with the financial-vacation stress. It’s hard to chill out when you know exactly how much the hotel room costs and how many hours of work that is, and oh man I can’t believe I spent THAT much on food, waaaaaaaah.

      I’ve had to learn to take a deep breath and realize that I’m not just getting a hotel, x meals, gas / plane tickets. I’m getting an opportunity to shut down, relax, and have me time. You can’t put a price on that. :D Besides, once you’ve paid for it, you can’t un-pay for it by worrying.

      I’m sorry to hear about your relative as well. While it’s nice to have PTO to use for those circumstances, handling a family situation is definitely not a vacation.

  43. Stephanie*

    Problem with a co-worker. :( We’re friendly, but he made a comment that offended me two days ago. He told me because I wasn’t wearing lipstick, it was harder to tell if I was smiling and I should smile more/wider. (He said this as I was smiling over a previous comment!)

    I hate this kind of comment. I find it incredibly offensive and sexist. And I tried to say friendly while still pointing out how inappropriate I find those kind of comments. He decided my ire was “funny” and preceded to tell me to smile every time he passed me the rest of the day!

    So I tried to explain in more depth why this sort of comment offends me. “Why do you feel the right to tell someone what to do with their face?” “Is this the sort of comment you would feel comfortable saying to our male co-worker over in sales?” “I deal with men saying this sort of thing to me in public and don’t want to deal with it in the workplace as well.”

    Unfortunately, he’s admitted that because I said it bothers me, he wants to say it MORE. He thinks it’s fun to “rile” me up.

    Yesterday I decided to stop responding. The thought was, if I don’t get riled, he’ll get bored and stop. But instead, now he’s gotten angry. He’s started stomping around the office loudly complaining about how tired he is dealing with people acting like children.

    I don’t want to discuss this with his boss, but feel I may have to. He is HR for our company.

    1. BRR*

      I’d say if he thinks it’s fun maybe his boss would as well and you should both go explain it to the boss.

      HR should know better than making sexist comments like that.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      Frankly, he sounds like a jerkass. If you’ve made your explanation, pointed out why it irritates you (and there is nothing that makes me less likely to smile than someone telling me “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” or something like that), and his reaction was to continue pissing you off because he thinks it’s fun?

      He’s a real-life troll. Ignore him as much as you can. I’d leave it over the weekend and if he continues stomping around like a petulant toddler on Monday, take it to his boss.

      1. Stephanie*

        I think this is a great suggestion. Things always look different following a weekend. I can only cross my fingers that this doesn’t turn out like the issue with my accent. He’s been going strong on the teasing about that for months! But I don’t get overly upset about that usually….

        1. Dawn*

          ANY teasing in the workplace that continues after you’ve politely asked someone not to is inappropriate. Including about your accent. This guy sounds like a grade-a dishpit and you DEFINITELY have footing to go to his boss about it if he doesn’t stop acting like a 3rd grader.

          1. Artemesia*

            And this goes double for the HR guy. Someone in a technical role may not only be less socially adept but also genuinely clueless about the nuances of this kind of sexist behavior. Someone in HR? This is the business he is in. No excuses from ignorance.

            I’d raise it with the boss in the context of how appalled you are that the HR person is harassing people with sexist remarks and teasing after being asked to stop — the HR PERSON.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      UGH GROSS. I hate the “do it for the lulz” immature boy response. As irritating as this is, I guess it’s also evidence that you riled HIM up, since he’s scrambling to find a way to spin his behavior.

      You might try the “asking for advice” tack with your boss, which seems to neutralize situations like this (i.e. you feel less like you’re complaining). In the vein of “how would you handle a situation like this?”

      1. Jillociraptor*

        OH. I forgot: You should read your particular situation because this can go either way, but I’ve found the most effective way to deal with this kind of bratty nonsense is the phrase, “You seem really upset about this.” Mildly inquisitive affect, neutral tone with SLIGHT emphasis on “really,” don’t say anything else.

        It will probably make him stomp his feet more at first but it will call attention to how much of a brat he’s being, and changes the conversation from you trying to accommodate his behavior, to him being conscious of what a weirdly big deal he’s making out of a very simple thing.

        1. Stephanie*

          I LOVE this. Oh I do. I’m not sure it would work with him, as he’s got a habit of really pushing the idea that it’s everyone else being rude/weird/awkward etc. But I still like the phrasing and emphasis.

          1. Arrrrrrrrrgyle*

            Just a workplace vent…you know how in some email software, you get an alert noise when a message comes in? Just as of this week, it’s like a handful of my colleagues turned their alert noises on for the first time. And we’re all in cubicles. Now when department-wide emails go out, it’s PING! PING! PING! PING! PING! PING! I can’t tell who the culprits are because the chimes comes from all directions, so I’m wearing my headphones all day. I guess it’s not as aggravating as people clipping their nails at their desks, but it’s My Thing right now. Gah.

              1. Stephanie*

                Lol. I would make all those pings into my own form of music. Do a little dance whenever it happens. Not really, but I’d consider doing so in my head.

          2. Jillociraptor*

            Ah, I know the type. Actually this works pretty well in many circumstances, because it gives zero additional ammo for someone whose bread and butter is eliciting emotional reactions from others.

            “Jane is being SO RUDE.”
            “I didn’t see that as rude.”

            “Ugh, Wakeen is super awkward.”
            “I didn’t notice that.”

            “Daenerys is always such a jerk to everyone.”
            “That hasn’t been my experience.”

      2. Ezri*

        I’ve had friends who pull this nonsense. Being constantly irritated isn’t fun for me, thanks, but I’m glad it’s such a riot for you.

    4. fposte*

      Yeah, I’m a little thrown by having an HR person who will be deliberately sexist for the joy of riling people up. Another possibility would be to wait until he calms down and say that to him. “Bob, I get you thought it was funny, but your baiting me means I couldn’t rely on you professionally in your role as HR. I’d like to be able to do that in the future. Would you be able to stay professional with me so that I could do that?”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Good one, fposte!
        Stephanie, I think you have the winner right here.
        You asked him to stop making remarks about your make up and your face and he chose not to. The foot-stomping is not much different than any five year old. Stand your ground.

        For a professional this guy is incompetent.

    5. Anonsie*

      What a wad. Something about you already smiling when he said it makes it especially gross, too. I imagine he wouldn’t take it too well if you kept telling him to be more of a grating troglodyte.

      Next time he does it, I would stop and calmly and casually (like you’re talking to a friend who’s doing something kind of annoying) say “Hey Trog, man, you gotta stop doing that, seriously. It’s getting silly.” You have to be upbeat and mellow when you do it otherwise he’s just going to take it as part of this fun game he’s playing where you get annoyed. Then next time, you could ask your boss. “I’ve explained to him five different ways why it’s not appropriate and asked him to stop repeatedly, and he just keeps laughing because he thinks it’s funny that I don’t like it. He’s just intentionally trying to bother me now and he won’t listen to me.”

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        This might not be wise, but I might do it anyway. How about, “when you constantly make comments about my lips, it starts to feel sexual, and I feel very, very uncomfortable with that. Please stop.”. If it happens again, let your boss know that you need to discuss an issue with HR making inappropriate comments about your lips. I’d focus on the lips, not on the smiling thing.

        Why are women the only ones ever told they need to smile?

        1. danr*

          Because they’re not serious people. Men who smile too much are told to stop smiling and be serious. And yes, I hate being told not to smile.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think that’s really right, though. Women get to told to smile incessantly by strangers on the street. It’s a widely acknowledged thing. That doesn’t seem to happen to men. How many times has a stranger on the street told you to smile?

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I am still complaining about women being told to smile, but I think there is hope. Did you know that the Girl Scouts removed “always be cheerful” from the Girl Scout Law several years ago because they said that “some children don’t have a reason to be cheerful, and they shouldn’t have to pretend”. I’m still happy about that.

            2. Artemesia*

              I think it is the same root here. Men are real people; women are here to delight us and nurture us and entertain us — and woman are the universal subordinate. Telling a woman to smile is just letting her know that men are in charge and have a right to direct women. So it is domination but it is also the acknowledgement that women are not ‘serious’ people or autonomous actors.

              1. Windchime*

                Yes. It’s a way to indicate that the primary value of women is to arrange their face in a pleasing manner to the man who is making the request. Her feelings don’t really matter; it’s the feelings of the man who wants her to smile (so *he* will feel better) that matter.

        2. Stephanie*

          Naw, he’s gay. I can’t see this getting much a response from anyone. Maybe a raised eyebrow and a doubtful “Oh really?”

          Thanks for the idea though! I store everything because I doubt this will be the last company I have to deal with sexist comments.

          1. Nerd Girl*

            “Naw, he’s gay. I can’t see this getting much a response from anyone. ”

            You know, this bothers me! What does his sexuality have to do with the fact that he’s making you uncomfortable? He may not intend for his comments to come across as sexual, but if that’s how you felt about them, then that’s legititmate!
            And FYI, I’ve been put in two very uncomfortable working situations with men commenting on my body where I had to get a manager involved. BOTH times were with gay men. In my situations I got the impression that the men in question felt they weren’t held to the same rules as straight men because how could it be considered sexual harrassment when they were gay?

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I quit a job one time because of gross comments from two gay men. It’s certainly did not think they were going to sexually assault me, but they were the owners, they wouldn’t stop, and it made me feel very gross. It was a low-skill, very part-time college job – and I was in a position to quit and find something else easily. I agree not to dismiss discomfort because he’s gay – sexual harassment law doesn’t allow inappropriate comments just because it’s not plausible that the person making them literally wants to have sex with you.

              I will acknowledge that his comments probably aren’t meant sexually – I’m just saying that this is a way to escalate your objections (and I’m still teetering about whether this is wise)

          2. Observer*

            It could still be considered sexual harassment, because it is almost certainly *based* on the fact that you are female. I get that you don’t feel threatened, which is good, but he is being a jerk because you are a woman. Kind of hard to believe from someone in HR.

        3. Anonsie*

          I wouldn’t try to spin it that way in this case. People already try to write off sexual harassment as NBD jokes, I think adding that element to it would make you way more likely to get discounted now… And more likely to get discounted in the future, as they’ll get the impression you read impropriety into everything and/or overreact.

    6. Pontoon Pirate*

      It can be difficult when dealing with “adult-olescents” but try to remind yourself to be the adult in the room; that is, when he complains vaguely about dealing with children, while actually acting like an angry toddler, there’s really nothing you need to say. His behavior is reflecting on him, not you. The key is to be civil, neutral and professional on your end.

      1. Stephanie*

        Neutrality is key! I’m really striving for it today and think I’m pulling it off. Mostly he’s now avoiding me and that’s fine.

    7. Observer*

      I’m going to channel Carolyn Hax:

      “Wow.”

      What I’d like to say – in as public as fashion as his comments is:

      “Refusing to get respond when someone is actively trying to rile me up is childish? Trying to rile someone up is not childish?” And ten have the self control to shut up.

    8. Observer*

      Has he done this to anyone else? If he doesn’t stop it after the weekend, you really do need to bring it to your boss, especially if you are not his first / only target. The thing is that he’s bothering you because of your (perceived) national origin and gender, both of which are protected categories. If it’s not just a one off, and keeps on happening, that’s the kind of harassment employers are legally required to deal with. Now, you may have no intention of suing, but you can’t say that for anyone else.

      This guy is bigoted on several counts, he makes no effort to conceal it, and he has very poor judgement overall.(Deliberately trying to rile up a co-worker? Seriously?!) This sounds like a law suit waiting to happen.

      I think you could go to your boss with something like “IdiotHR has been teasing me pretty heavily for a while about my accent. Last week, he made comments about my lack of lipstick and how I needed to smile more. I explained that I found this inappropriate – so he decided to keep telling me to smile because he knows it riles me up. He actually admitted this. So, I decided to stop responding, since I’m trying to keep the drama down, but now he’s loudly complaining about childish co-workers. I can’t imagine that this doesn’t put us at risk.”

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The fact that he’s in HR means you should deal with this differently than if he were a different coworker. It’s actually a huge problem for the company that someone in HR is doing this. I’d talk to his boss and say, “I’m hugely concerned that when I explained to our HR person that his comments to me were sexist, he thought it was funny and started repeating it constantly through the day, and then got angry when I stopped responding. HR is supposed to be able to handle issues of sexism professionally and objectively, and he’s just shown he doesn’t get that at all. Women watching him handle this are way less likely to go to him with other issues related to sexism in the future.”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yes, this.

        A guy I know with was actually having an issue of being harrassed by a woman there. She would sit on his lap and touch him constantly. He went to HR to the EEO specialists for advice – all of them women. Their response was “Wow! I like her style!”

        Facepalm.

  44. Janis*

    OK, here’s a fun one. Last week we interviewed a woman for a fairly high level position. We had spoken to her on the phone before and were impressed by her resume and poise. I was a little taken aback when she showed up for her interview in sleeveless black dress of some shimmery material, with an extremely dressy necklace and bracelet and long dangly earrings. I didn’t say anything and ushered her in but I sure wondered about it. She was prepped and articulate. After she left and we 3 interviewers were doing the debrief, the man said, “Well…what’s with the little black dress? She looked like she was going to the Kennedy Center.” Well, then the other two of us, both females, burst out laughing because we all thought the same thing! It was so disconcerting.

    I’ve did some searching on this site and read funny posting about people showing up in sweatpants, tank tops and overalls, but never anything about someone looking like they were on their way to the National Opera (BTW, it was 10:00 AM on a Thursday). Independently, over the weekend, all 3 of us asked others if they’d ever encountered this, but no one ever had. People wondered if she couldn’t afford a suit (unlikely), if she’d put on weight and that’s all that fit, or if some well-meaning friend had told her she looked great in it. I also wondered if it was a generational thing because we 3 interviewers are late-40s to mid-50s, while she was in her late 30s.

    Finally I googled “wearing a little black drerss to an interview” and there it was — Money magazine and few fashion sites telling women to “wow” interviewers by wearing little black dresses. Well, she “wowed” us all right, but probably not in the way she wanted!

    Let me say that this will not affect her chances for employment because she did give a good interview. If a man showed up in a dinner jacket we would be equally as flummoxed. Anyone had this experience before?

    1. Jubilance*

      Do you work in an conservative industry like banking or law? If not, then I can understand why this woman went the route she did. There is a lot of new guidance out there saying that women should avoid doing the stuffy/boxy skirt suit for interviews. Or she may be coming from a company/industry where fashion is more important, and was still going by that standard. I know for my last interview, at my current company, I decided to wear a nice dress with a blazer and closed toes heels, instead of a suit. I felt more comfy but I looked professional.

    2. Sascha*

      I have not, but I think I’d probably take Kennedy Center over “just rolled out of bed.” I’ve interviewed too many people who think Casual Friday is okay for interview wear (maybe it is at a trendy start up but not a stodgy university lol).

      I did wear a black dress to an interview once because 1) middle of Texas summer, didn’t want to layer 2) I did not own a suit and didn’t have time to buy one. However it wasn’t like a cocktail LBD – it had sleeves and went to my knees and looked like office wear.

    3. Seal*

      We had someone come interviewing for a upper-level managerial position showed up for a 2 day interview wearing a very low-cut mini dress, 5-inch heels, and goth jewelery. The second day she showed up in cargo pants and black nail polish. Because this woman had an outstanding resume and phone interview, the search committee was stunned. She didn’t get the job mainly due to what was perceived as a severe lack of judgement on her part. Ours is a relatively conservative industry with an unspoken dress code, particularly for upper management. If she thought it was OK to dress like that at in interview, what would she wear to professional conferences and the like?

    4. Trixie*

      This might spotlight where her judgement is. While the LBD is a good base piece, plenty of articles also say to tone down the jewelry, do not go sleeveless unless adding a blazer/sweater/cardigan of some kind, and definitely not shimmery, shiny fabric. And for all those articles encouraging the LBD for interviews, I’m really hoping the comments suggest otherwise.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I agreed. I wear black dresses at work – but with a cardi or blazer, no high heels, and conservative (and sparse) jewelry. And there’s nothing “mini” about them. At. All.

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I used to work with a woman who wore chiffon and satin dresses to work– nothing shimmery or sequin-y, but the material was more cocktail party than work. I would quietly “wtf” her until I got to know her better and realized she was super nice, articulate, intelligent, and experienced. She had degrees most of her team would never have passed the standardized tests for. So all I can say is that it’s most likely a misinterpretation of “Little Black Dress”. Call her back for a second interview and see what she wears. I’m curious– is this a sales position? I’ve worked in sales support my entire career, and I’ve met some women in sales who definitely believe “more is more”.

      For what it’s worth, I have a sleeveless black dress that I think looks really good on me, so I wear it to interviews and client meetings all the time. Always with a cardigan or jacket, mind you, and… it’s definitely not shimmery.

      Also, this reminds me of the scene in last week’s Real Housewives of New Jersey (DON’T JUDGE ME) when Dina went to talk to her lawyer and the lawyer was wearing a red minidress with shoulder cutouts in her office, surrounded by impressive-looking diplomas and certificates. It takes all kinds.

    6. AVP*

      Oh, I had someone do this once – not as fancy as you’re describing, but definitely a little black dress with heels. I gave her a pass because she was very, very new to the workforce and I guessed that it might have been her only “formal” clothing option. Also, she was the best interview I did by far on that round of hiring, and I hired her. A year later she wore it to a very fancy client dinner, where it was actually appropriate.

    7. soitgoes*

      I can’t think of any way to explain this. I feel like even recent grads should have the sense to wear a sweater or a nice jacket over the dress. “Mid-length dress + blazer” is actually in my rotation of interview staples. That woman just sounds out of touch, like she was out of the workforce for a long time and has no idea what people wear to work anymore. Maybe watches too much Mad Men?

      1. Janis*

        She was the 4 Ps: Poised, prepped, punctual and professional. That’s what made it so odd. In answer to a previous poster, no, it’s not a sales job — it’s a manager job with a LOT of client interaction.

        But … man, I can’t believe I didn’t remember this till now … about a million years ago when I was right out of college I applied to be a flight attendent. I had no money and no sophistication and no parental guidance in this area, so I wore my (wince) “prettiest” outfit: A hot pink ruffly blouse and a flower patterned skirt! You’ll have to believe that it was “in” at the time — and would have been okay if I had been going to a hootenanny! I knew immediately I’d made a mistake because I stuck out like a sore PINK thumb when I sat with all the other young women in their suits. I didn’t even want to be a flight attendant because I’m a bit prone to motion sickness. The whole thing was wrong, just wrong. LOL.

        1. soitgoes*

          I think I’m going to have to agree with the commenter who said that women are now being advised to wear LBDs on job interviews. idk, there’s a lot of really bad, conflicting advice out there that’s being directed to recent grads just entering the job market. Everyone thinks they’re dressing for one of those fantasy jobs “in marketing.”

        2. Jean*

          Jamie, this reminds me of the time when Much Younger Jean went to work wearing a nylon navy blue button-down, self-belted shirtwaist dress with nylon stockings and … brown Birkenstock shoes! I slowly realized this wasn’t a reasonable dress-and-shoes combination because one of the other employees–who usually wore her sturdy shoes with the more sensible choice of pants, shirt, and sweater–kept giving me sidelong glances. Thanks for the memory jog. Not quite LOL but definitely worth a rueful smile.

    8. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I’m so curious about this. I’m generally of the opinion that a conservative sleeveless dress is fine for the office, and I’ve definitely seen people dressed like this in DC going to and from their jobs… Can you post a link to a dress that is similar to the one worn? I’m thinking length is important, how sleeveless it was (cap sleeve, wide tank top, narrow tank top?), neckline is important, the actual shininess level of the fabric… which is all to say that there are definitely combinations thereof that I would consider totally appropriate for an interview, and ones that I would not!

      1. Janis*

        Kimberlee: I wouldn’t even know where to find such a link but I’ll describe it: Totally sleeveless, but not tank top style. Knee length. Shimmery or shiny, like a nylon material (i.e., it wasn’t cotton but it wasn’t spandex either). Neckline: Fine, sort of a U-neck with drapey folds (like an open cowl neck). Necklace: constellation of flat black beads that seem to lie against the chest and seem to be in style now. Bracelet: Clackety combo of pearls and rhinestones and black beads and ribbons (OMG, I remember so much!). Earrings: Can’t recall exactly, but sparkly. Black patent leather pumps, no hose.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It sounds like the issue was evening wear vs. professional wear. I’ve noticed sometimes less experienced workers like recent grads will think all formal wear is the same, so if it’s dressy for evening, it must be work-appropriate-dressy too, without realizing that there’s a difference.

          1. Artemesia*

            Yes this. My first thought was ‘this is for after 6 pm wear.’ A tuxedo is ALWAYS inappropriate at 20 am and so is a backless little black dress. Sleeveless is not the issue but the backless, shiny fabric thing and fancy jewelry makes it after 6 attire.

      2. Trixie*

        I think there’s also a line here between appropriate interview wear versus what’s completely acceptable once you’re hired and confirmed this would be acceptable give the office culture.

    9. Career Counselorette*

      I think a lot of fashion magazines also push “day to night” looks, where they’re like, “Here, put a cardigan over this cocktail dress and then after work you can take off the cardigan and put on lipstick and change your shoes! Voila!” Not every dress is amenable to that.

      1. Jean*

        Kat Griffin started her blog Corporette when she got sick of following “wear THIS to the office!” fashion magazine advice only to feel inappropriately dressed in her corporate workplace.

        CapHillStyle is another source of useful advice about office-appropriate clothing.

      2. INTP*

        I once saw a feature in Marie Claire suggesting that you could make a particular $3,000 dress, which had a leather bodice, cutouts around the waist, and several inches of material dragging on the floor, office-friendly by throwing a sweater over it. Of course, the sweater absolutely must be baggy, cropped, and neon.

    10. Tomato_Frog*

      I had a friend who recently interviewed for her first full-time professional job. Her background up until now has been volunteer work and internships and writing gigs and she doesn’t really need a job. I was aghast to find out she’d worn jeans to the interview. The interviewer was wearing jeans, too, so it coulda been worse, but still, it really took me aback. Now, after reading your post, I can sort of imagine her going in the other direction, too, and dressing up like she would for a night on the town.

    11. Mister Pickle*

      I know this uncharitable of me, but I’m reminded of a movie I saw several weeks ago that was called Walk of Shame.

  45. Noise*

    We ahve a noise problem here. Small office, 5 people in cubes, supervisor in an office. We are allowed a lot of freedom in tech preferences and one person uses a mechanical switch keyboard. He says it makes him faster and more accurate. Another person absolutely hates the noise.

    We don’t have radio or thermostat wars, just this keyboard skirmish. The mechanical keyboard user refuses to change to something that will slow him down and the noise sensitive one already uses earbuds but needs to be aware of ambient sounds. Any suggestions?

    1. Jamie*

      There are several mechanical keyboards out there with are advertised as quiet – I haven’t used any personally, so maybe he can read reviews and the office can get one to replace the one he has.

      As much as I hate noise, that’s how much I’d hate to change to a keyboard which I didn’t love – so I totally see both sides of this. Although one of the noises I love is the sound of typing – so this wouldn’t bother me – but I get it.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I really really want a mechanical keyboard BECAUSE of the noise. So awesome. Click click clickety click.

  46. Evan*

    There was a question earlier this week about someone fired because of a blatantly false customer complaint which his manager believed without question. Alison answered that there’s no legal recourse and he should look for a new job. However, I’m still wondering what someone in a position like him should say in an interview when any answer to “were you fired” or “why did you leave” would involve a somewhat implausible story that blames your former employer.

    Not a situation I’m in (thank God), but ideas?

    1. fposte*

      I’ll be interested to hear what others think. My inclination would be to say that I received a customer complaint, and that office policy was to fire based on customer complaints regardless of circumstances, and then shut up. If they want more, I’d give them more, but I think launching into the story is just doom on legs.

      1. LAI*

        Yeah, I think this is tricky. It seems so far-fetched that an employer would fire a employee over one false customer complaint. I think that, if a job candidate told me this during an interview, I would be inclined to think that I wasn’t getting the whole story. I’d wonder if it was actually not a false complaint, if maybe this complaint was just used as the excuse to fire because they were otherwise a poor performer, etc.

        I’d maybe suggest going with something even more vague, like saying that you left your previous employer because they placed a much higher value on customer satisfaction than employee needs, or something like that.

        1. Evan*

          This sounds like the best answer. It’s not a lie, and it doesn’t sound weird. The only problem is the hiring manager calls the previous employer and is told their side of the story… but then OP could use Alison’s old advice about dealing with bad references. Though still, if you were hiring and heard something like that, what would you think?

        2. fposte*

          The problem with that is most companies are going to place a higher value on customer satisfaction than employee needs–they’re there to serve the customer, not the employees.

          I think it’s a question of what risk you run–sounding like you’re leaving something out by being terse, sounding like you’re a drama queen by telling the story, or sounding like you’re badmouthing your employer by signaling it wasn’t your fault. I don’t see a way out of all of them.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Wow, I had been contemplating this same thing since I read the post!
      I came up with:
      “Can you tell me why you left your last job?”
      “Unfortunately I can’t, because I don’t know why they let me go. I was a great employee, I had great reviews and never had any problems. I really valued my position at the company. But if you have any concerns, please give them a call and ask them why I was let go. Then let me know what they say, because I would like to know too.”

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        hmmm….that sounds kind of snippy. You don’t want your next employer to think that you’ve got a chip on your shoulder. I might wonder if the applicant wasn’t tuned in enough to know what happened. Even though what you’re suggesting here is true, it pulls the new employer into the drama, and they are not going to like that.

      2. Evan*

        I don’t think that’d work. They’d say you were fired for a huge violation of the security policy which was reported by a customer, and that they did tell you as much. Then, the hiring manager, who has no reason yet to disbelieve your old employer, will just think you were lying to him.

    3. Dan*

      Honestly, I might just go with “laid off.”

      After I got laid off, one interviewer said to me “the nice thing about getting laid off is you don’t have to answer uncomfortable questions about why you no longer have a job.” Then she moved on.

      That didn’t stop some jerk from going to great lengths to try and get me to say something negative about myself to justify my layoffs.

      Yes, there’s a difference between telling a layoff and a firing. But the line is very fine — many companies won’t outright fire people, but they’ll wait for the business climate to take a dive and get rid of the people they didn’t have the balls to fire and call it a layoff.

      But in the OP’s case, he can’t tell the truth without looking like he has serious issues. If I were an employer, I would probably pass before trying to get to the bottom of it.

      Or, in the call center, you could tell less of a lie — admit you’re fired, but claim it was for your metrics not being good enough (like your average call times were too long, and you had a tough time getting high customer satisfaction scores in the permitted period.)

    4. soitgoes*

      I would say something along the lines of “A powerful client happened to not like me, so I was let go in the interest of keeping her business.”

  47. Mints*

    I saw this article that might be of interest around here. It’s about this book Black and White Styles in Conflict by Thomas Kochman, and here’s an excerpt:

    Kochman’s book sensitized me to middle class whites’ tendency to ask personal questions without first considering whether they have a right to know the personal details of someone else’s life. When we ask someone what they do for a living for example, we are also asking for at least partial information on their income, their status in the class hierarchy and their perceived importance in the world. Unbidden, that question can be quite an invasion. The presumption that one is entitled to such information is rarely made explicit, but that doesn’t prevent it from forcing other people to make a painful choice: Disclose something they want to keep secret or flatly refuse to answer (which oddly enough usually makes them, rather than the questioner, look rude).

    It’s interesting to think about the information you feel owed to, and how that can influence interactions with strangers or new acquaintances.

    1. bwds223*

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing… I’d like to read more about this! Could you post the link for where this paragraph is from?

      I had not thought about how asking what someone does for a living would also be asking about their class/importance/status, but it makes sense. I’m curious–does it contrast this with what “middle class blacks’ tendency” is, or is this more of a middle class question asked by both?

    2. Jamie*

      This is interesting – I’m so touchy about what I consider personal questions and I’ve always considered asking people what they do as an innocuous icebreaker. It makes sense that it might not be for others – although I wonder if it’s more a class than race issue.

      Although, when you think about it this could also extend to where you live, or where you grew up, I guess anything could be a personal question really if it’s something you don’t want to talk about.

      Do they suggest alternatives for when you meet new people? Part of meeting someone new is trying to find common ground to find topics of mutual interest. As stranger interaction can be awkward for some people it would be great to have alternatives to this as it’s a go-to for almost everyone I know.

      1. Mints*

        Yeah, I spaced on the link (it’s in moderation now)
        The author uses this:

        Instead my line is “So how do you spend your time?”. Some people (particularly middle class white people) choose to answer that question in the bog standard way by describing their job. But other people choose to tell me about the compelling novel they are reading, what they enjoy about being a parent, the medical treatment they are getting for their bad back, whatever. Any of those answers flow just as smoothly from the signification in a way they wouldn’t from a direct question about their vocation.

        I haven’t read the book (it’s on my ever growing to-read list) but I think l think it’s both class and race; it’s probably a good example of intersectionality. While I’m not black, it reminds me of interactions with people from countries much more left leaning than the US. Someone’s job is a lot less important in day to day interactions. My family from Latin America is an example, and I’ve heard Russians do this too. But other cultures are more prying about other things, so I guess everything just varies.

        1. Janis*

          Bog standard way? I’ve looked and looked at that sentence and I don’t know if it’s a typo or a description I’ve never heard before. I’ve thinking of the bog people in northern Europe.

          1. Jamie*

            don’t want to link and cause work for Alison with moderation so

            bog standard

            (idiomatic) Especially plain, ordinary, or unremarkable; having no special, excess or unusual features; plain vanilla

            She drives a bog standard economy car.

            if you Google it you can find the etymology.

          2. The IT Manager*

            I have only see “bog standard” here on the AAM forums. I guessed the context, but also gueesed the person using it is not speaking American English.

        2. Kai*

          I’ve also heard/read that sometimes people are bothered by this question because their work is not particularly pleasant or challenging (in a good way), just something that lets them get by, and they don’t want to be identified solely by how they make a living. Which makes total sense, but I’m with Jamie that not being able to ask the question can make small talk/getting to know someone rather difficult. I like the author’s alternative question, though.

          1. Mints*

            I think, generally, it’s more of a white-collar thing to be really defined by work, and white collar people forget this more easily. I’m struggling to explain it because there are so many factors and interpersonal things that affect it. But if I’m in a white collar situation, like anything related to my job, or a friend’s job, or alumni, it’s a natural opener to ask about work.
            But I’m also accustomed to other social situations, like meeting my mom’s church friends, where there are more likely to be adults who never passed middle school and are planning to stay in retail or food service indefinitely. I don’t ask about their jobs unless they bring it up first, if then. I don’t think it’s offensive, usually; it just limits the conversation unnecessarily when you’re trying to get to know someone new.

            And generally, it’s about openness when meeting new people. It’s like the difference between “Are you going skiing this Christmas?” vs “Have any fun plans for the holidays?” It’s good to not have any pre-answered questions

        3. INTP*

          I actually find this question far more obnoxious than “What do you do for a living?” I don’t really care to reveal that I prefer to to very little with my free time and feel like I’m often judged for not being cool/interesting/exciting enough. Maybe some of it is in my head, but so is some of the judgment about jobs that people who hate that question feel. That’s probably why a lot of white people are giving him the “bog standard” response, because they are accustomed to being judged by their hobbies and don’t actually want to answer the question that he’s asking.

          I get that “What do you do for a living?” as an icebreaker is disproportionately disadvantageous towards certain groups of people. I don’t think that his alternative is any better, though, and I actually can’t think of any sort of question that would not make someone uncomfortable and force them to give information that they don’t want to give. I also don’t think that people ask this question through a sense of entitlement to others’ personal information, any more than you’d ask any generic icebreaker question (and they’d all be equally awkward to refuse to respond to). If you’re meeting someone new, it’s rude to act completely disinterested in anything about them, and you have to ask SOMETHING, even if you don’t care at all about the answer.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        “what field are you in”, maybe? So you’re getting a general sense of what kind of thing they might be interested in, but you’re not getting any information about where they are in the hierarchy. Still not perfect, but better…

        1. Jamie*

          Wouldn’t the next question almost always be a follow up, though? I mean if I ask you that and you say ‘manufacturing’ or ‘IT’ I’m going to be interested and ask a follow up to see where we’ve got common ground. Because I’m kind of awkward at this stuff and common ground to me is like tossing me a social life preserver.

          It’s not like I talk to strangers all that much, so it probably won’t come up for me, but I will keep this in mind as I wouldn’t want to inadvertently offend anyone – but isn’t the point of small talk and mingling with strangers to get to know each other? If the reticence is because of negative judgement, it’s the problem more people who look down on others of different socioeconomic groups than the groups we’re all in?

          We all have an income bracket, we can all talk to people make more or less than we do. Live neighborhoods with more or less affluence. Have jobs with more or less status. I totally get not having to disclose that to strangers, but it will also be an obstacle to getting to know someone. And people take in information about each other all the time, and make judgements based on that information. Human nature. Not all judgements are negative – some as positive, some are neutral. If it’s personal because, as stated, it can be indicative of income, status in class hierarchy, and perceived importance in the world people categorize each other on those things, mostly subconsciously I would think, based on a myriad of other factors like how they present themselves, speech patterns, mannerisms, etc.

          I find this interesting, but I’m struggling to understand it.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            “I’m going to be interested and ask a follow up to see where we’ve got common ground.”

            Yes, me too for some fields! But you could lead into that by volunteering whatever you want to about what you do. “Oh, I’m in manufacturing too! I’m overseeing the development of new spout materials for our new range of Star Wars-themed teapots” – and then it’s completely up to them how they respond – whether they pick up on your role, the materials, the theme, or the bean dip.

            For fields I know nothing about, I’d probably say something like “oh, I don’t know much about that, but it sounds like an interesting thing to work on. How did you get into that?” – or something like that – which again lets the other person decide if they want to go with their interests or their education or their career path or whatever. Again, not perfect, and maybe other readers have better suggestions.

            If their field’s deathly boring, you can just change the subject :)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Tangentially, my father always said you never ask someone how big their yard/land is. He felt it was on a par with asking how much money they had in the bank. To what degree someone has invested in real estate is no one else’s business, unless the property holder volunteers that information.

  48. BillyQ*

    I have an interview next week at a nonprofit research organization. All of my past interviews have been pretty short and casual, usually just meeting with my future supervisor. This is going to be an all-day affair, with several half-hour one-on-ones, an hour-long seminar presentation, group lunch, and a panel interview.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for surviving the day? How do I keep track of what I’ve already told whom, and make my answers to the same questions keep sounding fresh? What do I do when I run out of my own questions after the sixth person?

    If you can’t tell, I’m nervous!