open thread – September 26, 2014

Lucy upside downIt’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.

{ 997 comments… read them below }

  1. ME*

    Semi awkward situation-

    I am fairly new to my organization and have been working out of college for just over 2 years (just under 5 months at new job). We are all quite busy but I don’t think I am as busy as my team is. I meant to say, everyone seems to be putting in tons of hours. While my responsibilities have been increasing, I don’t feel the same pressure as my team does. I think this is because previous to this I was in a very stressful environment and was working ridiculous hours for a dysfunctional management team. My new organization is very well managed and has great systems that make my job less manual and more streamlined so frankly, I think we have it pretty good.

    My point is, I have been taking my laptop home with me even though I don’t have the intention of working later that day just for the sake of appearance. I am overtime eligible but I am able to get all my work done just fine within the standard work week. I don’t know what to say or do when my team talks about their stress. My days are getting much busier and I am still learning quite a bit. I have lots of projects to manage at once and there are more coming. Regardless, nothing will ever compare to the chaos that I came from in my last job.

    Anyone else every feel this way in a group? How did you feel/respond/think? I feel like just staying very quiet and wear headphones all day. I don’t want to say something that will make anyone question my work ethic.

    1. fposte*

      Team that you supervise or team that you’re on? If it’s the team that you’re on, it may just be a cultural thing to make stress noises, or you may just be better at the job. If it’s a team that you supervise, it sounds like it’s time to see whether there are ways you can help them be less stressed.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Don’t worry about appearing mega busy like everyone else. They have a different t workload than you do and that’s normal. As long as your work is done and you’re not slacking don’t worry about it.

      I used to feel like that at my old job. I would stay later (I was exempt) because everyone else was always leaving after 5 even though I had no need to. My boss noticed and told me to go home, don’t worry about it, your work is done for the day.

    3. Becca*

      I feel like I could have written this word for word. Sometimes I finish my work so quickly I feel like I have to look busy. My supervisor even told me the only critique she may have would be to slow down but I have no idea what that means. I’m used to my last job where everything was rushed.

      No advice, just wanted to say I’m in the same boat.

      1. ME*

        Ughh!! it’s frustrating. I have gotten that same feedback before. At the time it meant to slow down and check my work. I started reviewing my work more and have minimized mistakes that way. Even so, I am not putting in more than 45 hours a week. Not that I want to put more in! Between work and other priorities, I could not stand going back to 60+ hr weeks.

      2. attornaut*

        Maybe by “slow down” she means that you could take some time to proof-read, or double check, or maybe consult some general resources to improve quality? I don’t know why your supervisor wouldn’t just tell you those things, but maybe she is catching small errors that aren’t really a big deal by themselves but might be caught if you ‘slowed down’ in that sense.

      3. Jolie*

        “Slow down” is a critique often given when the supervisor thinks that the work should take you longer if it’s being done correctly/thoroughly. It’s possible they’re wrong and you are just so efficient you’re able to do correct work in a shorter amount of time than expected. But to be on the safe side, you might want to defer to their experience. You could do what ME suggested above and double-check your work after it’s finished, or better yet ask your supervisor to check it (or even just a sample) to be sure it’s done the way she wants it. This advice is especially applicable to people in new jobs. You don’t know what you don’t know, so you end up making mistakes without even realizing it.

        Anecdote time: I once had a whip-smart, efficient, fast-learning intern who I ended up loving, but she was frustrating to train because on each new task, she’d take what she had learned from previous tasks and try to anticipate next steps before I articulated them. And she often got it wrong by rushing ahead of me. That’s when I told her to “slow down.”

        1. JB*

          I agree. It could be that you’re just better at handling stress. It could be that you don’t yet have as much responsibility as your other coworkers, so you don’t yet have as much to be stressed about. Or it could be that your work product could stand to improve. It’s probably the first one, but the possibility that it could be the last one is one to consider (because shouldn’t we all always be thinking about whether we could improve?).

          I’ve had an intern in the past who I would tell to slow down and spend more time on her work because she was making a lot of small grammar mistakes. And sometimes she would turn in drafts that didn’t have many grammar mistakes, but they just wasn’t well written. When I told her she needed to spend more time on her work to make it better, she basically said that she always read her work over a few times before she turned it in, and it was already the best she could make it. She couldn’t see any mistakes or any way that it needed improving. But . . . it needed improving. It was a problem that she couldn’t see that it needed improving, but it was an even bigger problem that once I told her it needed work, she wasn’t interested in seeing if I was right or in learning how to improve. I think wherever she works, she will always think her work is fine, and any attempts to tell her to slow down will be met with “but my work is fine, so why do I need to?” And my coworkers have had similar experiences with interns in the past. This type of intern is always someone who has done well academically in the past, and I don’t know if never having to struggle to learn or get good grades has something to do with it?

          Anyway, this probably isn’t your situation. But if your manager is telling to slow down, I’d go back to manager to find out why exactly. There may be a reason that you want to know about.

          [And I think that generally, anyone who is *always* much faster than their predecessors in any job they have ever had is in an industry that routinely hires incompetent employees, or is underemployed and could take on more challenging jobs, or is producing work that is not actually that great.]

    4. Anjum*

      If I were you, I would worry about not appearing as busy to the manager, and about getting some resentment from the team as they catch on that you aren’t as stressed as them. note that i said stressed, not busy; it could depend on the culture, like fposte writes here.

      Maybe you can find out what others are working on and if there’s something you should be doing that you aren’t. and if you’re willing to work a little more to help the others, find out if there’s some initiative or project that you can help on to alleviate the work.

    5. Megan*

      I’m kind of in the same situation at my work. I’ve been taking the time to organize my desk, create training documentation for my replacement, and pretty much look busy. My predecessor was always backlogged. It’s hard to tell others that you’re sailing along when they’re … not.
      One suggestion is to quietly see if there are any coworkers who could use some help – though I’m not in a project-based field, so I’m not sure how that would work at your organization.

    6. soitgoes*

      Some people get really good at creating a whole lot of activity around their work processes to make sure others notice that they’re working. Don’t let that make you feel insecure. Also, I recently started feeling some stress at my job (six months in) even though my responsibilities haven’t really increased. The only difference is that now I’m running a social media campaign (doing the work AND reporting information, instead of just doing the work). The stress is from having to talk to my boss and answer for my results every single day. You wouldn’t think it would be stressful, but it is. When your coworkers talk about stress, see if you can pinpoint any other reasons for it. It’s not always about the sheer volume of a workload.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        “Some people get really good at creating a whole lot of activity around their work processes to make sure others notice that they’re working.”

        One co-worker has phrased this as, “Some people use a lot more ‘jazz hands’ than others do,” so now when I see anyone working really hard to create a high profile around their work processes, the Bugs Bunny theme song springs to mind:

        Overture, curtains, lights,
        This is it, the night of nights
        No more rehearsing and nursing a part
        We know every part by heart . . .

        1. Windchime*

          Love the “Jazz hands” comment. Years ago, I worked with two ladies; Kristie and Sandra. Both were responsible for processing big error reports that were printed on green-bar paper. Kristie was the “jazz hands” lady; she would make copies, shuffle papers around noisy, highlight with blue! pink! yellow!, staple and unstaple and constantly be noisily running figures on her adding machine. She could never get her report to balance and was always flustered and upset.

          Sandra would draw a quiet line through each item as she processed it. She would make small batches and always balanced and got through her work twice as fast (and way more quietly) than Kristie, who was busy making jazz hands and all the rest of the fancy flourishes.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Anyway, the point of my above comment, that I forgot to get to, is that I used to feel insecure about what I was doing when I would see a coworker creating a high profile around her work like this. I finally realized that I do just as much as they do, but I prefer to do my job quietly and in the background. They do tend to attract the notice of a wider range of coworkers, but my feeling as that, as long as I have a good rapport with my boss about what I’m doing, I don’t need the broader notice.

        1. C Average*

          Agree with this. I recently read a book called “Invisibles” that profiled people who have relatively important jobs that are completely invisible to almost everyone. The research found that these people were very intrinsically motivated and had excellent work ethics.

          My takeaway from this is that I want to be this kind of person. I don’t care to toot my own horn about how busy I am or how complicated and stressful my work is. I want to DO my work and leave the marketing to the marketing team.

          Maybe I’m naive, but I like to believe that like-minded people will continue to notice and respect my work, as they’ve done in the past.

      3. Artemesia*

        In my experience many of the people who fuss about ‘being so busy’ and work long hours are very inefficient slackers who net surf, ding around, fluff about looking ‘busy’, get coffee, go for a smoke, fuss about looking busy etc etc and then work long hours — perhaps because they have no life or are avoiding toddler duty at home. (oh Fred can’t do much at home he is just so busy with work)

        I remember my daughter in college working on the school paper being chided one night by the Editor that she had left at 7 while ‘poor Sylvia worked till 1 am getting the paper laid out.’ My daughter had laid out 6 pages; Sylvia laid out 2.

        Managing impressions is important so it is worth being careful to not look less productive — but I’d be focusing on ways to draw attention to your accomplishments not your ‘busyness.’

        1. Windchime*

          The person I knew who was “so busy” constantly was always very disorganized. She had a strong work ethic, but she was always forgetful, couldn’t keep track of anything and was just scattered and flustered all the time.

    7. Malissa*

      I have a theory that some people are just inherently more efficient/quicker at tasks than others. I have often come into positions where my predecessor was always backlogged and cleaned everything up in a time frame that amazes people. I’ve had replacements that still wonder how I got everything done.
      I’ve been in situations where I’m utterly amazed at the rate something can happen. Different people will have different speeds at different tasks. If you really are excelling, ask a coworker or two if they have something they can hand off to you to fill your time. Or go sit with a coworker that can train you on new processes.

    8. Mister Pickle*

      I think you’re basically doing everything correct right now. Sure, take the laptop home, let people think what they want to think. If anyone asks why you aren’t stressed out, just tell ’em (more or less) what you wrote above: “I’ve worked in extremely stressful environments before and have learned how to cope with it”.

    9. Juni*

      I find myself in this situation often, especially now that I have many coworkers in their 20’s (and I am in my 30’s). What I found is that their work-life lines are fuzzier than mine. They might spend 15 minutes of every hour dicking around online, and then have two hours worth of work to take home with them at the end of the day. I am rarely doing other things at work, so it’s easy for me to get everything done in the eight hours I have. Younger coworkers who are connected during work hours take work home. I don’t think our VP cares, as long as we’re all salaried and the work gets done, but the blurred line between work time and social time may be hurting your coworker’s ability to get everything done within the confines of the 8-hour work day.

      1. Phyllis*

        That reminds me of when I went back to college (at age 44) one of the younger students told me “You old ladies make it hard for us young girls.” I asked what she meant, and she said, “We still like to go out and have fun, all you older ones do is study.” I told her, “Us older ladies have learned how to prioritize our time. We get our work done, then go have fun.” What brought this on was, we had a paper due on a Monday, and the instructor made it clear that if it wasn’t turned in that day, it was an automatic F. I did mine at school in the computer lab and turned it in that Friday and had the whole week-end free. She partied all week-end and thought she could talk the teacher into giving her an extension. Wrong!!!!!!!! I couldn’t help but laugh, because I had a 3 children and a husband who was working 500 miles away. Of course, I realize the definition of “fun” is different for a 40 plus than it is for an 18 year old, but still……

    10. LAI*

      I kind of feel the same way about my new job! I’ve been here about 5 months. Everyone here is always talking about how busy they are and how we have too much work to do, but I don’t feel that way at all. I easily finish my work in 40 hours per week and actually feel like I have the bandwidth to do more – I’ve mentioned that to my boss a couple of times and she looks at me like I’m crazy.

      Here’s a related question – is it bad to keep asking for more work to do, or to offer to help out colleagues with their work? I don’t want people to think that I’m sacrificing quality for quantity, and I also don’t want it to look like I’m trying to make my coworkers look bad by pointing out that I’m doing my work faster. I honestly just want to help, and it drives me crazy to know that there is urgent work that’s been sitting on other people’s desks for weeks, or that we’re actually deciding not to do certain projects because management thinks we’re all at capacity.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I am chuckling. I said to my boss, “I am behind by X amount.” She just laughed and shrugged, “Jane was behind by 3X.” One of the people, I replaced was substantially slower than me.

      Talk to your boss. I found a boss that comes out with things I never expected to hear, as in this example above. Frame it as, “I am concerned that I may not be carrying my weight and I don’t want to seem like a slacker type person.”

      Since you have been at the job for 5 months, it might just be easier to open the conversation with “How do you feel I am doing so far?” Then as the convo progresses move into “I am concerned that I may not be carrying my weight.” Ask open-ended questions.

      Keep in the back of your mind that some people get energy by being in crisis all the time. If there is no crisis going on they cannot function. You could have a couple people like that and maybe everyone else is a little more sane about their approach to their workload. Double check and make sure you are seeing the “crazed busyness” with everyone and not just a couple loud people.

    12. NZ Muse*

      Oh, wow. I feel you on so much of this. Have come from very busy jobs (didn’t feel they were particularly stressful but given that when I was on sabbatical for 6 months last year, they went through THREE replacements for me), my current job is a total walk in a park (even now, at the busy time of year).

      A couple of other people on my team, who have slightly different jobs, are always busy and stressed. I try to help out when I can. But generally I’ve come to terms that I’m getting paid more to do less now that I’ve switched industries, and it’s glorious.

      Stop taking your laptop home.

    13. Black Bart*

      I used to work for a large Fortune 500 company in the Community Relations Department. My title was Community Relations Specialist, which meant that I was responsible for doing any task my boss, the VP, assigned me except for admin stuff like answering phones, taking messages and whatnot. We had a nice lady who handled that. So, to relate to your situation, I used to finish all my work within 2 or 3 hours each day, leaving me 5 or 6 hours totally empty. I would go to my boss and ask for more work and he would get all frustrated and tell me that there wasn’t any. I was young and naive, so I asked him if I could take the rest of the day off and handle other business. He did not like that very much – LOL. My boss was a poor communicator. He used a lot of fancy words to say nothing. He never went right to the point. I wish he had told me to “slow down” like your boss did. Eventually, I learned. I would stretch out my tasks to take up all the time in the 9-5 workday. He became pleased with my performance and gave me a high score on my 2nd performance review. It’s amazing how some corporate jobs are not interested in real productivity. They don’t want people who maximize their output and get things done quickly and correctly. They want people who will use all the time for the sake of appearances. Oh well….. now in my current position, I make sure to stretch out my work so it takes up the whole work day. I’ve never gotten a complaint from a superior in this regard.

  2. The Other Dawn*

    I applied for the position thay was a stretch for me. Got a rejection the next day that said they aren’t filling the position right now. Then they took down the posting. Oh well.

    I replied to the recruiter that emailed me about a high level position. Sent over my resume and now waiting to hear. It took her a week to reply to my email so I just have to try and wait patiently. It’s tough!

    I really hope some more positions come up soon. It’s discouraging to always see the same positions posted, the ones I’m trying to avoid.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      YES! Over the past few months I’ve noticed a few of the positions I’ve interviewed for or applied for be re-posted quiet a few times. One job was I think listed about 5 times since may yet they haven’t appeared to hire someone.

      Is either the candidate pool that bad or are they holding out for the fabled purple squirrel? So annoying.

      1. BRR*

        We posted a position multiple times just because we had a small candidate pool. There were many good ones but it was just small and my director wanted to see what we could get. You never know.

      2. Jen RO*

        I got a call this week for a job I had applied to about 18 months ago. At that time, I didn’t progress further than the interview with the recruiter (but I was never officially rejected). They are still looking…

  3. cuppa*

    Ooh, kitty mittens! :)

    I’m looking for help with the art of self-promotion. I’m coming to the realization that maybe I’m not promoting myself and my accomplishments enough to my managers and peers. I’ve always been more comfortable behind the scenes, so this isn’t a natural thing for me. I can put things in a resume, and discuss my accomplishments in an annual review, but in the day to day I’m not really sure how to bring these things up. I’m worried that this will begin to affect me professionally if I don’t work to develop these skills.

      1. cuppa*

        Thanks! I saw Amy Cuddy speak earlier this year and she was great, but I never thought to apply it to these types of situations. :)
        P.S. Glad I’m not alone!

    1. One Way*

      I got a compliment from a client in front of the Project Manager. The PM told me later (privately) that it was a big deal, he was proud of me, etc. I said, “Thank you! And I hope it’s OK to ask you to tell my supervisor what the client said, too!” This indicated that I was proud, yet humble, and I think it meant more from my supervisor coming from her peer than from me. He did pass it along, and my supervisor was proud of me, too, and made note.

    2. soitgoes*

      Sometimes I’ll draw attention to my work by saying something like, “Wow, look at this result! Isn’t it cool?” It’s conversational and it doesn’t beg for praise.

    3. AVP*

      Do you ever get compliments from people who aren’t your direct manager? I’ll occasionally get an email from one of my company’s clients, or an outside stakeholder, saying something like, “Wow, I love working with you, that was so fast!” Or “This company is most efficient of all our vendors, nice!” When that happens I might either forward it to my boss with a smiley face emoticon (works for him, not for anyone else) or mention it in passing later as a nice “I was so glad that worked out so well!” anecdote. It gets the point across without me feeling like a circus clown, which is how I usually feel when I have to self-promote.

    4. Anx*

      Without going into details, I was so bad at this that I ended up being called very publicly (very, very, publicly) for slacking off at my job. I was slacking off, admittedly, but I was doing much more work than some of my colleagues and met resistance to starting new projects. By not vocalizing what I WAS doing, I left the impression that I wasn’t doing anything at all.

      I haven’t been in a position like that in a long time (my jobs since have hourly positions ‘on the floor’).

      I am really hoping I can learn to do this in the future.

    5. Puddin*

      I started by framing it as enthusiasm. “I so enjoyed working on X project. It was a great opportunity for me to be able to use all those Excel Macro skills I have.” I would generally say something like this to a peer while a manager was in the room. At the start of the warp up meeting for the project or other appropriate venue.

      Also, I was on a team were we created Subject Matter Expert (SME) areas for each team member. We all agreed to split functions among one another and along the lines of our strengths and interests. Sally was software tools, Tommy was processes and process improvements, and I was critical records. We referred to one another as experts, and would always refer people to the appropriate SME. We all earned reputations for being the go to person (aka most capable) for those areas. It was a good start to getting recognized and helped us all learn more in the process.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Don’t forget to point out similar experience from the past, when faced with a new task. This goes well with coworkers, especially if no one in the group knows how or wants to attempt a particular task. “I have done xyz before so I think I will be okay with wxy, if you want me to do that.”

    7. Artemesia*

      One trick is to shape the impression of yourself in casual conversations. I don’t know what work you do, but if you were teaching, you would have anecdotes about amazing things your students did. A teacher who talks about wonderful creativity and achievement of students projects a. they really are committed to students b. they must be great teachers to bring out this excellence in students. This comes across if adroitly done as enthusiasm about the kids rather than bragging about the self.

      If you are working with a client, enthusiastic telling of great interaction where the client was pleased with something your group is doing is good.

      So search your brain for examples of times you have been pleased with the results of something, or have a client who expresses pleasure over something, or something came together more quickly than expected, or how a new procedure you are putting in place (doesn’t even have to be one you designed) has increased productivity (hey, I am productive).
      Little stories. Even better if you implemented something initiated by the manager. ‘I am so pleased with the TPS report procedure, I was able to complete 20% more this week. That was such a good idea, boss.’

      Figure out what you are doing well and turn it into little stories that can be planted in the right ears.

      1. Black Bart*

        Your tactics are juvenile and brown-nosing. This kind of self-promotion is obvious and blatant. Real professionals do not do this. They let their work stand for itself.

        1. C Average*

          This feels a little harsh to me, but I see and agree a bit with what you’re getting at here.

          Ideally, people could put their heads down and do their work and their contribution would be recognized and valued without them having to call attention to it.

          Maybe back in the day, it really did happen this way. Maybe it was obvious that Wakeen’s chocolate teapots were of superior quality, or that Apollo made more widgets per day than any of his competitors. The thing spoke for itself, as the lawyers say.

          Now, so much of what we do is online, in discrete silos and processes within processes. Wakeen fills out the form that tells the factory in Asia to make superior-quality chocolate teapots, and no one really knows if he’s doing a good job or not until he quits and the company discovers that quality slips under his replacement. Or Apollo manages a global team of managers of widget-makers and he spends most of his time figuring out a time of day when they can all get on a videoconference together so he can motivate them to continue their excellent widget-making, and he wouldn’t even know how to make a widget himself. He gets an annual shot at proving his worth in his yearly review, when he talks about the accomplishments of his team.

          So we have to self-promote with these dumb little contrived anecdotes about our awesomeness. We have to Brand Ourselves! We have to quantify things that are self-evident to us. It feels like senseless, juvenile make-work bullshit, but if we don’t do it, we’ll get ranked behind the people who do.

          It’s not about whether real professionals do this. It’s whether people who want their work recognized and compensated by their leadership do this. In my world, they do. They hold their noses and they do it.

  4. AnonyMOOSE*

    My brother-in-law is a social worker, and he only gets paid for billable hours with clients. He doesn’t get paid for the paperwork he does for each client after his appointments. He often works late into the night writing notes and filling forms. My understanding was employers need to pay for all hours worked, however my brother-in-law has said, “This is just how social work goes.”

    Is this legal?

    1. fposte*

      Employers only need to pay for all hours worked for non-exempt employees. Generally, social workers are exempt (they often fall under the professional exemption exception even if their pay is below the requisite threshold), but of course the details depend on your BIL’s specific case. (BTW, he could be paid hourly and still be exempt.)

      1. Elysian*

        To qualify for the professional exemption though you have to be paid on a salary basis of at least $455 per week. It doesn’t sound like that’s the case here. This sounds shady to me. He should probably be getting paid for the paperwork, too.

        1. fposte*

          I actually misread on the threshold, so you’re right. However, I don’t think we’ve heard what BIL earns, so we don’t know if he’s met the threshold or not. OP, that’s what he needs to know.

          1. Elysian*

            Well, if he’s getting paid for hours he’s billing with clients, he’s not getting paid on a salary basis, so it wouldn’t matter. For professional (and admin and executive and some others) you DO need to get paid a salary. There are some exempt positions that don’t require a salary (some seasonal workers, for example), but I don’t think social worker is one of them. Professional exemption would be the best fit, and if he’s getting paid by an employer off of hours he’s billed, he’s not going to exempt as a professional – he’s getting paid hourly.

            1. fposte*

              Hmm, interesting. Is that true even if he’s always above the threshold? Sounds like there may be a problem then.

              1. Elysian*

                Yup! Its really two parts: (1) paid on a salary basis – ie. not hourly and (2) that salary is more than (a paltry) $455 per week. Same thing with the executive and administrative exemptions that people run into a lot. If you’re not paid a salary, the rest of the test doesn’t matter (salary is necessary but not sufficient to be exempt under those tests). But, like bridget says below, AnonyMOOSE’s brother in law could be treated as an independent contractor — I can’t tell whether that would be proper, but if it was he wouldn’t have a pay problem.

    2. OhNo*

      Sounds like the law field – you can only bill for certain types of work, and all the background stuff that you need to do for your job isn’t billable, so you do it on your own time. OTOH, I know this is frowned upon in some medical fields… so honestly there is an argument to be made either way.

      Your brother-in-law knows the field and the expectations better than you do, so I would take his word for it unless there is obviously some egregious violation going on.

      1. AnonyMOOSE*

        The only thing I worry about with that, is that he is such a pushover. He’s lovely and a fabulous social worker, but he has no spine when it comes to employment issues. He once worked for a company that didn’t pay him for a month, because he felt bad about asking his boss to pay him. !!

        1. AMT*

          This is largely why social work is such an underpaid field. Social workers are taught by our employers, teachers, and coworkers that asking for more money or benefits is akin to taking bread from the mouths of our clients. You have to learn to repeat to yourself: “This is my profession, not a hobby. I am an employee, not a charitable organization. The CEO of this agency has a freaking Bentley, so I at least deserve a few vacation days.”

        2. OhNo*

          WOW, okay. In that case, maybe have a conversation with him about this? You could mention that it seems really weird to you, because in fields X and Z it is required for employees to be paid for the time spent filling out paperwork. Maybe if you frame it as a “that’s really unusual” kind of situation, he might be inspired to take a closer look at it himself.

      2. Elysian*

        In law though you’re usually paid a salary, so even though a firm can only bill CLIENTS for certain work, you’re still getting paid by your employer for doing the work yourself, through your salary (unless you’re working for yourself, then you get paid exactly what you bill, and what you bill is up to the contract between you and your client).

        1. Eliza Jane*

          Yeah, my understanding was that in law you were salaried, and the “billable hours” issue was one of professional expectations: “You need to have at least 40 billable hours per week” or whatever. If you only get 32 for a week, you might get fired, but you’d still get paid the same amount.

          On the other hand, I’m not a lawyer, so I haven’t lived it, and could be wrong.

          1. MaryMary*

            I am also not a lawyer, but I worked under a similar billable hours structure as a consultant. We were salaried, and billable hour goals were a performance metric. Just like a having a target of answering a certain number of calls per day in a customer service role, or making a certain number of widgets. If you didn’t hit your numbers it was a performance issue, but we were paid for time we spent at work that wasn’t client billable.

            1. afiendishthingy*

              I work in human services and that’s our system too – we’re salaried, we’re supposed to be 55-60% billable, and if we hit 62% for a quarter we get a bonus. If we’re a little under the goal it’s generally not a huge deal. There’s a bunch of stuff we need to do that the state doesn’t reimburse the agency for – we’d be in bad shape if the employees weren’t getting paid for it.

          2. bridget*

            You have it basically right. If a lawyer doesn’t hit billable hours, the remedy to the employer isn’t to pay you less (or only pay you for hours you bill). It’s to fire you at the end of the year if management looks at your productivity report at the end of the year and your billables are too far under budget – what that means will vary from firm to firm.

            An exception: for contract attorneys (not actually employed by the firm) I think it’s relatively common to pay a certain dollar amount per billed hour.

            1. bridget*

              BUT, now that I’m thinking through it, that might be because contract attorneys are (or should be) paid as independent contractors who can work how/when they want – they are paid only on the basis of deliverables that are completed within an appropriate time period. If it takes more background research, legwork, etc. to get to that deliverable, then that’s the contractor’s problem. In law, those deliverables are billable hours.

              With a social worker, it seems like it would need to be a similar idea – classified as independent contractor, gets paid for delivered billable hours, needs find a way to do the necessary background work/paperwork on some other time. But if the social worker is classified as an employee, that might be a problem.

  5. HMV*

    I have been assigned organizing activities for this year’s Christmas party. I am in my first professional job out of college and so I have never been to a company Christmas party like this. There will be around 10 people, and activities/games should be interactive. It’s a pretty laid back environment here. Any ideas would be appreciated!

    1. Anonforthisone*

      My recommendation would be to not overdo the “activity” portion of the event. Don’t discard it completely but limit it.

      Ultimately, you want to create a relaxed environment where people can socialize a bit.

      Also, you could poll people to find out what’s been done in the past, what they enjoyed, what flopped. You could do this informally or more formally with a survey.

    2. Chocolate Teapot*

      Can you find out what happened at previous year’s Christmas parties? Is there a standard format such as a cocktail hour followed by dinner or a buffet? Is there something like a pub quiz where you need to set questions?

      I seem to recall several threads with office Christmas parties from hell on here. Not to worry you, but there are certainly common things to avoid!

    3. straws*

      My company does 1 interactive thing at our holiday party, and it’s always an optional gift exchange (we call it the stealing game, although I know there are many names for it). It works for us because it’s completely optional and those not participating in the exchange itself can still be a part of the laughter & fun. We’ve tried a couple of other things over the years, but they required more participation than most people wanted to give…

      1. kozinskey*

        These are a ton of fun if you do it as a White Elephant gift exchange — set a max amount people can spend (say $20) and then see what tacky cr.ap people come up with that other people get really excited over. We do it as a family every year and it’s a blast. We get gifts like pillow pets, Justin Bieber Christmas CDs, giant ugly coffee mugs, etc. The year one of the prizes was a tub of cookie dough made with salt instead of sugar was still our best, though.

    4. Sheena*

      At our Christmas party there’s always a wine tasting contest where people have to rank how expensive the wines were. The person who was the best gets free wine. I don’t know if this is a good activity for only 10 people though (and I don’t participate since I don’t drink). There’s also raffles to see who gets to take home the centerpieces (vases full of Christmas decorations, chocolates, candy canes, and occasionally a gift card).

      1. Elkay*

        I’ve been do Christmas events where they have a door prize, you put your ticket in the box by the door when you arrive and about an hour/90 minutes in they announce the winner(s). For lunchtime it was normally a box of chocolates, evening was a bottle of champagne.

    5. HigherEd Admin*

      When I still worked in the non-profit world, our department would organize a holidayparty for about 30ish people. The department itself would provide most of the food/drinks, but everyone was asked to contribute a side dish or dessert (there were sign-ups ahead of time). For activities, we played two holiday-themed games that were paper and pencil (like trivia, or a maze, or something), so people could opt-out of playing if they wished. There were small prizes for each of the games. And then we all did a White Elephant/Yankee Swap (which I know some people hate, but we all really enjoyed). It usually provided a bunch of laughs (we had a $10 limit for gifts), and allowed people to socialize while the game was going on.

    6. cuppa*

      I would recommend something that would be fun for those that want to do it, but that doesn’t force anyone to do it, like a quiz, trivia, etc.

    7. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I am a big fan of white elephant/gift stealing games. Just be really clear with people on whether they are supposed to bring a real gift or a gag gift (and I recommend real, because some people just cannot select a work-appropriate gag gift for their life). Make everything voluntary. Serve beer and wine (and soda and water), but not liquor. Provide free food if at all possible. If you have the budget, door prizes are great.

      1. Angora*

        Is the white elephant / gift stealing game the one where you pick numbers, choose your gift ( if bought a gift, you got to draw a number), if you like you gift you keep it, or you have the right to steal / exchange your gift for something someone else choice. Or is it called something else.

        We did it when I worked in Florida. It was great …. It would be interesting to see what was the “hot” items that kept being snatched each year. One year it was a quilted throw, another a heated massage pad, there was an animated moose that was traded back and forth about ten times. One year I wrapped up a nice bottle of wine, and it was the last gift left … it turned out that everyone thought it was a candle because of the way I wrapped it, like a tootsie roll. The last person that got it, kept it, sherefused to trade with anyone.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          When I’ve played in the past, all the gifts are wrapped, and you draw numbers for the picking order. The first person picks a gift and unwraps. Then the second person has the option to either steal the first gift or unwrap a new one. If they steal, then the first person opens another gift (or, as the game progresses, steals someone else’s, with no immediate steal-backsies). You have to work out rules that work for you group, but there are tons of ways to do it!

        2. Lore*

          When I worked in a smaller department, we did this at our holiday lunch–but no one was allowed to unwrap the gifts until the swapping was complete. Which meant we threw most of our creativity into the packaging and wrapping rather than the gift-purchasing. It kept the gifts fairly generic ($15 limit; lots of wine, coffee/tea, and candles), and the experience highly entertaining.

    8. Artemesia*

      Are you really sure they want fun and games; that is most people’s idea of an evening in hell (well maybe just MY idea of an evening in hell) Grownups don’t do party games. I would first find out what they did at the last two Christmas parties to find out what the norms are for your organization. And then I might poll the group: Do they want another buffet with pin the tail on the donkey or share something incredibly personal and embarrassing about themselves that no one knows or would they prefer a group dinner at (nice local place the budget would cover) or lunch (at nice local place the budget would cover.)

      Don’t plan without finding out what has gone on before and tread lightly on creative new ideas for games and activities.

    9. C Average*

      I don’t know if you’re a regular here, but there was a comment thread the other day about transactional people and relational people that came to mind as I was reading the responses to this.

      A lot of transactional people regard stuff like this as a pain in the ass, even if they like their colleagues and have no issues with spending time with them. These kinds of events don’t get any work done, they in fact PREVENT people from getting work done, and they cost the business money that could be spent on something arguably more useful. If people feel this way, you’re not going to make them happy.

      A lot of relational people will enjoy this kind of thing only IF they enjoy the company of their colleagues. Do you get the sense that people like each other and want to hang out together and would consider it fun to attend a holiday party together?

      A few years back, I worked on a fairly fractious team; we were all head-down kind of people, and there were definitely people within the group who wouldn’t have peed on one another if they were on fire. Our admin, who was a genius at stuff like this, arranged for a catered lunch on a Friday at which we all grudgingly mingled. She then announced that the business was closing for the afternoon, we had the rest of the day off, and she was giving each of us a gift card to a nearby theater, where a big new release was playing. We could, she said, all go to a movie together, or we could save the gift card, go to a movie some other time, and take the afternoon to do whatever we wanted.

      A few people went to the movie and had a good time. A few people did their own thing. Everyone liked the gesture.

  6. Anonforthisone*

    I’d appreciate peoples opinions on a recent activity taken by our HR department affiliated with our insurance provider.

    They had a nurse come in and people could sign up for confidential (they record aggregate data only) health assessments that took measurements like blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels, etc.

    A lot of people signed up and seemed to value it but it weirds me out and I can’t put my finger on why.

    Why does the insurance copy need/ want the aggregate data? Does this mean it’s going to be less acceptable to leave work for a dr appt (I don’t actually think so but i wonder)?

    It also created an environment where people were talking about their numbers. I’m not comfortable with anyone talking about others’ bodies at work.

    What are others thoughts on this? Good idea or kinda weird?

    1. cuppa*

      I’m actually getting a blood draw for my workplace on Monday. It was my understanding that it was completely voluntary and confidential. It doesn’t bother me, but I’m sure not going to discuss the results with the rest of my workplace. That seems weird to me.

    2. KimmieSue*

      I bet your insurance carrier suggested this to your HR department when negotiating or renewing their contract. The general census of the data could be used to establish the “healthiness” of the organization as a whole. Companies that have healthier employees (like fewer smokers, normal weight, lower blood pressure) can sometimes get cheaper insurance. Also, companies that offer “get healthy” programs usually get discounts too.
      It’s also possible that the data is being used to justify or ward off a later (deeper and less confidential) investigative effort to find the more unhealthy employees and charge them higher premiums (saving the company and the healthier employees money).
      Also, I’m probably a grumpy-old-HR-cynic, but I would recommend that you never really believe that your data is private and and confidential.

      1. The LeGal*

        Kimmie Sue is 100% right in her assessment. The aggregate data is used to set insurance rates for the entire company. Depending upon the type of insurance your company has purchased (self-funded, or other), this helps the company or the insurer project annual costs. As an employee, it absolutely (IMO) sucks doing these health assessments and feels like a total invasion of my privacy. Yet, the aggregate data is used for helpful health insurance cost projections.

      2. the gold digger*

        KimmieSue, I have never seen a group policy where some employees paid a higher rate than others (at least, not based on health). I know there used to be medical underwriting for each employee for very small accounts. Is this something that is happening in larger groups now?

        1. Danielle*

          My company makes smokers pay an additional (pretty steep) fee for health insurance. They even define it–if you’ve smoked more than X cigarettes in Y time, you’re qualified as a smoker for health insurance purposes.

          1. the gold digger*

            Interesting. I wonder if the insurance company rates are actually higher or your company is just requiring a higher employee contribution to the premium. I guess I would lie if my employer wanted to charge me more for group insurance based on my behavior!

            1. Arjay*

              Which is why they do the testing. If we choose not to participate in the company’s wellness program to avoid the nicotine screening, we pay even a higher premium than “verified” tobacco users do.

            2. TL -*

              Insurances will actually group higher-risk people and require them to get a higher premium (note: this has probably changed a lot since the ACA went into effect) so I wouldn’t be surprised if, even in group insurance, a big company could work out something with the insurance company if they were collecting health data.

        2. GrumpyBoss*

          While not at the group rate level, my company and insurance make a claim of paying less. If you go and get the screen and you hit certain undisclosed objectives, you get a credit applied against your payroll contribution. I guess it’s a lot like a non-smoking credit, which seems to be common, based on my past few employers.

        3. CAA*

          DH’s old job charged people differently.
          – if you participated in the health screening then you got a discount and you were allowed to choose the more desirable HMO instead of the more expensive PPO
          – if your covered spouse participated in the health screening then you got another discount
          – if you were tobacco free, then you also got a discount — you had to participate in the health screening including the blood drawing to verify this

          I personally *hated* having to give my blood to DH’s company in order to get insurance. I was thrilled to get a job with a company that has the same desirable HMO and doesn’t have forced health screenings.

        4. MaryMary*

          Employers are permitted to charge employees different premiums based on a “bona-fide” wellness program. The program can be either participatory (for example, if you will out a survey and go through a biometric test) or results based (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, etc within certain perameters). If you have a results-based program, you have to provide alternative options for people who are out of compliance (ex: a doctor’s note that your blood pressure is being treated but you will never hit 120/80, or allowing employees who don’t meet the weight requirement to get a “pass” if they meet with a company-provided dietitian). Employers are also allowed to increase the employee premium for smokers, by up to 50% of premium.

          What this means is that an employee’s rates can’t be higher because they have a certain health condition, but they can be higher if they’re engaging in behaviors that put their health at risk. You can’t be charged more money if you have diabetes, but you can if you’re pre-diabetic and refuse to see a doctor and get your blood sugar under control.

          Most companies are desperate to control their health care costs, and wellness programs are one of the few options available. Most programs have mixed results, at best, and no conclusive ROI.

          1. QualityControlFreak*

            I don’t smoke, drink alcohol very rarely and my blood pressure is well controlled, but that is between me and my doctors. I wasn’t upset when my employer offered some simple health screenings (completely voluntary), but if they required this kind of testing in order to receive benefits, (and the level of those benefits was determined by the results of the testing) I would find it incredibly invasive.

        5. Angora*

          I work for a state agency, and there is a blood test, weight, etc thingy that you do volunteerly through either your physian they fill out the form or a doctor they recommend, it’s free of charge; if you do that and a health survey you get $17 a month off your insurance co-payment. I am willing to do it in that incident; otherwise I wouldn’t. It’s not just a privacy concern, I am not taking out time during my work hours or after hours to participate in something for the insurance company, that my employer has access to.

          This is all done on-line through the insurance company and is not handled through HR at all. In years past it was handled by HR and I skipped out on it, but there was no financial benefit to particate than. I suspect that they realized that the staff wasn’t going do it, unless it helped their pocket books.

          1. TL -*

            Yup. I worked for a a company that covered all of the health insurance premiums and they used a 3rd party company in much the same way, but gave small gift cards to everyone who participated as incentives.

    3. OhNo*

      I dunno, that doesn’t seem weird to me. I assume most people were going because they were interested in hearing their own results, and the company might just be using the data to assess their standing as a “healthy work place”. I know some companies use that kind of information as a marketing tool (“Come work for us! We are so healthy!”), and some might use it to evaluate or expand their benefits package (like putting in an onsite gym or being more flexible with lunch hours for workouts or things like that).

      As for the insurance company, do they give any kind of “healthy living” discounts? It could be that if the company can prove their employees are healthier than average, they might get a break on insurance premiums or something.

      Basically what I’m saying is that there are a lot of possible legitimate reasons to collect this data, and I very much doubt they are going to use it in a negative way.

      1. Nerd Girl*

        My company did this. Soon after the data was collected the company launched a “Get Moving” program. We were able to create walking teams and compete against one another for prizes. They gave us pedometers and incentive prizes when we hit certain mile benchmarks. The following year the data was collected again and those of us who had participated were offered discounts on our health insurance. They offered the program a second year (with a few tweaks) and even more people signed up for the potential discount. It was pretty cool and a lot of fun.

    4. PX*

      For purely practical reasons, the insurance company might want it for statistics? It could just be them getting a baseline for what the average numbers/’health’ of a sample group of people is in order to help set the rates they charge companies..

    5. Anna*

      I worked at a company where there was an incentive attached to participating. If you got a screening, your deductible went down X dollars. If you participated in other activities, your deductible went down further. It wasn’t required, but was encouraged through the lower deductible. It didn’t weird me out at all. Although ultimately it was in part to save the company money, ultimately it was nice to get a check on some health things without having to make an appointment and trek to the doctor’s office. Our spouses were encouraged to participate, too. I don’t recall people talking about their numbers much publicly, though.

      1. Judy*

        Most of the time I’ve seen this, it’s a way to encourage the employees to get the health checks that they don’t usually. Any benefit money was the same if you did bloodwork at your doctor’s or at the health screenings. And if you did the screening, your insurance would still pay for bloodwork at your doctor’s office, just not the incentives.

        The screening on Valentine’s Day about 5 years ago showed my husband’s blood sugar as high, and probably saved some medical complications later, if he hadn’t gotten his bloodwork done until his normal well visit in the fall. I’m happy for an off-cycle look into my bloodwork.

        1. Natalie*

          “The screening on Valentine’s Day about 5 years ago showed my husband’s blood sugar as high,”

          There’s a “sweetheart” joke in here somewhere, I just know it.

    6. Catherine in Canada*

      It was an initiative like this – for diabetes month – that finally prompted me to start exercising and watching my diet more seriously.
      Participation was voluntary, and I didn’t hear anyone discussing their results afterwards (though the people up in Legal, who knows what they get up to up there, they always seem so cheerful…) .
      I found it useful though; it gave me benchmarks to work towards and some inspiration/incentive.
      (It’s taken two years, but I’ve lost 50 pounds and gone from size 20 to size 14)

    7. the gold digger*

      In order to get a discount on my insurance premium (through work), I had to get a physical. The doc just had to sign the form that I had been there – that’s the form I gave to HR. But then BC wanted me to also go to their website and complete a long questionnaire about things like if I smoke, how much I drink, how much I exercise, do I wear a seatbelt, if my husband beats me, etc. I understand the desire for data, but I left most of the questions unanswered because it is none of their business.

      I also have stopped completing the form at the doc’s office asking if my husband beats me (OK, they ask if I feel “safe” at home) and if there is a gun in my house. They don’t ask if I peaceably assemble or if I petition the government for redress, why do they ask if I exercise my 2nd amendment rights?

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I understand the reluctance on the gun question but I think the “are you safe in your home” question is very important. Few people that are abused know how to bring it up. Many want help. Sometimes it just takes a caring person that asks to open that door. I think it IS your doctor’s business if your husband is beating you but that is just my two cents.

        1. the gold digger*

          Good point. However, asking me while my husband is sitting next to me – as they did when I went to the ER after I had a bicycle accident and needed stitches above my eye – was probably not the best timing. I was thinking, “If I were here because my husband had beat me up, would I admit it to you while he was sitting next to me?”

          1. reader*

            Yea, never could understand this when I took my kids to the doctor either. I even said as much to the nurse practitioner. For this and other reasons kids now have a actual doctor instead.

            1. Melissa*

              I doubt that’s a nurse practitioner vs. doctor problem, though, as I’ve had doctors ask me sensitive questions in front of my mother or husband before. That’s probably more of a personality issue.

      2. fposte*

        It’s kind of an interesting question–not the 2nd amendment part, because it’s about the epidemiological significance of gun presence (if petitioning the government for redress was epidemiologically significant, they’d ask about that too), but the question part. What’s the appropriate medical followup? Do they advise on gun safety or just note any future gunshot wounds with less surprise?

        1. Natalie*

          From what I understand, there are follow-up questions and recommendations if you inform them you do have guns in the home. If you have kids, they’ll give you specific recommendations on how to store firearms.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if they screen for potential suicide, too, since easy access to a firearm is a considerable risk factor in completed suicide.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, that’s one of the main epidemiological consequences. I guess since I never encountered the followup I never thought about what it could be.

          2. Anonsie*

            Yep, this is it. They just advise making sure it’s secure, especially from children, and would note it if you were already at risk for self harm.

        2. salad fingers*

          For more on guns, violence and epidemiology, see: Ceasefire. You may already know this, fposte, but their whole approach is treating gun and other kinds of violence through established epidemiological frameworks.

      3. Melissa*

        People who have guns in the house are much more likely to be injured by firearms than people who don’t. That’s why they’re asking you. I have nothing against firearms in the house, for the record! But it’s scientifically related to injuries and deaths in ways that peaceably assembling and petitioning the government are not.

        Asking if your husband beats you changes the context in which your physician (and insurance company, I suppose) evaluates your health. For some people it’s easier to mark it down on a form than tell a doctor face-to-face, and they can refer you out to resources if you need help.

      4. Robin*

        Look, you don’t have to answer any doctor’s questions you don’t want to answer, but constitutional freedoms are about your relationship to the government, and aren’t really relevant to your relationship to your doctor. (Although if you, say, had a major knee injury, and were going on long protest marches, I think your doctor would have something to say about that, too.)

        But more crucially, an unsecured gun in a house presents a significant danger to any children living or visiting. The doctor is right to ask. In fact, in a very troubling development, some states prohibit a doctor from asking this question, a deeply problematic government intrusion into the doctor-patient relationship. (If you want to worry about constitutional protections, worry about that.)

        And the doctor’s office is also a place where women who are being abused might be in a position to alert someone who can help them. A doctor who handles this right will probably not be asking the question while her spouse is sitting next to her.

        I’m troubled by the way you make light of these questions. You might want to think about why these questions are being asked before you toss them off as inappropriate.

      5. Anonsie*

        There is a big push currently to add these to other general screening questions in the hopes that it’s an opportunity to reach individuals who may not be safe in a setting that is largely presumed to be confidential and secure. The efficacy of asking is being tested (and debated) at present, since doing both of these on a large scale is relatively new. You could consider it an experiment, on some levels.

        But there is an established health impact for both of these things, and the safety one in particular can (and should) inform the type of care you receive. They’re not just asking “does your husband beat you,” but are the decisions you can make at home actually controlled by someone else?

      6. GeekChick603*

        +1000 to the gold digger

        I’d like to see that question on peaceful assembly or petitioning the government

      7. Not So NewReader*

        feel safe at home?

        That could be anything. High crime area, psychotic neighbor, crazed dog….

        wow, just wow.

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, I’ve answered “No” to the “Do you feel safe at home?” question. It was because I was living in a scary neighborhood next to a house where they were making meth and the Task Drug Force was observing. So no, I didn’t feel safe at home. I didn’t know that was a “does your husband beat you?” question.

          1. Anonsie*

            It’s not– they are looking for general safety so they know what your situation is and can adjust their advice accordingly if they need to. Most of the time that’s probably going to mean domestic violence, but living next to a meth house would definitely fit the bill.

      8. Artemesia*

        The idea that doctors should not be concerned about practices that put patients at major risk (especially pediatric patients) such as having guns in the house is ridiculous. So many kids die because of improperly secured guns and so many many adults as well because of carelessness or use of guns during situations that would be just yelling without armaments. Doctors advise parents about car seats. Guns fall in the same sort of category of a health issue.

        1. Mephyle*

          Doctors (thorough ones) also ask patients about their exercise patterns, sexual activity, drinking and drug use, for example. Some patients find that very offensive; to them it’s none of the doctor’s business. But those are factors that affect the patient’s health, and that knowledge shapes the doctor’s care and advice in multiple ways – that’s why they ask.

    8. Angelina Brolie*

      My husband’s employer offers these assessments also with an incentive of $500 off our yearly premiums. It weirds us out, too. We’re healthy, we eat Paleo, we go to the gym at least 3x a week and do lifting and sometimes running and biking. We know we’re in great shape. But the insurance is already pretty affordable and we’re not comfortable sharing those particular details with the company. I don’t trust any assurance that the info will be held in strictest confidence–info like that and worse leaks all the time. Maybe an HR loudmouth lets something slip in confidence and then it gets passed around the office. I don’t know. Better to just keep it between ourselves and our doctors, where doctor-patient privilege assures confidentiality.

      1. Arjay*

        In my situation, the information is held by the wellness company and not shared with my employer, except if I specifically consent to share my nicotine results. It’s still more people with access to the information than I care for though.

    9. Malissa*

      Insurance companies have discover that they can save a ton of money if they can get people to be proactive in their health care. A huge part of that is preventative screenings. So they’ve really been pushing this kind work place screening. It’s a great way to catch busy people who don’t like to go to doctor’s offices.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I’m a little too cynical to buy that. I think it’s just how some car insurance companies use data from your car – it gives their actuaries a substantial amount of data so that they can build out rates in a way that is most profitable to the company.

        That being said – there is obviously the positive side effect of people being proactive about their health.

        1. Melissa*

          For health insurers it’s about money, too. I mean, I’m sure that some individuals at health insurers are concerned about your health, but as a whole the company is concerned about money. It’s far cheaper for them to, say, implement a workplace smoking cessation program than it is to pay for treatment for emphysema or COPD. It’s cheaper for them to implement a nutritional education program than to pay for complications due to diabetes, hypertension or cardiac issues. That’s why a lot of insurers offer discounts on premiums if you join a gym or do some kind of wellness program – you’re likely to save them more money then you’re saving with the discount.

          I mean, yes, it does give actuaries extra data to build algorithms, too. It serves more than one purpose.

    10. Gwen Soul*

      I am that insurance carrier so I can provide some details!

      We use it mostly for forming wellness programs and because you would be surprised at how many people do not know their own health status. It shocked me as I have always been fairly healthy, but your insurance company actually does a lot to keep members healthy. We invest BILLIONS in programs such as nurse lines, chronic care, new born programs, cancer programs, diabetes and what not. Having this data from our members helps us figure out what programs we need and what programs we should offer to your company. Nothing nefarious, while it might be somewhat realted to setting prices, that is truly secondary to improving health. We all win when a member is healthy enough to never make a claim in the first place!

      BTW i truely love it here and really do feel we care about our members.

    11. Melissa*

      Aggregate data could be either for the company or the health insurer. The company could be trying to get a feeling for the needs of the employees and by examining the aggregate data, they could give feedback to the insurance company about the kinds of coverage they need. It could help them select the plans they decide to offer to you in future years. Or the insurance company could be using it to fine-tune their algorithms for how they set premiums or how certain health indicators correlate with health outcomes.

      Aggregate data usually means that it won’t necessarily be linked to you, so you shouldn’t suffer any repercussions from it directly. However, it could change your insurer’s relationship to the company.

      1. MaryMary*

        Some employers also contract out to third party wellness vendors, because they don’t necessarily want to share the aggregate data with the insurance carrier

    12. M. in Austin!*

      My employer “required” a biometric screening (basically everything you just said). It wasn’t technically required, but if you didn’t do it, your insurance premium would have increased 100$ a month.

    13. Cynthia*

      I’ve done this at two work places and really love it. It gives you an opportunity to review your health (I don’t usually get my blood sugar checked) and gives me some extra money in my health savings account. One org just gave me the money directly, while the other puts it into an health savings acct that I can use for medical expenses. Pretty awesome.

  7. Marie*

    Any advice on combating burnout? I have a great job that I usually like, but it seems like most of the time I’m just bored out of my mind. Like everything just seems like a pain. If it impacts anything, my job is very much output based, so the more that I do, the more I get paid and the happier everyone is. But I just feel like it’s too much right now.

    1. E.R*

      I’m in the same boat. The only thing I can suggest is taking real time off to recharge and come back to the work with renewed vigour. Have you tried that?

    2. Ali*

      I’m burned out right now too, so I don’t know I can offer advice; just lots of sympathy. I have a decent but not overwhelming workload, yet I’m just bored with the repetitive nature of my position. I know the calendar of when we will be busier; I know my duties, etc., but there’s not room for promotion or professional development, which I was promised but hasn’t happened.

    3. cuppa*

      Find something that you can do only for yourself that helps you relax in your off time; it will help you feel more refreshed in your work time. Find something that excites you at work to help you curb your boredom.
      Also, my biggest problem is getting started. If I play into that, it can derail my entire day. If I just do one thing, I find that the momentum keeps me going the rest of the day. Good luck!

    4. AnonyMOOSE*

      Totally in the same boat currently. A quick fix that works for me: listen to audiobooks. I can’t do this if I am writing or editing text, but it works when I’m doing the dull spreadsheet work.

      An honest conversation with your manager is also probably in order. Try framing it like, “Hey this is great job, but I’m not feeling very challenged. Are their other projects or responsibilities that I could take on?”

      I would also try taking Gallup’s Strength Finder test. It might help you identify why you are feeling bored.

      1. The Maple Teacup*

        Ah! I’m in a similar situation. I recently talked to my manager about how great the job is, but the work isn’t very challenging and I’d like to work with some different clients. Unfortunately, my petition failed because I’m too good at working with the (complex for everyone else) clients I’m already assigned. I voluntarily took on some client based goals that appeared to be impossible. Stuff the client wanted to do, but is technically outside my standard job role. I’ve accomplished the impossible and management is uber impressed. Is there anything somewhat interesting you can engage with at your job?

      1. Marie*

        That’s probably not a bad idea. We have a path around our building that I could walk, I’ve been thinking about bringing a book and taking my lunch break down there instead of eating at my desk. maybe that would help.

    5. Lora*

      Take a really real break. At least a week. I’m in the same boat: none of my work is challenging, unless you count “dealing with idiots, jerks and difficult personalities” as a challenge. Ran into a friend from a previous research job I really enjoyed the other day, and she said they would love to have me back. Problem is I know they can’t pay much. *sigh* I’m on vacation now, trying to figure things out, whether I could somehow figure out how to manage the inevitable pay cut…

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I find that the hardest part of staying a job is what to do with the burnout.
      I look at my diet, exercise and so on. But sometimes what helps is looking at my life goals. It serves to remind me why I go to work. Sometimes I want to rethink or update my little list inside my head that can provide some spark, too. Other times a short term project at home can get me really psyched. (Make curtains, refinish a piece of furniture, join a new group.)

      When nothing works, I give myself a talking-to. Part of being professional is getting through the dry spots, working when there is no motivation in sight. I do know that what we chose to do when the chips are down is what can make or break our lives in some instances. I tell myself in a few weeks/months it will get better.

      Marie, you may want to think about looking at other jobs. Even a sideways move in your company/organization might just be the deal. I have friend that changes departments every 5-7 years. Mostly lateral moves, but just enough to keep her engaged in her work.

      1. Biff*

        I’ve done the whole “goals in your face” thing in the past. I used to park my (much loved) car where I would see it when I did the ‘damnit, why I am here?’ stare out the window. It worked like a charm.

    7. Kathryn*

      Take an actual vacation, a week away from work to let your brain recharge. A long weekend isn’t enough, you need to have at least a couple of days where you don’t think about work and it takes a few days to get it out of your system.

      Get a check up and make sure you’re physically healthy. Burn out does a number on you.

      Get enough sleep. Get enough sleep that you comfortably wake up with or before your alarm. Sleep helps your body regulate all sorts of things, you need it.

      Think about checking out a therapist. They can help you figure out and use new coping mechanisms and find ways to be more comfortable in your skin.

      Pick up a hobby so you have a source of inspiration in your life, even if it isn’t necessarily at your job. People don’t actually compartmentalize well, the buzz will leak.

      Take breaks and walk at work. Nothing makes you feel like you’re stuck in a box for eight hours like being stuck in a box for eight hours.

  8. Ayeaye*

    I have a job interview for a stretch position on Monday that I would love to get. I know the job description and person specification like the back of my hand. Any tips on calming the massive nerves that erupt every time I think of the interview? It’s a job out of my field and above my current post by a big level, but I do KNOW I could do it! I just have the making-a-fool-of-myself fear. Also my manager knows the interviewing panel so the embarassment factor would linger…

    1. voluptuousfire*

      Breathe! Deep breaths when your mind starts going “AHHH!” Google yoga breathing for some techniques.

      1. Snargulfuss*

        Practice, practice, practice! It’s absolutely the best thing you can do to prepare for an interview. The more confident you are in what you want to say, the better you’re be able to make eye contact and present a confident persona. I firmly believe that when it comes to interviews it’s 50% how qualified you are (including how well you’re able to articulate your qualifications) and 50% showing that you’re the type of person the interviewers want to work with.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          All this stuff AND take a walk. A nice long walk, each day this weekend. Yeah, I know, you probably don’t want to. That’s the nerves talking. Go for a walk, it will help dissipate some of that nervous energy, you’ll get some sleep and you will not flub the interview.

          Picture the interview panel cheering for you. “You can nail this interview, we know you can!”

  9. kdizzle*

    When someone sends you a request in an e-mail, and the e-mail includes a long internal thread, and that thread includes a pretty harsh insult about the office you work in…do you reply with pleasant passive aggressive snark? or ignore it?

    Oh…I know what I SHOULD do, but it’s just so tempting to do otherwise.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        I think the most current part of the email is meant for her, however, so just replying to the part for you, and ignoring the rest is really the best way. Let them realize and be embarrassed in private.

    1. OhNo*

      Was the comment from the same person who sent you the request, or from someone else in the thread?

      Either way, I wouldn’t respond directly, obviously. But there’s nothing saying you can’t add it to your mental list of “reasons why so-and-so is a jerk”. (And, depending on the culture of your office, pass the comment on to your coworkers for a group eyeroll).

      1. kdizzle*

        The comment was from the same person who made the request. I was kind of taken aback, since from what I’ve been able to tell, our office has a really decent reputation in the organization. And they cc’ed everyone and their mother, which made me slightly more irate.

        I’m not the type who would risk her reputation by putting something rude in writing, so I just treated it like any other request. But yes, the group eyeroll will definitely be in full effect today; An eye roll tsunami.

    2. Trillian*

      Years ago, at another job, I inherited a report to wrap up and was pretty much left to my own devices. I received an email from the client that had a long attached thread that included some comments highly critical of my company, *and* the instruction that these were not to be sent *to* us.

      At the time, I decided to unsee them. It might have been carelessness, or it might have been deliberate, but I didn’t know the history and personalities, and I wasn’t prepared to drop someone in it unknowing. It wasn’t going to change my approach to the client or the task, and I was too overloaded to get sucked into grievances, In retrospect, I should have probably made my manager aware of it, in case it needed to be dealt with at a higher level.

    3. LawBee*

      I’d delete the long internal chain (or at least edit out the part with the insult with a [ ]) and let it go. Or reply with a brand-new email – and let it go.

    4. Steve*

      I think I would actually address that. As in “I noticed down in the thread of this email that you’re unhappy with the way we handled (last project). I want to be sure we’re really giving you what you need this time, can we take a few minutes together to really go over the ins and outs of this project and really focus on how you need it handled?”

      This lets them know they left that snark in there (hopefully they cringe and die a little inside), gives you a chance to prove them wrong on current project, and be the positive contributor to this interaction.

  10. Elkay*

    I screwed up an HR phone interview this week. I very stupidly didn’t prep for it, not realising it would be more about the job and me (I’ve already spoken with the hiring manager twice, this was just HR). I’m really annoyed because I really wanted the job. I should hear one way or the other next week.

    1. HigherEd Admin*

      I would probably have thought about it the same way as you. I find it a little weird that HR interviewed you after the hiring manager did. Wouldn’t HR usually do the pre-screening phone interview before passing you along to the hiring manager? I would hope that the hiring manager’s opinion would outweigh the HR person’s, since unless you’re working in HR, you would likely have little to no interaction with the person you spoke with on the phone.

      Anyways, fingers crossed for some good news!

  11. Starbux*

    I have had several interviews for an internal position over the last few weeks. I had been told by the recruiter and hiring manager that I was the frontrunner for the position. During this time, another member of my team had applied for the position, but was not selected to interview. My current manager is close friends with my coworker (and manages him BTW) and was very upset that I was chosen to interview but his friend wasn’t. My coworker didn’t met the requirements posted for the job, so I’m guessing that’s why they weren’t selected to interview.

    Fast forward to this week when my current manager sends out an email to the team letting us know that my coworker had accepted a new job…the very one that I had been interviewing for! It turns out that my coworker and the hiring manager had a “mutual friend” in common, and the mutual friend called the hiring manager and said they must interview my coworker. They fast tracked the interview process and made my coworker an offer a few days later.

    I can’t help but feel like I was stabbed in the back. :( I hate that I feel this way, but I do. I honestly don’t even feel like applying for any other internal positions because I’m worried that I won’t be given a fair shot. Has anyone else went through some similiar and if so, how did you handle it? I can accept losing the job to someone who was more qualified than me, but someone who isn’t just really bothers me.

    1. Starbux*

      I should have mentioned that at my company, you are required to let your manager know if you are interviewing for internal positions, which makes things even more awkward.

    2. OhNo*

      Oh no! What an annoying and awful situation. I’m sorry that happened to you. :(

      It’s always the worst when you really feel you were the best person for the job and they end up hiring someone who is not as good.

    3. KimmieSue*

      I’m sorry that happened…but I would not assume that the co-worker was not selected to interview based on requirements. Its very possible that their internal application never made its way to the hiring team. All kinds of things could have gone wrong on it’s path there.

    4. Anjum*

      unfortunately this is often the case – to the hiring manager’s perspective, they received two calls of support for the coworker (and none for you?). these interpersonal calls of support often yield an automatic interview, and can sometimes overshadow poor interviewing (depending on the place/company – sometimes the calls get a door open and that’s it).

      i would recommend you take some time to regroup and recover. don’t be turned off from hiring internally; instead, do what you can to build relationships around the company so that you can have more mentors calling for your support. also, if you have a good relationship with the hiring manager, you could inquire about what gaps you had or what you might do to improve your qualifications in the future.

      1. Starbux*

        Interestingly enough, I did ask for feedback. I was told that my qualifications were great and impressive and there was nothing I can do to improve my situation in the future. They just “liked” the other person better – that’s it.

        1. Anjum*

          so there yougo, that tells you that it was the “extras” the other person had that put them over the top. the best you can do it build relationships of your own that can be supports for you in the process..

          also, i don’t know anything about you but try some self-reflection to see if you need to be more externally approachable and personable. sometimes between qualified candidates ,the one that is liked the most is the chosen one. as they say, “who would I rather be stuck at an airport with?”

          sorry you had to deal with this :(

          1. Mister Pickle*

            Huh? Maybe I’m missing something here, but it sounds like the only “extra” the other person had was a friend in management.

            Did I misread the original text? Starbux and “other worker” both work for “manager”. “Manager” and “other worker” are friends. Starbux and “other worker” both informed “Manager” that they were going for the same open position. When “other worker” was passed over, “Manager” pulled strings to get his friend “other worker” an interview (even though “other worker” didn’t meet the posted job requirements) – and in the end, “other worker” got the job. And during this time “Manager” didn’t talk to “Starbux” about any of this?

            I understand that there can be a fine line between “policy” and “putting in a good word for a friend”, but from what has been presented, this sounds like an abuse.

            1. Mister Pickle*

              It’s also interesting to consider how fast this situation goes from “questionable” to “inappropriate” if, say, “other worker” is selling drugs to “Manager”, or “Manager” and “other worker” are having sex, or belong to the same coven, etc.

    5. A Teacher*

      Not personally to me, but in my old job I watched it happen to countless co-workers. It always made the dynamic difficult and then corporate wouldn’t understand why employees didn’t stay or didn’t “trust them.” Sorry you’re dealing with it!

    6. BB*

      I’m sorry this happened to you. In the case that the other person isn’t qualified for the new job, well…you may see the position re-listed in a few months. Otherwise, maybe something better will come along for you. You may also consider looking for something outside of the company.

    7. Chriama*

      Well unless your boss actively hates you or is bffs with other coworkers who would be competing with you, what’s wrong with looking at other internal positions? Unless your boss has a reason to block you, this situation isn’t likely to come up again is it? I also agree with Anjum that you should do your best to build up your own relationships with people who will champion your cause.

    8. Meg*

      Something similar happened to me, where I felt more qualified than the coworker who got the job. Plus the hiring manager told me it was a really hard decision, so she decided to draw names. I don’t know if that was a lie or the truth, but the fact that she was saying it like it was a good thing still boggles my mind. I was really upset for awhile, just power through it and know that something better will turn up.

    9. Angora*

      I put in for an internal position that I’m qualified for. Found out that they just moved someone on campus into it without even doing the interviews. It happens, but keep it confidential when you put in for any other positions in-house. I am curious, how did his manager find out that you interviewed for the position? Or is this a small enough company that people talk? I have also learned not to tell people about jobs I have put it, because someone you know may not be aware of the opening, but when you mention it, it draws their attention to it … and they are like … that sounds intersting, I would like that and before you know it you are competing with someone you know for the same position.

      1. Starbux*

        At my company, you are required to tell your manager if you are interviewing for an internal position. Your manager can block you from interviews or even accepting a position if they choose to.

        This incident really is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I’ve decided to look externally only from this point on. The sad part is I had really hoped to spend several years working for my company and now it looks like I won’t have that option.

  12. T*

    Do you guys have any advice on how to stay “positive” during your job search? I graduated from my program in May and I’ve only managed to get two interviews so far. I have no idea what I’m doing wrong. I’ve gotten excellent feedback on my resume from people working in the field. I guess I’m just at a loss and, frankly, afraid that I’ll be forced to work in retail and live with my parents for the rest of my life.

    1. AnonyMOOSE*

      Take Allison’s advice and work on your cover letter. I found it incredibly helpful when I was applying for jobs.

    2. ClaireS*

      I don’t have any specific techniques but just wanted to tell you that you’re not alone. It took my partner over a year to find a job and it’s incredibly hard to stay motivated and positive. (He now has a great job in his field)

      The biggest thing is to stay busy – find a place to volunteer, make a stick to a schedule (don’t let yourself sleep till noon, get some excercise, etc).

      Good luck.

    3. Dasha*

      Can you try something else besides retail that will help get your foot in the door like temping? At least something in an office will give you professional experience even if it isn’t directly related to your field. If makes you feel better, tons of people are struggling with the job market right now, even people with 20 years of experience!

    4. Anna*

      One of the things I did was to keep busy with volunteering and organizing. It helped a lot because even though I wasn’t getting interviews, or wasn’t getting offers when I did get interviews, I was still pretty busy and felt like I was accomplishing something. It sucks and there were times when I was pretty sure I had passed my “use by” date, but I kept plugging away and eventually landed somewhere I love.

    5. The LeGal*

      You are absolutely not alone. When I finished undergrad, the economy was similar to how was last year. It took me six months to find a so-so job. It wasn’t until my third job out of college that I felt like I was in a worthwhile job that meant something to me, and was using my degree. (2 jobs at separate companies, and then 1 lateral move at the 2nd company.) It does take time, and you’re already doing the right thing by following the AAM blog. The very best of luck to you.

    6. Felicia*

      Come here and vent every week. Seriously. I was in your position for 2 years after graduating, before landing the fairly decent job in my field I have now. It helped me so much to hear other peoples’ stories here. And it will happen for you! it happened for me.

    7. GrumpyBoss*

      When I went through my last job search while trying to leave a toxic situation, it lasted 6 months. I quickly became depressed. At the 4 month mark, I made a couple of discoveries that I addressed around staying positive and wound up with several offers. Maybe these will help you.
      1. Don’t spend time around negative people. This was a killer for me, because I’m pretty cynical by nature, and tend to surround myself with others who have a gloomy outlook. I really had to make sure I was spending time with positive people so I had the right disposition in interviews. I’m pretty sure that my negativity was spilling over to the interview process.
      2. Pay close attention to what you are applying to. There was a period of time where I got so desperate, I applied to positions that I would have never considered if I wasn’t looking to run away. It is killer on your attitude if you are spending time applying to and interviewing for positions that are not in your career objective/are filled with lousy people/are at awful companies. And then to get rejected by one of those jobs? Horrible. I wrote down a list of companies I wanted to work for. I wrote down a list of job responsibilities that I was interested in. And then I challenged myself to only apply to positions that met both criteria.

    8. Wonkette*

      I agree with the previous commenters’ recommendations that you should focus on customizing your cover letter, tailoring your job search and reading AAM regularly. After losing a pretty decent job 3 years ago, I was an underemployed contractor desperately looking for another job. I can honestly say that I was seriously depressed and anxious due to financial pressures and feeling that I can do more with my life. But it was important for me to acknowledge any negative feelings that I had while 1) still methodically applying and interviewing for positions that I was interested in and 2) pursuing my hobbies that I wouldn’t have time to pursue otherwise. I also worked my butt off in my contractor job, despite my feelings, and am assured a glowing reference from my supervisor. So, make sure that you get good references and experience from any temp jobs that you may take. In good news, I’m starting a new job in a week that I’m pretty psyched about that has way better pay and benefits than my current job. So, don’t lose hope!

    9. A.*

      I have been there. I graduated a few years ago and worked retail for a few months. After quitting retail, it took me 11 months to find my first post-college ‘real job.’ Stay positive and know it will happen for you.

    10. CheeryO*

      You are probably not doing anything wrong. Keep doing what you’re doing and something will come through for you, even if it isn’t your dream job.

      I agree with a lot of the points that other people made. I was unemployed for about 6 months, and I handled it terribly. Here’s what I’d do if I were in that situation again:

      – Go to bed and wake up around the time that you would for a 9-5 job. It’ll help you feel like a real person, and you won’t have to deal with adjusting your sleep schedule on top of everything else that’s stressful when you’re starting a new job.

      – Do whatever you need to do to be in a good mindset when you’re applying. For me, that would involve putting real clothes on and heading to a coffee shop or library with my laptop.

      – Keep a spreadsheet or list of all the websites that you use to look for job postings. Check them all routinely, apply for anything that you think you would take, and then move on. Don’t feel guilty if you’ve done all you can do for the day and want to sit down and watch mindless TV. Being unemployed sucks, but you are still allowed to have fun and relax.

      – Exercise often, even if it’s just taking a walk outside.

      – Surround yourself with upbeat people as much as possible. If you have friends who have a lot of free time (whether they are in school or unemployed or underemployed), don’t let their shenanigans get in the way of what you need to do.

      – If you have parents, extended family, and/or friends who don’t understand the realities of the job market in 2014, do not let it get to you.

  13. Golden Yeti*

    Hi, everyone. Just wanted to announce that I made it farther than I’ve ever made it in interviews this week!

    I know it sounds corny, but I never make it past the initial interview, so I’m excited to have made it to the second. I should know something next week.

    There are some reservations on my part: the manager didn’t really seem eager to “sell me” on things, the company doesn’t have the best Glassdoor reviews (due to lack of raises), and I wasn’t given an opening in the interview to ask questions of my own. However, I’d rather be undersold than oversold, and if nothing else, I think the position would at least be a step towards the general direction I want to go in my career. If I get an offer, I’m planning to ask all my questions then. Do you guys have recommendations of questions that maybe I should ask that aren’t as commonly though about? Alison, is there such a thing as too many questions during the offer stage? I don’t want to annoy this manager, but I didn’t ask enough questions during my last offer, which got me into the situation I’m currently in…

    Thanks all!

    1. Meg*

      That’s great to hear that you have made it to the next interview phase! I would–particularly given your reservations–focus more on what you really, really want to know about the company. Alison’s interview materials really helped me to critically think about what I needed to know during my most recent interview, and the interviewers seemed impressed with my questions (presumably they more frequently encounter people who ask “canned” questions, and don’t seem genuinely interested to know the answers). If you’re worried about asking too many questions and feel that the hiring manager may be getting irritated, say something like “I apologize if it seems like I’m asking a significant number of questions; I didn’t get the opportunity to ask very many questions during the first interview, and I want to make sure that this is a great fit.” Not asking a sufficient number of questions (rather, me not noticing discrepancies in their answers to my questions) got me into a bad working situation once, too. Good luck!

    2. Snargulfuss*

      It’s likely that time ran short in the interview, but I think it’s still a bit of a red flag that the manager didn’t give you any opportunity to ask questions.

      You’ll definitely want to ask questions before you accept an offer! Good companies are concerned with hiring employees who are a good fit and want to stay for a while. If a manager or an organization in general is impatient with your questions, it could be a sign that the organization sees its employees as expendable and not willing to treat them well or invest in them. I would even bring up, diplomatically, negative things you see online. For example, “I know that anonymous online reviews can be inaccurate, but I did run across some information regarding lack of raises that the organization. Can you tell me a little bit more about the performance review process?”

      As far as what questions you should be asking, what do you need to know to find out whether or not you’ll be happy in this job?

      1. Golden Yeti*

        So far, my draft list of questions are related to the yearly review process, morale/culture, and days off.

        I want to be careful to be comprehensive in my questions, not just reactionary based on what my current experience is. In the past, interviewers have commented that I asked good questions, but I’m afraid that since I didn’t get to ask the basic 3-4 in the interview, adding in the more targeted questions, too, might come across as overwhelming, should I get an offer.

        Based on my current experience, my main concerns are: advancement/good wage, professionalism, fairness, consistency, and a committed team. Some aspects of these are covered in my questions so far, but I don’t want to miss any big blind spots. Is there something you wish you would’ve asked if you could go back to the offer stage of your current job?

        1. Meg*

          Yes. I wish I’d asked:
          1. “How long has the person who has been in X position longest been with the company?” (The real answer: Less than one year. Scary, right?)
          2. “What’s the biggest challenge about working in X position?” (Their answer: Deadlines. Real answer: Ridiculous deadlines.)
          3. “What’s the biggest challenge facing this company right now?” (The real answer: Employee retention.)

          Like I said, I should have picked up on it.

          1. Golden Yeti*

            Those are all good questions, and #1 and 3 are both major issues where I am right now, so I can relate. It’s definitely a weird place to be in where you naturally expect the new person will be gone within a few months (because that’s the pattern).

            I do know the person I’m replacing didn’t quit and wasn’t fired (just couldn’t take more hours), so that seems good. But it still probably wouldn’t hurt to know how long the average person tends to stick around.

            Asking about challenges for the position and the company as a whole will definitely be an addition to my list.

  14. Anon Regular*

    My husband recently completed his MBA from a top-tier program, and was hired through on campus recruiting into one of the “prestige” jobs: an executive leadership development program at a Fortune 500 company. It was one of the hot jobs on campus and it was exciting for him to land it.

    He started in May, and he has been bored ever since. There is simply not enough work for him to do. His team is allocated projects based on percentages of their time; they should be at 100% all of the time (that is, they might have two 25% projects and a 50% project). So far, he has only ever had one 50% project at a time – and it doesn’t take him nearly 50% of the time to complete the work. He’s so frustrated and not sure what to do. He’s taken on a bunch of internal work, but it’s barely making a dent in his long, empty days. He’s raised the issue with his team lead and his manager and they are trying to bring in new projects, but that of course takes time. And at the same time they hired another person (in the same role as him) this month – and they should have been able to predict the pipeline in projects long before that.

    He’s had excellent reviews (each project entails a midpoint review and endpoint review, so although he’s only been there a few months he’s had 3 reviews so far); his work was described as “stunning.” He was assigned the biggest new project that came through the pipeline (his current 50% project), so I don’t think that they don’t believe in him/are trying to move him out/etc.

    What can he do to a) get the work flowing or b) learn to be comfortable with a low, low workload?

    1. Anjum*

      the workload will go up and down, and if he’s already a top performer, he will get through the work quicker and better than others. He can use the downtime to improve his standing in the company: take all the internal training he can, have 1 on 1’s with key leaders across the organization to build mentor-like relationships, etc. Also, in an executive leadership program, won’t he be rotating to something else in the next 6-9 months? usually they do but your post doesn’t mention that.

      re hiring two people for little work – often MBA hiring is unchanged year after year (as long as the company/business unit is doing well). so they probably hired as many MBAs as they have previously.

      1. Anon Regular*

        It’s not a rotational program. They “rotate” throughout the organization on the various projects they are assigned; it’s essentially an internal consulting team that exposes its members to all aspects of the business before they choose a path and get promoted.

        You’re right on with the hiring – they definitely just keep recruiting the same number.

    2. plain jane*

      Can he shadow on other team projects? Support with secondary research on new proposals? Set up information meetings with mid-level staff at target clients?

      1. Anon Regular*

        Good idea on the shadowing! He’s already doing the research and informational meetings – that’s one of the ways he’s been trying to fill his time (and build up the pipeline of new work coming in).

    3. BB*

      I don’t have much understanding of what he does but maybe he can spend some time on research. Does he have ideas that would be good for development or is this an environment where he could only work on projects that come to him?

      I agree with the other poster, he should get to know other people who work at the organization. Learn what their role is maybe there is something he can help them with.

    4. Elysian*

      It sounds from your post like his company’s system is set up so that he gets projects from a central person, but it might be worth re-evaluating whether everyone follows that. Is it possible that more senior employees are dolling out projects to the less senior folks that they like best/know the work of? He might need to go knocking on some doors looking for work, if that’s the case.

      If not, I agree with Anjum – he should be doing all the professional development he can in his down time. Read books, blogs, take continuing education if applicable, maybe join a professional association? Does his company do pro bono work?

      1. Anon Regular*

        The team actually solicits, negotiates, and assigns projects as a group – but of course you’re right, there may be some stuff going on behind the scenes. It also could benefit him to develop a champion or two among senior leadership who could create projects for him specifically (even if they flowed through the regular process).

    5. Lily in NYC*

      If this is an actual program, I think he needs to sit tight and just wait for the next step. Is this professional services, where you are an associate for two years and then get promoted or dumped?

      1. Anon Regular*

        No – it’s an internal consulting role within a finance company. But the idea is generally the same: He should be in this role for 2-3 years, then accelerated into a leadership path elsewhere in the company. He can’t stay on the team indefinitely, so if he isn’t getting hired/promoted internally at that point it’s essentially up or out.

        1. Brant Girl*

          My experience is that these jobs can be rough but lead to truly plum jobs that leap frog you on your career. The trick is building your in-company network, doing great work of course, and staying the course. The company’s goal is to expose him to the breadth of business in the company so he’s prepared to assume a high level position. Patience!

  15. Epimethus*

    How can you establish what the market rate is for your position when your job is in a highly specialized niche? I work in an area with a lower cost of living, but the only comperable jobs I can find online are in very high cost of living areas (NYC, DC, Seattle, Chicago). My employer would likely dismiss my research based solely on that fact. I am fairly confident I am paid well below market rate for my role, but I am uncertain how to prove it.

    1. PX*

      Have you had a look through Allisons thread a while back where people posted salaries anon? Obviously your field is niche but you might help get some idea of the differences in COL?

    2. straws*

      I’m not experienced with researching this type of information, but perhaps as a last resort you could use the high COL area compensation & plug it in to a cost of living calculator. It might give you a general idea to start from.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I’m in a similar situation with a niche role, but I was trying to negotiate a salary while moving from a high COL area to a lower one, so I knew a paycut was a possibility. I didn’t want to scare them off with my current salary. I purchased a pretty in depth salary report from salary.com for $75, I think. Why I recommend this is that there were options to identify responsibilities, not just job titles. The community data on most salary sites is junk, but this paid report came from info solicited by HR departments from my target region, my target company size, or my target industry.

      Good luck!

    4. Cath in Canada*

      Try comparing the salaries for a common type of job – as close as you can get to what you do – in your area versus those high COL areas. That’ll give you the average % mark-up people in high COL areas get compared to your area. Then apply the same % to the salaries you’re seeing for your specific type of work. Show your working to your manager :)

      Good luck!

  16. Work Injury*

    So my spouse got a concussion at work three weeks ago — a VERY heavy metal fire door hit him on the right side of his head and ear while he was moving boxes. (He’s an engineer, so while it was work-related, it certainly wasn’t one of his normal duties.) Since then, he’s dealt with short-term memory issues, has difficulty concentrating, his balance is seriously horked, and he’s had a headache that ranges from annoying to excruciating. The worker’s comp people have been great, and he’s getting medical care, but he still isn’t ready to go back to work (though he’d very much like to.) He’s currently on FMLA leave through the employer.

    After every medical appointment, my husband has sent his boss the “employer note” that his doctor gives him, which basically says he got a concussion, has post-concussive syndrome and balance issues, and when the next appointment is.

    My guess is that boss dude has never dealt with worker’s comp stuff before, but yesterday, he sent my spouse a text saying basically “Please keep me updated on your progress, we need you back soon. I’d hate to have to hire a replacement for you. :)”

    I think the smiley face denotes that he wouldn’t REALLY replace him, that it’s kind of a mock threat. My husband’s anxiety is through the roof after this, though, and he’s determined to fake or lie or anything to get his butt in the chair ASAP. I know you all don’t know the boss or the company, but doesn’t the fact that my husband is on FMLA mean that his job will be there (as long as he’s back within 12 weeks)?

    1. LBK*

      I’m not familiar with the FMLA laws and therefore I imagine your husband’s manager may not be either – you would be amazed at how little training anyone put in a manager position gets on this stuff at most companies (I didn’t even know what FMLA was until I started reading AAM, years after I was a manager).

      If you’re able to clarify the laws, giving a friendly and matter of fact summary to the manager will probably help a lot. I’d err on the side of assuming he doesn’t know the requirements over assuming he’s planning to break them. (Of course, this all assumes FMLA does actually require this, which I don’t know enough about it to confirm.)

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          He was injured on the job, so it makes more sense for it to be worker’s compensation instead of short-term disability.

          It’s not uncommon for FMLA to run concurrently with worker’s compensation. Worker’s comp pays for the medical bills and salary, but it doesn’t offer job protection. That’s likely why FMLA is being used.

          1. the gold digger*

            OK. Thanks. I didn’t understand the part about FMLA running concurrently with the disability/comp. It didn’t occur to me that a company would even think of firing someone who was out because of an on the job injury.

              1. QualityControlFreak*

                Construction is an industry where a certain level of physical readiness is really necessary to perform the job. Often contractors are small and don’t meet the threshold for FMLA. A union can provide some protections for its members, but the employer still needs the job to be done – often on a tight schedule as the construction industry is perforce somewhat seasonal. So the contractor really can’t wait for an injured crew member to recuperate if that takes a long span of time. If they’re a union outfit, they’ll call up the hall and get another member off the out of work list, and Injured Worker will go on the list when the docs give him a release to go back to work. It may seem harsh, but it’s the nature of the industry. Unions can help their members with training, job placement, and can even provide health care benefits. They can be a real safety net for people working in an inherently hazardous environment.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      FMLA guarantees that he can return to “an equivalent” position in terms of pay, skills, and responsibilities. It doesn’t stop the boss from hiring someone else.

      1. fposte*

        There’s also temp hire.

        That being said, I don’t think the boss was seriously thinking about any of this, and he just made a dumb joke that was unwise in light of FMLA protections. I think your husband should either ignore him or drop a note back to say essentially “Joking aside, we’re clear that FMLA means my employment is legally protected through this absence, right?”

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I’m guessing the boss was joking… how many times can he reply with “Thanks for the update.”
          If he is being treated well by his company, then he will continue to be treated well. No company wants to get involved in a workmans comp lawsuit, especially one with an obvious injury that clearly took place at work.
          If he was being treated poorly by his company from the start, then you would need to worry. Just because the boss made a poor joke doesn’t mean that HR would let a replacement be hired.
          But at the same time, if he is out for a year…yeah, they will need to hire a temp or make other arrangements.
          It sounds like the company is doing everything right. Not a time to panic.

    3. B*

      FMLA provides that the person on leave come back to the same or an equivalent job – meaning a job with equivalent pay, benefits, and terms and conditions. So they can technically hire a replacement for him, but assuming he comes back within the 12 weeks, they need to provide him with an equivalent job.

      Your husband needs to speak with HR and his manager to clear all of this up before he returns to work. His employer might also have requested a certification that he is fit enough to return – check the FMLA paperwork you received from your husband’s employer. Even if they don’t require it, make sure he doesn’t return before he is able to work!

    4. KimmieSue*

      He absolutely needs to speak to HR. Depending on the state you live in, he’s likely got extra protection (way outside of FMLA) due to the on the job injury (from state or disability insurance). It’s likely that his manager isn’t aware of the risk his text likely put the company. Hope he is better soon.

    5. JMegan*

      I’m not in the US, so I don’t know anything about FMLA. But I do know that the boss sounds like a jerk, smiley face or no smiley face. In fact, the smiley face almost makes it worse, like it gives plausible deniability to the rest of it. If questioned, he can say “Of course I was joking! Didn’t you see the smiley face?” Ugh.

      I hope your husband recovers soon, and that he gets his own job back (or a better one!) at the end of it all.

    6. Joey*

      Its possible he could be referring to having to hire a temp. But I would ask HR in a confused way “john mentioned to me that he wanted me to come back soon or he’d have to replace me. I was under the impression that FMLA protected my job for up to 12 weeks? Am I misunderstanding something”

      This should get your HR to wag the finger at your boss.

    7. SadieCatie*

      Movie gift certificates are an incredible crowd pleaser! I had a different experience but agree 100%
      We handed them out after our small office party (although, having the office closed for the afternoon sounds amazing!).
      The certificates were the only thing people talked about the next day. People were sharing how they planned to use them, which movies excited them, etc. It was a great way to expand fun conversation, rather than just discussing work related things.
      Any extras were used as rewards for friendly competitions, like Oscar/Emmy awards predictions.

    8. krisl*

      It might be a good idea for your husband to talk to his boss or maybe send a reply e-mail (hopefully he’ll get confirmation that the boss was joking in writing). It might also be worthwhile if he explains how much he wants to get back to work and what some of his symptoms are.

  17. PX*

    Anyone have any advice on negotiating a raise as a contractor/long term temp?

    I’ve been working at my present company for almost 2 years now on 1 year contracts (getting a fulltime/permanent position is not an option right now) and I know my manager is extremely happy with my work so I foresee the conversation about renewing my contract coming up soon (officially I work through a temp agency).
    However because of the nature of the contract (i.e. high base salary but no benefits) and the fact that our department budget is funded in a really silly way (basically me asking for a raise will probably have to come out of the department budget), I feel a bit…guilty about it? But I still would like to see some kind of reward for the fact that I do good work. Seeing as how there is no option to negotiate for benefits, a higher base salary is the only thing I can ask for.

    Is this just a case of the standard ‘asking for a raise’ arguments (i.e. based on performance)? Are there extra things I should think about because of the whole temp thing?

    1. cuppa*

      I used to work at a consulting firm, and all salary negotiations went through your rep/recruiter. Other than that, I don’t recall anything that would be different in terms of how to negotiate it (performance wise). Some of our clients were more receptive to it than others.

    2. LMW*

      I think it really depends on your situation. When I was a long term temp, I received two raises and in both cases it was my on-site manager who advocated for them. My positions were funded in a similar way to yours, but I think a key difference might have been that I wanted to be perm and get benefits and they knew that, so a raise was their way to try and keep me longer and reward me for doing good work in the best way they could. In that situation, if I’d been asking for a raise, I would have talked to my on-site manager, not my contact at the agency.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, it can be really tricky as a contractor.

      In my current position, pay is based on grades, and there’s just no wiggle room. My husband had a contracting job where they gave him a raise when his direct manager advocated for him. Wouldn’t hurt to ask.

  18. LBK*

    What do people do about anonymous passive aggressive notes? Someone put a pretty angry one on our fridge about not refilling the ice trays. Do you take them down? Leave them? Issue a department memo? Write your own back?

    (The latter two are mostly jokes, but seriously, it was really awkward and I was tempted to take it down but didn’t know if that would be rude.)

    1. Enjay*

      We don’t have much of an issue with this at my office, but I’d be inclined to scrawl, “but I don’t want to!” on the note.

    2. fposte*

      Unless it’s like a morale-destroying piece of evilness, I’d leave it. And I’d make sure I refilled the ice trays.

      1. LBK*

        It said “Really!!!??? You can’t refill the ice trays? I would hate to live in your house! Please be courteous and considerate of your coworkers.” (the number of !s and ?s is verbatim)

        I wouldn’t have had an issue with a note being put up because I use the ice frequently, so I’m often the victim of the ice bucket being empty. But the first part was totally unnecessary, and the whole thing was in huge bold underlined red font. It was clearly written in a rage and not as a friendly reminder.

        My snarky side was really tempted to write “I <3 passive aggressive notes" on it. Although I guess it's a moot point because apparently someone else decided to take it down – it was in the trash just now.

        1. LCL*

          I shred them. Anonymous notes can inflame people, and you may be surprised at who takes it badly.

          A previous management regime lectured me when our resident sociopath (long retired) left one and I wrote on it “don’t leave cowardly anonymous notes” and signed it. Apparently I was in the wrong because I didn’t ignore said sociopath attempts to intimidate and control.

        2. fposte*

          Yeah, that’s a bit much. I’ve pulled them down when they’ve been something I’ve considered likely to stir trouble–or when somebody’s commented in a way that would.

        3. Lily in NYC*

          I’ve been sitting on my hands lately trying not to write an obnoxious note for the person who pees all over the toilet seat.

          1. LBK*

            We had a department email sent out about not clogging the toilet in the men’s room. That one was pretty awkward – but it worked! Hasn’t happened since then.

              1. fposte*

                I just thought the juxtaposition was funny–I would never burn somebody for being annoyed at non-toilet pee.

                1. Lily in NYC*

                  I really thought you were going to come back with a “if your pee burns you should be worried” comment!

        4. Melissa*

          I do actually forget to refill the ice trays in my own apartment. I do quite fine because most of my drinks are kept in the fridge and I don’t use them anyway.

          Personally I would take it down and throw it away. It’s really unnecessary, and such a minor thing. If a note was really needed for such a thing – just write a courteous one (seriously, if you are going to snark about your coworkers being courteous…be courteous yourself!).

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I wasn’t paying attention a few days ago and put an ice cube made out of chicken broth into my water glass (at home). Gross!

        5. Cath in Canada*

          Submit it to passiveaggressivenotes dotcom. Then, if they run it, print out the webpage and attach it to the note.

          As ever, my advice comes with a “use at your own risk” caveat.

          1. Windchime*

            We used to have one that said, “Your mother doesn’t work here. Wash your own dishes.” I wrote on it, “You can’t tell me what to do; you’re not my mother.”

            Heh. I thought it was funny, anyway.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Take a picture, send it to passiveaggressivenotes.com and then post the link on the fridge. (Maybe posting the link on the fridge is going a bit too far.)

    4. Anna*

      I’ve taken them down. There’s no need to be passive-aggressive. It’s just as easy to send out an email to your group asking that people please refill the ice trays, or to put up a note reminding people to refill them nicely. Of course, you could write a response and hope it becomes an epic note battle like you see on Tumblr.

      1. TL -*

        I just sent out an email to my group asking them (nicely) to please dispose of boxes properly and everyone has been excellent in complying and every day it makes me really, really happy.

    5. soitgoes*

      It depends on whether or not the note is addressing a legit problem. tbh the people who use ice cubes should be filling the trays when necessary. Never put an empty tray back in the freezer. That’s just lazy.

      1. Melissa*

        That’s the thing. And refilling an empty tray is not one of those things that you can easily forget to do, or whatever. I feel like if people are already not refilling empty ice cube trays, they’re unlikely to begin doing so because of a note.

  19. The Other Dawn*

    When would you consider it excessive when applying for multiple jobs at one company? I’ve applied to three at one company in the last three months (all different areas). It just happens I qualify and would be happy with any of them. If another one comes up I might apply. Too much?

    1. LiteralGirl*

      I did that while trying to get back to the company where I had worked before having kids. I really like the company, and did get hired back in. I see nothing wrong with it as long as you’re qualified for all of them.

      1. Snapple12*

        I agree! Most companies that I’ve worked for actually encourage you to apply for as many jobs as you’d like as long as you’re actually qualified. When I was trying to get my foot in the door at one particular employer, I applied for at least 15 jobs in a 30 day period (It was a university and I applied to positions at the various schools) and after 13 months,I eventually got hired in a FT role.

    2. KarmaKicks*

      I don’t think three is excessive as long as you qualify for them. I have one gentleman that has applied 21 times, for different positions, over the last two years. He does qualify for most, so I just keep forwarding them to the hiring managers. Unfortunately, a lot of those positions were closed because we didn’t win a contract, but he keeps trying!

    3. Lily in NYC*

      If you are qualified then go for it! We get that a lot here and I only think about it negatively when it’s someone who applies for everything, regardless of qualifications. I can’t believe how many applicants apply for both the lowest entry-level and highest senior management positions. Do they not think I can see it in our system? Why would an administrative assistant with barely any experience think she is remotely qualified to be a Sr. Vice President? I would love to email these people and ask what they are thinking (not that I would ever do it).
      But we also get people like you, who are qualified and will apply to every VP opening that comes up, for example. That is expected and normal and I don’t think twice about it.

  20. straws*

    What is a professional way for a supervisor to let an employee know that they’re excited for a personal opportunity? I have an employee who, after being incredibly awesome and some pushing from me, is going to be eligible for full time and benefits soon. This means he’ll be able to address some medical issues that he’s been struggling with for some time. I’ve had to deal with similar issues in my past, so I know just how life changing this can be, and I’m SUPER excited about it for him. I’ve been supportive as he’s dealt with everything while he’s been here, and I want to continue to be supportive as he moves on to a resolution. My instinct with a friend would be a big hug and gushing supportive words (yes, I can be that person). But, he’s not a friend, he’s my employee and caring about his well being doesn’t make that ok. Any helpful thoughts out there?

    1. fposte*

      I think anything beyond a quick “Yay, your benefits came through!” is likely to be weird. You can be privately excited for him, but this isn’t something you’re going through together.

      1. straws*

        That’s about what I was thinking, but I was secretly hoping there was something that I was missing. Maybe I’ll bake myself a celebration cake and eat it by myself at home (while being super excited).

    2. Nanc*

      How about a nice handwritten note? Just describe how much you’ve enjoyed working with him and how much you’re looking forward to his being full time and making an even bigger contribution to the success of your team.

    3. Biff*

      I think you can say something like “Hey, this is awesome for me to get to do as a supervisior.” –Hand Over Bennies Packet– “it’s one of the perks. I’m really happy everything went together to get your full time. I know how much you wanted this and it’s awesome to get to do this.”

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You can always take him for a celebratory lunch or coffee, or go to lunch/coffee with the team to celebrate his full-time status. If he’s well-liked all around, I don’t think that’s weird or too much. Just don’t mention the medical stuff– no matter how kind you are, you risk embarrassing him.

  21. Diet Coke Addict*

    I feel like Alison ought to do a Bravo reality show, a la Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, where she can travel from workplace to workplace and tell people in detail, in person, the many ways in which they’re screwing up.

    At my workplace this week it would be sending out a mailer that looks more like spam than anything I’ve ever seen (“$AVE More!” using three different fonts and text styles? Why?), my boss arguing with an employee(!) about why she needs to show up reliably and on time and punch in and out correctly, telling another employee that her idea of fax marketing was a great one, and bringing his sick kid to the office for the day. One more and I’ll have bingo.

    1. LBK*

      I brought up the same idea a few months ago in the “Ask Me Anything” thread. I would watch that show obsessively.

    2. Anoners*

      Is Tabatha’s Salon Takeover still a thing?? I LOVE THAT SHOW

      I’m tough, I’m talented, and I’m taking over!

      1. LBK*

        Sadly, it wasn’t on Bravo’s list of renewals for this year :( Not officially cancelled yet but not currently planned to come back.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      When I was at a super dysfunctional company, we had some consultants volunteer to do a workplace analysis. I think they were literally throw out on their rumps after presenting their results. The owners believed they were the most awesome, perfect beings in the world (meetings began with prayers thanking god for the owner’s knowledge and guidance). There was no way they could ever accept a different opinion.
      But…that is how those restaurant rescue shows start. The chef thinks his food is perfect. It could work!

  22. Carrie in Scotland*

    So we’ve had a lot about annoying co-workers or the worst co-worker you’ve ever had and so on but I’d like to ask, why is (are) your co-worker(s) amazing?

    I’m in my fourth month of this job and my co-worker has saved my bacon twice and is a fountain of all knowledge and lets me know various things e.g how to set up a meeting room, where to buy the things for the meeting and provides a checklist.

    1. fposte*

      Man, how long could I go on about that?

      Let’s just go with kindness, enthusiasm, and diligence. You know the “then a miracle occurs” cartoon where that’s the unspecified part of the equation? They translate that into functional work.

    2. HigherEd Admin*

      I have a coworker who has a can-do attitude about everything. She manages a ridiculous workload, but always has time to chat or brainstorm or pitch in unexpectedly. She is sincerely the kindest, most helpful person I’ve ever worked with. When she got promoted this summer, I couldn’t fully express how much I felt like she deserved it — but I hope she knows!

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I’ve often had great and sometimes amazing co-workers. Right now I work in a place where we don’t work together much, but they are friendly, courteous, and usually quiet. They do small and nice things for each other, greet each other, and it’s just a nice place to be. Not for any big reason, but for many little reasons.

      One of my goals is to be the amazing co-worker, ready to share all knowledge, and knowing when to make a kind comment and when to leave people alone.

      (And when I read your post the first time, I read it wrong, and thought your amazing co-worker cooked bacon for you twice — which would be pretty wonderful.)

    4. Gwen*

      My team right now is super talented & very hard-working. Honestly, that really goes for the whole office…I never feel like I’m getting blocked for anything or that people aren’t doing everything in their power to help me get what I need done. I’m really happy to work here.

    5. CollegeAdmin*

      I share an office with two amazing coworkers. In addition to helping out with work stuff (talking me off a ledge over my horrible supervisors, identifying faculty members who walk in the door, helping me navigate our ERP system, etc.), they are both such wonderful, friendly people. Just yesterday, I got a bad migraine while at work. They ran interference for me with my “mother hen” of a supervisor, insisted on turning off the florescent lights so they wouldn’t bother me, and even offered to drive me home – I live an hour away, nowhere near either of them. Such fabulous women – without them, I would have quit at least 6 months ago, but they make working here bearable.

    6. butterbeans*

      I went from a very difficult workplace to a very nice one, and I’m constantly fighting the urge to bake cakes for my new coworkers and tell them that I really like how they’re not a bunch of sociopaths. (I settle for occasional treats and normal levels of gratitude.)

      They are all so very patient and helpful when I need to learn something new. And I discovered that, right from the start, I had unique expertise that they were interested in learning, too. My boss is incredibly talented at putting a good team together. I need to make sure I learn how to do that from her for the future.

    7. Wonkette*

      Coursera (the free online course website) has a course called “Inspiring Leadership through Emotional Intelligence” that looks at what makes good leaders/co-workers. It’s active now if you’re interested. I think a lot of what is taught in the course makes sense intuitively but it’s nice to see what the data says.

    8. Cath in Canada*

      My team’s very mutually supportive and helpful. We all have grant deadlines, and organise meetings, at different times – people will offer to pick up coffees and lunches for people on deadline, and will volunteer to help out at each others’ meetings (dealing with the caterers, room set-up, general runner etc).

    9. Biff*

      I have a truly amazing coworker that isn’t the team mom so much as she’s the team aunt and she is really good it noticing that someone is losing their grip and talking to them!

  23. Rowan*

    I’m increasingly frustrated at work at the moment. My department has two members of staff where the workload really requires four, we’re barely keeping our heads above water and my manager doesn’t seem to think there’s any cause for concern. Even if we got a new member of staff, I don’t know how we’d find the time to train them – we’re that stretched. How do you cope when you have so many jobs to do that you know you’re not doing any of them particularly well?

    1. Megan*

      You must work at my company …

      What you do is leave – and be the first one to do it. Our two-person-but-should-be-more department had one person retire this summer. Their solution to the lack of training time? Coming in on Sundays for training. Doesn’t that sound fun?

      1. Rowan*

        Luckily, my manager lives in cloudcuckooland but is not actively malicious like that! We’re an industry where it’s expected that we will be, uh, administratively slapdash, and we’re a lot better than our competitors so we get by. It just bugs me to do anything badly, and my CV would look a lot better with a solid two years in this job on it. Thank you for reminding me that it could be worse!

  24. Fawn*

    Arrrgh I just noticed a typo in a thank-you email I sent this morning to an interviewer I spoke to with yesterday. It’s a typo in a made up word (software programming name), so it was already underlined as an error, and I just didn’t notice it. I’m usually really good with this stuff, so I’m kicking myself and worried this has killed my chances. Is there anything I can do (aside from not letting it happen again?)

    1. Rowan*

      If they have noticed it and care, and you email them to correct it, it doesn’t change the fact that it was there in the first place and you sent it out. If, which is more likely, they’ve either not noticed or have noticed and aren’t particularly concerned, you’re drawing attention to it. Sorry, but I think you just have to let this one go!

      1. Fawn*

        Thanks for the reply (and the reminder that they may not even have noticed). I’m just going to leave it and hope for the best.

    2. Anx*

      I think I blew an amazing opportunity to do data entry (my first office job outside of university) by forgetting to fix the name of the hiring manager. I intentionally left it half blank so I would remind myself to triple check the spelling of the last name. Instead I just sent it first name only. It was probably the most embarrassing think I’ve done so far in a job search.

      No advice, but I can commiserate.

      It may help to remind yourself they aren’t thinking about it as much as you are.

    3. LisaLisa*

      Arg! I’ve spelled the interviewer’s name wrong in a reply and kicked myself! But I got called back for the second interview. I think if you’re a good fit they’ll look past it.

  25. pamplemousse*

    Could anyone in sales tell me more about the field and environment?
    I have a friend who is leaving a job in sales and is willing to refer me to the position if I want it. I currently am a manager and the sales position would be selling to my current industry. My friend had the same job I have before she took this sales position. The job would involve some travel — probably at least one week out of the month if not two.
    My biggest thoughts are about the travel (which is why she is leaving this position; she has a family now and wants to be at home more) and the job security (my job is pretty stable right now; I’m not sure how stable sales would be and where quotas figure in to it. It would be a pay increase and a change of pace for me, which is exciting.
    I travel once or twice a year for my job now and enjoy it, but I realize that is a whole different ballgame than once or twice a month.
    Could anyone tell me more about sales culture, environment, and travel, how performance is usually measured, etc?

    1. Canuck*

      Sales jobs vary quite widely, across industries as well as your target market (business to business? direct to consumers?). Can you give us an idea of what type of sales the job would entail and/or the industry?

    2. Not So NewReader*

      How big was her territory?
      Did she mention having goals/quotas?
      How did the company do with reimbursing all that travel expense?

  26. Bookworm*

    I had a first interview with a company and the HR contact has been extremely unorganized and unresponsive. To schedule my phone screen I had to e-mail her twice, one reply, one follow up to schedule. Luckily she scheduled my first interview right after the phone screen while I was still on the phone. When I went to the company, she said to ask for her but wasn’t around, so the person interviewing me came to get me. Now I have been asked back for a second interview which was emailed to me the same day I interviewed but after hours. I responded an hour later saying I was excited and gave my availability. No answer, so I just emailed her again to follow up as I need some advance notice to get time off and to nail down a time before the weekend. I am very aware not to bother HR or keep contacting her but she is so unresponsive and I feel like she needs a little nudging as that is how I got my phone screen through. I will just wait and hope she responds but I would really hope that this doesn’t get in the way of me getting the job. :( Any advice-is this normal? I really want this position!

    1. B*

      It very may well be the HR rep you’re talking to – but more than likely she is waiting on responses from the people they need to interview you. When I was doing recruitment coordination, working with hiring managers to get interviews on their calendars was my most stressful task. Their calendar would be free, so I would send the request and set up the schedule – then they would email me saying they weren’t actually available. Especially when it’s high-level people, schedules are packed and not everyone’s lines up magically to accommodate for interviews.

      I know it’s hard, but you just have to wait!

    2. Brant Girl*

      I’m hiring now and since my team is understaffed I’m working 80 hours a week. Add interviewing and it’s almost undoable. So the delay in a response may be a reflection of how overextended the hiring managers are. Be patient. Great candidates get interviewed!

  27. the gold digger*

    Hi all. I am at a new job developing a Sharepoint site as a repository for my department’s documents. Anyone have any best practices to share? I am trying to figure out things like how many attribute fields you can have before users who upload and tag the documents won’t bother to tag their documents. That is, how do you ensure user compliance and data quality?

    What about libraries? Do you put all the documents in the same library or is it easier to split them into multiple libraries? How does that affect the search function and setting up views? Has anyone set up a formal taxonomy in SP?

    1. JMegan*

      I don’t have any advice, but I’m going through some of this myself, so I will also be looking forward to the answers!

    2. brightstar*

      Would a records management viewpoint help? My experience (not with Sharepoint in particular) is that users are not going to want to spend a lot of time tagging documents. It can be difficult to even get them to follow standards in naming documents in my experience.

      If your job has someone who handles records, they might be able to help you with setting up the library, depending on the needs. I’m thinking if there’s a retention schedule you might be able to just set it up according to that schedule, which will make it easier to delete from the repository rather than searching and searching. And they may already have a formal taxonomy that you can use in setting up Sharepoint.

      AIIM has a lot of good articles and research on Sharepoint.

      1. the gold digger*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m worried about – that they won’t want to take the time. I don’t even dare dream to implement naming conventions. That requires a far greater change in human behavior than tagging does!

        That’s a good idea about talking to someone in records retention. I will ask around. Thank you!

      1. Windchime*

        I thought it was just me. For some reason, I just can’t adapt to Sharepoint. I know lots of people love it, but ours must be set up poorly or something because I’m constantly poking around, trying to find things. It doesn’t make sense to me.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ooooh, AAM has a new site sponsor that provides a really awesome alternative to Sharepoint: Igloo. There’s a sponsored post coming next week with my thoughts on them, but I was really impressed by their software, if you want to check out an alternative!

  28. OneMoreAlison*

    Myself and my immediate supervisor created a new job description for me about a month/month and a half ago. It has been looked over by our department head, but she hasn’t signed off on it. She has probably had it for at least 3 weeks now. I’m anxious to get it signed because our company is notorious for not advancing their internal employees and this new position is probably the only way I would stay past another year or so.

    I don’t want to threaten to leave for several reasons– 1. my co-worker just left the department, 2. it would cause my immediate supervisor more stress (he’s already a little overwhelmed with the departure of co-worker), and 3. I know that finding a position with the responsibilities that I want, which are in the new description, are very very unlikely in my city.

    How do i approach my supervisor and Dept. head about getting this done? (oh yeah, i’ve already started doing the new responsibilities of the new job description, but still have to complete the duties of the old job still. I know this is bad but I want to prove myself)

    1. JMegan*

      On the “proving yourself” front, I think you’d be better off completing the duties of the old job first, before you jump into something new. If there’s a specific project that needs to be finished, finish it. If it’s the kind of job that’s never really done, at least tie up as many loose ends as you can, and make some notes about where things need to be picked up. After all, it’s this job that you have committed to, so the best way to prove yourself is to keep that commitment.

      As for the new job description, it’s most likely going to be on you to keep it moving. I know it’s super-important to you, but it’s not going to be top of mind for either your supervisor or the department head. Just check in informally with your supervisor every couple of weeks or so, with something like “Just a reminder that Department Head hasn’t signed off on my new job description yet. Would you mind checking in with her to make sure it doesn’t fall through the cracks?”

  29. Jubilance*

    Just wanted to share – I have an interview! It’s for an internal role on a totally different team, and focused on the type of work I’m passionate about. I really hope it works out. My interview is Monday morning so I’ll be spending the weekend prepping and figuring out what to wear.

  30. Be the Change*

    Ooo, I’m in early! I NEED YOUR HELP! I have had a wonderful secretary/budget person for several years; I inherited her and it was the best thing ever. She is leaving for new challenges and better pay (yay!).

    I’ve never had to hire for this kind of person before. Since this is obviously so critical to our department’s success, I am in desperate need of this group’s council and advice! What kind of questions should I be asking to ensure that the new person has the potential to be as lovely and effective as Ms. Wonderful?

    I’ve already asked Ms. Wonderful to come up with a few task-test questions for me. What else??

    1. cuppa*

      I think soft skills are the key for this one. Positive, can-do attitude, aptitude and willingness to learn, etc. Good luck!

    2. AVP*

      Agreeing with culpa here…this role is all about soft skills, so you need to find a way to observe them in the interview process. First of all, really read cover letters! They will be essential for you in determining what kind of personality your top applicants have, and that’s key. Also, the way they communicate with you in the hiring process will be the way they communicate with others down the line, so pay attention to any red flags that you see. Sample tasks are also great.

      Also, find ways to ask about organization. And not just “Would you call yourself organized?” but “Give me an example of a time that you led an organizational project” or “Off the top of your head, how are your computer files organized right now?” – I don’t know, other people might be better at coming up with exact questions, but you should really probe this area. Crack organization is a big but oft-overlooked key to budget and reception success, and hard to teach.

    3. LBK*

      I think a reverse of one of Alison’s common pieces of advice could help here: think about what she does vs. what a mediocre person in her role would do. Is she specifically talented at deflecting unwanted calls in a way that the average person wouldn’t? When it comes to the budget, does she have the business acumen to give you important big-picture information that might go over most people’s heads? For each of her responsibilities, identify what she does that makes her such an amazing employee instead of just an average one.

    4. BB*

      Make a list on what qualities make Ms. Wonderful wonderful at her job and wonderful to work with. Then after looking through the applicant’s resume and cover letter, see if they are missing any of those things. If they are, figure out some questions to see if they have those qualities. Since you will be working with this new person closely, make sure you find someone you can get along with. Go with your intuition, too. If they seem great but something inside of you feels otherwise, move on to the next person.

  31. White Flag*

    Has anyone given up on a job search? Just flat out, you can’t do this any more? I have a job, but I’m underemployed. I’ve been looking for a “better” job (more responsibility, better pay) for years, and… nothing. I’ve had my resume redone, I’ve gone back to school. I just can’t handle any more rejection. I think I should just accept the fact that I’m unemployable and be happy with the job I have.

    1. Fawn*

      I’m in a pretty similar position (not so much underemployed, but definitely not well suited to my role). I’ve been applying without a whole lot of success for 6 months (although I did have an interview yesterday).

      I’ve definitely toned down the intensity of my search over the last couple months , and started to focus instead on building up my network through events, applying to volunteer positions, and letting my friends in the industry I’m looking to enter know that I’m wanting to make a move. Basically, doing what I can to allow change to happen more organically. It’s helped alleviate the burnout of rejection, and makes me feel more in control.

      1. Fawn*

        Forgot to say – I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time! Not to sound trite, but is there anyway you can find more happiness in your work in the meantime? Are there colleagues you enjoy talking to, particular tasks you can talk to your manager about doing more of, etc?

    2. OhNo*

      Is giving up entirely the only option here? It sounds to me like you need a break from it for a while. There’s no need to give it up entirely, but you can step back and say, “I’m not going to actively pursue this job search for X months”, and instead focus on some things outside of work that make you happy, whatever those may be.

      Then, after your set amount of time is up, you can revisit and decide if you want to begin actively pursuing the job search again, or passively job searching (only applying to job postings that you happen to stumble across and that seem interesting), or if you need a longer break and want to focus on other things for a few more months.

      Rejection sucks, I know. It might help to just have some time to regroup, re-prioritize, and then come back at it with a fresh outlook in a few months or a year.

      1. BB*

        I agree. You just need a break. You need to assess the situation and hopefully this will give you a new perspective. Don’t give up on the job hunt. Stay positive!

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed– take a break. You may need to reassess what kind of job you want and what you want to go for, but chances are it’s just become overwhelming, and, sadly, that may show in your cover letters. Writing with a “fresh” voice might be what you need, and you can only do that after a break.

    3. Sharon*

      Hi, are you me? Because this sounds just like my story. I worked a crappy retail job I hated while I went back to school (never found a job in the field I went to school for, let my certification lapse, so that was a ton of wasted time and money).

      Eventually I did find a different job that I like a lot and it pays a little more… but I still only expect to make about $30K this year :|

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I had a period of looking for work, sending off CVs and getting nowhere, and then this was when I started working with my career coach, which really seemed to help.

        Is there something new you can try such as taking up a hobby, or doing something different?

    4. B*

      Don’t give up! Just take a break. Job searching is truly exhausting and is a full time job in and of itself. Take a break for a few weeks, reassess your goals, have others look over your resume and cover letter (happy to do this myself!). Look at some jobs outside of your normal scope.

        1. soitgoes*

          I definitely recommend the internship then, especially if you’re underemployed to the extent that you have some days off during the standard workweek. I have some friends who interned after graduating college when all they could get were serving jobs. So they waitressed and interned, and eventually they all got really good jobs, either through connections made via the internships or because their resumes became that much more impressive. If you have the free time, it can’t hurt.

          1. White Flag*

            I meant underemployed as in I do data entry. I still work 40+ hours/week. I took the job as something to bring in income when I went back to school. I’ve looked in to internships and all of them want experience, which is crazy IMO, and/or they want you to be enrolled in school still.

    5. Lizzy*

      I have been actively looking since early 2013, and had no such luck so far. I graduated during the heart of the recession in 2008 and ended up going to grad school. I have had some great experience, especially in grad school, but most of it has been freelance, contract and temp work; I have never held a “real” full-time job, which is makes me insecure since I am pushing 30.

      The kicker is I interview frequently –I have a good resume and cover letter, and portfolio — and I often make it to the final rounds of the interview process…only to end up not getting the job. I have been the second choice candidate on multiple occasions. A lot of people tell that I am lucky since there are plenty of people out there who send out hundreds of applications without a single callback, which is true , but it still hurts. And being so close yet no cigar really makes you lose confidence and you start to wonder what is wrong with you.

      I joke that I know what it feels like to be the runner up on “The Bachelor” since the rejection is very similar: “You’ll be a great employee for someone else,” or “So-and-so was just more with what I was looking for.”

      I think Fawn had some great advice about changing things up, going through your network and working on things that make you happy. I have slowly been going about this method and it helps (even just a little bit) with the burnout, putting things into perspective and giving yourself control over your situation the best that you can.

      1. Anx*

        You’ll be a great employee for someone else,

        Ugh, that is a rough one. I know some of the most frustrating aspects of my job search was people I volunteered for/interned for asking me about my job search all of the time. I think they meant well, but it was just so awkward for me.

      2. Red*

        I really struggled and am currently (by my manager’s admission!) pretty under-employed. I graduated college in ’09, searched for a year, then went to grad school for an MSA, then ended up temping because I couldn’t find paying work (besides totally unaffordable internships!). I got permanent employment with a stable employer, but I don’t use much of what I learned in grad school. Right now my only answer is “find something interesting, turn it into a side-hustle, get out.”

    6. whatnow*

      I feel similar. I was underemployed before, now I’m under-underemployed. But I don’t have a permanent job to fall back on. Firstly you’re not unemployable. It’s just once you get stuck in under-employment it’s really hard to get out.
      I’m not sure what you want to do, but it might help like other people said, to take a break from the job hunt for a while. Instead you could replace it with a project. Either a personal thing that you’ve always wanted to do, or maybe taking on volunteer duties.
      The trouble with a job-hunt is it becomes your life, everything’s about getting ahead and not much else. Rejection isn’t much fun and certainly doesn’t build confidence. Putting your energy into something you enjoy which is outside work, and shows your a capable human being (even if it’s just to you) might make you feel better about yourself. And give you the strength to continue a little later on – and something to talk about in job interviews, which shows more of your talents and abilities. Or is just plain fun.
      Now I have to take my own advice somehow :)

    7. Not So NewReader*

      I can’t say enough about volunteering. It has done so much for me, when the job hunting just pulls me down, down.
      Alternatively, if money allows could you take a course in something/anything? blacksmithing, stain glass, anything. There is something about learning to create, that is refreshing or healing.
      Your job search sounds like it has been intense. I agree with the others that say stop looking for now. Barest minimum limit how much looking you do. Look for ways to recharge, put something into you that is of value to you personally.

    8. AnonyMostly*

      I understand. I was rejected from a job I really wanted over something that happen to me. It hurt so bad, sometimes I still find myself in tears when I’m alone and I think about it. I work dam hard to get from that point to the point I’m at today and for this to come up when the job was so close within my grasp-was like a major punch in my guts. Add on top, being underemployed as well just makes it more difficult. I have continued my job search as I normally do, which is only applying to a few position a month that I think would really be a good fit. But I do get to the point where I just want to throw up the white flag and say I’m done with trying to find something better.

  32. Sphinx*

    I have a question about email etiquette.

    Even though I am technically a Millennial, back in the day I was taught what I thought was proper and polite business language, formatting etc. for work correspondence.

    I guess that upbringing is why I can’t help but feel a little jarred when I get these ultra short, almost rude emails from people. And not just from colleagues my age – from everyone. Not just work related – volunteer work, charitable pursuits – everywhere. I could understand if these messages were time-sensitive, or if we weren’t expected to communicate further, but that’s not the case. I have an iPhone too, but I can take the extra minute and make sure my message doesn’t come across like a threat. Is it just me? It could totally be just me.

    1. Fawn*

      It’s not just you – I’m definitely this way too. I try to come across as relentlessly cheerful without sacrificing professionalism in my emails (a huge part of my job is liaison work, so it kind of comes with the turf). There are people in my office who are…short, to say the least. The way I go about it is to maintain my style of communication, and assume that if they have an issue with whatever we are discussing they will approach it directly.

      Also, as a fellow Millennial (ugh) I found reading the book Type Talk at Work super helpful. It’s not restricted to generational divides, obviously, but it gave me great insight into different communication styles and where my preferences fit it.

      1. C Average*

        Thank you for this! I do this, too. Unless it’s the tenth message in the thread and the world is literally on fire, I’m not sacrificing a salutation, a closing, and some basic message framing. For a long time, I took communication cues from the person who was short with me, and then I realized that I can help set the tone, too. Like you say, I maintain my style of communication even in the face of very abrupt communication from others.

        (In a high-level meeting last year, I was called out by a director in another department as “C Average, the girl who has never made a typo in her life and writes perfect emails, even from the war room.” It’s one of my favorite pieces of praise I’ve ever gotten!)

    2. Haleyca*

      I’m a Millennial and I think I fall somewhere in between on this. In high school I had a teacher who would not respond to an email from you unless it had a greeting using his name and a sign off with your name. I would never not use those things even in the shortest, simplest emails that I would send to people I don’t know well, supervisors, or people I am emailing for the first time that day. But I do have co-workers who I am emailing constantly, including one remote coworker who I talk to via email often. By the 5th email I have sent her that day I don’t really feel the need to use lots of pleasantries and additional words in my emails. Those would usually go “Hi, Text of email. – Name.” If I am emailing with someone in rapid succession and it seems more like an instant message chat than individual emails I might take off the hi and the name all together, but only after a while.

      I can’t imagine writing one sentence emails without a greeting or sign off to someone I haven’t already been emailing with though.

    3. Gwen*

      I usually start with full “formal” email (greeting, body, sign-off), but then I match the response style of the person I’m emailing with. It does always feel a little dopey to sign off with my name when it’s right underneath in big colorful letters in my signature, but so it goes.

      1. LBK*

        This is exactly what I do – I err on the side of formality for the opening email and then match whatever they do in response, within reason. I still don’t like when people completely drop their name, signature, closing, etc. and just literally send you the single sentence of their response, but if someone cuts the greeting off their reply, I think it’s fine to do the same.

    4. Anonsie*

      I think part of the thing is that not all emails are “business correspondence” such that formatting and headers, salutations, etc are necessary. Some are– the bulk of them probably aren’t. They’re more like the equivalent of a post-it note than a letter.

    5. Sheena*

      A perfectly normal email from my advisor would be “Does this relate to your project?” and a link or “Can you come to my office at 2pm?” with no greeting or signature or anything and he’s in his 70s so that’s hardly a millennial thing. But then he’s a tenured professor and I’m his grad student so he can address me (or not address me) however he wants and also the academic world is not the corporate world.

      I usually start with Hi ___, and end with Best, ___ for slightly more structured emails. Starting with ‘hi’ feels a bit casual but ‘dear’ for something not completely formal would just feel strange. I’m very direct and concise, so maybe that comes off as terse but most people I need to email are likely drowning in emails every day and I think appreciate it.

      1. Judy*

        I guess I don’t see an issue with this, but I worked with a manager who used text-speak in his emails.

        “lk @ (link here)”

    6. Red*

      I’m with you. I find some of the responses to my (pleasant, brief!) emails completely jarring. I make faces at the monitor for a bit and then do my best to forget my emotional response to it. (For example, we send out notices whenever someone’s direct deposit choices are changed in our all-electronic system–we got a response that said something like “I did not make any changes. Stop sending such emails.”) Some people do not realize how their writing comes off, and they also don’t realize that they do not get to dictate how the reader feels about it.

    7. Jill of all trades*

      I’m the opposite of you. I’m direct and concise and I get right to the point. I’m really not being rude, and I honestly don’t understand how people can take it that way – believe me, if I’m being rude it will not be by leaving out formal greetings and salutations.

      If you get a formally structured email from me and it’s not the first communication ever, it’s serious.

  33. C Average*

    Had an interview Tuesday for an internal role I’d really, really love to get. I think it went well. I’m supposed to find out next week whether I got it or not. Based on some Outlook calendar detective work I’ve done, I think I’m one of three candidates. (Yes, I looked at the panelists in the Scheduling Assistant view to see how many hour-long meetings they had together this week. I also prepared an answer for every single potential question I could’ve been asked and practiced them with my husband. I also bought a new dress I couldn’t actually afford. Did I mention I really want this job?)

    If I don’t get the job, there’s a strong possibility of a fun stretch assignment in my current role. Our company archive is creating a history of the product line I’ve supported for the past seven years, and they need someone who’s a good writer and a product subject matter expert to help create that content. My manager volunteered me! I’m meeting with the archives team early next week to scope the project.

    Life is good in C Average Land.

    1. Bookworm*

      Good luck! This has been my week to so far :) Except I am going for an external role hopefully your manager can put in a good work/highly recommend you!

      1. C Average*

        Yes, thank God. We had one very awkward meeting about it in which I explained that no, actually, I wasn’t trying to start WWIII in the workplace; I just didn’t want to see my boss and my peer cavorting around being BFFs every weekend while I was just trying to do a decent job in a role that’s evolved to the point where it doesn’t come particularly naturally. I don’t think either of them had ever considered my point of view, but once they did, they were sympathetic. Since then, they’ve made an effort to better communicate with me about what they need, and it’s helped a lot. And I’ve tried to be more of a team player. Things are actually pretty decent, but I’m looking forward to doing something different soon.

  34. Shell*

    Hopefully this is work-related enough…

    Women of AAM, where would I buy button-down shirts for (reasonably) cheap? Please note I’m in Canada.

    I am fashion-impaired, and I get cold easily. If it’s not at least 27 degrees C, there’s no way I’m wandering around without a second layer. Sometimes even a tank + a cardigan is a little cool, plus…like I said…fashion-impaired. Not all tanks work with cardigans and frankly I’d love it if I can just buy a whole bunch of button-down shirts that I can wear with skirts/dress pants (and blazers if needed for warmth) and not worry about not looking professional enough. (I may not win any points for fashion, but at least it’s still appropriate.)

    Button-down shirts are increasingly harder to find in favour of drapey tops and what have you that look great, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t figure out how to pair them up into outfits to save my life and button-downs just seem easier. And less cold. I have no idea how women wander around outside in my city in regular business-casual wear without freezing.

    So…where would I get button-downs in Canada? I don’t need silk or anything super fancy (entry level job), just…something in heavyweight cotton, solid colours would be nice.

    1. HRC in NJ*

      LL Bean isn’t cheap, but their clothes are very good quality. Sometimes you will see a button-down shirt on sale/clearance when it’s time to bring out a new batch of colors.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I think their quality has gone way down lately. They use cheaper fabric now and it’s just not the same level of workmanship. Same with Lands End (which is even worse quality and they seem to have raised their prices). They used to be my go-to place for basics like t-shirts but I’ve been very disappointed with my last few orders.

        1. Mouse of Evil*

          ^^This. I basically just quit buying LE shirts unless they’re on last-chance clearance, because they aren’t very good anymore. I used to like the fit, but even that is inconsistent. It’s not just that I’ve changed sizes, which I have a few times through the years–the sizes aren’t the same from garment to garment.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      If you have a Bay near you they’re usually a good bet for business-type separates like that. And if you look around hard enough, they usually have them from a few different designers so you can see if one works better for you than another.

      Banana Republic may be a little pricey, but their button-downs fit me wonderfully and are pretty sturdy, and continue looking sharp for quite a while longer than cheaper stores.

      Reitman’s tends to have a lot of button-downs as well every time I go in there, and fairly inexpensive as well.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I would check out Gap and Old Navy for this. They tend to have really basic cuts of stuff in 800 colors, and I have an Old Navy button-down that I love.

      If you have JC Penney up there, I’ve had great luck with them as well!

      1. AVP*

        I love the Gap boyfriend fitted button downs. I think I’ve evangelized about them here in the past! They’re cheap, they look good, have a million colors and patterns, and I think they have flannel for the winter.

    4. Fawn*

      I’ve had really good luck with the Gap Fitted Boyfriend shirt. Lots of different colours/patterns in the same cut, cotton, long enough in the arms and torso (I’m tall), and reasonably cheap (on sale right now for $34)!

    5. C Average*

      If you are small-framed, you might want to check out vendors of school uniforms. I’m on the petite side and and have occasionally bought basics from companies that sell high school uniforms. They’re typically plain and well-made.

    6. Hilary*

      I’ve had some good luck with UNIQLO’s and actually wear them more than my Banana Republic and Brooks Brothers one. I believe it’s the ‘Fine Cloth’ type, but they might have changed it.

    7. Catherine in Canada*

      LandsEnd on sale. Seriously.
      Better quality, good sizing, online shopping, at your door in less than a week.
      Done.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Winners is great if you have the patience. I just have to brag that I found a gorgeous cashmere blend sweater there for $60 last week – the original label says $270!

    8. Felicia*

      Reitmans is my favourite for button downs. Actually my favourite for all work clothes. I got a really good one at Smart Set, but that may have been a one off thing. I second the recommendation of the Bay, that is one of the few things I’ve gotten there that was good. H & M I think of as hit and miss, so it’s possible to find something there but maybe not. RW&CO is an option too

    9. nina t.*

      Banana republic noniron are pricey but worth it.
      Also, marks work warehouse has some study, nice ones as well.

    10. Kat*

      J.Crew is my personal favorite. I’m not sure if they’re in Canada/ship to Canada. I have the worst time finding button downs that fit and theirs are the only ones I trust. Worth the investment, and they’re almost always having some kind of online sale!

      1. Felicia*

        There is some J Crew stores in Canada (and they ship here, but the OP should order it from the Canadian J Crew site, not the American J Crew site). But there aren’t very many of their stores here so it’s like the OP lives somewhere that is nowhere near one. They also carry different things Canada vs US so it’s good to check.

    11. Shell*

      I love you guys. Gap/Old Navy and Mark’s seem like exactly what I’m looking for (price too). But I’ll definitely keep an eye out for holiday sales for the others.

      I’m planning to go out shopping tomorrow to try them on in-store. Thanks again everybody!

      For the record, I’m in Vancouver, BC.

      1. Shell*

        Brief update: Gap/Old Navy’s button-downs don’t fit me (too loose and billowy, I looked like I was swimming in the XS even though they fit me in the shoulders), which is a pity because I actually have a nice button-down from the Gap that I got a few years ago at an American outlet somewhere so I was very disappointed.

        I wandered into Sears but didn’t see anything nice. I went to Reitman’s and fell in love with their shirts, I kid you not. Their smallest size was just a tad big for me and that store didn’t have petites (why???) so I’m going to wander out to other stores to see if I can find any petites to try on. (I am dismayed that the print/colour selection for petite shirts are much smaller.) Also gonna try on Mark’s!

        Thanks again everyone!

        1. Andrea*

          Cleo’s sometimes has good work clothes too. I’m also petite and have had good luck with buying shirts at Reitmans/Mark’s and the Joe Fresh at Superstore and then tailoring them. My tailor cut me a deal because of quantity.

  35. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Yay open thread! I have a question for you all: On one of yesterday’s posts, there was a discussion on vacation time. Specifically, there were a lot of people who have or had unlimited vacation/PTO (take what you need policies) that specifically didn’t like them. These people also tended to like specific policies so they could know how much they were actually allowed to take, rather than the haziness of not having a policy and thus not really knowing what the real expectations are, and that clarity allowed those people to take more vacation time because they were less nervous about it.

    I feel the opposite; if I have a specific number of PTO days, I tend to hoard them because I always imagine some kind of dire scenario where I’ll need them more than I need them right now. The very existence of a limit discourages me to take them.

    I was so interested in this difference of opinion! I’d love to know more peoples’ thoughts. I feel like it’s your manager’s job to let you know if you’re taking too much time off, but I can understand that a lot of people have bad bosses and aren’t comfortable with that.

    1. LBK*

      I do see what you mean that the limit can be intimidating – I’ve been hoarding my 5 rollover days and realized that if I purposely save them so I can roll them over every single year…what’s the point? I might as well not have them if I never touch them.

      I think the problem with unlimited is that many managers won’t decide it’s too much until the request that’s over the line is made, rather than when the last acceptable request is made – it will come as a “You’ve already taken too much time off” instead of “If you take off more time after this, I’ll probably say no”. When you have a set amount of vacation time, that scenario is avoided because you and your manager both know ahead of time how much time you can take, so your mental limit is set in the same place.

    2. LCL*

      If we had unlimited PTO, we would have people who would never be at work, period. I’m not naming names, but it would be the same people whose absences are already creating horrendous staffing problems for our work group.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I hoard my time, which is ridiculous because I took this job specifically because it had 3 weeks PTO instead of a standard 2. I wanted the time but I don’t use it! We have the option of cashing out our extra time, so I have this idea that the PTO = $$ and I sure like getting extra $$!
      My dreams of taking lots of long weekends went out the window.

      1. Rebecca Too*

        I’m in a country with statutory requirements for annual leave so it’s a bit different for me, but I think I’d also find unlimited leave somewhat anxiety provoking, because I wouldn’t like the uncertainty of it, never knowing if I was actually raking too much or too little.
        Because you are guaranteed at least 20 work days per year, hoarding all of your days isn’t quite so common, but it would be very common to keep a few just in case days in reserve in case something unexpected came up. And though it’s not required, most places allow you to roll over a few days because it saves them having to pay out.

        I’d find combined holiday and sick days a nightmare though. I’d never be able to take leave because I’d be so worried I’d get sick later in the year.

        1. NZ Muse*

          Yep, so am I. I think I would be fine with unlimited leave. I say this based on the workplaces I’ve worked at, which have been pretty good, my relationships with my bosses and coworkers, and the nature of my work.

          I feel in most cases it wouldn’t be a strict holiday – I can do a lot of things remotely, so I imagine that I’d take a lot of time off but still get stuff done while travelling. Though I’d definitely still want SOME breaks where I’m totally switched off as well.

          I’d also find combined holiday + sick days terrifying.

  36. SevenSixOne*

    My workplace is about to enter its busiest season. This time last year, everyone in my department was required to work at least five hours overtime a week from October-December. I worked twelve straight 50+ hour weeks, but I almost felt like a slacker because many of my co-workers worked 60-80 hours a week in that time! We’re all paid hourly, so all those extra hours mean a huge paycheck.

    I think a cap of, say, no more than 60 hours in one week, no more than 6 days in one week, no more than 10 consecutive days, no more than 12 hours in one day is completely reasonable. Just because there will always be employees willing to work crazy hours (or too timid to say no when their boss asks them to) doesn’t mean it’s good business for employers to allow it. Do you think employers have a responsibility to limit the amount of overtime employees work?

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      In a situation like the one you describe? I don’t. I do think managers need to be on top of things, to ensure work is getting done and is up to the right standards, and take care to be on the lookout for burnout, but honestly I think if employees want to work 80 hours a week during a time when there’s 80 hours of work to do, and get paid hourly to do it, let them. If it were happening all the time, I’d probably feel differently, but three months out of the year doesn’t seem bad to me (I compare it to working on campaigns, where 80 hour weeks are typical, but you wouldn’t be at that level for more than perhaps 3 months out of the year).

    2. Rowan*

      I’d be ecstatic to be able to work an enormous chunk of paid overtime just before Christmas. I think that, as long as they aren’t pressuring the employees who can’t commit to that and are making it clear that they don’t want people to get burnt out, it’s fine.

    3. A Teacher*

      My dad worked for the big yellow company that makes construction equipment for many years, even they had a hard and fast rule of no more than 12 days in a row (at least every other Sunday) and no more than 60 hours per week for those in the manufacturing plants. He’s been retired for a few years but at least we knew he’d have one day off every two weeks.

      1. Biff*

        Cool. I always wondered about Tonka ;)

        My understanding is that in some states, manufacturing jobs are better regulated. Do you know if that’s true where your Dad was?

        1. A Teacher*

          Not sure in all honesty. I just remember that was the policy when he worked there because he worked tons of overtime but was always off at least every other Sunday.

    4. INTP*

      If it’s a field where safety is a major concern, then I do think that there should be a cap on hours. Otherwise, I don’t think they’re obligated, but they’d be within their rights to do it. If they make Employees A, B, and C limit their overtime, then it falls on Employees D-F who might not want or even be able to handle the extra hours.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I am just waiting for companies to figure out what long hours/weeks do to their health insurance plans. Once those dots connect in their heads then we will start to see some sanity. A friend worked for a place that thought nothing of 36 hour work “days”. After about 24 hours people could not even see straight to drive, but that was of no concern to the company.

      Ethically, do employers have a responsibility- yeah. But through any other lens, they actually don’t have that much responsibility.

      I just read an article about young people dropping dead in Japan from working long hours. They even have a term for that.

  37. Anon246*

    I need to let someone go next week for performance reasons. She’s a nice person but not doing what we need.
    What are the best practices for doing this, outside of the script (which I have)?
    Planning to do it midweek. What time of day is best? How do you avoid a “perp walk” if it’s a shared office? Do you stand there while they clean out desk? Let them walk around to say goodbye? This action may come as a surprise to her but it shouldn’t be (part of the issue is she doesn’t listen well and misinterprets very straightforward things).

    1. fposte*

      There’s no possibility of two week’s notice–she’s just got to go once she’s told? That’s out of my area, then–it just sounds horrible.

      1. Karath*

        It’s pretty common in fields with sensitive information – law offices, banks, schools, etc. I’ve never had a job where someone was allowed to stay two weeks after s/he was terminated. That seems worse to me, like seriously awful.

        1. fposte*

          I know it’s common in some industries (though not at any school I’ve known, save for egregious misbehavior). I just wasn’t clear if Anon is in one of those industries or didn’t realize that there might be other possibilities.

          1. Felicia*

            In Canada you either have to get notice when you’re fired, or pay in lieu of notice, or be fired for certain very specific reasons all of which would involve doing something more wrong than in this case. I’m glad we have that protection because it does sound sucky to me. Though I would prefer the pay to the notice due to possible awkwardness.

    2. Karath*

      noooooo, the walk-around is humiliating. Ask her to stay late, do it at the end of the day after people leave, and let her pack up her desk. You’ll probably need to observe just to make sure she doesn’t inadvertently take work stuff home (or maliciously delete emails etc. as has been known to happen), but there’s no need to make her do a walk of shame around the office.

      If you have one of those offices where it’s never really empty, then call a mandatory meeting via email to everyone else, make it an actual MEETING that’s unrelated to her termination. While that’s going on, you can gently pull her aside before the meeting starts, tell her the news, and that will give her time to pack up etc without people around staring. Whoever is leading the meeting can inform people at the end.

      1. fposte*

        In these cases does she get two week’s pay after she’s sent home? Or does the pay stop when she’s out the door?

        1. Cat*

          In our office, people have traditionally been paid for two weeks. The official announcement (we’re small so it’s obvious that someone has left) is usually something to the effect of “so-and-so is leaving to pursue other opportunities. Their last day is [two weeks from now] and they will be intermittently in the office until then.” I think people are allowed to come in and clean out their stuff later but, for obvious reasons, tend to just do it and leave. (Okay, I’m not working on a huge sample size here, but it seems to be the way it goes.)

        2. Karath*

          If she’s being let go for poor performance, why would she be paid for two weeks of no performance? Last time we let someone go, he was not paid any extra – we were done paying him not to do the work.

          I’ve never heard of someone being paid severance except in a layoff situation – not that it doesn’t happen, clearly it does, but it seems odd to me. Regardless, if there is some kind of a standard two-week thing, then yes, it would continue after she was sent home.

          1. fposte*

            Because a 30-minute notice that your rent check will be short is a bad way to treat somebody. I’m not saying severance, I’m saying two weeks pay in lieu of notice.

            1. Felicia*

              Pay in lieu of notice is the legal requirement in Canada, and I’m glad. If she did something specifically wrong then it’s not required, but it just seems like a bad fit, so it seems like the nice thing to do.

            2. MaryMary*

              Isn’t that one of the reasons for using a PIP, though? The employee knows their performance isn’t meeting expectations, and if you’re getting to the point of termination, the employee should be aware that the performance issues are severe enough that they could lose their job. It’s still difficult, particularly if the employee is a nice person but a bad fit for the role, but the news isn’t totally coming out of the blue.

              1. Natalie*

                Really, though, for most firms a couple of week’s pay isn’t going to break the bank and you’re going to build a lot of goodwill with that former employee. They were a bad fit for that role, but who knows how your paths will cross in the future. If you do, better to be the people who went above and beyond.

              2. Anx*

                I wish I had heard of a PIP before coming to this thread. It seems like a pretty good idea. I am really happy for the people out there that get second chances and a little direction before being fired.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            A lot of places do severance when firing for cause, for a few reasons:
            1. It’s kind.
            2. Because it’s kind, it reduces the possibility of the employee being so angry/hostile that bad things happen — from vocal denigrating of your organization in your community, to lawsuits for real or imagined grievances, to violence.
            3. It’s reassuring to other employees to know the company does this when letting someone go.
            4. You have the employee sign a general release in exchange for the severance, in which they agree not to sue for anything (this is wise even when they have no possible legal claims; lets you avoid hassles) and also agree not to trash-talk the company.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I would not want to be asked to stay late and then fired! Do it at 4pm (which is the most common time for firing).

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yes, 4:00pm is good. And I’d make it spontaneous. If you make a meeting request, the employee will probably know what is coming and be nervous until the meeting.
          I’m assuming there was an official PIP and this is the end of the timeframe. Does the employee have an idea that this is coming?

          1. Anon246*

            She should be aware (in that she’s been told in writing that her work is not up to par). Whether she believes it to be the case is another matter.

            1. Biff*

              Was any effort put into to telling her WHAT to do? I’m really working my boss over to get answers regarding what he wants me to do instead.

              “NO! Don’t do x!”
              I do y.
              “NO! Dont’ do Y!”
              I do m.
              “NOOOO! DON’T DO THAT?”

              But I’ve heard “Yes!” exactly twice.

              If I was fired, I would both understand and be confused.

              1. Biff*

                Wow, I’m tired. I meant that I’m NOW working my boss pretty hard to get answers regarding what I should be doing instead of what I am after some months of conversations like the above. It’s been very slow progress. At first I thought he wanted me to come up with alternatives, I’m now finding out that a lot of it, he doesn’t and never did want me to handle.

        2. Red*

          Just popping in to support this–my first long-ish term job after college was in the operations center of a very large banking corporation, and one day, out of the blue, a third of the entire building was laid off. At 10 a.m. And they had security staring at everyone cleaning out their desks and they were all walked out of the building. It was one of the most demoralizing experiences our team had endured, even though we weren’t (all) fired.

          1. Windchime*

            It doesn’t sound like anyone was fired. To me, getting laid off is way different from getting fired. They ultimately both end up with someone being out of work, but “laid off”, at least in this part of the world, is usually because the business doesn’t need/can’t afford the employee any longer. “Fired” is getting let go because of something the employee did or didn’t do.

    3. Olivia Pope*

      I have been around when people have been let go, it is incredibly awkward. At our office they are not given the opportunity to say goodbye, they just walk out blurry eyed with their box and the rest of the staff is understandably confused and then an announcement is make later. I think the normal practice is to stand there while they clean their desk. Make sure you have a box ready for them it is awkward to try looking for one when you realize you don’t have one. It’s hard to watch I cant imagine having to do it.

      1. Tmarie*

        This is exactly how they let me go for “not a good fit”, won’t extend probation, please leave.

        My boss had a box for me and hovered around while I packed my stuff. Left blurry eyed and ashamed. Being fired is the worst.

    4. JMegan*

      When I was let go, it went like this:

      ~Everyone in my immediate geographic area, except me, was called into a meeting
      ~My manager called me in to a meeting in her office, just her and the HR director. The manager’s script was very short – something to the effect of “HR Director and I have given this a lot of thought, and we have decided that your career here is over.” Then the Director took over to talk about the severance package.
      ~While I was in the meeting, my security pass was cancelled and my network account was locked
      ~Another HR person walked me back to my desk and “helped” me clean up. I think she gave me the option of coming back another time or having her send the stuff, but I don’t really remember. But I think it’s a good idea to give the options, anyway
      ~She gave me a taxi chit, and said it would be great if I could send it back to her the next week but no worries if I couldn’t
      ~She said that my network account would be active for 30 days, so I could email her if there was anything I needed out of my email or my personal drive
      ~She had the receptionist call me a cab, and walked me out the door.

      I actually think they did it really well. There’s no perfect way to fire someone in the middle of the day, but I found it really respectful, and they did their best to make it as dignified as possible.

      1. Natalie*

        That was really nice of them to spring for a cab. I take the bus to work and I would HATE to have to take the bus home at 2:00 or whatever with a box of stuff after having just been fired. A cab is at least kind of private.

        1. JMegan*

          Yeah, the whole thing was really well done. The tone was very much not “We hate you and we want you out of here now,” but more like “This clearly isn’t working for either of us, so we’re going to help you out as much as we can.”

          I hope I’m never in a position to fire someone, but if I am, there are a lot of elements of this experience that I would hope to be able to use.

      2. BRR*

        I was also given options for getting my belongings. I felt that was very nice. The higher up from my dept went and got my coat and bag so I could go quietly out the back (my request).

    5. MaryMary*

      At OldJob, people were told to bring their coat, purse/wallet, keys, phone, etc to the termination meeting (or their manager would pull together personal items while the employee met with HR). The meeting was usually at the end of the day (Friday, if it could be worked out) and on the ground floor. The employee was immediately escorted from the building after the HR conversation. The manager was responsible for packing up the employee’s desk, and everything in the desk that belonged to the employee was mailed to their permanent address. It became a bit of a joke around the office whenever someone scheduled a meeting at 4pm on Friday, “Uh-oh. Should I bring my coat and purse?”

      That’s a little cold, and it doesn’t allow the employee to say good-bye to friends. It does minimize the chance of an incident or disruption. I always felt it was rough on the manager, too. Cleaning out someone else’s desk and packing up nicknacks (or finding ancient moldy sandwiches) is not a good time.

  38. dregs*

    I just found out that I’ve been eligible for another week of vacation for two years now. When I’ve asked hr and my boss for clarification on how much vacation I have and when it expires (there was always some confusion about that because I was promoted at one point, went down to part time for a couple of months — no one could ever tell me how/when that would affect vacation) I’ve gotten a tentative or sort of haphazard answer. When I asked at what point my vacation increases, she said ‘when you become me’. Turns out I’ve been eligible for another week for two years, per the handbook. I realize its partly my fault for not checking the handbook, but I also specifically asked several times for details about my vacation and was given incorrect information. Our pto doesn’t roll over so I’ve been told that this time is gone. Recourse?

    1. fposte*

      Probably none, unless you’re in California, which I’m guessing you’re not. However, I’d nice let HR know that they’ve been giving you incorrect information, just so other people could be correctly informed in future (I’d be less likely to expect a boss to have specific information about benefits accrual, but that might just be a response based on our system).

      1. dregs*

        Yeah, I didn’t think there’d be much legal recourse, but am I being unreasonable in thinking they should do something to correct this? I think if I were in their position, talking to an employee who has been with the company for years, in good standing, I’d offer to pay out the two weeks..

        1. fposte*

          Do they pay out vacation otherwise? Then I might ask for that. (If they don’t, though, this isn’t where they’ll start.)

  39. Holly*

    HELP.

    My Dad’s nearing the very end of his life – currently in hospice, all skin and bones, etc. My work has known about his progressing cancer since we first found out in November, and they also knew that I might have to randomly leave and take excessive time off to be there for him and to grieve. However, I got the call from hospice yesterday, in the middle of the day, saying I needed to be with him ASAP. I told my bosses, took what was left of my PTO (just enough hours for 1.5 days) and headed out. The HR Manager was not in.

    Now I’m worried about next week, since I don’t have PTO and, as far as she’s concerned, if I’m not there I might look like a no-show. What do I do? I’m thinking maybe calling her first thing Monday morning, but I’m also worried about the fact that I’ll not be at work for a week or more without any sort of agreement with them related to whether I’d be using borrowed PTO, unpaid time, etc. Advice?

    1. fposte*

      You’re not eligible for FMLA?

      When you say your work knew about this upcoming need, do you mean your supervisor knew but HR didn’t? If your supervisor has approved unpaid leave, I doubt it will be a problem with HR. If you’re worried, it wouldn’t hurt to call Monday morning and say “As discussed with my manager, I’m taking this week off due to my terminally ill father’s condition. As I’ve exhausted PTO, I’m fine with taking it unpaid, but if it’s possible to borrow PTO I’d be interested in that too. I expect to be back in the office next Monday–could we talk about this then?”

      My best wishes to you during a difficult time.

      1. Holly*

        Nope to FMLA. We have less than 50 employees in a region – small company, basically. And HR knew I’d be leaving eventually but not when or how long (my manager knows I left yesterday and that I don’t know if I’ll be in next week but said it’s fine if I’m not.) I’m thinking I’ll have to call HR Monday morning, for sure, especially because the owner of the company hasn’t been updated either…

        1. fposte*

          I think if you can and it would make you feel better, go ahead, but since your bosses know I wouldn’t worry about it if you can’t.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I’m sorry that you’re having to go through all of this.

          Definitely call HR on Monday and let them know what’s happening. It wouldn’t hurt to update your manager, as well.

          Don’t overthink this. You have enough to deal with the way it is.

    2. Elkay*

      Can you email your boss over the weekend with a plan of action/timeline/handover? I’m firmly in the camp of sh*t happens that is more important than work, but I work in the UK where I think we have a bit more leeway.

          1. Mimmy*

            I’m with Elkay on this. Keep your bosses in the loop, certainly, but let them worry about HR. Now is the time to be with your family.

            Sending you and your family hugs and warm thoughts.

          2. AndersonDarling*

            Yes, it sounds like you did everything right with preparing your manager and talking to HR. Unless you have a history of disappearing from work, everything will understand and be ready for your leave.

      1. Holly*

        I could do that! It’s either that or call. At least my bosses are in the loop about everything already. Might just have to see what Monday brings (if my Dad’s still here, etc.)

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Holly, I’m so sorry you are going through this. I lost my dad last month, went through a similar situation – last minute call to get home ASAP after having just come back from seeing him. I felt so guilty because I missed a lot of work but my office was amazingly flexible with me. Your company knows what’s going on and it seems like they have your back and will be understanding. I would do what louise wrote and lay it all out in an email and then stop worrying about it.
          I’m sad for you and your family – those last few days are so hard – but you will be grateful you were there for him at the end.

    3. B*

      Bereavement leave is separate from PTO at most of the companies I’ve worked – look into that as well. I’m very sorry about your dad.

    4. A Non*

      Agreeing with fposte here – call your boss on Monday, explain the situation, ask about FMLA. Most people will be very sympathetic and make it easy on you, especially since they knew this was a possibility. Even my most jerk-ass bosses were very nice about giving people time around end-of-life issues.

      My sympathies and best wishes for you and your family.

      1. JMegan*

        Agreed, they’re not going to be horrible with you. Sounds like they have been very understanding so far, so I wouldn’t worry about looking like a no-show at this point. Send your boss a quick email telling her what you know right now, and when you expect to be back if you can guess at it. Leave the rest to her.

        I’m so sorry about your dad.

    5. MaryMary*

      I would call and email. Calling might be more immediate, depending on how your boss works. But email puts everything in writing. I’d email your boss and HR.

      If your company doesn’t offer bereavement leave, you could also ask about taking the time unpaid. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  40. Employee of a Shady Boss*

    Regular poster using alias for post. What do you do when your boss is doing shady things that if ever questioned could result in fines, legal costs to defend yourself against a state licensing board, and disciplinary action against your professional licensure?

    The obvious answer is to leave but I’ve been aggressively trying to find another job but haven’t found one yet. I’m keeping careful documentation on everything he’s asked me to do. He asks others to do the same thing but I’m the one that works closest with him. When he gets mad because you don’t do as he asks then he will make passive aggressive comments for weeks to you. He’s the type to throw you under the bus without a 2nd thought. To summarize what else should I do in the meantime? I’m saving aggressively in case he fires me.

    1. Karath*

      it sounds to me like you’re doing the best you can right now. Document, document, document, and make sure that everything you do that’s related to these possibly shady dealings is traceable to an order from him. And ugh, get out of there as soon as possible. If he fires you, at least you can get unemployment for a bit to supplement your savings.

      Good luck, dude.

      1. MaryMary*

        Make sure you’re keeping copies of the documentation somewhere other than the office and your work computer. If the poop does hit the fan, you may not have access anymore.

    2. The LeGal*

      Use your corporate speak up hotline for compliance and ethics violations if you have one. Your record will be *super helpful* in investigating your manager.

      1. A Non*

        Just be forewarned – the promises of anonymity don’t always pan out. Be prepared in case it comes back to you.

        (I hope you’re keeping a copy of all your documentation at home where you can’t lose it if you’re abruptly fired.)

      2. JMegan*

        Does your state licensing board have some sort of reporting mechanism? They would be more likely to keep your name confidential from your boss, and you’re also doing a CYA in case it does come back to bite you later.

      3. Malissa*

        If it’s a publicly help corporation then the SEC and whistle blower protections come into play. But I’m guessing this isn’t the case.

        1. Employee of a Shady Boss*

          It’s a small town small business but without being too identifying there’s several of us that hold professional licensure (think engineering, accounting, etc. for our license descriptions).

    3. Gene*

      You have documentation that he is doing things that put YOUR license at risk. I think your only course of action here is to take your documentation to the licensing board. Even though you are documenting that you are being told to do these things, that doesn’t absolve you of the responsibility of actually doing them. If you tell them, usually whistle-blower protection comes into play; if you don’t show your documentation until after you/he are caught, it’s just evidence against you both.

      I am a government regulator and if I found a violation and one of the employees told me, “Yeah, I’ve been documenting this stuff and here it is.”, that wouldn’t make me go lighter on them, it would likely kick it up to “Knowing Violation” territory and I’d pass it on to the State and Feds for criminal prosecution. By ordinance we can do criminal prosecution, but our policy is to send those to the Feds, they have a lot more experience in them and massively more resources.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, listen to Gene. Please. Investigators are not going to think that dealing with an angry boss or being thrown under the bus or Boss #2 being clueless are reasons for into participating in shady dealings. These folks have very little empathy.

        Do you have a family member that would help you out financially if need be? Or worse case scenario do you have someone you could stay with for a while so you can job hunt?

        Please come back online very soon to let us know you have left.
        Sending positive vibes your way…

    4. BB*

      Yes, get out as soon as possible. Try to save up in the meantime. Take a lower paying job, if you have to.

      A boss who will throw you under the bus without a second thought? Holy Sh^t. You don’t want to stay there long enough for the lawyers to step in. Then it’s just going to be ugly.

    5. A Teacher*

      Refuse to do it. I know you have to pay the bills, but nothing in this world is worth losing my medical or teaching license that won’t let me pay the bills down the road because I’ll be without a license or in jail.

      1. A Teacher*

        And yes, I’ve seen this scenario play out–billing medicare patients on a 1:1 ratio with a physical therapist is the legal law of the land. I’ve had and seen PTs ask me to co-sign on a different patient so they’d “legally” be treating 1:1 with their medicare patient or had them ask me or another athletic trainer treat their medicare patient while they work with someone else and then bill like they were treating 1:1. Most of us said “no” because I’m not risking my license and certification or go to jail for you.

        1. Employee of a Shady Boss*

          I’ve heard of others being asked to do that. They were fined heavily or went to jail for insurance fraud.

    6. Malissa*

      Does he have a boss? If so take the issue directly to them.
      Also I would retain a lawyer at this point. If he’s jeopardizing your license there may be actual legal action you can take.

      1. Employee of a Shady Boss*

        I wish. He’s part owner of the business. 2 of us went to 1 of the other owners before and discussed 1 specific case of what was happening. He kept insisting we “misunderstood” what he was asking us to do. There was not a misunderstanding because he was very clear with the other employee on what he wanted done. The other owner told him to not ask anyone again to do such stuff. He kept accusing her of making up things to make him look bad.

        Good idea on retaining a lawyer. I think that’ll be my next step because I’m concerned he’s going to get questioned by a licensing board and claim we did it and he had no idea what was going on.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Yes, a good employment lawyer will be able to tell you your options. And that will be the best protection you have.
          Good luck… and good for you for having morals and gumption!

        2. A Teacher*

          Can you report him to the licensing and regulation boards? For me as an athletic trainer we are certified by one regulating agency and licensed by the state. I can report an individual to both. As someone that watched the owners and upper management of the same company throw someone under the bus a few years ago (he now has a indefinite suspension on his license and had to pay a huge fine) for something they were also engaged in, I’d report it and not do the activity. Documentation is crucial as well!

        3. Jazzy Red*

          I’m glad that you’re going to talk to a lawyer. If your name is on ANY fraudulant documentation, tell the lawyer that. Don’t hide anything from the lawyer. Find out how to protect yourself. Underlings get framed and wind up taking the rap for misdeeds all the time, because the bosses are *that* sneaky about whose name is on the documents.

          Good luck with this. Check back in sometime and let us know how this all works out.

  41. Mimmy*

    I am doing a data analysis for my class, and realized that this might be where I want to focus some of my career exploration. I know it’s a LOT of numbers, but someone suggested to another poster here to view the numbers as telling a story, an approach I like.

    I don’t know that I want to do any kind of high-level research with data (e.g. government or university) as I just know all those numbers will make my head spin. However, I could maybe see a skill in data analysis as being useful in program evaluation or quality assurance, which is something I’ve been wanting to explore but didn’t know how. For example, when I’m reviewing grant proposals, a key component is “effectiveness”, where agencies use various tools to gauge such indicators as client satisfaction, effectiveness of various interventions or workshops, and even needs assessment of a given client population. It’s just so fascinating!!

    So does this sound viable? I imagine it’s something that can be done in-office, assuming any documents are already gathered (I don’t drive). It does seem, however, that this type of function is part of a broader managerial role, which I have no interest in. Also, right now I cannot imagine taking on another degree or certificate (I’m in a certificate program now in my field of interest).

    It’s always something, right? ;)

      1. DataAnalyst*

        I’m sorry to say that but “data analysis as being useful in program evaluation or quality assurance” is not how data analysis is used. It’s usually, you get the data (or bonus points, you are able to extract the data yourself) and figure out what the data tells you. What insights it gives you. You look for trends, for patterns and then work out a story that would tell somebody, something useful that they otherwise are not able to see.

        Program evaluations is more based on comparison. You compare one set of data to other and find the differences, same with quality assurance. But for this you don’t need to utilize any statistical methods or visualizations to figure it out.

        1. Waiting Patiently*

          Really, because I can see it being effective. All you need is good real data taken over a spam of time and you can analyze it all day.
          My only thing I would worry about is getting useful real data.

          1. DataAnalyst*

            Yes, really. Part of the job is to find data that is useful. And to figure it out why it’s useful. You need to have knowledge about the industry that the data is from as well.

            I don’t know how many times I’ve heard really smart people with PhDs in statistics come up with totally useless recommendations – “According to the data, most people do not show for work (call in sick) around holidays and big games”. While it is absolutely correct and the data supports it, the customer/company already knows that. The data is useful but it is not what the customer looks for.

            So, yes, you can analyze useful data all day long and at the end come up with absolutely nothing of value :)

            1. Waiting Patiently*

              I would think useful also means relative to the situation and the customer needs. Correct? So if the customer doesn’t need data on call center call outs, i wouldn’t be measuring that data any way. So analyzing useful –input “relative” information leads to absolutely nothing?
              And judging by what the OP said she could see how it could useful when determine client satisfaction, interventions, workshop, and client need assessments. So, at least to me, it sounds like she has knowledge of how she can use the data and analyze it and give some valuable I’m put about it.

        2. Mimmy*

          My professor must be using the term “data analysis” incorrectly, because what you’re describing is similar to the parameters of my assignment and what I’m interested in. Thanks for the feedback.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            Data Analysis can mean different things in different industries and different companies. You can tell just by looking at job descriptions for Data Analysts. If you have an interest, it is something worth perusing, and you may find you niche along the way.

        3. Chai Latte*

          I use statistical methods in program evaluation all the time. How else do you compare one set of data to another? But I rarely have something to compare to-it’s usually target numbers or general objectives written in a grant or asked for by leadership.

    1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      I work in a field that monitors compliance, and I can tell you– someone who can do a root-cause analysis is invaluable.

    2. Hilary*

      Coming from my nonprofit background, it sounds a lot like what our ‘Grants and Evaluation Manager’ does. I’ve taken a few courses in Performance Evaluation as well, usually involves surveying methods, using a statistical package (Stata, SAS, SPSS) to analyze outcomes, but Excel for the lighter data sets. Definitely a viable career path. :)

      1. Mimmy*

        Ooooh I’d love to hear more about what your G&E manager does and maybe her background if you know it. Mine is in social work; while I still love the field and similar fields, I think I’m better at dealing with information and data rather than people.

    3. Rebecca Too*

      Mimmy, Monitoring and Evaluation roles in international development organisations might be something you want to look at. It would involve design monitoring tools for programmes, including selecting indicators, etc, overseeing data collection, and then using it to review/evaluate performance.

      For development orgs, you would need probably some development experience, but other NGOs/charities might have similar roles.

    4. Chai Latte*

      I work in the evaluation dept. at a non-profit, and I do many of the things you mentioned-needs assessments, surveys, focus groups, data from electronic records. It’s a lot of data-analysis work but also key is the data visualization portion and the writing of the results in a way that non-stats people will understand. The data analysis is more descriptive than I am used to coming from the academia where everything had to be inferential and statistically significant. But if you are into data analysis, program evaluation is a cool option!

    5. Agile Phalanges*

      Also look into market[ing] research. I spent two years learning quite a bit about it, and depending on the size of the company and the breadth and type of role, can involve a little to a lot of data analysis, with a mix of more qualitative stuff and other things, too. Really interesting job.

  42. LawBee*

    So this question is for the attorneys out there. I’m contemplating switching practice areas. My current practice area is fine and enjoyable (and we are seriously the white hats of the litigation world), but it involves a lot of travel. I didn’t mind at first, but now I’d like to enjoy the beautiful city where I live, and hey, maybe make some local friends. That’s hard to do when I never really know when I’m in town.

    I have an idea of the area I want to transition to, and it’s not one that our firm offers, and I honestly have zero experience in it. But I really feel DRAWN to it in a way that’s almost like getting a calling. Suggestions? I’ve been at my current place for about three years, did annoying contract atty work before that, and was in law school before that.

    Thanks!

    1. The LeGal*

      Do you have contacts in this field? I would recommend using those contacts, and asking them how they recommend you make the transition. It’s such a blessing to feel like you have found your calling. Congrats!

      1. LawBee*

        Sadly, no. It’s an entirely different field than where I am now (now: complex litigation in toxic torts. What I want: family law).

        1. The LeGal*

          I haven’t done this yet, so take my advice with a grain of salt. You have at least some transferable skills. You might work now in hotly contested situations; mediate resolutions before litigation; have civil litigation experience; negotiate solutions in personal situations… I get that it’s toxic tort, but perhaps you have to consider non-litigant stakeholders in mediating resolutions. That takes clever talent. Perhaps think about your skills and how they would help you in family law. Granted, the industries are totally different. Yet, the skills you have built up seem helpful. I have a few colleagues who went from criminal work to corporate work, and focused on the underlying skills. Perhaps start attending family law CLEs too. I want to start doing VAWA work, so I am going to do some volunteer work in the area. I don’t travel as much now, so I can do it. Good luck to you, LawBee. I cannot wait until your goal is realized!

    2. littlemoose*

      I would suggest attending some family law CLEs to brush up on the subject matter. You may make some contacts that way too. Also, any law school alumni organizations in your city? You could check out their events. Your city’s bar association (if you have one) is probably also a good place to check out. Maybe you could even join the family law committee of your state bar, to meet some folks in that area and to stay apprised of developments in the law (if your state bar does this; mine does). Good luck!

    3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      I’d look into doing pro bono work. Especially if you speak a second, in-demand language for your area. Though I understand that it might be difficult to work that into a schedule where you’re travelling a lot. CLE seminars are a good idea too, though you may not want to submit them to your firm for reimbursement, lest they wonder about your sudden interest in a new area of law.

      It’s also a great way to see if you’ll be able to handle it day in and day out. I used to prosecute crimes against children, and while I loved it and want to go back to prosecution as soon as I can, there were definitely times where the Sisyphean nature of the work got to me emotionally.

  43. whatnow*

    I’ve had a crap day and would like some advice. I’ve been temping for most of the year, all short-term roles, a couple of weeks doing database work. Recently it’s been really wearing me down. I have to do a round trip of three hours to get in, for minimal pay, so I can show I’m not ”lazy” or unemployable. But these jobs add nothing to my CV, I feel actually they look worse. Before these jobs I had a steady admin position for a couple of years (I did a course afterwards), now I have a bit chunk of temp work at (some good) companies. Today the company I’m working for ran out of stuff for me to do and really had to search to find me any task they couldn’t be bothered to do themselves. If this had been the beginning of the year I wouldn’t have minded. But 9 months later I feel really fed up and that I’m being patronized. I had to do an interview for this job for which I am ridiculously over-qualified, they wanted serious experience – anybody who can type and read could do this job. I’m thinking the temping thing is a waste of time, it doesn’t add to my CV, it drains me through monotonous tasks and the commute, meaning I’m too tired at the end of the day to apply to jobs.
    I’m thinking I should set myself up as a freelance writer/copywriter and take casual work where I can. Is this a crazy idea? Would it look bad to employers that I was with a temp agency and didn’t leave to do another job but rather quit and did my own thing?

    1. soitgoes*

      I do data entry work, and I genuinely enjoy it. It’s low-pressure, and you’re generally left to yourself so you can zone out.

      It’s very tempting to want to become a “professional” freelancer, especially if you’ve had one very good day or week, but I’ve found that the work level isn’t sustainable or predictable. I prefer to keep my day job and then freelance for an extra $100-200 a week on the side.

    2. BB*

      I would start doing volunteer work to fill larger chunks of time on your resume. Check out volunteermatch.com. I’ve found that there are usually a good number of office support volunteer positions available.

      good luck.

    3. Vancouver Reader*

      If you’re not in dire need of money from temp work, then why not? I would think that it shows initiative to set off on your own. I’m currently temping as well and I know how you feel. In the end, I think what matters is what makes you happy or at least less unhappy.

      1. whatnow*

        Thank you :) Glad someone else knows what hell temping is. Think I’ve done it too long. At the beginning of the year I got better jobs as well – they were either actual roles, rather than projects, they had proper responsibilities or I just was more positive that they would lead to something or my job search would. Now they’re really demeaning, tiring, and I think I need a break. If it was a long-term role which I could just chill out at then that would be fine, because I can do all my stuff around it. But they’re all really short-term filler work.

  44. KimmieSue*

    Holly – I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I’ve lived what you are experiencing and its so difficult. I don’t mean this to sound harsh – but whether or not you are considered a no-show, get paid, unpaid, whatever…its not where you need to focus your concern and worry right now. Your bosses know why you left. They “reasonable” conclusion if you are not there on Monday is that you are with your dad. Not knowing your company, I’m still hoping that they are compassionate human beings who will do the right thing. If you can try and call on Monday, go for it. But otherwise, be with your family and take care of yourself. The work situation will be there when you are ready.

    1. Holly*

      <3 thank you. I'm just stressed and my anxiety is really high and I'm just worried about everything right now, no matter how irrational.

      1. Judy*

        When my FIL was sick (for 3 days) and died, one of the things my husband asked me to do was to call his boss to make sure everything was squared away, because he left the office so quickly after the call came. Effectively my husband remembered talking to his boss, but not much more. His boss said to tell him to not worry about work, everything was taken care of.

        It’s not unusual to focus on the more ordinary but not as currently important things during those times.

        Take care of yourself.

      2. mm*

        My mom is going into hospice today. After informing my boss that I wouldn’t be in this week, my next email was to my HR department asking if this falls under FMLA. It’s only 7:30am on the west coast so I haven’t heard back from them yet so I can’t give you an answer on that. But you should contact your HR Department and find out if this qualifies as FMLA.

  45. Trillian*

    Work-related enough, I hope … Does anyone have any recommendations for luggage and accessories for business travel? I have a range of duffle bags and backpacks, but would like something smarter for conferences and site visits, and really need to be more organized in the packing because it takes me all the previous evening to fit everything in and then I’m bound to forget something non-critical but nice to have.

    1. the gold digger*

      If you want your Buy It Once In Your Life bag, go to libbylane (dot) com. She makes beautiful leather bags by hand out in west Texas. I think she started by using leather from the cattle on her grandfather’s ranch.

    2. AVP*

      I really like Everlane’s bag line…they are really well made and, while not inexpensive, I think the prices are fair for the quality. I even have a denim tote from them that I’ve been carrying almost every day for years and hasn’t fallen apart at all, and that never happens for me.

    3. JMegan*

      I don’t know about the luggage and accessories part, but as for the “stuff” – can you keep some of it in your bag, so you don’t have to remember it each time? I mean a dedicated travel set of everything – toothbrush, deodorant, phone charger, etc. Anything that you can easily get a duplicate of (or that you only need when you’re travelling) should just stay in the bag, even when you’re not travelling. That will save you having to remember it each time – when you get home, you just repack it in the bag, and you’re ready for next time!

      Also, on an even wider tangent, I have become a huge fan of Evernote (dot com) and their “quick reminder” widget. One button on my phone, and I can set a reminder to myself that I need to buy toothpaste, or confirm my dentist appointment, or whatever. All those things that you randomly think of when you can’t actually do anything about them. You could use that for packing as well – “Don’t forget to pack X” with a reminder for when you’ll be packing to leave, and another one for when you’re packing to come home.

      1. Natalie*

        Definitely have a second set of toiletries, already packed into a quart bag or whatever it is if you fly and carry-on. One less headache and you’ll never inadvertently forget your toothpaste.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      I have a Built NY laptop case. It’s neoprene and super light, and I use it for everyday and short trips.

      For longer trips I have a Baggalini Waltz spinner bag. It’s super light, fits a bunch of stuff, stacks on top of a suitcase and fits easily into a plane overhead.

      I also have a Samsonite rolling laptop case that will hold a change of clothes, but only use it for day trips because it’s hard to wrangle it and a rolling suitcase. I don’t recommend this so highly.

      I typically use one of these three bags and my big Kate Spade Reis tote for business travel.

      Those Libby Lane bags are gorgeous!

    5. Lora*

      This doesn’t necessarily fall in the “smarter looking” camp, but I found the most useful thing was to get something really brightly colored and unusual. Ribbons and luggage tags fall off in handling, and then you and 18 of your closest fellow passengers are staring at identical black bags and wondering who is brave enough to start opening bags. I mean, you’re all thinking the same thing: “what do I say once I open it? ‘Who has the polka dot boxers and mickey mouse sex toy?'”

      Mine are neon green and bright blue. So far I haven’t had anyone accidentally grab my bag instead of theirs.

    6. DeadQuoteOlympics*

      Eagle Creek packing cubes. They changed my life, especially since you can pack in stages and leave just one open for all that stuff that goes in your bag at the last minute. I love my Briggs and Riley spinner — it was pricey, but it’s the only luggage I’ve ever had that seems able to repel tire tracks, engine grease, and whatever else seems to get all over luggage. I echo the suggestion for a bright, distinctive luggage tag if you check luggage. And I just have an entire second set of everything for travel — everything I would really hate it if I forgot. An entire second set of my daily makeup, a travel hair iron, a pair of flip flops, my travel workout gear (second set of shoes) — my emergency herbal teabags. I travel enough that it’s worth it. When I get home, I wash and repack immediately, so I can concentrate on not forgetting the items that aren’t duplicated — laptop, meds, etc.

    7. Jill of all trades*

      I used to work for an airline so trust me when I say this: tape a business card to the inside of the lid of any bag you check. If your bag is misdirected and the tags have ripped off, all your contact information is secure and easily assessible (and you may avoid having a fellow traveller announce identifying items like a Mickey Mouse sex toy).

    8. krisl*

      One thing I do before travel is make a list. Actually, I have a template list, and I make a copy of it and from the copy, I delete everything I don’t need this time. Then I start getting what I need without the list, so that I’m more likely to remember if I forgot to put something on the list. Then I compare what I’ve got with the list. Probably sounds kind of obsessive, but I hate forgetting things. And once you’ve come up with a list, you can gradually add to it.

      Also, I have a toiletries bag that is always mostly packed.

  46. not using my regular name for this*

    I’m the HR person at a small business that does construction. My bosses are certain the majority of employees are out to screw the business and if you give them an inch, they’ll take a mile. One of the bosses constantly refers to the employees as “those M***** F*****s” and says I just don’t understand this industry.

    I think we should weed out anyone who is “out to screw us” and replace them with people who want to be here and work hard. But, I told him if he continues to think they’ll be that way, then they will be. I keep campaigning to give employees the opportunity to see the big picture, ex: one worker was unsafe on a job yesterday and the contractor who hired our company is who saw it happen. He sent him back to our offices and said he wasn’t welcome on the site again for a couple days. We wrote him up for the unsafe practice, but I also wanted this boss to let the employee know that in addition to following the safety standards in order to keep us all safe on the job, it’s also important because our ENTIRE COMPANY could get let go from the job if the contractor feels he can’t trust us to do a good job–then we’re all out of work. The boss said no way would he let an employee know that he’s got that much control because then “That MF will purposely screw up just so he has the satisfaction of bringing our whole company down.” Um…no, I think that employee will be extra careful because he’ll realize the big picture is that when he cuts a corner, it doesn’t just affect him, it affects everyone.

    If someone treated me like our boss treats his employees I’d just leave, but I can see how employees who don’t have the options I do could just become bitter and be all the things he’s paranoid they are. So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did he make them this way or did he become this way because he’s only encountered bad employees? And am I crazy to think that how we refer to them influences how high an opinion we have of them? I say if you have employees you have to refer to by derogatory profanities, then you’re a nitwit for having hired people you feel that way about…

    Am I just being a Pollyanna to think we can have a high quality team of blue collar workers?

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      You can absolutely have a high quality team of professional, responsible blue-collar workers, and if your boss thinks it’s not possible, he is an ass and I’m willing to bet he’s creating 3/4 of his own problems. Holy crap.

      1. AVP*

        Ugh, I’m in a totally different type of situation, but my CEO is also one of those people who is convinced that everyone else is out to get him all the time, and unless he’s vigilant enough (aka, rude and suspicious of everyone), they will Get Him. It’s really fun when he comes up with these totally cockamamie motives for people that revolve around the person making, like $300 profit for a 6-month con involving 6 different people.

        What I’ve learned is that this is a personality type, possibly a disorder, and no amount of rationality or reasoning can change it. You just have to roll through it and decide if this is a person you want to work closely with or not. Sometimes knowing “Oh, Joe is being crazy again” is enough to move on with your day knowing that it’s not you.

        1. AVP*

          The funny thing is, in my case case the CEO is amazed when I get good service and fast turn-around from vendors and freelancers because I’m decent to them.

          Him: “Wow, how did you get that person to help you?!”

          Me: “Um, I was nice and didn’t drop all of my conspiracy theories about how he was trying to rip me off immediately on him five minutes into the conversation?”

          Him: “Oh hmm he might have been trying to get you then! Better double check that receipt with Amex tomorrow.”

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            My boss is also One Of Those People who’s convinced employees are just out to suck as much money as possible from the business and get as much as they can out of it. Absolutely convinced. He’s made it his mission to “not get taken advantage of” and no discussing is going to root that out of his mind. You’re right–it’s just a matter of understanding that some people are Like That and won’t see reason.

        2. Natalie*

          I had a boss like that, too, except she was paranoid and hateful towards our clients. (Utterly bizarre to me that she wasn’t fired.) You’re absolutely right that it cannot be changed. All you can do is move past it, either in your mind or to a new job.

    2. Kai*

      Makes me wonder if that’s how the CEO spent his own working years before reaching that level–trying to find ways to destroy whoever he was working for.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I see a lot of that harshness in the construction industry. While I agree that there are plenty of rip-offs out there, I believe that some are sincere mistakes, that is, good intentions gone sour. It seems to be a biz where people advance by pointing out how lousy someone else did. And they love-love-love to criticize.
      The two major problems that I see are:
      1) Any given site has so many variables to consider that is it almost impossible to figure out all the considerations that weigh in. This leaves people vulnerable to statements such as “you should have known that 75 years ago there were gas lines there” or “I could have done that job better than him, he forgot about the nasty east wind/underground stream/pipe line.” It’s constant one-up-manship.

      2) There is no training. Ever. “That stupid jerk screwed up the job again.” Skip the part about how he has never done that work before. And there seems to be almost a delight when people fail.

      Not everyone, not all companies and not all the time. But I have noticed these things more in construction companies than I have any other arena.

      The work is rough, when it’s not rough that is only because it is impossible. Spend all day on a roof in 95 degree heat, spend the night vomiting, get up and do it again. Additionally, your employer maybe aware of the history of his employees. I have known people who hire some very rough individuals with a rap sheet that goes for pages. Why hire them? They might do great work at a particular task. The owner might believe at some point the people will turn their lives around and he wants that to happen, but is afraid to believe.
      Yeah, it is the chicken/egg question. I think more importantly, the question to ask is why are you there? What does he think you are going to do for his company?

      In the example you gave where the boss said “don’t tell him that because he will do it again just to screw the company”, follow that advice/directive. Go a different route where it falls on the individual. Second time he breaks a safety rule he is off the job site for twice as long, keep doubling it for every rule violation. However gruff the boss is, the boss is actually telling you how to keep the company going.

      I don’t think you are being Pollyanna, I think you are missing pieces of the story lines involved here. It is possible to have high quality workers that are terrible, dishonest people. It is possible for a terrible person to rehab himself and become a better worker than he ever was before. It is possible that a crappy worker has never been trained or he could just be a lousy worker. It’s a mixed bag. Define quality- their work? their ethics?

      I think you were on last week talking about safety and that is what the owner wanted you to focus on. I could be wrong. But if you can find some way to show him that the way people are treated correlates with accident rates, you might be able to sway him. The problem with MF statements is that it does not tell people what TO DO, nor does it drive ethical behavior. There is plenty of thought out there about people sinking or rising to the level of their leader.

      Personally, I agree with you, if all employees are jerks, it’s not an employee problem. It’s the person who hired the “jerks”. But you can’t tell him that. I guess ask him what it would take to get honest quality people into the firm.

  47. SouthernBelle*

    I went through 7 rounds of an interview process, only to receive a rejection email about an hour or so after the final round. In a process where everything that I submitted and every response was (by their response) “excellent” and “great”. So frustrating!

    1. whatnow*

      Wow I’m sorry that sucks. My worse experience so far was going for a second interview for a job I didn’t want, being massively delayed getting there. Rushing to get there and my skirt coming apart. Luckily I was able to fix it before the interview, but was still late and got rejected. All that for a job I didn’t even want… But I felt I had to go.

      Getting majorly disheartened by this whole process. Seven rounds that’s crazy. As everyone keeps telling me, it means you’re getting closer to the goal. Extremely close in your case.

      1. SouthernBelle*

        Wardrobe malfunctions are the worst!!! This has probably been one of the most frustrating job searches I’ve ever had, and I can only imagine that something like that happening, even for a job that I didn’t particularly want, would be the mental straw that broke the camel’s back and I’d be “done” for the day. On the plus side, I received a call for an interview at another company that same day and today, I received an email offering an interview for next week, so I feel that my momentum is picking up. Here’s to all of us reaching our goals!!

        1. whatnow*

          Congrats! I was close to giving up, across from me was a drycleaners who fixed it for me. After that I don’t think the interview could ever have been that bad…

    2. A.*

      Seven rounds for one job? This may not make you feel better right now, but I think you probably dodged a bullet.

    3. krisl*

      That’s so tough! But their “excellent” and “great” might have been honest. Maybe someone else just had experience or credentials that were just a little better.

      It might mean that the next time they have a related job, they’ll want to talk to you and hire you.

  48. Waiting Patiently*

    What is the best way to list salary requirements? Separate sheet a paper, bottom of resume, should I include just salary, should I talk about overall competitive package or should I politely throw the ball back in their court.

    And for goodness sake why are employers asking for this?

    1. Felicia*

      I just put it randomly in the cover letter usually near the beginning, and employers ask that during the application because they’re stupid.

  49. ZSD*

    Recent letters posted here about university staff-faculty relations have gotten me wondering about something. I’m on university staff, and we in the staff tend to roll our eyes about faculty members and have certain stereotypes about them (they think they’re better than us, they can’t meet deadlines, curing cancer is somehow easier than tracking expenses on the grant that is allowing you to cure cancer, etc.). Based on what I’ve learned at conferences, this is pretty standard for the industry; staff members from other universities besides mine feel the same way.

    Do faculty members similarly roll their eyes about staff behind our backs? Do you have stereotypes about staff members? Or is this a one-way thing?

    1. soitgoes*

      I know that adjuncts don’t tend to have much sympathy for tenured faculty. Full-time professors sometimes act like they never grew out of that student habit of acting like every research paper was so hard.

      1. BRR*

        I second this. I have many friends who are adjuncts who would commit murder to get a tenure position. At the same time they trash talk the majority of tenured faculty.

    2. fposte*

      I’m a hybrid in a unit with a fair amount of overlap. I think it goes both ways to some extent, but mostly around here it’s by individual rather than by category. I will say that professors seem a bit more inclined to a mistaken exceptionalism :-). I’ve definitely heard professors sound martyred about the hours they work without realizing the exempt staff they’re talking to have the same hours with a 12-month contract.

      1. Cat*

        I’ve noticed this in my friends who are professors and who seem to be operating on a perpetual assumption that they’re working far more hours than everyone else. I’m unconvinced; sometimes it seems to me that they’re just working weirder hours than everyone else. Putting a 10-12 hour day in isn’t longer just because you wake up at 10, watch Say Yes to the Dress until 3, then work until 3am.

        1. fposte*

          And in some disciplines you’re pulling those hours with the staff. So I can see why that misperception particularly rankles.

        2. BRR*

          I agree with all of this. So many academics I know do this. There was an article recently documenting how professors spend their time and were angry how much time went to answering emails and they included traveling time in their work day.

            1. BRR*

              It is important to note upon rereading it that was horribly conducted so the results are moot. It was only at one university and all of it self-reported. It was much more interesting to read the comments both on the site and on FB where somebody posted it. On FB many were complaining about the administrative tasks that are a necessary part of the job such as email or meetings. My favorite comment is “Most of my colleagues who posted or emailed this article around to other faculty are the ones who always make a point of telling you how very busy they are.”

              There was another article (that I can’t find) where the author was a TT professor and said how much more productive they were when they actively tracked how they spent their time and realized that grading from 3-5 but also doing laundry wasn’t the same as grading 3-5 and not doing anything else. They were piled on in the comment section because nobody wants to be told their job is easy.

              https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/04/09/research-shows-professors-work-long-hours-and-spend-much-day-meetings

        3. INTP*

          I feel this way about my fellow grad students. They all act so overwhelmed, and yet they are still living undergrad (in the stereotypical sense) lifestyles. Of course 40-50 hours of work will take 7 days a week and feel impossible if you’re still partying on weeknights or watching TV at 10am just because you can. If you keep regular business hours, it’s suddenly a lot more manageable. (To be fair, for some of them it isn’t weeknight partying, it’s just an inability to set limits or boundaries. They think they need to be emailing with a student at midnight about something due the next day. 8 hours of work total will still feel overwhelming if you don’t feel like you can confine it to a normal length workday and you’re teaching at 10am and then emailing at midnight.

          1. Manders*

            My partner’s in grad school and he complains about this a lot. He gets up at the same time as me and works in the morning, and he worries that his fellow students don’t think he’s working hard because he’s never up late.

            I have noticed that the students who spent a while working full-time jobs outside of academia before going to grad school keep much earlier hours and don’t pull all-nighters (or at least, they don’t brag about them). Maybe they’re used to having more structure, or maybe they’re just older and more likely to have partners (like me!) who get up early for work.

            1. Stephanie*

              I’d imagine, too, that someone who went back to grad school after working full-time would be used to the idea of spending eight hours working and know how to compartmentalize time more efficiently. All-nighters are definitely harder as you get older. After graduating undergrad and spending a few years working, my body just can’t (or maybe won’t) do an all-nighter anymore.

            2. INTP*

              That’s definitely part of it. I spent a few years working. I actually found college extremely overwhelming (ADHD plus an unstructured schedule don’t mix well) and found full-time work much easier, so I’ve carried that schedule over.

              Last Thanksgiving, I did no schoolwork over the holiday (I cooked myself a feast for 1 and deep cleaned my apartment) and was very self-conscious about admitting that. I also felt weird about admitting that I’d never stayed up late working on school stuff and only did anything on weekends if it was a very hectic week. But at the same time, I’m not out at bars on weeknights and sleeping in till 10. It’s just a more mindful way of allocating your time. (Not that one can’t mindfully allocate time to party and sleep in, but if they’re overwhelmed by a moderate workload, that’s not what’s happening.)

    3. BRR*

      I know among some faculty there is a general disdain for any “staff.” That many university resources are being wasted on non-academic endeavors and the money should be used to hire more full-time professors (which more should be full-time), should go to give them raises, or should go to their research/conference attendance. Part of it stems from an increase in the number of upper level administrators and their higher salaries and then lumping everyone in that category. There are definitely more negative feelings usually to upper level administrators because they are the ones controlling the purse strings and are seen as roadblocks to the professors.

      1. fposte*

        I think upper-level administrators are everybody’s least favorite. That’s the point of solidarity for the rest of us.

    4. Anx*

      I have only worked in universities as a student worker, so that definitely affected how I processed the seeming ‘in-fighting’ going on around me (student workers were almost exempt from the cross hairs, as we weren’t ‘real’ employees).

      I can understand the frustration of teaching in short-term contracts and not making a living wage despite doing some of the most important work in colleges (student development and academics). I know admins who earn far more than the faculty. I know administrators who can’t be bothered to write anything down and are incredibly disorganized. I know graduate students being effectively forbidden from moonlighting or unable to take side jobs while trying to support themselves, families, and even self-fund research on a stipend, all while watching established professionals pick up side jobs at universities.

      It’s really incredible to witness sometimes.

      1. soitgoes*

        It’s ridiculous! I have my MA in English, and I don’t even bother answering people who ask me why I took a data entry/SEO marketing ($30k a year to start!) job instead of teaching. I’ve thought about adjuncting for part-time spending money, but I make more doing my freelance writing from home. Academia also fosters a lot of negative and immature personality traits that I had to work hard to mitigate after graduating. Ugh, the whole situation is frustrating.

        1. Anx*

          I believe teaching really is challenging work and I support a living wage, at minimum, for teachers. I also think educators should have enough money to purchase non-necessities.

          But high school/middle school teaching salaries look so high to me after talking to adjuncts, associate instructors, freelance educators, grad students. I know teaching at that level requires special skills and extra demands, but I know researchers, scientists and educators with advanced degrees try to get into high school education for the extra money.

          1. soitgoes*

            A problem is that the sort of people who tend to want to become teachers (and end up getting those jobs) are often from backgrounds that allow them to abstain from working until after they graduate college and get their teaching jobs. They go on about the work being so hard because they don’t know that everyone’s work is hard sometimes. They’ll say, “I don’t get my summers off; I have to take classes (or whatever) during that time,” as if people in other fields don’t go to school and work at the same time.

            I’m wrapping this all up to say that tenured professors have this attitude. I don’t care if they have a huge amount of papers to grade and administrative work to take care of. If you can do it at home in front of Law & Order, you don’t get to call it serious backbreaking work. I don’t want to rag on a whole swath of people, but I do think that educators traditionally come from backgrounds and then proceed to follow life paths that make them really out of touch with how other people handle their jobs.

        2. INTP*

          “Academia also fosters a lot of negative and immature personality traits ”

          Fun story: in the building I TAed in, there are multiple printers and copiers on each floor because teeny tiny departments can’t get along well enough to share one. We used to share with another tiny department, but there was too much fighting. Once I had a paper jam and it nearly started WW3 because an admin assistant was interrupted for help at an inconvenient time (apparently they saw me as the cause of the paper jam and not the innocent victim whose work happened to be printing at the time the jam developed.)

    5. Vancouver Reader*

      I found it depended on the department and the individuals. I found the specialists doctors who were in administration were the snootiest bunch ever, but the profs in Computer Science treated us staff as one of them.

    6. Libby*

      The higher ed landscape is pretty diverse. I’m on the faculty of a regional state college, and while there are definitely some difficult people sprinkled around the faculty and staff,
      for the most part people are down-to-earth and respect one another’s contributions to the campus. It probably helps that we live in a low COL area with a lot of amenities while earning decent salaries (public-sector unions). We all live in the same communities, go to the same doctors and mechanics and hairstylists, and have kids in the same schools. It probably helps us see each other as regular individuals when we have similar lifestyles.

      The stereotypes about faculty trouble me. I sometimes consider leaving academia, and I’m apprehensive about how these assumptions would hurt my job search. Some Friday I’ll start a thread about that.

    7. Dr. Doll*

      I am a faculty member with a role supporting other faculty members, and what amuses me is how very much like students many faculty members behave. Not following directions, blowing off deadlines, not reading announcements, and then being annoyed because there are consequences.

      The tension between adjunct and tenure-line faculty is very real; there’s a sense on my campus that if you are adjunct, it’s because you weren’t good enough to be tenure line — not that there are 300 applications for every TL position. TL faculty, and our administration, tend to deny adjunct faculty their actual rights in small ways. It’s not surprising that adjunct faculty come and teach, then scoot. /troubling

      The difference between faculty and many staff is one of…world view? Ask a faculty member where she gets her news and reading, and the answer will be NPR, NY Times, The Economist, Science, Nature, and the Atlantic. Ask most staff (except for the highest level who may have PhD’s themselves) and the answer is, well, Fox.

      Also you’ll never catch a faculty member using comic sans and wallpaper in an email, and I have not had the heart to tell our otherwise amazing department admin please not to do it because she loves to fancy things up so much. ;-)

  50. fposte*

    I thought this article about the frustration and eventual hiring of one of the lawyers investigating the system that led to the 2008 banking crisis was fascinating not just from a financial but from a management perspective:

    http://www.propublica.org/article/carmen-segarras-secret-recordings-from-inside-new-york-fed

    It’s interesting in that some of what her management’s complaints about her could actually be legitimate in other contexts, but here she was basically fired for wanting to do what she was supposed to do rather than wanting to do stuff without pissing anybody off.

    1. The IT Manager*

      This is going to be the topic on this week’s This American Life podcast – 536: The Secret Recordings of Carmen Segarra. I’m looking forward to it.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      fposte, have you read the book Bailout by Neil Barofsky? The author was the SIG who was charged with overseeing TARP. It’s a good read; you might like it.

  51. Beebs*

    After a year and a half of job searching, I recently had an interview and then received an email stating that they wanted to offer me the position. When they called with the “details” they still didn’t have an actual offer, no specific information on salary, benefits, PTO, hours, expectations, etc. we mainly discussed starting on the project asap. This is a grant funded project within a small organization. It may be that they are just not used to hiring and bringing on new team members, but this all feels very odd. I do want this position, but I would also like to know more specifically what is being expected of me and how I am being compensated before my start date. When I asked, they were vague stating that they still had to figure out some of these details.

    I keep telling myself this is probably just a lack of experience with the administrative process of hiring, but I am starting to wonder if there are some red flags here that I should be paying more attention to. Anyone have a similar experience?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Geez, they should at least be able to put salary and benefits in writing. I certainly wouldn’t start working until you get that information, it will show that they need to get their act together if they want you to work for them.
      If it’s grant funded, they may just expect you to be there x months until the project is done, so they don’t see a point in rushing to get the paperwork done.
      It is better to have something than nothing, but at least wait for a basic contract.

    2. A.*

      Follow your gut, follow your gut, follow your gut. Also, as Allison says, until you have an actual job offer in hand, you don’t have an actual job offer. You have the right to know about the overall compensation package for a job. Any employer that’s being shady about it raises a flag for me.

  52. Linda Richman*

    I’m assuming this is work-related because I have to do this as part of my job. I need to buy a new coffeemaker for the department again. We go through them about every 18 months (cleaned/descaled regularly). They do get a good amount of use, but the big problem is people overfilling the basket with grounds, that then backs up into the water reservoir and eventually clogs it (and can’t be unclogged). I’ve taken them to a local repair shop, but it isn’t worth the cost of the coffeemaker to keep doing that. I’ve been buying the Cuisinart Classic 12-cup programmable (DCC-1100 series), but does anyone else have a suggestion for a brand that prevents the clogging problems like that? I am not a coffee drinker, so I have no practical experience with this.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        We had to switch from a K-cup machine because people kept stealing the actual K-cups to use at home. We now have a similar machine that uses pouches instead of Kcups – it’s called Flavia and it’s pretty much the same.

      1. Linda Richman*

        Keurigs are too expensive of a monthly cost for the department. I actually am thinking a Bunn is the way to go, if I can justify the cost of the coffee packets. It’s been over 5 years since we stopped getting coffee service (where you buy the coffee and they give you the machine as part of the deal) and I miss it SO MUCH.

        1. Gene*

          You don’t need packets, we’ve never used them. One of the things we did to standardize coffee strength (because one person likes dishwater) is once we determined the “proper” coffee amount, we got a plastic cup, put in that amount of coffee, and cut it at that level. Fill the cup up, pour it into the filter (<$4/700 at Costco), push start. The dishwater guy just has to add hot water to get to his desired strength.

    1. Coffee thinker?*

      Maybe someone could figure out how many grounds you need to make 12 cups of coffee, and get a measuring cup for exactly that amount to discourage people from over-filling the basket? A new coffee maker every year seems extreme!

      Good luck!

      1. Linda Richman*

        These are all really good suggestions, I’ve got some good strategies to look at. Thanks y’all!

  53. Jessica*

    What do you do when the scope of the work you do far exceeds your job description? I work in a university with very regimented job descriptions/titles/payscales. I was hired as an hourly Admin Asst 1. I shortly discovered that all of my counterparts in other divisions who do the same work I do are considered Admin 2 – a higher paying, salaried position that better matches the duties of our jobs. As far as I know I am the only Admin 1 in the entire department except for, possibly, the receptionist. In addition, I also act as our education coordinator (something that takes up about 75% of my work time). There are a few other admins with a dual coordinator role and they definitely are Admin 2 or even official Education Coordinators (who are paid even more).

    How can I make a case that I should be paid the same and have the same title as everyone else who does my job without sounding whiny? I like my job a lot and work really hard to do a great job at it but I’m starting to feel like the red-headed stepchild.

    1. Haleyca*

      I don t think you will sound whiny if you stick to the facts. Simply outline your duties and the ways in which they match up more closely with the Admin 2 position than Admin 1. I would leave off direct comparisons to counterparts in other divisions and the mention that you are the only Admin 1 because it really doesn’t matter what other people are doing. What matters is your job duties and how they match up with your title and salary. You could even mention wanting to add coordinator to your title or just add that to the list of things that show that you are doing different work than an Admin 1.

      1. Jessica*

        Okay, that is definitely helpful. I’ll make sure to leave out the part about all of my counterparts being paid at a higher level.

      2. Vancouver Reader*

        A friend of mine had that same problem. The only way she could get it re-classed was to move to another position that came up within the department and then when they went to post her old job, they finally re-evaluated it and graded it higher and she went back to it.

        Not sure that’s something you can do, but she knew everything about everything in her old job, so faculty and students both complained bitterly when she left that post, which helped her justify getting it moved up to the level she wanted.

    2. Kate*

      Can you talk to your manager or chair about getting your job reclassified? I would start by making a list of your daily activites and try to find the classification you are closest to.

      1. Jessica*

        Part of the problem is I’m technically not privvy to any job description apart from my own, though I’ve been able to get a pretty good idea from descriptions of the same job titles in other departments posted in the Careers section of our website and just what I know from talking to other people and working with them. Is it weird to ask for the job descriptions that aren’t mine?

      1. Jessica*

        Definitely not huge…I want to say a few more grand a year. But still…I’d like my title to reflect the level and kind of work I’m doing. It’s also psychological – it kind of sucks that the all of coworkers are salaried and I have to clock in and out.

        1. Anonsie*

          Then it certainly shouldn’t be an issue to request it. If it would mean moving your pay up significantly, that would be a complicating factor.

  54. Front Desk Lady*

    I’m a part time receptionist. A couple of days ago when I got to work I realized another receptionist had shaved her legs right there at the front desk! She had her razor & cup of soapy water right beside her. I don’t think it’s appropriate to shave your legs at the front desk. Maybe I’m just getting old & fussy.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Oh my god.

      I don’t think you’re old and fussy, I think you’re normal! I don’t know what I would have done if I’d seen that. Possibly just stared, gaping.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        I knew I was an adult when I had a friend (female) who was going to wax a bus acquaintance’s (male) eyebrows ON THE BUS and I laid into her YOU DO NOT DO THAT.

        1. Collarbone High*

          I can’t decide whose decision-making process is worse here: your friend, or the guy who was planning to let someone spread hot wax near his eyes on a moving vehicle known for rough rides and sudden stops.

          1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

            I think it was going to be cold wax strips and mostly the unibrow, and it was an express bus, but yeah–no. She was a little Zooey Deschanel before the Manic Pixie Dream Girl became a thing.