open thread – September 5, 2014

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

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

{ 1,145 comments… read them below }

  1. Roan*

    We are about to have a reorganisation of offices/desks at work. Our manager has asked if we have any strong preferences. I like my desk spot and my office mate, who is very quiet, doesn’t try to chat to me all day and doesn’t have annoying eating habits. I find small talk and eating/drinking noises hard to deal with, so I am quite panicked about the thought of things changing.

    I realise that there are a lot of variables to balance here, so I am not sure how to speak up, without sounding unreasonable. What I really want to say is: I’d like to sit in as quiet a spot as possible. Assuming that I will need to share an office: I don’t mind sitting with Bob, or if that isn’t possible, with Linda. Anyone else would be very stressful for me.

    How do I say this diplomatically?

    1. Dasha*

      Can’t you just say that you’ve really enjoyed sitting with your current office mate and you’d hate for that to change?

      1. Roan*

        The thing is, I think there are good reasons to change things, as my office mate and I don’t work in the same area. There are others who do work in a similar area, and it makes more sense for us to share an office. I can’t disagree that this would make more sense, I just don’t want it!

        1. fposte*

          That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for what you want. Feel free to use it as a starting point (“Sharing with Jane has been great; I’d love to stay with her, but if not, Shrinking Violent and Silent Sue are other people with whom I’d be compatible”), but you might as well start with what you want–otherwise you rule out the possibility of getting it yourself, when they might not.

          1. TL*

            Shrinking Violent is great. :)

            But, yes! Especially if it helps your productivity (and who knows? It could be that your office mate also loves you and doesn’t want to switch, which could mean it is the best to keep you two together, as you’ll both be way more productive)

          2. CollegeAdmin*

            I’m guessing typo, but I love “Shrinking Violent!” Sorely tempted to change my username on here to that…

    2. Roan*

      I should have added that my office mate and I don’t work in the same area. There are others who do work in a similar area, and it makes more sense for us to share an office. I can’t disagree that this would be a sensible change, I just don’t want it!

    3. Sunflower*

      Why not try asking what the plans are for the reorganization? Maybe find out what people they are planning to stick you with and see if you know if their work styles work well with yours? From there, you can add that you’ve really enjoyed sitting next to your office mate and you feel you’ve both been very productive there so, if possible, you’d like to continue sitting next to her but if not possible, you’d like to sit with someone with a similar work style

      My guess is you arent the only person who is wondering and kind of freaking out about this so I doubt you’re the only one asking.

    4. ClaireS*

      I’d be explicit yet diplomatic. Something like:

      “I need a lot of quiet while I work in order to concentrate. I know Bob and Wakeen share a similar work style so it would be fine to share a space with them. While I enjoy working with Denaerys, our work styles vary greatly and I don’t think that pairing would be ideal.”

    5. Clever Name*

      I’m about to gain a third person in my shared office, and I’m not especially happy about it. I mean, I’ve figured for a while that they were going to stick a 3rd person in here, but I’m not happy with who they chose. I’m especially annoyed that their way of informing me of this was couched as if they were asking my input, so when I gave it (expressing concern that sharing an office with someone who answers phones would be problematic in terms of being able to concentrate and do my job), they pretty much responded with, “Well, sorry about that. It’s happening anyway”. Sigh. Worst case scenario is that I pull up stakes and work from home.

    6. LizNYC*

      I second (and third) everyone who says to be direct. We just had a major office shuffle and I made it clear that I could not sit right next to the guy who sluuuurps “ahhh” after every.single.sip of coffee. A pencil would meet his eyeball in a week. (He has other annoying habits, but that’s the one that’s most noticeable by everyone in our office.) That was definitely taken into account (my manager, who’s really laid back, used the term “quarantine” when discussing where to put Mr. Slurp-Ahh).

    7. quietworker*

      I recently moved to a new workspace where I have less privacy and overall it is a worse space for me (for work logistics and personal preferences). More or less the spaces in this open floor plan were given out based on seniority. I didn’t realize how upset I’d be until I moved into the space and now I wonder if I should have been more proactive before the move happened. So I think you are right to want to get your opinion out there.

      But I think the key is to make your case by explaining how your work will be affected. And if you can bring solutions to your boss that might help as well especially in the event that you get assigned a problematic space/officemate. I hope your move goes more smoothly than mine. The fact your manager asked for your preferences may be a good sign.

  2. Sadsack*

    I sent the following question to AAM, but it hasn’t been posted, so I am posting it here because I am feeling a little anxious.

    I recently completed an online job application. At the very end of the application process, I was asked to complete an online tax screening questionnaire. Below is the request (I changed the company name to BIGCO):

    “BIGCO participates in the Federal government’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit program and other Federal and state tax credit programs. To determine eligibility for this program, BIGCO requests your participation to complete the tax credit screening questionnaire provided by ADP. The information you supply will be used by this company to complete its Federal and state tax returns, and in no way will negatively impact any hiring decision.

    Please click this link to fill out an online tax questionnaire. The screening takes between 45 seconds to a few minutes to complete and your responses to the questions will be confidential.

    You will be required to enter the user name and password you created when applying.”

    I opened the questionnaire to see what it was all about, and the first screen asked me to enter my social security number. I closed out of the questionnaire because I am not comfortable providing this information.

    Have any of you ever seen anything like this? Why would this company want my personal information to be used for tax credits when I only have just submitted an application? The application system didn’t indicate that it is mandatory that I complete the questionnaire, it just requests my participation. Might there be any negative consequences to my ignoring the request, such as not getting a call about the job?

    1. Malissa*

      Actually filling it out might might give you an edge if you have a low enough income to qualify. This is part of a welfare-to-work program. When companies hire on people that meet income guidelines for certain welfare programs they get a tax credit by hiring you for a job that could mean that you will have less dependency on the welfare program.
      It’s a great incentive for companies to hire people that are low income and give them more money and a better opportunity.

      1. The Real Ash*

        But there are ways companies can find out if you qualify fort hose programs, for instance by directly asking. I have seen on applications where they specifically ask “Do you qualify for SNAP/TARP/whatever benefits?” and other things like that. There is no reason they need your SSN up front for that.

        1. Malissa*

          They shouldn’t. But some companies really want those credits, so they want to certify someone for the program before they hire them.

          1. Karowen*

            Or they just want to make the process smoother once the person is hired, or that’s how ADP built their system because it makes it easier for ADP and there’s no way around it.

            1. Witty Nickname*

              Having to deal with ADP systems for so many different things at work, I’m going with that theory. :)
              (I really really miss our old FSA management company – I could pull up an app on my phone, submit my claim in less than a minute, and have confirmation it had been approved within 5 minutes. Within 24 hours, the money was in my account. Yesterday I spent 30 minutes submitting a claim through ADP, which I can only do from my laptop, and had to go back and rename my receipt files 4 times until they fit the requirements. I loathe ADP).

      2. Smilingswan*

        It seems like this might cause discrimination during hiring. Can they choose to not interview/hire someone who doesn’t qualify them for the tax credit? It seems like that would be just as bad as doing the reverse. I can see asking for the info after the person is hired, but it seems shady to do it beforehand.

        1. Emm*

          I don’t think personal wealth is a protected class. Plus, the government is obviously encouraging this kind of “discrimination” by offering the credit. (Probably because people who qualify for it are usually disadvantaged in the hiring process, and this evens the playing field.)

      3. Anx*

        Do you know if there are any incentives to hire low income people are not enrolled in any programs?

        I am ineligible for SNAP because I am taking classes and unemployed. I am very low income (under 2k a year). Maybe it would be worth a trip to whatever govt agency to increase my chances at getting hired (one grocery store I keep applying to has that questionnaire).

        1. Malissa*

          It appears the credit is only for people who receive SNAP or TANF benefits, veterans, and people in “Rural Renewal Counties or Empowerment Zones.”

    2. AndersonDarling*

      It sounds a bit scammy. Are you sure the application is legitimate? I got suckered into one of those “we need you to run a credit check, go to this website and enter your personal information” applications. So I am extra suspicious of these third party applications.

      1. Sadsack*

        Yes, I was linked to the application from the website of the employer, which is a large corporation with a name you’d probably recognize, and the questionnaire came up at the end. A link to the questionnaire was also included in a confirmation email that I received from the corporation after submitting my application.

    3. Karowen*

      It’s a pretty common thing to ask about in the hiring process – companies can get thousands back (up to a certain percentage I don’t remember) if they hire qualifying people. They just need your SSN because if you are eligible for the programs, the government will need to verify it against your tax records. Not filling it out shouldn’t matter, though, especially if you wouldn’t qualify anyway.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wouldn’t fill it out and I would back away from any company who puts anything out asking for my SSN at the application stage. I’d nope the hell right on out of there.

    4. Allison*

      I’ve done that questionare for several job applications for big companies like CVS, Best Buy, etc., but never saw anything wrong with it, although I never understood why I needed to give my SSN for any of those applications. Honestly, they don’t do anything with it until it’s time for onboarding paperwork and any background check they decide to do, so there really isn’t any point in demanding that information so early. And in this day and age, companies are getting breached left and right, I’d be worried about hackers getting their hands on it.

  3. Sunflower*

    Negotiating raises. Any tips?

    I’ve only negotiated starting salary before and my year review is coming up. My company generally gives a 5% raise, however, my position has changed in the past 6 months a lot and I’ve been given a lot more work than people in my position previously have. It’s hard to quantify numbers in my job, but I’ve definitely been successful and I’ve been able to handle the extra work without issues and the business has continued running as usual without issue. I have a feeling my company is going to want to give me the standard but I think I deserve more. In addition to salary, I also get 5 more vacation days. Is it normal to negotiate for more vacation days if I can’t get the extra money?

    1. Jelly*

      I think it’s normal to try to get more vaca in lieu of money.

      I’ve been wondering about negotiating promotions as well. Often times, at least in my company, you start doing the job before you actually get the new title/promotion (for example, transitioning from a Tea Pot Maker 1 to Tea Pot Maker 2). So if you’re already doing the job, or quite a lot of it, what power do you have in the negotiation?

    2. The IT Manager*

      Is it normal to negotiate for more vacation days if I can’t get the extra money?

      Yes. Not every workplace can accommodate this as some have very strict guidelines which they will not alter, but it’s not uncommon to negotiate other non-monetary benefits instead of a higher pay rate.

    3. Rebecca*

      I’m trying to negotiate an increase, and this is something I’m considering asking for. I already have 15 vacation days + 5 PTO days per year, but I’d like 5 more vacation days, with the ability to carry 5 over if I wish to the next calendar year. Currently, we have a use it or lose it policy.

    4. Astor*

      It’s normal, although how common it is depends on your field and many companies won’t necessarily think through the repercussions. Just keep in mind that you both want to be clear on whether you’re negotiating for more vacation days FOR THIS YEAR or for EACH YEAR, and if it’s on top of whatever’s usual. The answers aren’t as important as making sure that you both agree to them (in writing), so you’re not surprised in the future if it affects future negotiations.

      (Basically, if you care more about salary but are willing to put it off this year, then only negotiate for more vacation days for this year, and then use that as part of your salary negotiation for next year.)

  4. Xay*

    Any tips on handling microaggressions at work? There isn’t any single aggravating thing, but many, many little ones. I even did a “have you noticed this” check to make sure I am not blowing things out of proportion. I’m already exploring other job possibilities but trying to keep my cool in the meantime.

      1. Xay*

        Basically, there are 3 people in the office who communicate poorly with each other. Person A feels that contractors should be strictly supervised, Person B who feels that I don’t need strict supervision and has handed off most of their work to me, and Person C who is in between. As a result, I’ve heard a lot of snide remarks about contractors and contractor work ethic, while being assigned a large amount of work that everyone is apparently happy with – until person A finds out that I did it basically on my own. It’s confusing and stressful since I never know if I am going to get my hand slapped for doing what I was told to do.

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Federal contracting is so hard. Are you independent, or are you employed by a contracting company? And if the latter, is there someone who manages or handles the contract who is technically your boss for pay-and-benefit purposes? If so, letting that person know things are getting icky so she can have a sit-down with the govvie in charge of contractors might not be a bad idea. (That govvie would then have to get through to persons A, B, and C, but they might be more likely to take it from a fellow Fed than from a contractor.)

          1. Xay*

            I’m employed by a company. I have discussed with my supervisor, but the contracting officer is Person B and as far as she is concerned, everything is fine. Person A is her supervisor so there isn’t very much that my supervisor can do.

            1. Francie*

              Would it make sense to do regular email check-ins with Person B where you inform her of your progress in X, Y, and Z? That way she doesn’t have to do much, but she’s still technically “supervising” you in that she can tell you to stop doing Y any time she wants. It might be enough for Person A to feel like you’re being supervised while having minimal impact on Person B’s workload.

              1. Xay*

                I already meet with Person B weekly, but email check-ins are probably a good idea. With government, extra documentation never hurts.

        2. HeyNonnyNonny*

          Oh man, fed contracting is the worst. The same thing has happened to me. I think I just got completely used to a pretty convoluted chain of command and all the snarking that comes with it. Just keep your head down and do good work. The Real Ash’s comments sound good too.

          1. Xay*

            Thanks! I’m trying to just focus on getting the work done and hopefully I can get out of this kind of work soon.

      2. Xay*

        And there are other weird little issues as well – I’m not an MD and most of the fed staff are and they don’t weight the opinion of non-MDs very highly. None of them have non-fed government experience and they have a lot of contempt for some of the states we work with. But not to the point of being openly derogatory. It’s just very uncomfortable.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This may not work for you, but here goes. When I am dealing with big personalities, I try extra hard to play a straight game. This means being sincere, being concerned and making sure I am getting each of the personalities what they are looking for.

      I overlook the subtle snark and try to redirect the focus onto the immediate task. In other words, control the scope creep. Don’t let a simple topic branch out into solving for world peace. Redirect to the original topic. Happily, over time, this will make you come across as a serious professional. [Not that you aren’t now! no-no, that is not what I mean! But it’s the consistency that really slays them. You will carry an air of expectation that they, too, should conduct themselves professionally. This takes time, that is a drawback here.]

      Some days the best I can do is say to myself, “Well so-and-so has to eat and pay the mortgage, too.” This forces me to think about what I have in common with this person and gets me away from the Grand Canyon size differences.

      I usually do not joke around much. And I find that if I deliberately plan out my work for the next day before I go home at night, the next day feels a bit more work focused and less about dealing with personality.

      But in the end, I am not sure that anything really has a big effect in these settings.

  5. Cool Beans*

    Am I the only one that gets really excited when I see pictures of desks and how they’re organized? Can you share what yours looks like?

    I love seeing what people use to organize their stuff. I can browse Staples for days!

    1. C Average*

      I’m not like this with desks in particular, but I can spend hours wandering Ikea looking at the fake rooms and wishing my real rooms looked like that!

      My desk is frightening. It has a Lolcats calendar, a Guinness hat, a Barack Obama action figure, a bunch of electronic gadgets and their chargers, a picture of Dubya (long story), and various other detritus. It’s frankly an eyesore. I give it a thorough tidying about every two weeks; in between, entropy occurs.

    2. Sunflower*

      Hmm interesting. Never really tried looking for these but I’d be interested! Any blogs or sites you read? I’d imagine Pintrest has some good stuff!

      1. Cool Beans*

        Pinterest is great! Also, I’ve googled and Instagram searched “desk pictures”. Basic, but effective.

    3. Roan*

      Me too. Although I keep my desk clear. Just a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Maybe a coffee mug, or notebook if I am using them. Everything else goes on shelves or in drawers. I can’t work amid the clutter pencil holders, files etc.

        1. Anonymous*

          Oh my goodness mine is such the opposite! I have a fairly large desk in an open layout – it’s a casual workplace (engineering). I have gidgets and gadgets and whozits and whatsits all over the place. Prototype mechanics, an old Brownie Kodak camera, a ‘Honey Badger Don’t Care’ stuffed animal, origami from many Southwest flights (Spirit Magazine), trinkets from travel, and lots of pictures. I would actually consider my desk pretty organized when it comes to work stuff though – folders are filed and I always know where my calculator and notebook are. I think there should be a whole open thread on just this topic!

          1. Powerpuff*

            Yep – I wasn’t kidding about the bare desk. Somehow, I need the physical room in order to think!

        2. Bea W*

          I would either have most of that desk covered in things within 10 minutes or sitting there staring into space because I can’t remember what I’m supposed to be doing. Out of sight, out of mind!

        3. danr*

          My old vp would have loved seeing that. I drove him crazy since my desk was always covered with stuff… very little bare wood veneer showing, ever.

      1. Wonderlander*

        Here’s mine. I work in law so I had to remove most of my files and business cards, etc. for confidentiality reasons. But this is generally how it looks at the beginning and end of each day :) I especially love my cupcake calendar I found at Target for $1!

          1. Wonderlander*

            Oh no! :( My sister got it for me from Disneyworld, she was a “character attendant” through their college intern program. She has a lot of cool stories from her 6 months there, including the incognito (plain clothes) security that are with the characters all. the. time.

    4. Stephanie*

      A co-worker recently made a huge point about how messy my desk is. I was super offended, because it’s not. I have a lot of files, in file organizers, and papers pinned up for easy reference. That’s what makes it look a bit busy, sure, compared to some other people who basically just have a computer. But still…

    5. AVP*

      Alright, I’ll go., since I just cleaned mine. Image link in the next comment so it can go into moderation.

      The books are quasi-work related so I keep them at my desk in case I have time to flip through. If you squint you can see the Empire State building through the window. It’s bigger in real life.

        1. cuppa*

          I like your window!
          I just cleaned up my desk yesterday and I like how it feels. I have an inbox, business card holder, candy jar, coffee mug, note cube, phone, computer/keyboard, phone, and one pile of work. People tend to leave things on my desk for me when I’m not here, so my desk can clutter up pretty quickly.

          1. hildi*

            Yes, so jealous of the window!! I’d even be willing to look at buildings just to see some natural light. That’s slowly killing me working in a basement.

      1. Keri*

        Do you have glare issues from facing the window like that?

        I’ve been thinking of moving my desk so that I’m facing the window, or even moving so my back is to it, but I was worried it my give me issues with being able to see my computer.

        Mine is super boring (I’m obviously not much of a decorator) but since I looked at everyone else’s pics, it seems only fair:

          1. Keri*

            Thanks. I think I’ll give it a try next week. Of course it would be a lot cooler if my NYC view was as nice as AVP’s :)

    6. Gene*

      Since I don’t want to send you into the corner to breathe into a paper bag, I won’t share a photo of mine. A pile for everything and everthing in its pile. IIRC, the blotter calendar at the bottom is from the mid 90s.

      1. Jamie*

        I’m messy and I did it – I’m showing uncontrolled cables and everything.

        Not that I’m daring you to post a pic to make me feel less messy or anything. :)

      2. MaryMary*

        LOL. “A pile for everything and everything in its pile” is exactly how my desk is organized. When I’m especially busy, the piles creep onto the floor and I’m surrounded by little stacks.

    7. Desk nonny*

      I went extra anonymous in case any one recognized my desk; I do sit at the front desk, after all.
      I have a few things on the computer that are most important reference, and a book and pile of secondary reference. Then the third pile is things that I’m working on (rather, waiting for other people) so hopefully that’s cleared soon. It’s incredibly boring. It might reflect how I feel about the job, ha

      1. Mints*

        I really like that that drawing belongs on the desk. Not like in a frame or the wall or anything, but on the desk, handy where you can pick it up and swoon whenever the mood strikes

        1. Jamie*

          Actually it was only there because I needed to buy a frame. One of my son’s drew that – it’s framed and on the wall now along with:

          My professional certs and a fun/touching statement whipped up at work as a joke. Back in the day I was so worried about stepping on toes as I assumed I was one of many who wanted it, and I wanted it. Turns out no one else wanted it and were happy to have me raise my hand and desperately want to be Cinderella!

          It’s a crudely typed Word doc saying, “It has been voted on and approved that on the Xth of Month, twothousand and XX that Jamie Keyboard-Money be named ISO Management Representative of Company. All in favor say “I” and sign below. Signed by two company owners and a fellow director.

          First off I think it’s hilarious that they wrote I instead of aye and the discussion around it was that if I wanted things checked for quality I should have done it myself. And it was done when we were all being silly after a really tough week and sitting around after hours just kind of decompressing and…it was nice. It was fun and it was comfortable and that’s my favorite thing is where good, competent people work their asses off together and accomplish something big. That little tangible reminder of how much I like these people has had as much to do with keeping me from an impulsive quit on a bad day as knowing my mortgage needs to be paid.

          That said I have 7 desktops, 2 laptops, and several printers waiting for the recycling guy in front of my desk, so the front part of my office looks like a really crappy yard sale.

      2. hildi*

        I think I can probably speak for a lot of us here when I say that whenever I see a Hello Kitty thing I instantly think, “Jamie would probably like this! I should sent it to her. Oh wait, she probably already has it.”

        1. Jamie*

          I do want credit for that there isn’t too much though – I rotate.

          2 small stuffies (one of which you can’t see unless you’re sitting at my desk) some HK hand sanitizer and my desktop – which you don’t see unless you’re behind my desk. And my lanyard – but that’s for business purposes. Makes me approachable and signals that I’m not Auditor the Hun when I go into the plant.

      1. Mints*

        I can’t tell from the picture, but what’s that polka dot stuff on the wall? Is it like cubicle wall paper?

        1. hildi*

          It’s fabric! Just cheapy fabric from Walmart. Many years ago I saw a woman that did it and thought it was a good idea. Clearly I need to surround myself with lots of crap (well, happy crap, that is). The print is a bunch of colorful daisies.

          1. Mints*

            Oh, that’s smart! The print is really cute, too
            Once I have a cubicle I like enough to want to feel homey, an Ikea run might be in order

      2. Jen RO*

        Yay a messy desk! I’m not embarrassed by mine – I have just accepted the fact that I am not a tidy person…

        1. hildi*

          Word. It’t not going to happen with me. And I’m fortunate that my cube is in the very back of the office, and the nature of my work doesn’t require a lot of visitors. So….I can continue to pile up and hoard and drown in my own mess back here. I even had a cricket this week. Though to be fair, he went into the rest of the office and then out into the hallway. So it’s not like I’m a host site for breeding insects.

      3. Bea W*

        This is about what my desk looks like in terms of stuff. I straighten up, but within minutes after I start working, the things creep back. That’s just the way I work. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like there’s food and crumbs all over the place or sticky spots. It’s clean, just not clean of paper and things I am actively working with.

        1. Bea W*

          The funniest thing is that I have the exact same number of beverage containers and types on my desk right now.

          1. hildi*

            We are kindred spirits, then! I consume a LOT of water during the day, but also a sordid affair with fountain pops. I so desperately want to stop drinking (and buying!) them, but they are such a good companion during the day. :)

      4. fposte*

        That’s me on a good day. Again–academia, so I’m by no means the messiest in the building. But I’m a strong competitor.

    8. Jen RO*

      I just left work, so I can’t take a photo of my actual desk, but here’s the one at home. (If you’re a clean freak, don’t click it.) It includes makeup, my dinner, the cat box and one of the actual cats. My work desk is better… but not by much.

      (The cat box really works – or at least it did until I started filling it with stuff. The cats had stopped sitting in front of the monitor and were sitting in the box!)

        1. Jen RO*

          I’m just very easily bored… I need to be listening to/watching/reading something while I’m doing my makeup or nails. In my old apartment I had a vanity and I never used it, because it was in a room with nothing entertaining. Since I am always at the computer and I don’t have much free space either… this setup works perfectly. I even got a little Ikea lamp so I could have better lighting for doing makeup.

          My work desk is covered in notes to myself (though I am trying to move them online, to Trello), snacks, and a small apocalypse kit. I spend a third of my life at work so I want to have anything I might need to be comfortable, which includes nail file, chapstick, eyeliner, sanitary pads, a ton of food, bathing suit in case I decide to go to the pool after work, scissors, clear nail polish, two types of hand cream, plastic spoons, small mirror, medicine, hair accessories. Things I still need to add: tweezers, super glue, comb, a pair of earrings (because I always forget to put them on in the morning, and my ears feel naked all day).

      1. Jamie*

        Neater than my desk at home – and your kitty looks exactly like one of mine! I was taken aback for a second – wondering if she gets bored and visits Romania while I’m working. :)

        1. Jen RO*

          Mine’s definitely a he…

          (My desk is marginally tidier today because the cleaning lady just came by and shoved everything in the cat-box. The cat appreciated it, so he’s sitting between me and the monitor, eyeing my grapes.)

    9. Elizabeth West*

      My desk at work is WAY more organized than my desk at home. But then, when I’m at home, I sit on the couch with my laptop and write. I don’t use it! One thing that has helped me keep up a little bit is that I stopped asking for receipts at certain places where I spend the same money every time on the same thing, and all my bills are online now.

      I do need to clean it up. Don’t want all the personal info sitting out while I’m gone, even though I’m pretty sure I can trust the pet sitter not to mess with any of it.

      1. hildi*

        To your last point: that has always been in my head whenever we’ve had service workers into our house. Most of them I know by now and half the time I’m hanging around asking questions, but I heard that tip a while ago and it’s stuck with me. I at least try to stuff visible personal information underneath the other piles of stuff. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I know–once I first ran across that, I became totally paranoid.

          I can’t post a pic of my desk because I can’t access personal storage sites here and I haven’t figured out yet how to do it on my phone.

    10. Bea W*

      Everyone’s desks are so….CLEAN.

      I am totally afraid to post mine even anon in case someone (connected to where I work) recognizes where I work, but I can tell you, it does not look like these desks!

    11. Smilingswan*

      Me too, I love office supply stores. I could browse for hours! I’m a real organization freak at work, not so much at home though. :)

    12. Natalie*

      This actually inspired me to reevaluate what I have on my desk. I’m a big “clean desk” person and I had a bunch of stamps I only use once a month, so I put them in a drawer.

      So all I have is a laptop, computer peripherals, calculator, invoice stamp, pen bucket and post-its. Approximately 90% of the time there is either a cup of coffee or a sparkly water and some chaptstick.

    13. Al Lo*

      Here’s my office/desk:

      My desk, with my co-worker’s desk on the other side, between mine and the window. I don’t have a ton of personal stuff on my desk right now — a wedding photo and a coffee maker, mostly — but I have some Doctor Who and Harry Potter figurines that I need to put up at some point. This is also my IKEA-hacked standing desk, which works quite nicely. :)

      Looking from the window back toward my desk. Behind the curtains are all kinds of mismatched file cabinets — we’re a non-profit, so they’re donated and don’t match, so I brought in some unused curtains from my house to make it seem a little less garage sale-y.

      Our meeting area.

    14. Windchime*

      Late to the party, but here we go! This picture was taken about a year ago and there is a co-worker’s child sitting at my desk, so his face is obscured. It’s not usually this clean; I was out on leave so I had tidied up beforehand. The cube walls look low but actually they are about 65″; I just have a high desk that I can stand at (or sit in a tall chair). The cube walls are drab tan; I covered them with a cut-up fabric shower curtain.

  6. CTO*

    What’s wrong with part of what you just said? “I’d like to sit in as quiet a spot as possible. Assuming that I will need to share an office: I don’t mind sitting with Bob, or if that isn’t possible, with Linda.”

    Worded a little better, “I work best in a really quiet spot without a lot of background noise. Bob has been great to share with because we’re both very focused and quiet when we’re at our desks. I’d be happy to continue to share with him; I think Linda and I would also be very compatible.” Keep pointing out that your preference for quiet isn’t just a personal preference but an actual business need that helps you be focused and productive.

  7. C Average*

    Some of you may have read about my work drama in last week’s open thread.

    The tl;dr version is that I have a higher-performing peer who’s BFFs with my boss; I love my company but have continually struggled in my current role (I get successful or better reviews, but I work my ass off for them and nothing about this job comes at all naturally to me); I get ambiguous and non-actionable feedback from my boss (“be more of a team player!”); and I’d really like to be doing something else.

    I stirred up a hornet’s nest by making a very unfortunate gaffe on Facebook, and am still working to undo that damage. In a way I’m glad it happened, though, because it provided me with a scary revelation: part of me hoped my boss would fire me over it. I hate my job that much. Financially, I don’t NEED this job. The main thing that keeps me here is my desire to continue working at this company, a place I love.

    I’m taking steps to return to my old role, which is currently open. It’s a role I originated, and I’m still kind of a legend in that department. Last year, when they received a major company-wide award, the team insisted that I come, too, as I helped build what they’re carrying forward now, and I’m always introduced to new team members. We’re in different teams within the same department and work in the same building. There’s often crossover between my work and theirs. My transition back to that work would involve learning to use some new tools and processes, but would in many respects be fairly seamless.

    I’ll have to interview, of course, and it’s by no means a slam-dunk, but the hiring managers for that role have expressed a lot of excitement about my application, and my unofficial mentor (a woman who’s been with the company for 35 years) is supportive of this move. On paper, it’s a lateral. I may have to take a small pay cut. I don’t care. The idea of coming to work and doing something I do well and love, and the idea of not dealing with my boss and all her weird interpersonal drama.

    I feel physically lighter having made this decision.

    In case this doesn’t work out, I’ve begun making some connections within my department about other potential lateral moves. These have been really well received. Everyone is surprised to learn that I don’t find my job a great fit; they say I do good work and seem happy by all outward appearances, which is really gratifying to hear. They completely understand my desire to shift to something with a more steady, predictable workflow; in fact, the most frequent comment I seem to get is “I couldn’t do that job! The stuff you guys have to deal with is completely insane.”

    1. Malissa*

      Be more of a team player is probably the most frustrating review item ever. Does it mean bring in doughnuts once in a while so everybody likes you? Is it code for the bosses BFF thinks you’re a threat? Does it mean that you work too hard and people think you are only business? (true story on my part) Does it mean you actually need to make an effort to pretend to care about Jane’s daughter’s dance classes?
      The only response to this that I can think of is, “What do you mean by that?”

      I really hope you get your old role back. Happiness at work is golden.

      1. C Average*

        Yeah, I hope so, too. I’ve quit trying to figure out what this stuff means. I’m just ready to move on.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I completely get that. You reach a point at work sometimes where the drama, the passive aggressiveness, the misunderstandings just get so overwhelming that you quit caring and you just want to move on to something better for everyone involved.

      2. Joey*

        Be more of a team player generally means don’t be difficult. That means things like:

        1. Accept and support decisions even when you disagree with them.
        2. Assume other team members have good intentions.
        3. Don’t stir the pot.
        4. Look like you’re attempting to contribute to a positive work environment and positive relationships.
        5. Voice disagreements only when they are welcome and in a positive and constructive way.
        6. Volunteer for opportunities to do additional work.
        7. Be on board with your bosses work life balance philosophy.

        1. AnonyMouse*

          Yeah, I always take “team player” to mean someone who excels at collaborative work, is fine with taking (and maybe giving) constructive feedback, always helps out when help is needed/tries to find opportunities to pitch in, values the ideas of others and respectfully contributes their own, and doesn’t cause drama. But this is just my personal working definition, I agree that it’s often given as frustratingly vague criticism. And of course, it sometimes means “be willing to go along with whatever I say, even if it’s unreasonable!”

        2. C Average*

          Huh. Interesting. This is actually useful. Thank you.

          Although I sit with the people on my “team,” my role is funded by a different business unit within the company and most of my work is with the people in that unit. I don’t communicate much within my immediate team about my work or theirs because there honestly isn’t a lot of crossover. It’s just the nature of our roles. I wonder if that’s reading as lack of interest or disengagement toward their work. I really don’t have any interest in their work–it doesn’t inform or impact mine in any way most of the time. I probably look pretty insensitive. It wasn’t my intent, but I can definitely see how it would look that way.

          Basically, I’m not a team player within my team because my work takes place within a different team.

          Thanks for what you said. It helped me see this in a new way.

          It doesn’t change my desire to escape posthaste, but it makes a bit more sense of that feedback.

          1. Observer*

            Spending a bit of time asking the others what they are doing and how it’s going, and sharing a bit of what you are doing, would probably actually lessen your stress. For one thing, it’ll get your boss off your head. For another, it’s surprising how much better things feel with a bit of connection to the people you sit with, even if it’s not deep or anything you particularly would work to keep once you move on. And, it’s also surprising how much more positively people may view you – and how much of a difference that could make.

            I’m not suggesting that you suddenly start acting as though you are best buddies with everyone. Just a little more interaction. It shouldn’t be necessary, but humans are generally social creatures.

        3. Jen RO*

          This a very useful comment for me too, Joey. We have a non-team player and she might need it spelled out for her…

          1. C Average*

            I think the people who aren’t team players by nature (*raises hand*) probably ESPECIALLY need it spelled out in terms of actual, definable behavior. Joey’s list is way closer than anything I’ve ever seen, but real-life scenarios would be even better. I think I’m sufficiently dense that, like the puppy that needs to be swatted with the newspaper as soon as he’s caught in the act, I need someone to flag for me “Hey, a team player would not have said THAT in the meeting we just attended” or “Yo, doofus, a team player would’ve stepped up right there. Why didn’t you?” Most of us spend our days mainly at our computers, with our heads down, working, so I can’t exactly look around and clearly see what the team players are doing that I’m not doing.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I don’t think its in our genes at birth and I hate the assumption that it is.

              Sometimes the way out of this type of conversation is to say, “Can you give me examples of what you mean?” This shifts the complainer’s focus onto the practical side of matters. Sometimes they can come to the realization on their own that they do not actually know what they want you to do because they are unable to articulate concrete examples.

        4. Ruffingit*

          This is a really useful summary Joey. Thanks! I’m actually going to print this out for a co-worker of mine who is having a hard time with this concept. Hope you don’t mind!

      3. Annie*

        Agreed… I’ve gotten that in 2 different offices-once two years in a row. I asked my boss “How should I do that?” in one office and was met with stunned silence- I found out that he had to put something on everyone’s review that they needed to work on- he couldn’t find anything else to say because everything from the previous year I had improved on and he didn’t feel that needed to be mentioned again (time management and organization). I found out later that it was on there because one person(who had the bosses ear both in and out of work) was complaining that I was showing everyone up because I was doing things quicker and more accurately than she was and she couldn’t imagine how that was possible. (I was doing them on my work at home day rather than trying to do it when I was also fielding phone calls and other work interruptions.)
        Another time it was that when I was working well with my co-workers, but I let them (those higher ranking than me) have the spotlight when the managers came in (which was how the culture was when I got there)- when I started speaking out it seemed that I was being told I was being rude and inconsiderate to my manager and others in the room- I left that job soon after this started happening.

          1. Annie*

            Yup- I was reporting to 3 managers at once (which was way too complicated) and one saw that I was doing as I was told, one thought I was being rude and ignoring everyone for not speaking up, the third got pissed when I did speak up- they put me on a PIP and I spoke to my union rep who couldn’t figure out why with the documentation from ‘most’ of my managers the one was the one reason I was put on it and the reason I was getting mixed messages- I left as soon as I had the money to do so- I’m still looking but considering I’ve heard the turn over for my and the other position that was in a similar management style has been at least 3 people in less than 18 months. My sanity is more important than a full time job.

    2. cuppa*

      I’m so happy you were able to find a bit of a positive out of the whole thing (or at least a few steps in that direction). Good luck!!

    3. Jen RO*

      Congratulations for making a decision! I did something similar fairly recently and I am very happy in my old role.

    4. Fact & Fiction*

      Wishing you the best! I have had the experience of switching roles in the same company, to a position that just wasn’t a good fit. It can be so freeing to admit that it’s not working out and take positive steps to get out of the role that’s not quite right. Hopefully you’ll get to go back to what you know you love and excel at.

  8. Hlyssande*

    I’m a little sad that the supervisor who shares my name is leaving the company for better opportunities. That will leave only two of us! Now we need two more to have total control instead of just one (there are four groups within the department). But really, I’m happy for her.

    I have a feeling I’m going to see a lot more emails intended for her department after she leaves. It’s a couple a month right now, but once she’s gone…

    What’s your preferred method of handling misdirected emails? Do you ever get testy when it’s the same person every time?

    1. Kai*

      I keep it light: “Whoops, I don’t think you meant this for me!” My name isn’t common enough for it to happen multiple times by the same person, but a coworker of mine has that very problem. It is VERY frustrating for her–especially because the other person is a high-up financial staffer and as a result a lot of confidential finance info gets sent to the wrong address.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Oof yeah, the confidential information thing can definitely be an issue.

        We used to get lots of emails in our shared inbox that included full credit card numbers, expiration dates, etc – because they were supposed to go to the person who runs the credit cards for cash applications. We don’t get them so much anymore, but I would always respond to tell them they sent it to the wrong place and remove all the credit card info from that email, then delete the original sent to us.

      2. Natalie*

        I have the same last name as one of the main HR contacts in my company so I get her emails a little more often than I would like to. What confusing me is that her first name comes before mine in alphabetical order, so it’s not like there getting to the first Jones (not our last name) in the list and just picking me.

      3. Natalie*

        Hopefully this is work-related enough; if not delete!

        I’m going back to school (bleh) and I was supposed to have my first class yesterday. I’m getting my only missing gen ed requirements out of the way so I’m taking a “101” class. For some reason I’m finding it really hard to get over being SO MUCH older than my classmates (I’m 30). This is a pretty typical university so there aren’t a lot of non-traditional students, percentage-wise. As much as I’m intellectually sure that no one notices or cares, I feel like I stand out and it really bugs me. Also, 18 year old apparently look like children to me and large groups of them freak me out.

        I don’t really have a question, but if you’ve gone back for undergraduate classes as a bona fide adult I could use a funny and/or uplifting story.

        1. bagworm*

          My favorite story from being a non-traditional student at a school where I was definitely in the minority had to do with an instructor I had who was clearly a few year younger than me. She was so nervous during our first class that I had to go up to her afterward and let her know she had done a good job. She asked if it was that noticeable that it was her first class and I told her honestly that I doubt anyone else noticed at all. She and I started having coffee regularly (maybe too boundary-crossing) but it was nice. I often found I related more to my instructors than the students in my class but making an effort to listen and learn from them helped me to get a lot out of a unique experience.

        2. Mz. Puppie*

          I was older as well. If possible with your schedule, I recommend that you take your classes in the evening. The age mix is COMPLETELY different after 5:00 pm at university. You’d find lots of peers and people older than you, even in a 101 class.

    2. Name Power*

      I know that this wasn’t your intent, but I originally read your comment to mean that there would only be two of you with the same name left, and you would need two more with that name to gain absolute power in the department. :)

      1. Hlyssande*

        Actually, that’s exactly what I meant! We’re going from three of us (with the same spelling, no less) in three different groups of the dept to two. Now we need two more, one in each of those other departments, to gain absolute power. Mwahaha.

        1. Name Power*

          Oh! The interpretation I ended up assuming in the end was that you were going from three people (overall) in your group to two, and you needed a total of four people to have adequate coverage for your workload.

          1. Hlyssande*

            Sorry, I should have been more clear. We’re in a 60+ person department that handles things like collections, risk, customer data management, and transactions/cash application for a giant company.

            The Jane in the collections group is new, the Jane in the risk team is leaving, and I’m the Jane in customer data management. So now we need a new Jane in risk and one in transactions for PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER.

            I’m vastly entertained that our not so common name is so well represented here. I don’t think there are any other name doubles in the department.

    3. Malissa*

      I once worked in the same organization as my Sister-in-law. We shared the same first initial and last name. Email convention was first initial and last name @ org. When I hired on they did my email with my first and middle initial. She was always getting email meant for me. She got testy about it when she drunk at a family function one night. My drunken response was that I actually was Mlastname 10 years before she was.
      The problem resolved itself when she quit the org a couple of years later. But after that night she never gave anyone grief about getting my emails again.

    4. C Average*

      I have a colleague who deals with this. She may be literally the nicest person in the world (seriously!), but even she’s been driven mad by the volume of misdirected emails she gets for the other Hermione Granger at our company.

      She found it helpful to create a standard response she could send out, instead of crafting a new one every time. It’s really short and to the point. She finds the whole thing way less irritating when she doesn’t have to write a whole reply every time it happens.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Ooh, nice! Being able to write that into a signature and insert it or just copy/paste must make the whole thing much easier!

        1. Mints*

          If you use Outlook, I think you could create a “quick step” to reply and cc the other Hermione Granger then it’s just a button, and you can include the note that you’re Hermione from Ravenclaw, not Gryffindor (or whatever)

          1. Aunt Vixen*

            When I was in grad school, a staffer at the medical center who shared my first name got married to someone who shared my last name and changed her name. Her colleagues had the hardest time understanding that her university e-mail address–first, middle, and last initials followed by a random number-letter combination–didn’t change. They would look up her married name in the directory, find me, and send me her meeting invites or snow tree calling list or what have you. (There were two people between us in the directory – one with the same first name and one with the same last name. I don’t know why they appeared before her, since she used both.)

            I found her and together we tried everything to make her team understand that it would be better for everyone if they maybe put her e-mail address on a sticky note next to their monitor or something. Even with me going “Listen, one of these times your e-mail might contain sensitive information about a patient that I’m really not supposed to see, and then where will we all be?” and her going “Guys, I’m still at the same address I’ve always been, please leave the graduate student alone!” it carried on until–as far as I know–that e-mail address went away. (This was back when university e-mail addresses went away.) For a while she must have had to deal with questions about why people’s messages to her kept bouncing. Poor thing. (I’ve just looked her up, and she’s the only one by our name at that university now–but her e-mail address is the same as it was ten years ago, with the maiden-name monogram.)

    5. Colette*

      I regularly get email for someone who doesn’t exist. My email address is on the web in multiple places with the name “Charlie Mylastname”. I get emails intended for him all the time. I delete them. (If I were to receive an internal email, I’d reply – the ones I get are marketing attempts.)

        1. Colette*

          It’s not on our website – someone somewhere decided that it was a legitimate email, made up a person (and role to go with it) and it gets replicated by what I can only assume are scammy leads boards.

          1. Mints*

            Ah, I misunderstood. That’s really weird and annoying! Although pretty easy for the company to filter out salesy emails

      1. Jen RO*

        I have had several people email me when they were looking for another Jen. I reply when it’s something important – one time I got a mail with a kindergarten announcement, another time I got an email about wedding planning, and yet another time about writing a character reference for someone facing immigration problems – and ignore when it’s not. Someone even managed to register a B&N account on my email address! She had her credit card saved in the account too… (I changed her password and deleted the CC details.)

    6. Fact & Fiction*

      I had double mixed messages in a previous job. Ironically, they involved two sisters who worked for the same company. One of the sisters apparently looked a lot like me, enough so that people regularly mixed us up and would start talking to us as if we were the other. Usually, if it was just a quick “Hi Wrongname!” I would smile and wave and keep going. One time, however, this guy from Accounting started into a long spiel and eventually I realized he thought I was the other woman, so I corrected him as gently as possible. The poor guy went beet red and was so embarrassed.

      The other sister had the same first name as me, so people would periodically forward me her emails or voicemails in our phone system. I would just forward them to her and problem solved. I just found it amusing because what are the odds two sisters would cause me so many mixups over the years; one for looking like me and the other having the same first name?

      1. Catherine in Canada*

        There are FOUR MyFirstName MyLastName women in the world who can not seem to give out their gmail addresses correctly. I get e-mails intended for a woman in Switzerland, one in France, one in Montreal QC and one who runs an orphanage in Africa. I never know what to do with them. Some of them are important!
        “Your parcel can be picked up here”,
        “Your bank loan has been approved.”
        “Classes have moved to this new location” and, best or worst of all,
        “Your password to your web site has been successfully changed.”

        1. Kai*

          Hahahah, yes. There is a LeJaune MyLastName in South Africa who is aggressively looking for a job. All his (her?) job board emails come to me.

        2. Jen RO*

          If the sender is a person instead of a website, I sometimes email back to ask the person to tell *her* Jennifer that she is giving out my email address.

  9. Cruciatus*

    I mentioned in last week’s thread about a job as a case administrator in my region’s bankruptcy court popping up. It sounds like it could be interesting, and I fit the requirements and then some but I have no idea what one might expect in a job like this. I’m going to apply to just see what happens (though I imagine 5000 people are fighting for this federal job asking for only a high school diploma). The duties stated mostly include working with documents throughout the process, monitoring chain of command, and that sort of thing. But if anyone has any idea what more might be involved I’d appreciate it.

    It doesn’t say anything about working with the people who are declaring bankruptcy but I worry about working with people who are at a very low point in their lives–not necessarily that they’d hurt me/others but just that it could be constantly depressing seeing this. But maybe not? Is it fast-paced? Depressing? Exciting? Tedious?

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      Having been through a BK, I can tell you that the only person I interacted with other than my attorney was the guy who asked the questions at our hearing, which lasted about 10 minutes. If that’s this job, then I’d say somewhat tedious but not outright depressing. Except for hearing days (and I don’t know what percentage of the job that entails), I believe you’ll be doing very little “working with” filers directly. It’s going to be a lot more reviewing documentation and, if anything, interfacing with people’s attorneys or paralegals if the paperwork is out of order.

    2. Carin*

      It’s not 100% pertinent but I used to work in the Civil Clerk’s office (not for them, just out in the office with the general public reading through files) and a ton of the people coming in were getting their divorce papers. Like you, I initially worried they’d be depressed. Instead they were either just normal, or occasionally ecstatically happy. I saw a couple of people do a dance and one guy sang a song!

  10. Moving on...maybe*

    I had a third interview for an internal position yesterday. I’ve been told by HR that I’m the front runner for the job, so I’m very hopeful. It would be so nice to get away from my current team, who have become so frustrated and negative in recent months that it’s really tense to try and get work done. Plus, every day is a reenactment of “Mean Girls” and my role is Janis Ian.

      1. KJR*

        Speaking of “Mean Girls,” my daughter got to say “the limit does not exist!” in Calculus yesterday. She was pretty darned excited. Good luck to you!!

  11. CH*

    I have a colleague who, when he passes projects on to me (I have a defined role in these projects), usually gives it to me in bits and pieces. Like he’ll give me most of it but leave out one vital part that he needs our manager to approve so he’ll get it to me tomorrow. Or he’ll bring me 2 bits of information and then keep bringing me a little more every half-hour or so until I finally get everything I need to complete my part. While I could start working on these projects without full information, it isn’t very efficient to do so. For the most part, these are projects that I can do in about 30 minutes if I have all the information and the deadline is rarely that tight.
    So I’ve started pushing back on this. When he brings me his 2 bits of information, I’ll say, “Thanks, I’ll get started on it as soon as you bring me the rest.” But then he looks startled like he expected me to start immediately, and sometimes he takes what he gave me back then.
    I don’t want to hurt his feelings because he is really nice and goes out of his way to say “thank you” when I do any work for him. But I have other projects going and really don’t want to store his bits and pieces on my desk. Is there a better way that I can tell him just to give me the project when he has it all together?

    1. C Average*

      I don’t know how this would go over for you, but I’ve actually built a Google form (it’s easy to do) for certain types of work requests. You can build a form with required fields, and it’s really easy for the recipient to fill out.

      When I get requests that don’t have the info I need, I respond with something like this: “Hey, thanks for your request for a chocolate teapot report. To expedite your request, I need the following info [bullet points listing what I need but haven’t yet gotten]. For future reference, I’ve actually made a handy-dandy Google form that collects everything I need to fulfill this kind of request quickly and efficiently. [LINK] Please bookmark this for future reference.” If they still send me incomplete info, I send them the link to the form and ask them to fill it out.

      When people do fill out the form as requested, I can get these requests done really, really fast. Usually, once people have experienced this, they’re happy to use the form. I also let them know if the form design needs a tweak, to just tell me and I’ll respond.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I can see how your co-worker thinks he is being efficient. But I’m with you, I need the big picture before I can really understand how to tackle a project. You could just explain that you have a different process than he does, and it is best if you can get all the information at the same time. Then you can give it your full attention, instead of bits of attention.
      I can’t imaging how many times you would need to re-run your work once another bit of data came into the mix.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Please don’t take this the wrong way, but the way you’re handling it may come off as a bit passive-aggressive. I’m only saying that because it might seem to your colleague like you’re blocking their request, but it’s not obvious why. I think you need to explain to them that it’s much more efficient for you to work on the project once everything is ready for you, and to start before that would only waste a lot of your time. Mention that it’s hard for you to keep track of so many parts of so many projects, and let them know that if they get it to you when everything is finalized, reassure them that you will give it your prompt and full attention.

      You can probably tell I speak from experience. I’ve gotten lots of “final” documents to post to a web site only to have tons of “minor” changes flood in right after I’ve gotten it ready to post….which pretty much means I either have to start from scratch with the new document, or I have to scrutinize the new document and find every little revision and make those edits to the one I have ready. Either way, it doubles the time I have to spend, so I’ve explained these things to the people who provide me with the content, and now they know to try to have it as finalized as possible. Sometimes there are last-minute changes; that can’t always be avoided. But that’s pretty rare now, and there’s usually a good reason.

      1. LAI*

        Agreed, I think your coworker is probably confused about why you refused to start working on his project, and you should just be direct. And I don’t think you need to be worried about hurting his feelings or finding any special language to convey your request. Next time he brings you a partial project, you can just say: “Hey, thanks for the update but do you mind holding on to this until you have everything and bringing it to me then? It’s just a lot easier for me to get everything at once and not worry about losing a piece of information on my desk.” I can’t imagine that would be a problem, but if he seems resistant, than I’d just inquire into why he prefers doing it in pieces and see if you can’t address the underlying reasons for that.

  12. The IT Manager*

    I want to recommend the book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance—What Women Should Know by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.

    It reminded me of the The Power of Habit in that is discussed the science and research about confidence and then provided self-help like recommendations on how to be/act more confident in your life for work and how to raise confident children (daughters). The authors talk to female leaders and other seemingly confident women and conversationally discussed their own personal issues with confidence and how their ideas about confidence were impacted by the research for the book. I very much enjoyed the tone of the book.

    It does indeed focus on the double standards and issue that women encounter in the work place in regards to confident behaviors. They, of course, don’t offer any solutions to intractible social double standards, but its good to be aware of them.

    1. ACA*

      I got this book out of the library last week, but haven’t had time to start it yet – now I’m even more looking forward to reading it!

  13. Cass in Canada*

    I had a job interview this week for a job I really want. My current role is toxic and an awful place to work and I’m actively looking for a new job. That being said, I’m struggling with how to setup my documentation for if/when I leave now instead of scrambling before I leave.

    Does anyone have any ideas or helpful suggestions for writing a useful manual for the next person? Let’s assume I won’t be directly training the new person, and that my boss won’t be any help with training (he doesn’t show up most of the time and I trained myself when I started). So far I have a department overview, list of daily, weekly and mostly tasks, and a basic description of all the processes I manage. My job most ly involves chocolate tea pot databases, developing policy, and agruing with external stakeholders and government about how and where they should be made.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      I started doing this when I actively started job-hunting. My manual started off with real basics–an introduction to the building, where office supplies can be found, where X/Y/Z can be found, where all the washrooms and stuff are. I did a little bit about the phones (important extensions, how to set up voicemail) and general filing cabinets (“where you can find information on X”). Then I moved into processes. Can you think back to what stumped you when you were training yourself? If you have a particular gnarly piece of software, any tips or tricks you have for dealing with it, etc.

      Also important can be contact names. “At Group X we frequently talk with their Teapot Department, the main contact person is Lucinda Jones at 555-555-5555, though we occasionally deal with Wakeen for technical issues.” Who to contact in case of an issue at each external place. Who to contact in your own company for questions on this, that, the other thing, who to contact elsewhere for the same thing.

      Are there any infrequent things that come up? “Every August we hold Workshop X, this job’s role is preparing the teapots for the teapot-throwing portion of the games. Percival heads up this project beginning in July and appreciates help.”

      Other workplace norms–So-and-so prefers to be made aware of these developments every week, Such-and-him prefers not to know unless there is a problem. That kind of thing.

    2. Malissa*

      SOP’s with lots of screenshots and step-by-step instructions. I made a ton of these before I left my last job. My replacement was referred back to these often.

      1. stillLAH*

        I’ll second what Diet Coke Addict said about thinking back to what confused you. When I started my previous job, the woman who left still lived in town (and left terrible or no notes about what she did) so I could call her up or meet for coffee. I left town when I quit and so I wanted to leave a better description of what goes on for my replacement and I started with all the things I had questions about when I started. And then expanded.
        I also linked to the documents I referenced (assuming a replacement would prefer the Word Doc version, not the bindered version oldboss made me print). I’m assuming my replacement only called a couple of times, and about weird situations I didn’t think would come up again, because I left such a detailed document.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      The only thing I can suggest is to put the big picture into the process before you do the step-by-step. I received a manual with lots of screen shots and step by step instructions, but I didn’t know why I was doing any of them. When I left, I started instructions with an overview “You are bringing the data together, then breaking it into each system so department x, y, and z can do their abc process.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. The book that I have, that was started for me, on page one the core tasks are listed. Then you go to that section to find more info.

        What I liked about it was that on my first day, I could see exactly what the baseline stuff was that I needed to familiarize myself with.

        Once in the section that describes the task I find the common mistakes/pitfalls are incorporated as part of the instructions. Ex: “For step 6 the date format is mm/dd/yyyy. Must state year in 4 digits not 2.”

    4. Monodon monoceros*

      One thing I would include is a calendar of sorts, with dates that certain things should be done by (or started around). I’ve found that at my last 2 jobs, there were recurring things that happened once a year and I wished I had known to start working on it months ago…so when I left my last position, in my hand-off notes, I had a word document with things like “January- start putting together last year’s teapot permit table for the report due in April” (because I remembered my first year spending 2 hellish weeks at the end of March putting together the table, when it would have been much nicer to work on it here and there for a few months) and “February- start making schedule for spring special events” (because I learned the hard way that those people needed MONTHS of notice to actually do what they were supposed to do).

      In my current job, although I hope not to leave any time soon, I’ve started making notes for myself, and the next person, like “August- start making agenda for Important Meeting that occurs every November; Sept- send out draft agenda for participants to review; Oct- set up document access, etc.” This way I can keep on track, and the next person will hopefully not see a meeting scheduled in November and start working on it in October (way, way too late).

    5. Apollo Warbucks*

      How involved do you get with the back end of the database? Schema diagrams and a list of key tables and fields and the relationships between them will be worth there weight in gold to the new hire if they’re needed.

      A list of useful IT support contacts will be useful too.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    Hi guys!

    Quick question – do you do anything in your office for people who are getting married? What do you usually do? Where I currently am, there haven’t been any weddings since I’ve started, but in the next month there are 5 (actually 3 on the same weekend, including mine!).

    One of the folks getting married works for me , and I’d like to do something nice for him.

    What do you usually do?

    1. Judy*

      We generally have a “work shower” that usually means going out to lunch, and a card, and a gift of a gift card to somewhere. Many times there is cake involved.

      Pretty much the same for a baby shower.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      My office has a potluck lunch and gifts for the affianced person. (Also showers for pregnant women under the same idea.) Unfortunately, at the shower they threw for me after my wedding, the food was atrocious (my boss served us “barbecued chicken” that had been boiled and then tossed on the grill and slathered in Kraft BBQ sauce) and my boss re-gifted us a truly hideous punchbowl that he had received at his own wedding 13 years ago.

      So I do think potlucks can be nice! But maybe as long as your workplace is a generally nice one.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh, a potluck sounds nice. Actually, the employee and his fiancee (who also works here, but in a different office) met at a potluck here. :)

    3. Elkay*

      My team threw me a surprise potluck lunch which was lovely. They also did a collection and a card so we got vouchers to the store where we had our registry.

      Card and collection is the norm where I am.

      There was also a risk that you would come in to find a banner and confetti all over your desk either on your last day in the office or your first day back (happened to me and one other person)

    4. Jubilance*

      I’ve only encountered this one, last year a coworker on our team got married. We took her to a place near our office for high tea, and also brought her a really nice floral arrangement and a card. She seemed to enjoy it and was appreciative that we wanted to recognize her wedding in some way.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        awww. I’m kind of wondering if my team will do anything for me :)

        I’m not expecting it, but I can’t deny that I’d love it!

        1. Jubilance*

          I’m in the same boat – my team has changed a lot in a year, and actually only 1 person that was at that high tea is still on the team, the others have all moved onto new roles. Certainly I don’t expect anything but I would be very happy if there was so acknowledgement of my upcoming wedding.

    5. JoAnna*

      We had a work shower — ordered in a cake, had punch, and all pitched in for a gift card. For another colleague, we all contributed recipes for a recipe book as well.

    6. Joey*

      I’ve done a few things and they all start with asking the other team members if anyone wants to do anything. From there we’ve:

      1. Taken voluntary donations for a group gift.
      2. Had an office shower

      On my own I’ve also:
      1. Purchased a gift from me
      2. Purchased a gift from the team.
      3. Given free days off for hard work for the wedding or honeymoon.

    7. Jamie*

      We do a lunch in the conference room and put up a couple of streamers – have a cake.

      No employee collection or gifts – those are done privately – but there is always something from the company.

    8. Jen RO*

      Three coworkers got or are getting married in my small team. When I attended the weddings, I gave them a wedding gift (money, that is, I haven’t heard of anyone giving actual *gifts* in years). One of the coworkers didn’t invite us, so we bought her a voucher for dinner for two at a restaurant.

    9. MaryMary*

      Generally, we pass a card around that everyone signs, and an envelope for people to chip in for a gift (and we pass around the card and envelope in an empty folder, so no one knows who put in a dollar and who put in $20). Then we purchase a gift card or one of the larger items on the registry and have a little party in the afternoon with cake. Same for baby showers, although a few people are overcome by the desire to buy/make baby clothes and give their own gift to parent and baby.

      However, one of the girls in accounting got married last month and her boss through her a big traditional shower one Friday afternoon, complete with gifts off the registry that were passed around for all to admire (but, thankfully, no shower games). It was really nice of the bride’s boss, but a little confusing for those of us who weren’t as close to the bride. We kept waiting for a group card to circulate around the office, so a couple of us ended up running out to buy cards and gift cards the day before.

      You might want to have a quick word with other managers to see what they’re thinking, so you can make sure everyone is on the same page.

    10. Elizabeth West*

      Around here, people who work closely with other people who are having milestones usually take charge of that themselves. The company doesn’t really do anything because it’s so huge. So Jane’s coworkers might take her to lunch, or have a shower, or a little food day. Some people are awesome enough to leave leftovers from food days out in the break room for everyone, so they don’t have to cart them home. ;)

    11. Annie*

      At my former offices we did a baby shower (male or female employee) with the option of chipping in for a bigger present (usually a car seat, stroller, changing table or something) and for weddings we did a pass around with a card and envelope and someone went and got them a gift certificate at a nicer place in town (same thing at all the places I’ve worked). Both involved an afternoon where there was punch and cake. Sometimes we’d do it at lunch and either bring in lunch from somewhere or bring our own lunches in.

    12. Rin*

      The Company as a whole usually gives a monetary gift and card, and I doubt if most of the employees even know that happens. I’m sure some people say congrats, but not much else.

    13. VictoriaHR*

      If you’re crafty, you can put together a cute basket around things that he and his fiance like, for example if they like going to the movies, you can do a basket with DVD’s, popcorn, candy, etc.

      I am a soapmaker in my free time so I put together a basket of soaps, lotions, pot pourri, etc., all in their wedding colors. I got something similar as a newlywed and really liked it.

    14. Another comment on the situation*

      I would ask first if the person wants to do anything to celebrate at work. When I was making wedding preparations, I just did not have the money to invite co-workers and etiquette dictates that anyone invited to a shower must be invited to the wedding. My co-workers insisted and I was horrified and embarrassed. I still look back upon it as one of my worst work memories.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Oh you shouldn’t be upset! I think coworker showers are given with the full understanding that they’re not invited to the wedding. After all, you didn’t provide the guest list. They took it upon themselves. I would just take it as a sign of their good will :)

        1. Annie*

          Agreed! I’ve joyously attended co-worker’s wedding showers knowing that I wasn’t invited to the wedding, mainly because we were excited to be celebrating with them at all!

  15. Any*

    Background: I work in a male dominated field, and most of the analysts in my office are men, and the majority of management is male. Most of the female analysts were hired within five years of each other/are at the same worklevel. The norm in my office is frequent lunches out of the office with coworkers. Because the female analysts are skewed to the bottom of the experience totem pole, it is not uncommon for lunches comprised of peers to include equal genders or be heavily female. (We did recently hire three more male analysts, so it will be interesting to see if/how dynamics change at all.) When this happens by circumstance it doesn’t really bother me – it’s just a factor of workloads and lunch options. Sometimes, though (not very often, maybe once a quarter or so), one of the female analysts will set up an all-women lunch. The male analysts are deliberately excluded, to the point of refusing to allow them to come if we all happen to meet up at the elevator at the same time.

    Am I right to have misgivings about these lunches? I feel if I were being excluded from an all males lunch, I would be pissed off. A friend (from outside the office) feels that since the men dominate everything else, it’s okay to have exclusive lunches. Thoughts?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Hmm. I don’t really like it, unless there’s a particular reason it should be women only. Like, we’ve had seminars offered by more senior women in our organization on tips for women to be successful (although they were actually open to all, but unsurprisingly no men attended). That seems ok. But an exclusive girls-only lunch for the sake of it seems unnecessarily divisive.

      I posted yesterday that in my last office the guys used to go out for steak nights and occasionally some risque/strip clubs. It was never framed as a guys night, I was just never invited. So as kind of a joke I started a Ladies Steak Night for some of my female colleagues, which was just a fun night to go out and stuff ourselves silly at Ruth’s Chris. We still actually do it even though we’ve moved on. In that regard, I don’t think it’s an issue because we did it in response. And it was also outside of work hours.

    2. Haleyca*

      I think that female dominated lunches are okay. I would agree with your friend who says that men dominate everything else so it is okay to have all female lunches – as you mentioned the majority of management is male and so are most of the analysts, so I’m sure they have all male lunches all the time. I think women in the workplace, especially in a male dominated field, might have things to talk about privately with each other (an office I used to work at held professional events specifically for women – networking, advice, trainings etc.). I don’t think that there is anything wrong with having exclusively female lunches (especially if they are infrequent).

      However, if you just don’t enjoy them or aren’t interested in all female lunches I don’t think there is anything wrong with that either.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      This may be vague, but if you feel the workplace necessitates it, I’d say it’s OK. You don’t want to get slapped with the reverse sexism argument, but women wanting to network and share experiences and tips about working in a male-dominated field could be useful.

      That said, it could be better spun as a ‘women in the workforce’ sort of meeting where men are allowed, but should be aware that topics of conversation will revolve around being a woman in your field.

    4. Mephyle*

      I share your misgivings. I think if they want to meet as women only, they should either do it outside of the workplace (if they want a social event), or plan a women’s issues event that is open to women at all levels. But having all the women analysts do a ‘women’s lunch’ and explicitly exclude their male peers seems too divisive.

    5. MousyNon*

      These lunches are completely okay, and you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Marginalized groups can and should network internally in addition to traditional networking–it’s not only a great means of sharing common experiences, but a networking boost designed to provide those marginalized groups with the same kinds of opportunities that privileged groups take for granted (e.g. casually asking the bro’s to a game, or golfing outings, or a sports bar, or whathaveyou).

      These “girl-only” lunches are a drop in the bucket to the opportunities you’re missing out on simply for being women (hence it continuing to be a male dominated field), so it’s important to keep that in mind.

      I should also add–I can guarantee there are male-only lunches happening all of the time in your company. They may not be announced that way, but they don’t have to be–that’s what privilege is all about.

      1. Jamie*

        If everyone in that group is marginalized how does this help? And it presupposes everyone in that group is marginalized – which isn’t always true.

        And sure male only lunches can be happening, so can female only lunches…but there is a huge difference between that happening organically because of other things and deliberately excluding people based on gender. I doubt very much mens only lunches are happening to the point where they are officially and deliberately excluding all women based on that. That would be a violation of labor laws.

        1. MousyNon*

          I use the term marginalized in the sociological sense, not the colloquial (wiki “social exclusion” for more information), and yes, women as a demographic are absolutely considered marginalized. So yes, in the US, it is in fact always true.

          And it helps because some of those women may have developed skills and strategies to help navigate a male dominated industry. Some of these women may have been promoted despite gender, and have ideas as to how less experienced women can follow in their footsteps. Some of these women may want to discuss sexual harassment or instances of social exclusion resulting from gender in a safe space free of judgement or someone rolling their eyes and accusing them of “taking things too seriously” and frankly, some women may just want to take a break from the boys club for an hour, and all of that is not only ok, but should be encouraged.

          And I really don’t care if men deliberately hang a sign saying “girls have cooties” outside of their conference room or if they just accidentally stumble into inviting only men to their outings, it still happens, and they still enjoy a substantial amount of privilege from such ‘organic’ get togethers, so why in the world shouldn’t women/minorities get to enjoy the same thing?

      2. MT*

        Marginalized and under represented are two different things. If women don’t apply for that type of job, the women who do apply are under represented not marginalized.

        1. MousyNon*

          Incorrect. Marginalized is a term used to describe social exclusion faced by minority groups/protected classes on both an individual and sociological level, while under-representation is merely the statistical assessment of a given demographic. If the industry is “male dominated” (OP’s words) women in that industry ARE, as point of fact, marginalized. Women also, in OP’s case, happen to be underrepresented, but one does not automatically beget the other (home health aides and domestic workers being examples of an area where women are marginalized yet over-represented statistically).

          1. MT*

            women technically are not minority groups. Statistically speaking women make up 51% of the worlds population.

            1. MousyNon*

              Gender is a protected class. Men are a privileged group. Women are a minority group, because minority group is a term to describe access to social power and privileges, not census numbers. And men are not and would not be a marginalized group in the context of a male-dominated industry where men hold the majority of senior level positions, even if the girls had a girls-only lunch 365 days a year.

              Google “minority group” and “social exclusion” and “privilege” for confirmation if you’d like, but you’re the one using these terms incorrectly, not me.

    6. Jazzy Red*

      There is nothing wrong with having a “girls only” lunch now and then. I don’t know why anyone would complain about it. If you can’t eat lunch with the people you want to, there’s something seriously wrong. It sounds like the usual lunch is somewhat separate anyway.

          1. krisl*

            There’s nothing wrong with an all female or all male lunch if that’s how it happens. It bugs me when either gender is excluded like this though, at least for lunch.

            1. Any*

              This is kind of how I’m leaning – statistically speaking speaking, when we break into twos and threes for lunches, there will be at least one, possibly several, male only groups, and probably one females only group. It’s not that the single-gender lunching bothers me so much as it is the exclusionary aspect of the designated women only lunches for no purpose other than eating lunch without any Y-chromosomes present.

    7. Jamie*

      I don’t like it at all and personally I wouldn’t participate.

      I really prefer people not focus on gender in the workplace, and this contributes to it being seen as a defining characteristic rather than just something we happen to be.

      I know the logic is that minority groups can do this because of the uneven playing field, etc. And I know some good people who see it that way, but IMO it just feels like it’s saying gender shouldn’t be an issue unless I want to make it an issue for my purposes. If you don’t want to be excluded from things due to your protected class, you really shouldn’t use that same protected class to exclude others.

      That’s not to say I think people should deliberately orchestrate mixed groups. However things organically form based on the workplace or friendships is fine – but it shouldn’t be deliberately all anything or exclusionary.

      1. Joey*

        Pretending an issue doesn’t exist doesn’t mean its not there.

        What exactly is wrong with an underrepresented group highlighting a real issue that makes business sense to rectify.

        1. MT*

          The problem is that the women are creating the issue of gender biased lunches. Even to the point of purposely excluding someone who they would normally have lunch with.

        2. MT*

          What would happen if the two new guys started walking towards the elevator talking about going out to lunch. Female co-workers stops them to see where they are going. One guy responds, sorry this is a male only lunch today. I can surely bet you, there would be hell to pay.

          1. Joey*

            Ha. That’s like the men complaining that there’s a woman’s mentoring program to help address few qualified women. Ridiculous

            1. MousyNon*

              Right? This thread is seriously depressing me, though I don’t know why since it’s not surprising.

        3. Jamie*

          I’m not advocating pretending it doesn’t exist – issues should be addressed.

          If I felt I was being marginalized due to my gender I would want the ways in which I feel I’m being marginalized addressed. Lack of opportunity, projects, pay, treatment, etc. I don’t see how being able to go out to lunch and exclude men would help me with any real issues and indeed might well exacerbate the divide.

          1. Joey*

            You discuss issues, proposed solutions, and action plans. The exclusion of the majority just allows you to talk more freely about the problem amongst the people that are most affected.

            1. Ezri*

              We need to talk freely about the problem without excluding anyone – it’s important to get the affected group AND the majority involved in the same dialogue. Responding to exclusion with reverse exclusion never ends well, and it makes me think of elementary school (those mean boys won’t let us play with them, so we’ll have an awesome time over here with no boys allowed). Not that there’s anything wrong with women in a workplace going out without having any men, as long as the men aren’t being purposely excluded for reason of gender.

              1. Joey*

                Ever tried talking to somebody about an issue they don’t want to understand or refuse to acknowledge its impact/severity?

                1. Ezri*

                  I said it’s what needs to happen, not that it’s easy or even likely. Excluding a group is easy to do (clearly), but it’s not really the solution to the problem.

              2. MousyNon*

                Sometimes we need to talk freely. But I, as a member of multiple marginalized groups, am not and should not be required to educate members of the privileged class every single bloody time an issue that affects me comes up. I should have the time and space to discuss sexual harassment, social exclusion, or any number of other issues specific to my marginalized group without constantly have to explain, justify, or prove that the issue even exists. I should be able to talk to the only female Sr. VP in a white-male-dominated company directly for advice and mentoring without a man–socialized to be more confident and assertive than me, and already having access to a whole host of social privileges that I don’t–monopolizing her time. THIS is the benefit to marginalized groups “excluding” privileged ones.

                Some moments should be teaching moments sure. I love teaching, arguing, debating, and I’ll go to the mattress on this stuff because it’s important. But not all minorities feel the same way, and not all minorities want to have to teach you all of the time, and nor should they, because it’s not always about you (you meaning the excluded group, not Ezri-you).

                1. Jamie*

                  In the workplace if you were to talk to a female manager about sexual harassment she is under as much obligation to document and investigate that as anyone else.

                  I want to address just this point, because as important as it may for people to have a safe space to discuss certain things which are specific them – and it is – I don’t want people to read this and assume women can go to a manager who happens to be a woman and be able to vent about specific acts of sexual harassment, social exclusion, or any other matter in which you feel your workplace is marginalizing you without having to explain, justify, or prove anything.

                  A manager who happens to be a woman may well be equipped and willing to mentor you, and many of us mentor men as well. But I think it’s harmful for people to infer from your comment that female managers will be a confidant without acting on information.

                  And if the issues aren’t company specific, but societal sexual harassment, social exclusion, etc. then not all female managers will see things the way you do, nor will all of us want to have these discussions with employees on work time. Some absolutely will – but while I don’t think you intended to, someone could read your comments as if there is some kind of girls club where we’re all fighting the same battle and that’s not the case.

                  I find sexism abhorrent and have taken steps to deal with it as it’s arisen on behalf of others and myself – but that doesn’t mean I have an open door to discuss social issues at work or that I would ever just be a sounding board without taking action for sexist issues happening in my workplace. Social issues are important, but if you are being treated equally and fairly in your workplace then I don’t see why a work based support group would be necessary.

                  I’m bowing out of the rest of this discussion as I have a fundamental disagreement with women being considered marginalized regardless of the specific circumstances. I resent the implication that no matter what I achieve or how well I do my job as an equal to the other men and women at my level I will always be less than…and I would always have done better if I were a man.

                  Yes, across the board more women are marginalized in the workplace than are men. True. Historically even more so. No question. But that doesn’t mean that every woman is marginalized in every workplace. If that were the case we might as well give up because no matter what we do we’ll never get there…where ever there is if we were men. Many workplaces aren’t sexist, many men see women as equals – fighting sexism where it exists is imperative – absolutely. But fighting it everywhere whether it exists in that situation is more divisive and compounds the problem.

                  I won’t reply to this thread anymore as I don’t think it’s productive as people tend to feel passionately on both sides of this and I don’t want to appear combative as that’s not my intent. I only replied to this because I really would hate any woman to think they could go to a manager as a safe place to vent about these things and then being upset or surprised when they document it per procedure.

                2. Joey*

                  I don’t think anyone is saying all women face discrimination all the time. It’s obviously harder to recognize at the individual level. But until the data shows its no longer occurring people will feel the need to address it.

                3. Ezri*

                  I think you may have misunderstood – I’m not saying that anytime someone feels marginalized that they should go up to the nearest person not belonging to that group and try to ‘teach’ them. I was only trying to point out that excluding the group you feel is excluding you doesn’t accomplish, and if women want their status in the workplace to change men are going to have to be involved in that dialogue.

                  As a disclaimer, I am also referring to activities in the workplace here – as I said somewhere below, it’s perfectly reasonable to engage in support groups or discussions about issues relating to marginalization without necessarily having members of the majority present. But when the activity is an organized workplace lunch where one gender is excluded… that’s really not appropriate.

                4. Ezri*

                  Just to be clear as well, I agree with you that we should be able to speak on a problem without explaining or justifying it. Unfortunately that just isn’t always the case.

                5. Joey*

                  Well Jamie I’m going to disagree. Plenty of mentors help people walk through all sorts of issues including discrimination. As a mentor, even at a management level there’s is absolutely nothing wrong with a manager helping someone sort out her position on work issues. A manager is only obligated to act if its an actual allegation.

                6. Aisling*

                  I can’t reply directly to Jamie, but I just want to say THANK YOU to her. I’m a woman and not at all marginalized in my job. It does happen in places, yes, but it does not happen everywhere. My profession is actually about 90% female, which means in our case, men are the marginalized group. But since we’re all equal, there isn’t any reason to do guy- or girl-only lunches. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

            2. Jamie*

              Is that what the OP meant? I didn’t get that from her comment.

              If people are doing this as a response to systemic issues women have in this workplace that’s one thing. Whether it’s the best course of action would depend on what those issues are, which we don’t know.

              Are there fewer women because they are marginalized and qualified women not being hired, or are they underrepresented because of the candidate pool. We have certain jobs when we post that have 100% male response. So are woman underrepresented in these positions? Yes, if you compare it to the population. But there is certainly no reluctance to hire women, so it’s not a company issue. Some fields/industries will have fewer women applying so the numbers will be lower.

              That’s a societal issue – people may take umbrage with it, but if you run and ad in publications not advertizing to a particular demographic and it’s clearly open to all qualified to apply you hire from your candidate pool. In my industry there will be some positions that are still solidly male.

              If the company itself isn’t the cause of under representation or mistreatment I do think it would be counter productive to create a divide like this. If the company has bad practices then their marginalized employees should try to get their grievances addressed.

              1. Joey*

                It all depends on how seriously you take diversity. Most communities believe your workforce should reflect the demographics of the community. If there aren’t qualified females then most communities will expect that you make efforts to increase the diversity of the applicant pool.

              2. Joey*

                I’m assuming she implied that by stating that women are underrepresented in the field and in management.

              3. MousyNon*

                OP flat out says the industry is male dominated and the lower levels are entirely women. That’s a pretty obvious systemic issue she’s describing, because it not only implies few women hires, but fewer women promotions.

                And if a company is only getting male candidates, they need to do more to widen their candidate pool. So the issue is still systemic.

                I don’t understand this notion (and you’re not the only one in this thread that appears to have it) that discrimination only exists when people do it on purpose. The vast majority of discrimination is subconscious, incidental, a side effect of a/b/c/d–that does not change the fact that it remains discrimination and yes, by extension, marginalization.

                1. krisl*

                  When I majored in Computer Science, there were usually 4 times as many males as females in class. If this were true in general, does this mean that companies should hire an equal number of males and females or should hire based on the percentage of what’s out there or maybe just hire whoever seems to be the strongest candidate and check on the percentage of who is hired vs. who is out there to double check that sexism isn’t happening?

          2. MousyNon*

            Well, I don’t really understand your last post–from women’s lunches to meetings with managers?–but I respect your right not to engage, and I’m sorry you feel that my perspective on marginalized groups belittles your experience as a women. That’s not the case at all, and I consider myself to be a strong, assertive, successful, powerful person that also happens to be a women of color. I can acknowledge my marginalization on a societal level and celebrate my individual successes at the same time,–they’re not mutually exclusive.

            Anywho–sorry if I appeared combative (I tend to get passionate, which can come off as angry in text)!

    8. Dan*

      I will be honest and say that as part of the majority class, I don’t/won’t/can’t “get it” but here goes:

      Minority classes (gender, race, whatever) complain when they get left out of certain events because of their class, and they want fairness. But then they turn around and will host their own functions, and for whatever reason it’s ok. Certainly a double standard.

      The sad thing is, a lot of times when the minority class gets excluded from the majority’s event, it’s usually not overt or otherwise a conscious act. But when the majority gets excluded from a minority event, those are almost always intentional.

      My honest suggestion is to lead by example. Demonstrate the behavior you want others to exhibit. It really does seem hypocritical to complain about being excluded from events, yet turn around and create an exclusionary event in “retaliation.”

      So yeah, I think you’re right about having misgivings. If the guys on my team were going out to lunch, I’d have a real difficult time looking at the lone female on the team and saying “this lunch is for guys only.”

      P.S. I don’t mind events where the point is to focus on concerns of a minority class (such as SWE or NSBE for the engineering types) but it’s when an event is actually exclusionary that I have a problem with it. And yes, when I was an undergrad, Caucasian men were invited to SWE and NSBE events.

      1. AnonyMouse*

        I think the reason some of these events are exclusive is that sometimes people in a minority/marginalised group feel like they need a “safe space” to discuss their experiences with only people who personally share them. For example, as a white woman, I went to a lot of events hosted by student groups for people of colour when I was an undergrad, because I also cared about the anti-racism issues they discussed. But sometimes, these groups would hold PoC-only events with the goal of creating a space where you wouldn’t need to explain why certain subtle racist actions or incidents upset you, where you could talk about a time you were treated differently because of your race and everyone in the room would automatically know what it felt like, etc. I never got upset that these events weren’t for me, because as a white person, I didn’t need the support they offered.

        Personally, when I hosted events about gender issues, or sexuality, or my religion, I definitely wanted people from outside those specific groups to attend, because I was usually at least partly motivated by a desire to educate people. BUT, I totally understand how feeling pressure to teach people who “don’t get it” can be exhausting. Sometimes you just want to talk about your concerns with only people who can relate for a little bit. I also recognise how this is tricky in the workplace, because excluding anyone from a potential professional opportunity on any identity-related basis does feel pretty wrong. But basically, I don’t think these events are usually motivated by retaliation, just a desire to create a space for members of a specific community.

        1. Ezri*

          I think you’ve made a really, really good point here, and I completely agree when it comes to support groups and events focused on a particular marginalized group – the concept of a ‘safe place’ is wonderful (and necessary, in some cases).

          However, the situation described by OP isn’t really a marginalized women ‘event’ – it’s a lunch among coworkers. I think if OP were wanting to host a discussion group for the women she works with to talk about being a minority in that field outside of work, that’d be okay. The workplace (to me) doesn’t seem like a good setting for activities that exclude a gender.

          1. Ezri*

            Whoops, got mixed up in my head – OP isn’t instigating the lunches. I meant the woman organizing them. :)

            1. AnonyMouse*

              Yeah, in this comment I was referring more to these types of events in general than to these lunches in particular, to offer some perspective on why an event that was exclusive to women/people of colour/etc could be valuable. I commented downthread saying these lunches might not be the best way to handle things, and maybe a professional development event would be better if they’re aiming to create a space to discuss women in this industry. In other words, seems like we’re pretty much in agreement!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I think it’s fine for them to do it once in a while, but I would be very uncomfortable if there weren’t also lunches that included the male analysts, especially if most of the conversation at these outings was about work. If they’re trying to exclude because they’ve been excluded, that doesn’t make it okay.

      3. Haleyca*

        I think it is really dangerous to frame a minority or underrepresented group putting on an event for themselves as intentional exclusion and say that when they are excluded from majority groups and events it is accidental and unconscious. That has the implication that majority groups are off the hook because they didn’t mean to discriminate and that underrepresented groups are at fault for drawing attention to their minority status. Inequality is the reality and saying that it is fine to just sweep it under the rug because someone didn’t “mean to” exclude the minority is excusing discrimination. Minority groups should always be able to organize and socialize amongst themselves away from the minority because it creates a safe space and enables them to focus on issues that are relevant to them that they may not be able to discuss or may be ignored in a mixed group.

        It is extremely possible that the woman who orchestrates these lunches (that happen every few months) and other women who participate find it hugely helpful to be able to speak frankly about issues they face as women in a male-dominated workplace, ask questions, and have a break from “not overt or conscious” comments or actions by male co-workers that make them uncomfortable. Telling them to “lead by example” by being inclusive of men at every lunch is telling them that being inclusive of a majority who often includes them is more important than the issues they face.

        1. Dan*

          They’re not off the hook. But what I’ve taken from reading a lot around here is that discrimination from the majority class is subtle and subconscious, and even comes from people who *say* they are unbiased and don’t discriminate. You don’t counteract that by forming an exclusionary group — not in a work place or academic setting. If that type of group was successful, then why do we have still have inclusion issues with minorities in STEM?

          What really rubs me the wrong way is that minority groups are entitled to a safe space, but if a majority group does it, it’s discrimination. Sometimes I want to discuss these kinds of issues behind a closed door (or at a private lunch) without having to censor my speech and worry about hurting the feelings of the underrepresented classes in the room. But that’s not going to happen.

          If half a dozen women are going out to lunch, “being inclusive of men at every lunch” doesn’t mean dragging them along. It means inviting them, and most of them will take the hint. But one may find it beneficial if one or two of the majority class come along — I’ve found it educational to listen to the minorities talk about stuff when there’s very little majority representation in the room. But if I’m never invited to your lunches, what good is it for there to be a closed door club? How are you going to get your message out? How are you going to get your point across? With posters in the hall? My female peers will tell me things to my face that they won’t tell ten men in a room.

          1. fposte*

            “You don’t counteract that by forming an exclusionary group — not in a work place or academic setting”

            I think that’s a pretty challengeable statement, actually. Are you arguing that HBCUs and female-only education have worked against the advancement of the people studying there? That EMILY’s List has hurt the cause of women?

            I think it’s a complicated question because I agree that there is a risk that when you make a space for X over here that it doesn’t have to be included in the alphabet everywhere else. But I also think that X is usually facing some X-specific problems, and that history suggests X-space can be a powerful way to address those.

            That being said, if I were doing a lunch like this I’d make it a formal theme and invite anybody interested in that category to attend; I don’t like it being a social lunch that seems to have developed an excluding theme at the last minute.

            1. Natalie*

              In fact, you can make a pretty strong historical argument that racial desegregation without addressing systemic racism actually hurt. There used to be an entire second Black Economy (for lack of a better term) in this country that supported a black middle class and, to a lesser extent, high society. Most of those businesses died out or were absorbed by larger white-controlled businesses in the years after the civil rights act, but there was not a corresponding change to the makeup of those larger businesses.

            2. Dan*

              How much of that has actually *worked*? If all of these programs are so successful, why are we still complaining about how the white male demographic dominates just about everything?

              I look back on an article discussing women’s issues in STEM. Half of that stuff is an issue for women AND men, women just happen to be more vocal about it. (Don’t read anything into that other than what I wrote. Men don’t *like* working 60 hour work weeks, we just suck it up. If that changed, we’d all be happier.)

              1. Jamie*

                It’s certainly getting better – although we’re not there yet.

                In QC if a procedure I put in place is getting results I don’t scrap it because it didn’t get 100% results immediately. Society is a huge and varied beast – cultural changes don’t happen overnight.

                We may not be where we need to be, but there has been a hell of a lot of progress in the last couple of decades.

                But can universal issues be unfairly painted with this brush, absolutely. I am sick of the 60+ hour weeks, too. But I am not more sick of them than any man in my position. If some women don’t have the option to do it because of how she and her partner split house and child care – that’s a family issue and not a workplace issue to me.

                Until they pass on us without an interview because they assume we won’t work the hours.

                Since when both partners work full time the norm is still for the mom to do the lion’s share of child/house care it’s a woman’s issue if employer don’t want to hire women because they assume that will be the case. That’s a woman’s workplace issue. If I couldn’t work the hours because my husband wouldn’t/couldn’t help with child care more that’s a family issue.

              2. fposte*

                It doesn’t have to make the problem go away to have worked, though; all it has to do is improve the situation.

                A lot of this is going to be tough to quantify, of course, because a lot of what we’re talking about has no control group, and not all single-sex colleges or HBCUs are created alike; additionally, advantages will depend on the culture at large and may vary over time. But there’s some reasonable research, for instance, that suggests graduates from an all-female schools (secondary and college and university) have more self-confidence and higher test scores; HBCU graduates earn higher salaries. Just a few things I grabbed in a quick search.

                Yeah, there can be disadvantages too. But I think that it’s worth considering how the historical effects of cultural inequities mean that saying “okay, everybody gets the same now” isn’t enough to really level the playing field.

          2. MousyNon*

            I’m really curious–do you really believe that white males don’t have a safe space? Really? Because go to any high end restaurant at lunch time in midtown Manhattan and the whole damn place is one giant white male safe space. These spaces already exist for you. They not only exist, they are the majority! Why in the world shouldn’t minorities have the same opportunity? Because we dare to call it a safe space, rather than calling it “golfing”?

            And just how ok would you be if you were invited to a women’s-only lunch on the condition that you were not allowed to speak? It’d probably irritate you, right? Seem unfair that you can only sit in silence and not be part of the discussion?

            Yet this is precisely the function of women-only groups–to discuss issues affecting women, without having to constantly “teach” or justify their experiences to members of the majority group. Without their concerns being derailed by someone making the claim that they “don’t get their own safe space, why should you get special treatment” or any number of other comments.

            1. Dan*

              Now you’re stereotyping. “White male” does not equal “white male with money and/or connections”, I can assure you of that.

              Being born a white male is not a ticket on the express train straight to the top. Which is probably why I have a theoretical objection to exclusionary groups in the workplace — despite my race and gender, I’m certainly not a member of the “in” crowd.

              1. MousyNon*

                *sigh* I’m getting tired of this, so I’m making this my last post. Privilege does not require money or connections to be present.

                a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

                1. Jamie*

                  Yeah, I was done but I’ll get this one.

                  Dan – I know what you’re saying, and of course it’s not a ticket to anything. But someone posted the other day in another thread the essay about it being the easy setting.

                  You absolutely don’t get a free ride – I have two white sons, a white husband, and a white brother, white nephews, cousins, uncles…none of whom were given keys to the kingdom for being born that way. Believe me if being a white male came with a box of money I’d be sitting pretty because I’d take some of theirs.

                  It’s about having less obstacles in society as a demographic. Everyone is running in a track meet and all other things being equal white males have fewer hurdles and more flat track than others. As a white woman from an upper middle class upbringing (middle-middle class life) I have fewer hurdles than a woman of color – but more hurdles than my brother born to the same circumstances.

                  Using me for example – I don’t feel I’m treated differently because of my gender by my current employer. I believe it’s a non-issue, as it should be. But I am well aware that if I were on the market people getting my resume will assume I’m a man until they see/hear otherwise and for some it will be a factor. For all or most – I don’t think so – but no one won’t notice. Because people in IT upper management positions are what, < 11% women and it was like 4% women in manufacturing were in upper management last study I saw – so…my being a woman is noticed in the same way that you being a man is assumed.

                  I posted a study on one of the other threads where it shows that for entry level jobs (waiter, messenger, factory worker, food worker, retail) white men with felony convictions have the same or even higher call back rate for interviews and hire than black men in the same age group with 100% clean records.

                  That doesn't mean every single manager is racist, and it doesn't mean they hire these guys to be waiters and make them CEOS and pay them 6 figures because of their skin color. They are waiting tables and working their ass off for min wage – which doesn't feel privileged until you compare that to the young men who didn't even get the opportunity to interview so they could work their asses off for min wage.

                  No one is arguing that a black child born to affluent parents doesn't have more opportunities to get a better education, move in wealthier circles, etc. than a white child born into poverty. But despite all that, when those kids grow up and are young men there will be some instances where he'll be chosen over the young black man. And it was statistically significant – so this isn't limited to applying where the managers just happened to be avowed racists.

                  I am not of the mind where life is decided on skin color, I don't know anyone who is, but I see that in many ways I got the easy button in life, even if that doesn't mean I had an easy life.

                  I'll be brutally honest, when I first heard about the concept of privilege in this sense it bothered me. A lot. And I read Peggy McIntosh's Invisible Knapsack and I was aggravated because "it's not my fault I was born white" and "I'm not racist so I don't know why I should have to feel guilty about anything" and yes, "I worked for everything I have, how dare anyone chalk that up to privilege – no one gave me anything."

                  fwiw I still don't agree with everything in that essay – but it makes an important point.

                  I read a lot about it, because people I respected believed this and I wanted to see if I was just having a knee jerk reaction or if there was something to it.

                  And I came to the conclusion that privilege is less about what you're given and more about what you aren't given in the way of obstacles. We aren't handed success, but we can get the opportunities to earn it easier when we aren't being screened out because of our skin color or ethnicity. If I were a woman of color would I have worked as hard in my career? Absolutely! Would I have had all the same opportunities along the way? I wouldn't want to make book on that which is a sad commentary of how much of an obstacle race still is.

                  And privilege isn't the same in all situations. I was a SAHM for 15 years and most people had nothing but respect for my choice (at least those in my life). Would it have been as easy for a man to enter the workforce for the first time at 37? I doubt it. I think that man would face harsher judgement. So my privilege was in being less penalized for something than a man would be, simply because my gender made my choices socially acceptable.

                  Yeah I know – I'll shut up – but I see good people, decent people who really don't get it and I understand that because I didn't get it either. And people don't have to agree with my take on it, but I'm just trying to put out there that while individuals can have more or less privilege at the micro level based more on their own merits, it exists at the macro level for society as a whole so we need to be aware of it and challenge our own biases – even when we're not fully cognizant of them.

                  And in case anyone thinks I'm a hypocrite for acknowledged g privileged and not that all woman are marginalized I do think it's different at the individual level and I've already typed too much – but I believe we can have systemic issues with privilege without every individual in an marginalized group being discriminated against in every circumstance.

        2. Meg*

          So it’s perfectly legit for me to start a SWF club as a minority club where I can talk about the struggles of SWF life and have SWF sisters to support me? Cool.

          1. MousyNon*

            Join any number of mainstream feminist groups and that’s what you’ll get (hence the “feminism is for white women” meme), so you’re welcome?

    9. AnonyMouse*

      I definitely don’t think it’s the same/as bad as a men-only lunch, because you can’t ignore context and inequality when talking about this stuff. But I also don’t think it’s always ideal for a casual lunch arrangement – like, it’s a bit off if one of your female coworkers sends an email around that morning saying “let’s do lunch today, and don’t invite Mike or Bob!” Especially if there are only a few men at your level, that has the potential to be awkward.

      Since you say your field is male dominated, I actually think it’s a good idea to have a few events specifically for women at the company to meet and network/talk about their roles, how to deal with working in a male dominated industry, etc. But for some (probably irrational) reason, I tend to feel more comfortable with these things when they’re pitched as either purely social (like casual after-work drinks to meet the other women in the office) or purely professional (like a women-only seminar on gender in the workplace). I know this is just my preference, and I certainly don’t think it’s the only way, but I feel like those two options are preferable to a lunch during the workday that excludes a few male coworkers and could potentially involve talking shop, but doesn’t offer a formal professional benefit.

      1. Mints*

        I’m sort of conflicted with the original question, but agree with this comment.
        If it’s an actual meeting or seminar, with an agenda, I’m okay with it being targeted to women. Men are usually allowed to come, but it’s “by women for womem.”
        On the other hand, if it’s purely social, I can invite my three closest coworkers to watch a movie at my place, and they all happen to be women, I don’t find that particularly exclusionary either (assuming the men don’t really want to come. If they do, it turns clique-y)
        But I’m uncomfortable with this sort of nebulous lunch where it doesn’t seem like there’s actual work or sociological discussions, it’s just girls only for fun, and I’m leaning towards not liking it

    10. attornaut*

      If the lunches are to discuss women in the workplace, frame them that way and make it fine for male analysts to come–as long as they are also interested in discussing the topic at hand. IME this prevents anyone from being excluded explicitly but tends to result in women-only events, since very few men seem to be interested in attending those types of events.

    11. Jen RO*

      Since you say it’s only once per quarter, I don’t think it’s such a big deal… and I don’t think an infrequent men’s only lunch would bother me either.

    12. Sarah*

      I think it’s fine. These don’t sound like official functions where men might miss an important networking opportunity with a higher up – they’re just social lunches with peers.

      I think that it’s okay to have double standards for majority/minority populations in this case, and here is why. If the minority groups do not create their own exclusive (or at least targeted) functions, they NEVER get to be the majority in any group – they are always outnumbered. And when you are fitting in with another group, you have to be guarded in ways that you may not be with your own. You have to censor yourself a bit more, because if you come across as a “feminazi” or “angry black person” or whatever the term is for a person of your minority group who is a little too aware of injustices, then it will be remembered and held against you. Issues particular to your group never get to be the topic of discussion because it’s not very polite to have a conversation that everyone can’t participate in (if they are the topic, you’re doing more educating than venting). If no exclusive events are allowed because they might hurt majority group feelings, then the minority group is denied ever having the luxury that the majority group has at most events. And the majority group isn’t going to be hurt by these things happening because the political capitol is concentrated in the majority group anyways. (If it’s concentrated in a minority group, then exclusive events are not such a good idea.)

      I’m a white American of middle-class origins, so I’m not that often in a minority position. I have lived abroad, though, and I have to say that I would have gone crazy without being able to socialize with a group of primarily Americans and other anglophones on occasion. And if I were immersed in a situation where I were a distinct minority, I would want the chance to occasionally socialize with people who share that background with me.

      I guess it could be argued that this is a different situation because the women are sometimes a majority at these lunches. However, the OP made it clear that the balance of power is skewed, so I wouldn’t blame the women for not feeling entirely empowered to speak freely about women’s issues just because they sometimes form the majority. Their peers are men who are likely to get promoted above their heads in disproportionate ratios, so the balance of power is still unequal even if the numbers aren’t.

      1. Jen RO*

        “I think that it’s okay to have double standards for majority/minority populations in this case, and here is why. If the minority groups do not create their own exclusive (or at least targeted) functions, they NEVER get to be the majority in any group – they are always outnumbered.” In this case, we should take into consideration the actual make-up of the group. In my team there are 9 women and 2 men. We are always the majority, and most women are more senior than the males. In this case, we could not justify women-only activities with the majority/minority argument.

    13. krisl*

      I’m a woman, and as much as possible, I try to avoid doing things that I wouldn’t like if the positions were reversed (partially because I don’t like the idea of retaliation). For example, if the guys all went out for lunch and called it a male-only lunch and wouldn’t let me come, I’d feel hurt and concerned that they didn’t like me. Eventually it might even dawn on me that they might think less of me somehow because I’m female (although I don’t think that they do, and they certainly don’t go out for lunches that exclude women).

  16. steve g*

    Kudos to our new very aggressive cleaning lady. Sprays thyme cleaner galor everyday and scrubs desks, many unused, like you would a kitchen counter after cooking.

    Comes at 500 so I have to watch her whole routine (hello though cleaners were supposed to come at night)….

    Moves stuff on your desk, puts all your papers into one file (even if you just leave your office for one second she runs in there)…..

    Throws out barely used, thick, reusable paper and plastic cups even though I keep telling her we reuse them (we now hide them)!

    And refuses to recycle….in an office…lots of paper and crushed delivery boxes, snapple and water bottles. I cringe when I see her putting these in the trash. I’ve explained the easy recycling process many times, to no avail.

    The worst part? We changed cleaners because the last one was just as annoying and anti-recycling (crap, all you have to do is put it in a separate bin!), and we thought no one else could be so bad.

    1. Malissa*

      Good cleaning people are extremely rare! I really don’t think the positions ever pay enough to attract good people. And when you get a good one, they rarely stay on. I still fondly remember Chuck, the guy who would even dust the window sills. Nobody after him did that. We always let Chuck know if there was left over food in the fridge and even left gifts out for him. He was that good. Sadly he retired and then we got the plant killer.

    2. Sunflower*

      I would have a MAJOR problem with putting papers into one file and moving stuff on my desk. Putting papers into files can ruin an entire system and it’s just not okay. Is there an office manager who can say something to her? We had a cleaner doing stuff like that here so we ended up telling her that if a desk isn’t tidy/there are papers on it, don’t clean the desk and leave everything be.

      1. Steve G*

        I mention it but it gets kind of laughed at because we have so many more important things worth lots of $$$ going on. Also forgot to mention that every cleaner we’ve ever had rarely cleans their rag. I mean, if you are wiping 2 large desks, you should need to clean your rag in water 2-4 times depending on how much stuff/dust is there. All of them we’ve had wash it like once per 10 room office. Ugh…….

        1. Jazzy Red*

          I clean my own desk and everything on it with Clorox wipes, once a week.

          It’s hard to change a cleaner’s way of doing thing. It’s easier to change cleaners, but as you found out, that doesn’t mean your new cleaner will be better.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Yeah, that’s NEVER been allowed in all the companies I’ve worked for. People’s desktops stay as they left them.

        Don’t touch my desk unless you want to lose a finger!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I just don’t leave anything like that out on my desk. It stays in my files in drawers. At this job, it’s not a big deal because most everything is digital.

          I DO wish they’d stop moving my trash can around. This morning, it was at the entrance to my cube. Put it back where you found it!

    3. Jamie*

      Whoa – I’ve never had a cleaner touch anything on my desk. They clean around papers, equipment, etc. That’s really strange and would totally annoy me.

      I always thought that was sop since everywhere I’ve worked I was told I needed to clear my desk if I wanted them to wipe it down.

      I just do my own to keep my hands busy while on the phone.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        Our cleaners don’t even do that. They don’t touch desks at all. We are all responsible for wiping them down ourselves.

      2. Elizabeth*

        I had a housekeeper clean the surface of my desk precisely once. She managed to misplace my staple puller and paper clip holder. I called her boss, and their department replaced both for me (including the brand new box of paper clips that I’d just put in the holder), and the entire staff was informed that they were to never touch my desk again.

    4. Jamie*

      Funny work place cleaning story – we’ve had some excellent services but this one gentleman was awesome. So personable and pleasant. Such a genuine and kind smile whenever you saw him you couldn’t help but smile in return.

      Before he retired to move back to Mississippi he was cleaning an office where I was sitting with a co-worker. I don’t know how we got on the subject, but he said that he didn’t have electricity or running water in his home until he was an adult and moved to Chicago…they had a wood-burning stove, an outhouse, etc.

      He was in his…mid-late 70’s. I was in my early 40s and co-worker was mid 20s. He is absolutely the last person on earth to insult you intentionally so made it all the more puzzling when he looked and me, hooked his thumb at the co-worker and said…

      “These kids, they don’t know what it was like for us. They’ve had electricity, water, and televisions their whole lives.” and he laughed.

      Ahem. Being born in the late 60’s in the Chicago suburbs we also had all of those things thank you very much…sometimes I still wonder why he got such a Laura Ingalls Wilder vibe off me.

      I still miss that guy – we had the best going away party for him when he retired. Company gave him some money as a gift and everyone got together for cake. Weirdest thing, they also gave him a framed copy of the company picture. Which is almost as weird as sending a framed pic of yourself to an interviewer. Who the hell wants a framed pic of a company? Oh well – I’m sure he appreciated the thought because he was that nice – I just will never understand that thought.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve been places where they give retirees framed pictures of the building or something, but they also had them matted and had everyone sign them.

        1. Jamie*

          Once a year they do a picture of the staff standing in front of the building. you can barely see anyone specifically, since it’s a couple hundred people crammed into one distance shot. I have no idea why it’s done – makes no sense to me. It’s an annoyance I suck up once a year. (I am fairly camera phobic but it’s so distant even I don’t care. Usually I’m just hair and sunglasses in the back row.

          1. Jen RO*

            OK, that vaguely makes sense. We got printed, magnetic pictures of the whole company (300+ people) from the last team building and it was a nice gesture. (The various corporate slogans added as mottos were cringeworthy though…)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Many places in the United States did not have electricity until the 1950s. I did a lot of research for miniatures on lighting and plumbing, etc. and this does not surprise me in the least.

        1. Judy*

          My dad, who is 81, got electricity when he was a junior in high school. Many close by places had electricity, but their farm was at the far reaches of the county and just didn’t get electricity until then. I think Grandpa ran for county commissioner just to get electricity the last 2 miles to their house.

        2. Artemesia*

          The first volume on the Cato biographies of Lyndon Johnson describes what it was like to live in the Texas outback without electricity before the TVA. Women literally had to haul water they hand pumped from a well and then fill big kettles over fires to do laundry. It is a wonderful description of the day to day life of a wife/mother in those kinds of conditions. Very vivid. Makes me appreciate that every task in my life can be done with a flip of a switch.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          My dad had a vacation trailer on a rural road north of me by about an hour. He did not get electricity on that road until the mid 1970s. Back then, the phone service was all party lines, too.
          Meanwhile at the same time, Connecticut got cable tv. It was a hard sell, kind of like getting people to pay for bottles of water.

        4. Windchime*

          My mom’s family didn’t have an indoor bathroom until the mid- to late-1950’s and that was here in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest. They did have electricity before that, but they had to use an outhouse for a potty and I believe they had to heat water on the stove. They only got the inside bathroom because the house burned down due to bad wiring and when it was rebuilt, a bathroom was installed.

      3. MaryMary*

        At my first real job, we had a testing program that took FOREVER to run, so we acquired an unused PC and set it up to run overnight. Our cleaning staff always assumed that someone had accidentally left the computer on, and would switch it off for us. We made a sign and placed it on the computer “computer in use, please do not turn off,” but the cleaner turned the PC off anyways. Our office was in Chicago, and someone pointed out that the cleaning staff might not speak/read English as their first language. So we translated the sign into Spanish. Someone else had met the cleaner once while working late, and thought she might be Polish, so we found a coworker who spoke Polish and added another translation. Someone else pointed out that Polish could sound a lot like Russian, and found a Russian coworker to add some cyrillic to our sign. By that time, word of our sign had spread, and several other bilingual coworkers stopped by to offer their translation skills. We ended up with 7 or 8 different languages. I never found out which language(s) the cleaning staff spoke (read), but our multilingual sign worked!

        1. Artemesia*

          hilarious. Back in the day we would do data transmissions for huge data sets over a modem line on the phone system at night. The phone would make a whining noise while this was happening and we had to school each new grad student not to mess with the phones at night. They would helpfully disconnect the whine and abort an entire download of critical data that needed processing.

      4. Bend & Snap*

        My mother’s cousin grew up in rural Texas and didn’t have indoor plumbing till she got married in the late 60s.

      5. Mike C.*

        This is pretty common here. Usually it’s a picture of one of the planes they worked on, say a first of model or something similar.

    5. Mike C.*

      It’s a job I would never, never want to do again, but holy crap – if someone moved the papers on my desk they would be lost forever!

    6. Call Girl*

      The sad thing is, I love to clean. I’ve worked in IT for ten years and absolutely hate it. I tried to get a job as a cleaner (not even caring about how much it paid) and not a single response. People ask me why would you want to leave IT to dump garbage? My answer – because the garbage can does not argue with me, tell me how to do my job, or have a shit fit if I put it back one inch away from its original position.

      1. fposte*

        And cleaning is a concrete improvement to people’s lives. My cleaner says that she unfucks people’s lives for a living, and it’s absolutely true.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          On the home front, I have seen housekeeper actually save marriages. The couple decides to quit arguing and hire help.

          1. Jen RO*

            I’m not married, but our cleaning lady really did bring more harmony in my relationship. I’m a non-tidy person (as exemplified above in the desk thread) and my boyfriend hates it… now someone comes along every 2 weeks and makes the house livable again!

            (Ditto for the dishwasher. They are not common here so I never knew how amazing they are. No more arguments about who always does the dishes and who always leave dirty crap in the sink!)

    7. Anx*

      Ah! Why?!

      I don’t understand how you get a position cleaning in an office if that office specifically wants you to recycle. That seems like a critical component to doing a good job. Is it contracted out to an external company or something where you have no input into who comes?

      1. Steve G*

        We thought recycling would be no big deal, but this company and the last act like it is the biggest thing in the world.

        PS I like the side conversation this started. I am all of my family are from around NY so even my relatives (now passed) who were born in the 1910s and 20s never mentioned not having electricity/plumbing, only not having tv and having slower cars…………so its crazy to hear about people much later not having those this in other parts of the country.

    8. StudentA*

      You know what’s really sad? I’ve heard that lots of places don’t REALLY recycle, even if they have bins. Some of the maintenance folks just don’t care, and put all trash in the dumpsters. Lazy and apathetic. I always suspected the cleaning people at one of my jobs never recycled. I would see them myself mixing recyclables and actual trash. It infuriated me.

  17. ACA*

    I’m a final candidate for a position that is listed as exempt, with a 35 hour week, and a 9-5 schedule. That doesn’t make sense to me – I’m currently non-exempt, with that same schedule, and it works because I get an unpaid hour-long lunch…but exempt employees don’t get unpaid lunches, right? So to my way of thinking, this should either be a 9-5, 40hr/wk position, or a 9-4, 35hr/wk position.

    Am I completely off base? Can anyone shed any light on how this might work with the posted hours and schedule? If I get an offer this is definitely something I’d want to bring up, and I’d really appreciate any advice and/or information that anyone has.

    1. Judy*

      I’ve been exempt for a number of years, and I have never had paid lunches. Unless you’re saying you aren’t given a lunch break, it sounds like it’s 9-12 & 1-5 which would be 7 hours per day.

      1. LAI*

        Yes, this. I am exempt at 40 hours per week and my schedule is 8-5. I am expected to spend the hour from 12-1pm not working (in reality, I usually am working of course).

    2. Helka*

      You don’t get an “unpaid” lunch because you’re no longer paid based on your hours. However they are most likely assuming that you will still have an hour a day in which you are not working — eating lunch, running a quick errand, whatever. Your hours actually don’t sound like they’ll be changing at all.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm … I think they’re saying can take an hour lunch everyday with no grief. While what you say is true that exempt is never “off the clock,” I think they’re alerting you to workplace norms (of an hour lunch break) which also seems not to include a lot of flexibility in your schedule (got to be there at 9am and have to stay until 5pm.)

      But, really, that all depends on if you can do your work in a 35 hour week because if you can’t as an exempt and salaried employee you still have to keep working until you finish for no overtime.

    4. ExemptHere*

      I’ve been an exempt employee for 10 years, in 5 offices (yes, I move around a lot!) and in my experience, a defined lunch time isn’t really a thing for exempt employees. No one is keeping score – it’s down to cultural norms in the office. So I’ve worked some places where everyone goes out for long lunches all the time and no one cares, and in some places where no one ever leaves the office and everyone eats at their desks. Sometimes you work more, sometimes you work less. It’s worth asking about the culture of the office, but the actual number of hours isn’t of that much importance when you’re exempt. You just need to get a general idea of whether this is a 35 hours is fine kind of place, or no, really we want you here for 50 hours.

      1. Jennifer*

        Where I work, all full-time exempt positions are listed as 35 hours, because the standard business hours are 9-5 for everyone, non-exempts get an unpaid lunch hour that makes it a 7 hour day, and for a variety of bookkeeping, software configuration, etc. reasons, it makes the most sense to have 1 full time position = 35 hours (and then 17.5 is always half time, etc.). That’s all a 35 hour exempt position means here – that it’s full-time. (Most exempt staff here typically work more than 35 hour weeks – even if they have to leave right at 5 due to train schedules or family responsibilities, they’re typically working through lunch at least some of the time, getting some work done at night or on weekends, etc.)

    5. Jamie*

      When I was non-exempt they forced you to take a lunch, since working through meant OT.

      Since I’ve been exempt most of the time if I eat it’s at my desk, and mostly I skip it. Some do take a lunch each day, but if someone were to go out for a full hour every day it would be unusual. I think this is a culture thing.

      I agree with you it’s weird though – like they changed the hours without changing the times as well. I’d bet it was a proofreading error.

    6. Doreen*

      The concept of paid vs unpaid lunch doesn’t make sense for exempt workers. I am currently exempt and work a 37.5. hour week with a 30 minute lunch. My nominal work hours are 8-4.Since I am exempt, I get paid the same whether I take lunch or skip it- the 37.5 hours a week has to do with expectations ,not pay.

    7. ACA*

      Thanks everyone! This was the first exempt position I’ve seen that wasn’t listed as 40 hours, so it really stuck out. Part of it may be that only one of the exempt employees in my office regularly takes an hour-long lunch, while the others work through lunch nearly every day, and I know all of them end up doing work at home. (My office is not super great when it comes to work-life balance.) The idea that they expect me to have an hour throughout the day where I wouldn’t be working makes a lot of sense.

  18. LV Ladybug*

    We have a woman who works with us that my HR office calls a triple threat. She is of race, a woman, and older than 50. She is not the hardest working person here. When she first started, she had her faults but otherwise a good person to work with. Over the some time, she gradually became moody and negative… towards everyone. No one wants to be around her because she is a bummer. She hardly will say hi and when she does, it is a sour tone. She complains about ailments and being sick. But when she is approached by management about her ailments… they are trying to assist, they have even offered her FMLA and she flat out says that she has nothing wrong with her. She complains about blood pressure issues and needing to go to the doctor/ER and how she can’t afford her medication. Then again denies that she has medical issues. She only works part time and calls out at least once a month, sometimes more. She is not having enough issues to justify being written up. However, she isn’t a model employee. Everyone knows that she has been job hunting, but apparently that hasn’t gone anywhere. She even asked a supervisor (not her direct) “why don’t they just fire me?” Does she want to get fired? There are easier ways of getting fired. At this point no one knows what she wants. When she is directly asked by management she denies everything. You can’t get a straight answer from her.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Is there a question here?

      I’m not really clear how this is any of your business, if you’re working WITH her instead of as her supervisor. It sounds like you guys are spending a lot of time/energy talking about her (“everyone knows…”

      Also, seriously, on this: “my HR office calls a triple threat. She is of race, a woman, and older than 50” – it concerns me that you don’t seem to see how completely inappropriate this is. ‘

      Your workplace sounds very unprofessional in many regards.

      1. Jen RO*

        My reading is that HR is afraid to fire this woman because she would sue and has three reasons to bring up as basis for discrimination.

    2. Rebecca*

      Yikes! What Katie said – how unprofessional of the HR department to refer to any employee in that manner. Stay out of it. Unless you are her manager, and are responsible for the work she is or isn’t doing, this is none of your business.

    3. Sunflower*

      Sounds like you guys think she is trying to get fired so she can sue you. All I can say is it doesn’t sound worthwhile to keep her on so she doesn’t sue you- that sounds ridiculous actually. If her work is seriously not good or calling out is an issue, have your HR department start documenting it to prepare for a termination. Honestly, the fact that your company is so scared of this is kind of unsettling. If you KNOW someone’s work isn’t good, why are you so worried about terminating her? Document the facts- including offering FMLA. She could just be a little loopy.

      1. LV Ladybug*

        EVERYTHING is documented. But that is what I am saying. She isn’t doing enough wrong to be getting write-ups. So the entire situation becomes what do we do? She changes her story when she talks with management vs her co-workers. If she needs help, we want to help her. But she denies it.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          are you HER supervisor? Does this affect you? I really don’t understand the question. You deal with her the same way you deal with any other under-performing employee – reiterate the expectations for the job. Ask if she is able to accomplish those. If issues arise, take disciplinary actions. You don’t need to be getting involved on medical issues unless she asks for accommodation, which you should try to offer.

          1. LV Ladybug*

            I am one of the people who supervise her. when I have had conversations with her about her performance she brings up a medical excuse. So when HR is involved to discuss how we can help and accommodate her, she denies it. If she calls out, it is due to a medical issue.
            Example: she couldn’t complete a task because she was having trouble seeing. We had a discussion with HR and she said that she is perfectly fine and it must have just been from stress or lack of sleep. Everything is documented, however that doesn’t qualify for a write-up or dismissal.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              OK, so your problem is really with HR, not her. If she can’t complete the required tasks of the job, those requirement should either be modified to a reasonable degree due to her medical issues, or she should be moved out. HR isn’t doing their job. And frankly they sound like a bunch of yahoos.

            2. Helka*

              Why isn’t it? You need to lay it out clearly-

              “Look, either you have a medical issue or you don’t. If you do have something medical going on, then we are absolutely willing to work with you and your doctor in order to determine what accommodations you need. But if you’re telling us that there isn’t actually any medical issue, then you need to step up to the plate and meet these [explicit, quantifiable] expectations for performance.”

              And then hold her to that. If she tells you she’s fine, then don’t accept medical-based excuses for things. If she tells you she’s having medical difficulties, then work with her to pin down what will help her do her job.

              Now, it’s possible she is experiencing health problems but doesn’t have a diagnosis, or is having problems working with her doctor. That’s none of your business; if she can tell you symptoms she is experiencing (lack of sleep, vision difficulties, perhaps motivation issues) then that is something you can address without having “Dr. Wakeen says it’s XYZitis.” But this is absolutely something you can take up with her, and should.

              1. LV Ladybug*

                I actually do believe she is serious about having medical issues. That is why I want to help her out if that is what she needs. But when I document her for calling out or go over things with her she asks like I’m attacking her for no reason. I do have HR’s support, but its not just them, is our corporation to give people 2nd, 3rd, umpteen chances. So I am stuck with someone who no one wants to work with her but is doing her work well enough to not be getting into trouble. So if I were to go after her further it looks like a vendetta. I honestly have no idea what her issue is or what she wants. Its extremely frustrating.

                1. Helka*

                  The other thing you could do is check your tone and approach very carefully when you’re bringing up the medical issues — it can be a really sensitive thing for people, and I know that with my own medical concerns, it’s easy for me to wind up very defensive over questioning, because I prefer to keep knowledge of my health concerns very quiet. So someone trying to come plowing in like a bulldozer will put me on the defensive immediately, and I’m more likely to deny health issues or say they’re nothing even if that’s not true.

                  (Granted, I don’t do this with my boss. But coworkers? Heck yeah, it’s none of their freaking business if I’m in physical therapy or not.)

                  So there’s that bit of softening to my advice. Make sure you’re approaching her gently and constructively, without confrontationalism — make it about how you can help her, not about what’s wrong with her. But do still make it clear that she needs to stop this is-it-isn’t-it behavior.

                2. fposte*

                  It doesn’t look like a vendetta to anybody but her, though, does it? And really, nobody getting writeups is going to be happy and welcoming anyway; if she requires a write-up, her feeling attacked isn’t enough not to write her up. I think you’re giving too much power to her defensiveness here, and I’m agreeing with Helka that her having it both ways on the medical side needs to stop. Her having medical issues doesn’t mean it’s unfair to write her up and fire her–you have to handle your medical issues in ways that work with your workplace and she’s not.

                  You say HR is behind you, but 1) your HR sounds kind of horrible and 2) who, then, is saying that her blowing off work isn’t enough to get her written up? Is she union? Contracted somehow? If not, you can write her up for everything you’ve said, and I don’t get why what sounds like repeated conversations about her behavior haven’t been enough to write her up.

                3. fposte*

                  Actually, looking back, I see you say you’re one of the people who supervise her. Maybe that’s part of the problem here–there’s a committee action going on and nobody feels like they can take individual action, so you’re all needlessly stuck in stasis.

            3. Joey*

              Nope. You say if you have a medical issue impacting work you need to see a dr or hr if you have documentation. Either way you are still expected to perform and that’s what I’m here to address.

            4. LCL*

              HR needs to do a better job here. They should explain to this employee that they will keep medical information confidential. Then push her to go see the doctor. Being more familiar with the FMLA process than I ever wanted to be, I learned that it is a common misconception that if you ask for accomodations HR will tell everybody everything. They don’t.

        2. Amtelope*

          If you’re not her supervisor, and her work or behavior isn’t so bad that it’s preventing you from getting your work done … you live with it. “Not having enough issues to justify getting written up, but not a model employee” is a pretty common type of co-worker to have. It would be great if every workplace was full of people who were positive, energetic, and worked hard; in reality, there are always going to be people who are a pain to deal with and do the bare minimum required to stay employed.

          If the quality of her work is causing direct problems for you — you can’t meet your deadlines because her work is lousy or late — then I’d take that problem to your manager. The more specific the better: “I need the X spreadsheet from Jane to complete the Y report, but it’s not complete.” But if she’s just a sourpuss who is unpleasant to be around, that’s something that you probably just have to live with.

          1. Amtelope*

            Just saw your answer above saying you are one of her supervisors, which changes my answer somewhat. I would still try to live with the fact that she’s annoying to be around and with her calling out for medical reasons. But if she’s blaming poor performance on medical issues, and then refusing accommodation for those issues, I think it’s time for someone to say, “X is part of your job. If you have a health reason why you can’t do X, we will work on a solution that allows you to do X/lets you do Y instead. If you deny having a health reason why you can’t do X, then you must do X if you want to keep your job.”

            If you’ve done that, and she refuses to cooperate, and HR is telling you that you still can’t fire her, your HR department sounds like they’re the ones who need to be invited to seek other employment.

      2. LV Ladybug*

        She isn’t being kept on so she doesn’t sue us. We just don’t have enough to get rid of her. However if/when we do we want to make sure that we have all of our ducks in a row.

        1. Gene*

          Unless you are a government entity that has to comply with Civil Service rules or she is working under a union contract or you are in Montana, all you have to have is – nothing.

          “Jane, next Friday will be your last day with us.”

        2. Poohbear McGriddles*

          Would her behaviors be enough to get rid of her if she were a 30-something white male? If so, you’ve got enough to fire her. Otherwise, she would indeed have grounds for a claim. (In fact, you’d be discriminating by not letting her go if you’re giving her extra leeway due to her protected class status.)

          1. Katie the Fed*

            Of course, if she gets wind of the kinds of things HR is saying, then she definitely might have grounds to stand on. Seriously.

            1. Natalie*

              Technically, yes – it’s more like certain characteristics are protected. I can’t refuse to hire [privileged group] anymore than I can refuse to hire [not-privileged group].

              Realistically, given the realities of US culture, it doesn’t come up much for people within privileged groups.

            2. Poohbear McGriddles*

              This is true. For example, race is a protected class at the federal level in the US. But not just certain races, hence the number of “reverse discrimination” cases especially in the public sector.

              Bottom line is you don’t need extra reasons to fire someone from a “non-privileged group”, you just can’t fire them because they belong to that group. The same also applies for those in the “privileged groups”.

              The OP has laid out all of these reasons why they think this employee should be let go, but they feel it isn’t enough. However, it is indeed enough if they’d let anyone else go for the same behavior.

        3. Dan*

          Gene is right, you don’t need *reasons* to fire her unless [see his post].

          So I’d say she most certainly is being kept on so she doesn’t sue, otherwise why wouldn’t you just let her go?

        4. azvlr*

          Also, keep in mind that one incident by itself may not be enough to fire her. I agree about the PIP. If necessary, address the overall pattern rather than focus on individual instances.

        5. Anx*

          I don’t get this.

          I’ve been let go from 3 jobs, and this is how it went:

          Job 1: Told on my last day before the establishment closed for winter vacation that I would not be returning in the spring. My manager told me, gave me a job lead, and that was that. I received one comment months previously about what I needed to work on and management said I had improved.

          Job 2: I stopped being put on the schedule. A few weeks of this went by so I called to see what was going on. I was told that the most recent hires were removed for the summer since demand went down. Told I would be invited back later (I checked in recently and they are still ‘fully staffed.’) I may have been permanently let go.

          Job 3: Hired for a new business. Three shifts into the job I was told that I would not be making the cut.

          Now, I’m not a ‘professional’ but I have been let go 3 times without having a discussion about my performance. Why can’t you fire someone if you want to? Are certain industries held to different standards?

      3. evilintraining*

        If you “don’t have enough to go on,” put yourselves in a better position through the use of a PIP. Outline the duties and any benchmarks she must meet and attach a time frame. Follow up at regular intervals and document everything. If those expectations are not met within your time frame, then you have sufficient reason to let her go and the documentation to back it up.

    4. Joey*

      The way you address it is to tell her she needs to stop complaining. Give her specific instructions to follow if she has a legitimate complaint. If she continues to complain you write her up for not following your instructions.

    5. Observer*

      Stop asking questions.

      Also, I have to say that the idea that she isn’t bad enough to be written up sounds ridiculous. Either it IS bad enough to be written up, or you are spending waaay too much time on her.

      You’ve mentioned a few issues. If she is really different than other staff then you start by talking to her, and documenting the conversation. Eg if her absences are excessive, you start by telling her she’s been out too often. etc. Also, when she complains about something that is relevant to her ability to perform, and it’s something that you are either legally obliged to accommodate or in the habit of assisting with, make an offer on the spot of assistance or to set up a specific time in the near future to discuss what can be done. If she refuses help, document that.

      Her categories should not be relevant here except for two things. One is that you really want to document what is happening. The other thing is that you should give a good look around your workplace and see if she really is acting any differently than anyone not in those groups. If others are doing the same things, then you need to think about how she is being handled vs the others. If she’s an outlier, or everyone else is being managed to shape up (or ship out in the worst case), there is no reason not to do the same with her.

  19. Elkay*

    Woo hoo I have a phone interview next week. Unfortunately the HR representative misread my email and rescheduled for the one time I said I couldn’t do. I’ve had to bite the bullet and take leave, which isn’t the end of the world because my office layout doesn’t lend itself to hiding someone for a phone interview.

  20. Felicia*

    How long into a new job has everyone started feeling comfortable with the work and like they know what they’re doing? I started a new job a monthish ago that i like so far, but i want to know when this “Gah, i’m new, I don’t know what’s happening” might possibly go away. So far i think i’m doing well, i’ts just the feeling

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’d say usually 4-6 months before I’m really comfortable. The first month is usually “OMG I’ve made a terrible mistake!” followed by a couple months of “OK, I might actually survive this” then “OK, feeling a bit better” and eventually “woohoo! I RULE!”

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        Same here, although I also have experienced the 90-day freak out. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, something throws you a curve ball and you are right back in the “oh crap what have I gotten myself into” zone. Then you survive THAT and start to believe that you actually can do this job. :)

    2. Lindsay*

      I started a new job a month ago also and I’m starting to get a grip on things, but I’m still trying to emerge from the overwhelm. I also got hired for a brand new position, so there’s a lot of figuring stuff out. In another month or two, I think you’ll be much more comfortable where you are.

      1. Felicia*

        My position is also brand new, which i think is contributing to the overwhelm – at least there’s more than I’d otherwise have. I think i’d be less overwhelmed if someone had done this job before.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree with 6-12 months. It depends on the field. If you are working in a field with daily changes in several areas (laws, computers, structure, etc) the learning curve is definitely going to be longer not shorter.

      1. Ali*

        I took about six months to feel comfortable when I was promoted. And sometimes I still worry I don’t belong in the job. Haha.

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      My last job, I remember noticing the feeling of knowing what I was doing, knowing what I was talking about, etc. around three and a half, four months.

      My present job, I felt good by the end of my second week. But I know that’s vanishingly rare.

      1. C Average*

        I’m three years into a job where it still hasn’t gone away. That’s why I’m looking. I think it depends on the job. There are roles within my company where a year is reasonable, others where six months is a better guideline.

    4. Jen RO*

      The first time it took me close to a year. Then I took another job, stayed for 8 months (never got entirely comfortable), and went back to my old job. I’ve been here for almost 4 months (same department, similar work, different team) and I am starting to get comfortable. I will probably need a couple more months to be entirely confident.

    5. Molly*

      I was thinking about this in the car this morning! I’m almost 3 months into a new job in a brand new field, and that feeling is still very much with me. I do have occasional moments of “Oh, I get this, this is like what we did last month” now, but they’re not frequent yet. I keep trying to figure out if I actually like this new field… or do I just like the people that I work with and the company culture? I guess it remains to be seen.

    6. Cath in Canada*

      The last couple of times I started thinking “wow, I’m finally really and truly on top of things!” in my current job (~6 months and then ~1 year in), I was given new projects literally the same week! I’d rather be busy than not, but the timing was a little weird…

  21. Purdykins*

    Question about giving notice when you work an unusual schedule. Does the 2-weeks always refer to 2 calendar weeks? I work 7-on/7-off and I’ve always wondered if 2-weeks notice in my case should really be two working weeks (so at least 3 weeks total including my week off). Any thoughts? If a job wants me to start in two calendar weeks, would that be considered short notice?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I’ve always assumed it was 2 calendar weeks. If you get a job offer to start in 2 weeks, let your manager know as soon as you can. Don’t worry too much about it.

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well, the amount of notice expected can vary based on how much responsibility you have and how hard it is to find someone else to fill your role; some people are expected to give more, but it’s really just a social convention.

      That said, my opinion is that your situation calls for 2 weeks notice, because it’s not like posting or interviewing or training someone for a role with an unusual schedule would necessarily take longer.

  22. Anon for this*


    About 3 1/2-4 years ago, I applied for a position at a national nonprofit. I actually got a phone interview but ultimately not the position. Since its a pretty big nonprofit with a mission I’m passionate about, I’ve kept my eye on it. Well, the position is open again.

    So my questions are:

    a) How do I address this in the cover letter? The director is still the same person, so she was the one I spoke with on the phone interview.

    b) In the years since that phone interview, I held one job for 2 1/2 years and have been at my current job for one year. I’m not really job hunting per say but the position is one that I feel that I should at least try for.

    Any advice?

    1. Malissa*

      It’s been 3.5 years, if they remember you I’d be shocked. Just apply and if the question comes up just address what skills and experience you’ve gained that makes you a better candidate now.

    2. AVP*

      Do you still have a direct contact for the hiring manager or whoever you interviewed with the last time? I would send them a note with your updated resume. But be prepared to mention why you’re still interested in the same position after presumably moving up over the last few years…although possibly in your industry/position that wouldn’t be a red flag? It would be in some, though.

  23. BMARK*

    Recently I had to report a coworker for sleeping at work. It was witness by security and 4 other employees. All of us wrote statements about what we observed and submitted them to our administrator. The next part is where my question comes from. I was told from my administrator that I should of taken a picture of the employee sleeping for documentation. I thought taking pictures of coworkers was against an employees code of conduct, ethics, and privacy.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      well, it depends on your particular office’s policy, but I definitely agree it seems unethical as hell to expect you to take pictures. I’d probably ask them to show me the policy that says you’re expected to provide photo documentation of other employees committing wrongdoing. Sounds like they just want you to do their investigation for them.

      BTW, did you attempt to wake the person up? In general, I’d try to resolve it with the person first before reporting it. There could have been some issue going on that day. I’d be really upset if I was sick and fell asleep and 4 people saw it and reported it instead of, you know, tapping me on the shoulder.

      1. BMARK*

        I don’t have a problem with someone that is nodding off and having difficulty staying awake. I guess I should add that the reason we reported it was because it was very intentional and it wasn’t the first time either. They put their feet on the desk and kicked back in their chair and took a nap.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          My father used to do that on his lunch. He would kick back for 20 minutes. I am surprised at the demand for a photo. A photo does nothing to prove duration or frequency.

    2. Rebecca*

      I reported this several times as well. Each time I told my manager “You need to go wake up Jane”. She said, what do you mean, wake up? I replied “Wake up, as in she is sound asleep at her desk and needs to be woken up”. Manager walked out and bellowed something to another coworker, which she knew would jostle Jane out of her stupor, and she said she didn’t know what I was talking about.

      Now, someone could be literally deceased, and I won’t say a word.

    3. Poohbear McGriddles*

      At least six witnesses and they still want a photo? Does the company hire that many habitual liars?

      At least where I work photography is forbidden for security reasons, so there’s that.

      1. LCL*

        I got into it seriously with my boss, when someone in my group was photographed napping. Given that the napper had bounced around between working days and nights, and had done some OT, I thought the napping was forgiveable. Not desired behavior but it didn’t warrant the inquisition that some other workers were trying to turn it in to, and the photo they took.

        Talk about missed signals. When my boss told me about it I demanded that the other workers be punished, and talked about restraining orders and I don’t remember what all because I was furious. Dead silence on the other end of the phone, finally boss says they used to photo workers surreptitiously in his old group and it was OK.

        Since I work for the government, I still have a job. Even though it was too late to retract my very angry email. The napper eventually went to another group, with a different supvervisor.

  24. Incognita*

    Looking at the “About you” section for a deputy editor’s job this week, I was mentally ticking all the requirements off until I got to the last one.

    “Comfortable with ambiguity”

    Ambiguity about *what*, precisely? My salary? Benefits? Whether I will have a job next week? Seriously, what on *earth* can they have meant by it? (And I guess asking that puts me out of the running…)

    1. LiteralGirl*

      I guess that they are purposely being ambiguous about it.
      When I started my position, my boss’s boss asked me if I realized that my job wasn’t completely defined, and that he wasn’t sure exactly what would fall in my lap. I knew that, having been in the department for a year. Maybe that is the kind of thing to which they are referring?

      1. Kai*

        That was my thought. And/or that it’s the type of job where unexpected things happen all the time and you have to be okay with just rolling with the punches.

        1. Doreen*

          If my job included that it a posting, I would assume it referred to making decisions regarding issues where there is no directly applicable written policy. Because lots of people here are not comfortable doing that.

      2. Brant Girl*

        In my team, we look for people who are comfortable with ambiguity because we often have to make decisions or act without the benefit of a clear, black and white analysis of the situation. We use the phrase “we live in the gray” and people who are uncomfortable with that struggle terribly.

    2. Jamie*

      Wow – that’s one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in a job ad.

      And would self screen out immediately since ambiguity makes me itchy. When you find out post a follow up in an open thread, because I’m super curious.

      1. Incognita*

        Oh, I’m not applying to it – I’m quite happy where I am. But I’m almost tempted to put the application in anyway, just to find out!

      2. Dan*

        It’s interesting how you guys would run from the hills.

        I’ve worked in R&D supporting government transportation initiatives for six years. We have two types of coders – professional developers who need to write stable codes, and analysts who are prototyping things.

        The pro devs want spec sheets. The analysts don’t have them, and aren’t going to get them. My current project is a classic “comfortable with ambiguity” type of thing. My boss gives me some high level/vague description of what she wants. She’s not a coder, so the implementation is up to me.

        The ambiguous part? Whatever she told me she wanted last week, she wants more next week. It’s been like this for 8 months.

        And it doesn’t bother me, because I understand both the domain and technical aspects of what I’m doing. If I knew one but not the other, forget it.

        1. Camellia*

          Yeah, I call this “working without a net”. Throw me something vague and leave me to myself and I can get my arms around it, wrestle it to the ground, and come up with something concrete that can be reasonable implemented.

          Give me a detailed list of what to do, and how to do it, and my eyes glaze over, boredom sets in, and I am fighting to stay awake long enough to make my escape/get the job done.

          That’s just me; I’ve worked with many who would die of panic in the first instance and who bloom in the second. We need all kinds to get the job done.

          1. Jamie*

            Absolutely. Right now the term ambiguous is particularly terrifying to me since I’m wearing my auditor hat 24/7 to prepare for big external audit.

            All parts of my position are dependent on as little ambiguity as possible. Specificity, accuracy, and everyone being completely on the same page to maintain compliance and system integrity – that’s my bread and butter right there.

            But we absolutely need both types (and everything in between) to succeed in business.

            (and because I’m me, lack of ambiguity doesn’t always mean being told what to do and how to do it. I fight ambiguity with my sword of clarity and magic wand of absolute certainty every day and I’m not told what to do or how to do it.)

            (I know absoluteness was not a word so i took it out, but absolution doesn’t work since I’m Catholic and to me that means forgiveness…and that is not the business I’m in!)

      1. De Minimis*

        I’ve seen that in ads before. I’ve always kind of taken it as a sign that there won’t be a lot of training or job-related guidance and that you will need to make decisions on your own.

      1. Dan*

        Not always. I have both blue collar work experience and an MS on the academic side of what I do, and I love my job.

        Metahporically speaking, it’s like I used to be a truck driver, learned how to write code, and now work for a trucking company developing trucking algorithms and software.

        With the right background, “ambiguity” can be awesome.

    3. Maxwell Edison*

      Heh, I think you might be applying for a job at my employer. Ambiguity is very big here, because they went to a quasi-agile setup instead of waterfall and now there are no requirements, no rules, just a vague idea of the goal we want to achieve and throwing everybody into a room to figure it out. It is a major reason I am jumping ship at the next available opportunity.

      1. Jen RO*

        Ugh, ugh, ugh. I switched teams (different products, same software company) and we’re doing spec-less waterfall! The development teams are in a different country, there are no project managers, there’s no way to get involved during development (see: waterfall), so the poor technical writers get shafted. I miss my old team – we were doing quasi-Agile but we had a ton more specs than this waterfall implementation!

        1. Agile Phalanges*

          As someone who couldn’t know less about software development/engineering/whatever, I’m curious what waterfall and quasi-agile mean in these contexts? Mind sharing?

          1. Jen RO*

            These won’t be academic definitions, but they are what I’ve encountered in my (admittedly limited) experience:
            Waterfall basically means that first the programmers write the code, then the testers test it, then the technical writer documents it. The different roles are not really involved with each other and they have to wait for the previous stage to be over before they can start working.
            (Quasi) Agile (or SCRUM) means that everyone works together, there are daily meetings where everyone is involved, but the scope of the project is less well-defined and the details keep changing, and no one writes anything down. (By-the-book Agile is less ambiguous, but I’ve never heard of anyone who does it by the book.)

            In my previous position, we did a “waterscrum” thing that worked pretty well (we had specs, but also daily meetings, and the scope of the project didn’t change a lot); in my current position we do bad waterfall (no meetings, no specs).

    4. MaryMary*

      I don’t see this as a huge red flag, just acknowledgement that “other duties as needed” could be a larger percentage in this role than in others. Or it could mean they don’t know their *ss from a hole in the ground. But I don’t think it would be wrong to ask about it.

    5. Mints*

      Meh, I think I’ve applied to a job that had something like this. I think the context was that I was applying to a role that supported 2 or 3 departments, and so there would be different demands to juggle, without a clear supervisor to manage the workload.
      Even without the context, I’d apply then ask when I got a chance because they might mean agility in a way that I liked

    6. Sam*

      We have “comfortable with ambiguity” written in the job descriptions for some roles in our department, and it refers to the complexity of the work they do. Not everything is spelled out in black and white, and there won’t always be a specific procedure to create every teapot, so they have to use good judgment and creative problem-solving to figure it out. We also list judgment and problem-solving as necessary skills, but want to be transparent about the fact that people who need a documented procedure for every possible scenario will not be happy in this role, and people who are a little more comfortable navigating in gray areas are more successful.

    7. Apollo Warbucks*

      I think they mean things like chances to processes, projects that are undefined at the start but you find out more about as the progress. Maybe being able to adjust well to changing priorities, like coming yo work on Monday expecting to complete task A but being redirected to task D at the last minuet.

    8. ClaireS*

      I’m surprised by the really negative response to this. I work with ambiguity a lot and i consider it one of my strengths. In my role, it means that there isn’t always a clear cut and defined solution to the problem. It means you need to be creative in your problem solving techniques and be willing to engage stakeholders from across the organization. It means things can change fast and you need to be able to adapt and address them.

      I totally understand this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but I much prefer ambiguity to process and rule driven cultures. Anyone else?

      1. Jennifer*

        Well, I think the problem is that “ambiguity” could be anything and we have no idea what red flags that’s trying to be vague about.

    9. Student*

      That’s a job requirement where I work. It makes a lot of sense for us. We ask in all our interviews about it.

      It means that you will be compartmentalized, and you’re expected to deal with that gracefully. Not knowing your field, I can’t give examples. You will sometimes not be given the full story, the grand plan, the inside scoop. Can you handle that? Can you do your part well and trust that you’ve been given what you need to get your job done? Are you willing to push back when you don’t have everything you need to know, but also willing to hear and respect when people tell you that you still can’t know everything?

      Maybe you’re handling business sensitive stuff. Maybe you’re handling trade secrets, or government secrets. Maybe you will never personally handle the sensitive stuff, but you’ll be really close to it and bumping into information barriers all the time.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      I would be sorely tempted to answer this way:

      “Yes, I am comfortable with ambiguity. No, I am not comfortable with ambiguity.”

      [Seriously- do not do this.]

  25. anonanon*

    I’m a new manager who just participated in hiring someone for my team. We had to hire our 2nd choice candidate, who has what I feel are major red flags and I’m hoping to get advice on the best way to deal with this when the employee begins.

    Red flags are:

    1. This position is a large pay cut but with better benefits.
    2. Resume left off at least one previous job.
    3. Pattern of gaps between employers (unless more jobs were not listed).
    4. Career has actually moved backward over the past few years.

    Am I right to be worried about this person? Beyond keeping an open mind and trying to make her successful is there anything else I can do?

    1. Anoners*

      Hrm, could go either way. Did you ask for a complete history and they left jobs off? If so, that’s a red flag. But, if it was just left off the resume, not so much. The move backwards could be that they are just looking for a job with less responsibility to make their non-work life easier for whatever reason (and there could be any number of reasons for that).

      I would say you have cause for some concern. Just keep an eye on them and see if there are any glaring performance problems during their probation period.

    2. Helka*

      These are exactly the sorts of things that should have been discussed during interviews — why are you still wondering about them after the hire?

      Points 1 and 4 together paint for me a picture of someone who is looking to readjust their work/life balance from what it used to be — before that “moving backward” thing started, were the jobs high-intensity or extremely demanding? Long hours, lots of travel, that kind of thing? And benefits — does the gain in benefits outweigh the loss of pay? Moving to a better health care plan can be work big money for some people, especially if they have health concerns. An extra week or two of vacation time can make all the difference for someone who wants to be able to spend more time living and less time working.

      As for 2 & 3… the devil is in the details here. How long were they at this previous job that was left off the resume? How long are these gaps between jobs? (And for that matter, how long are the employed periods in between gaps?)

      But really, this should have been investigated during the interviews. These are all questions that could potentially have really simple and innocent answers.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Well, what in the interview process *did* cause you to hire this person? Was there a real lack of qualified candidates and you felt like you had to take her, or did you have a good rapport and think, “She’s awesome in spite of these on-paper signals?” (Which are not necessarily red flags IMO, especially taken individually, but I agree that all four of them together would make me wonder.)

      Did you address the items on the list when interviewing her? If so, how did you feel about her answers? #4 would be the biggest *potential* issue to me but if she had a good explanation (“I made a conscious decision to be a Teapot Maker instead of a Teapot Manager because I’m better at my craft than I am at getting other people to do my craft”), dropping lower on the totem pole might actually be a positive. Or it could very well mean having been demoted because she wasn’t good at her job — but that’s something it would have been good to figure out in the interview process by asking both her and her references.

      If you *didn’t* address these things when interviewing her — was your interview process very rushed for some reason? I personally would not hire a candidate without being fully reassured about any worries I have, unless the situation is so desperate that we just need a warm body and the team will be fine if we have to replace that person in three months. I have found that an early negative reaction to something that I’d call a “pink flag” in the interview (that is, a reaction to a specific trait, as opposed to a general “I don’t know about this person” feeling) has never been wrong. I’ve been talked into hiring people despite my reservation about something or other, and that something-or-other has always turned out to be A Real Thing. Not necessarily a deal-breaking thing, but something to consider. (For example, one person I interviewed seemed very timid; she turned out to be a stellar copywriter, but she was indeed very quiet and shy, which can be a problem when you have regular client contact. Another who seemed very flustered by interview questions but had a solid resume turned out to be in way over her head on the job.)

      Again, though, these were “pink flags” that I saw during the process of interviewing, as opposed to on paper only. I think if the interview convinced you and the other hiring managers that she was a solid candidate, you’re probably in a good place.

    4. Dan*

      This time? No. Next time? Actually get your concerns resolved in the interview.

      FWIW, why did you “have” to hire your second choice? Was hiring nobody at all not an option?

    5. EmilyG*

      I guess I have a recommendation and a question.

      Recommendation: I made a marginal hire as a new manager once and spent most of the next year trying to handle the fallout. Yes, we made the hire because it was detrimental to have the position open, but to have to spend all your time on one person, who in the end still doesn’t work out, is much more detrimental. But now that you’ve made the hire, I think you’re on the right track. Except that I would rate “trying to make her successful” and doing training as more important than just keeping an open mind. This is what probationary periods are for!

      Question: I have a short-term job that I was hoping to eventually leave off my resume (but not off applications that ask you list everything with months and years). I worked in a related industry for four months several years ago and it didn’t work out because they changed the boss, team, and project on me, two months in. I accepted a position back in my original industry. Since my jobs on either end of it were still in the same year, I was hoping to eventually put them on my resume as Job A 2005-2012, Job C 2012-present, leaving out my four months at Job B. I think I got this idea here on AAM! Would this be viewed as a red flag? I would still put it on a full job history/application. I don’t have other gaps except for a stint in grad school.

      1. Jen RO*

        I would leave the months on jobs A and C, and leave a gap in between. Four months doesn’t seem that long.

      2. LAI*

        I think it’s completely fine to just list years like that. If you had only been on those jobs for a year or two, then you would want to include months. But since you were at one job for 7 years, it’s unlikely anyone will care whether how many extra months it was.

    6. Sarah*

      I think #2 is normal. People are encouraged to leave jobs off of their resumes if they don’t feel that having it works in their favor. You can’t call people dishonest for following very standard advice. It could be a red flag in that it could mean that this person got fired for a legitimate reason that will carry over to the new job, but it can also mean that the person just had the misfortune of winding up in the wrong job one time.

      The others are red flags to me, though how much so depends on their field and the new job (i.e. 3-4 could be totally normal in dying fields but are a red flag for a software engineer, taking a pay cut to work at a nonprofit or the public sector is more normal than taking one to go from one big corp to another). All of these things together do give me the impression that this may not be a person who thrives in their work and either burns out, gets fired, or otherwise needs to leave before having a new job lined up or for a job that is a huge pay cut. There is not much that you can do besides prepare them to succeed while watching out for more red flags, though.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      1) Ask. (if she had no health insurance and now she has insurance that would be a big deal).

      2)Alison said just recently that resumes are not supposed to list every single job. If it bothers you then ask.

      3) Gaps. Ask. The economy is still not great. Many people have gaps.

      4) The economy is still not great. She tried to stay employed, right?

      Rather than struggling to keep an open mind, why not learn something about her that might change your perspective?

    8. Smilingswan*

      I only put the last 10 years of work history on my resume. Should I be going back all the way to college? If so, I’d need about 4 pages.

  26. LiteralGirl*

    Just want to vent.
    The division in which I work has been undergoing a reorganization. In general it’s a good thing; the number of VPs and Directors has been reduced and now the count of managers is going from 290 to 190. What seems so crazy is the way this last wave has been conducted. All managers (except a very few whose jobs were known to not be changing in title or scope – including my boss) were essentially given layoff notices and told to apply for positions posted. They were told they had 10 days to apply, but in reality all of the interviews were conducted during those 10 days and if they didn’t apply early, they may not have gotten an interview, due to the directors’ schedules. If the people didn’t apply for all jobs for which they were qualified, they were not eligible for severance. By a certain date, the candidates were told to submit to HR their position preference rankings. The day after the interview period was officially over, the directors had to provide their candidate evaluations and preferences for each position. They then got together to hash out who got which candidates if more than one department wanted the same person. (I suppose this is also where the candidates’ rankings came in.)
    Does anyone else think this is a strange way of going about this? I would really like to hear from some HR professionals – everything I know about HR I learned here, so I have no idea what the norm is.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s frightening. With a organizational model like that, I would be very wary of going to the company picnic if I worked there, as I suspect that the employees would be taken to a remote island and expected to capture and barbecue their co-workers if they wanted to eat.

        1. LiteralGirl*

          That’s what The Hunger Games was based on. I started watching it, but the spurting blood was too much for me.

  27. Chuchundra*

    The Last Days of Pompeii are upon me.

    Come September 30th, the research facility at which I’ve worked for the last 25 years and which has been in operation since 1982 will end its run and go dark.

    It’s time for it, for sure. Over the past few years, keeping this place operating has taxed the skill, luck and perseverance of everyone who works here. Breakdowns have become more frequent and more serious. A lot of the things that makes stuff work was made decades ago by companies who are out of business or people who have long since retired. The spares warehouse is pretty empty and full of stuff that may or may not work when we need it.

    We have also a brand new facility that’s in its final stages of commissioning. I’ll begin work there full time come October 1.

    But, it’s still sad. I’ve spent literally over half my life working here. I’ve done a lot of good work and worked with a lot of interesting people, many of whom have retired or passed on. It all makes me think of Don Draper’s pitch for the Kodak Carousel.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had a workplace close once. The job didn’t pay much and it was only part-time but I LOVED it. (It was receptionist/clerk at a materials testing lab.) Unfortunately, we all scattered and I haven’t seen those people in a decade. :(

    2. MaryMary*

      Have you thought about doing anything to celebrate/commemorate the occasion? It sounds like the organization isn’t in a place to organize one, but after 25 years it’s the end of an era. I think you should plan some sort of goodby.! Maybe even include some “alumni.”

      1. Chuchundra*

        Actually, the day of final operations going to be a big event. I know a lot of people who have done work here are coming back for it and there’s a barbecue planned for afterwards.

        One of my co-workers is working on some kind of lever so we can ceremonially “throw the switch” and I just found out that the whole thing is going to be live web-cast.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      The lab building I worked in when I first moved to Vancouver got demolished a couple of years after I left. I was only there for three years and it was a terrible, awful building (an ex-bakery – you try keeping your cell cultures uncontaminated when there are yeast spores everywhere) that had already been replaced by a brand new purpose-built facility, but it was still sad – I had some good times there. If you haven’t already, grab some photos before you move out – I wish I had more from my old lab

      1. C Average*

        Utterly off topic, but a friend and I used to play a game that involved taking a random sentence (usually vapid TV dialogue) and try to drop it into a normal conversation without being caught out. “You try keeping your cell cultures uncontaminated when there are yeast spores everywhere” would’ve been a marvelous candidate.

        1. Monodon monoceros*

          In my grad school lab, the tradition was to assign people that were giving their public thesis defense a totally weird word that they had to fit into their presentation. Mine was “noodle”. I had a hard time keeping from giggling during my presentation when I said it.

  28. louise*

    Note: I’m new at a construction company–have only been here 2 months, am the only HR person, and am new to HR in the first place.

    The deal: We’ve had a rash of small injuries, most caused by people just being careless, not breaking some actual safety rule. They just weren’t thinking/weren’t looking/thought what they were about to do was “no big deal” and so on. They’ve ended up in Urgent Care and then each has been returned to restricted duty for at least a few days.

    How do we remind workers to just “be careful!”? These folks already have a safety briefing every morning. What else can we do? Can we write them up for being unsafe/negligent when it wasn’t a specific rule they broke? If we can, what does that really solve or deter in the future? (I’m thinking nothing)

    And then, I’m an accident prone person (a tripper/faller, if you will) so my thought is that all these little things are just the cost of employing humans instead of robots, but the president of the company says absolutely not, that we need our employees to get their act together and “just stop doing stuff that causes this.” Doesn’t sound very actionable to me. Any ideas?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      ” Can we write them up for being unsafe/negligent when it wasn’t a specific rule they broke?”

      Sure, why couldn’t you?

        1. AVP*

          If thats the case then they need to overhaul their safety rules so that things that injure people become officially actionable.

          1. louise*

            That’s the dilemma, there’s no way to anticipate the 1000 different ways someone might choose to do something unsafely.

            Safe lifting practices – that’s a rule already in place, so we are writing up the guy who chose to lift something by himself that was definitely a 2 or 3 person lift item.

            But the guy who slipped while climbing out of a truck? He said he thought the steps were just like the steps on the truck he usually drives, but they weren’t and he missed a step. If he would have looked instead of assumed, he would have seen that. But I’m not sure how to create and enforce a rule that says “seriously people, watch what you’re doing! And take time to THINK!”

        2. Natalie*

          It doesn’t say anyone’s filed for workers comp, though, just that they’ve been on restricted duty for a few days.

        3. louise*

          Exactly. Which made me think we just need to write up anyone who does something unsafely, but none of those other instances come to light because they didn’t get hurt.

        4. attornaut*

          It could be seen as this, but doesn’t have to be. People shouldn’t be written up every time they are injured, but that doesn’t prevent an investigation into whether they were working safely, could have prevented the injury, acting careless, etc., which can be a basis for writing someone up.

          It’s an area where someone has to be more careful, but that doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

        5. MT*

          you can 100% write people for being unsafe. You have to first determine if this was a preventable accident. If it was preventable, did the employee do something that was against company policy. You can easily have company policies that say, always look in the direction you are traveling. Then if someone walks into something and gets hurt, it’s on them.

    2. AVP*

      Also, have you spoken with their manager? Is it all one manager, or do they report to different people?

      It could be that managers are paying lip service to safety in the morning but rushing their crews later, valuing time over quality, or just not seeming to be people who care that much about small safety issues – which leads the crews to believe that these issues aren’t important, or that they’ll be penalized for taking more care. And that includes being made fun of or teased about it.

      Believe me, you don’t want to be dithering over whether things seem actionable if there’s a chance they might escalate and cause a serious accident. These things don’t solve themselves, they snowball.

      1. louise*

        This is what I’ve arrived at. One of the supervisors made a bad judgment call (should have asked for help with something instead of doing it alone) recently which resulted in an injury. When he returns to work, I’d like to have a discussion with him about modeling safe behavior and creating a stronger team environment rather than a “suck it up, buttercup” environment where everyone tries to be a strong, independent hero who can do any kind of hard work alone. But I’m just not sure how to appropriately say that.

        1. Dan*

          Are you the right person to have the talk with though? I don’t mean to be offensive, but HR generally doesn’t have the best rep amongst “the guys.” This conversation is best had with their manager, not you.

        2. AVP*

          I really like what Becca said below. I work in a field where we also have a lot of different action sites and the propensity for something bad to happen is always possible (google the “Midnight Rider” film set accident for a worst-case scenario), and what I’ve seen is that people make harmful mistakes, or make decisions that lead to bad things, when the overall attitude is one of “suck it up and get moving” and the people in charge seem lax, or seem like they have low safety standards. Of course, again, freak accidents happen, but they happen a lot less when you have a team in place who cares about preventing them.

      2. Dan*

        Yeah… if these guys are ending up in urgent care, this is more than just general clumsiness. General clumsiness = buying lots more Bandaids then you expected.

        I worked blue collar for seven years, and there’s a pretty wide gap between saying safety is #1 and actually following through with it.

        I am having a hard time placing the context of the OP’s situation though. Urgent care + restricted duty isn’t exactly as minor as the OP makes it out to be. Are the *right* safety rules in place, and are they being followed? I don’t work construction, so don’t really know the real deal.

        One solution might be to hire a safety consultant to get to the bottom of what’s going on. While that costs money, so does all the injuries and lost productivity.

        1. QualityControlFreak*

          This is true. Hiring a safety consultant is a good idea, but not for HR to implement. It’s the president who needs to take steps to solve this problem. It isn’t going to be resolved by the foreman – if I’m reading this right he just got hurt trying to move too heavy a load solo! I suggest construction industry specific safety training across the board – OSHA 10, construction industry standard. Take a look at their website. The president will have to approve the training, but I think personnel training falls in the realm of HR action, so do some research, come up with a workable proposal and present it. Good luck, and good on you for trying to keep people safe on the job. :)

    3. cuppa*

      I am in an office setting, so things are a little bit different for me, but if I see someone doing something careless, (standing on a chair to reach something, using a ladder inappropriately, etc.) I’ll stop them and say, “I’m not writing that accident report, so don’t do that”. Granted, this relies on a certain kind of rapport with staff.
      I agree with the comment above that the organization needs to be truly safety-minded, and not just saying they are and then pushing deadlines, etc.

    4. evilintraining*

      I work at a food manufacturing plant. Safe procedures for everything are outlined and presented in writing and via video upon hire, and ongoing training is conducted several times a year. Is it possible to implement something similar where you work?

      1. louise*

        I wish. Our jobs are in tons of different locations and the environment isn’t as controlled as a plant. I told my boss I was pretty sure a factory would be easier to anticipate the risks.

    5. fposte*

      Are there patterns you can discern in what goes wrong–time of day, time on shift, location in workplace, etc.? It seems to me if you’re getting an unusually high number of injuries (and have you checked to see what rates usually are in your field?), the problem might not be the people but something about the way their work is going. (Or your hiring, for that matter.)

    6. Becca*

      Same field as you. We actually have a Safety person, and they go and talk about safety issues to all of our branches. I’m not sure what they do in terms to prevent it, but the biggest proponent is employees are encouraged to encourage others to follow safe practices. I think we actually have a program where if someone sees something unsafe and reports it, they get rewarded for bringing it up (we’re talking like a file cabinet that has stuff on it that could fall on someone, not tattling). We take pictures of the safety improvement and post them on our Intranet. All employees also get monthly reports on how we are doing safety wise. We have decent numbers, we’re about average with the other companies that we compare against.

    7. MT*

      Figure out what behaviors lead to these accidents. If the injuries are being caused by not wearing proper PPE, not paying attention, or not following specific guidelines, then make it clear in writing what is expected of the worker. If someone is creating a safety hazard by not following directions, then you can hold them liable for it.

    8. cuppa*

      Sorry, had to pop back to share a story…
      The only time I have ever physically yelled at a staff member was when she dropped and shattered a Corelle dish on the counter in the break room. She then tried to take her arm and sweep the tiny shards of glass into a trash can. Not interested in driving anyone to urgent care or picking the tiny shard of glass out of her arm myself, I screamed, “No! Don’t do that! Go do something else; I’ll do this!”.
      I made her cry. But, it all worked out.

    9. MaryMary*

      What about carrots, instead of sticks? Celebrate the number of days without an incident, give an incentive if everyone can go 30 days without an accident, or give a prize and make a fuss over the employee who has the longest accident-free stretch (although that might tempt fate).

      1. evilintraining*

        We do this where I work, as a bingo. A number each day there’s no injury. I’ve seen people win as much as $270. But it’s still important to put actual procedures in place and tell people, “Do it this way but not that way.”

      2. louise*

        I like this idea and have been toying with it. Evilintraining’s bingo is great, too–would love more specifics on how that works. Does the carrot approach deter people from reporting things, I wonder? I don’t want people to feel like they can’t ‘fess up when they’re hurt and I’m afraid writing them up will cause that AND that rewarding days-without-accidents could cause it, too. I feel like I’m overthinking this!

        1. Natalie*

          I’m not sure how exactly you’d go about this, but if you could somehow separate the people who are responsible for reporting the injuries from the reward that would help.

          Totally different area, but when we tightened our PO system we offered a carrot for perfect compliance within 2 months. The compliance wasn’t self reported – I tracked it and reported to my manager.

    10. krisl*

      I remember Mike Rowe wrote about this at some point, maybe on Facebook. He said that they used “Safety Third” as a slogan, which sounded odd, but apparently it helped.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      There are ways to handle this. I hope Alison does a post on this one, it’s worth it.

      No expert, but from what I have read the goal is to create a safety conscious culture. When I supervised I let it be known that everyone was in charge of safety. If someone saw a potential problem, they could fix it themselves if it was an easy fix or they had to come get me. This exact method won’t work in construction but it shows you the overall idea.

      There could be a mind set of “only whimps worry about safety” and that needs to be torn down. When a group has to work short one person, everyone loses. When a person gets injured that person loses big time- pain, suffering, inconvenience.

      Interestingly, all it takes sometimes is one person who is very vocal. I started a job where one part time person took a huge interest in safety issues. She did not mind telling anyone of a potential problem- she would tell a big boss to be careful. It did not bother her to do this at all. I was very impressed.

      I think that having an HR person who keeps track of safety issues is a good start. But the real kicker is to make sure that injuries are not kept secret just to satisfy an HR edict. That perception of HR issuing orders can be reduced by showing the why’s and how’s.

      The guy who fell from the truck steps- was he wearing appropriate foot gear? Does the company have rules on protective footwear? Are there no skid strips on the steps? Barebones: Was there an accident investigation and was the employee asked how he planned on preventing further recurrences?

      I got cut by my own box cutter one day. I was sat down and spoken to. “How do you plan to prevent a similar incident from happening again?” I thought the whole conversation was silly BUT it did send a message to me that the company felt it was a must to remain safe at all times.

  29. Rebecca*

    I hope someone will share some info: how do your employers handle medical disability payments, and how much do they offer? My employer deducts $2.31 per biweekly paycheck for disability insurance, and if you are off for surgery, for instance, the pay tops out at $200/week, before insurance copays. In my case, this would amount to less than $100 per week after copays. We aren’t allowed to opt out of this, and put money toward AFLAC, for instance. Is this normal?

    1. HR Diva*

      In some states companies are required to provide short term disability insurance. Part of the premium may be deducted from the employee’s pay.

    2. Arjay*

      Both our short-term and long-term disability premiums are paid by the company. Benefits are 60% of our usual pay, with a one-week waiting period, and we still have to pay our regular benefit premiums.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ours is 60% of your salary, and our company pays for it 100%. But I <3 my company, and from what I understand, that's not normal either.

    4. MaryMary*

      Employers can get a lower premium if they require participation, which is probably why yours won’t let you opt out. Yours is not particularly generous, but not unusual.

    5. Witty Nickname*

      My company pays the premiums for our short term disability insurance. Our insurance pays up to 60% of your salary after any other payments (state short term disability payments for example).

      I’ve only used it for maternity leave. In my state, maternity leave is actually paid out by our state’s short term disablity fund (up to 4 weeks before your due date unless there is a medical need for more, 6 weeks after the birth, unless there is a medical need for more, then it can be up to 12 weeks, and 6 weeks for parental bonding. This can actually be taken by both parents anytime within the first year).

      Our company short term disability insurance doesn’t pay for the parental bonding time as far as I know. With my first kid, I got a letter from them saying that they determined they didn’t owe me anything because the state was paying 60% or more of my salary, but they were required by law to pay me at least $15 per week, so here was my $11 and change because they took taxes out. I don’t remember if I got that during the bonding time, but a coworker who had a baby within the past year told me that she was told we don’t get that now. I didn’t even bother filing with them for my second child because the energy it would take to deal with it that late in my pregnancy (I had an incompetent HR person who never got me any of the paperwork or instructions on what I needed to do until 3 days before I was scheduled to go out on leave) wasn’t worth the $11 per week I knew I’d get. :)

      Apparently we also have the ability to sign up for AFLAC. I haven’t gone to any of the meetings, because in my experience, our state disability pays enough that I’d rather save the premium money and just deal with cutting back a little if I actually do need to go out on disability again (last time, my disablity payments actually ended up being more than my normal take home pay because the quarter I got a generous bonus ended up being the quarter that was used to calculate my payments and because no taxes are taken out. I had to report the pay I received during the parental bonding time for my federal taxes, but I had set up my withholding throughout the year so that it didn’t really impact me at all at tax time. My state doesn’t tax disability pay for either maternity leave or parental bonding time).

  30. Sascha*

    So next week, my coworker and I are doing the thing I’ve always dreaded to do…talk to our manager about how unhappy we are. Our workload is just too high, and there’s too much pressure from above. We’ve been begging our VP to hire more people, at least one more, for over a year, and he keeps saying no. He told us “you have to fail before I’ll hire anyone else,” which was very demoralizing. Because we know the outcome of our team failing to keep up with demand is that we’ll be blamed and reprimanded, which seems really unfair when the reason we’re failing is because we’re understaffed.

    So anyway…we’ve put together a list of issues, but also solutions – very doable solutions that aren’t just “hire more people,” but things we could implement right away. It’s just a matter of getting our manager to agree to it, which we’re not hopeful. But at least we’ll make our concerns known.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Good luck.

      If I can give you a bit of advice – depersonalize it as much as possible. Try to make sure it doesn’t come across like you’re accusing the manager of not managing (we’re sensitive sometimes!) and that you’re trying to help.

    2. Gene*

      If your manager doesn’t buy in, you just may have to fail. But keep your list of solutions that you suggested to your manager. When you get blamed you need to put the blame right back on your manager to his manager. It’s not easy, but you will need to do it.

    3. littlemoose*

      I think how you frame it will influence the outcome to some extent. Maybe “Wakeen and I brainstormed some ideas for more efficient handling of X/better outcomes for Y, and we’d love your support to implement them,” rather than “Things here are borked and we need A, B and C.” Perhaps more of a cooperative rather than adversarial posture – though if your manager is unreasonable, it might not make much of a difference. Good luck!

    4. Sascha*

      Thank you everyone! We’re definitely trying to frame it as “here’s some solutions that will make it better for EVERYONE,” and not just a big whine. I’m just hoping to get across to our bosses that this is affecting morale as well as hurting our productivity. Our manager will often ask how we are doing, as in, stressed out or whatever, and whenever we have said we’re feeling overwhelmed, the usual response is just “Well just keep your chin up!” Clearly we’re not doing a good job communicating how overwhelmed we feel.

  31. Apparently too impatient*

    I am beginning training for a new part-time job, and I am already finding it unbearable.
    It is a very small company: just the owner, one other employee, and me. I showed up for my very first (brief) training day this week, and the owner spent an hour fighting with her website (the issue was server-side, so we couldn’t do anything about it anyway) to show me how to do something, although I had already indicated that I understood the process.
    In addition, she has never had W4s for her new employees to fill out, which in my understanding is on the shady side of legal, if it’s legal at all. Admittedly, she has told me (repeatedly) that she is an “ideas person” and not good at organization, and that is part of why I was brought on.
    However, I am dreading working in this position now, as I am trying to move away from working with people who are unable to do basic tasks and I am concerned that I am moving from a position where I am fairly content, if frustrated, to a position where I will be endlessly frustrated.
    Is it awful to jump ship this early? I have an interview on Monday for a (full-time, yay!) position that may or may not be better suited to my interests and career plans, and since it is at a larger institution, I assume it will be somewhat more organized. Is that

    1. Jazzy Red*

      I think it would be reasonable to hope they’re more organized, but don’t count on it, yet. Go into your interview with your eyes and ears open. Observe as much as you can that would give you clues to their professionalism and general organization. If you know anyone at this new place, ask them about it, referencing your preference for people who know how to do basic office tasks, etc.

      It’s not awful to jump ship this early. If you do get the job, apologize about leaving so soon and explain that you need a full time job with good benefits, so you just can’t pass this up.

    2. SherryD*

      There are pros and cons of working for a large organization. One frustration I’ve found at large companies is that often decisions come from several layers of management up. Sometimes these decisions make no sense to the average worker bee, but there’s no one to complain to — your local manager will just shrug, because they can’t do anything to change it, and they can’t even explain it themselves.

  32. Ann O'Nemity*

    One of my co-workers has sexist views on women in the workplace, but he’s a really good worker and has been nothing but helpful and kind to his female co-workers on all work-related matters. But anytime the conversation turns to women in the workplace, he voices his opinions. How do you deal with someone like that when you’re not their manager? It doesn’t affect my work in the slightest, but it bugs me.

    1. nep*

      Good that it doesn’t affect your work in the slightest. You’ve got it in you to not allow it to bug you. Letting it bother you is like giving his views too much credibility and power.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I think I’d try to not let the conversation turn to women in the workplace.

      And if it did, I’d say “you know, I really disagree strongly about this and your views are frankly offensive to me, and I’d prefer we not discuss this anymore.”

    3. MousyNon*

      I’d fight him about it personally, but that’s just me. It would help to know more about the kinds of things he says, though. Are we talking HR level denigration of women (“why aren’t you in the kitchen, hard-de-har-har”) or political views like affirmative action, equal pay, health insurance, etc? I’m asking because the former would lead me to the verbal smack-down and (if it happened again) a report to HR really quick, but the latter I’d probably just invite him to lunch and fight it out in a place where people won’t be bothered by a political debate, and in the course of the conversation point out that–in addition to his being wrong in all his wrongness–others might find his views off-putting so he may want to take it easy.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’ve tried to disagree with him and cite all kinds of sources and evidence. He admits to enjoying the intellectual sparring, but his opinions seem absolutely immutable. Now I’m just sick of it.

        He claims that his views have a biological foundation. He believes that women are biologically better suited for childcare, and that children benefit from having a stay-at-home mom – like his wife is and his mom was. He also believes that many male-dominated fields, such as ours, are that way because men and women generally have different natural abilities. He is always careful to speak in generalities and never points any of these comments at me or any other female co-workers.

        1. Jazzy Red*

          You will NEVER change his mind. There’s an old saying about it: “A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still”. It was true 100 years ago and it’s true today.

          Don’t let yourself get into these discussions. If he starts one, get up and go to the ladies’s room, or the break room, or just walk around for a bit. Encourage your co-workers to not feed this jerk’s ego (I was going to call him a Neanderthal, but recent studies show they were far more advanced than originally thought, so I don’t want to disparage them).

          1. AdAgencyChick*

            That’s a great adage.

            Another: “Emotions convince; facts justify.” It took me a while to recognize how true this is, but it’s true that no amount of factual argument will sway someone who is emotionally committed to his position.

        2. AnonyMouse*

          Personally, this would bother the CRAP out of me. If it’s happening fairly frequently, next time he brings it up I would say something like “Kevin, I respect you as a coworker, but because I generally like working with you I need to let you know that these comments are extremely offensive. We’ve discussed this stuff in the past, and maybe I wasn’t clear enough that I strongly dislike it when you say things like this about women in my presence. I get that these are your beliefs, and I’m done trying to change them, but I’m telling you that I won’t tolerate hearing about your views on women at work anymore.” If he won’t knock it off after that, I’d probably go to a manager or HR. In my view, it’s unacceptable that a man would think it’s okay to repeatedly say this stuff about women at work in 2014.

          1. nep*

            Of course I can’t know the details of how this guy is behaving…but unfortunately people have the ‘right’ to be jerks. If we go around allowing ourselves to be bothered by people’s opinions — however archaic or asinine they might be — that would be a lot of precious energy spent, and for what? State your mind, sure…offer a counter argument if you feel inclined to, but in my view being bothered by jerks is an utter waste of time and energy.

            1. AnonyMouse*

              The reason it would bother me so much in this situation is that he’s making these comments in the workplace. People have the “right” to do a lot of things in the privacy of their own homes that do not belong in a professional environment. In my opinion, one of those things is making sexist statements. He is essentially going into work and telling his female coworkers that they and others who share their gender do not belong there. I don’t think it’s a waste of energy to tell someone that you would appreciate it if they would refrain from making sexist comments at work. Same goes for any other intolerant remarks.

              1. nep*

                Right. I didn’t say it’s a waste of energy to speak one’s mind. Waste of energy to stew about it or let oneself be annoyed. That takes energy, and sexist or otherwise intolerant people don’t merit space in my head.

        3. Natalie*

          “He admits to enjoying the intellectual sparring, but his opinions seem absolutely immutable.”

          Ah, I’ve met people like this before. “I love to debate!” frequently actually means “I love to monologue!” or “I like to pick fights with people for entertainment!” or “I only love to debate if I win!”

          I doubt he has any desire or intention to change his views. Even if he did, I don’t think change in this arena comes from intellectual debates with co-workers. I think there’s actually some research indicating that being challenged an actually make a person’s views more entrenched, particularly if they have an emotional attachment to them.

          The only way to win is not to play.

          1. Anx*

            I haven’t been to volunteer in about a month for logistical purposes, but I wonder if I would have been more motivated to return if I didn’t have one of these in my shift group. Insufferable.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          This is disgusting, and I would suggest saying to him what Katie the Fed said and then backing off this topic every time he brings it up. Walk away from his stupid ass if you have to. And yes, he is a stupid ass–the speaking in generalities thing is a bully’s CYA so he can say offensive things.

        5. Mints*

          Woah, does HR know?

          I’d do the one liner like Katie suggests “Your views on gender are offensive to me and many other women. I’m not arguing with you about it.” repeat ad nauseum
          I feel really strongly about things but also hate confrontation, so I do the one line (while also thinking that the person is a horrible stupid person) and that usually is enough for me to feel like I didn’t let them go, but also not feel emotionally compromised by arguing

        6. Apollo Warbucks*

          “Men and woman generally have different abilities”

          No no no, people have different abilities you can not take a whole gender and say every male or female is better at something just because of their gender.

        7. Student*

          “I find it offensive that you believe you are biologically superior to me. Stop saying that to me. Stop saying it about my female colleagues. ”

          If he’s careful to pretend this isn’t personal, then you should call him out on that specifically. He is, in fact, saying he thinks he is superior to his female colleagues; he’s just being roundabout enough about it to make it uncomfortable to call him out on it. Disabuse him of that specific notion. If you’re feeling gutsy, point out specific women that you consider better at his work than he is.

          I cannot believe you sit there and say, “he’s … been nothing but helpful and kind to his female co-workers” and then say he talks about how he believes his colleagues are inherently inferior to him. That’s extremely disrespectful. You’re fooling yourself if you think that attitude won’t come out in small ways in daily interactions with these female colleagues. And if he ever gets into a management position, can you imagine how he’ll treat the women he has authority over?

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            Your last paragraph… wow.

            Actually, I said, “has been nothing but helpful and kind to his female co-workers on all work-related matters.” I stand by my statement. I’ve had zero issues working with him on team projects and have actually found him to be more helpful than many other co-workers are. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it hasn’t affected my work at all.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I know a lot of people like this. As Tinker says, they’re the ones who believe A in theory and B in practice with people they know, who somehow aren’t A the way they mean it. People really aren’t as binary on this as one might think, and it’s surprising how often they can change–especially when life brings them family in the category.

              I don’t think they change because of debate, however, and I think life’s too short to spend a lot of time in what’s basically being a character in his little logic play. I think there might be a place here for affectionate condescension, like he’s your uncle who believes 9/11 was an inside job. “Oh, Bob’s off on a tear again–time to go back to work!” I might also answer absurdity with absurdity. “Here’s the thing about women…” “How come you never mention that we’re extraterrestrials, Bob? I begin to think you don’t know us at all.”

              I don’t think you’re required to respond to absurdity with seriousness, or waste time on it.

          2. Tinker*

            People are weird.

            I can attest to that there are folks out there who take the position that women are, in general, biologically blah blah whatever and who also have functional work relationships (at least for a time) with specific female people that they work with. There’s a lot of space involved in “well, this one is an exception” and “I think this, but I don’t have the nerve to act it out to someone’s actual face” or “I think this, but I’m going to nurture my little flame of martyrdom inside because I cannot speak the real truth so I won’t say it”.

            These are hardly great motivations, and they don’t make the person involved any less sexist, but they do make the behavior less simple than “I disdain women” -> “I will unambiguously and openly express disdain to actual women individually regarding themselves specifically”. One could only hope for such a simple scenario, sadly. Except not, because I played that game too, and it’s also tiresome.

            I do agree that these sort of things have a way of coming out somehow — the folks who I worked with who were most like this, for instance, were indirectly implicated in the tale of the tire changing saga I mentioned below because they were nice and helpful and somehow whenever anything overly mechanical came up it was a thing that they should do instead of me because, uhm, Because. You know. Reasons.

            Eventually I figured out what the game was, and it was a factor in my leaving that company — I didn’t want to challenge them, particularly since any one incident was of the sort that was hard to define exactly, and with wiser hindsight I realize that doing so wouldn’t have produced fruit worth the effort anyway — but it’s also true that they were nice and helpful at the same time. Heck, that was actually part of the problem itself, as if they had been neckbeard-twirling open misogynists it would have been a lot easier to say “That thing right there is definitely out of line”.

            It wouldn’t surprise me that with closer observation over a period of time, a pattern might emerge whereby the influence of this dude’s assumptions on his work becomes clear. It also wouldn’t entirely surprise me if once this pattern is revealed, it indicates that he actually is doing things that produce problems. But if one shits in a pool, even if that renders the pool as a whole unusable, almost all of what is in the pool is still pool water rather than shit.

        8. Tinker*

          Interacting with people like this was kind of a hobby for me for a few years. Not one that I necessarily recommend to others. The thing about it, I found, was that one gets drawn in by the appearance of a “discussion” but there is no actual discussion there — it’s just bouncing off of a lot of pseudoscience, condescension, and slippery debate gaming… forever. As you say — his opinions seem absolutely immutable. They probably are. Hell, they probably have some manner of biological foundation, in that they are happening because of the non-Euclidean and squamous contents of his organic brain meats.

          There are a lot of folks out there — and folks with sexist views in particular tend toward this partly because the content of their views often includes it — who identify as being rational more so than they have the actual intellectual skills of observation and reason. They wish their ideas to be supported by the “rationality” that they identify with (rather than practice) and they will go to great lengths to make sure this happens. Thusly the sham debate.

          (At what was perhaps the height of my perversity, I made an experiment report with a series of photos illustrating a biologically impossible event — that of me changing a tire. I was still later told by someone that this was not in fact possible and also that pickup truck tires weigh 180 pounds. They don’t, and evidence also suggests that such a thing would not necessarily render the act impossible for me.)

          The secret trap to this, and one of the reasons why I ultimately got out of it, is that — at least IME — arguing over what is ultimately your own merit and skill has a way of generating a habit of thought that one must convince other people — specifically intransigent other people — of who you are before you get to be it. And if they don’t ever agree — and they won’t, because see above — you end up being kind of screwed by your own thinking.

          Or maybe I’m just more of a sensitive snowflake than most. But in any case I’ve kind of gotten to the point where I don’t really care about the content anymore — oh yes, biological argument #43, how fascinating, whatever — and flag the person in category Potential Trouble and moving on.

          1. Natalie*

            That attitude you outline in your last sentence can be effective in a certain way, I think. If someone is really spoiling for the argument for whatever reason, being utterly dismissed bursts their little “smartest in the room” bubble. I do this with a friend’s hated boyfriend, who picks fights for entertainment.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              That is what this sounds like, his idea of entertainment. Yes, he probably believes this crap,too. But it is amusing to watch people recoil in horror. (this is some twisted stuff.)

              My thought: “Keep saying that stuff, Bob. It’s a one way ticket to the unemployment line.”

              He may never change what he is doing, so plan accordingly. Me, I would keep a log book. When I felt I had enough entries, I would hand a copy to my boss. I might even allow myself to be seen logging entries, so that he would have the heads up to stop.

              I am currently keeping a log in my desk now, regarding a different type of matter. It’s just takes time, that is all.

        9. krisl*

          I think I’d just roll my eyes and go back to work. At least he’s helpful and kind.

          I doubt that he will be convinced, but at least he doesn’t seem to be treating women at work badly.

    4. Haleyca*

      I haven’t had to deal with this in the workplace (for which I am so thankful – both because I don’t have to hear and because I would probably get in an argument and it wouldn’t be professional or useful) but something that often works on sexist jokes is asking them to explain. Actually saying, “wait – why is that funny?” often throws sexist joke-makers for a loop because they have to be upfront and say “its funny because women are stupid” and they know that that is wrong (or at least not tolerated by others in social situations).

      I’m not sure what comments this guy is making, but maybe if he says something like “women don’t belong in the workplace” you can ask him why he thinks that and he will probably balk because he will have to say something even worse-sounding or maybe realize that he is talking about the real female coworkers that he interacts with on a daily basis. Or he could just be terrible and say even worse things, so it might be a risky strategy, but a possibility.

      1. Camellia*

        Your second paragraph is the start of what I was going to suggest – just keep asking “Why?” after every statement they make. This is a technique I learned in facilitator training. You just keep asking ‘why’ until the person talks themselves into a corner. Then you can either just drop the topic or, sometimes, if you are lucky, they start to see how they sound and shut up on the subject.

        1. Sweet Potato*

          I like this approach as well. Just keep asking questions until the person gets tired or blurts out something obviously inappropriate.

          Or refuse to participate. Often, people like this just want attention and the only way to discourage the behavior is to not give it to them. Lots of people have an offensive opinion or two. Most people know better than to talk about their offensive opinion in the workplace.

          By the way, I work with someone like this as well, except that my co-worker actually practices what he preaches. He seems to only hire men, and he gives women in traditionally masculine roles the cold shoulder, as if we’ve trespassed into forbidden territory. There seem to be a lot of people like that out there.

  33. Jubilance*

    How do I balance excitement over a role I really want, with not getting my hopes up? I told a friend that I’d applied for this role (which I REALLY want & I think it’s a great fit) but I also tempered it with a “yeah, let’s see how it goes” cause I don’t want to be crushed if I don’t get an interview or the job. He says I’m not being confident enough but I think I’m being realistic. I am a big believer in “speaking things into existence” (and btw I don’t want to argue this point, cause this isn’t the question) but I also don’t want to get all excited and then be crushed if it doesn’t work out. Thoughts?

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      If you figure it out, I would sure like to know. I’ve applied for plenty of jobs that I had no problem putting aside afterwards so as not to get my hopes up, but I’ve applied for two positions that I REALLY wanted and thought I would be a terrific fit for, and those are much harder for me.

      I think it depends strongly on the company you’re in. With my husband and parents I can be honest about saying how much I really, really, REALLY want the job because I know they’ll back me up 110%. With other friends I’m a bit more circumspect because I don’t want to seem arrogant. I don’t see a connection between being confident about a job when talking with friends versus talking about a job in an interview–I can be plenty confident in an interview and still confide to my friends that there’s no way in hell I’ll get the job!

      If it helps, can you write things down? Sometimes it’s just a matter for me of putting the thoughts out of my head into something else that helps me. Just jotting down “I really want this job because it would be a great fit and cut my commute in half and blah blah blah” until it’s exhausted can be enough to help reframe your thinking.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is a really good idea about writing out your thoughts until you have exhausted yourself.

        And I am a firm believer in positive mental imagery. I do not see a conflict between writing and still running positive images in my head. You can do both. I have seen times in life where I have been as cool as a cucumber and never let go of the positive mental image. I just knew something was going to fall together.

    2. the_scientist*

      I’m in the same position right now! I have a big job interview on Tuesday; this job would be a real career-making opportunity for me (plus it’s a government position and I was brought in from the external applicant pool which is pretty rare). But, because it’s a government job, they are probably interviewing 25 really awesome candidates, so I need to manage my expectations. My last job interview went fantastically and I was crushed (i.e. crying at my desk at work) when I didn’t get that job; I don’t want to do that again.

      So no advice, but I can commiserate!

      1. Ali*

        I am in the same boat! I applied for this job I really wanted last week and got in contact with a connection who forwarded my resume two days later. I am restless bc they haven’t reached out yet and worry they’ve picked all their top candidates for interviews. Last night my friend goes stop thinking negatively they probably haven’t even looked at applications yet. Another friend who is job searching has dealt with slow moving employers as well.

        For as many times as I read Alison’s advice about moving on mentally, something about job searching makes me so impatient! Haha.

    3. Joce*

      I’m with you in that I think realism — or even fatalism — in job searching is better than confidence to the point of assuming you will get any given job. There’s a line between being hopeful and excited and taking that to the place of imagining your first day/how to decorate your desk/all the cool things you ‘will’ do. I have always had a tendency toward daydreaming, so this was really hard for me during my last job search when every application wanted to spin out into, “When I get this job, it will be so much better than where I am now and I can’t wait!”

      For me, it helped to focus on doing the work I was doing at the time and remembering to temper thoughts when they came. It’s easy to indulge, in a sense, in thinking about how glad you will be to not do x, y, z task when you get this perfect job you applied for, but it’s ultimately setting yourself up to have your current situation be even harder for having put yourself in the mindset of not having to be there anymore.

    4. duschamp*

      No advice, sorry, only solidarity. I’ve just applied for a job that that has an almost freakishly specific description that I match on literally every count, and exceed on one count (it requests a Master’s degree with X focus, I have a PhD with X focus). On the one hand I’m very excited about the job, but I keep trying to temper my excitement with the realistic awareness that I could be “overqualified”, beaten out by a more local candidate (the job is in the USA, I’m in Europe), or any number of last minute changes to the job description that I may not meet as well…

      If anyone has a good tactic, I would love to hear it!

    5. CoffeeLover*

      I do it by reminding myself I don’t actually know what it’s like to work there and that I’ll enjoy it. Maybe the coworkers are terrible, or the boss, or the office, or 50% of the tasks, etc. It helps me not get overly excited. I also apply to a lot of positions and basically forget about a position once I’ve applied (but document it if I actually get a callback). That way I’m not waiting around for one position and building my hopes.

    6. Jubilance*

      Thanks everyone, nice to know I’m not alone in this struggle! I absolutely want this job a ridiculous amount, but I don’t want to set myself up for the blow of a rejection if it doesn’t work out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll get a call for an interview. And best of luck to everyone who’s in the same boat.

  34. Just me*

    Good morning everyone!

    I like to set monthly goals for myself. These range from very specific (put everything on my to do list and use it every day, only keep e-mails that need action in my inbox) to more vague personal goals (be a self advocate, don’t just ask questions or bring up problems but offer solutions).

    I would love to know what sorts of goals other people set for themselves, or ideas of goals I could also use. Basically, I’m just looking for the things YOU do that make you excellent at your job, or the things your coworkers do that you appreciate/make them excellent at their job.


    1. ClaireS*

      Your comment just reminded me of something I wanted to start. I think it was in an article Alison linked a while ago about self-reflection. I want to set a goal for myself to reflect (even for just 3 mins) about what I learned that day. I’m going to try to write it down too.

      I think I’ll take your idea and commit to doing it for 1 month to see how it goes.

    2. GeekChick603*

      I am a very goal oriented person, so I am feeling very ‘kindred spirit’ right now. I can tell you what works for me. Hopefully you can find some gems in this.

      I start with a concrete idea about something I like / don’t like about how my life is going at present or where I want it to go in the future. Then I break a goal into individual steps to do monthly / weekly / daily / etc.

      For example, I wanted to advance my career through networking (Big Goal) so I joined a local chapter of a professional group (Step 1) for my industry. I attend their chapter meetings monthly (Step 2). I also make it a point to meet people I don’t recognize (Step 3) and get their cards / email address so I can add them to my Linked-In account (Step 4). Recently, the president of the local chapter asked me if I was interested in holding a position on the board for the next year. For personal reasons, it wasn’t the right time, but I am using that invitation as a mark of success toward my ‘Big Goal’. A side benefit of this process is that I have met many people who are specialists in different aspects of our industry. When I have a question in their specialty, I know who to call!

    3. C Average*

      A lot of my work and personal life is reactive rather than proactive, so setting really specific goals tends to be an exercise in frustration.

      I’ve instead set myself a goal to do the following every day: Something hard, something new, something kind, and something fun.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I love that list, C. I might try to copy it (though at the moment I might make it a weekly goal rather than daily goal)!

      2. Al Lo*

        I love that!

        But I want “something fun” to rhyme with “something new,” so that it fits the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” rhyme.

  35. De Minimis*

    Crazy developments here with my wife’s potential job opportunity….she was contacted Tuesday by her potential manager…he said no one candidate stood out so he’s going to do a second interview in a few weeks. She’ll need to fly there [she already booked everything a couple of days ago since we decided she should go for it.] The same day, her former boss [and now the supervisor of her future boss] called her, told her she really needed to do this interview and be there in person [they had mentioned Skype was an option if flying out there was cost-prohibitive.] It really sounds like she may get the job, we’ve since learned there is only one other person being interviewed.

    The good part is the time frame has changed to where it’s doubtful a start will occur till next month, which would be tough but feasible for us. We’re just going into doubletime for the next few weeks to get as prepared as we can to leave.

    I of course am not telling anyone at my work about it until things are more certain. We’re debating on how long I should stay here, and I’m contemplating maybe staying behind for a month [so giving them a month’s notice, basically.] Just depends on everything else. One thing I’ve started is putting together some kind of documentation of how to do my various tasks, maybe doing that will help soften the blow a little and ease the transition.

    Even if we don’t end up leaving, I’ve found writing this stuff down to be an interesting exercise.

    1. De Minimis*

      Forgot to mention, found out over the last week that I was turned down for two of the jobs in the area where we’d be moving. Not too surprised, they were federal and I’m still not considered to be an internal employee for all federal jobs yet [just within my agency and one other.] I have other things I’ve applied to, but my feeling is I’m probably going to have to already be there. The job market there is supposedly pretty strong these days, so I think I can at least find temp work until something else came through.

  36. Kay*

    Open thread! So I started my new job as a recruiter assistant at a staffing agency about 3.5 months ago. I haven’t been super happy here, I don’t really fit in to the culture here (I came from a non-profit background). A friend of mine sent me a job lead that looked great. It’s at a company that I really respect and am excited about. The only kicker is that the company is actually one of our biggest clients. I checked my contract, and I don’t have anything written in it that would prevent me from applying.

    So I figured that I would seriously regret it if I didn’t apply for the position. I applied and got a call back. The phone interview went really well and yesterday I got a voicemail from the hiring manager. She basically said “We really love your background, and we would love to bring you in, however we really value our relationship with your company so we would require that you tell your boss that you are applying for this position first.”

    I’m at a bit of a loss right now. It sucks because I actually love my manager…but this is a better job for me. I would have fewer misgivings about it if I knew I was say…one of three candidates. But if I am one of fifteen? It’s a hard pill to swallow to put my livelihood on the line for that.

    Does anyone have any advice? I feel like I should go back to the company and just get a little more information, but I don’t know how to approach it.

    1. Jubilance*

      How good is your relationship with your manager? I’ve been in this situation, and I laid it out the way you laid it out in your initial post – that I felt the role I applied to was a better fit and more closely aligned to my experience and goals. I wound up not getting the position but it didn’t cause any bad blood between myself and my manager.

  37. Sandy*

    I wrote in last week about my possibly burnt out employee on a war zone… The war zone is still war zone-y, but that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, so I’m happy to say that things have improved, at least for now.

    After her blow up when I tried to sit down with her for a chat, she went ahead and scheduled a meeting with the head of the organization for a chat. In the end, he couldn’t meet with her until this week.

    Despite feeling like I was pushing too hard and should back off, I sat her down about an hour after the blow-up and somewhat-forcibly had a chat. Rather than focusing on the blown-off assignments and the sudden appearance of a fierce temper, I went the gentler route and basically just said that she is normally a superstar employee, we really value her, and it seems like something is wrong since she hasn’t been up to snuff.

    It was about a 10 minute one-way discussion, and ended with her just saying “okay” and me taking my leave.

    I came in on Monday and both of the blown-off assignments were waiting on my chair. One was too late to be of use, but the other was much appreciated. She has been noticeably calmer and friendly and more even-keeled throughout this week.

    We did have the meeting with the head of the organization. I was a bit worried about it, to be honest- I didn’t/don’t feel like this episode has been a shining example of managerial skill, but it seems I needn’t have worried. She told him flat-out that she had screwed things up, and that while she was upset when she demanded the meeting with him, I had persisted and talked to her, and made her feel like she really matters in the grand scheme of things- something she apparently really needed to hear. Both the heard of the org and I encouraged her to approach us earlier if she feels like she needs a break or things are becoming too much.

    Talking to her informally afterwards, she said that with all of the violence and the push-push-push for urgent things and bigger projects, she was feeling lost and like nothing mattered much, least of all her and her work. I recommended that she be in touch with a religious leader or a close friend if things are getting really bad, and that my door is always open.

    I have to admit, touchy-freely is not usually my cup of tea. Suck-it-up-buttercup is more my natural style, but sometimes people need what they need, I guess.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I just looked back at your post from last week (I was on vacay) because I’d missed this, and it piqued my interest.

      I think you handled it well. I spent a lot of time in Iraq and I can tell you that under prolonged, intense stress most normal rules of workplace go out the window. I’m a pretty laid back, sensitive person and I would flip my shit over minor stuff, find myself near tears at time. It was like being full of teenage hormones all the time. I worked 15 hour days, didn’t get enough sleep, etc. Nobody is at their finest in those situations, and normal office annoyances can become Really Big Deals.

      I think the more sensitive approach is a good one. In stressful situations, people’s needs vary, but it sounds like she needs to know she has your support and concern. The “you’re a superstar normally – what’s going on” approach has always worked really well for me.

      So, kudos to you!

      Going forward, some thoughts – do you have access to an Employee Assistance Program? What kind of hours is she working? Can you make sure she’s not working too many hours? Do you have exercise facilities for people to use? (that one makes a BIG difference sometimes!). Are there stress relief options? Can she take a vacation?

      Keep being empathetic, and remember that how you react to stress isn’t going to be the same for everyone. I think you handled it really well.

      1. Sandy*

        “It was like being full of teenage hormones all the time”. I think you hit the nail on the head!

        Our current situation is a tough one. Everyone is working far too many hours to be healthy, partly out of the organization’s desire to keep costs down (so tool few staff for the work), partly because given the dynamics of the place, there’s always more and more urgent things to do and no real recreation opportunities to occupy employees’ time.

        There’s also a strong divide between our international staff and our local staff that I struggle to manage around. International staff don’t have their families nearby, which is very stressful, local employees do, and that’s its own type of stress given the environment. International staff get regular trips home, or at least out of the zone, while our local employees are on their own.

        As a manager, I have far more ability to tell one of my international staff to take a week and get out than I do with my local employees. We also don’t have a dedicated local EAP. If our local staff want help, they can call an EAP back in our headquarters country, but the advice is often not especially relevant or tailored to the local culture.

        I hope that clarifies things somewhat.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Oh ok, that makes sense. I’m guessing you’re some kind of NGO perhaps, or media.

          I think it sounds like you’re doing the best you can. It’s unfortunate that you can’t do more for the local staff. I think in situations like these you really need the ability to be able to get people out of there (if possible) or force them to take time off. Because PTSD can build up over time and manifest in many ways. I don’t know if I had it or not, but I can tell you after my last deployment I had severe anxiety and needed to see a therapist for a bit, and I only worked a desk job. :/

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I think that is an important part of management to know when to say “suck it up buttercup” and when to say “let’s talk”.

      I wonder if you spent time with her just talking over work stuff every couple of weeks if that would make a difference. She sounds like she is feeling disconnected from the work and the group. Just a thing where she comes in and you ask “so tell me about what’s new/what’s going on” (in reference to her work, of course).

  38. Stephanie*

    So, just wanted to ask if anyone else has ever seen anything like this before. We hired a new woman over the summer. She worked hard for about two months and then conflicts arose. She didn’t like being told what to do, essentially. She complained about her manager to upper management constantly, with comments like, “I know I was told to do this, but I’d rather do this instead” or “I just don’t think my boss is working as hard as me.”

    Eventually, there was a bit of a blow up and she put in her two weeks notice because she “hates being told what to do.” Well, she didn’t show up for the first week after that because she hurt her arm slamming a door on her way out of the building after the blow up. She was going on about doctors appointments and it maybe being broken, but when she finally did show up, her arm was completely fine and she had no doctor’s note.

    Her last day, she asked me about taking some time off next month. When I expressed confusion–it was her last day!–she insisted she had only said she was quitting because she was upset and hadn’t meant it. And somehow, when she went to upper management, they accepted that. So now she’s staying… at least until her next tantrum.

    Anyone else EVER seen management allow someone to do this? I’m flabbergasted because it doesn’t seem like they like her either.

    1. cuppa*

      Yep. I feel for you. Document, document, document. It sucks because it’s demoralizing to everyone. Good luck.

    2. LBK*

      Oh wow. I would’ve told her sorry but you stated you were leaving, we’ve already told payroll to cut off your salary and started the hiring process. You’re welcome to reapplying for your job and interview with all the other applicants if you’d like your job back.

    3. anon right now*

      Wow, what?! I had a coworker once who came in to work drunk (or perhaps just extremely hungover), and was told to go home for the day. He instead decided to quit, but came back later in the day to apologize and un-quit. Management said no way, and he was done.

    4. krisl*

      Insane. And she “hates being told what to do.” That’s going to make it hard for her to work for anyone. Even if you’re self-employed, you have to do what the customers want.

      1. really, really, really anonymous*

        I had a retail job once that I was “just good enough employee” showed up on time, good with the merchandise, volunteered for the bad shifts- (saturday night 1:00 to 10) I did something that annoyed the owner of the store (nope- have no recollection of what it was…he was a screamer and often not sober after lunch) He yelled – you’re fired. I said I’m taking lunch. Went to lunch. Came back and did my shift on the register like nothing happened. (and to me nothing happened) Years later at my wedding my ex-manager was telling the story of how I got fired and didn’t notice. I worked another six months on that job.

  39. MousyNon*

    Our performance reviews (I think by design on corporate’s part :/) take place just *after* our raises are determined, making it difficult for employees to negotiate higher raises. Last year, my boss told me to come to him the month *before* raises are decided so that we could discuss, and that’s coming up soon. I’ve got lots (and lots and lots) of good stuff to discuss about my performance, increased responsibilities, and my going above and beyond, etc, but I’m still worried on how to handle this.

    Here’s the background–I’ve been here for a few years, and while I’ve gotten merit raises steadily, they’re in the 2-3% range (and because the salaries are notoriously low in my industry, that doesn’t amount to much). I’ve gotten other, more lucrative job offers in the interim, but I’m fond of my company culture and my department and the freedom I get in the course of my work, so I’ve turned them down. I know my market value is higher, and while I love everything else about my job, the salary has become a deal breaker. I’ve decided that if I don’t get a 10-15% bump (and I’d love a title bump to reflect my larger responsibilities, but that’s not a requirement), I’m going to move on.

    My question is–a) should I suggest the 10-15% number in the course of our conversation, or wait and see what they offer first? and b) if I’m offered the standard 2-3% again, should I tell my boss that I’m probably going to move on as a result? I’m not likely to be pushed out ahead of time (it’s not that kind of culture) but I also don’t want to damage my otherwise stellar reputation by coming off like a money-grubbing-ultimatum-giver. I just don’t want to blindside my boss (there’s been more turnover lately than usual) especially given how involved I am in all aspects of the department, and I’d like to give him some warning that this is coming.

    What should I do, guys?

    1. anon*

      I would see what they offered but be prepared to discuss a higher raise and the reasons why. If they don’t go for it, don’t tell them you will leave. Just do it. They will figure it out.

    2. Loren*

      The only reason I would suggest bringing it up beforehand–or at least discussing the idea that the standard amount isn’t going to work for you–is that sometimes managers have discretion to divvy up percentages among their department, but out of a defined pool. In other words, if they’ve already communicated the raises to the entire department, there may not be money available to go much higher for you, whereas if they know before they do the calculations, they can either ask for the total pool to be bumped up slightly, or distribute it differently. Also, it may be easier to get the salary bump alongside a promotion than without it–if the new title would come with a higher base salary to begin with.

      1. Karowen*

        Another reason to mention it early is just the difference between 2-3% and 10-15%. I think if you just went in, explained your merit and said you needed more than the standard, they might think that 5-6% is acceptable since it’s double, when in reality it’s half your minimum.

    3. Anonymously Anony*

      Wow, this seems like my exact situation besides wanting a title bump. My boss just told me my raise wasn’t in the “salary” part of the budget. Meanwhile my performance evaluation was high as usual and this place is buying things left and right. I feel really slighted because we went through a budget crisis last year and they have sonce “fixed it” ( they gave people back hours they had lost due to the crunch, oh my boss cousin (a non essential employee was given an extra day of work) yet no one thought to give me the rest the the raise I’m owed. I’m about to be out. I will give my 2 weeks notice but this will be their lost if they will be in a crunch. Because I know they will be.

  40. weasel007*

    I just found out I might be really sick. Like need heart surgery sick. I will know more next week after a nuclear stress test. I’ve known about some electrical issues in my heart but this may be structural. During this, there was a big reorg in April of this year and I was assigned a new role: one that is more technical and requires much more time off hours including very long weekends. In my old role, these were not a problem and if I had gotten sick then, I could have masked my issues a bit more. My hours and new role make it very apparent that something is wrong. The important thing to note is that I did not have a choice in taking this new role. The reorg happened this is what the handed me (I have experience in this role). I think I’m doing a fantastic job with reasonable accomodations for my health issue (for example, equiv groups in other divisions are well staffed enough that they put people on shifts to prevent the crazy hours – my group only has two of us). So my question is, how much do I need to tell my boss and co workers? Should I inform HR to protect myself? My friends tell me to tell NO ONE. They are afraid that the bank I work for will use it against me in November when regular lay offs come around. I am very uncomfortable about this, and it may be too late since some folks do know something is wrong. Let’s add in the wrench that my manager has been off on parental leave for 6 weeks and our group has self managed during this time. We are proud that we have accomplished so much without much oversight. However there is no one to really discuss my health issues with in case I have to be out. Any advice?

    1. MousyNon*

      I don’t think you need to tell anyone until you’re ready to ask for some sort of reasonable accommodation resulting from your health. If you you’ve scheduled a surgery and will be out for awhile, or you see your sick days are piling up, or you need to telecommute some days, then you discuss. When that discussion happens, while you in no way have to reveal your health issues, I’d recommend doing so to whatever comfort level you’re at (and following up with something in writing, like an email saying “just to recap…”), because if you DO get pushed out, you can use it to collect unemployment or, if you were so inclined, nail them for ADA violations.

      As to who you discuss it with, who’s your boss’s boss? I’d assume they’d be the ones to talk to on these issues, and then you might go to HR to make sure they’re in the loop.

    2. HR Diva*

      I don’t know where you are or how long you have worked there – but if you are US and have worked 1250 hours over a 12 month period you should immediately put in for FMLA. That will give you job protection for 12 weeks; and it can be used in increments. While some employers will use RIFs or elimination of positions to term employees on FMLA it isn’t wise and can leave them open to claims. HR will probably require some documentation of your illness, but no one else needs any more details than you are willing to provide. I am sorry that you are going through this, and I can only hope that you get support from your employer.

    3. fposte*

      weasel, I mostly wanted to wish you good luck. This will be a very good thing to have behind you!

      I’m with Mousy–given your manager’s current absence, I would wait until you have a little more information before I shared it with work. But I’d also think about what your employer has generally been like–is it the kind of place that lays people off if they’ve had health problems? I’m guessing that your friends don’t work there and are just trying to be protective of you, but I think most sane organizations aren’t like that, and that it can be really lonely to be facing stuff at work and not have people know.

      I’d wait until the test and maybe the followup consult, where presumably you’ll have more information about timing, time out, etc. Then, presuming sanity in the workplace, I’d contact folks (the boss’s boss and HR, given that you’ll at least want to know what to do for FMLA and possibly STD), and I’d also consider emailing the team with general info about when you’ll be out, when coverage info will be available, and what limitations on hours, etc., might be happening between then and now.

      But I wouldn’t just take your friends’ advice unless you had reason to believe your employers were really problematic, because it could hurt you. One, because you’d miss out on some good support, and two, because people really don’t like to be blindsided, and if they’re seriously suggesting you pretend you went to Club Med or something instead of having surgery that’s just crazy.

  41. Annie*

    So I’m kind of worried I shot my self in the foot during a phone interview yesterday.
    I had a phone interview with a company I really want to work with, this position involves a lot of travel and (I’m hoping) its a good fit for what I want to do right now.
    I’ve been a final candidate for this company once before (about 14 months ago it was between me and someone who was transferring from a competitor), and have applied twice before that-the first time (6 or 7 years ago) I had no experience in the company’s area- the other time it was a job that was making almost $10k less than I needed at the time. When asked how I learned about the company I told them (family friend told me about it years ago) and she then asked why I had waited so long to apply to the company I told her that I hadn’t, that I had applied and been interviewed previously. I was confident at the time but now looking back on it I’m worried that I shot myself in the foot – as in we didn’t hire her before, why would we hire her now?
    Not that I can change it, but, am I over thinking this? Is there anything I can do to ensure that I didn’t screw myself over?

    1. Stephanie*

      I don’t think there’s anything you can do now, but I actually think mentioning the previous interviews are a positive, especially as you were so high up in their choices.

    2. cuppa*

      I wouldn’t worry about it. It would have been much weirder if you didn’t say you had interviewed previously and then they found out somehow.
      People don’t get positions for a lot of different reasons and being a finalist previously is a good sign. It’s very possible that this is the right fit at the right time.

    3. Sadsack*

      Did you apply for the same position before? If not, then the interviewer should understand that you weren’t the top candidate for the other positions, but you may be for this one. You are obviously very interested in working for this company. I wouldn’t do anything other than wait and see. Good luck!

      1. Annie*

        Thank you guys for the vote of confidence. I’m just tired of being out of full time work – I’m on month 16 and its just frustrating to get the phone or even in person interviews and then not get the job. (I’ve been sent for a drug test and was then told 2 days later that they didn’t have the time to train me– I know the drug test wouldn’t have shown anything and they also hadn’t gotten it back yet!)

  42. JoAnna*

    Article at The Onion today – won’t link it due to moderation issues, but the title is “Job Applicant Totally Nails Interview With Person Who Will Make Life A Living Hell For Next 5 Years”

  43. TheExchequer*


    No question today, just a quick shout out to my boss who, when I called him yesterday to let him know I would be late because of a flat tire on the freeway, told me he looked forward to seeing me, that I was doing a good job, and to drive safely. Breath of fresh air.

  44. Not on Strike*

    I’m a school secretary, and a teacher strike in our district is imminent. Teachers have been working without a contract this school year and the school district does not seem to be interested in negotiating. Both sides are meeting this afternoon for the first time since the beginning of August. However, the union has already authorized their representatives to call a strike (although they haven’t yet; they need to give 10 days’ notice), the district has already contracted with a company to provide replacement workers, and representatives from that company have already been in our building. I believe that the union will vote to strike this weekend and the district will lock them out.

    As a secretary, I belong to a different union and have a different contract which is not up until the end of this school year, so I will be reporting to work as usual no matter what happens with the teachers.

    Understandably, feelings are running high in our school community. Most parents seem supportive of the teachers, but I’m not sure if this will continue if the strike drags on. Classified staff in the building are very stressed out, wondering what this will mean for our jobs, duties, and responsibilities. Our own union membership is only at about 60% of eligible employees (although the numbers are growing due to the current situation), and our union has been pretty vague about what might happen, saying only that they will send out “guidelines” if there is a strike and that we should report anything that concerns us to our union reps.

    Has anyone worked for an institution or union where only part of the staff was in a union that went on strike? There is a lot of fear, animosity, and paranoia going around, and I’m trying not to get swept up in it, but I also want to be smart and protect myself.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      Good luck with the situation, the longer it drags on the harder it will get. Personally I could never cross an official picket line, I hope your union will give you some solid advice.

    2. Annie*

      I’ve worked in a building where another staff went on strike. There was a conversation about if we were willing to cross picket lines (as a group we weren’t) and what that actually meant (our building had multiple entrances- so did that mean we weren’t willing to ‘break’ the line to walk in to the front door (most likely where they’d be protesting) or that we weren’t willing to walk into the building- also what were the plans if there was an issue and we had to leave? Our union decided that as long as we didn’t break the picket line we weren’t interfering with their strike and we were fine, but our management – not part of the union- said if we were uncomfortable we could work at home for most of the week (we had to be onsite for 2 out of 5 days) and if we were extremely uncomfortable we could use vacation leave for the other 2 days.
      At the same time there is a chance you could cause extreme animosity between your striking co-workers and those of you not striking. Especially if they set up a protest and you have to cross picket lines it can turn into an entire bag of worms you’re not expecting, check with your union if you are allowed to cross the lines and keep your reps up to date- things might be happening or not happening at your school that is happening at others- even if you talk to the others in your union to make a decision if one of you or all of you will contact the union (you don’t want to overwhelm the union reps especially if they are the ones in contact with the other union and doing their jobs) and who will do it and when(this was my office’s plan) – obviously if something happens and you don’t have a rep onsite everyone needs to have the contact person’s contact info.
      Its stressful when there’s a strike anywhere around you and I can’t imagine it being some of your coworkers.
      Good Luck and hopefully everything works out for the best.

      1. Bea W*

        Yeh…the whole crossing the picket line thing can be stressful. There may be heckling and boos from striking workers. Some people (like myself) feel strongly about not crossing picket lines which puts them in an awkward spot if they have to choose between doing what they feel is right vs. jeopardizing their jobs or short term income.

        A friend of mine is a non-union worker in alarge company where union employees went on strike. When that happened the company required all non-union employees to work 12 hours a day for 6 days a week. Some were assigned and trained to fill in for striking union workers.

        It’s drama all around. That was my take away from my friend’s experience (that and some loss of respect for her employer, because as I mentioned, I feel strongly about supporting striking workers and I could clearly see how corporate was actively undermining organized labor and creating division between union and non union employees.)

    3. Tara*

      I’m in British Columbia, where the teachers have been on strike since June. My mom is a teacher and I’m a high school student, so it’s been pretty awful. No advice to offer, just sympathy.

      1. Annie*

        Honestly I’m more intrigued that teachers can actually strike… in Maryland (from what I remember of my former room mate being a teacher) they can only work to their contracts and in theory do a sick out- its never gotten to that point.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Get out your union hand book and keep it in easy reach.
      Read through the parts of the handbook covering strikes.
      Check with your in – house union rep. If this person is vague, then see if there is a number you can call to ask questions. Ask them how strikes by other unions are handled.
      Maybe you can check online and find out of your union has a strong, enduring affiliations with other unions. How do those affiliations work in real life?
      What are the teachers saying about this? Do they actually expect your union to go out, too?

      I would have a hard time crossing a picket line. Your answer might be that everyone uses a side door to go to work. These things change moment by moment. You might find a reprieve some where as you go along. I know it is tough. Use this time now to collect up information so you know where things are at.

  45. Chilaw*

    I think this is work-related enough, but feel free to let me know if not.

    We are moving offices at the end of this year, and I’ll be moving from my wonderful, well-lit, bright, spacious office into a windowless one. I know I’m lucky to still have private space, but does anyone have any tips or recommendations for surviving in a dark box? Lamp recommendations maybe? Help!

      1. galfromaway*

        I’d love to know what plants are happy in low light. My office has a window, but it’s interior and on weekends there’s not a lot of natural light.

        1. Natalie*

          Some common options:

          Snake Plant (Mother-In-Law’s Tongue)\
          Cast Iron Plant

          There are lots more – just google “low light houseplants” or similar. I’ve kept all of the above and they are really easy to take care of. You do have to watch that you don’t overwater peperomia, which is something I have a problem with. (This is why I own no succulents.)

          1. Jen RO*

            I find it extremely interesting that this plant has the same popular name in both English and Romanian! What are the odds of that?

    1. The Real Ash*

      Look into getting a UV lamp of some kind. I’m sure Amazon has a huge selection to choose from. That might help keep you from being too glum.

    2. Livin' in a Box (formerly CanadianWriter)*

      I use an OttLite during the winter (when we have no sun), so it would probably work pretty well in your sunless office.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        That’s what I was going to suggest. It would be good and for plants.

        Add lights as needed to keep yourself happy. Reflective surfaces will help, too, i.e., framed pictures or mirrors.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Make a fake window on the wall, with a poster surrounded by a cardboard frame. Leave it open on the side so you can slide different poster views in and out for seasons.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I saw it in a magazine a long time ago–I would be tempted to slide in stuff like views of Mars, an upside down room, etc., instead of the seasonal stuff they suggested. But then I’m quirky like that. ;)

    4. LBK*

      HappyLight! Or one of the similar lamps that are specifically designed for this purpose. My sister kept one on her desk and it dramatically improved her mood at work.

    5. LAI*

      Sorry, I have no advice but I just wanted to say that I recently learned the importance of windows in offices. After years working in a setting where I had my own spacious, beautiful office with a lovely view, I’m now working for an space-deficient organization where all of the interior offices are windowless little cells. People actually prefer to share offices with windows rather than work in the windowless ones, and when a window space does become available, it’s like a death match. I’ve even knew one person who negotiated to work from home 2 days per week specifically because of the lack of sunlight.

    6. krisl*

      You might want to add in a few mirrors, to help stretch your eyes. If you have one mirror that sort of reflects the other, you can look what seems a long way without having to get up and walk around.

  46. Roger*

    I recently interviewed for a position that was listed as Accountant-Billing Coordinator at a non-profit organization. I have no idea what to expect as far as salary expectations at a non profit for this position. I was told in the interview that they’ve grown from 150 residents to 300 in the past year and that they’ve been doing a significant amount of renovations recently. The place looked to be very nice so this combination of foactors leads me to believe that the organization is not cash strapped at all. The first thing the CFO told me was that the position was vacated by a former employee and that they were just adding to the staff becaus eof the growth in numbers of residents. This leads me to believe that the turnover isn’t very high and that the work environment is decent. I was told that in addition to billing responsibilites, there are additional accouting responsibilites involved. My question is based on the information about the job, what would be an accpetable salary range to be expected?

    1. anon*

      It depends on where you are located. I work at a non-profit in accounting. Non-profits normally pay below for-profits but we have good bennies. Have you ever worked for a non-profit before? I experienced a huge culture shift and although I have been here many years, it still gets to me at times. But I love the wonderful, caring people I work with; we are super family friendly and get to dress very casually every day.

    2. CTO*

      If you’re willing to name your location some people here might be willing to offer some suggestions. There are a lot of nonprofit folks around AAM.

      In general, a lot of social-service nonprofits pay pretty significantly lower than the private or government sectors, even for jobs that also exist in those other sectors (like Accountant). But that varies so much that it’s impossible to tell you what this particular organization would pay.

  47. ZSD*

    Just kvetching: I wish this woman in another office would stop marking every one of her emails as Important. That little red exclamation point should be saved for truly important things!

    1. Jamie*

      Ah – the emailer that cried wolf. Every office has one, or she gets around a lot.

      To quote Jon Stewart, “when you amplify everything you hear nothing.”

    2. LBK*

      I had a coworker who I swear had it set by default. She would even mark emails that just said “Thanks!” as urgent. It made me think she had some weird obsessive personality disorder where she HAD to thank me as soon as she possibly could or she would go crazy.

    3. Trillian*

      It took 6 months and a near miss to resensitize me to the ! when I moved on after working in a company where every announcement from Corporate Communications was !.

    4. Sam*

      We have someone who includes “PLEASE READ” at the end of the subject line of most of her emails – as if to say, of all the emails in my inbox, I should read this one, but not necessarily the others.

    5. chewbecca*

      While we’re on the topic of annoying email habits – I’d really like to disable one of my coworker’s reply all button. Our department has a distribution list, so initial emails come to all of us, but this person replies all with her confirmation information. Then sometimes she and the person who sent the initial email will have a back and forth for several emails, both using reply all. One day I think I counted 12 emails before 10:00.

      I brought it up with my manager and he said he’d talk to her about it, but nothing has changed, so I don’t think he did.

    6. Karowen*

      Also read receipts. Do you really need to know that I read your email where you said “thanks!”? Because I’m not going to allow it to send.

      1. Noah*

        Glad I’m not the only one that clicks “No”. If IT hadn’t disabled it somehow I would tell Outlook to never send them. If you need confirmation that I received and read your email, ask for it and I will reply. I think I have such a bad attitude about this because HR at the first place I worked always requested read receipts.

    7. Mamabear*

      In some email programs you can delete that column. That’s what I did. Seeing the red exclamation point only made me cranky!

    8. SuperNoob*

      My manager won’t read emails unless they are from the day of/day before she happens to go through her inbox, and must be marked important. Several people in my department have remarked this to me, since their issues have gone unresolved unless they remember the annoying red ‘!’

      For the record, I hate it.. lots.

  48. ThankYouQuestion*

    I have a question about thank-you notes: I just completed an interview with four members of a search committee for a non-academic department of a college. I want to send a follow-up e-mail thanking them for meeting me, but I can’t find contact information for one of the interviewers. He isn’t in the department I interviewed for (I did not know this going in), and I have no idea which of the many departments he comes from. He also has an unusual name, which I have searched the campus directory for, but I must be spelling it wrong because I can’t find it. Without a name, or department, he’d be almost impossible to find in the massive campus directory.

    What do I do? Should I send e-mails to the three whose information I have and skip his? Send them to none? Should I ask for his contact information – knowing that I’m probably butchering the spelling of his name (and honestly, I heard it pronounced, and never saw it; I could be way, way off)? I really want this job, and I don’t want a blunder in the thank-you note to work against me.

    1. Lo*

      Were you in touch with someone previous to the interview? For example, an HR person or perhaps a specific member of that search committee? If so, I would email them and say thank you, and “could you please provide for me the emails and correct spelling of the people who I met with?” or something like that!

    2. CTO*

      Is there anyone (an assistant who helped schedule your interview, perhaps) who you could call to ask? That way you can just say the person’s name, rather than spell it.

    3. littlemoose*

      I like the suggestions given above, but if you are still unable to find this person’s contact info, what if you sent the email to A, B, and C, and said something at the end like, “Unfortunately, my efforts to locate D’s contact information were unsuccessful; could you please pass along this message to him? Thank you.” I just feel like if you only send it to A, B and C, then D might feel like he is being excluded for some reason, an you don’t want any negativity like that. Disclaimer: I have never worked in academia, so I can’t say for certain that this would be OK in that culture.

    4. LAI*

      My advice is to email your note to the person who was your primary contact. Address it to everyone from the committee (if you feel confident that you can at least spell his first name correctly) and ask the person if they wouldn’t mind forwarding it to the rest of the committee. You definitely don’t want to email most of them and leave one person out, but I think you also don’t want to make it seem like you’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is. I don’t think it’s necessary to call or email anyone to try to get this guy’s email address – that’s just going to highlight the fact that you couldn’t figure it out yourself, and there’s a slight chance that it could annoy someone by causing them extra work over something that really isn’t all that important (at least not to them; obviously, it is important to you).

  49. Holly*

    How do you handle having a manager who either/both consistently rejects your opinion or completely invalidates your opinions and experiences? Context: my manager’s manager, who used to just be my manager, will always ask me for my opinion on marketing materials (he doesn’t have a marketing background, but I have 4 years experience.) I’ve noticed that almost every single time he’ll disagree with my opinion, but the moment my manager backs me he switches sides. Also, there are times I’ll tell him my experiences with what the owner likes or doesn’t like, marketing wise, based off her telling me herself, and he’ll say “I don’t care” over and over. It basically makes me feel like he thinks I’m an idiot or like he doesn’t trust me. Is there a good way to handle this? Ignore it and be happy my first manager is on my side?

    1. The Real Ash*

      You could always ask what they think of something first, so then you can take what they like (if you like it too), and compliment that, then list your changes. A compliment sandwich, while not generally recommended on here, might work in this instance. You could also bring this situation up with your manager and ask how you could handle it.

    2. Malissa*

      I’d use a phrase like, “That’s an interesting question. How do you think it should be handled?” That way he steers the conversation and you’re not putting out ideas that are going to be ignored anyway. Either that or ask your manager to run interference. Say something like, Wakeen always asks me these questions then immediately argues with my answer, is there a better way we could handle this?

      Or if you are confident enough ask Wakeen why he’s arguing with your answer. Make him think about what he’s saying. This approach requires a good bit of tact though.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’d say don’t take it personally, just become the Problem Detective. Ask probing but opinion-neutral questions to clarify what he would like you to do. The easier of the issues is the “I don’t care” part. For that, let’s say you tell him that the owner prefers that marketing brochures be printed accordion-fold style:

      Him: I don’t care.
      You: So…you are saying I should make this one stapled, then?
      Him: I don’t care.
      You: Well, then how would you like me to have them printed?
      Him: I don’t care.
      You: Well, I don’t feel comfortable making those kinds of decisions for such a large order, so why don’t you let me know when you decide which style we should tell the printer to use, and then I’ll take care of the print order from there?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Manager: “What do you think we should do for the fall ad?”
      You: “I have some thoughts on that, but (smiling softy) you don’t usually seem to like my ideas. ” [Preemptive strike.] When you tell him your ideas and he does not like them, then you can reference back to you introductory remarks and say “See, this is what concerns me. Can we talk about this for a minute?”

      Manager: “Your ideas for the fall ad suck.”
      You: “It seems we have had this conversation before where I give you my ideas and then you do not like them. I want to do make a viable contribution to this company. Therefore, I would like to know what you feel is missing from my work.” [Said slowly and carefully to indicate that you are earnest and you are in full listening mode. Chances are he has no clue why he is doing this. In this approach here, the goal is to make him think. Perhaps he will nail down an answer in a little bit.]

      I would also check around to see if he is doing this to anyone else. It could just be a way of life for him.

  50. Roan*

    Here’s a cringe-worthy story you guys might like. At our yearly office dinner the head of our department read out ‘anonymous’ snippets from people’s cover letters, i.e. from when they first applied to their current jobs. It was supposed to be funny, but we are a small group (less than 10), so it wasn’t hard to figure out who wrote what.

    1. De Minimis*

      Ick! Although I guess if you do a cover letter right, it shouldn’t be funny or embarrassing to have brought up years later. I’d still hate it.

    2. Jamie*

      That’s really awful – to what end? Seems like it would just foster a nasty atmosphere for no reason.

      Shame should be private. I should know, I ran across my old resume in my personal file a while back and I was so embarrassed I felt the red creeping up my face. Pre-AAM I had no business sending that to anyone.

      My cover letter was great, though. One of the first questions they asked me in my interview is if I wrote it myself, since they assumed anyone with tech skills would have had to have someone help them with a letter that good.

      Stop stereotyping us!

        1. Brian_A*

          Wait – hobbies / interests are a no?

          I was recently reviewing my resume as I was waiting to be called into an interview, and was suddenly struck with how weird it was that I included ‘languages’. I’m in an English-speaking country, applying for English-speaking jobs! To top it off, one of my languages is (a) at a basic level, and (b) could also be considered a hobby (it’s kind of a random language to have learned, and I would never ever be expected to use it in a professional setting!).

  51. Natalie*

    Derp, I’ll put this in the right spot this time.

    I’m going back to school (bleh) for my career and I was supposed to have my first class yesterday. I’m getting my only missing gen ed requirements out of the way so I’m taking a “101″ class. For some reason I’m finding it really hard to get over being SO MUCH older than my classmates (I’m 30). This is a pretty typical university so there aren’t a lot of non-traditional students, percentage-wise. As much as I’m intellectually sure that no one notices or cares, I feel like I stand out and it really bugs me. Also, 18 year old apparently look like children to me and large groups of them freak me out.

    I don’t really have a question, but if you’ve gone back for undergraduate classes as a bona fide adult I could use a funny and/or uplifting story.

    1. LiteralGirl*

      I did this. I was in work groups with students that were born after I graduated high school (I was 41 when I finally got my degree). The great thing about it was that I was comfortable leading groups and initiating discussions at that point in my life, which I was not good with when I started college right after high school.
      Take advantage of the fact that you are older and more experienced. You know more about the world, bring it into discussions during your classes – your professors will appreciate it. Good luck!

    2. Dasha*

      Give it time and remember it’s not forever! You’re there to get your education, not to make friends :)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. I found my life had changed so much and I was at a different place in my head than I was years ago. This worked on so many levels. I understood the profs much better. The material just flowed for me most of the time. I became convinced that EVERYONE should wait until they are older to go to college. The difference was that huge for me.

        I was in my 40s when I went back. You will find that some students will befriend you. Some of them do that because they are good people and know it is the right thing to do. Some students will befriend you because they can escape some peer pressures by hanging out with you for a bit. It’s actually very interesting to watch.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I wanted to add, when I got to my capstone course that started out rocky. We had to work in teams and my team all knew each other. It did not take long, a couple of team members found out I could hold my own. I seemed slower to pick stuff up, but once I got it, I really knew it and it showed. I landed in a good place on that one. So that is not much different than a work place, they checked to figure out if I could pull my own weight. You have seen that one before, and you know how to handle it.

    3. evilintraining*

      I went to college for the first time three months shy of my 49th birthday. I was uncomfortable at first but eventually noticed that I also had much to contribute as someone who had spent considerable time in the work force–and I still had a lot to learn! I knew I had to speak up when I had questions, rather than be the older know-it-all to gain the respect of the traditional students. I think it helped them to open up more as well when something wasn’t clear, rather than putting on their stone faces when the prof said, “Any questions?” Speak up, don’t try to mother them, and treat them like any other adult. That will go a long way with the younger students.

    4. HeyNonnyNonny*

      As someone who taught those 101 classes with both teenagers and adults, just remember that we love you! I had to spend half my time teaching the kids how to just do the work that was assigned (a mind-blowing concept, for some of them), but I had a few wonderful adults who actually made the effort to learn the nuances of what I was trying to teach.

      And yes, they all look so young!

    5. Elizabeth West*

      You won’t stand out that much. There are lots of people who go to school when they’re older. You have just as much right to be there as they do. And 30 isn’t that much older than them. Really, nobody cares that much. When I was in college at 18, I had classmates who were my mom’s age, and I thought it was cool that they were in school, not weird.

      1. Annie*

        Same- I also went to college that had a seminary attached so in a LOT of my GenEd/Core classes we had seminarians from other countries who needed to complete their undergrad degree to get their Masters in Theology. It was awesome to hear their life experiences in group discussions.

    6. krisl*

      I don’t know if this helps, exactly, but when I was in college and was about the traditional age, I took college very seriously, and I noticed the non-traditional students also took it very seriously. I and they tended to “wreck” the curve for everyone else :) So I think if the other students notice that you’re older than them, they’ll probably take you more seriously.

      As far as college in general, don’t be afraid to stay after class and ask the teacher more questions, and don’t be afraid to ask for a tutor. You might not need either. I needed to do both at various times. The teachers were usually really nice about it. I did make a point not to seem to be challenging them.

      1. krisl*

        I sounded like a real show-off, didn’t I? Sorry.

        To me, doing well at college and getting good grades in a major that would help me start a good career was my way out of the never having quite enough money for anything, growing up wearing hand-me-down clothes from distant relatives, always, always having to be careful with money, thinking of a trip to McDonald’s as a big treat. It was going to make the difference between having some savings and constantly scraping by. Between always buying the cheapest generic brand food and sometimes buying the good stuff because sometimes non-generic food really is better (but not always). Not having to work at entry level minimum wage jobs anymore. Not having to ask people if they want fries with that (I did do that for a while). To me, how I did college was going to have a huge effect on my future, and that affected how I thought of it.

  52. Sandra Dee*

    Not a question, just a bit of a vent.

    A very trusted work friend recommended me for a manager position in another dept. I am currently at a consulting level, and expressed some concerns that many manager positions are the same level as the consulting positions, so it gives very little incentive to move into management. There are some higher ranked management positions, but a little harder to come by. Submitted resume, had interview, it went well. I expressed that it would be very hard for me to take a lateral position, but I would consider. They also asked my salary expectations. A couple days later, they called and asked if I had any wiggle room in my salary. I figure I could drop my requirement a little. It turns out, the max they will offer is the midpoint of the range for the position, which is my current salary. Which totally stinks.

    Thing is, I like what I am doing, I like the team I am working for, and my director is working on getting a mgr position created for me. They don’t want to lose the expertise that I have related to their group. I just feel like I have let other folks down, because I was recommended for a position, and, yes, it would move me into management, but I get nothing in return for it, and if I am patient, I know it will happen with my current group, but probably 6 months from now.

    Now I am just second guessing my resolve to not take a lateral position, because I took a lateral for my current job, which it have been in 18 months, been at the company 10 years. I just don’t know if another lateral position, even though it is management, is the right thing, when ultimately all I get is more responsibility, and nothing monetary for the additional responsibility.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      There’s noting wrong with staying where you are, and it sounds like that is where you want to be. In the end, you should be where you are happy. This isn’t the only opportunity that will ever come up. You never know what will open up in a year or two.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Are you interested in advancing with the company? If no, then that is your answer.

      Are you interested in a higher management position if they offer it at some point? If you take a lateral move then will you be more eligible at a later date?

  53. City Planner*

    I broke my leg! I fell down the stairs in our house a week ago, and now I’m in a cast for the next 6-8 weeks. Yesterday was my first day back in the office, and it was exhausting – today, I’m only working a half day. I was wondering if anyone has any tips for managing in the office while I’m not at 100%. My boss is being very flexible, but I can’t just stay home until my cast is off. Anybody been in this situation and have some great ideas to share?

    1. matcha123*

      I had surgery last week and started back at work this past Monday.
      I told my coworkers that due to the surgery, I’d tire easily, couldn’t stand for long periods of time, etc.
      They were understanding and I didn’t feel bad about tilting my head down (not sleeping) and taking a few minutes to do some slow breathing. If there are any things that can be put off until a later date, do that and focus on what you can.
      The first two weeks seem to be the energy suckers, it seems.

    2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      I’m sorry that happened to you.

      You may have already done the following, but I have a few suggestions (based on my experience with a hip injury and walking with a cane):
      1) People will ask if they can do anything for you. Take them up on this! Ask them to pick up your coffee, get something from the printer for you etc. Decent people will not mind and limiting your walking will really help you feel better.
      2) Grab a box or something to rest your foot on during the day. Elevating your leg will really make a difference in your ability to make it through the work day.
      3) Ice packs!! Buy at least two quality ones and keep them in the freezer to rotate out. Keeping swelling down will keep pain down. Keeping pain down will help you concentrate.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t have much advice, because when I went back to work after gallbladder surgery I felt fine, if a little tired. Just let people know that you can’t run hither and yon, take breaks if/when you need them (a flexible boss is good), and if they offer to help, let them. If you can work from home a bit, I’d do that on days when you’re particularly tired.

      Also, OUCH and I hope it heals fast!

    4. Windchime*

      I recently had extensive surgery on my Achille’s tendon (involving screws) and I was non-weight-bearing for 6 weeks so I feel your pain. I was completely off for two weeks and then worked very part-time-ish from home for week three. The next three weeks I went into the office 2 or 3 days a week and worked from home the other days. Because it was my right leg, I couldn’t drive. I used a knee scooter instead of crutches most of the time.

      As others have said, take people up on their offers to help. People went to Starbucks for me, they gave me rides back and forth to work and when I needed to, I made it a short day so that I could rest. It’s really really tough to have a leg out of commission for that long and it’s exhausting to get around on crutches.

      No real advice except for to pace yourself and listen to your body. When you are tired or your leg is complaining, be sure to rest so you can heal. And work from home as much as you can, if such a thing is possible for your job.

  54. Feeling Stuck*

    Does anyone have advice on how to deal with an immediate supervisor that is friendly but incompetent?

    1. anon*

      Not really, had one of those years ago and it was really frustrating. He eventually left so it resolved itself. Nice guy but couldn’t do the job. (Could be worse, they could be an ass and incompetent!)

    2. Sam*

      Figure out the 1-2 things that are most important to you, and be very specific about what you need from him/her. You have the benefit of of him/her being friendly, so I’m hopeful that this includes being open to feedback. The person might not change personality or entire behavior patterns, but if you decide that you can live with an incompetent boss who gives you timely feedback (for example, if that’s one of the 1 or 2 things that you need), then be very specific and say, “I value your feedback, and for my own development, I’d like to get your advice on what’s working well and how I can do better. I’d like to check in with you once every two weeks, to get your thoughts, will that be OK?” and then come prepared with specific questions that will help get what you’re looking for (i.e. “What do you think I could have done differently on the presentation on Spout Reform?” vs. “How am I doin’?”)
      Also, try to stretch yourself to figure out what strengths your supervisor is bringing to the role. He or she was hired because they fit someone’s version of competence, at least at one point. There might be something you’re not seeing there. I only mention this because I was in a similar situation and I learned this lesson the hard way.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I worked for the most incompetent, but also rude and obnoxious supervisor. I used the chance to take on extra work they couldn’t do and up my skills then took an internal promotion as soon as I could.

      Everyone knew what the supervisor was like so it didn’t bother me too much.

      Try to tale something from the situation, whether it’s higher level work, experience of working for an ass or anything else you think off that will be a benefit to you in your career.

  55. Betty*

    I posted a month ago about whether I should go to a job interview if I wasn’t sure I’d take the job. I decided to go ahead with the interviews and decided I’d take it if offered. I immediately heard back with a request for references, which I immediately provided. Two days later I receive another request for references. I was confused but I sent them again (they responded with a quick Thanks!). Fast forward 2 weeks later and I receive another email asking for my references. That was a week ago and I haven’t heard anything! I have no idea what’s going on and I’m a little annoyed.


    1. Sadsack*

      I’d call to confirm what they are requesting. Do they want the same list again or a list of additional references? Even if it seems obvious to you that they want the same list a third time, calling will give you a chance to find out what’s going on.

    2. krisl*

      I’d call. When this kind of thing happens, usually what they’re asking for isn’t really what they want. Some people are good communicators once you talk to them but for some reason are not able to communicate well by e-mail.

      No idea why, and it drives me crazy, but it’s true.

  56. GrumpyBoss*

    This is 50/50 question and vent.

    How do you deal with a coworker who is more interested in arguing than resolving a conflict? I had an exchange with a coworker this morning where we were both pretty pissed off about an interaction earlier this week, so I scheduled a meeting to clear the air and hopefully move forward. It quickly became clear to me that she just wanted to fight – continually going back to how pissed off she was (yes, I understand that… What can we do differently moving forward?). She started getting very pedantic (I told her I was sorry she felt disrespected and she got pissy and said, “I didn’t say I was disrespected I said you were disrespectful”). Then she just got really combative. I’d ask if she felt she should be included in a specific task moving forward. I’m hit with the hostile reply of “I never said that”. Ok I’m saying it – do you feel it is appropriate for you to be included. “I never said that”. Sigh.

    After 30 minutes it was clear that I wasn’t going to accomplish anything productive so I ended the meeting.

    Other than walking away, how do you defuse someone so intent on fighting?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      “I think we’ve rehashed the issue to death – can we focus on what we need to do moving forward to make sure things improve?” and if she keeps at it say “I really don’t think there’s anything else to be gained from continuing this discussion. If you want to talk about moving forward, please let me know.”

      It takes two people to argue – don’t let her dictate the terms of the discussion.

    2. CoffeeLover*

      Don’t try to resolve the argument. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that trying to resolve disagreements with combative people just drags out the resentment longer. Let her figure things out on her own while you move on and continue working as if nothing happened. It’s basically what Katie the Fed said, don’t engage with her in this.

      ^ This may not be the best way to deal with it, but I’ve found it to be successful for me.

    3. krisl*

      Based on her reply, I think she wants what she will think of as a “real” apology, even if it’s at least half her fault. Which seems unreasonable.

      I’d say either:
      a. Try an apology (maybe by e-mail or IM) that she might think of as “real”. Maybe something like, “I’m sorry about what happened the other day. I hope we can move on from that.” (She may totally be at fault here, but sometimes this kind of thing makes the other person happy, and this example doesn’t crawl or say that she’s right.)
      b. Act like it never happened.

    4. Windchime*

      Honestly, “I’m sorry if you felt disrespected” sounds kind of like a non-apology, which is where it sounds like she might be coming from. She is looking for you to admit that you were being disrespectful. I wasn’t there so I have no idea whether or not you actually *were* disrespectful, but it sounds to me like that’s what she thinks.

      If you weren’t, then maybe she just needs time to cool off. The combative stuff sounds like she’s just mad and needs some time, maybe?

  57. Daisy*

    I work for a company that is run by and owned by a complete and utter tyrant.
    I am the manager of the support team, and one of my direct reports, is her assistant. Although due to the treatment, the assistants on average leave in weeks… Their new solution, as in their eyes as the manager of the team, this exodus is my responsibility I should manage the support team AND be her assistant.
    I am trying to not allow that to happen, but my attempts are getting more futile.

    What do I do?!

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Pray. Get thick skin. I’ve done both when faced with a horrible boss. If I can’t change the boss I like to shield my team from their antics as much as possible.

      1. Jamie*

        Yep. Be their shield …and start looking. This tyrant stuff is toxic long term – but you owe it to your team to protect them for as long as you’re there.

  58. CoffeeLover*

    I’m getting ready for consulting interviews! Any recommendations or resources?

    Here’s where I am so far:
    Application: Already applied to several and have a pretty good chance of getting interviews.
    Timeline: Interviews will probably happen at the end of the month.
    Current Resources: Victor Cheng and Case in Point
    Things I’m planning to do alone: Get a better understanding of the frameworks, practice my mental math, practice estimation questions, practice cases alone to start off with
    Things I’m planning to do with others: Practice cases with my boyfriend who’s in business, then a friend who works with a 2nd tier firm, then another friend working with one of the MBB, then another consultant that works with MBB that second friend hooked me up with (this is in order of willingness to embarrass myself in front of these people :P)

    Victor Cheng also has a resource where you can watch him conduct interviews with real-life MBB candidates where he points out what they did right or wrong as it happens. He says watching others do cases and learning from their mistakes is key, and unfortunately I don’t know anyone else currently applying. I think it might be worth the $200.

  59. Haleyca*

    I’ve been on here before talking about how I just started my first ever job less than a month ago. I don’t love this job, but it isn’t bad and I’m not looking for a new one at all. However, when I was still job searching I passed my resume along to a family friend who has connections to an organization that I would love to work for (definitely more so than my current place of employment). I didn’t hear back from him or anyone at the organization for a while, but since I have started my job I have heard from two different people at the organization.

    One mentioned that they didn’t have any openings but would love to meet with me sometime soon(this works out well because I wouldn’t want to leave my job so soon) and the other was a recruiter who wanted to set up a phone call. I’m not sure what the recruiter is going for if I have heard from the other exec that there aren’t any openings, but he asked on Wednesday for a phone call this week. I gave him my availability for Thursday (yesterday) but said that today I wouldn’t be able to take a call (have stuff going on at work) but that I could do next week. I haven’t heard back from him. Any tips on keeping up contacts like this so I could have an opportunity there in the (rather distant) future?

  60. The Real Ash*

    I’m happy that I am going to be leaving this job soon (next month!), but I am dreading having to get back into the scrum that is today’s job market. I’ve been working in government for the past 8-9 years and I’m just worried that because I don’t have a clear career path that I can show on my resume, that no one will think I’m hireable and I’ll have to be unemployed. I have always had a job since I was 18, I do not want to be unemployed for a long period of time. Not only that, but I’ll be moving, so I’ll be in an area where I know next-to-nothing about employers, the town, the market, etc. :(

      1. The Real Ash*

        It’s a state government job, not federal, so there is no possibility of transferring to a job in the new state. I’m leaving because I’m moving across the country (going to Tampa, FL specifically).

        1. Anonymous*

          I am actually in the middle of applying for a state government job as well. I was wondering if it’s really difficult to in? Any advice on navigating the job search in the govt realm? Thanks!

          1. The Real Ash*

            Every state is different unfortunately. The most important things to hit are being able to work in groups, being able to work in areas with tight budgets, and saying stuff about wanting to serve the public. ;)

    1. Jazzy Red*

      Do you have any increases in your responsibilities that you could showcase? Even if you didn’t proceed from Job A to Job B, showing how you learned/acquired new skills could be helpful.

      You might want to consider registering with temp/employment agencies when you hit town. That could lead you to a permanent job, and you would start meeting people. If you belong to a professional association, try to get information from them. If you don’t belong to an association, try to find one. The networking possibilites are extremely valuable in a job search in a new town.

      1. The Real Ash*

        That’s a great idea regarding responsibilities, thank you! I have been thinking about applying with some temp or employment agencies when I get there, but I haven’t thoguht about networking. I’m planning on creating a LinkedIn account at some point in the near future, hopefully that will help. I’m also thinking about using a resume service to polish up my resume (this one comes highly-recommended from trusted friends, so it’s not a weird scammy one). Thank you for the ideas though, I do appreciate them. :)

    2. Joey*

      Gov doesn’t always are about a career path upward or in any specific direction. Just having experience dealing with the frustration that is govt bureaucracy is highly valuable in bureaucratic organizations. Apply to local gov offices

  61. AndersonDarling*

    Do your managers and directors act like management?
    At my old job, managers all wore suits and were hard a$$es. The all had big offices, went out to lunches every day and really, really tried to distance themselves from their employees. They had to fight about everything and disagree all the time.
    At current job, our directors dress like everyone else, bring their lunch like everyone else, and are very approachable.
    I was thinking about this the other day and it made me really consider the image of a manager. I don’t really know where I am going with this, but it opens some direction of thought.

    1. Jamie*

      We’re in the latter group – we are an SMB to being unapproachable would bottleneck a lot of the work.

      We have our own offices – but dress the same as other managers, those who eat lunch eat in the kitchen with whomever is there.

      Although none of that excludes being a hard ass – we all can be when it’s warranted.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      The first level supervisors are more like your second category (that’s me! I’m a woman of the people!), while the more senior ones are your first category.

      I dress more casually than I probably should, but whatever.

      I go to lunch with my team from time to do, but I also know the Bosslady being present might not be as much fun so I don’t do it too often.

  62. CoffeeLover*

    AAM this is a technical issue, so sorry about posting it in the work open thread.

    With my above question, I selected the “notify me of follow-up comments by email” option because I want to make sure I see replies to my question. Unfortunately, my email is now being flooded by all posts to the open thread (whether they are comments to other questions or new questions). Is this supposed to happen? Is there a way for me to receive emails only with answers to my question?

    1. Stephanie*

      I think this is just how it’s set up. While I, too, would prefer only to be notified on my comment, I don’t think that’s currently an option.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, we actually tried it last year but after a lot of work to get it to play nice with the rest of site, we were unsuccessful and gave up. (The site has a lot of customization going on which means adding a plugin isn’t always as simple as I want it to be.)

  63. matcha123*

    Does anyone here have no career plan?

    I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in life. I’m working to pay loans and aside from paying off my loans and trying to travel, I don’t really have any work-type goals. I feel like at my age I should be in some type of leadership position, but because of my circumstances that’s not possible. At the same time, “work” to me means bossing people around and being short/curt…and without that type of domineering presence, there’s no other way to “advance” in the workplace (in the US). I don’t want to jump around in the same type of low-paying job forever, but I can’t find anything else that I could do.
    Maybe curling up into a ball and focusing my thoughts on yummy things…

    1. Livin' in a Box (formerly CanadianWriter)*

      I’m kind of the same way. It’s probably why I’m livin’ in a box.

    2. cuppa*

      It’s funny you mention this; I ‘m in a somewhat similar situation.
      I was unemployed for a time and took the first job I could get, which was a management position. I now feel like I might be ready to move on, but the jobs that I always thought I wanted are now too low below my current salary for me to feel like I should consider them. I can’t decide if I want to move up, or sideways, I’m just sure I don’t want to stay here in the long term. Not sure what to do or where to go now.

    3. Natalie*

      It’s perfectly fine to be a “work to live” type of person, rather than a “live to work” person. What do you enjoy doing outside of the office? Playing in a band, skydiving, yarnbombing electrical boxes around town? Does it seem appealing to focus on that part of your life and just let you job be a job?

      1. Ruffingit*

        This is totally me. I like my job, but I have no great ambitious career goals. Many people seem to think I would/should given the amount of education and student loans I have, but I really just don’t. I work to live and while, again, I enjoy what I do, I have no ambition to be the best, the top manager or whatever. I much prefer spending time with my husband and my dog doing things we all enjoy.

        Nothing wrong with not having major career goals. Do what ultimately makes you feel good and happy about your life.

    4. Just me*

      I happened on my career path in my early thirties. It’s not always intuitive- I didn’t even realize my sector existed when I was in college.

      Find something that sounds interesting. Try it. You won’t be able to figure out what you want until you have experience in different roles. You can see what jobs seem appealing to you- or those that don’t.

      Most of all, don’t get down on yourself. It’s not easy, but when you find the right path you’ll know it.

    5. krisl*

      There are places in the US where you can manage without being bossy or curt. There are even some kinds of careers where you can do pretty well wage-wise without having to be in charge of people.

      Have you tried going to a career counseling place?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Exactly. IF you ever decide to go into management part of that decision for you will be to break the stereotype boss.

        You can find plenty of positions that do not require you to become a boss. And that could be your solution right there, to get into a field that pays decently and you can remain non-management.

        If you do nothing else, please, get yourself a decent boss. Read through AAM and find out what other people think are clues that the new boss will be a good boss. If you see a good boss in action that could provide you with clues as to where you want to go next in your work life.

  64. Trying to be a helpful wife...*

    My husband is actively job searching, and is getting interviews. When he goes to these interviews, he’s wearing the only suit he owns–the one he wore at our wedding a couple years ago. However, he’s gained some weight since then, and the suit no longer fits him. The shirt won’t button at the collar and gaps between the buttons over his stomach (he seems to be under the impression that ONLY this shirt goes with the suit), the jacket just plain won’t button and is strained across his shoulders, and I’m not sure how he’s buttoning the pants or sitting down in them without some serious discomfort. I know I would be seriously stiff, uncomfortable and distracted by clothing that tight!

    I’ve asked him to go shopping together for a new suit a few times now, but each time I do, he protests along the lines of “I’m working on losing weight, this suit will fit me again once I do.” He says that about all his clothing, really–he hates shopping and would rather wear clothes that don’t fit “until he loses the weight” rather than just buy something new. I really want to say, “Okay, that’s great, but right now you’re actively wearing a suit that clearly doesn’t fit, and that can’t be giving a good first impression.” I also don’t want to come across as mean or critical of his weight, though, because I know he’s taken some self-esteem hits lately from the job search process as a whole, and I feel like the above wording might be too harsh.

    He’s not having any luck getting offers, and while there are other issues he’s working on (being less shy/stressed and more conversational in interviews, preparing good examples in advance of work he’s done that demonstrates various skills/accomplishments, etc.), I know he is feeling discouraged from all the rejections. I feel like if we got him into a suit that looks great and actually fits, he’d feel better about himself and more comfortable (physically and otherwise) during interviews so he could really focus on presenting his skills and experience well, but he’s so resistant. Does anyone have any suggestions for how I can convince him that this is important without sounding like a jerk?

    1. The Real Ash*

      Unfortunately I don’t think there’s anything you can say without sounding critical at this point. But I have to say that I always find it odd when people say they can’t talk to their spouse about something important. Isn’t that the point of having that person as your spouse, because you’re best friends and can tell each other anything, and are going to stay together for better or worse? You’re there to help your spouse be a good person and add to their life, and sometimes that means being a “caring critic”. I would bring it up one more time, and then if he disagrees–drop it. After that the only thing you can do is work with him to lose weight, shop for healthy food and cook healthy meals together, exercise together, etc.

      1. CTO*

        Sometimes I do agree that people withhold information from their spouses in an unhealthy way, but I don’t think that’s the case here. This is not some major secret that OP is keeping. This is just some feedback that, for a variety of reasons, her husband isn’t really taking to heart. That’s very human. Part of being in a relationship is knowing how to communicate with your spouse in a way he/she understands. In this case, OP’s spouse won’t respond well to a blunt, “You’ve gained weight and that suit looks awful,” because he’ll be hurt, not motivated to go shopping. All OP is doing is asking for new ways to phrase that information so that his feelings don’t get in the way of him doing what he needs to do: get a new suit. It’s not avoiding the topic at all–she said she wants to bring it up to him again!

        1. Trying to be a helpful wife...*

          Thank you, this is it exactly. I’m not trying to avoid telling him that he’s gained weight–he knows that already, he’s the one who sees himself in the mirror and feels how his clothes fit. I’m just trying to not “rub it in” or be hurtful about the weight gain happening, while also continuing to insist (nicely) that he must buy a new suit! I’ve never before had to convince another adult that his clothes are not doing him justice, and his resistance to getting new clothes has surprised me. I guess I was just wondering if anyone had ever encountered something like this with a loved one before, and if so, how they handled it.

          1. Natalie*

            I wonder if buying new clothes makes him feel like the weight gain is permanent. I think that happens a lot – I know I had a hard time when I had to bump up from my college-years size. There’s a lot of unhealthy fixation on clothing size and poundage as a proxy for health and appearance.

            If that’s it, I don’t really know what will help. What helped me was trying on clothes that actually fit and really paying attention to how much more comfortable they were and how much “less fat” I looked when my clothes actually fit.

            Maybe you can just ask him to indulge you and try stuff on, no pressure to buy? If you do that, try and get his cooperation to not look at the size. I’ve heard this from wedding dress shopping friends, because the sizes are all wonky and people get upset that they are a 16 or whatever.

          2. LCL*

            If his resistance is because he thinks clothes are an unnecessary expense, take his measurements either directly from him or from clothes he is wearing that fits, and get a couple thrift store things and a new dress shirt. Thrift store suits can be altered too.

          3. Camellia*

            Yes. I just started buying his clothes for him. If he tried them on at home and they didn’t fit, I would return them and try another size.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      “Okay, that’s great, but right now you’re actively wearing a suit that clearly doesn’t fit, and that can’t be giving a good first impression.”

      I think this softened up a little is the right idea. Maybe something along the lines of, “I know you will, but let’s find you something that works for you now, too. You know how much small details like fit can matter to people.”

      Hopefully, once you get him in a suit that fits, he’ll feel a lot more comfortable and confident, too!

    3. fposte*

      Can you make it a present from you? Since it’s your treat, it doesn’t matter to you if it ends up too big later (hey, you can make later alterations part of the present)–you just really like the look of him in a nice suit and think he deserves to have nice things.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        That’s what I was thinking. If you have the money, can you say “honey, I really want you to have a great interview suit!” and send him to get a suit and some new shirts made? Around here there are frequently Living Social and Groupon deals for bespoke suits – my fiance got one made for our wedding for a steal.

      2. Mints*

        Yeah, and you could order a different style or color (charcoal? different lapels? I don’t understand men’s suits) That way you’re not replacing his wedding suit, you’re giving him something different for business

        1. Mints*

          I should have added this: I think the different style is good because he won’t have an identical fat suit and skinny suit, he’ll have the wedding suit and the blue suit (for example).
          When I’ve sized up in pants, I’ve usually bought a totally new brand or style, so I’m not so conscious that it’s a bigger size. I’m not thinking “I’m now a size X” I’m just like “Oh I must be size X in Levis” and then eventually realize my size changed

    4. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      When my husband and I first started dating he was still wearing his dad’s old suits and was of the mindset that clothes don’t matter, so why buy new suits. What I did was buy him a very nice suit on clearance (so it can’t be returned), then pay for the alterations myself. Because men’s clothing is so helpfully sized, your husband doesn’t really need to be there to try on the suit before you buy it. You probably know his size well enough to be able to pick one up whether he’s there or not.

    5. Student*

      It depends a lot on your relationship, whether you really want to take this on, and his general approach to clothes, but –

      if I were in your shoes, and I’d done all I could to persuade him to buy a new suit himself but he kept doing this, I’d go out and buy him a new suit myself. Keep the receipts, make him try it on, and take it back if he flat-out refuses it. Tell him you like the color or style better than the old suit. If he deems the new suit acceptable, then take the old suit away and donate it / throw it out. If he won’t let the old suit go immediately, then subterfuge to get rid of it or make it temporarily unavailable is acceptable.

      It’s for his own good, and his employment situation is important enough that you can overrule him.

      My spouse has huge hang-ups about shopping, too. I have to take him during off-hours so that there aren’t big crowds. I have to pick out the colors for him. I have to pay for the cloths. I usually have to pressure him to get out of the house to buy the cloths. But he’ll agree with me about the basic necessity of needing new cloths, and generally accept enough of the cloths that I pick out for him to keep it from crossing into unbearably obnoxious (still ticks me off). It’s a failing of his that I compensate for – but he has plenty of good qualities so I find this trade-off acceptable.

    6. HR Diva*

      Well there is always the “dress for the job you want” mantra, and maybe a word about the suit being a couple of years outdated. Let’s face it – in interviewing appearance counts for a lot. I know that if I am uncomfortable in my clothes I am not as engaged as I could be. I think we all know the power of feeling great in a kick-ass outfit. When I work with the new-to-the-workforce (guys & gals) I always suggest finding a reasonable or on sale suit and then spending the extra to have it tailored to fit. It makes an amazing difference – and as the other posters have suggested he can have it taken in after he gets that awesome job, loves life and gets his old shape back.

    7. Sweet Potato*

      Based on my experience in relationships, there are some things that people are receptive to hearing from their partners and some things they aren’t. Who knows why.

      So he might take the feedback more seriously if he got it from another source – a friend or family member – in addition to what you’ve already said. That other source could phrase it in a way that isn’t directed at him personally. It could just be some general interviewing advice, part of which would be to visit a tailor the week before your interview. That’s good advice for anyone, regardless of their size or clothing situation.

    8. Malissa*

      When my husband needed a suit I basically had to drag him kicking and screaming to the store. I picked the suit and had him measured. He complained the whole time. Then the man got really into looking at ties. Insisted on a very pricey one. He wore it for all of 30 minutes. ever.
      My suggestion is to just take him to get the suit. Promise sexual favors if you must. ;)
      At the end he’ll feel better and so will you.

    9. krisl*

      How about this, “You know how Murphy’s Law works, once you buy a suit that fits, it will end up being too big soon. Why don’t we just buy one suit that fits for now – then when you lose weight, you can keep it in the closet so that Murphy’s Law won’t strike again the way it might if you give it away?”

      I also keep thinking I’m going to lose weight, and this type of argument is what I’ve used to convince myself to buy clothes that fit.

    10. Tomato Frog*

      Yeah, just buy him a suit. You can measure him at home and order several online from places with free shipping and returns.

      My boyfriend has half a dozen secondhand suits, none of which fit him the least. He does not agree with me that they don’t fit. I insisted on buying him a suit to wear to a wedding he was escorting me to, and made it about me (because it was about me!). I framed it as, “I would love to see you in a well-fitted suit that flatters your figure. I find it attractive and it would make me happy.” And it does. The groom complimented him, too. :)

    11. Not So NewReader*

      I would see about finding a nice suit/shirt in a second hand store. It sounds like he only needs to go up one size. So I would make my best guess. Go to the store, pick something out. Make sure it’s nice.

      Bring it home. “Hon, that suit is a bit snug here and there, it can’t be comfy to be wearing it in a stressful situation like an interview. I got you this temporary suit to try. I picked it up cheap so we don’t have to worry about what to do with it when you lose the little bit of weight you want to lose. We can just donate it and get on with life. I think that interviews are stressful enough without having to be concerned about your clothing.”

    12. Ruffingit*

      The others have given good advice so I’ll just say that I’ve recently gained weight myself and the other day, I finally just bought a pair of jeans in my current size. It feels so good to have clothes that fit instead of feeling uncomfortable all day in jeans that were just a tad too tight, but tight enough to not be comfortable. I will lose the weight because it’s a health thing for me, but for now, I am glad I bought those new jeans because it does make you feel better to have something that fits AND it serves another purpose of making me look better. Sure, I have the extra weight, but in the jeans that actually fit my current body, it doesn’t look like I’ve gained as much as it does when I’m wearing clothing that is too tight.

  65. Auditoholic*

    On 8/19, I applied for a new position at my current employer. Got an initial phone interview with HR on 8/20. This position would be considered a promotion, but would fall within the same general department and would be the first job to ever require my actual 4 year degree. Interview ended after just 15 minutes because it was going to be 100% work onsite at corporate, which was just too far away. It is not uncommon at all in my company for corporate employees to work from home or from whichever of our 7 locations they are closest to – just in case anyone wondered why I’d put in for a position that said it was corporate and then be surprised that it had to work at our corporate office.

    My manager (who reports to the same VP that NewPosition would report to) was on vacation during this and didn’t return until 9/2. She knew I was planning to apply before she left and is very supportive. When she returned, we had a meeting to debrief how things had went over the last 2 weeks while she was out. And she said that she had touched base with the VP and also learned position was 100% from corporate, but that he wanted HR to go ahead and complete the initial interview to get a better understanding of my “knowledge and skill set”. The VP is very new to our company and I’ve only spoken to him once.

    And then yesterday, the VP called me and set up an interview with him for later today! It’s a conference call dial-in, and he didn’t mention if any of the other department managers would be joining or if it would just be us. My manager said she really “sung my praises”. I’m trying not to get my hopes up (as so far everyone continues to say this must work at corporate), but I’m wondering since he’s taking the time to interview me, if that means he is going to change his mind and possibly allow the position to be from my current location? I just can’t figure out the point of interviewing if everyone is in agreement that position must work from a certain location and I’ve already stated I cannot work from that location??

    1. Mephyle*

      That would be one of the things (and about the most important one) that you will want to ask during the interview. But if they say ‘no, no change in location for the position’, then your insistence on the issue will just make them think you’re being difficult. If that happens, I would mention it only one more time but continue with the interview, then (of course) turn it down if they make the offer. But (my theory) they will still think of you well if you don’t stick in the interviewer’s mind as ‘the person who wouldn’t stop harping on the location’, and you will be in his top-of-mind if something does come up later in a location that works for you.

      1. Auditoholic*

        Interview went well and I will have another interview in a couple of weeks with the VP and department manager. I did not have to bring up location, as the VP addressed it and said that they are still uncertain how/if they could make this work without me onsite, but that he was in agreement it was more of a commute than would be reasonable to attempt on a daily basis. I did offer that I would be able to commit to being at that location daily for the first 90 days or so and 1-2 times per week after that. At this point since they are continuing the interview process with me, I’m cautiously optimistic.

  66. Brett*

    I just found out about an issue with my pay that I simply do not know how to deal with.

    I am paid way below market value and trapped behind an ethics law that makes it extremely difficult for me to change jobs without moving out of the region and moving out of the region is not an option right now.

    A supervisor from another unit in our division came to me two days ago though, and told me that my low salary is being used to justify lowballing other positions because I’m a top performer. He went to the division director because several new positions were classed into a pay grade that pays $35k. These positions require a masters degree plus experience and typical pay in other organizations is over $70k/yr.

    The conversation apparently went roughly like this:

    Supervisor: “No one qualified will take the job at that pay level.”
    Director: ‘Brett makes X and we are not asking these people to do nearly as much as he does.’
    Supervisor: “Brett is disgustingly underpaid though.”
    Director: ‘He is welcome to leave, and he hasn’t. So, we can put these new positions in that lower pay grade.’

    The supervisor then explained to me that this is not the first time my pay has been used to justify lowering the pay grade on other positions, all of which have gone unfilled.

    I have no idea what, if anything, I should do about this. The Director has no idea that I would leave in a heartbeat if it did not mean moving away. This all does have a direct impact on me because I have been covering the workload of a lot of these unhired positions.

    1. The Real Ash*

      My only suggestion to you is to get ready to move. Nothing good will come out of you staying there. You are unhappy, underpaid, overworked, and unappreciated. Get out.

      1. Brett*

        Changing jobs is simply not an option. The reasons are complex and involve a lot of legal issues, but it cannot happen at this time and probably not for at least another couple of years.

        But now I know though that my special circumstances are being used to justify low pay in other positions. I need to find a way to approach this so that the division director understands that using my pay as a measuring stick just because I can’t leave is a serious mistake.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not understanding why it’s up to you to make this point. If they’re not paying enough to hire what they want, they’ll find out soon enough. If they’re not paying enough to keep people when they do hire them, they’ll find out soon enough.

        2. BRR*

          It sounds like it’s super unrealistic that you leave unless you win the lottery. Is that clear to the director? That leaving is not really a viable option and that’s why you haven’t left. It’s flat out dumb to use your pay as a measurement. It matter how the pay stacks up against similar positions elsewhere.

          1. chewbecca*

            My only concern with this is that then the director would know that Brett’s back is against a wall. I could see the director using that to his advantage.

        3. Brett*

          One position I am covering right now has been open for three years. I am pretty certain the director has no clue that I am only staying because of the difficulties of leaving. I’m really wondering if I need to make this clear to him.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Have you tried to ask for and negotiate a raise yet? that way the director would at least know that you are unhappy with your pay rate. If you using the fact that you are ridiculiously underpaid that at least elevates the problem to their awareness; although, they sound like cheap jerks and are just using your pay rate an as excuse to be cheap.

    3. evilintraining*

      I don’t know if there is anything you can do, other than move or request a raise that you may or may not get, since they’re not breaking any laws. But I’m rather curious about what law keeps you tied to this place. Is it some sort of non-compete clause that you signed when you got the job?

      1. Brett*

        It’s an ethics law. Basically, an exempt employee involved in procurement processes (which applies to me) cannot work for any vendor for 12 months after they leave employment here. If they do, the vendor has to pay a fine equal to that employee’s first 12 months salary or last 12 months salary, whichever is higher. I’ve tried to find companies in this region in my field who are not registered vendors, but have only found one and they do not have the funds to hire me full time yet (and all other government entities in this region are registered vendors).