Halloween open thread – October 31, 2014

Lucy and pumpkinsIt’s the Friday open thread!

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

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue :)

{ 1,050 comments… read them below }

  1. Obagiwa*

    Woo hoo!

    I had an interview this week for a position at a retail chain. Supposedly, the position I applied for (a non-sales product training position) is not available. (Very frustrating.) I’m now interviewing for a lower position, which is not what I want to do but I need work so I’m not in a place to refuse.

    In any case, I got a second interview with the manager of the store I would actually be working at. I noticed that same day a different position was posted at this store for a 2 year rotational program that would lead to a store leader position. I would much prefer this over the lower sales position they were talking about. I have a lot more experience than the lower position recognizes. I meet/exceed the qualifications and have been assistant manager in retail already, although that was a long time ago.

    Of course, this could be the same kind of “false advertising” scenario they already pulled, but I’d like to ask about it. I’m in dire straights and absolutely have to find a job doing SOMETHING and even the lower position would be a pretty good option when my options are few and far between. But I don’t want them to know how much I need it and seem desperate. I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to ask about something that would suit my skills and long term goals better, simply because I need a job so badly.

    How can I bring this up at the next interview to see if I can be considered for that role, without sounding like I wouldn’t be happy in the other role and blowing my chances at a job altogether?

    1. Obagiwa*

      Also, I have read reviews on this company that say the work/life balance is terrible, which I am not surprised about, and that your happiness really depends on the store manager. How can I address these issues without sounding too negative?

      1. the gold digger*

        I waited until I had an offer to ask about the negative reviews on Glassdoor. The hiring manager said that yes, that how it is at corporate, but not at (our) field office.

        Re the second position: Why wouldn’t you just say just what you said here in your interview? “I notice that you have posted this rotational position. I would be a good fit for that job because a, b, and c.”

        1. Obagiwa*

          I was just concerned about phrasing and not making it sound like I wouldn’t be happy in a significantly lower role.

          1. Jazzy Red*

            It’s not that you be unhappy in the lower role, it’s that the other role is a much better fit. I think it would also show that you would plan on staying around. Most retail hiring managers know that a certain percentage of their employees are going to simply not show up (either just for one shift, or forever), call in sick a lot, etc. Having a more mature worker that they can count on would be a big plus.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        Good luck with the interview.

        You could maybe get in touch with HR and ask them if the program you want to get on is available and see if they would consider you for it, I wouldn’t like to bring it up at the interview myself as you are interviewing for a particular position and it might come across as a bit disrespectful of their time if you start talking about other jobs and give them the impression you’d rather be doing something else than the job you agreed to interview for.

        You could ask about the management style, the culture in the store, typical working patterns / busy periods. The answers to those questions could tell you a lot.

        1. Obagiwa*

          In any other type of interview I would never bring up another position. But since this is a retail job and they have already brought up multiple positions I think I can get away with it. At my initial interview the went over all the different types of positions they have, implied that the one I applied for was open and then at the end said they really only had this one, lower position open and that’s how most people start. They then asked me to fill out a form and check off which positions I would be interested in, though this new one I saw wasn’t on there. So I think it would be ok to inquire about other roles in this situation. I just don’t want them to think that I would not be happy in the lower role. It’s not ideal for me, but as far as retail jobs go, this is the cream of the crop, so to speak, and wouldn’t want to pass it up right now.

          I like the way you phrased the questions. That is a good way to go about it.

          1. Mimi*

            Exact same thing happened to me a few years ago. Applied for position, interviewed with a retail chain, only to find out that position wasn’t even open.

            Not cool.

            1. Obagiwa*

              It’s so not. I was really annoyed but I did my research so I suspected that it might happen. Any other time in my life, and really any other retailer, I wouldn’t even bother to continue. But honestly, if I have to work retail, I’d want to do it there. Lots to learn, good vibe, a product I believe in, and they pay way above minimum wage.

              Someone is going to figure out what company I am talking about if they haven’t already.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Keep what you said here, about loving the product especially but also lots to learn, in your back pocket. If asking about the other position appears to ruffle any feathers, make it clear that while you would love that role, the reason you’re here in the first place is…insert very happy discussion of the things you love about their company. (At least that way they will get “I am eager to work *here*” vibes, which means they probably won’t consider you a flight risk if they only want to offer you the lower position. It does give them negotiating power, though, so I’m not sure I’d lead with it. But if you get the feeling that asking may have just damaged your chances of any job with them, it’s a great way to dig out from that, in a manner that won’t lead to them thinking you’ll jump ship the next time you spot an opportunity at another company.)

                1. Obagiwa*

                  This is really helpful advice. Luckily I have a whole week before my interview to prep and think about how to handle it. I like the idea of digging into opportunities for advancement and asking about growing my role with the company. That shows I want to move up the chain and seem more responsibility but starting from the other role works for me as well.

                  I suppose I could just say something like “I noticed that X position was posted online after I applied and had my first interview. Can you tell me more about that and how I could be considered for it going forward? Is that something I could get into from the Y position we have been discussing?”

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I can’t help but think it’s a “bait and switch” kind of thing. But it can’t hurt to bring it up in your interview – and I hope I’m wrong that it’s false advertising.

          1. Cautionary tail*

            I had a bait and switch interview once. I applied for the Manager and by interview time it had changed into Grunt. I politely opted out of the process and I’m so glad I did because it was the type of company that chewed up it’s employees and then spit them out on the sidewalk. So glad.

      4. HR Generalist*

        If it were me, I’d go to the interview and mention in it that you’re interested in the assistant manager position and would like to be considered. I would start with that, after introductions chime in, “Just before we start, I saw an advertisement for an assistant manager position at this branch and that’s a role I’d love to take on. How can I be considered for that position as well?”
        Some organizations would just need you to say you’d like to be considered, others will require a formal application process, so that’s a good thing to clarify anyway. If the people with power are on the board they might even switch your interview questions up to get some more insight on your managerial experience.
        As for the work/life balance, I wouldn’t mention the reviews online. I would wait until the question period and ask some probing questions like “What does an average day look like here?” “How are schedules decided and who makes them up?” “What’s your annual leave/sick/family leave policy?”
        Those should give you a glimpse of what the manager is like and how a normal day runs. Good luck!

        1. HR Generalist*

          After re-reading OP comment – it’s a position that would lead to a Store Leader position. In that case, you could mention that you’re hoping to take on some additional responsibility and the advertised role sounds like exactly that – and then ask how to be considered.

          1. Obagiwa*

            Yeah, its not exactly assistant manager. Its a role where they rotate you through all the different positions in the store for a 2 year period. That way you can get a feel for what its like to work in all of them and learn all the details, all the while they are training you for the store leader position in order to take over a store in the future. The pay is a lot better and I like the idea of the variety and learning all the different skills. This is a tech retailer so I would learn a lot and store leaders make a much better salary.

            I am 36 and not exactly entry level. I have a family and I need to think about my future. Im having no luck finding other work so I need to make the best of a bad situation and in a position like that I could feel like I actually have some security and a career I can invest in.

            Obviously, I don’t want to say it exactly like that to them. I just need to figure out how to explain why Id be more interested in that without them being left with the impression that I would not be a long term employee in the other position. I’m really looking for stability right now and whatever I choose, I plan to stick with it for a long time.

            1. TL -*

              I definitely know which company you’re talking about. From what I understand (one of my friends works at one of their retail store), they really do place a lot of emphasis on buying into their product, so I think it’ll be a huge plus if you can emphasize that you’re there for the experience of being there.

              Also, she’s been there 2 or 3 years and has been able to move up a few positions, so I would think there’s room for advancement even if you get hired at the lower position.

              1. Obagiwa*

                I definitely buy into their product. I own several of them and use them in my daily life. However, I’m not the type to run around preaching and trying to convert people. Just not my style.

                From what I have read, it is very difficult to get a job there, so I think if I did get an offer it will look good for me in the future, if I ever do move on. However, I’m thinking at this point I should just work on making a solid career where I end up now, which is why I am applying to this kind of retailer. So its really helpful to know that they do advance people.

                I also have an interview with a different tech company for a product trainer type position. It’s more in-line with my interests and skills professionally, even though I prefer the other products.

        2. Joey*

          That can backfire. I’m not sure I’d consider someone for a junior position if right off the bat in the interview he told me he was interested in the senior position.

          1. Obagiwa*

            What if my interest was in a more senior position to begin with? We started off discussing a position higher than the one that is actually available.

            1. Joey*

              I’ve interviewed folks in both scenarios. An over qualified person and one who would take a lower position.

              If he’s a good interviewer you won’t have to ask to be considered for a higher position. If you’re good (and he is too) he’ll initiate that conversation. But if he doesn’t the best way to do it is to open that door through talking about goals. I would frame it as “my goal is to move into a more senior role, but I am more interested in getting my foot in the door here so I’m absolutely willing to work my way up, too.”

              1. Smallest Red Chair*

                Ah, ok. That makes a lot of sense. I will definitely read the job description closely and use that tactic.

      5. TL -*

        My understanding (and again, I’m pretty sure I know which stores you’re talking about and I have a friend who’s worked in 2 of their stores and her ex has worked in another 2), is that the retail stores do depend a lot on the manager, but the corporate policies are pretty fair – my friend just ended her year of sick leave at 70% pay or something like that – and the work/life balances at retail are actually pretty good.

        1. Obagiwa*

          Ah, ok! That makes me feel a bit better. It’s really tough to tell by online reviews. They are mixed with corporate reviews and the overall rating can skew in one direction.

          A year of sick leave…wow. I hope your friend is doing better.

          1. TL -*

            She is, thanks! She just started back.

            If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, in a major city where a certain medical drama on ABC is set, she spoke really highly of the stores there. :)

            1. Obagiwa*

              Ah, I wish! We have actually been trying to move out near that city for years. Actually almost did but things got in the way. Actually, my husband was very sick for a while too, so I understand how stressful and difficult that can be. Glad to hear that this company is so good with that kind of stuff!

              As it is, we are all the way on the other side of the country. Perhaps I will be able to eventually transfer one day if I get one of these jobs.

              1. TL -*

                It was really hard for her to get time off for doctor’s appointments, ect.. but really easy for her to go on medical leave once she realized that was the best option. And they have a really generous policy.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Just a warning. I worked for a retail company that had one of those “train for two years and became a store manager making $$$” programs. I don’t know if this is the same, but our program grabbed kids out of collage, gave them grunt jobs for 2 years, then put them in charge of the worst performing, backwater stores in the network. They had no chance of making their goals and earning the “potential $$$” bonus advertised. And they had to sign a contract to work for the company for x many years when they started the program.
      So I would be careful.

      1. Obagiwa*

        I don’t think this company has “backwater” stores. As far as I know they are all high performing and are fairly strategically placed in high end areas or in popular malls.

    3. Obagiwa*

      I should also clarify that they did not actually clarify for me which role I am still interviewing for. They said that the only role really open right now is this lower role, but implied that there were some openings for the original position I applied for and went over all the different positions they offer. They asked what I would be interested in and we left it at that. I then got an email for the second interview, that did not specify which position I am interviewing for. I suspect that they will offer me the lower position unless I really wow them and they feel strongly that I could do the other one.

      1. techandwine*

        I’m about 99% sure I know what store you are referring to, and I have a things to note as I worked for that company for almost 5 years in the retail store. I will say up front, that the overall work experience absolutely depends on your Store Leader. I worked in two different stores in the same metro area and I worked under 4 different store managers. One was fantastic, one was pretty decent, and the remaining two were horrible.

        1. It’s actually extremely rare to get hired in as a trainer, or a tech support person (though tech support is easier if you have significant experience somewhere else). Almost everyone starts out as a sales associate, required to meet certain goals and hit various performance metrics before you can even think about moving up. From there it’s a few additional steps (working as a sales associate assigned to that area of the store, possibly taking on a few small training tasks to evaluate how you do) steps before ever ending up actually on the training team.

        2. It’s also extremely hard to get promoted into a trainer role at these stores, as they have very minimal turnover. Most trainers are in it as career positions and stay for quite a while. In the five years I worked there we only had a small handful of new trainer spots added on and very few others vacated existing roles in order to free them up. In both of those cases about half of the roles were filled by transfers in from other stores (we were the largest store int the southeast, so a very desirable location) and so there wasn’t a lot of opportunities for people in the store to move into those roles.

        3. The Store Leader Program is geared towards extremely recent college graduates, if you’re more than about six months out you won’t be considered for that opportunity. It is a decent opportunity, though it doesn’t guarantee you will be come a Store Leader when it’s over. At the least you’ll end up an Assistant Store Manger, or possibly a Senior Manager. It does give you a working knowledge of all parts of the store, which I think are crucial for any member of management, but there is also an element of irritation towards this role from those in the store who have expressed a desire to work towards management. They look at the SLP candidates as coming in and taking that opportunity away from them, fair or not just thought you should be aware of that perception.

        With all of that being said, if you want to apply for any role other than the one you interviewed for, you need to do that separately. Don’t go into the interview you have set up and state that you want to actually work in a different position. The interviewer will shut that right down, as they’ll get the impression that you wouldn’t be actively engaged in the sales associate role because you’d be too focused on just moving up. It’s one thing to express a desire to grow within the company and potentially move into different roles (and by all means express that you’d eventually like to work towards being a trainer), but you do need to show that you are passionate about the product and simply want to work for the company in order to be considered for a position.

        Best of luck to you! I know that interview process is extremely grueling, but don’t give up!

  2. LBK*

    A position I would KILL to have finally opened up in my department. I know the hiring manager pretty well – we’re actually in the midst of working together on a big process improvement for an aspect of my current role. My current manager (who is all about career development and knows I’m applying) encouraged me to sit down and have a meeting with the hiring manager. I know this is not the hiring manager’s style – he’s very straighforward and concise, and a schmoozy meeting where I don’t really have anything specific to say is not going to go over well. I’d rather save it for the interview.

    Instead I’m planning to just drop by his cube (he sits 15 feet from me) and give him a heads up I’m applying and leave it at that. Should I ask anything or say anything beyond that? I almost want to ask if he thinks offhand if I’d be a good match for the position, but that seems too forward; on the flipside, though, if he knows immediately that he wouldn’t hire me, I’d rather not get my hopes up or make him feel forced into interviewing me just because we already know each other.


    1. the gold digger*

      I made an internal move at my last job. I saw the posting, went downstairs to the hiring manager’s office – I already knew him, and said, “I would be great for this job because” and I gave my reasons. Why not be direct? If he is straightforward and concise, he would probably appreciate that approach.

      1. Swarley*

        I think this totally depends on the HM’s style, but I wouldn’t want a current employee coming to me with an unsolicited pitch about why they’d be great at X job. It would come off as too salesy to me.Why not just mention to him that you saw the opening, applied, and would love to be considered if he thinks you’d be a good fit? Done and done.

        1. the gold digger*

          At my company, I could not officially apply unless I had informed my current boss. I did not want to alert my boss to my job search unless I was sure I was going to get the position, so I had to do things in this order.

          Yes, you have to know the HM. In my case, the HM was also very direct and had been trying to fill the position for four months. You have to know your audience.

      2. LBK*

        Maybe straightforward is the wrong word – he’s not quite that direct, he just doesn’t like a lot of fluff. To put in in another context: if someone asks me a question, I tend to answer that question, explain why that’s the answer, and answer the 12 follow up questions I think you might have. He’s the exact opposite – he just wants the answer and nothing else. I’ve adapted my communication style accordingly when I interact with him, which I know he appreciates because he told my manager so.

        1. Gene*

          I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to convey to one person in my life that when I ask a question, all I want is an answer to THAT question. If I ask if Horatio is in Hamlet or Richard III, that’s the info I want, not a 5 minute soliloquy on Shakespeare’s tragedies with the answer buried somewhere in there. A one-word answer is all I really want.

          1. LBK*

            Speaking for my fellow ramblers, it’s a REALLY hard habit to curb. It’s one of those things where you hear yourself doing it but you still can’t stop. That’s one of the reasons I prefer email – I can write out my 3-page monologue, delete it, replace it with “Yes.” and click send.

            1. Ezri*

              I’m at my first job out of college, and I’ve had to learn to condense condense condense. It’s really difficult to adjust (as shown by my rambling posts on this blog – I’ve got to get the words out of my system somehow!).

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Can you say something like “I’m planning to apply for the open position but I don’t want to waste your time if you already have someone in mind for it”? Then you can gauge his reaction.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      Good call on paying attention to the hiring managers style I had a similar situation with my current job a role was posted that I was really interested in but I lacked some of the core skills I went had spoke to the hiring manger who I only vaguely knew to say “the job looks awesome but I know my skills are lacking, I don’t want to waste your time or mine, given what you know about me would you consider me for the job if I applied ” he said to apply and he’d think it over, as it happens he turned me down but brought me in to the team in more junior role a month or two later. If your skills and background are a good match for the job then you don’t need to be so direct, but even a simple conversation can help. Maybe ask him to grab a coffee or spare you five minuets so you can ask a couple of questions to lay the ground work for applying for the position and find a out a little more information which will be useful for applying or interviewing.

    4. HR Manager*

      Don’t treat it as a schmoozy meeting or a way to ingratiate yourself to him. Just let him know you’re interested, and ask him what he’s looking for that’s not already in the job description or ask him about his expectations. If you have a good enough relationship and he wouldn’t be thrown off by the question, ask him to give you an honest assessment of your readiness for the role and if not, ask him what he would recommend for you to close that gap.

    5. RoseTyler*

      I wouldn’t drop by his cube and put him on the spot about whether he thinks you’d be a good fit. Is he more of an email person or a face-to-face person? If email works for him, I would send him your materials directly, let him know you’ve applied through official channels and make yourself available if he has questions or wants to talk further.

  3. Bailando!*

    Here’s an interesting question for everyone — have you ever interviewed and hired a candidate whose personality turned out to be wildly different than the person you interviewed?

    1. Future Trainer*

      Yes! I hired a music specialist for a summer program at a museum. In the interview it was clear she still needed to gain experience but she was really nice, calm, and seemingly focused on music and showed examples of music lessons she had taught and developed. Once camp started, she was unprofessional, wore inappropriate clothes (low cut and tight t-shirts around young children that I needed to ask her to change), loud, and picked on the kids.

      When I spoke with her about picking on the kids she instead it was just joking around. Some of the kids loved her and definitely seemed to agree with that. Those were the older kids with thicker skins. But once she drew an unflattering picture of a 4 year old and the other kids made fun of it and she laughed. His parents came to talk to me and when I addressed it with her she acted like it was no big deal. I tried for a while to explain to her why it was a problem and she really didn’t get it. I ended up just having to tell her in no uncertain terms that whether she agreed with me or not, it can’t happen again, that I expected her to apologize to the camper (sincerely) and if there was one more incident of a camper feeling picked on by her she would be fired. She straightened up after that, but I could tell she just thought I was a killjoy.

      To top it all off, she never once wrote a single music lesson for the kids. It was like pulling teeth to get her to do her job. If it weren’t a seasonal gig and we weren’t short staffed, she would have been fired. She asked me for a reference afterwards and instead I told her I would give her some advice on her professionalism that would help her in future jobs.

      The most infuriating part was that I figured out by her resume that she was working another job with one of my best friends that I have knowns since I was 13. I called her and asked for her opinion before I made the hire and my friend gave her high remarks. Later in the summer when I complained about her, my friend was like “Oh yeah, she can be like that.” What?!?! I’ll never trust a reference from her again.

        1. Future Trainer*

          I don’t know! Especially a teacher! She apparently drew “silly” pictures of all the kids. Most of them thought they were hilarious. But this one kid didn’t like it and when I saw the pic, I could understand why. She kept saying that she drew pic of all of them and that the other kids liked it, as if that was a good defense. I tried to explain that it didn’t matter whether the others liked it, this kid didn’t and he and his parents are rightfully upset. I flat out told her that if she couldn’t empathize with a 4 year old and recognize that all kids react differently to different things and that as the adult it’s her responsibility to make sure all the kids feel safe in her care, then she was in the wrong line of work.

          1. Nina*

            SMH at this woman drawing a mean picture of a kid…wow.

            But I give you props; you handled that situation well. Especially with giving her professional advice. I can’t imagine this woman has any decent references beyond your mutual friend, anyway.

            1. Future Trainer*

              Probably not. I haven’t connected with her for years. I will say that she did take me up on the offer for advice. I warned her in advance that I was going to be brutally honest but what I said was not meant to hurt her but to help her. For the first time she actually listened without arguing and getting defensive. In the end she thanked me and said she appreciated the advice. Perhaps not getting a reference from me gave her a bit of a wake up call. I’m actually curious now. Maybe I will look her up and see what she’s been up to.

    2. Sascha*

      Yes! We hired a guy this year who seemed smart, very friendly and had a helpful attitude. After working with him for a while, he turned out to be rash, overly emotional (he’d get cranky and pouty about stuff and take it out on us and clients), argumentative, and just really flaky. It was weird, because he seemed so put together during the interview. Guess he just interviewed well.

      1. WorkingMom*

        Yes, years ago I had a similar experience. A gal interviewed very well, seemed positive, upbeat, energetic and genuinely excited about the role. Within the first 2 weeks she was cutting out early, not quite doing her job (cutting corners), and would also talk openly to new coworkers about hoping for a promotion…. it was a very rough first year. But with LOTS of coaching (LOTS), she developed into a well functioning member of the team.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Oh god, yes. Worst hire of my life! I fought for her because she had been out of work for two years and I said we couldn’t hold that against her. She was a nightmare and I was really annoyed that the people who laid her off must have felt guilty and gave her a glowing reference. She came across as calm and intelligent during her interviews and when we brought her on board she was ridiculously defensive for no reason, not remotely detail-oriented and just weird. She lasted three months -we put her on a PIP and she quit and called us all racist in an epic resignation email.

      1. AVP*

        I wonder if being unemployed for two years sent her on a crazy downward spiral and she was a totally different person than the one who’d gotten laid off.

        1. Anonsie*

          That seems pretty likely, actually. I was a huge wad for a while after dealing with that, though not so much at work.

        2. Lily in NYC*

          No, that’s not what happened; she took the time and went to secretarial school. She’s in her 50s and her husband is an attorney at a prestigious firm so I don’t think she looked for work during those two years. I’m pretty sure she sucked at her previous job as well.

          1. AVP*

            Ouch. I just don’t get why people give good references for workers they’ve had terrible experiences with!

            A few years ago I gave a terrible reference for someone I’d fired (seriously, she was the worst report I’ve ever had and she straight up lied about her employment dates on the new application) and she called me afterwards to berate me for “unfairly ruining her chances” for the new job. What did she think I was going to say??

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Good for you! I wish more people would do so. I refused to give someone a reference because I knew I couldn’t give him a good one. My former boss actually gave our bad hire a good reference as well because she called him crying and he felt bad. One of the people he gave a reference to about her had a hunch that he was being way too generous and called him out on it and he got all flustered on the phone; it was awesome.

            2. Muriel Heslop*

              I just gave a reference this summer for a teaching hire that could not be construed as good by any measure. After I told the applicant numerous times not to use me as a reference she did anyway. Even worse – she got the job! Poor fifth graders.

        1. Karowen*

          That’s what I was thinking! Whenever I see something like “epic resignation letter” it almost begs the question.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            It was two years ago and I wish I had saved it because I can’t remember much except that she said we were all racist and then followed that paragraph with racist comments about one of her bosses: “I know X is Chinese, but this is America and she should learn how to be on time for meetings”. Ugh, I wish I could remember more; it was really funny.

    4. CheeryO*

      I am this person in my current job. When I interviewed, I apparently came across as confident (which I am) and extroverted (which I am not). I don’t know how I managed to turn it on so well that day, because it’s not really like me. I’ll chalk it up to desperation, as I had been unemployed for six months.

      Anyway, after about a month on the job, the CEO pulled me into his office to tell me that I needed to start being more like the person that they interviewed. He told me that, while everyone was happy with my work, I was too quiet and reserved, and that in our industry (engineering consulting), you need to be extroverted to succeed. Getting a lecture like that was pretty upsetting, as someone who prides herself on doing great work (and who is very warm and friendly, if not super chatty).

      From an employers perspective, I would think that this could have been solved at the reference-checking stage. All of my professional references would describe me as quiet if asked (although I don’t know how common it is to ask references about a candidate’s personality).

      1. KerryOwl*

        You need to be extroverted in engineering consulting to succeed?? Ludicrous. I’m in the same field, and we’re forced to smile and glad hand with various local politicians and whatnot on a regular basis, when we all wish we could hide in our offices with a calculator and a scale and a set of plans. You know, like a stereotypical engineer!

        1. puddin*

          As the daughter of an engineer and a co-worker to many, that is exactly what I thought.

          Perhaps the boss did not mean extroverted but more confident or just to speak up in meetings maybe share ideas and opinions more? The engineers I know will push their ideas to a fault, maybe he is looking to you for some balance in that.

          1. CheeryO*

            That could definitely be part of it. I was a little extra quiet in my first few weeks as I was trying to get a handle on everything, and I probably came across as too tentative.

          2. Judy*

            I’ve done Meyers-Briggs with a roomful of engineers, then split into 16 tables by type. There were lots of lonely tables over on the E side of the room. We pulled the chairs over to our side of the room, when we needed extra.

        2. CheeryO*

          Thanks, I needed to hear that. I think it’s because we’re a fairly small company, and the higher-ups do a serious amount of schmoozing to keep the work coming in. But it still seems like a lot to dump on your brand new entry-level employee.

      2. Jennifer*

        This kind of thing is why I have to fake being perky and cheerful at work to a nauseating degree.

    5. Muriel Heslop*

      Yes! A teacher looking to transition out of education who totally sold our department on her bubbly, zest-for-life personality that evaporated after a week on the job. She was passive-aggressive, refused to be a team player (she insisted she was used to working alone and not dealing with people – a teacher!) and daily announced how many hours were left until she could leave. After a few meltdowns (and tears from more than one child with whom she was working), we caught her job-searching at work and she was released immediately since she was in her probation period (month 5 of 6.) We still marvel about the bait-and-switch she delivered. Turned out she was desperate for the work but she had not been honest about that, either. Live and learn!

    6. Allstonian*

      I hired a woman who came across as poised, confident and accomplished during the interview. I was really looking forward to working with her. In reality, she was disorganized, lazy and deceitful. She quit by storming out of work in the middle of her shift and leaving me a scathing voicemail on my home phone telling me what a horrible manager I was. She then ended up calling me later that day to ask for her job back.

      She inflated her dates of employment on her resume, which I refused to confirm during reference checks. A few months later she called me and went off on me for “preventing her from getting a new job” by bad-mouthing her. I never actually gave her a horrible reference (my company didn’t allow me to do more than confirm basic facts and say whether an employee was eligible for rehire) but since the facts didn’t match, I’m sure they got the point. I told her to stop lying on her resume and never heard from her again.

    7. AdAgencyChick*

      But of course!

      The polite, well-spoken interviewee who turned sullen and combative when hired. I mean, in an interview I’m trying to suss out whether the person would be a good fit, but I’m not delivering negative feedback really. It was when I had to tell him his performance was subpar that he fought with me and his peers. Once after he went off on a colleague, I ended up giving him a formal warning (a PIP, really, although we didn’t call them that, since it had steps he had to take to ensure his continued employment). My boss was present to back me up, since we knew he might turn defensive. He did, and called me unprofessional right in front of my boss. Since my boss loved me, that was just another nail in his coffin — we fired him about two weeks after that.

      1. anon in the uk*

        We let someone go recently because it was clear that the job was way, way above his head. He aced the interview a nd did well on the practical test. If I were conspiracy minded I would think he had an identical twin who had interviewed

    8. Eva*

      I have been that candidate who disappointed in a spectacular way. It was a part-time job a decade ago while I was still a student. I nailed the cover letter, aced the interview and could tell that the hiring manager was excited to bring me on board.

      However, she would soon find out that I had overestimated my abilities and promised more than I could deliver. I also made a couple of smaller mistakes that really rubbed her the wrong way, like showing up 10 minutes late for the monthly Friday morning breakfast meeting with all 50 employees because I hadn’t made sure to leave home early enough to account for unforeseeable delays (in this case a flooded train station) since I didn’t think the meeting was that important.

      Finally, I made what I later came to understand was a huge mistake: One day, I happened to be eating lunch at a time where the only other person present in the lunchroom was the CEO, so we sat together and talked while eating (this is Scandinavia; the culture is very egalitarian). He asked me what I was working on, and I happily told him, explaining how I was drawing on my experience from my previous company to come up with new ideas for my department and I gave him a preview of the ideas which he then asked questions about, showing that he was interested, which I figured was a good thing. When I got back from lunch, I told my manager about our conversation. She was shocked and then she became angry and gave me a talking-to about how that’s not the way to go about presenting ideas to the higher-ups. She had wanted to prepare a formal presentation from our department. I was shocked and reacted defensively (yes, I know, another display of suckiness on my part), and then she wagged her finger at me and said I needed to learn to receive feedback without talking back. I had a strong negative emotional reaction to her chastisement, and this was before I had extensive therapy which helped me to identify and regulate my emotions, so I sent her a two-line email the next day saying that I quit, to which she replied that that was probably for the best. This was just shy of six months in.

      As mentioned, this was a decade ago, and I like to think I’ve matured a lot since then both personally and professionally and that I’d be a completely different employee today (though I now work for myself so I wouldn’t know for sure).

      1. The Strand (formerly someone else)*


        It sounds to me like your manager overreacted, actually, showing a great deal of defensiveness. Your CEO – the head of the company – approached you, you didn’t approach him. He asked you direct questions; you answered them. He was, I’m certain, interested in you precisely because you were a student at the beginning of your career, not as a representative of your department. For cripes’ sake, you immediately went and talked to your manager – you surely weren’t using this to hoist yourself up at the expense of others.

        His questions in no way prevented your manager from working with you to iron out all the kinks and then present it in an organized, professional fashion later on. Surely she didn’t think the CEO was the only decision maker who she would be presenting to? Or that you should stonewall the guy who signs your paychecks? Probably, you could have handled your reaction to her “chastisement” better, but so could she. You describe her as being angry. A more professional manager would have kept her anger to herself and focused on correcting the problem without getting personal, and then finding out more about what you’d already said.

        In my experience, many of the people who refuse to budge on minor things outside of your control (like a train station flooding), especially when you show a high degree of responsibility and accountability overall, and no clear pattern of abuse has been established – are hypocritical about meeting the same standards themselves. They are the people we developed “CYA” (Cover Your Ass) for, people to avoid running afoul of, but also not people who we should be judging our character and work ethic by, you know what I mean? You sound like you have taken this very seriously, worked on yourself, but it’s also possible that you’re viewing yourself a bit harshly too. Our youth is for making mistakes precisely like that, not for overthinking our every move, and without making those occasional boneheaded moves, we wouldn’t improve as people.

    9. Jazzy Red*

      No, because I’ve never hired anyone. However, I did have one boss who turned out to be completely different than the woman I interviewed with, even though they looked alike, talked alike, and had the same name. I refer to her now as my psycho-boss-from-hell, and I knew 3 days in that I’d made the mistake of my life taking that job. I lasted less than 3 months and suggested at the exit interview that they advertise for her next assistant on the Psychic Network, since she expected her assistant to see through walls, know what’s going on when she (the assistant) wasn’t present, and read her (the pbfh) mind which she constantly changed, minute by minute.

  4. A.*

    I know Alison says to only make your current supervisor available as a reference when it’s contingent on a job offer. What do you do when your current supervisor has shown he or she will purposely give unflattering references to leaving employees? (He won’t directly speak negatively or lie, but will purposely sound unenthusiastic.) Our department has had significant turnover in the past year, and our department head is not happy about it. A coworker of mine listed our department head on her job application but specifically said for him to not be contacted. The potential employer contacted him anyway, and our manager purposely gave an unflattering reference. (My coworker has never had less than a glowing review and our manager has always spoken highly of her.) He then approached my coworker and called her unprofessional, saying she should have informed him that she was interviewing elsewhere. I have two potential job offers coming within the next week or so. How do I approach this if they ask to speak to my current supervisor before offering me a job? I do not trust him to be honest and not sabotage an offer.

      1. A.*

        I thought about this, but I don’t want them to think I’m trying to hide anything, or that I’m speaking negatively about my previous job. I know speaking badly about your job or supervisor to a potential employer is a big no-no.

        1. Joey*

          Id say ” just so you’re not caught off guard, in the past my boss hasnt looked kindly on people leaving and has given some unflattering info out. But, Id be happy to show you my annual reviews which are all stellar.”

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Not once you’ve gotten to the reference-checking stage, at which point they’re pretty damn sure they want to hire you and are just looking for red flags.

          I’d just say “she’s made negative comments about employees she used to like to reference checkers several times now, so I wanted to let you know that might happen.”

          Or…see whether they even insist on speaking to your current manager. Some places won’t, if you push back — which I think you can, because I would not want my manager alerted to my job search until I not only had a signed offer letter, but *had decided I was happy with the terms.* What if they call your boss and then lowball you on salary? Then you have a boss who knows about your job hunt…and you don’t necessarily want to leave.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This is another plea from me not to post questions here that you’ve submitted to me in the last week! Often I have an answer written and ready to go, but I try not to duplicate questions that have already been discussed here.

      If it’s been more than a week, I can’t blame you for double-submitting, but otherwise I ask you to resist! Thank you :)

      1. Natalie*

        More people might see this if you add it to the standard write-up at the top, at least for a little bit.

      2. A.*

        I’m sorry. This is my first time seeing you ask us to not do this. I just didn’t know if you’d answer it, and I wanted input before the possible issue arises. Again, I apologize.

          1. Barry*

            You may want to avoid the exclamation points when you’re correcting people. It could read the wrong way. (Re: this is another plea)

  5. Cath in Canada*

    I did a PMP exam prep course last week, and I hated it*. Can some of the PMPs on here please try and convince me that I’m not going to fail the exam?! (I actually haven’t had time to start my application yet, so I don’t have a date booked. Next week’s planned fun, relaxing staycation is turning into a studycation).

    *A LOT of extreeeeeemely dry material to get through, hours of homework each night, questions that seem designed to purposefully confuse or trick you. Not a good evaluation of how well you do your job at all, IMO. At least everyone else hated it too, and our instructor was fab, so it could have been worse.

    1. Kara Ayako*

      I’m a PMP. I found the exam to be much like your experience with the course in that I don’t think it’s indicative of whether you’ll be a good project manager. It does indicate, though, that you have project management methodology down cold.

      I didn’t do a prep course but just read through the PMBOK Guide and took some practice tests online. I thought the exam was hard but not impossible. Just make sure you know all the terminology, the full detailed process, and any equations.

      Good luck!

    2. Gwen Soul*

      Just keep studying and doing practice questions. My first practive test I got a 30% on. By the end I was scoring in the 80’s, but that was a good 4 months of studying. Rita is a great resource and I cannot stress practice tests enough.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I cant speak about PMP but I have crammed for my fair share of accounting exams and a professional IT qualification, get your hands on as many past papers as you can, it will help you feel more comfortable with the style and format. spend even a little time each day reading your study materials.

      Good luck, let us know how you get on when your results are in.

    4. Witty Nickname*

      If you learn to think about the questions the right way, and know the processes, it’s not too bad. My biggest challenge was to remember that I didn’t need to think about what would happen in the real world, I needed to think about what the PMBOK said SHOULD happen.

      The course I took offered practice tests, and I took 4 of those before I took the exam. After each, I would go through what I missed and study up on that. I would also make note of any topic I wasn’t sure about while I was taking the test, and make sure I studied that too, even if guessed correctly. That way, I was getting through the material but wasn’t wasting time on stuff I already knew.

      And hours of homework each night? Ugh. By the end of each day of my class, my brain was so done, I couldn’t have done hours of homework.

    5. Us, Too*

      I have my PMP and it’s utter bullshit. It has no bearing whatsoever on my abilities as a PM, but it’s a credential that is respected by some hiring orgs/managers so I sucked it up and did it.

      You may fail the exam, but your best chances are to just memorize the PMBOK and, when you take the exam, remember that it’s not asking you what you would do, but what would the PMBOK tell you to do.

      I just kept repeating over and over “don’t think of this as a competent PM, think of this as the editor of the PMBOK would”

      1. Witty Nickname*

        “don’t think of this as a competent PM, think of this as the editor of the PMBOK would”

        I will say that getting my PMP really did help improve my skills as a PM, but I was a newer PM on a new PM team within an org that had never had project management. All of us had done some project management in our day to day work in our previous roles, but none of us had every really studied project management or any of the processes, and we were trying to establish project management as a discipline for an org that was rather resistant to it. I was the first one on my team to go through the course and get my PMP; after the course, I had all these great ideas for how we could improve our practices, and my boss was just really really resistant to them. Then she did the course a couple months later and came back with all of these ideas of how we could improve our practices – everything I had suggested, of course! We had a nice laugh over that.

        Just knowing the standard processes and having a guideline to go by has really helped us start to develop some best practices for our org. We’ve had to adjust, of course, based on our business needs and culture, but it’s so much easier having a foundation to build from. It really helped that the course I took was structured well, and the instructor I had was really good at engaging us and making the material interesting. And at boiling it down to what we really needed to know to pass the exam.

  6. Spooky Kitty*

    Happy Halloween, everyone! Who wants a weird story to start off their weekend?

    Part of my job is to answer the main line of our office, to give people the basic run down of what we do and to transfer them to the right people they want to talk to, that kind of usual stuff.

    To make a long story short, one day I had three dropped phone calls all within minutes of each other. I’d hear a woman’s voice breaking up so badly that I’d hear one in five words and then dropping into silence. Because I received normal calls in-between the others, I guessed that the dropped calls were all coming from one woman and I crossed my fingers that she’d get a better connection.

    Finally the fourth time she calls and it finally comes through (still slightly staticy, actually, but I can actually understand her) When I ask how I can help her, she demands to know why I was pretending to not hear her. I told her that her calls were not coming through and were dropping but she says she just called her sister and there was no problem there so I must be lying to her. I apologize to her but she interrupts me again to ask for my supervisor. I ask her what she’s calling for (since who I would transfer her to depends entirely on what she wants to know). She says she wants to talk to someone about communication since I’m obviously so lousy at it.

    So I sent the call to my direct supervisor and let her handle. But I’m just so curious as to what she was picturing: me picking up the phone, saying ‘Hello? I can’t hear you!’, and then doing an evil laugh as I ignore her on the other end of the line. So weird!

    1. matcha123*

      I remember one time my mom was calling my university for something or the other, and the person on the line asked to talk to me. When I said “Hello” after my mom passed me the phone, the woman on the other end asked why my mom (me) was pretending to be her daughter. She then told me she didn’t have time for games and was just going to tell me what I needed to know.

      It was so strange.

      Some people want to believe what they want to believe.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Because this happens all the time at universities and it is illegal for us to give information out to parents unless it’s “directory” information or if a FERPA release is on file.

        1. matcha123*

          I think this was something related to financial aid. I can’t quite remember, but it was probably financial aid, and it was definitely something that I had needed to give permission to the staff to talk with my mom about those issues. When the call took place, they should have long had that information.

          I really hated talking to non-friends over the phone until after I graduated university. I’d almost always pass the phone to my mom because she was the one that knew my SSN and whatever else they needed.

        2. Jennifer*

          We don’t even have FERPA releases on file for phone calls. We can’t prove that you are who you say you are over the phone, so you get jack.

          This is why I highly recommend NOT CALLING. At least over university e-mail there’s a level of security.

    2. chewbecca*

      I have the same thought after some of the calls I field. Our number is really close to a long-term care provider so we sometimes get calls for them. I had one such gentleman who refused to believe that we were not the company he wanted to reach. It was the number that was given to him, so obviously I was lying to him about it being wrong. He escalated it to my supervisor, and threatened to report him to his supervisor.

      That time, I actually did ask him why I would lie to him about this not being the correct number. Finally I looked up the correct number and my supervisor gave it to him. The guy didn’t even say thank you or apologize.

      1. HMV*

        My personal cell number is just one digit off from a car dealership (336 vs 366) so I get calls for them all the time. Thankfully I don’t have to answer all the calls since it’s not work and I get sick of telling people they have the wrong number, so I always let my phone go to voicemail if I don’t know the number.

        1. Anna*

          My phone number is the exact same except for the area code as a golf course. So I get a lot of calls asking about tee times. :) I explain what they did (You dialed 5** instead of 5&&) and they go “Oh, I did!” One summer I was getting calls every few days, but now it only happens once in a great while. I think the word got around.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            My old landline number was one digit off the number for a popular Vancouver pizza place, so we got some of their calls every once in a while. My favourite was the drunk/stoned/high/who knows guy who was apparently confused by my accent when I told him he had the wrong number: “duuuuude, am I so far gone that I called England?! What time is it there?!”

        2. rek*

          My cell number is the same as a cardiologist’s office in a different area code. I usually try to answer it since frequently it’s a hospital looking for a verbal order for a patient. I did a reverse search when I first started getting the calls, so now I can say, “No, you want area code 6**. You dialed 7**. (In my area, you have to dial the full 10-digit number even within the same area code.) I have to say most of the time people are really courteous and apologetic.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          My landline is one off from Child Support Enforcement (555-1234 vs. 595-1234). I used to get messages all the time about people’s case files. One lady even left her SSN! I called her back and gave her the actual number and told her not to do that any more.

          I used to call them all back to be nice, because I figured they were wondering why their caseworkers weren’t returning their calls, but I quit doing that after someone yelled at me. He was convinced he had dialed the right number (which of course he did not!).

          I changed my message to “You’ve reached 555-1234. If you’re trying to call Child Support, please hang up and dial 595-1234. If you’d like to leave a message for Elizabeth, please do so after the beep. Thank you.” It’s cut down on them a lot. I imagine some of the workers at the CSE office were perplexed by clients who probably said, “I left you a message but you didn’t call me back!”

        4. B*

          My parents’ number is nearly the same as their drs (a different number doubled). Even though their method of answering the phone and voicemail are clearly a private number people still try and ask for appointments.
          My mum regularly calls people back to tell them they need to call a different number to ask for their presrciption :-/

          1. S from CO*

            My parents had a small shop in CA (they had their business for over 20 years) and they had the same phone number as a hotel in FL (the area code was different). One day my mother was having a crazy / busy day and she was not able to convince the customer to hang up and call the correct number to reach the hotel. So she just took the reservation!!

      2. Sabrina*

        One time I got a call on my cell for someone named Mary. They left a VM saying “Hi Mary, we got here OK, we’re in room 302 if you want to call.” I figured they’d eventually figure out that they didn’t reach Mary and ignored it. Next day they call again and this time I got the call. Asked for Mary. I said, I’m sorry, you must have the wrong number. They INSISTED that this was Mary’s number. I said no, I’m sorry, this is my cell phone, and I’ve had this number for a couple of years. Oh no, this is Mary’s number, and what have I done with Mary. I said OK well you do have the wrong number, and I don’t know who Mary is, have a nice day. I guess they thought I had murdered Mary and stolen her phone and kept answering it for my own purposes, because I was just that dumb of a criminal.

      3. bkanon*

        My parents have had their phone number for twenty, twenty-five years. They still, *still* get the occasional phone call asking for Dr. Lastname. His office had that phone number forty years ago! Get a new phone book, please!

    3. Becca*

      At my old job we had a guy call us about his oxygen tank. He was very, very, elderly and hard to understand. He kept saying “It needs repair…I’m going to die if it breaks…This is the number on the tank….” We kept telling him he needed to call 911 or his doctor because we were not the manufacturer. He was very nice about it, but sounded very confused and kept saying things like “Are you sure you aren’t the right place? I really need help….”

      Very scary.

      1. Elizabeth West*


        If it was a landline, which it likely could have been, I might have tried to do a reverse search on it and sent the police to check on him. Not knowing if he was okay would haunt my dreams. In fact, this story will do that anyway!

    4. Barbara in Swampeast*

      I was walking past the receptionist one day when gave me this weird look. At her break, she came back to my cubicle and said that she had just answered the phone as I walked by and the woman on the phone said her name was Barbara in Swampeast! This was before the Internet. But later, when I googled my name I think I found her because of the industry she was in.

    5. Mister Pickle*

      Technical illiteracy is a funny thing. I often wonder how many people actually understand how a television works, or how a computer works, or how a car works, etc. People are good at working out functional abstractions that allow them to use a device. But you rarely know how well they understand it unless you directly ask them, or – as in this case – the person attempts to use their faulty knowledge to infer (faulty) conclusions. This person obviously had no idea how the phone system works.

        1. Rat Racer*

          My GPS is wrong all the time. But it’s in a 2002 Prius. It often thinks I’m driving through fields when I’m newer areas. It also gives terrible route advice. That technology has come a long way.

          1. Clever Name*

            Off topic, but I’m glad to hear you’re in a 2002 Prius! I have an ’05, and it’s still puttering along. I wish the doors weren’t so scratched from door dings caused by my son, but it’s a great car!

    6. Sandra Dee*

      I was the person on the other end with the phone issue once, but didn’t know it at the time. I called a doctors office, they answered, I didn’t hear anything, so I figured they were having phone issues, so I hung up and called again, with the same result. I did it a couple more times, before it hit me that maybe the issue was on my side. It turned out that my cell phone was dying and the ear speaker quit working, and I could only hear calls if they were on speaker phone. Needless to say, I got a new phone shortly after that, and apologied many times to the doctors office.

    7. brightstar*

      Context is important here, so I’ll mention I was working in a store with a huge wine/liquor/spirits department. One day I answered the phone to hear a drunk, elderly lady asking if we sold martini mixes. I stated that we did not, as martini’s are only vodka or gin mixed with vermouth. Cue five minutes of her asking me repeatedly why we didn’t sell martini mixes until she began to berate me for being stupid and asking to speak to my manager.

      I went outside to cool down and the manager opened the loading dock door to say “I told her we don’t sell mixers because it’s vodka or gin mixed with vermouth. She told me I’m an angel, you’re the devil, and she pities me for working with you!” He started laughing and shut the door.

      I went to another part of the store later to use the printer and a coworker came up to me begging me not to judge her by her family. Turns out it was her “drunk auntie who she told not to call up here”.

      1. Parfait*

        martini mix! You should have sold her a bottle of vermouth with a post-it that says “Martini mix, just add gin or vodka!” on it.

        1. brightstar*

          Maybe I’ll start marketing vermouth as “Martini Mix”. Based upon the number of calls I fielded, it would be a surprising seller.

    8. MaryMary*

      My two favorite work phone stories:

      I worked for a company that ran call centers for clients. For one of our clients, if you called 1-800 instead of 1-888, you got a phone sex hotline instead of our client. It was remarkable how many people didn’t think it was odd to give your credit card number to the sultry-voiced woman on the phone to reach our call center.

      In high school, I worked in the team shop of a major league baseball team. We were one of the few places in the stadium where you could reach someone by phone before, during, and after the game. The team also ran commercials on TV during the game advertising our store, which included our phone number. We got all sorts of weird calls. My favorite was the extremely drunk man who called demanding to talk to the manager. Drunk Man disagreed with several of the manager’s decisions, and wanted to tell him so: “I know there’s a phone in that dugout, I seen it on TV! You can transfer me.” No, sir, I cannot. They don’t give cashiers in the team shop the dugout phone number.

      1. chewbecca*

        I got a series of very frustrating phone calls a few weeks ago that I later figured out were probably for a phone sex line. The caller had a thick accent, so I was having problems totally understanding what he was saying, but he kept insisting he was paying for the call and wanted what he paid for. Several calls later, someone else got on the line and I asked what he needed. The light bulb went off when he replied with “You. In my life”. I hung up and they stopped calling after that.

        My favorite part of those calls was when he asked for my supervisor, and when I said he was out of the office the guy asked me why. My not so customer service appropriate response was “did you just ask me why my boss was out of the office?”.

      2. Miss Kitty Fantastico*

        My college roommate once got a hysterical voice mail from a woman trying to reach a one-night stand from a few months prior, even though my roommate’s outgoing message had her name in it. Apparently, the woman had found out she was pregnant and wanted him to come and take care of her and the baby-to-be. She called back a few more times and never believed that my roommate wasn’t hiding the mystery man somewhere but I guess she eventually gave up… I always wondered what happened with that!

    9. SaraV*

      As someone who worked at a talk radio station, we got allllllll kinds. I was “babysitting” a network broadcast since we’d gotten some new software, and wanted to make sure the local commercials played correctly. The network host would go into their commercial break and come back from their commercial break giving the 1-800 number to call if a listener wanted to be on the show. At least three times within two weeks, someone called our local talk line to talk to the network host. Or, how our secret “bat phone” line (would cause a light to flash in the studio when it rang) was one number off of the pizza place next door. Or how someone called one of our talk lines, trying to sell a security system. “Sir, you’ve reached a radio station…” “Well, do you know anyone who would be interested in one?” “No.”
      I guess it’s his job to ask that question, but I’m in the midst of screening a local talk show. Can’t help you.

    10. Dmented Kitty*

      Is it just me, it really irritates me to get incoming calls from an unknown number where the person on the other end starts with, “Hello? Who’s this?”

      Um, you called me — I would expect you to know who you should be looking for. The least you could do is ask, “Hello, is this (name)?”

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        That goes for a personal phone #. I typically don’t blurt out my name as a greeting, since only the people I know have my number.

        I understand how you’d usually answer with your name on a work line (e.g. “Hello, this is (name)…”)

    11. AcademicAnon*

      Weirdest phone call I got was from my MIL. It was “Hello, we’re at the hospice place. What do you two want to spend on flowers for relative?” That was it. I had to tell SO when he came home later he had to call his mother back, because I had no idea if relative was dead or not!

      The person wasn’t.

    12. Collarbone High*

      I have two bizarre “wrong number stories”:

      1) I was living in Denver in 1997, when the Broncos won the Super Bowl. Happiest day of my life, except that when I got home from celebrating, my voice mail was full of furious messages. Turns out some jackass had sold fake Super Bowl tickets, and given a fake contact number … that happened to be my landline. The duped buyers — who’d spent thousands on the fake tickets, plus airfare, hotel etc. at the game — absolutely would not believe that the guy who ripped them off hadn’t given his real number. I tried leaving an outgoing message explaining that, and that the buyers should call the police, but they wouldn’t stop calling in the middle of the night and filling my voice mail with abusive messages. I ended up having to change my number.

      2) Years later, I was living in Maryland, and somehow a security company got my number as the emergency contact for a Burger King in New Jersey. The BK either had a lot of break-ins or had something loose in the restaurant that kept triggering their alarm, and I kept getting calls at 3 a.m. The security company wasn’t authorized to remove my number. Finally I talked to a supervisor who was willing to give me the address of the Burger King, and I looked up the number and called the manager, who was floored to learn that his alarm had been going off every night and some random person in Maryland was getting called about it.

  7. the gold digger*

    A friend has a second interview for a job she really wants. I told her to come to this site to look for interview hints. She said she would because it’s my advice to date on her resume and cover letters that have gotten her her recent interviews. I told her I owe it ALL to AAM. So yet another satisfied (albeit second-degree) customer.

    1. Lizzy*

      I just directed my mother here to get some guidance for troubles she’s having at work! Love pointing people to this site!

      1. Anna*

        I recommend this site to EVERYONE! I just did a presentation about cover letters to some students and used examples I found here. I gave them the website and told them they should check it out.

        1. spocklady*

          Yes! I feel like at least once a month I’m recommending to someone that they look for advice on this site.

        2. S from CO*

          I recommended this site to my spouse, a co-worker (who is in a very stressful situation), all my FB friends and the friendly cashier at the store who wants a new job!

    2. chasingmyself*

      I bought my significant other Alison’s book as he is job hunting as well. AND HE WON’T FREAKING READ IT. He’s the kind of guy that can get stubborn when I tell him flat-out to do things (honey, take out the garbage = I am a dictator). Even though he loves AAM and knows it’s helpful, he’s being resistant. It’s killing me! Doesn’t he know how much it will help? I tell everyone I know to read this blog :)

        1. Cristina in England*

          And that’s why I love these open threads. Not the content of this particular piece of advice, but because you referred to it as “the Lysistrata approach”.

      1. Diane*

        Oh man, I’ve got the same type of guy! He won’t look at any AAM resources because he knows better. I predict when he gets more desperate or focused, it will be his idea to look at the book.

      2. Dmented Kitty*

        My advice would be to ask yourself, “What would Alison (AAM) do/say for dealing with a stubborn ’employee’?” :) Maybe a different approach will actually work.

          1. the gold digger*

            I tried to put the cats on a PIP, but it didn’t work. They knew we wouldn’t really fire them. They are too cute. But for anyone else – I would not clean vomit off the floor or scoop the box.

      3. Zillah*

        This is the story of my life with my SO sometimes, too. It makes me want to bludgeon him with a penguin shaped pillow or put our dog with horrible breath on his stomach while he’s sleeping.

  8. Nobody*

    I started a new job about 6 months ago, and I am getting close to accomplishing an important goal ahead of schedule. I have a coworker who has been instrumental in helping me reach this goal, and I want to make sure she knows how much I appreciate her help. It is part of her job to help me, but I feel she has gone above and beyond the call of duty. There are other people who have helped (and I don’t want to slight their contributions), but this one person has done at least 10 times more than anyone else.

    I have thanked her at every opportunity, and frequently mentioned to the boss how valuable her help has been, but I would also like to give her a token of my appreciation when I meet my goal. I just don’t want it to be awkward or come across as hitting on her (which I absolutely am not), or like a bribe. What kind of small gift would be appropriate in this situation? Or would it just be weird, and I should stick to simply saying “thank you”?

      1. Judy*

        Thank her in an email and copy her boss, or send an email to her boss and copy her.

        We had a program at one job where they gave everyone ($10 per quarter I think) these “bucks” to give to others as appreciation, and there was a catalog of swag you could spend them on. It was awkward to give fake money to someone who felt they were just doing their job, and it was very awkward getting fake money from someone when you were just doing your job.

        1. Anna*

          I like this. Most people do their jobs and think they’re just doing what they would normally do, but if you think it was incredibly helpful, it’s nice to send that up the ladder. I have done that (specifically mentioned to our center director how helpful someone was in a project) and I know she makes a note of it.

      2. Lucy Ricardo*

        I helped out a person slightly above me, but not my supervisor exactly. And afterwards, she sent this really long e-mail detailing all I had done and thanking me and she cc’d my supervisor. And I really appreciated it.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Buy her lunch? Maybe not a full meal in a restaurant but perhaps pay for a nice sandwich/salad bowl?

      1. HR Generalist*

        I was going to suggest this. We usually go out to lunch at this really cheap place (around $5/plate) – take her somewhere where it would be kind to buy hers but not uncomfortable for her and just say thanks.

        1. Nobody*

          Nice idea, but unfortunately, we don’t go out to lunch at this job. It is a pretty remote location and there are no restaurants close enough to get there and back within our allotted lunch break. There is a cafeteria on site, but she and I both typically bring our own lunches and eat at our desks. Plus, I don’t know if buying her cafeteria food would be considered a good gift. :)

    2. Lily in NYC*

      My sister gives people a free day off when they have been extra-amazing, but I guess you can’t do that if she’s just a coworker and not someone you manage.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Thank you. She is such a great manager! I would kill to work with her, but she’s the #2 at a big federal agency and it would be considered nepotism. I have fantasies about her coming to work in my office for a few months and whipping our terrible managers into shape. They wouldn’t know what hit them.

    3. NotKatietheFed*

      At my old job, we had a program where you could recommend someone for a $25 gift card. You might want to check if your new job does something like that.

      1. Nobody*

        Come to think of it, my company does have a program kind of like this. The program is run solely by management (there’s no formal way of nominating a fellow employee), but I can definitely suggest to our manager that she is deserving of a reward. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Non Compete Agreements*

    I’d love to hear advice on negotiating NCAs, or just avoiding them altogether. Fortunately, I am not under one right now, but I am trying to plan ahead. I am especially interested in any info on navigating this minefield in the healthcare industry in the states of Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. How much luck have people had at having an NCA evaluated by an attorney BEFORE accepting a position, and requesting that some aspects of it be changed?

    1. HR Manager*

      In MA – getting evaluated by an attorney? Important. Luck in getting it changed? Has never happened with any of my companies (I have worked related to healthcare/pharma and healthcare/pharma tech). I’ve had candidates inquire, but not one ever got it changed. In the companies where this applied, this was a big deal and it was essentially take it or leave it.

    2. PumpkinEverything*

      I recently negotiated a contract with a very broad NCA. I did find a lawyer who reviewed the entire contract including the NCA and made some very smart changes. It was difficult to find an attorney who wasn’t company-focused (because that’s where the money is), but I eventually found a good one.
      The company’s lawyer did not budge an inch, but when I explained to the head of HR that the terms wouldn’t allow me to work ANYWHERE in my field for the time limit specified (and that in our industry NCAs are reserved for executive positions – which I am not), the head of HR agreed to change the language. Unfortunately there were other terms that we couldn’t agree on, so I never saw an updated version of the contract and the opportunity fell through – just as well.
      Don’t give up.

        1. PumpkinEverything*

          And not in any of the states you mention, although in my state they are largely enforced.

          1. Non Compete Agreements*

            Thank you. Interesting note on finding a lawyer to look at this from an employee’s perspective.

    3. Cautionary tail*

      NCA veteran here.

      It was hard. Real hard. I was lucky in that the company needed me as badly as I needed them so they brought me on board before the agreement was signed. I then negotiated it for three months because originally it forbade me from working anywhere in the USA or Canada in the industry for a year, made me agree that I had already violated the agreement and that it was just up to the company to file or not and I had already given them permission to file against me and that I acknowledged that I was guilty of whatever they would accuse me of. Damages were the sum of any moneys I ever earned and ever would earn in my natural life. If someone from the company came to work at a future employer then they would automatically be allowed to go after me (with my pre-written permission in the NCA)for poaching that person even if I had nothing to do with their moving on and even if I had never even met or heard of the person.

      I could go on but you get the severity of it. I neutered the agreement down to they could have whatever conditions they wanted but there was no penalty for violating it.

      Although the final copy read pretty sternly, a judge could view both the original and final versions and see that there were no teeth left in it. If I had to sign the original agreement before starting with them I would have walked away.

      1. Cautionary tail*

        For nostalgia’s sake I just opened and read that agreement. Although it was called a “Non-Competition” Agreement, I changed the title to reflect what it actually was so that the final copy read “Non-Disclosure/Non-Competition/Non-Solicitation/Anti-Raiding Agreement.” Don’t be surprised to see all those elements in yours even if they are not titled as such.

        Oh, and the part about them taking all moneys I ever earned and would earn has a clause to say that I agree that this is reasonable.

        I deleted half the text in the document and replaced it with my own text.

        I did not seek a lawyer because I’d done some serious negotiating for a prior company so I knew what I was doing (lawyers would perhaps disagree). I also knew this original agreement was so egregiously broad that no competent court would enforce it but I wasn’t taking that chance.

        I tried to and failed in getting the NCA to be governed under the laws of California instead of my state. NCAs are illegal, with limited exceptions, in California so if I had succeeded with the venue then the rest of the agreement would be immediately null and void. Try it with your agreement.

        1. Non Compete Agreements*

          Wow. All of that sounds extremely severe. I just can’t imagine that standing up in court (not that I would ever want to take it that far), but maybe it would.

          1. Cautionary tail*

            Every state is different. They go the gamut from California where they are illegal to Virginia/New Jersey/PA where the company almost exclusively wins.

        2. Melissa*

          That is insane! Although I just read an article about ridiculous non-compete agreement a little while ago, in the food service industry. One sandwich shop had an NCA so broad that their employees would be basically unable to work in any food place that made sandwiches (which is…everybody) for three years. The court invalidated it.

    4. Hillary*

      Scuttlebutt has it they’re essentially unenforceable in Minnesota, and most of the big companies don’t try to enforce unless it’s executive level. Theft of trade secrets has been addressed through civil or criminal suits lately.

      1. Non Compete Agreements*

        Excellent. Thank you. I am mostly hoping to relocate to Minnesota to work in the med tech industry, so this is great to hear.

        1. Hillary*

          Excellent – it’s the perfect time of year to move here. ;-)

          In all seriousness, it seems like jobs are loosening up in that industry and people have started moving around in the last six months. The smaller companies are usually where the exciting work is happening, the big ones less so.

  10. Geegee*

    I’ve been at my current company for about a year and a half. My manager and the director had both told me that they’re happy with my work but I had started to look elsewhere at the risk of being a job hopper just because I wasn’t expecting much in terms of promotions or raises. I felt the starting pay was kind of low but I had accepted since it was quite a bit more than my prior job and I had only been out of school for a year at that point. At my last performance review, they asked if I’d be interested in a supervisory position or if I wanted to be more of a project based staff member. I thought this was a little odd since the department is kind of small and I wasn’t sure who I’d be supervising but I also wan’t going to shoot down any opportunities so I said yes, at some point I would like to take more of a leadership role. They later offered a 15% raise along with a promotion. I wasn’t going to turn down a raise and opportunity for more responsibility. I’m happy about this but it feels really awkward so far. The change has gone through HR and the raise went through on my last paycheck but I am still doing the same work as before so I think that’s kind of weird, though I’m not complaining. Essentially, I will be taking over half the responsibilities of the person who is currently the supervisor. I am a little bit intimidated since she they are more experienced than I am. I also have a feeling that she resents me a little bit and I think there might be some politics at play here. I’m not sure if they’re trying to push her out eventually but right now it’s just really awkward. At some point I’ll be training with the current supervisor to learn more about what she does and I’m not looking forward to it. Anyone have any tips on how to approach this situation?

    1. HR Generalist*

      I would talk it out with the current supervisor. I’d pull her aside and say, “Hey, I know this is kind of strange and I’m still not totally familiar with the office politics around here, but are you uncomfortable with my promotion? We’ll need to work together in the future and I just want to make sure we’re both on board to make this work.”

      Airing things out always seems to ease tension.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Uh, I think I would have a sit down with my boss. Start with a job description. What does the job entail? Then move on to what her vision is for TWO of you now.What is her part and what is your part? Find out what you are now responsible for, what you will be evaluated on at eval time.

      This sounds like a really awkward situation. The other supervisor either had too much work and complained about that OR they are trying to fade out the other supervisor.

      1. Mister Pickle*

        Or – trying to think positive – it could be that they’re expanding.

        I agree that you should try to get some information on what The Big Picture is here.

  11. Rachel*

    My boyfriend has a finance degree and works for a large finance company. However, the job he currently has is more on the technical/IT side of finance (database stuff, sending reports, etc.) He wants to find a more finance-focused job, but is having a hard time since he doesn’t have “enough finance experience” in his current role (since it’s more IT-related). How/what can he do to help combat this other than explaining that the role he’s in now isn’t ideal, etc.

    1. aNoN*


      I too have a finance degree but my role consists of a lot of IT related tasks such as maintaining business applications from a user standpoint. This is becoming common in our field because businesses are relying more on ERPs to help manage data and reporting. I would suggest finding roles within his current organization he can transition into that are more closely related to what he would like. Within Finance there are a lot areas he can explore such as sales finance, supply chain finance, and financial planning and analysis (this is the big area a lot of entry level people want to get into). I would also like to mention that demonstrating a strong sense of analytic skills is important. He can add commentary to his reports (coordinated withi his boss) that will make the reports more useful in terms of telling a story.

      Finance is ultimately broad but his role does have the potential to become more analytically focused if he can coordinate this with his team and boss. Maybe his role has the potential to fit a need to analytics if there is one.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      My husband made this transition by getting an MBA, but that’s a fairly unrealistic plan for most folks (i.e., don’t get an MBA for this reason alone – it’s way too expensive for that).

      I think it comes down to relationships. Have one-on-ones with folks on the teams he’d like to be on. Check out if there is some sort of internal internship or rotational program.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Oh, and: Consider doing the CFA. Also not a short-term (or cheap) fix, but it establishes immediate credibility – even just passing one level of the exam (there are 3 total) can help establish him as a finance guy rather than an IT guy.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I didn’t realise There was some many of us lurking around on here is anyone else a massive SQL nerd?

      I look after the time and billing system for a good size consultancy firm and have a finance background, your boyfriend will have a tone of transferable skills, he will understand the accounting process and if he’s working with finance systems he already knows how to analyse and interpret the data so he should be in strong position to transfer to a new job, are his cover letters making the most of the opportunity to demonstrate to employers where is skills over lap with their requirements?

      The only thing I can see him having a problem with is if he wants to get in to some really hard core technical role such as dealing with accounting standards, publishing statuary accounts or getting into regulated areas such as statutory audits because more recently practical knowledge will overshadow any amount of theoretical knowledge.

      I’m not sure of the jobs titles that would apply if you’re in the US but in the UK jobs like accounts assistant, assistant accountant, management accountant or even business analyst would be roles I could move in to with a similar background is your boyfriend being realistic about the roles he is considering? If I wanted to join the accounts team in my office I couldn’t transfer across at a comparable level.

      A finally has your boyfriend thought about professional accreditation? Both ACCA (financial accounting) and CIMA (management accounting) are internationally recognised professional bodies that certify accountants (and in the US there is CPA which I know very little about) The good news is you boyfriend will be able to use his finance degree to claim exceptions for some of the ACCA and CIMA exams, being able to list current professional accreditation on his CV will help no end, its expensive to register and claim the exemptions but might be worth considering.

      1. Selkie*

        I’m trying to be an SQL nerd. My new job uses a fundraising database that’s heavily based on SQL and it’s really useful to be able to write my own queries rather than use the built-in query builder.

      2. Windchime*

        I’m a massive SQL nerd! It’s what I do most of my day and I love it. I love data in general (not sure why!?) and I love using SQL to get to it. I work on a BI team in a healthcare organization, so I’m not really involved in finance all that much.

    4. Hillary*

      It depends on the organization, but my company has both straight finance roles and business finance roles. I don’t do our entries or have access to the GL, but I was hired as a financial analyst. I directly support the business with negotiations, analytics and general problem solving, plus software support and some other random things. In some ways, my skills are more transferable than the people in Finance. I’m expected to move to other business units, while people from Finance are expected to stay within Finance.

      His database/reporting/analytics skills will be in demand in the right organization, especially when you add in the financial knowledge. I’d probably look for a role supporting a business unit to get in the door.

  12. a.n.o.n.*

    So, I went for my interview on Monday! It seemed to have gone well. The interviewers didn’t have many questions for me. At all. No management questions at all and it’s a middle-management position. I think they don’t interview very often. I’ve heard from several people that there’s not a lot of turnover there. Also, they’re really stressed at the moment trying to do the work of a four-person department with only two people. I chalk it up to being spread thin.

    I was told by HR to expect to complete an application before I left, but they didn’t give me one and I didn’t realize it until I got home. Of course I obsessed about that, thinking that they decided before I left that they didn’t want me. But I thought about it logically and decided they probably forgot, or HR forgot to tell them. I emailed HR and she confirmed she had forgotten to tell them to give me an app. She sent it over right away.

    So, now I wait. I’m very anxious. I want this job very badly. It seems like a relaxed atmosphere based on what I observed and the questions I asked about culture. Sounds much more interesting that what I’m doing now, also.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Are you sure you really do want the job? Interviewers who don’t interview are a recipe for bad hires, and low turnover means those bad hires stay around and will be your coworkers. Unless they already knew a ton about you and your work before the interview, this would worry me a bit.

      1. a.n.o.n.*

        I had an extensive phone interview before I went in. They did ask some questions about my experience and such, and also about how my current company compares to my old company (big difference in size, volume, complexity, and responsibilities. But I didn’t get the, “tell me about a time when…” questions and that’s what threw me off. I guess I was expecting it to be really difficult, so I prepared and built it up in my mind all weekend. In talking about the job and the company they seemed thoughtful and didn’t seem like they were hiding something.

  13. Katherine*

    Is it ok to include client projects/writing samples from your previous 9-to-5 jobs on your personal writing/freelance portfolio?

    1. wonkette*

      Yes. I’m curious to find out why including writing samples from a regular job would be inappropriate unless you work at an office where you deal with a lot of confidential information.

    2. The Strand*

      I would think it depends on what type of projects, and whether they are private or not.

      If you work in film, video, or multimedia, your reel is *so* crucial.

      1. AVP*

        Yes, for us it’s totally standard to use anything you’ve worked on as long as you make your role clear! If it’s confidential info or you feel uncomfortable showing a brand or logo, you can take that off or change it to something generic.

    3. LMW*

      Yes, but be careful about copyright. You don’t have the right to publish, but you can discretely share. I have some pieces that I have posted on my online portfolio, and others that I only link to or share via email or in person. You have to use your best judgement based on how the client or employer would feel about you representing yourself with those materials, should they find out. And be careful about sharing private information — I sometimes blur or scrub identifiers to maintain privacy.

      1. Katherine*

        Thanks! It’s just I’ve worked for some big names during my 9-to-5 but my freelance clients are much more local and small. Would like to include the big names in my portfolio

    4. MaryMary*

      If you have a non-disclosure, non-compete, or confidentiality in your employment contract, see what the exact wording is. Mine says that anything I create belongs to my employer. Depending on what kind of projects you work on, client confidentiality could also be an issue.

  14. Elkay*

    I’m annoyed because I had something for this open thread and now I’ve forgotten it. This week has been horribly long and I really hope in my next job people are more open to helping other people out. I’m so tired of feeling like everyone thinks I’m an idiot for not knowing things, and staring at me like I’ve got two heads when I ask slightly the wrong thing.

    1. matcha123*

      I also feel like this week took forever. And I always forget what I want to ask on the open thread or spend so much time thinking about it that replies are 200+ deep.

  15. Amy*

    I have a group interview next week (multiple candidates/multiples interviewers), and was hoping for some tips. It’s for an entry-level sales position.

    1. HR Generalist*

      Be prepared for group work. My last group interview we had to put on little skits for management about workplace culture (ugh) and then work together for role-playing activities. Oh, and then they made us do rapid fire questions where we all sat in a line and the three managers sat across (one-to-one with the interviewees). They asked us a question, we had one minute to answer, and then a bell was rung and they hopped chairs and asked the same question to the next person. Ugh.

      Another group interview I had, they didn’t engage the interviewees at all. They gave us a presentation, asked us to write a test, and then left the room. Super bizarre.

      I had a friend who had a group interview in the education field (ECE/assistant role) where they split them into groups and then observed them completing a task. She said it was uncomfortable because everyone was trying to demonstrate their knowledge/ability/leadership skills while management watched. She didn’t get the job and when asked for feedback they said she was “too pushy” (which is the exact environment she created).

      1. Melissa*

        “Oh, and then they made us do rapid fire questions where we all sat in a line and the three managers sat across (one-to-one with the interviewees). They asked us a question, we had one minute to answer, and then a bell was rung and they hopped chairs and asked the same question to the next person. Ugh.”

        This sounds like a really stupid way to hire people. Who devises these exercises? What do they hope to gain from them?

        I worked in residential life when I was in graduate school. I was a hall director so I was in charge of hiring my own staff of RAs and helping my two HD teammates select theirs as well. But RA hiring is always structured so that there’s a group activity/interview and then individual interviews. At the HD level we’re always involved with the individual interviews (usually teamed up with a senior RA), and the first-year and some second-year RAs are involved in running the group interviews.

        I was always really skeptical about the feedback from group interviews and basically disregarded it unless there was some glaring red flag. While I think that my RAs had valuable insights about potential RAs, the problem is that most RAs tend to be extraverted and expect other people to be like them. So I would get comments that either the person was “too quiet and didn’t say much” or “pushy and talked a lot.” There’s like no middle ground, and I feel like everyone trying to jump all over each other to demonstrate their skill in a group interview is not a good way to evaluate skills (especially with a room full of 19-21-year-olds, 70% of whom are extraverted overachievers).

    2. HR Manager*

      When I used to recruit sales, the sales manager always wanted the candidates to close them. So “close the deal” with your interviewer! If you don’t know what I mean, you can find some info on the web by searching sales+close.

  16. matcha123*

    Happy Halloween from Japan~
    Not much going on here, but a little more Halloweeny than the previous year.

    I’ve been thinking about writing styles. Specifically the type of writing style one would consider “professional” and educated.
    I don’t have much confidence when it comes to what I write; my mom was an English major and was very critical about everything I wrote.

    Anyways, a style that I often see with people who try to convey a serious, professional tone is the use…overuse(?) of the passive tense and what I see as wordiness and and over reliance on words that sound formal.

    An example would be:
    “I had been asked by my immediate superior to complete the required forms, which I did complete to her satisfaction. Later, said immediate supervisor had told me that she had happened to find an error in the work that I had completed earlier, causing me undue distress due to the fact that the error, in fact, was not an error on my part, but on the part of another coworker.”

    I don’t know if I’ve given the best example, but it’s a style I know when I read. Since I see it so often, I’m wondering if this is a style I should try to emulate? Whether it is “correct” or not is something I’m not as interested in. I just want to know if this is a style of business writing that I should try to use when I’m translating letters or giving advice to my Japanese coworkers. I see this style a lot in Business English texts for Japanese people, and Japanese people ask me to explain why my style doesn’t match what is in the texts they have.

    Am I making sense? Sorry. it’s midnight here.

    1. the gold digger*

      I hate it. It’s stilted and too long. I don’t see that style where I am – I work with engineers and everything is very direct and concise. I don’t remember that style from working in corporate finance or marketing, either. I would not think it is used commonly in the US.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      It reads like police report English to me!

      I would avoid it if at all possible; it reads like overcompensation for a lack of confidence. Could you find some examples of less stilted, over-worked English – maybe from the website of a well-respected company based in an English-speaking country – to show to the people you’re translating for, so they realise that it’s not just you whose style doesn’t match the textbook’s?

    3. Sascha*

      I’ve seen that style a lot here in academia, but it varies pretty wildly. I favor a direct, concise style and try to avoid passive tense when I can. For example, I’d write the above as:

      “My supervisor asked me to complete the forms, which I did to her satisfaction, however she later informed me she found an error. My coworker actually made that error, and it caused me some stress to think she thought I made the error.”

      I don’t think your above example is something you should try to emulate, because it’s just too wordy and gets confusing after a while. As for explaining why your style is different than what’s in the text, I would explain that language textbooks usually favor more formal phrasing for learners. It can be good to err on the side of more formal when you are new to a language or workplace, but as they grow more comfortable with the language, I think they should consider adopting a less formal, more direct style.

      1. matcha123*

        Wow! So many replies!

        And yes, I do agree that the style is stilted and long. But, it’s a style that I came across often in high school and in university. I know I asked a similar writing style question a few weeks ago, so I don’t want anyone to think I have forgotten about their advice.

        But, while I was reading through the letters that were sent in, I kept coming back to a common writing style that ran through some of them. I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to call out letter writers, but I’ve been here so long, and have so many English Writing Style related debates, that I’ve been seriously doubting myself for a while.

        1. bridget*

          I think it’s so common in high school and college because it’s common among those who feel like they are not adult, professional, or formal enough, and so are overcompensating to seem like they belong to that group. But in reality, good professional writers don’t actually write like that, because it is usually at bottom just unnecessarily wordy in a way that sacrifices clarity. Bad professional writers do write like this all the time, and it’s commonly referred to as legalese, bureaucratese, corporatese, etc. But students often see that that kind of stilted writing is commonly used by successful people, and that the writing is intimidating and hard to understand, so it must be the right way to go.

          I could see how this is common in Japanese business contexts. I’ve always been under the impression that the culture is relatively formal compared to the US, and if the writers are using a second language, it might give rise to similar insecurity as students, mentioned above, who are overcompensating in the face of not being totally sure how things are “supposed” to be written.

          I am halfway through Steven Pinker’s new book, the Sense of Style, where he tries to explain the difference between good, clear writing and bureaucratese.

          1. matcha123*

            I’ve been wanting to read that book since hearing about it a month or so ago!
            The high school/university-style of writing rings true with me. The majority of the kids in my high school classes wrote their university application essays in that format, and when I’ve checked application letters for the JET Program, I notice a majority of the ones I see are also following that particular format.

            Japanese does have a set format for writing letters. The language varies between letters addressed to, say, dignitaries versus regular people, and that is the problem many people have here with English. They want to be sure that we’re not insulting Obama by using “you” rather than “Your Excellency” or something like that.

            (For anyone that is curious, the typical Japanese business letter format for someone outside of your company is:
            -Name, title and name of the organization of the person you’re sending your letter to.
            -A greeting that makes reference to the season. Usually something like: “The leaves are changing color and the air is getting cooler. I hope that you are in good health.”
            – A thank you or reference to some event in the past that the person you are writing to participated in or helped with.
            – The reason you are writing the letter.
            – Closing remarks, again related to the season, with a wish for the reader’s good health.
            – Signature with the name of the letter writer, their title, their department name, their phone/fax numbers and possibly email address.)

          2. ProductiveDyslexic*

            +1 to Sascha and bridget.

            I try to follow George Orwell’s rules:

            (i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
            (ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
            (iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
            (iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
            (v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
            (vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Really good advice here. Be very practical with your word choice. Does the person clearly see what you (the writer) what her to know? If you are asking for something is that request clearly stated? Don’t embarass the reader with jargon/slang/etc that she may not know. And don’t waste the reader’s time, get to the point.

      2. Cassie*

        I’d write something similar to Sascha’s rewrite. I do a bit of writing in my work, and do a lot of proofreading/copyediting for scientists (and some staff) whose first language is not English. Some of the common problems I see are overly formal/wordy sentences – if you can state the sentiment in just a few simple words, do it. No point in dragging out the thesaurus and picking five dollar words (I’m always reminded of Joey’s letter in support of Monica & Chandler adopting a baby).

        I like when they ask me about grammar issues or why you would use an “a” in front of the word “university” instead of “an” and stuff like that. It shows that they are trying to learn. What bugs me is when people ignore my edits and continue making the same errors over and over again. After about the 4th correction, I give up…

    4. Shell*

      For business letters I’d try to avoid this kind of style, especially if it’s for your coworkers or someone you’ve corresponded with–it reads as overly formal and stilted. If you’re corresponding with someone you’ve never met (new client, whatever) I’d increase the formality, but still err on low use of passive voice.

      1. matcha123*

        I agree with you; the level of formality needs to drop a bit once you’ve established a relationship with the other person.
        What’s amusing to me is that my office gets letters from a huge amount of people from around the world, all with varying English levels. Some are obviously written by someone pressed for time (spelling and grammatical errors) and yet, we are asked to reply with the same level of set formalities to all that come in.

        I definitely think there’s a fine line in English between being formal and sounding like you’re trolling the other person.

    5. chasingmyself*

      I’m facing this right now, actually! I just started a new job, and one of my main responsibilities is writing and managing all grant proposals. Everyone here writes really well – thank goodness – but it’s all passive and very formal. I’m working on rewriting everything to make it clear, concise, and pack more of a punch. It’s no small feat to wade through all that verbosity.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Tell me about it. I edit consultant reports and the passive language, she is strong. I have to be really careful that I don’t change meaning, especially since I have no experience with the actual subject of the report.

      2. Sheep*

        I do grant management too, and one of my new skills is translating ‘engineer’ into ‘donor’.

    6. Anx*

      I would avoid it. I tend to overuse the passive voice, insert commas where they aren’t necessarily, and otherwise sound overly formal when I write. Unfortunately, I don’t have a writing style that is grammatically sound, professional, AND super concise. It’s just my writing voice, and I can’t seem to change it too much.

      I would love to find some examples of cover letters on the internet ‘that work.’ The few that have been linked here are just so totally unnatural for me, that I couldn’t possibly represent myself genuinely while trying to emulate them.

    7. Melissa*

      Nooooooooo. That’s terrible. It’s difficult to read and understand what it is the writer is trying to say. I had to read it like 3 times in order to understand what was going on.

  17. Dark Morris Dancer*

    Do some workplaces spontaneously generate dysfunctional employees?

    Some background, I work in a widely distributed, but relatively small science-based field; think one to maybe 10 people in each individual organization , with organizations in pretty much every community with 100,000+ residents (can be significantly larger in major metro areas), and many places with smaller populations. There are a few organizations that just seem to generate, for want of a better term, loons.

    Several of us got into a discussion over drinks at the latest national conference and this came up. As in, “Have you ever hired someone from ?” Followed by the trading of loon stories about people we’ve hired from a few organizations. There’s one in this state, the largest in the state and one of the larger in the US, which either creates or hires the most high-maintenance nutjobs in the industry. From the homeopathic “remedy” swilling hypochondriac to the conspiracy-seeing, “everyone is out to get me” tinfoil hatter to (and I kid you not) the woman who gave psychic readings to all coworkers, wanted or not, and decided what to do each day based on what the spirits told her to the guy who Just. Can’t. Follow. Instructions. Every one of these, and others moving on from there, got good references from their assorted supervisors. Did I mention our work is science and logic based?

    Personally, if I see a resume with this employer listed, the applicant will have a higher hill to climb to get an offer from me. At least one of the other managers I was talking with just won’t hire anyone who has ever worked there. As he put it, “I thought the first one was a fluke, and then I hired the second one. Never again.”

    I wonder if there’s any way for job applicants to suss out these whacko factories?

    1. HR Generalist*

      Good interviews, but there’s no 100% foolproof way to never hire the weirdos.

      It sounds like the company you mentioned is just the type to give everyone a chance. And then you keep hiring their dysfunctional employees when they try to move on, haha.

      1. Dark Morris*

        In my defense, I’ve only hired two of those; the first two. :) And neither works here any longer.

        And the last question would be for someone to avoid being hired by them in the first place; though I really don’t know how one would figure out someplace is a loon factory without industry knowledge.

    2. soitgoes*

      It’s possible that that employer has a soft spot for hippie-dippy farmers market types. Is the company in an area that’s likely to have a large population of a specific type of person? I live in a hipster mecca, so here you’re going to see a lot of artsy people with stupid haircuts working jobs that seem like odd fits.

    3. Mister Pickle*

      I think I would try to do a little research on this organization that “generates” such people: who works there, and what kind of structure does the org have? Where is it, and what is close-by? Etc. You might find something interesting. Or not. But it would be a fun way to spend an afternoon.

      Gotta say, though: there are people in my company who think I’m slightly “off”. Get me going on metaphysics or cosmology or Tarot cards and you might think I’m a loon, too.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I would think that their hiring practices are way off somehow. Clearly they’re passing on their mistakes, if they’re giving glowing references to these workers.

    5. MaryMary*

      Maybe loons hire other loons? There was a department at OldJob that seemed to be staffed only by supremely confident, arrogant, smartest-person-in-the-room people. From senior managers to new hires, everyone was a smug a–hole. I used to joke that they wrote it into the job description, but after a while I decided that like hired like. If you had that type of personality, anyone lower-key or less brashly confident wouldn’t seem like a very impressive candidate. Maybe subconsciously, the weirdos are hiring other weirdos. Or the only candidates who get the offer stage are the crazies, since the sane folks self-select out.

    6. INTP*

      I worked for a place where every employee eventually became unprofessional and immature, but I think that was only in the context of that environment and people would go back to normal after leaving. We were treated like children and the result was that people would start as hardworking professionals and within a few months, be giggling during meetings, doing zero work when the boss was out, complaining openly about the boss, and having occasional emotional outbursts. There wasn’t really an incentive not to since the boss handled discipline like a lazy schoolteacher – i.e. just punish everyone equally and not actually handle things with the perpetrator. Headphones were banned and we were told not to look at our phones during the day because one guy got caught watching movies on his phone at his desk instead of working, that sort of thing.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Oh dear, I’ve noticed this about where I work. It started out so promising but a year in it is incredibly frustrating because of issues similar to above. I don’t know whether to start searching or try to ride it out.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Start searching. Seriously. Ask yourself “If I ride this out will it get better in a bit? Do I see change on the horizon?” Unless you know major changes are in the works, start making plans of your own.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      This company that hires people who hear a different drummer, are they trying to develop new things? Sometimes companies will bring in people who think outside the box (grrr) in order to get something new going on or to get new ideas flowing. Perhaps they are hiring these people to develop new ideas for the future.

  18. ME*

    Hello, I have a coworker personality conflict.

    I work closely with someone who I cannot personally stand. My coworker lacks a filter and either lacks self awareness about how she comes across or does not care. We work closely on monthly duties in the beginning of the period and otherwise don’t speak much. Her comments throughout the week are condescending towards me ( I am the youngest and newest in the group) and downright insulting. She behaves this way towards everyone so I don’t think it is targeted.

    I have gotten to the point to where I avoid talking to her most days and put my headphones on when she starts bad mouthing other people. I dislike hearing negative things being said about other people at work when we are all trying to do our best. With that being said, I dread working on deliverables with her. She is smart and talented which I respect but I am also trying my hardest not to snap at her when she says something insulting. I have told her to respect my views on things related to work and have also decided not to engage in personal conversations with her that usually result in her criticizing others. An example I can think of is when she criticizes my other coworker for their parenting choices and the conversation usually goes south from there.

    Can you give me some advice for how to handle myself and not take this so personally?

    1. Swarley*

      I think the best thing to do is recognize that these are her shortcomings as a person, not yours. She can be rude and unprofessional, but don’t let yourself stoop to her level. And definitely don’t snap at her. Be the bigger person and don’t let yourself be flustered by whatever she says. That tends to really throw some people. Also, address your concern in the moment. If she says something insulting, try the following:

      “Wow. That was uncalled for.”
      “That’s a rude thing to say.”
      “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t make comments like that toward me.”
      “I’ve asked you repeatedly to not speak to me that way. What’s going on?”

      If you’ve already been addressing this with her, it might be time to bring your manager into the loop. You could say something like “I’m having trouble working with Robin. She makes rude remarks toward me that are hurtful and unrelated to our work. I’ve asked her to stop repeatedly but it hasn’t worked. How should I be handling this?” A good manager will step in and address this.

    2. Natalie*

      I have had good luck deflecting with negative people when you can’t just ignore them.

      ME: Hey, do you have the Ninja Report completed?

      Negativie the Negative Co-Worker: No, RAAAAAAAAARRRRRR rant rant rant

      ME: Hmmm. Well let me know when it’s complete.

      And scene.

    3. Nobody*

      There are some people who are truly unaware of how they come across to others, and your coworker could be one of them. Most people do not intend to be jerks, and certainly don’t think of themselves as jerks, so if you can give them honest and constructive feedback (which is easier said than done), they might be open to trying to change their ways. I would not recommend snappy comebacks because that will probably just make her think that YOU are the one being a jerk, and it will probably make her far less receptive to any feedback you offer.

      I would suggest direct and immediate feedback rather than general statements like, “You’re always condescending and critical,” because if you say something general like that, she may not understand what you mean (again, she probably doesn’t think of herself as being condescending or overly critical). When she says something condescending to you, you can say (preferably in private, not in front of everyone) something like, “I’m trying my best to work up to your standards, but I’m new and still learning how things are done here. I would love to get your advice on how to do better, but when you roll your eyes and say, ‘I guess I’ll just have to do it myself,’ it’s just hurtful and it comes across as condescending.” Chances are, she will feel bad and apologize, and maybe be more aware of how she talks to you in the future.

      1. Rin*

        Good advice in theory. Didn’t work for me when I tried it. Instead, I got attacked. Didn’t really resolve, either. It’s a pain to be the better person, but it’s a double-edged sword: would you rather be irritated in silence or have an awkward tension in public?

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Her: “Joe is a lousy parent because of x, y and z”
      You: “Sounds like an at home problem, not a work problem, though.”

      Her: “Have you noticed how much weight Tina has gained?”
      You: “No, not particularly. Now the figures for week 3 seem incomplete, did you get the rest of the report?….”

      Her: “Sue and Jan are so buddy-buddy. It’s amazing they get any work done at all.”
      You: “Oh you remind me, here is the info we needed on what we were discussing yesterday.”

      You can also try things such as “Well, that might all be true, but the fact remains that I have to work with this person, so I prefer to hold things in a good light and keep going.”
      Where appropriate you can shrug and say “Some people have very difficult lives.”
      Other times a brief “I am sorry to hear that” coupled with silence or a redirection to the work can squash a train of conversation.

      There is no one magic phrase. My best advice is to have a group of responses that you rotate through. Once you get used to using those responses you will be able to tweak them so they sound slightly different but basically mean the same thing.

  19. Christy*

    I’m looking for a book on workplace interaction. I’m trying to learn more about the topic as a whole and particularly about government employees. Any suggestions?

    1. ZSD*

      This isn’t specific to government employees, but you can try _Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High_, by Patterson et al.

    2. wonkette*

      I read “Resonant Leadership” by Richard Boyatzis which focuses on how leaders can use emotional intelligence/empathy to be effective leaders. I liked it alot because the author is not a proponent of the letting people get away from being toxic just because they are seen as geniuses in their field.

      Berkeley University’s Greater Good Science Center studies how people can be compassionate, mindful, etc. in their work and personal lives. I like what the university professors do because they do scientific research on these topics and there’s a minimal amount fluff.

  20. Spooky*

    Yay for Halloween!

    My question: how do you transition from a professional relationship to a personal one?

    I recently met with an agent, who liked my ideas and requested some of my work. He ended up passing on it, but we emailed back and forth a few times. In all of my interactions with him, he’s been incredibly sweet. Plus, while researching him, I found out that we actually have a good number of similar interests. After he passed on the work, I asked if I could buy him coffee and talk about the project, which he said he didn’t have time for (again, in a very kind way.) I didn’t want to say anything while there was still the possibility of a professional relationship, but now that it’s off the table, would it be socially acceptable to ask him out on a coffee date or something that doesn’t involve work? If so, how?

    Basically, is it ever okay to transition from a professional relationship to a personal one? I’m not sure what the rules are these days and I don’t want to offend him or be too pushy.

    1. A.*

      I think it’s okay to transition from a professional relationship to a professional one, as long as both parties are equally interested in that transition. I know you said he politely passed on your initial coffee invitation, but if there were an interest on his part, I think he would’ve offered another time. You need to be sure this person is interested in a personal relationship. From the very limited information you’ve given, I’m not sure he’s interested.

    2. TotesMaGoats*

      In the very general sense is it okay? Probably. Should you, in this particular instance? Probably not. While someone sounding nice in email/phone and having similar hobbies is a great place to start, I would guess that the agent would probably not want to cross that line. In the back of his mind, he might be thinking that you are still pushing your work from that angle. He’s already turned you down once, I would take that as a sign and let it go.

      1. nep*

        Agree with that last statement. Seems to me if he was interested in seeing you outside of a professional context, he would have taken you up on the offer. (If the proposed date/time was not good for him because of a prior engagement, I reckon he would have suggested another time were he interested.)

    3. Mister Pickle*

      I think it’s absolutely okay to go from professional to personal. I’ve seen statistics claiming 15%-50% of married couples met through work (50% sounds a bit high to me).

      In this particular instance, I think you need to be upfront and tell them “I enjoyed working with you, and now that that is over, I’d like it if we were friends. Care to have a cup of coffee and talk sometime this week?” Or whatever words work for you.

      If they accept, take it from there.
      If they decline, then just leave it alone (sorry).

      One thing: the important part is actually meeting for coffee in the next 7 days. If they accept – but then cancel or counter with “how about the Tuesday after next?” then leave it alone. If they accept for Tuesday, then ask to reschedule for Wednesday, that’s okay.

      Good luck!

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I echo A. and TotesMaGoats. It doesn’t sound like he’s interested, and because you are/were a potential client, it would muddy the waters even if he is. I’d let it go.

  21. Sascha*

    Re: writing interview questions

    I’d love to hear suggestions on writing interview questions that will tease out the following things from candidates:
    – good problem solving skills
    – good awareness of how their actions affect others (empathy, conscientiousness)
    – good time management skills
    – good control of their emotions and how to be professional

    I’m asking because we’re about to hire for my team again, and the last 2 hires have been duds. Both of them seemed like smart, conscientious, friendly people in the interviews, but actually working with them reveal them to be rather selfish, scattered, unprofessional people – they had a hard time controlling their emotions and staying professional (snarky emails to clients, talking back to the boss, etc), their time management was terrible (frequent absences and leaving during the day), they didn’t seem to connect their actions to consequences or how they affected others, and with one guy, he doesn’t make attempts to solve problems beyond the first try – we’re tech support, so while common solutions usually work, they don’t always, and we need people who will dig into other possibilities instead of just throwing up their hands.

    Obviously we’re trying to avoid hiring more people like them. My manager does the reference checks, and for both, he said their references spoke well of these people. It feels like we were blindsided by both, so I’m trying to figure out ways I can assess these things in the interview. Also – we aren’t allowed to do skills tests, and we have to ask every candidate the same set of questions, but follow up questions based on their answers are allowed. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, the fact that you’re now allowed to test candidates and actually see their work in action is almost certainly part of the problem — why is that? Can you get that changed? That’s absolute craziness that’s at odds with your ability/desire to make good hires.

      In addition to seeing candidates in action, probe into times in the past when they’ve had to use each of the skills you’re talking about — and then probe some more into their answers, and some more into that answer. Really keep following up so you’re digging beyond the initial surface answer and getting real info about how they think and operate.

      There’s some good stuff here:

      1. Sascha*

        Thank you! I work for a state government institution, and our HR is very strict about what we can and can’t do during the hiring process, in the interest of fairness. But the other part is my manager is just not very good – at interviewing or managing. He’s the official hiring manager for this team, and while I am included in the process – I vet candidates, I participate in the interviews – he is the one who submits questions for HR approval and calls people for interviews, and leads the interviews. He has a tendency to talk too much and ask leading questions, and we have a very bland question set that I’ve been pushing to change, but he never submits the questions to HR on time.

        I will read those articles and do what I can during interviews. Thanks again!

        1. Dan*

          This whole idea of a “fair” hiring process drives me nuts, particularly so when it comes to the government. Jobs aren’t a prize to be won, they’re a mutually beneficial business transaction where both entities are trying to help each other out. (We just don’t say the later in so many words. And let’s be clear — I’m not trying to “help the business”, I’m trying to earn a paycheck. Likewise, they’re not trying to “help” me, they’re trying to make money off of me.)

          Over-relying on a canned process is nuts, and it’s not just government that does it.

          I once interviewed for a technical role and spent the whole day answering behavioral questions. I got no insight into the type of work that was done, the skills that they were looking for, the culture of the team (other than “red tape”), the kinds of data they work with, nothing. All in the name, I suppose, of being “fair.”

          Do what you have to do to evaluate the candidate. Period. If candidate X asserts he has a background that’s useful to you, but not “required”, and you can’t ask about it, that’s asinine.

    2. Dan*

      Role play. Give them vague questions and see what they do. Do they get frustrated? Do they ask good follow ups?

      If you can’t do that (because of the “no skills tests”), the people who don’t allow it suck.

      1. Sascha*

        I like that idea. I’ll see if we’re allowed to do it. If we do that for every candidate then it might get approved.

        And yes, they do! I also wish I could contact the references myself. I don’t really trust my manager to do a good job reference checking.

    3. soitgoes*

      For the one about empathy, ask if they’re “big picture” people or more detail-oriented. The actual answer doesn’t matter; you want to find out if they have an awareness of how decisions and actions can snowball, and also if they can make reasonable predictions for how their decisions will play out.

      1. Sascha*

        Thank you! “also if they can make reasonable predictions for how their decisions will play out” is what I’m really after, that is a good description of it. With the guy especially, it seems like he just never considers how his actions affect others. For example, we had a staff meeting one day at 9am. It was on his calendar, and it’s a recurring meeting we have at the same time every month. He decided to take a break at 9am, so we were all sitting in the meeting wondering where he was and if we should start. He showed up 20 minutes later, and when asked if he forgot or if the meeting was on his calendar, he just responded with, “Oh I remembered, I just decided to take a break.” Who does that???

    4. MaryMary*

      I think behavioral interview questions are perfect for this situation:

      Tell me about a time you had to complete a project under a tight deadline.
      Describe a situation where you had to deal with a difficult customer/coworker/vendor.
      Have you ever had a conflict with a coworker? How did you resolve it?
      Tell me about a time you had to work as part of a team.
      Talk me through a complicated process that you were responsible for. What was step 1, step 2, step 3…
      Have you ever had to teach yourself something? How did you go about it?

  22. CollegeAdmin*

    My supervisor has taken to coming into my cubicle and standing about six inches from my shoulder while she talks to me. This started when I moved my computer to the corner of the even-shaped L desk from one of the sides, but I’m no further from her – just 45 degrees turned away, but I turn toward her while she’s talking. Before I moved the computer, she would stand at the edge of my desk or my cube (which is very small – just over 5′ by 5′), which worked just fine for me.

    How can I politely ask her to back up and give me some personal space?

    1. Gene*

      Be straightforward? As in, “I noticed since I moved my computer, you now do X where before you did Y. It’s really pushing my personal space boundaries, can we go back to Y?”

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Ugh, I’d like to see responses for this. My supervisor walks behind my desk instead of to the front and I hate it. I startle easily and I often have confidential items for my other boss up on my screen. I paid for my own privacy screen, which helps. I also put a box in a strategic location so she would have to step over it, and that really helped. But I can’t do that every day, it would be obvious. I have nothing to hide and like her, but I just don’t enjoy people approaching me from behind.

      1. Cubicle Dweller*

        I don’t know how to politely ask for more personal space, but I used to work in a cubicle that faced inward so that anyone walking down the hall would be able to look in and see my back and my computer screen. I’m sure this was done to discourage me and my colleagues from wasting time on the internet, but I put up one of those fish eye bike mirrors over my computer so that I could see behind me. Dual benefits: I didn’t startle when someone came to (or into) my cubicle, and I could quickly minimize whatever I wasn’t supposed to be doing. :-D

        1. Mister Pickle*

          You can find cute cheap fake flowers that have a silvered acrylic balloon amongst them. The balloon works as a mirror. It’s low-rez, but has the advantage of not looking like a mirror.

      2. Jazzy Red*

        Be obvious. You’re boss is oblivious, so you won’t be insulting her. You could change the box every now and then, but keep the barrier.

        My own suggestion is to stand up when she comes into your cube. She will have to back up at least one step because you will be coming into HER space. Be nice about, and when she leaves, walk out with her and go into the ladies’ room. Again, your boss is oblivious, so you can do this every single time she comes into your cube.

  23. Lunaire*

    Happy Halloween!

    How does one get out of bitch eating crackers mode? I realize all too well it’s counterproductive and only serves to destroy the quality of my sleep, but my gross coworker has made my week much longer than necessary, to the point where I felt the need to ask for someone’s less biased opinion of his part of our work to check if it’s not just my frustration speaking.

      1. Lunaire*

        I really wish! Alas, a medical problem this summer kept me in the hospital for a bit and ate my sick days, and I have no more vacation days. Which is too bad because a 3 days weekend sounds heavenly right now.

    1. Megan*

      I second the ‘day off’ comment. Also, and these will sound cheesy, find one nice thing to think about this coworker every day. Even if it’s something like “I am grateful that they give me something to laugh at.” Find positive things about their work, even if it’s “oh, they finally spelled receive correctly.” And stop talking trash about them 100%.

      I sit next to my BEC and I literally have sticky notes on my monitor to remind me (in code) to do these things because she was making me want to strangle myself.

      1. Evan*

        And stop talking trash about them 100%.

        Stop digging in their trash can, too. If you were doing that.

    2. matcha123*

      When I’ve been in that situation, I try to separate the behavior from the work.

      Is the work being done on time?
      Is the work up to standard?
      Does the person respond properly to advice from others?, etc.

      And then I do what you do, which is to ask others for their opinions just so that I keep my personal feelings in check.
      Oh, and having a little rant session with someone after work is a good way to blow off some steam.

      1. Lunaire*

        I am not his supervisor, but to be blunt from what I have seen of his work the answer is Not Up To Standards. The problem is that our supervisor is not aware because we work in a foreign language that he does not understand. I am not sure how to best explain that the work being done is most likely only somewhat okay by native speakers’ standards.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Have tried to explain this to the boss? Is there someone there that could explain it to the boss? (Detached third party?)

    3. spocklady*

      Lunaire, thanks for asking this; I’ve been wondering about it too! Unfortunately, the person in question for me is also not necessarily producing work that’s, um, good.

      Thanks Megan for the suggestion about finding even one, possibly goofy, positive thing about said coworker every day. I’m sure I’ll still feel the need to vent, but I think that will really help me.

    4. RB*

      Can you get up and take a walk for a few minutes? Even if it’s just to use the restroom or get a drink of water? I find myself doing that when my coworkers are driving me absolutely bonkers. It’s amazing how my water bottle seems to need a refill shortly after the coworker who sits across the aisle from me starts yelling into her phone.

  24. steve G*

    Seriously, the director of my office wanted me to text him when I got in today? I’ve been here 4 1/2 years and always do OT and don’t have an attendance issue. If he needs something from me he can ask. But I am not going to start playing games with checking in with someone just to check in. I don’t do it when I do work on the weekends and at night sometimes…

    1. Boo*

      Maybe ask him if there is something specific he needs that you can help him with? Bit weird if you’ve never had a tardiness issue, unless this is one of those things where you both work different hours so he doesn’t see you very often, and therefore his perception is that you’re not in much?

    2. Camellia*

      If this is a new thing that he is going to insist upon, Evil Me thinks you should then also do it on the weekends and at night…

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      I hate this type of thing, my bosses is a nightmare when I’m working at home they expect me to login to the instant messaging software but I’m only at home because so not to be disturbed! I’ll answer my mobile if you need me call me. Sometimes I think its just a power play because I cant see that it adds any value to anything.

      Anyway not much in the way of advice but I understand the frustration

    4. bridget*

      Was that all the directive was – a bare “text me when you get in today”? Unless you have more context than that, I wouldn’t automatically assume that means that he wants you to text him *just to check in.* It seems equally plausible that he means he needs to give you an assignment or something, and if you let him know when you get in, he will swing by your office then. That’s what my default reading would be, not any sort of attempt at micromanagement. Sure, he could have explained that more helpfully, but unless there’s more, I would resist reading that in the worst possible light.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This. I thought it was just a polite thing, as in, “I don’t want to bother you unless you are actually at work.”

  25. CinC*

    We just learned some details of our upcoming team retreat. The day is full of themed sessions: ice breaker, dating (a speed dating style thing with the team leads), courting, proposal, engagement party (i.e. lunch), marriage. The “courting” part is a 40 minute session during which we will give compliments to each of our colleagues. I’m now feeling quite stressed about the day – there are some people I just hardly ever interact with, and I don’t really know how I can give them a genuine, sincere compliment. “You seem very nice”, I guess? “I like your top”? (They all do seem nice, so at least that would be genuine). I’d absolutely hate to give someone an insincere compliment, or to receive one for that matter. Even with people I know really well, the whole idea makes me very uncomfortable.

    I’ve agreed with my fellow Brit on the team that we can give each other our usual British compliments (i.e. insults, which is how we express affection) when we meet each other during that exercise.

    Any other advice for getting through this kind of exercise with grace, rather than panic?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      OMG. Can you send in a full write-up for us afterwards? This sounds so horrific that maybe you can get through it by remembering that you’re going to report on it here. It sounds like it would be single-post-worthy.

      1. CinC*

        Will do! Maybe wearing an imaginary press pass will help :)

        I do really like my team (mostly!), but c’mon.

    2. Sascha*

      That sounds so icky! It ends with a marriage???

      My only advice is to be neutral and bland with your compliments, I guess. I think I’d stay away from complimenting someone’s clothes or appearance unless you knew they were okay with that.

      1. LisaS*

        And that’s frequently followed by couples therapy and an acrimonious divorce… this could end really badly.

    3. A.*

      This sounds awful. I hate ice breakers and any and all teambuilding activities. They are the absolute worst. I don’t have any advice but please know I feel for you. Ugh.

    4. matcha123*

      I am awful at giving compliments, they are my personal hell.
      Perhaps you can start with, “While I haven’t spent much time talking with Robert, today I learned more about his passion for spoon collecting. I admire his dedication to collecting spoons.”

      I have nothing for the other events. I would probably smile awkwardly and make stilted conversation.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        This makes me think of 3rd Rock from the Sun, when they were complimenting each other. No one could think of anything to say to Harry until Sally said, “you can take a punch to the head like no one else”.

        You almost have to go that route.

    5. Nobody*

      Wow. I already dislike contrived team-building activities, but this romantic relationship theme seems wildly inappropriate for work.

      As for getting through the “courting” exercise, I’d just remember that everyone is in the same boat, and nobody’s going to notice or remember what everyone else said. It’s better to say something vague like, “You seem very nice,” than to say that you can’t think of a compliment at all.

        1. CinC*

          I can absolutely see why you’d say that, but with this (truly very nice) group it’s really not something I’m worried about.

          Heh, maybe that’ll be my compliment for all the non-Brits: “I’m not worried about you sexually harassing me! Yay, team!”

    6. Not my real handle as I'm certain previous coworkers read AAM*

      Nightmare flashback to former job (which I mostly liked) of 12 years where we had 3 staff retreats per year, one 4 days long.

      I know you asked for advice on how to handle it gracefully but all I can offer is passive aggressive options:
      1. Develop laryngitis. This really happened to me once.
      2. Develop the uncontrollable cough.
      3. Go full on Duggar courtship responses (that will at least give you an inner giggle!)

      Seriously, who plans this stuff? If it’s internal, ask to be on next year’s planning committee and help ID truly helpful activities (which in my opinion are no multi-day retreats and team building exercises which mean I work the next 3 weekends trying to catch up on the actual work!)

    7. Dmented Kitty*

      This is the weirdest concept of a team building activity I’ve ever heard. Whatever happened to just standard Apples to Apples or some simple board game that you could do? Those sound better. :/ And I’m not one for small talk, either so I would feel absolutely horrid hours before this activity.

    8. JMW*

      The best compliment you can give someone is to show interest in him or her. Ask questions:
      – What’s the best perk you ever had at a job?
      – What’s the kindest thing anyone ever did for you?
      – What’s the hardest thing you ever did?
      – Do you have any hidden talents?
      – Name two things you are really good at.
      – Name something you are really bad at.
      – What are you passionate about?
      – Name something on your bucket list.

      No matter what they answer, if you tell them how interesting it is or how clever they are, you will have given an actual compliment!

    9. Not So NewReader*

      You seem like a very nice person, but I think that pre-arranged marriages are outdated, don’t you?

    10. Luminescent Fish*

      Wow. That’s… I don’t even know what that is.

      I also don’t want you to spontaneously develop a migraine, or laryngitis, or whatever else to get out of this, but I confess my motives are selfish ones – you have to come back and tell us what happened, Cath!

      Once in high school our class did an exercise where we all had to write down one *sincere* compliment about every other person in the class. No half-hearted ‘she seems nice’, and you couldn’t skip anyone. But those were all people we’d known and worked closely with for years, and was very carefully supervised by the teacher (who went through them all before they were shared). Sound totally different than this marriage theme, though. Ick!

  26. Sunflower*

    I’ve talked to my boss about my desire to move out of event management and towards project management. She has been telling me she thinks I’d do well in something in supply chain management. Except I don’t really know what that means or what people in supply chain do! Does anyone work in a related field who could shed some light? Also would I have to get my master’s or I could I obtain a job without it? My undergrad is hospitality management and I’d rather not spend the time or money on the post-grad.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think supply chain management would be a blast. But I have been told that I have an ability to see the process in my head, which helps. Way too short an answer- it’s procurement. You get them what they need to do their jobs. Okay, there’s much more to it than that. Gosh, I hope you don’t need a master’s to do that. yikes. Ask your boss to introduce you to someone who is doing supply chain management so you can talk to them. You can also ask your boss why she thinks you would be good at it, what do you do well now that gives her that clue.

    2. Lulubell*

      In my experience (and from a creative person’s point of view) supply chain management has meant figuring how to match and ship widgets from one place to another, a process which usually involves detailed excel spreadsheets. The senior person often has a masters, but the worker bees don’t. It has always appeared to me to be a very analytical position – forecasting and numbers-oriented. I’m great at event management (things and people) and project management (lists and deadlines) but am numbers-averse. Why does your boss think you’d be good at it? Why are you looking to move out of events? They are definitely different skill sets that appeal to different kinds of people.

  27. Hous*

    We’ve been doing self-evaluations as part of our performance reviews in my office, and my coworker asked if I could write up her accomplishments for her. She does this every year–she’s not a native speaker of English and is pretty insecure about her written communication skills. I’m not comfortable doing this for a number of reasons, but I’m not sure how many of them are really legitimate (I don’t have time, I don’t know her accomplishments, etc.) and how many might be inappropriate for an office setting (I worked as a writing tutor throughout college, and writing something for someone else wholesale still feels very dishonest to me). I offered to read over what she wrote and help her with it once it was done, which she seemed happy with, but she didn’t approach me about it again. Does this seem like the right way to handle this, or am I being resistant to something I should be more willing to help with? She and I have the same job title, although she’s been working here longer.

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      No, I think you’re right – offering to help her with her own writing is okay, but doing it for her is sketch.

    2. matcha123*

      That approach is great. I have done the same thing for friends in high school and university who were not native English speakers.

      Depending on how close you are with her and how much time you have, she might be interested to hear why you made the changes you did. It would be something for her to keep in mind.

      With that said, please ask her if she wants a thorough correction; something that would read as if a native speaker wrote it, or, if she would like it cleaned up so that it preserves her writing style. Ie- only correcting major grammatical errors, wrong use of idioms, etc.

    3. SuzyQ*

      I think offering to help with editing after she has done the work herself is the perfect solution. You should definitely not have to do the work for her. But a little proofreading is not a big deal.

    4. LJL*

      You may want to offer revision instead; ask her to write out a list of bullet points or sentences, and then revise them to take care of grammar/expression issues. I’d give the reason as “I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, and you are more familiar with your accomplishments than I am.”

  28. Nervous Accountant*

    I went on an interview this week. Putting aside a million factors (2.5 hour commute one way, pathetically low pay, unprofessional behavior in interview etc), the only thing on my mind during the commute there was…. how will I know if this is a bad fit and not want to quit asap?

    Since I was always desperate for work, I never even thought about the “fit” question and if it applied to me. I never had the luxury of evaluating whether something would be a good fit or not–and maybe to some extent I still can’t afford that luxury? At my last job, I didn’t really see any red flags during the interview process, and well, I know that ended in disaster.

    When every interview used to be about desperately wanting to impress an employer to hire me, now I’m just nervous about not wanting to end up with a bad employer.

    Anyone been through this?

    1. Joey*

      sorry, but it already sounds like it’s a bad fit. Low pay, crazy commute, and poor behavior in the interview. Just one of those can be a deal breaker so I’m not optimistic.

    2. Lisa*

      The commute alone will get to you at some point. Even if it is only highway, even if you negotiate a 4 day work week. Exceptions are train commutes that long as you can sleep and not be doing the driving.

      If you get to the offer stage, ask for a reduced work week or WFH based on commute.
      – 3 days in and 1 day WFH (especially if they won’t budge on salary)
      – 3 days in and 2 days WFH

    3. Dan*

      I can’t tell if the OP is *saying* the pay is crap and the commute is long, or asking “besides the obvious, what are the more subtle things to look for?”

      If the later, think about the things you hated at your last job, and see how prevalent they are at the new place. Or think about the things you loved, see if they’re available, and if not, if you’d die without them.

      The only really good answer to your question to know yourself, which generally comes from experience. You now, good judgement comes from bad judgement, bad judgement comes from mistakes, and mistakes come from experience. That sort of thing.

    4. Relosa*

      I wish I had advice – red flags always go up for me but I never have a choice because I rarely ever have the luxury of either a) being a candidate for multiple positions or b) being in any position where I can equally weigh mutual fit – if it’s something I’m interested in and an offer comes forth, I kind of have to take it. Sigh.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Those million factors that you put to one side are all a part of figuring out if the job is a good fit. You need those million factors, so drag the factors back over to be with you and think them through.

      Desperation has a way of deleting good sense. And in turn, causes more desperation because of the shaking foundation desperation sits on.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        YES! The shaking foundation. How is it you always know the best way to put things??! I feel like my foundation has always been shaken…and trying to fix it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I am living the results of a shaky foundation and desperate moves. I see what I did wrong and how it hurt me.

          The one positive thing I can say is that it has given me a heck of a lot of experiences and I got some good insights into people and problems. For that I a most fortunate.

          Here is a secret. There is NO opportune time to take control over your life. So just plunge in right now. It will not get worse than what it is right now. It can’t get worse. It can only get better.

    6. Nervous Accountant*

      Thanks all for the feedback. To clarify, the commute wasn’t a dealbreaker for me (crazy, I know!)….but on the way there, I was more worried about how I’d be able to figure out if it was a bad fit. Well, while I was waiting for him, one of the employees (a mutual acquaintance) told me that he was bipolar, crazy, volatile etc…pretty much a carbon copy of my last boss. During the interview, I found out about the ridiculous pay and some of the stuff they (it was a husband/wife team) said was a little off putting that even if she hadn’t told me, I would have passed on it.

      But I was a little worried if lets say I interview for another place and don’t hae the luxury of someone telling me anything…if I’d be able to figure it out. That linked helped though. I did have one job that I absolutely loved, but that had its drawbacks too, so I do have an idea of what I like and don’t like, but it’s that mental block of not being desperate to take anything.

      1. Windchime*

        No job is perfect, but there is much to be said for sane coworkers and managers, decent pay, and a reasonable commute. I can put up with quite a bit if those basic things are in place.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Exactly. I don’t think I have extremely high standards, I’m realistic and I know where I stand on what makes an attractive candidate, but it really seems like that even the basic things–a respectful environment, liveable pay, and reasonable commute–are SO hard to come by. I haven’t felt this pessimistic in a long time, Im really trying my best not to fall back into that hole again.

    7. nyxalinth*

      Yes, me! I was desperate, and ignored the warnings. I almost paid for it with my health. My commute was sorter than yours by one hour, but still. Please flee while you still can.

  29. esra*

    I am recently unemployed. After multiple mass layoffs this year (wtf 2014!), I’m really wanting to find a place I can stay for at least 1-2 years so my resume doesn’t end up looking like a piece of swiss cheese.

    I’m really torn about accepting a job that just gave me a bad feeling during the second interview. Like they were hedging a bit? They’re selling the job as a Senior Chocolate Teapot Design gig, with lots of exciting opportunities, but then when they described the day-to-day, it sounds more like Chocolate Monotony 101. And I think they know this.

    So as much as the economy still sucks and the job market is awful, I’m tempted to pass on this and hope I can find something else before EI and my savings run out.


    1. Elizabeth West*

      Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. You might see if you can ask a few more questions to help you decide. I’ve taken jobs where I had that same feeling in the interview and ended up quitting. Of course, I don’t know your financial situation.

    2. Sherm*

      I say always listen to those bad feelings. If those feelings are REALLY bad, like run for the hills and don’t look back, then don’t take the job. If you have a feeling that the job will kind of suck, you just might be right.

  30. Natalie*

    Grr, just venting.

    We have a lot of government leases, and most of my interactions with federal employees have been perfectly pleasant and defied all stereotypes about lazy, surly DMV workers or whatever. But good lord, the General Services Administration makes me want to pull all of my hair out and set it on fire. The tax person assigned to us is apparently either illiterate or thinks I am, as she is constantly contradicting herself in the same email chain. Our interactions usually involve me requesting something and then following up for 6 months with no response, at which point she finally replies just to ask me what it is that I’m looking for again. And we are trying to *give* them money!

  31. Mimmy*

    The discussion about Borderline Personality Disorders (in one of the “short answer” threads this week) really got me thinking. No, I do not have BPD, but in skimming through some of the comments and suggestions, it just reaffirmed that public-facing jobs just aren’t a good fit for me. It’s hard to explain and I don’t really have much time to go back and re-read everything, but I just remember relating to some of what the OP and others experience. Again, I’m not saying I have BPD and I recognize that it’s a severe mental illness that I am grateful to not have.

    As much as I keep telling myself that, with the right tools, I can work with the public again as I’ve done before. Yet, there’s a voice that tells me that it would not be a wise move. It’s a hard thing to accept, though, because while I am introverted and even a bit shy, I do like people, and I’ve had others tell me that I’d be very good at direct client contact. But they don’t know my brain, lol. I’ve talked about my other career ideas before that don’t involve public contact, but I guess maybe part of why I haven’t moved forward is not wanting to accept that my original career intention isn’t the right way to go. Gotta decide that it’s time to use the things I am GOOD at and ENJOY doing.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      As important as it is to know your strengths, it’s equally important to know your weaknesses. If your gut says that public facing isn’t where you would be the most successful and happy then trust your gut.

    2. wonkette*

      I feel your pain (or at least your aversion about being in a public facing position). My current job doesn’t require me to interact with the public most of the time, except for the occasional presentation or conference participation. This is a huge difference from my previous position as a practicing attorney, where I had to deal with going to court everyday. I love the fact that the amount of people interaction that I have to do suits my personality. I’m sure you can find a position that does that for you too.

    3. Jamie*

      You’re smart to evaluate your own comfort zone and what you need from an environment to be most effective. No situation is perfect and sometimes we have to stretch (which can be healthy) but if we’re hardwired to work better in some positions than others than we shouldn’t try to force ourselves into bad fits.

      I am good at a lot of things – reception wasn’t one of them. Sales – my entire family would starve to death if I even attempted it. My natural inclinations and temperament will always have me providing the most value is positions where I can work autonomously most of the time and not deal with an endless parade of people. You don’t want to force yourself into a job where you’ll be adequate with your best effort because all those obstacles are in your way. Obstacles that wouldn’t exist in a better fit.

      The world need all kinds of people will all kinds of different work styles. I’m glad someone people do sales so my company stays in business, if everyone was like me we’d have all kinds of data analysis and no data to analyze since no one would move the product.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Listen to your gut. I think that feeling is your internal alarm telling you you’re about to go down the wrong lane. And it’s perfectly okay to change paths–people do it all the time. We’re not static beings; we grow and change and we don’t always want or need the things we did when starting out.

    5. Bea W*

      You don’t have to have a personality disorder to not be a good fit for public facing jobs, and I really think it takes a special type to really excel at something like customer service and not want to hurl themselves off a bridge on a bad day.

      My original career intention was not the right way to go either, and I ended up in a spot I would not have chosen because I imaged it would be dangerously boring and not anything I’d be good at. I finally had to toss out all my preconceived notions of things and myself and go with the flow. I am a happier person for it. Sometimes you don’t know yourself as well as you think you do. :)

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Yes, go where your natural skills are. Just good advice for everyone. Quit putting yourself where your natural skills AREN’T. ugh. Round peg, square hole, and all that. If you are making yourself take public facing jobs just to have work, stop. Get yourself on a different track.

      I have a friend who is absolutely FANTASTIC with people. She wants a job off in a corner somewhere. Why. Because she is at saturation level with people and their personalities. Her work is her time out from all that. She is great at what she does. Her employers LOVE her and she loves them, and she sits in a corner by herself. Everyone is happy.

  32. Maiden Fair*

    Using my Halloween costume as my handle today. Love sitting at work dressed in my Renaissance Festival garb. :P Terrific kitty picture this week!

    My husband, who has been out of work since June, had an interview last week and this week they’ve been checking his references! (We know this for a fact because the interviewer called him to say that she’d already talked to one the people on his reference list, but was having a hard time getting in touch with one of his former managers and was wondering if he had another reference she could call.) Trying not to get hopeful we know as checking references doesn’t mean a job offer is forthcoming, but it’s encouraging! He has another phone interview this week as well.

    I’m very happy this week because my boss gave me permission to work from home 3 days a week on a permanent basis, starting on Wednesday! (Previously the norm was that everyone on our team could work from home only 1 day per week. As my commute is 60-90 minutes one way, and our office has recently been talking about going to a desk sharing program where two people work from home on alternate days and share a single cube, I thought I’d ask. I figured the worst that could happen is he’d say no. But he said yes!)

    At any rate, I’m wondering if anyone can share any iPhone apps or Google Chrome add-ons that might help me resist the temptation to check e-mail/Facebook while at home, as I think I have a tendency to do that too much on my WFH days. I’m so grateful for the new flexibility that I really want to focus on keeping my productivity high. I do need to keep my phone nearby in case my boss needs to have a phone conversation about something (I don’t have a land line at home). Any other general WFH productivity tips? I already generally write out a daily to-do list to help keep me focused on what tasks need to be completed that day.

    1. Anna*

      I have no idea about the apps, but yay for being dressed up for Halloween. I’m dressed as my version of Anne Bonney. Nobody will know who I am, but I will. :)

        1. Anna*

          That makes me happy. I actually based my husband’s costume on the Mary Read costume on takebackhalloween.org.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I know! Awesome costume idea!

        I’m a Hogwarts student who just got back from Hogsmeade. Gryffindor scarf, wand, and a bag with Honeydukes on it and my chocolate frog inside it. The frog and scarf I got at HP Studios in England. No one else did anything. :P

    2. RR*

      One thing I have found helpful is to take my daily to-do list when I am working from home and think of at least part of it as deliverables I must get to a “client” [eg boss or co-worker] by the end of the day. For example, I was working on a training manual, and at the start of the day, I would tell my boss and/or co-worker(s) with whom I was collaborating that I would be working on section X or tool Y. At the end of the day, I would email the link to our document sharing site where the new materials or revised section could be found.

    3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Use the Pomodoro technique (there are several apps available for iPhone, but I can’t give a recommendation on one because I have an Android) combined with the StayFocusd Chrome Extension (which blocks certain websites for specified amounts of time, and requires typing in a whole long string of characters WITHOUT A MISTAKE to override). SO helpful for staying on task.

      1. TNTT*

        I use the creatively named “Pomodoro” for pomodoros on iphone. Not free but good customization features.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        In a similar vein, I’ll use my phone/iPad as a timer for certain tasks to stay focused. When I have 90 report cards to write, for example, I’ll start the timer each time I tackle a new student. When I finish with that student, I’ll stop the timer and enter the time into a spreadsheet that calculates the running average. My goal is to keep that running average low. I’m forgiving of myself if I take longer because it’s a tricky student and I need to think more about what to say – but having the timer running keeps me from stopping to check my email etc. constantly.

        Obviously it’s not ideal if you’re not near your charger, though, because keeping the screen on so much runs down the battery pretty fast.

    4. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Along with apps, I think keeping your phone enclosed in something might also be helpful. If I’m working at home and don’t want to get distracted by my phone, I’ll either zip it into my purse or leave it plugged into the charger in the next room. It’s easy enough to get to if it starts to ring, but far enough away that picking it up idly to browse the web involves more steps.

    5. Cherry Scary*

      Do you have a Mac or a PC? It’s Mac-only, but I used a software called Self Control that would blacklist various sites for a certain amount of time.

    6. catsAreCool*

      To avoid looking at Facebook, etc. during the work day, I remind myself that my employers could be monitoring what web sites I go to if they want to. They probably wouldn’t care about a few views of FB, but…

      Sometimes it can help to pause and take a breath and maybe look out a window.

      Oh, and it’s a good idea to get a few mirrors for your work room so that you can glance up at one mirror and see what is reflected in another mirror – gives you a chance to stretch your eyes.

  33. Following up after a phone screening?*

    I had a phone screening a week ago, and the HR person said they would probably decide who to interview the following day or two. I haven’t heard anything, is it appropriate to follow up?

    1. Meow*

      If a week has passed since the date by which you were supposed to hear from them, then yes, email to follow up!

  34. Diet Coke Addict*

    Morale has plummeted at my workplace (even more than before!) thanks to our boss screwing over his favourite long-term employee by bilking her out of commission after a mat leave issue. His blatant refusal to discipline our horrid new coworker is also slowly killing us (as she turns up half an hour to an hour late, every single day, leaving us to field her phone calls–our boss’s reaction is “Well, you need to help each other” when we have plenty of our own stuff to do, thanks).

    The new coworker has also in the past week requested us to show her “how do I copy paste” (for the seventh time–she’s been here four months) “how do I un-send an email from the day before?” (nope) and a full refresher on the basics of a work process she should have had a handle on months ago. Again: four months she’s been here.

    My boss also showed off his racist side this week, which was also terrific.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        I’ve been actively job-hunting for several months now–but I’m in a small town and it’s a challenge, to say the least!

    1. Elkay*

      You can recall emails, this only works if the person hasn’t read it, or doesn’t have their inbox open because otherwise they get a message saying “Bertha wants to recall that message” and almost inevitably the recipient will read the message you want to recall out of curiosity.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        This only works on certain email programs, though – and only if both the sender and receiver have the same program that supports it. If you email someone with a Gmail address, for example, you can’t recall it no matter how you sent it.

    2. Golden Yeti*

      Not much to offer here in the way of advice, but definitely empathy when it comes to ignorant bosses. This week I was told to write a piece comparing a local tragedy to being proactive in other areas of life. So. Tacky.

  35. littlemoose*

    Okay people, it’s Halloween. I expect to hear about any ridiculous costumes or workplace Halloween shenanigans you see today.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’m a teacher – so, obviously, Halloween is big at my workplace! I’m in (kid-friendly, professional) costume today.

      Predictably, “Frozen” has had a big impact this year. Of the 45 kindergarten girls, I counted at least 11 Elsas and 2 Annas. There were some amazing homemade costumes, too: a first grader dressed as a Minion from “Despicable Me,” a set of middle schoolers dressed as tall, grande and venti Starbucks drinks (made from spray-painted trash cans!), and a third grader who was a pineapple with bat wings – a fruit bat!

      1. LJL*

        My college roommates and I made that into a drinking game…take a drink every time you see an Elsa, either in real life or on facebook.

      2. lap_giraffe*

        I saw on the Facebook of a former colleague first a picture of the boss man in full superhero costume, and not long after a posting that said superhero boss fired someone in full regalia and character accent. I can’t even tell you how happy I am to not be working there.

        1. littlemoose*

          Oh no! I cannot imagine being fired by somebody dressed as and talking like, say, Batman. I know it’s Halloween and all, but unless you’re the manager of a costume shop, you should not be firing someone while wearing a Halloween costume (and even then probably not). That’s appalling.

    2. Lynn Rainham*

      My boss emailed the office YESTERDAY morning saying this year’s hallowe’en theme is “rock stars” and she expected to see everyone dressed up as their favourite >.<

      I think I'm just mad because I had a SFW costume but it didn't match the theme.

      1. catsAreCool*

        I’d be mad. 1 day’s notice to wear a particular kind of costume?

        And really, as long as it’s safe for work, who cares what kind of costume it is?

    3. Hlyssande*

      I don’t have a costume, per se, but I am wearing five of my spiders from Twisted Spiders. I love her work.

      I’ve got my tiny abalone mosaic spider, one of two lovely flourite spiders, a dark blue coral spider, a smokey quartz spider, and the XL black widow I bought the first time I saw them. I own eight.

      I’m also wearing a fun feather clip in my hair, a black dress, bright blue ‘galaxy’ style leggings, and a blue shrug. Because I can.

    4. MaryMary*

      We have a cafe on the ground floor of our building, with a couple of tables outside of it in our lobby. I went down for lunch today and there was a Cinderella sitting at one of the tables (crown, poofy skirt, the whole deal). Everyone else was in normal clothes.

    5. Elizabeth*

      Starbucks this morning was being managed by Snow White and operated by Belle, Belle, Hello Kitty & Alice in Wonderland, plus the very new, very confused non-costumed employee.

    6. Lulubell*

      My workplace went all out. Every department decorated their section, super creatively, I might add. Everyone dressed up in really elaborate costumes and makeup. We had a pumpkin-carving contest, bobbing for apples, costume contests, and free lunch. And then everyone left at three. Well, I stayed until 5 because I have work to do regardless, but it was pretty great as far as work Halloweens go.

      1. Windchime*

        Our work had a Seahawks-themed tailgate party. Work provided hotdogs and chili, and the rest was pot-luck. The plates and napkins were Seahawks, and there were action pictures of the team in a slideshow on the projector. There were drawings for movie tickets, one person brought their dog for a visit and another brought his preschool children, dressed up in their Halloween costumes. It was really fun way to end the week.

    7. Liane*

      Little late but here goes.
      My workplace decided, at corporate level, no more costumes. I was a little bummed because, well I am an amateur costumer & I love making & wearing costumes.
      But it was probably for the best. In the past, all the prizewinners &/or attention-getters fell into 2 categories:
      1–Obviously off the rack, as in bought it at this very store, probably this very morning.
      2–Something NSFW, like drag.
      I really *hated* that, since I would be in a movie-quality, hand-made Jedi costume. Maybe I AM a bit self-centered or something?

  36. Daria*

    Did anyone hear the workplace-related questions on the Savage Lovecast this week? One of them involved a guy walking in on a company exec watching porn on his phone. It was after hours, the exec was in his office, and the guy wasn’t sure whether the exec knew he saw it or not. The caller wondered whether he should go to HR.

    I was pretty shocked that Dan Savage told the caller it wasn’t any of his business what the exec wanted to do on his own phone, in his office, after hours. Not only that, but he yelled at the caller for being a snooping asshole. What do you guys think?

    1. Another Ellie*

      I think the exec is being a little inappropriate, but I wouldn’t go to HR about it. But I’m perfectly fine with porn, so long as nobody is harassing me or anybody else with it, which it doesn’t sound like he’s doing.

      1. Anna*

        Yeah, it’s incredibly inappropriate to watch in your work office, but after hours on your own device isn’t using company resources really, but at the same time it’s still problematic. I’d say Dan was not entirely right about this. A workplace is not a space for porn, and it does open up the possibility of liability.

    2. Natalie*

      He’s pretty bad with workplace related questions. At some other points, he’s mentioned that he has essentially never worked in an office and probably isn’t actually qualified to answer work related questions, but I think that one tripped one of his hot buttons.

      That said, if I was that guy I probably wouldn’t go to HR first, I’d probably have a “dude, seriously?” conversation with the director first and see how he reacted.

    3. Jamie*

      For me this would be a bfd. One, the risk may be minimal but IT as a field is still sorting out how we can manage security with all the BYOD devices (fighting against is a losing battle.) If he was on company wi-fi and accidentally hit illegal porn and they come after the IP – it’s a liability.

      Aside from that, you saw it. It doesn’t make any difference to me what people’s personal stances are on porn, it’s not appropriate for the workplace. Period. Most adults have sex lives, but it would be inappropriate to be caught doing that at work and this falls into that category.

      After hours means nothing if employees are still there. Does this mean if I work late after my hours and I can do what I want even though others are in the building. Would it be okay if this guy wanted to sit naked in his office, even non-sexually, because it’s after hours? If others can see it or be affected by it (or the risk is there) in a work environment it’s just not appropriate.

      That was horrible advice and I hope people don’t act on it because every place I’ve ever worked that would be cause for immediate termination.

      1. FloridaNative*

        My thinking on this issue is in line with yours, but it’s not universal. My buddy managed the IT department for a smaller pharama company a couple of years back, and they would routinely encounter porn on company laptops, had a couple of situations where an Exec FORGOT that IT was remoted into their system and just started browsing porn, etc.

        IMO it should be grounds for immediate dismissal.

        1. Windchime*

          It’s crazy to me that porn sites aren’t blocked on the company network. I can’t even get to Facebook on the network OR the Guest Network. I haven’t tried porn (obviously), but if Facebook is blocked then I’m pretty sure that porn is blocked.

    4. Diet Coke Addict*

      Dan Savage tends to get kind of nutty. His advice isn’t always the best. Even if it’s on his own phone after work hours in his own office, you’re still at work, you know? Keep the porn at home. It doesn’t need to be at work.

      Additionally, I don’t see how the caller could have possibly been snooping. If you’re looking at porn at work you forfeit any right to get shirty about it if someone finds you.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        I listened to that and was “Alison would disagree!” He was really off-base.

        1. Daria*

          I thought the same thing. On the other hand, I thought Alison would agree with the previous call about the boss who made insensitive remarks about STDs. (His advice was the caller should tell her to cut it out.)

      2. INTP*

        I agree. Sometimes it’s sensible but sometimes the gist is clearly that when the two conflict, the right to sexual expression when/where/how one wants it trumps the right to have one’s boundaries respected, which I don’t agree with. And not wanting to see coworkers watching porn is a pretty common boundary.

    5. matcha123*

      Maybe the guy should have returned to the exec’s office later to pull evidence out of his trashcan?

  37. Another Ellie*

    Question about invoicing. I’m in accounting, and I just moved into an engineering firm. It seems like every single invoice that I issue has some client specific requirement. Bob from company A requires that I edit our invoice to include his PO number, but Fred from the same company does not. Sally from company B wants a copy emailed and a copy mailed. Company C requires all invoices to have their own cost-breakdown reflected on our invoice. Jill from company D wants a fake invoice sent to her, so that she can approve it, send it back to me with any required changes (including to our invoice amount. Really?), and then I enter it into my accounting system and send her the real version. For the most part, these are not clients with government contracts, which I can understand having weird requirements. I’m getting really tired of having to custom create every single bill I send out. Is this normal for this field/invoicing in general, or does my firm just make the mistake of kowtowing to every client request?

    1. Natalie*

      Yeah, you’re company is taking this WAY too far. Government aside, there needs to be some flexibility from both AR and AP.

      Assuming your bosses would be fine with this, the easiest thing is to blame the AR system. Aside from a couple of exceptions, this is what I tell tenants when they ask for special treatment. Of course, our relationship is governed by a lease document that doesn’t give them some sort of out for paying because they don’t like our invoice, so that helps. Do you have any written terms governing your client relationship and, if so, what do those terms say about invoicing?

      On the practical side, just put PO numbers on all the invoices as a matter of course. It seems like more work but it’s actually easier to just be consistent versus having to remember for each client. And it sounds like Company D needs to approve a proposal, not an invoice, before the work is done. Negotiating the amount after the fact is bonkers, unless there was some kind of issue (you broke something, or failed to complete part of the work).

      1. Another Ellie*

        Yeah, I have *no* idea why our invoice template doesn’t have a place for PO number. (Well, ok, I do…the person who set it up was an idiot, and this is the smallest of his messes that I’m cleaning up). I’m not sure that, at this point, I can convince my singular boss to start taking a harder line with clients. But in a couple of months, that’s a great excuse.

        Every project has a signed proposal that states fees clearly and up front. But, “your invoice doesn’t have what we want on it” is a seriously bad excuse, even if that’s not the case.

        1. Natalie*

          In that case, I’m so confused as to what Company D lady is approving when you send her a dummy invoice. Shouldn’t all of that stuff be on the proposal already?

          It might be helpful to spend a week or two documenting how much time you spend making all of these custom invoices and then talk to your boss about how you want to approach it, who to push back on and when, etc.

          1. Another Ellie*

            Seriously, company D lady is the most egregious of these. The first project I billed to her, my predecessor had messed up previous billing and it was a government project, so I didn’t think it was that weird to have her approve it. But now we’re billing a very large, very private client, and she’s still approving the invoices. It’s both for content and formatting, and for the amounts of the bills. In this case, because it’s a large project, the proposal was for hourly billing based on a standard rate sheet. But I don’t see how she gets to just decide that she’s not paying for some of the time, especially given that we’re well within our original estimates.

    2. JMegan*

      I’m not in accounting, but that does seem a bit overly specific to me! Would it be possible to create a standard invoice that has the customer PO and itemized list, and use that for everyone? That way, the people who require those elements will have them, and those who don’t can just ignore them.

      Don’t get into customizing every single bill, because that way lies madness. Create one bill that will work for 80-90% of your customers, and then customize for the last few if you need to.

      1. Natalie*

        Alternatively, tell those last 10% to deal with what you gave them (in a polite, business appropriate manner).

    3. cuppa*

      I actually had this experience at a company, too. Only one client was a government contractor. One client wanted every item on one bill. One client wanted an individual bill for each item. Some needed extra POs, etc. Granted, I only had 8 clients, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but it was interesting.

    4. Mallory*

      Ughhh. I’m in construction and this is similar to what I have to do to send invoices to clients, based upon a number of factors, not limited to: a is friends with owner so owner hand delivers invoice. B doesn’t have email and wants invoices mailed. C wants a phone call to hear invoice amount and would like both a mailed and emailed copy. D only wants an email and will delay payment if you speak to him outside email.
      I wish I was making this up.
      Are you in a “local” or small market, where it’s likely they know the owner/company and have been working together for many years? If so(like me) I’m sorry. Best of luck on changing their habits and preferences

    5. Observer*

      It seems to me that the problem is that your systems are so badly broken that you have to compensate for it.

      For most of the stuff, just getting to a standard template (perhaps with one or two options) would make your life SOO much easier – even if it means putting stuff on the invoice that some clients don’t really need. Keep in mind that most of of people seem to be asking is quite normal and reasonable. Unless you guys are something very special (either EXTRAORDINARILY good at what you do, or provide a really niche service) refusing to comply with reasonable requests is likely to cost you business.

      It sounds like you work with non-profits which may help explain some of what you are seeing as well. For instance, the cost break down thing – If your invoice says something different than what the contract / purchase order said, then some auditor is likely to decide that someone is committing fraud, or not keeping adequate records with proper controls, at best. So, if your customer ordered One chocolate teapot with three replacement spouts and one white chocolate cover, and your invoice says One Personalized Backed-up teapot kit, they are going to have a problem. If it says One Personalized Backed-up teapot kit and then lists 1 Chocolate teapot, 3 replacement spouts, 1 White chocolate lid. They will be fine. They need your description so they can track what they have paid you if something comes up, and their breakdown to keep the regulators happy.

      The last one sounds like a combination of worry about auditors, not trusting you to get it right and using her position to make sure you don’t try to pad the bills (or nickle and dime you, which would be very stupid but not out of the realm of possibility).

      1. Another Ellie*

        Actually, nearly all of your assumptions here are wrong. We have a standard invoice template and a procedure that we normally follow for invoices. It’s just that every fourth or fifth invoice , the client demands some kind of particular requirement that I wind up having to accommodate (“every single” was a bit of an exaggeration, but I’m getting frustrated by this!). It would be helpful to have an option for PO numbers on the invoice — but on the other hand, I’ve been in this position for two months, created a couple hundred invoices, and only the invoices specifically for government agencies (which are usually their invoice template rather than ours anyway) and the three or four I’ve done on projects for Bob at company A have required PO numbers (I also have been in email contact with the controller at Company A over a few issues, and she hasn’t seemed particularly concerned about the PO numbers). So I can see why the template doesn’t have a spot for them, given that 95% of the time they’re not required.

        We almost never do work for non-profits, in fact most of our client firms are mid-size to large corporations, or their architects, or government entities (which I totally understand having specific requirements).

        Our invoices aren’t just slips of paper that say “please pay $100 for work we did.” They say that we did exactly what our proposals say we are going to do, and, when the project was billed hourly, it’s even more in depth. The client that demanded their cost breakdown actually literally dictated to me which portions of each item were being paid by their internal departments, and then I had to create an invoice from scratch for this. IE, 1 chocolate tea pot, $150, and then below that a breakdown of which of their departments was paying particular percentages for each part of the teapot, eg, HR 12% for teapot spout, IT 27% for teapot lid, etc. As far as I’m concerned, this is both weird and does not belong on an invoice — who in your org is paying for what is none of my business, so long as I get a check or checks for the total amount.

        Company D has been as worried about how many indented lines have been on invoices and the font size of their address as she has been about cost. I think she may be on a power trip, or just have no idea what she’s doing.

        1. Layla*

          I have done A-C
          C was even worse than you explained – we asked for separate invoices !
          Our vendors have mostly always acceded to our requests, though they sometimes get mixed up and get it wrong

    6. Glorified Plumber*

      “Is this normal for this field/invoicing in general, or does my firm just make the mistake of kowtowing to every client request?”

      I work for a very large engineering firm for large and recognizable clients… Kowtowing to client idiosyncrasies and inconsistent crap like that has been the norm on every project I have worked on. Cross the board from the engineering side to the doc control side to the accounting side to when we have meetings during the day. As far as I am concerned, it’s a cost of doing business. Coworkers and I respond by lots and lots of inside jokes.

      The exception has been the client who is like, “How do you WANT do it? We’ll take that and be super happy about it!”

  38. Department Hopper*

    So, I have an interesting dilemma! I work at a company that, say, produces teapots with ads on them. For a little over a year, I’ve been in the advertising / corporate operations part of the company, hoping to transfer to the Teapot Division since teapots are my passion.

    Around the time I started, I happened to meet with one Teapot Division manager and expressed a lot of enthusiasm for his department. After learning more about the Teapot Division, I met with a manager of a different department therein and inquired about joining her team. She said yes, after I took a couple of classes and gained the necessary skills.

    I’m still mastering the skills I need to join my chosen team in the Teapot Division. Yesterday, I was contacted by the first manager and tentatively offered a position on his team. I said yes, I’m interested. It’s a position I’m clearly qualified for and have all the necessary skills for. I could start tomorrow and wouldn’t need much training.

    However, I’m confused as to what to do in light of my tentative commitment to another team. Should I mention this to both managers? If so, how should I bring it up?

    And should I accept a position that’s a lateral transfer to my chosen part of the company, knowing I might not stay long before applying for a promotion to a more challenging position on a related team?

    Yesterday, I played it safe and just said, “I’m really eager to do anything that’s more focused on teapots,” but I do want to be transparent and not mislead either manager.

    1. Colette*

      Is the second manager actually holding a job for you? In other words, is there a job available in her team for you to move into? That reads to me more of a “here’s what I look for when hiring” than an actual job offer.

      1. Department Hopper*

        It is. It’s not anything definite. So I guess it would be reasonable for me to simply accept the other position if it’s formally offered to me and then apply for a position on her team after developing the qualifications for it.

          1. Department Hopper*

            That’s the thing – according to the timeline we discussed last spring, it would be sooner. It’s in the development plan the company has on record for me, although the specifics are a little vague.

            Basically, we talked about it and agreed to a timeline, but then I started questioning whether it was the right career decision for me, got behind in learning the new skill set, and failed to follow up (silly me). Under those circumstances, a lateral transfer to a different yet related team makes sense, although I’m still interested in the other department and I think it’s still a future possibility – the manager seems impressed with work I’ve done that’s relevant to what they do.

            1. Colette*

              Then I’d have a conversation with her. “I know we talked about me moving onto your team. The prep work I’ve been doing has taken longer than I expected, and I’ve received another offer to do X. I’d still be interested in moving to your group in the future – can we adjust the timeline to allow me to contribute at X before I move?”

              1. Department Hopper*

                Good idea! I need to follow up with her anyway, so I’ll have that conversation. I’m going to say something to the other hiring manager too. If he tells her I might be moving to his department and I haven’t said anything to either of them, it will be awkward for them and will make me look bad.

                In my response to him today, I mentioned that a transfer to that area of the company is in my development plan, so at least I’ve dropped a hint that I might have been talking to other managers too.

  39. constantly questioning*

    I took a temp-to hire job because I’ve been out of work for several months and I was miserable, but I’m still getting interview offers. Am I obligated not to take these interviews since the idea is I will have a job at the end of 3 months? Or can I assume that since this is essentially a 3 month interview for me, if I’m given the opportunity to get a salaried permanent job sooner I should take it?

    1. Another Ellie*

      Don’t trust the temp-to-hire position to hire you. I’ve been in positions like that where I’ve been strung along, and then let go with only a week to turn around and find something else.

    2. A.*

      If there’s no guarantee of being made full-time, I’d absolutely continue to take interviews. You may end up finding something better!

      1. Natalie*

        And even if they offer it, they might not pay what you want or you might have since discovered you hate the job!

    3. LMW*

      Yes, definitely keep looking until you are in the type of job you want. I was temp-to-hire for three years!

    4. constantly questioning*

      Thank you all! That was my instinct I’m glad it’s accurate. As a follow up-how do I handle going on interviews now that I’m going to be working full time since it’s the very beginning of my time there? Just have “previously scheduled appointments” or be more honest about it?

      1. Tech Worker*

        While honesty is the best policy in most circumstances, interviews at another company are an exception. If you can get away with being vague in order to avoid lying, that’s the best approach. (Appointment, commitment, “personal matter I must attend to”, etc).

        But if it’s the kind of workplace where you have to give a reason, it would be acceptable to tell a white lie or just call in sick. I hate lying, but I think a lot of people have “doctor’s appointments”, “home maintenance emergencies” and “car trouble” when interviews come up suddenly.

        Last time I was in that situation, I used, “personal matter I must attend to” one day, and just snuck out for a few hours another day.

      2. LJL*

        Agreed. Most reasonable people will understand someone who takes a permanent job even while employed ina temporary one.

        Also, I’d say “I have an appointment.” no more detail is necessary.

    5. long time reader first time poster*

      Definitely keep interviewing. The company you’re temping with owes you nothing.

      That said, the last time I contracted, it was for a company I was very interested in working for long term. In one of our check-in meetings, I let my manager know that A) I wanted to work for him full time and B) I was still ‘on the market’ since we had no formal commitment from him. The latter was not expressed in a threatening way, I was just putting my cards on the table. He said that he was interested in bringing me on, and we left it at that.

      A few days later, I got an offer from another company that I’d interviewed with. A generous offer for way more than I was making at the temp job. I went to my manager and told him that I had an offer in hand that I’d be crazy to refuse unless he could match it, and that I really hoped he could because I’d much rather work for him than for the other company.

      A few stressful days ensued for me, where I had to put off the other job offer until my manager could work through the details, but there was ultimately an offer from the place I was temping that turned out to be even better than the other place made. I’ve been there a year now and I’m super happy.

      This really only worked for a few reasons, though. A) I’m a very upfront person and my manager is too — he appreciated my direct approach. and B) I was really ready to take the other offer if my manager didn’t counteroffer. I am glad I didn’t have to, but if you make an ultimatum like that you kind of have to be ready to walk.

      1. Chriama*

        I like this approach. If you can have an honest conversation with your manager about how certain a permanent position is, I think it would be easier for all involved. If your manager tries to avoid the subject (e.g. an offer is ‘likely’ but she can’t say how likely) you might have to make up a mysterious illness. However, unless you have a flexible schedule I’d be wary about making too many appointments during the workday because seeming flaky or distracted may end up being the reason the company doesn’t hire you full-time.

        1. Tech Worker*

          I agree. I’d be selective about which interview offers you accept so you don’t come across as flaky.

    6. Engineer Tech Julie*

      Absolutely consider taking the interviews. You may find a great position and the company you are temping at may not hire you or you may decide you’d rather not continue working there.

    7. Chriama*

      I would actually say it depends. How detailed is the temp-to-hire agreement? Is it a temp job that *may* become permanent, or is this a program with milestones and formal metrics for determining whether or not you get hired? How many people go from temp to full-time? Is it only dependent on *your* performance or on company factors outside your control? Are you able to speak with your supervisor and determine the likelihood of a permanent position?
      I would definitely recommend to keep interviewing in the meantime, because you don’t have an offer until you have an offer. However, if you like your current job and want a full-time offer, speak to your boss about the conditions necessary to get one. If she can’t give specific details or seems cagey then you can take another job during the probationary period in good faith (if a company can’t commit to you I don’t think you’re obligated to commit to them). If you get a full-time offer but you still prefer your current company, you can always let your current boss know and see if that prompts an offer from the company.

  40. Anna*

    I applied for a job with Major Famous Tech Company that may be setting up office in my city. I haven’t been looking for other jobs, but when one comes across your desk that your experience matches point for point and it’s with this Major Famous Tech Company, you can’t really pass on it. I have put it out of my mind, except for the part where I fantasize about what it would be like to work with a budget. :)

    1. Tech Worker*

      Good luck! I come from the land of Major Famous Tech companies and believe me, we need more enthusiastic people who come from other places and will bring a fresh new attitude and perspective on things.

  41. Chriama*

    Short question: How did you become comfortable making autonomous decisions in your first professional job?

    Long explanation: So I’m 4 months into my first job right out of university, and sometimes I have trouble exercising autonomy. I guess I’m so used to other people setting the standards and having the final say, and now I have the freedom (and responsibility) to set my own direction — and it’s terrifying. For example, I was tasked with getting decorations for our office for halloween and some stuff for our team party, and I spent literally 4+ hours walking around multiple stores trying to figure out what to get. I was so stressed out — will the decorations suck? Will I get enough candy for everyone? Am I spending the right amount in each budget category? The party went off without a hitch and everyone thanked me for my effort, but even now I look at other teams’ decorations and feel like I didn’t do as good a job as I could have. In work matters, I have no worries when I know the answer, and a lot of times when I don’t know the answer I can consult someone. But sometimes things are left up to my own discretion and I just get super stressed out trying to figure out what the ‘right’ answer is.

    So how did other people learn to feel comfortable making decisions in their first professional jobs?

    1. A.*

      With time comes comfort and confidence. Once you become confident in your abilities, you won’t be so hard on yourself or second guess yourself so much.

      1. NaCSaCJack*

        Hated it. Four months is not enough time to make decisions on your own. You should run ideas by your supervisor. If left to yourself, its hard. In business, there is never one right answer, but several. When you have to, make a choice and be prepared to live with it. However, by six months, you should be making some decisions by yourself and within a year, able to do your job in 360 degrees.

        1. Observer*

          4 months? She’s an adult, and making decisions is part of being an adult. If she keeps running to her supervisor with every little thing, she’s not going to be doing herself any favors. I can’t imagine any supervisor giving much responsibility to someone who can’t even decide how many bags of candy corn to buy! And, by the time someone has graduated university, they should be old enough to know how to avoid the really stupid stuff.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            uhhhh… maybe or maybe not.

            In the case of Halloween decorations she is basically using ESP to figure out what are the company/department norms. This local office culture is nothing that is taught in school. She can use her budget as a monetary guideline for how much to spend, but that still does nothing to address tastes and styles that are the norm for the group. And estimating how much a group will eat is daunting.

            I think it is a good idea to write down what you did this year, OP. So if you get assigned the task next year you can tweak it and do things differently if you like. Yes, write it down. You will forget the details.

            Here’s the idea, OP, no one really knows how much candy to buy or how much decorating to do. They are guessing. Some people are very good at guessing. It sounds like you are one of those people. It’s fine to look at what other groups did and steal their ideas. However, do not berate yourself and say “So-and-so did better than I did.” Someone else did worse than you did and you aren’t even noticing. It’s a wash.

            1. Observer*

              Exactly – I did say “the really stupid stuff”, not perfection.

              Buying a little too much, or too little candy corn does NOT qualify as “really stupid.” Deciding you are only going to buy sugar-free candies because sugar is evil, might. Decorations that are not as nice as they could have been really, really doesn’t qualify. Using decorations that are clearly racist, sexist or any other “ist” / “phobic” does.

              I’d be willing to bet that her boss is perfectly happy with the way it went – the party went off ok, and he didn’t need to be bothered with the details. That’s really all he needs. I am fairly confident that he would be a lot less happy with a more “perfect” party that required lots of his intervention.

              Taking notes for the next time is a good idea, and so is lifting the ideas you liked from other departments. But really, I wouldn’t stress over it. And I would never suggest running this type of stuff by the boss unless you’re stuck with a micromanager who WANTS to pass on every stupid decision.

    2. PumpkinEverything*

      It’s hard. I’ve been doing it for nearly 5 years and each time a new decision comes up I tend to agonize a bit. The bottom line is that you need to be comfortable with the fact that 1) you will never make everyone happy with your decision; and 2) the decision could be the wrong one. If the decision is the wrong one, you need to own the responsibility for it, chalk it up to a learning experience, and move on. Everyone screws up occasionally and depending on how many people the decision affects, it could be no big deal.

    3. Bea W*

      I was born with some kind of mental condition that makes needing to feel autonomous my default mode. I’m pretty sure this is my father’s fault. I can’t say I am always confident, but I’m not afraid to fail. I had the opposite dilemma, feeling comfortable with not being able to make autonomous decisions. It still makes me itchy!

      I don’t like party planning though. I’d rather someone else deal with that or just give me the budgeting part and they can do the shopping part. I’m okay with not making autonomous decisions there.

      1. QualityControlFreak*

        Is there a name for that condition? Because I’m pretty sure I have it too. I’ve had to school myself to function well within established management structures. That’s probably part of how I ended up working in this field; I’m basically a management rep for my organization. I get to help shape procedures and policies that guide our daily operations. Yes, there are levels of approvals above me, but I’m the one who puts it all together and presents it to the troops once approved. As an employee I have a stake in the decisions made not at my level, so this gives me some sense of, not autonomy perhaps as I don’t make the decisions, but that I have direct input into both the decision-making process and its implementation. Works for me.

        1. Bea W*

          At this point in my career I have a stake and input in a lot of decisions made above me and have a lot of autonomy in leading my project which seems to be good enough. There were times back when I was just starting out that I wasn’t sure I’d ever be successful in the workplace, because it’s just not in my nature to sit quietly and do what I’m told.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am smiling. The best, best piece of advice I have ever gotten about decision making is this:
      “When you are totally stuck. chose the option that will do the least amount of damage if it turns out to be the wrong choice.’

      In my mind, I changed that to “Which option would allow me to correct and change course?”

      The boss that gave me that advice felt that I was a strong decision maker. Little did he know, there were times where I was at a standstill trying to reach a decision on a particular matter.

      In short:
      Look at your options. Don’t spend all day thinking of options, if you come up with two or three choices you are doing well. You do not need 100 choices.
      When making your decision, try, try, try not to paint yourself into a corner where you have run out of options.
      Definitely look at how your choices impact others. Don’t commit to something that requires other people without checking with those people and/or your boss. For the most part, look at your choices and say “Is this doable for ME? Am I going to be able to follow through?”

      If you see someone that appears to be doing better than you, instead of getting angry with yourself, soak up the best of their best and make it your own. Take only the cream of the crop ideas.

      For years, I thought of myself as a sponge, just soaking up the best practices of those around me. Expect to feel uncomfortable in the short run. Compensate by being willing to adjust and make a better decision the next time. This gets better and it is surprising how differently you will feel in a short time.

  42. Mimmy*

    Didn’t want to make my first post too long, but I wanted to get some feedback about Quality Assurance. Whenever I read grant proposals, I am fascinated by the efforts many agencies put in to ensure their programs are effective and of high quality, some of it using data analysis, which I talked about a few weeks ago. I know in smaller agencies, such tasks probably go to management or the Board, but larger agencies seem to have whole departments.

    Weird question, but would I be the “bad guy” if I were to take on some sort of QA or program evaluation role, whether it’d be in-house or through a research project or accrediting body? Given my skill in paying attention to detail, I’d probably spot discrepancies that no one else would, but agency staff would probably hate me for it!

    1. Jamie*

      QA are on the side of greater good, Mimmy – always. Unless they are power hungry gotcha players, but they are just horrible people using QA as a tool to bludgeon others.

      And the only people who hate the quality team have issues with their work. Because no one is perfect so no one should hate others for catching issues before they cause problems.

      Here’s what I tell people – you’d way rather hear it from me or my audit team so you can fix it than from a customer, or an external auditor. I’m on your side – internal audits protect you from dealing with external angry people.

      1. Mimmy*

        Thanks Jamie, you always have wise words :) And I know you know that I don’t mean auditing in IT, but I imagine the principles are the same regardless of industry.

        I just love evaluating!!

        1. Jamie*

          I know, the principles are the same though. Knowing the standard and evaluating whatever (IT, production parts, contracts, grants, etc.) to make sure they meet that standard.

          It’s pretty satisfying. To tell you the truth I used to think this was the part of my job I’d offload first if we got more staff and did a restructure – but it’s really grown on me and I kind of love it now.

          1. loxthebox*

            QA Engineer walks into a bar. Orders a beer. Orders 0 beers. Orders 999999999 beers. Orders a lizard. Orders -1 beers. Orders a sfdeljknesv.

      2. QualityControlFreak*

        Working in QA can be both extremely satisfying and extremely challenging. But yes, you could become the “bad guy” to some of your coworkers. See comments from Anonsie and Not So NewReader, below, and my own response to Bea W. above. I heart data analysis too, but ultimately what I’m doing is trying to improve operations, for the organization, our employees and our customers.

        1. Bea W*

          A lot of what I do revolves around data quality. I get the best of both worlds, analyzing data for quality and working to improve the quality of data. “Extremely satisfying and extremely challenging” is the perfect way to describe it.

    2. Anonsie*

      Depends. If you do it in a way that is genuinely helpful and ask everyone where they see problems you could look in to, then actually take their input and try to address the issues they see in a way they support, people will love it. If you say that but then just make your own assessments and don’t take their input into account and come back with recommendations and plans that no one ever wanted or needed, then yes, bad guy.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with Jamie. It’s all about the attitude you take. Are you there to help people with their jobs or are you there to beat people with your words? You only get to chose one option.

      If you decide to do this work, decide to be that person that becomes totally immersed in what you do. Be able to see a single issue from many different angles. Be knowledgeable and be conversational.

  43. AndersonDarling*

    It’s Halloween, so I’ll ask this question. Do you get the crazy calls when it’s a full moon? When I worked in a call center, all the weirdos would call during the one week period of the full moon. It became so noticeable that we would prepare for the crazy calls during that week each month.

    1. Jamie*

      I know people say this is a myth and whatnot, but my mom who was not at all superstitious was a nurse and swears that it’s the case. Weirder people, weirder injuries, and a lot more of them.

      I had my daughter during a full moon and the maternity ward was packed. Nurses there said every full moon the babies want out.

      My daughter works in food service and she says she can tell it’s a full moon by the increase in crazy customers.

      1. Anonsie*

        They’ve monitored emergency rooms for upswings in traffic on full moons and some places have found a pronounced increase while others have not. I should do a systematic review of all those and see which one it is…

                1. Dmented Kitty*

                  Pardon — it’s more of a “rephrase” than a “TL;DR”. My vocabulary is wonky today.

                2. Anonsie*

                  Undetermined. Some hospitals do see a big increase in their patient volumes, ERs in particular, and some don’t. A systematic review would go through the studies published by all those hospitals and compare their findings and how they measured them to see what overall trend can be seen to help answer that question.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yeah, I have wondered how much of the craziness is due to the full moon versus our collective expectation that a full moon will bring out weird behavior.

      2. LeahS*

        Yes! My mom is a nurse and says the exact same thing… and I worked food service for over 10 years and can confirm!

      3. Erin*

        My daughter was 3 weeks early. It was a full moon and a major thunderstorm. (Allegedly large barometric pressure drops also make babies want to come out.)

        And as a recruiter, it does seem we get weird phone screens around full moons

    2. Ezri*

      I had a friend who worked at an emergency hotline, and she says that the number of really bizarre calls would skyrocket during the full moon.

    3. littlemoose*

      Now I wish I had charted that while working retail. We got some weirdos, but I don’t know if they were following a lunar schedule.

    4. Jazzy Red*

      The moon not only affects tides, but every cell of our bodies. I’m never surprised when I hear about something really odd that someone had done around the time of the full moon.

  44. chewbecca*

    I’ve been having some problems lately with focus at work. It’s mainly related to some issues with some medication that I was on, and now with transitioning to another I’m still adjusting.

    A couple things had fallen through the cracks recently, and I was starting to worry my manager was taking notice, so I talked to him yesterday about it. Not only did he say that he hadn’t even noticed, but he said he thought I was doing a great job.

    He’s a very hands-off manager, and we don’t have performance reviews, so it was really good to hear that he thinks I’m doing a good job – even when I don’t think I am.

    I was pretty nervous beforehand, but I’m glad I did it now.

    1. Jamie*

      Good for you. And as someone who is always harder on herself than any boss could ever be, I’ve been where you are. You helped cement your reputation with your boss for being self managing and internally driven. Two of the best qualities ever.

  45. Job Hunter*

    An organization I’ve been interviewing with has been negotiating before presenting an offer. Background info: I’m looking to move from for-profit to non-profit; I’m currently a legal assistant and am being considered for a grants administration role. Although I haven’t done this job before, my skills and experience are very well suited to the job.

    When asked in the initial phone screening, I told the HR rep my desired salary range. She immediately said “We’re definitely not able to do that; could you come down a bit?”– I said I could perhaps come down to $8k below the top of my desired range (only $1500 more than I’m making now).

    After two in-person interviews that went very well and ended with them saying they hoped to make a decision and offer the following week, I received another phone call from the HR rep. “I remember you said you could do [lowered salary requirement] but the top of the salary range for this position is [$1000 less]. Is that a deal breaker?” I replied that no, it wasn’t necessarily a deal breaker (I really like this job and organization!), but that I would be interested in seeing their benefits. She then sent me a summary of the benefits, which are pretty standard. I figured if they’re unable to offer more money, perhaps they could offer a few extra benefits. The next time we spoke I asked if I could possibly be given an extra week of vacation, and/or be able to work from home once a week. She said she’d look into it, and the next day she let called to let me know that no, neither of those requests were possible. I thanked her for looking into it, and she said that they hoped to make a decision in the next few weeks.

    My impression at this point is that they’re probably trying to decide between me and another candidate, and seeing which of us is willing to do the job for less. Although it’s a great career move for me, the whole pre-offer negotiating is starting to leave a bad taste in my mouth. In hindsight I wish I had shut it down in the beginning by saying something like “I’m sure we can find a number that’s agreeable for both of us when we get to an offer.” Too late for that, though…


    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      It doesn’t read to me like they’re trying to find out who will work for less. I think they’re just trying to find out whether you’re a viable candidate, i.e. should they consider you as a finalist, or do they already know that you won’t accept the offer they’re able to make?

      Without knowing any details, I’m pretty surprised that you would manage a raise when transitioning from working as a legal assistant to an entry-level grant administrator, so I’m guessing that this is just a bit of a tough fit financially (for both you and the organization).

      1. Job Hunter*

        Well, it looks like I probably *wouldn’t* manage a raise. But I live/work in a major city, and currently I’m being paid the standard or slightly below that for an experienced legal assistant working in a for-profit firm.

        From the research I’ve done on salaries for the exact job title I’m applying to in my area, what they would be offering is about $8k below the bottom of that range.

        At my second in-person interview last week, they let me know that I was one of three finalists and they hoped to make an offer the following week (this week).

        1. Dan*

          Is there really a “salary premium” for a for-profit, or for that matter, a “salary discount” working for a non-profit?

          I work for a non-profit and my compensation package is far and away better than the for-profits I had either worked for or interviewed with.

          What research did you do? Glassdoor sucks. Did those companies disclose the pay to you directly? How wide was your range? TBH, the “$8k below” number should be in the range.

          Oh, do you actually want the job, no matter what it pays? You talked about saying “I’m sure we can come to an agreement.” Did you really mean that?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I wouldn’t read that as trying to find out who will work for less, especially when we’re only talking about a couple thousand dollars difference. People usually want to hire the best candidate, not the cheapest. They’re trying to figure out if you’re viable for them financially, as Victoria says.

        1. Job Hunter*

          That makes sense… but if we’re talking about a mere $1000, why all the back and forth? If it would mean I feel good about accepting an offer, is $1000 really going to hurt their bottom line (or, for that matter, an additional week of vacation– which would cost them nothing out of pocket, just a week of time)?

          1. Dan*

            Vacation has a real cost, although some will disagree with me. If I have 52 people in my office, and they each get an extra week of vacation time, then that’s 52 weeks that aren’t getting covered — an entire person. I’d have to hire someone to cover that time if it was a necessity.

            I don’t see “all of this back and forth” for a mere $1000. I see you trying to negotiate (not a criticism, just an observation) and they keep shutting you down. It’s clear what they’re willing to pay, and you’re asking why they won’t pay you more (either in $ or benefits.)

            So why all of the fuss over $1k? Because people are not rational economic actors. And if they don’t think you’ll provide $1k more in value than the next guy, then they might go with him.

            I think your sense that you should have saved the hard negotiating for post-offer was on target. By tipping your hand early, you allow them to make an offer to someone else. (And then some managers complain that the candidates were agreeable until the offer was made. And then bam. Well, there’s a reason.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              All this, and also the fact that they need to think about how your salary/benefits will fit in with their overall structure. What they give you needs to make sense in the larger context of what they give others at your level/at other levels.

          2. Observer*

            Yes. Vacation time has a real cost to organizations, especially in roles where there is very little slack – and grant administration tends to be such a role.

            In general salaries can be very rigid, ESPECIALLY in administrative positions. This is because administration is “overhead” and organizations are under enormous pressure to keep “overhead” down, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. This is beginning to change a bit, but it’s still a huge issue.

            1. Apollo Warbucks*

              I found this Ted talk fascinating it’s about the impact theses restriction on overheads have on non profits.


              The two main points I took from the talk were:

              “Businessweek did a survey, looked at the compensation packages for MBAs 10 years of business school, and the median compensation for a Stanford MBA, with bonus, at the age of 38, was 400,000 dollars. Meanwhile, for the same year, the average salary for the CEO of a $5 million-plus medical charity in the U.S. was 232,000 dollars, and for a hunger charity, 84,000 dollars. Now, there’s no way you’re going to get a lot of people with $400,000 talent to make a $316,000 sacrifice every year to become the CEO of a hunger charity.”


              “You want to make 50 million dollars selling violent video games to kids, go for it. We’ll put you on the cover of Wired magazine. But you want to make half a million dollars trying to cure kids of malaria, and you’re considered a parasite yourself.”

    2. Chriama*

      I agree with Alison. If they give you the extra $1000, they just increased what they’re willing to pay for future hires (assuming it’s really the top of the range) as well as current employees. Increasing vacation has the same impact. If they can’t afford it for everyone, they can’t really afford it for you.

      Maybe if you had a track record as an exceptional performer within the company they would be willing to make an exception to retain a valued employee. But as a new hire, they also need to know that you’re ok with the salary they’re proposing.
      I remember a commenter posting about how they’d pushed to get an employee hired above their typical range because he was taking a pay cut to come and work for them, and the impact it had — he was unhappy to be making that amount (because if the company could stretch their budget a little, why not a lot?), other employees were unhappy that a new guy was making more than them and complaining about it, etc. It might seem like only $1000, but I think it speaks to a larger concern about whether or not the compensation the company can offer you is something you’re comfortable accepting. It would suck for everyone involved if you took the job but the pay ate away at you until you were too unhappy to be successful at that company.

  46. Betty*

    Any Administrative Assistants out there? I’ve been an admin at a university in 3 different departments for the past 7 years. Each role has been different, some more typical admin stuff than others. I’m proud of the work I do and I’m well compensated but I can’t get over the title. I’m embarrassed to tell people what I do so I usually just mention the department I work in and let them draw their own conclusions. I recently switched departments where I’ve met some other badass admins that seem incredibly secure with their roles. How do I get there?

    PS. This isn’t my long-term career, I’m currently in school pursing something else but I’ve got a few years left.

    1. CollegeAdmin*

      Oh thank god, I thought I was the only one who felt this way. I can’t tell you how to get more secure in the role, but I talk about my job in ways that make me feel…more valued? (Can’t think of the word I’m looking for.)

      For example, I say that I’m “an assistant in the dean’s office” instead of “administrative assistant for the dean’s office,” because I think it sounds less “paper-pusher” and more “valued contributor.”* I also remember reading something once that said when someone (friend, acquaintance, etc.) asks you what you do, to actually say what you do, not what your title is, since it’s more representative of your job.

      *Obviously, I am not advocating doing this on your resume, in case anyone thought I was. Use the administrative assistant on your resume and in other official instances.

      1. Smallest Red Chair*

        I like to think of it as a “support” role. The foundation that keeps everything upright.

      2. Mallory*

        I’m an admin assistant, although because its a small company(I’m the only office paper pusher employee) my boss refers to me as an office admin or office manager(but I don’t manage any people, just invoicing, scheduling, HR, ect.)
        I’m not a fan of my title because it doesn’t really explain what I do. I also don’t mind secretary as a title, although I think of a secretary as more of an executive assistant(to one person) role. However when people ask what I do, I say office manager because I hope it conveys that I wear a lot of different hats during my workday

      1. Betty*

        I think it’s because I’m worried people will just view me as a secretary who does the busy work the VPs don’t want to do. The reality is yes, I do some of that busy work (schedule meetings, mass mailing, answer phones) but I’m also put in charge of important projects and people come to me for ideas and collaborations.

          1. Betty*

            I’m not sure what your point is.

            I think others have conveyed it better than me, especially ‘Admin’ a couple of posts down.

            1. fposte*

              Sorry, you’re right, that wasn’t clear. My point was that secretaries are/have also been key functionaries, so if they think it’s dismissive to view you as a secretary that’s another thing they’re getting wrong.

    2. Smallest Red Chair*

      I’ve been an admin in various jobs over the years. My last position I was supporting a senior director level executive that started out as an admin herself. I used to tell people I was “just an admin” and she overheard me saying it one time. She said “Don’t think of yourself that way. The rest of us can’t get our work done effectively or efficiently without our admins. You are a key factor in this company’s success.”

      I thought that was a really nice comment and I try to keep in in mind. That holds true for you too.

    3. chewbecca*

      I’m not an assistant, but I do this too. The most visible part of my job is as the receptionist, but the bulk of my work is doing AR. Whenever people ask me what I do, I say that I work in accounting and leave the reception part off. I’m not ashamed of the reception work I do, but I do find people take it a little less seriously than the accounting part.

    4. Chai Latte*

      I am a research assistant, but I feel the same way (hoping to get it changed to associate). I think what bothers me is some people interpret it as I am the researcher’s assistant, but I am not, I am assisting the research. Big difference :]

    5. Admin*

      I’ve been an assistant for 5 years now. It’s not that I hate the work (there are good parts and bad parts, as in any job). I hate the way that others– particularly some of the more snobbish visitors to my office– seem to see the word ‘assistant’ and think ‘typing monkey.’

      I don’t have an answer to how to become more secure in your role; I find satisfaction in doing my job well and, when I have time, taking on more complex projects that allow me to flex my mental muscle. The more I do, the more my coworkers become aware of my capabilities and throw such projects my way.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Though my official title is consulting assistant, I think it sounds like I’m assisting with the consulting, and that isn’t the case. I just say I’m a departmental admin for X company.

    7. Jessica*

      I know many people think it’s outdated, but I personally prefer “secretary” to “administrative assistant”. It sounds more like a profession in and of itself whereas “administrative assistant” just seems to indicate you’re an appendage to someone more important.

      Also, if it make you feel better, a lot of the most interesting people I know are my fellow secretaries – because we have the time outside of work to cultivate other interests.

    8. Not So NewReader*

      People in the know, realize that terms like admin and clerk cover a very, very large area. Matter of fact it’s like a catch-all term meaning “I do lots of stuff.”
      I have one part time job with the title of clerk. My boss gives me lots of wiggle room. Last year I wrote a grant. Currently, I am doing major work on records. My boss also has me weigh in on purchasing decisions and she relies on my ability to research. She also counts on me to help out with the financial reports and computer repair. People ask me what I do, I will tell them my title and then quickly go into the latest interesting thing I am working on. They get the drift of things really fast.
      Generally people can respect/like a response if the person can say why they like their work. That might be an angle for you to consider.
      Person: “What do you do for a living?”
      You: “Oh, I really like my job, I currently I am working on X. It’s very interesting.”

  47. T*

    I have an interview this afternoon and I’m wondering if I can get an opinion on “who” to use as my references. My interview is with a large organization (various branches/each branch does their own hiring) in a few hours and I’m not sure what to do about my references. The hiring manager is friends with one of my references, but this reference is pretty much the main person in the dept. I was in during my program at school (so she doesn’t really know my work, but I know she’d give me a glowing reference). Is it safe to leave her off of my reference sheet and go with 3 other people (who have a greater opinion on my work), should I take a chance and just give all 4 of them? I’m having a tough time deciding because I wouldn’t want to cut my usual 3 references.

  48. Misclassification?*

    I am concerned that I am supervising misclassified employees. (Myself and the workers are in Illinois if that matters.)

    I don’t have access to their contracts, but there are a lot of red flags.
    I have tried casually raising my concerns to managers in my department, but have gotten push back. The responses I get range from “if anyone including HR asks, just deny that they are working for us” to my boss’s boss asking my boss why I’ve been asking questions. (I’m not even supposed to know as much as I do know about this situation.)

    Even if I do tell HR, I cannot complete my assigned tasks without additional manpower, and these workers are the only ones I am allowed to use. So I worry that all that could happen is that these workers lose their jobs, I get indirectly retaliated against for not completing my tasks, and I burn my bridges. (That’s assuming I wouldn’t just be directly retaliated against.)

    But if I do nothing, I worry I’m being complicit in something illegal, and I’m letting these workers be taken advantage of. (Since I am the only day-to-day contact with these workers, I worry that I would become the fall guy, even though I have no actual say in their status.)

    Either way, I feel like my professional reputation could easily be jeopardized.

    Looking for advice beyond “find a new job” because I already know that and I’m already trying to do that.

    1. Tech Worker*

      Ouch. I don’t know what to tell you beyond, “Get out ASAP!” but I do want to offer sympathy. It sounds like you’re in a situation where doing something illegal is basically a requirement of your job.

      Before taking any action at work, you might want to seek some kind of legal advice beyond AAM. Some areas have free law centers that cover employment law, and I’m sure there are resources online.

      And document EVERYTHING, including your concerns, if possible. You need to protect yourself so you’re not held accountable for the violations you’re being asked to uphold.

      I would be very wary of reporting it to HR. A company that violates employment law could have a shady HR department too.

      Good luck with everything! I hope you can find a new job soon!

      1. Misclassification?*

        My main worry is that I’m not sure I have enough documentable evidence. I’ve saved what electronic information I have but most of what I know is from what boss and those on her level have spoken to me explicitly in confidence, always with a “don’t tell anyone I told you this” disclaimer. In the past people here have been criticized for discussing details of employment, even things like salary that I’m fairly certain can’t be restricted, and I feel like there’s too good a chance that word would get back if I started asking questions about terms of employment to the people I supervise. Especially given the push back I’ve gotten so far. (And I have reasons to mistrust HR.)

        I guess I’ll try to find some legal resource, although I got very intimidated by my initial googling. Which is why I tried here first. Any links to recommend?

        1. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

          Your county bar association likely has a lawyer referral service. That’s where I’d check first. Usually, you can get a free 10 minute phone consultation.

    2. Natalie*

      “if anyone including HR asks, just deny that they are working for us”

      What. the. fuck.

      Can you make an anonymous report to the labor board?

      1. Misclassification?*

        Last time I know of that someone made an “anonymous” report (albeit internally, regarding how exempt employees were being told to underreport our hours on payroll) as soon as boss’s boss learned of it, they called people 1 by 1 into their office until they bullied out who reported. (Honestly, I’m feeling a little anxious posting anonymously here, that there are enough details that this could be traced back!)

        1. Natalie*

          Yeah… so I don’t know that there’s much else you can do besides find another job. That really sucks, and I’m sorry.

          One thing to keep in mind is that what you’re describing may meet the bar for constructive dismissal, which usually qualifies you for unemployment. That doesn’t mean you should quit tomorrow, but it might be worth double checking what the rules are in your state just so you know that’s an option if things get really terrible.

          And when you do leave, drop a dime on them to anyone who will listen – labor board, state AG, IRS, your local “scandal busters” news team, Gawker, Santa Claus… these people sounds like the absolute worst.

          1. Misclassification?*

            Not even sure I can do that. This is my only non-retail job since college. I’ve been trying very hard to not burn bridges since I will need some kind of reference from someone here. That’s the main reason I’ve stayed on as long as I have. Our HR has a reputation for being sticklers about “all references must go through proper channels”. Boss and others under boss’s boss might be willing to give me a good reference anyhow, but I am concerned that if leave and rile up a hornet’s nest on my way out for them to clean up, they won’t be willing to stick their neck out (if they even still want to at that point).

            Working here has been quite an eye-opener to the realities of the working world.

            1. Natalie*

              You obviously need to do whatever you feel is best, but consider: it’s easy to think you can somehow protect yourself against an irrational person/organization by behaving well. But you’re dealing with someone who does not respond to things appropriately, so you have no reason to think that they will give you a good reference anyway. Given their behavior, why would you trust them not to badmouth you the minute you quit, or 6 months from now when they’ve decided they hate you for no reason?

              Alison has some advice in the archives about neutralizing a bad reference that might be helpful.

              1. Misclassification?*

                I have no expectations of boss’s boss or anyone above. But I couldn’t have good professional relationships with everyone below. (We’re all coping with many forms of insanity, not just this.) But if I send things crashing onto their heads, I don’t think they’ll stick out their necks for me.

                1. Misclassification?*

                  Sorry, that 2nd sentence should have said,
                  “But I have good professional relationships with everyone below boss’s boss’s level.”
                  Mistyped to the opposite of what I meant, ooops!

          2. Tech Worker*

            I wouldn’t contact any media outlets. If you’re wrong about anything (or the media outlet misconstrues your words into something that is wrong), you could be sued for slander or libel. And it would make you look unprofessional. I think this is the kind of thing one should bring up discreetly with a lawyer, legal advisor, or governing agency, and otherwise keep fairly quiet about.

    3. Jamie*

      At first I thought you were talking about exempt vs non-exempt which is such a common misclassification you have to be super diligent to make sure it’s not happening. So few people understand the criteria for that (even though they are pretty simple.)

      Sounds like you’re talking about temps or contractors vs employees? Is that the case?

        1. Observer*

          I understand to moral / ethical dilemma here, and I don’t have any good responses. But legally? I can’t imagine that you have any exposure here. On the one hand, unless you are an auditor or the like, you aren’t a mandated reporter. On the other hand, you don’t really KNOW anything. Reasonable suspicion is something that only mandated reporter types need to report (and not necessarily – it depends on the field.) And on top of this, you do not have a role in hiring, firing, classification, decisions about working conditions or contracts.

          Then again, checking with a lawyer about the your legal exposure might be a good idea, even if just to calm you down.

          1. Tech Worker*

            I think the risk is greater than that. I don’t know enough about employment law to know if LW could legally be held responsible, but if all of this were to come to the surface, it could damage their reputation. LW could also be the target of a lawsuit if one of the employees feels they’re being treated unfairly.

            Regardless, being asked to do something illegal as part of your job is never a good thing. I think it would do LW a lot of good to talk to a lawyer about how to handle this situation until an alternate source of income comes along.

            1. Misclassification?*

              Yeah, that’s a big part of the stress. Feeling so trapped in the dark and like I can’t get any ethical light. Except vaguely and anonymously on an internet blog. Thanks guys even if dim :)

            2. Observer*

              You can be the target of a lawsuit for just being in the vicinity.

              He is also not being asked to do something illegal, regardless of whether the company is doing something illegal or not. If he gets asked – whether by HR or a government agency with the authority to ask questions, stick to the truth and bare minimum of facts. In this case it’s “I have no idea of their status; I have no information about, nor access to, their employment or contract information; nor do I have any authority in that regard. The only thing I can say is these are the people who I can call on to help me do x, y, and z.” I don’t think there is any need to volunteer information, especially since there is nothing definite there anyway, but absolutely don’t lie.

              But, it’s good he’s looking to get out.

    4. INTP*

      I would just stay out of it and keep quiet from this point.

      If you don’t have any sort of above-the-table access to their contracts or details about their employment status, I don’t see how you could be held responsible for it. Just make sure no one could produce documentation that you knew (I don’t see how that would happen since it seems like you don’t know for certain).

      Morally, I think you’ve done what you could be expected to do. You spoke up and people in a position to actually do something about it wouldn’t listen, and you aren’t unreasonable to fear backlash. I don’t think you’re obligated to risk your job or the ease of doing your job for these contractors when they aren’t even doing it for themselves. (In fact, their status might be by choice, though I get the sense that they aren’t at a high enough level that they would choose to work under that status. When I worked with a staffing agency, many IT workers would choose to work on an independent contractor basis for $80/hour instead of a W2 employee basis for $60/hour, knowing that the terms of the job weren’t going to change. I know that in the eyes of the law it wasn’t actually their decision to make, but they weren’t being victimized.)

      At this point, I would just maintain plausible deniability as best I could and say nothing more. I don’t think it would work out well for you to speak up.

      1. Misclassification?*

        The “choice” was, be converted to independent contractor or lose their job. They didn’t have the option to remain direct employees.
        I supervised them before, during, and after the transition, but never with full information. (Technically they report to my boss, but she had no contact with them before or after the transition. In fact boss was coincidentally [not being ironic] on vacation during the transition.)

        I mean, I don’t have a smoking gun, but there’s a gun and I smell smoke.
        I don’t think it will work out well to speak up either. But I don’t feel I really have plausible deniability.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. I really hate these types of things.

          A wise person told me, you have to protect yourself first. In your case, that means stop talking. Really. I hate saying that, but there are how many of them? And only one of you. Stop talking.
          Look there are too many people that have agreed to this situation. Not the least of which are the employees themselves. They could speak up and, yet, they choose not to. Please take your cues from that. You speak up, the employees themselves may end up angry with you because their jobs are in danger or whatever. Yes, the very people you are advocating for could end up snarling at you. I have seen this one too many times. What this means is protect yourself first and foremost.

          And try to think of this as a life lesson. I have encountered many illegal situations in work places. Some of them are not the hill to die on. Some of the situations I was able to speak up and create change. And some of situations were still going on when I left the employers- I had no impact and basically I tried to dodge bullets.

          I have one technique that I have used that has helped a few times, but may or may not be helpful to you. I think about the reasons why. Why is this seemingly illegal situation occurring?
          It could be that the situation is not illegal and it is my misunderstanding that is causing the problem. So I do a little legal research.

          It could be that I find the situation is in a funny gray area, where it may or may not be illegal. Or I could find out that it is definitely illegal. I need this background so I can be on firm ground for my next step.

          Then I move on to the nuts and bolts. Why is the company doing this? What need do they have that causes them to do this illegal activity?
          IF and that is a huge IF, you can identify the need then you MIGHT be able to break the situation down and handle it. At this point in this process, you have become a super-duper trouble shooter. “Boss, I see we have X need. I see we are doing Y because of it. I was wondering if we could move over to idea ABC which would take us into a position that is transparently clear to everyone. What I like about idea ABC is that it takes us out of that gray area of Y and, at the same time, helps us with X need.”

          Yes, this is a huge undertaking if you decide to go this route. And it is not without risk. It may or may not be worth it to you to use this technique. There have been times where I have just left, because it was not worth it to me.

          Prerequisite: You have to have bosses that actually want to be on the up and up.

        2. Observer*

          Based on what you are describing you are totally in the clear. This is not something you can change. Legally, you have no definite knowledge, nor are you in any position to make any decisions about their employment status at any level. It’s not just that your place on the org chart doesn’t put you in a technical position to do anything. You really have no legal or actual ability to do anything about this.

          What exactly could anyone pin on you? You’re not a “mandated reporter”. The only thing you might want to look into, for conscience’s sake, not legal requirement, is “whistleblower protection”, so you can look into whether you can report your suspicions to the correct agency. The thing you need to look out for, though, is that even though there may be technical protections in place, the appropriate agency needs to have a track record of enforcing them. Your company doesn’t sound like it’s going to pay attention otherwise.

  49. Mouse*

    Tell me about your cracker-eating coworkers! I can’t tell if my issues with my cracker-eater are legitimate anymore, or if they do fall in the realm of eating crackers at the desk. :)

    1. Jamie*

      I never had a cracker eater, but I had a continuous Dorito muncher and by the end of the first week I blamed her for every evil to befall humanity since 1712. The noise takes away your ability to reason, but that’s not your fault. If they don’t want to be the target of laser focused animus they need to eat quieter foods. Peeps are good for this all year round.

      Maybe a steady diet of Peeps isn’t healthy, but it facilitates emotional health for those around the eater. And how do we really know there aren’t amazing benefits to an all Peep diet? I’m not going to discount something until it’s been studied – that’s how science works.

    2. Sascha*

      One of my office’s admin assistants is rather territorial, especially when it comes to parties or gifts. She IS the Party/Gift Person, and no one else!!! If anyone wants to plan a gift or an event for someone without telling her, she gets very passive aggressive (and it’s not because we’re trying to do something for the whole office and get the department to pay for it – it’s just small things like, a few of us wanted to get a baby gift for a coworker, with our own money, and weren’t soliciting anyone else). She does her job alright, and never really crosses the line with this behavior, it’s just annoying. Can’t I get someone a baby gift on my own???

          1. Bea W*

            I ready it literally and was confused. I have never heard crackers used as a metaphor for annoyance.

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        She should do event planning on the side, just to get some of that out of her system.

        I had a CW who did event planning on the side for her close friends/acquaintances, and she loves it and is actually very good at it. Not that she was annoying to start with.

    3. Natalie*

      My former BEC co-worker had some kind of issues with the written word, specifically email. No matter what you would email him, unless you explicitly said “reply by email” he would come and reply in person. Even yes or no questions – has this work been completed? Oh, you are going to walk over to my desk and give me a blow by blow account* of your last conversation with the contractor, and then at the end I will find out that no, it’s not done yet. I used to send emails to him and then immediately go to the bathroom or lunch before so I could avoid him.

      *I mean blow by blow literally, also: “so he said blah blah blah and I told him blah blah blah and then he said…”

      Years ago I used to be assigned to type his notes for him, and he would stand at my desk and read from his written notes instead of handing them to me to type. And I was doing his typing because his old boss wasn’t willing to make “learn to type” a condition of his job.

      My second best day at this office was the day he got laid off. I’m probably going to hell for that, but seriously, he was insufferable.

      1. Sascha*

        I have a coworker like that! He’s another manager. He loves to talk (he’s a trainer), and will often reply to my emails by stopping by. When he does email me about something, it’s often confusing, short, and cryptic. If I send him an email longer than one sentence, he complains that it’s too long. If I send him a short email like “sure that’s fine” he complains that it’s too short. He also baby talks quite often. He’s in his 50s, so I really don’t get where the baby talk is coming from.

    4. Cath in Canada*

      When I used to work in a lab, there was one person who just did not pull her weight. Whenever it was her month to be in charge of making up common reagents that everyone used, we’d run out; she’d leave common areas in a huge mess that you had to clean up during the time you’d booked for your own work; she’d use the last of something and not order a replacement or tell anyone we’d run out. She was a total spoiled princess who was used to mummy and daddy doing everything for her (my friend went to a conference with her and confirmed this suspicion – they had to share a suite and she had no idea how to clean up after herself, and left everything in a big mess and was generally insufferable. She brought her own bed sheets because “daddy says you can’t trust hotels!”, but didn’t know how to make the bed and had to be guided through the process).

      The worst thing was that you could never actually pin anything specific on her – we all *knew* it was her who wasn’t re-ordering, but we never caught her in the act. And when I’d bring it up in a lab meeting (not naming names, just giving a general reminder of how annoying it is when you go to use something and it’s gone), she’d be super condescending in her feigned sympathy for me and my wasted time and efforts. She’d put her hand on my arm and give me a fake puppy-dog “awwwww” look. Drove me nuts!

      This is 9 years ago now and I can still feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about her! Luckily, I had venting partners for after-work pub sessions.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        She brought her own bed sheets because “daddy says you can’t trust hotels!”, but didn’t know how to make the bed and had to be guided through the process).

        Oh good Lord. I just facepalmed so hard I gave myself a headache.

    5. matcha123*

      I can generally get along well with most people, but two people at my old job were grating on me.

      One was a guy a year or so younger than me who was hired after me as a “full” employee. In Japan, employees are “seishain” which means they get a whole bunch of benefits, at least two bonuses a year, and close to guaranteed lifetime employment. So, this guy was hired because his English was supposedly great, and he got a great score on the TOEIC (a “business” English test that Japanese people love).

      My annoyances included, but are not limited to:
      – his annoying voice
      – his horrible abuse of the English language
      – any and every request he made of me and the other foreign staff.

      I feel sorry for him because I know he was being used and manipulated by our then supervisor. He didn’t have the skills to manage anyone and he definitely wasn’t good enough at English to translate or distinguish between the various writing styles employed by the English language.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      Cracker eaters I have known:

      –Sales guy who would never answer his calls or return calls. He would let it go to voice mail and they would ring back to me and say “I don’t want to leave a message because he won’t call me back.” The only thing I could do was take a paper message or send it to the sales manager, who didn’t want to do it either and would get up from his desk and go into the break room the second he heard AWOL SalesDude’s call ring back to me (that’s another rant). It nearly drove me crazy. If I asked him about it, he would say, “I’ll get back to them eventually.” He never did. I couldn’t do anything–I just had to deal with all his pissed-off customers. >_<

      –At the same job, Sneezy. He would sneeze not once, not twice, but five times. Every time. A lot. Also, he was a ride moocher. He couldn't drive for a while and would mooch rides off people to take him with them to lunch. He never brought his lunch. Not ever. The mooching was more irritating than the sneezing (we thought that was kind of funny). He never asked me because I always ate at work. The other coworkers would complain about it. I told them, "Grow a spine and stop giving him rides and he'll learn to bring his lunch," but they always took him. LOL.

      –Person who sat near me and laughed a lot. Loudly. I mean, after every other sentence. Everything was hilarious. Headphones did not help one bit. It was "Blah blah blah HEHAHAHAHAHAH! Blah blah HEHAHAHAHAH!" all day long. She was very nice, but she drove me insane.

      I'm sure I've been the cracker eater at a few places myself, so I can't really complain too much.

      1. Dmented Kitty*

        I had a CW who always sneezes three times in a row, sometimes with a pause in between. So whenever she sneezes once/twice, then pauses, someone would occasionally say, “whoop, wait for the third one…” and when she sneezes the third time that’s when everyone would say, “bless you”.

      2. Windchime*

        I work with Laughing Lady.

        Me: “Hey, did you hear back from [customer] regarding [thing]?”
        Her: “No, not yet HAHAHAHAHHAHA”

        Me: “Hey, I think that we should do [thing] to solve [problem].”
        Her: [eyerolling] “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA”.
        Me: “Is my suggestion funny?” (I literally said this)

        I am now officially in BEC mode because everything she does–even reasonable, work-related things–makes me cringe and fume inside.

    7. Blah*

      1) I have a corner cubicle, and he drums on the wall of it when he walks by. I always startle a bit and think he’s trying to get my attention. It’s annoying.

      2) She eats some sort of fruit flavored chemically oatmeal packets at her desk, and now I’m greeted by a weird synthetic vaguely blueberry-ish smell in the morning.

      I know both of these are really in cracker eating realm, but if you can’t vent anonymously on the internet, where can you vent?

    8. RB*

      I work for a grocery distribution and merchandising company. There is ALWAYS food in the office – lots of samples from vendors. Most of us know to be cool about samples. Don’t take stuff off of other people’s desks, wait for it to be offered or put out on the “free” table, and don’t be a pig about it. There are two women in my aisle who are obsessed with free stuff and have no shame about taking as much as they can carry. They chatter back and forth all day, and at about 2:00 every afternoon, one will loudly announce that she needs a snack and wander off to grab a bag of chips or crackers or whatever off of someone’s desk. Then the two of them will loudly discuss what they think of the snack. Every. Single. Day.

  50. Smallest Red Chair*

    In my last job I was an admin to a project manager for a global enterprise company. I assisted her with pushing thorough custom product releases. Basically it was a fast track product release with changes to a product that was already in existence. A big part of my job was to keep the release moving along so we met or exceeded timelines. I was not the person who could actually action things or approve or validate them. I wasn’t the one who could upload documents or check them for accuracy. However, I had to make sure the people who were supposed to be doing this actually were doing it.

    These were people with heavy workloads and a lot of responsibility and I am sure that checking a box in Agile was not a high priority. But products would not get released in time without their approvals, which could potentially impact multi-million dollar contracts with customers who needed the custom product in question.

    Sometimes it was just an approval, literally a checkbox. But other times the person on the other end needed to action something before they approved. I literally had to hound people to do these little aspects of their jobs. I don’t mean that as a complaint about people not doing their jobs. I mean I was specifically hired with this in mind. It was actually my job to push them until they did it.

    Typically there would be 4 stages to the release cycle and anywhere from 4-15 people on each stage. Things could not move forward unless all people approved and there was typically an order to which people had to approve before others could approve. So one person early on could literally hold up an entire product release for weeks if they were unresponsive. In essence, there was a lot of responsibility in getting people to do these little things.

    Any tips on how I could explain this on my resume?

  51. JMegan*

    Today is the end of Week 1 at Awesome New Job. It’s going well – so far all I have done is meet a few people and read a lot of policies, but I still feel confident that I’m in the right place and that I’m going to like it here.

    One of my favourite little things is my keyboard, which makes a very satisfying clicking sound as I type. It makes me sound busy and important, even if all I’m doing is posting on AAM!

    1. Jamie*

      Key feel is one of the most important aspects to professional satisfaction, hands down. I always offer to let people pick their own from what I have and I’m shocked that 99% of the people just want “whatever.”

      I totally get that, though, it’s oddly satisfying.

    2. adohrfarms*

      Congrats! It’s the end of week 1 for me as well! I would *really* like to turn my cubicle set up around, but am afraid to cause trouble so early on. It’s a tiny company, so there’s no on-site operations person; the entire length of cubicles (5 total) has the exact same set-up, so I would be the only opposite layout…

  52. Jamie*

    Had a nightmare day yesterday when something that should have taken about an hour took 12 because Exchange wasn’t playing nicely with AD and I realized at the end of the day…I still wasn’t grinding my teeth, questioning my career choices, or hating anyone. I was elbow deep in a server problem and while I was frustrated it was the good frustrated…like I was exactly where I was supposed to me and doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

    I had one of our outsourced network guys here all day helping me and I was really struck by how awesome it was to have someone to talk to about this stuff. Bounce ideas off each other – having someone who when we’re tracing a problem through the system in our heads based on what is and isn’t happening is following the same line of thought. I really wish I had that every day.

    Illustrative that I don’t I had to interrupt this work to hook up a projector to a laptop for a presentation because somehow that’s an IT function?

    I have friends at work and I like them a lot, and I have a boss who is great when kicking around ideas for other parts of my job, but I get technologically lonely sometimes since no one is interested in the details (much less in the position to help) they just want to know when it’s fixed.

    So I enjoyed working on a project with someone yesterday way more than I would have enjoyed solving it myself and it didn’t even drain me. Maybe I’m becoming one of them there extroverts. What’s next? I quit my job to front a band?

  53. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Work dreams: Do you have them?

    Last night, I had a dream that I published a post here that was just random notes about what my answer would eventually be — like sentence fragments. People were oddly okay with it in the dream.

    Ask a Manager’s technical savior often thinks of solutions to tough technical issues in her dreams and then implements them in real life and they work, which is amazing.

    Occasionally I’ve had dreams about something work-related that I need to do that I’d forgotten about, which is interesting — I don’t know why it pops into my mind that way rather than while I’m awake.


    1. louise*

      All. The. Time. I still often have dreams about a job from 10 years ago at a radio station, though the frequency is decreasing. In that dream, I’m on-air and can’t figure out if I should use my maiden or married name and I can’t get anything queued up, so end up with dead air. It’s awful.

      After getting fired from a job a few years ago, I had tons of dreams where I was back at work there and people were trying to keep me out of sight of the owner so he wouldn’t know.

      1. cuppa*

        I have a relative that worked at a radio station, and they also have the queued up part of the dream. Interesting!

    2. Sascha*

      I do! I’ve had some problem solving dreams like your technical savior, I wish they happened more often. Mostly I have stress dreams – like when I was an archivist, and I had to scale a never-ending mountain of acid-free archive boxes. My dreams now involve writing SQL queries that never work.

    3. Natalie*

      When I was still a receptionist, I had the reception version of the “endless customer” dream – the phone kept ringing and ringing and I just had to put people on hold. Apparently this is a really common dream for waitstaff and cashiers, too (but with tables to seat/customer to check out, obviously).

      I don’t usually remember my dreams, so this was pretty craptacular

      1. Cath in Canada*

        My friend once recommended the Diner Dash iPhone game, but it gave me flashbacks to working in food service, which I always hated! NOT a fun concept for a game, although funnily enough I absolutely love the Hotel Dash version!

    4. Mimmy*

      Yup! I sometimes dream that I start working again voluntarily at a job I had shortly before grad school. No one rehires me–I just randomly go in and help out in any way possible. Which is really strange because I was miserable at that job, particularly the last year of being there (I was there 4.5 years).

    5. JMegan*

      Not lately, but then for the past few years I’ve been really under-challenged at work, so it’s possible that my brain just worked everything out when I was awake and didn’t need the extra subconscious time. :)

      I did have an anxiety dream the night before I started this job, where I dreamed I was in a meeting at my old job and suddenly realized I was supposed to be at my new one. As dream-me was running down the hall to get to my new job, some other part of my brain reminded me that this was just a dream, and at some point I would wake up in my own bed and everything would be fine. Dream-me accepted that explanation, went back to the meeting, and calmly explained to the people I was meeting with that I wouldn’t be able to follow up with them because today was my last day at that job. Funny, the way our brains work sometimes!

    6. HR Manager*

      Yep, work dreams and work nightmares. The only odd thing is that more often than not, it involves former co-workers or employees, not current ones. Like my brain only allows me to add them to a dream after a 1 year waiting period post-departure.

    7. littlemoose*

      Oh yes. When I worked retail full-time, I dreamed about the store almost every single night. Sometimes they were weirdly specific, like me teaching another employee about undeterminable style numbers (which I had not done with that employee). Other times just generally involving working at the store. I don’t have specific dreams about my current job, other than vague remembrances, and I chalk it up to this job being substantially less stressful than retail. I do still occasionally have stress dreams about law school, always pertaining to one specific class, Secured Transactions (i.e. I haven’t done the reading, haven’t gone to class for half of the semester, etc.).

    8. AVP*

      I have anxiety dreams about work that often feature me in the middle of a shoot day or other major event with nothing prepared or major things missing and my boss staring at me like, what? Where are the clowns? When is lunch? And then I wake up in a panic.

    9. JamieG*

      Yes! Every couple of weeks I’ll have a dream where I’m ridiculously late for work. Like, I’ll be about to leave for work and I’ll realize I’m not dressed, and then I can’t find any pants. Then suddenly it’s two hours later and I’m trying to figure out how I can call out without sounding incredibly stupid, but I don’t want to just not show up.

      There’s also a particular position at work (I can rotate through most of the store) where, when I do it, I always get nightmares. Not scary nightmares, but long, exhausting dreams of pulling boxes forward on the shelf for hours. I call it a nightmare because I always wake up completely unrested – it feels like I was already at work all night, and I hate it.

      1. littlemoose*

        I will have those dreams – that it’s hours after I was supposed to be at work and I haven’t called in, and I know I need to but then it continues to be too late and I still don’t or can’t call in.

    10. Jamie*

      I had one recently which was so bizarre. I dreamt I just started at this company (my real job) and when I went through all the QC procedures they were so familiar and I realized I wrote them – my name was in the footer just like it is now.

      So I asked someone and they said that was why they hired me, because I wrote the procedures, and I asked how I wrote them since I didn’t remember doing it or even hearing of the company before. They didn’t know – just saw my name and since it matched the procedures they were already using they hired me.

      It was so surreal – walking through my office as a brand new person, but one I’d already somehow helped shape.

      And then on a couple of occasions I’ll have a dream where I’m just working…regular work, nothing surreal or dreamlike. End of month cost accounting breakdowns, troubleshooting basic server issues, installing software. Nothing which gives me the big epiphany of how to solve a problem I’m stressing about (which I’ve had in the past and those dreams are awesome.)

      And I have a recurring dream when I’m beyond stressed that I’m somewhere and for some reason all my stuff from home is around me and I have to pack up. Like I’ll be in my office, but my dressers, clothes, kitchen stuff from home is everywhere – huge mess – and I’ll have one small box to get it all organized and put away. You don’t need Freud to tell you that one is all about my control issues.

      Fwiw I’d very much like my subconscious to stay the hell out of my office and take me somewhere interesting for a change.

    11. Joey*

      I was so wrapped up in a work dream one evening when my phone rang and woke me up. I answered in my standard phone call greeting “administrative offices, this is Joey. How may I help you?” And my mom was like “mijo, it’s your mom. You must have had a long day.”

    12. Anonsie*

      No, but I still have college dreams all the time. Horrible ones where it’s the end of the semester and I just found out I’ve been enrolled in a class I didn’t no about and it’s too late to withdraw and I can’t find the professor to see what I should do and the final is that afternoon and maybe I can study and do ok and not fail but oh goddddddd

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I have those same exact dreams! And one where I didn’t bother to go to the class all semester and start freaking out when it’s time for finals. Recurring stress dreams. I even have stupid ones from HS where I can’t find my locker or remember my combination for it. I love waking up from those – it’s such a relief when I realize it was just a dream. My 70 year old mom still has college stress dreams, so I guess we’re stuck with them!

        1. Anonsie*

          I’ve been told the school stress dreams never ever go away, which I think is pretty good evidence that we are doing something really wrong with the way we pressure students.

          1. MaryMary*

            I never had the school stress dreams when until I was an adult (well, once in my teens dreamed I went to homeroom topless). Now I have recurring anxiety dreams about not going to class and having to take a final. I also have anxiety dreams about high school marching band, which are directly attributable to my crazy band director.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              (well, once in my teens dreamed I went to homeroom topless)

              Mine was completely naked in the science classroom. This was probably twenty years after I graduated.

              1. Al Lo*

                It’s not a work dream, but I’ll occasionally dream that I’m pooping (long, elaborate, sometimes embarrassing-in-my-dream dreams), and will wake up to discover that I’ve gotten a wedgie in my sleep. Every time.

          2. Mephyle*

            I wonder why so many of us have that same one about having to go to the final exam after not going to class all semester, when it never happened that way in real life.

      2. AVP*

        I have that one too! And one where it’s the beginning of the semester and I have all these classes and I can’t figure out where they are or how to get to them and I’ve lost my schedule, and then they sort of fast-forward a few weeks and I’m still trying to go to a class but I’ve never managed to find where it is and now it’s the midterm…I agree with the sense of relief when I wake up and realize that I already passed college and am not going back!

    13. Livin' in a Box*

      I have frequent nightmares that my boss makes me live at work. She gives me a cot and a mini fridge and a little closet to live in.

    14. Cath in Canada*

      yup! Lately it’s been $#*&ing PMP exam questions, but more often it’s either missed deadlines/lost documents stress dreams, or totally bizarre interactions with colleagues that make me giggle.

      The absolute worst was when I dreamed that I fell asleep during a conference call (most of mine start at either 5:30 am or 6 am because of the time zones involved), talked in my sleep, and woke up to hear everyone laughing at me. I woke up with a start, thought “thank god that was just a dream!”, grabbed my phone, and saw dozens of mocking emails laughing at me for the sleep talking. I woke up with a start again a few seconds later – for real that time. Dreams within dreams, where you dream that you wake up but you’re really still asleep, are the worst!

      1. Luminescent Fish*

        Recursive dreaming!

        A friend of mine explained a dream he’d had where he was sitting at his desk, furiously writing away at an assignment. Then, from out of the shadows near the corners of his eyes, all of these black spiders started swarming across the desk, and climbing up the chair legs and all over him. He woke up, heart pounding, breathing hard in his own bed, thinking oh thank goodness that was just a dream. Except… he starts to see the same movements in the darkness and shadows, and then MORE of the spiders come streaming out across the blankets of his bed. He screams and wakes up a second time in his own bed. I’m told it was a good 20 minutes before he believed he was actually awake this time, and the spiders were not going to come back.
        God, that sounded terrifying.

    15. anon in tejas*

      I’ve had lots of work related dreams over the years…

      one of my “favorites” was that I was at the office doing regular work when the building started to fall away, like the floor, walls, ceiling and I was trying to make copies.

      Also, I’ve had dreams about specific weird encounters with bosses or coworkers. But I can’t recall any specifically.

    16. NaCSaCJack*

      Yes, usually while under great stress on projects or techy problems. Being chased down long dark hallways or something like that. Having conversations with people from work. Then waking up in my dark bedroom alone and thinking “I need a vacation!”

    17. fposte*

      My Most Boring Dream Ever was a work dream. I was at a conference where the badges didn’t come with lanyards and I literally dreamed about conference badge lanyards. Not in any plot or story, not in any admiring or exciting way, just “There are badge lanyards.”

    18. Lily in NYC*

      I have boring dreams where I sit and enter business cards into people’s contacts in outlook. Pathetic!

    19. bridget*

      Most boring work-dream ever: actually doing work.

      My job is mostly writing and editing. Sometimes I will wake up, feel stressed about work, and tell myself that “I’ll just think a little bit about how I should write this analysis tomorrow, so that I will be being productive while I lie here.” And then I have an extensive dream in which I am literally just working on a word processor, writing and editing a motion or something like that (always in a way that seems brilliant during the dream, but is obviously nuts when I wake up and think about it).

    20. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

      So many work dreams. This week I had a first: I had a work dream about my SO’s work. I was helping him with a focus group. My mom was one of the participants.

      I used to get dreams where I’d find a perfect solution to a real problem we were struggling with at the office, and I’d wake up and inevitably forget what the solution was! Though, once or twice I did remember and it was completely nonsensical- like, no way that would ever work in real life.

    21. Gwen*

      I have tons of work-related stress dreams. Most recently, immediately after a huge planning meeting for the biggest piece of content we produce all year, I dreamed that our designer was quitting to go become a stand-up comedian. My dream self couldn’t understand how she couldn’t at least put that off until after the project was complete.

    22. So Very Anonymous*

      When I started teaching, I started having all the typical student nightmares from the standpoint of a professor: instead of dreaming that I’d forgotten to take the final, I’d dream that I’d forgotten to write the final, or instead of dreaming that I’d forgotten to drop a course officially, I’d dream that I’d only taught the first day of class and forgotten to go back. When I was TAing for a professor who was very hard on his TAs, I had recurring dreams where I was back in my eighth-grade math classroom with my old classmates, all of us adults, and everyone was making fun of me for not having continued to do my homework. In one of those dreams I stood up and told everyone off, reminded everyone that WE HAD GRADUATED, I was getting a PhD in a completely different field, and it was ridiculous for them to keep doing homework. When I woke up I wondered if I’d stop having that dream after that, but they continued anyway.

      I almost never dream about a specific job until I’ve left it. If I’m feeling impostor-syndromey, I’ll often dream that I’ve been sent back to my college — either my degree has been recalled or I’ve been sent back for another degree. Since my college really does not have nontraditional students, I’m always skulking around ashamed of having to be back there at my age.

      1. littlemoose*

        I’ve had a variation of this dream – that I’m in high school because I didn’t graduate and I have to finish. Usually dream-me does realize, hey, I went to college and law school, I don’t need to be here. But for a while, yep, back in high school, trying to find a classroom.

    23. MaryMary*

      I dream a lot, for whatever reason (my mother never remembers her dreams and I think she thinks there’s something wrong with me). I have work anxiety dreams that are like the school dream: I haven’t been doing something that we’re supposed to do (file quarterly reports, talk to client about topic X, etc) or I’ve blown a deadline and my boss is going to find out. Sometimes I dream that I have to give a presentation or go to a meeting and no one told me until the last minute.

      When I’m specifically stressed about work, or working a lot of hours, my coworkers show up in my dreams. I’ll have the school dream, or some other random dream, but all my coworkers are there. It’s like, oh, no, YOU AGAIN! I just spent 12 hours with you, why are you in my dreams too?

      I had a manager who would solve problems in her sleep. Kind of like how you have great ideas in the shower. We joked about billing the client for problem solving dreams.

      1. MaryMary*

        I just remembered my worst work dream ever. At the time, I was working closely with an offshore office in India that my company had recently established. I dreamed that the company now required us to work at both offices (US and India) and to sleep on the plane during the “commute.” In my dream, the flight and the time change lined up, so it was always daytime at whatever office I was at. Work in the US, plane, work in India, plane… It was horrible.

    24. Aardvark*

      I do a lot of data quality work–removing duplicate records, troubleshooting, matching info between systems, reporting on data anomalies, and so on. About once every other week I’ll wake up really confused because I’m trying to dedup something that doesn’t exist. A common example is that hitting snooze has created multiple realities and I have to ID the correct one and delete the others before I can wake up.

    25. mina*

      Sometimes when I’m home sick and go to sleep, I have these weird dreams about not being at work. I think it’s guilt… which is crazy, but there it is.

    26. cuppa*

      I also have the dreams where I’m supposed to be at work, and I’m not, but I can’t seem to call in or get to work.
      I once had a dream that a coworker punched me. He was absolutely not the type of person that would punch someone, which made it extra strange. I told him about it the next day, and he was horrified.

    27. Dmented Kitty*

      Oooh. I got that a lot when I was software developer. We had an 8-month stint where we had to work overtime to meet deadlines to fix a lot of bugs in preparation for a software upgrade — and many, many times I’d get stuck on a code.

      Then at night I would still be dreaming about debugging that godforsaken code. Needless to say, it was not a very restful sleep.

    28. Elizabeth West*


      It’s funny–I rarely dream about work when I’m actually working someplace, but I dream about certain places long after I’m gone!

      Two memorable ones:

      1. The deli I worked at in California–I still dream about. All the time. Once I dreamed there was a spaceship that landed outside in the parking lot. I often dream I go in for a visit and end up making sandwiches because I still remember how to make a lot of them.

      2. I had a dream once when I was at Oldjob that our boss made us spend the night in the office (we were working on something and couldn’t leave until it was done). It was cold, so I fell asleep in my chair at the front desk with a big blue blanket over me. When I woke up, Boss was standing there in his ever-present white shirt and tie with his hair all sticking up and sleep-mussed and said, “IT’S TIME TO GET UP!” I told my coworkers about this and they though it was hilarious.

    29. 22dncr*

      Well – I do conscious dreaming so never have nightmares but I do still dream that I’m dancing. Ballet is hard in that you have to retire so young that your brain tells you you can still do it but your body knows you can’t. I loved it so – don’t think I’ll ever get over that. There is just no substitute for being onstage and BEING ON – one with the audience. Gods – better than any drug out there! I usually wake up really happy but also sad. Also dream I have an audition or Master Class to go to and am late but I turn those around. Haven’t had one in a long time. I think it depends on if I’m hanging with my fellow ex-dancers or not?

      1. anon in the uk*

        A friend has a variation on college dreams, where it is discovered that some vital piece of paper was not signed off so she has to return to Year One in primary school (for ages 5 to 6) and do it all again

    30. RB*

      I had been hired after being a temp at my company. Shortly after being hired, I started having dreams that I was demoted back to being a temp, but instead of staying in my office, I had to go back to work at the job that I had been laid off from prior to being a temp – a job that made me so miserable that I felt relieved when they told me my position was being eliminated.

    31. Lulubell*

      I’m just less than two months into a new job, and while I don’t have explicit dreams about work, I go to bed thinking about work, wake up in the middle of the night with work people’s names running through my head, and wake up the same way. It has taken over my brain. I don’t consider it a bad thing, necessarily – I am challenged in a way I haven’t been in years, but new enough that I am not overly stressed out about anything – but it is all consuming.

    32. Mister Pickle*

      No, I rarely dream about work. At least that I can remember.

      But I have reason to believe that my unconscious mind is busy 24/7 churning through any problems I’m dealing with. On numerous occasions I’ve awakened with the answer (or an explicit plan on how to obtain the answer) to a problem I’ve been working on.

      I know this sounds like BS, but it’s the truth. It’s been happening ever since I started college.

    33. Luminescent Fish*

      I have absolutely had work dreams!
      I did casual work at a retail store a while back, and worked some extra hours over Christmas, enough that all of a sudden I was dreaming about working on the check-outs when I was asleep. That was not relaxing at all!

      It was also relatively common among the students in my final year class to dream about solving mathematical problems for assignments, get really excited about it, and then wake up and realise absolutely nothing about their brilliant new idea made sense.
      A colleague I work with now did actually dream the solution to a problem the student she supervised was having. So maybe that’s how you know you’ve made it as a real scientist, when your dreamed answers are actually correct?

    34. Felicia*

      Yes, but they’re always more like nightmares…they generally start with me doing something wrong at work and then end up as a zombie apocalypse type things. I have way more regular dreams with people frrom work in them. Last night my dream was Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story terrorizing my office

    35. JamesS*

      I call them workmares. Whenever I have them a couple of nights in a row, it’s a sure sign that I’m working too many hours.

    36. Marie*

      Just last night I had one… I was woken up around 1h30 from a text comming from our night supervisor, I answered and god back to sleep.

      I dreamnt about someone lying about a workplace incident and then bashing him with some type of object, then right after some nice discussion with other coworkers…

  54. louise*

    Darling kitty picture!

    Last I asked for advice on how to pick battles and have to say thank you to everyone to gave feedback: MT, TotesMaGoats, Ms. Anonymity, Colette, Clever Name, HR Manager, nep, Juli G., Lily in NYC, HappyLurker, Not So NewReader.

    You all helped me focus on what’s important here. Truth is, I’m not easily offended so I’m kind of bad at gauging what’s just unprofessional, ass-like behavior and what’s truly inappropriate behavior. I had my 90 day review yesterday and got some of the big picture stuff figured out. They’ve never had an HR person before and they didn’t/don’t quite know what they want, so we’re figuring it out together.

    They’re also trying to figure out how to change the culture here because they’re new owners- essentially the founder was a one-man-who-ran-everything-even-though-the-business-had-outgrown-that-model-10-years-ago kind of leader and he died very unexpectedly before I started working here. Frankly, he liked and encouraged the culture I walked into.

    The new owners are really open to hearing ideas about what we could (should) do differently, but because they haven’t thought through this stuff before, I can’t just go off and implement things and assume they’ll back me up. At my review, we got some of that ironed out and I know better where I can count on them to back me up, where to leave things be, and where to fight them and insist they back me up. :)

    One thing I mentioned last week but didn’t explain further — that a lot of the employees “seem to treat me with kid gloves as if I’m going to break and like if they just keep whatever out of my sight/hearing, that they will be able to continue as they always have.” What I meant was, most of these men open doors for me, say yes ma’am, etc. but then figure what I don’t know won’t hurt me. What they don’t know is, a) I will find out almost everything; and b) this isn’t about me–it’s about creating a more professional environment and not perpetuating their white boys’ club.

    Oh, and, at the end of the review? 29% raise. So, there’s that.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Hi louise, thanks for the shout-out. This was the thread about working in the blue-collar environment with foul language, right? I’m really glad your review went well and the 29% raise is fantastic! I was actually thrilled to get 2% this year, lol.

      1. louise*

        Yup, that’s the one, Lily!
        2% is hard to come by most places, so you there’s no shame in being thrilled. :) If it makes you feel any better, I was hired at least 25% under what I should have been, because there was some dissent as to whether the position was needed and I was told from the beginning that if I proved my value, that they’d get me in line with the market before long. I was in a bad situation that made that gamble worth it. I’m still on the very low end of HR pay, but we set my next round of goals, and I’m confident I can accomplish them. I told them what I hope to make within 5 years and I told them I’ll work my tail off to be worth that–either here or somewhere else. We all agreed we hope it’s here. :)

    2. Colette*

      I think I missed the fact that you’re in HR last week. :)

      It sounds like you’ve taken the right steps – getting aligned with the owners is absolutely critical. I think it’s also important to remember that not everyone who is offended will speak up, so that’s not a good barometer. I’m pretty vocal, but I don’t necessarily speak up the first time I hear/see something offensive.

      I’d say it’s a good sign that you’re in the loop about what’s going on. If you haven’t already, some level of anti-harassment training is probably a good idea. (Not necessarily formal, but “these kinds of things are a problem, here’s why they’re bad, and here’s what could happen to the company if they happen”.)

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I am giggling. “what I don’t know won’t hurt me”…
      Well, I guess they are going to have a revelation, aren’t they? Give it time. It will change. Just from the way you sound here, I think you will land in a good spot on this one.

    4. Jazzy Red*

      I would come out of retirement for a 29% raise!

      I’m glad to hear that things are working out so well. It sounds like you should just keep on doing what you’re doing.

    5. Clever Name*

      Aw shucks. :)

      And congrats on the raise! That’s awesome!

      Changing company culture is tough. It’s has to come from the top and be embraced by everyone. Your company has to be prepared to enforce consequences as well. I assume your company is communicating what is and is not considered acceptable. That’s key.

      We successfully changed this type of culture at my company, and it was (and still is) tough.

  55. straws*

    I always end up holding back on these threads, because I don’t want to “out” myself with my questions. I recommend this site to coworkers (everyone really…) whenever I can because of how valuable the advice is, but I sometimes feel like I can’t get advice on some of my more sensitive or unique questions without those same coworkers picking up that I’m asking about them. Anyone else experience this? How do you handle it?

    1. Adam*

      I’m confident plenty of people change their display name to “Anonymous” or “Anonymous for this” for certain queries and people usually understand that completely. Generally Alison prefers people use a distinguishable handle most of the time to keep the community accountable, but if you have a legit question but need to retain some privacy I don’t think she or anyone else minds.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One option is to change some minor details so that the substance remains but it doesn’t sound like your office (like changing genders or number of people or the industry). Doesn’t always work if it’s a really unique situation, but in a lot of cases it’s enough.

    3. JMegan*

      Ha, I did that a few weeks ago when I recommended the site to my boss. As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I was wondering if that was a bad idea!

      I think the thing is to be as anonymous as possible…non-identifiable user name (which you have), referencing Teapots instead of your actual industry (which is brilliant, btw, and I want to thank whoever started doing that here!), and provide as few details as possible while still being able to get an answer to your question. If all else fails, go for “plausible deniability.” Remember that AAM has tons of readers from all over the world, and that most situations are not as unique as we think they are. There’s a good chance that if you have a problem, someone else has the same problem, so unless you’re being really specific in your question, most people won’t recognize their own workplace in a comment on an open thread with hundreds of original topics.

    4. straws*

      These are all great suggestions. I think I trend a little toward the paranoid side and keep thinking that the timing and resolution of an issue will make it obvious as a whole. For example, “Wow, this straws person keeps posting issues just like in our office, at the same time that they happen, and our supervisor resolves those issues in the same way suggested on the blog… Hmm…” Using various combinations of the above suggestions should help with that, I think. Thanks!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Another option would be to limit your posts to talking about previous jobs. That is not going to be much help, though, if someone is having a pressing problem at Current Job.

    5. Persephone Mulberry*

      Someone I know IRL once sent me a FB message saying “Does ‘Persephone Mulberry’ mean anything to you?” after I had posted something (must have been on a Sunday open thread) that I also had shared on FB.

      If I post anything about work, I try to be vague enough that if someone someone outside my company couldn’t identify it, and someone inside the company wouldn’t be able to identify exactly who in the company I am. If I have to be more specific than that, it probably doesn’t belong on the internet.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        Gasp! What did you say? I am a prolific Gawker commenter and one of my coworkers asked if I was “username”. I lied through my teeth and thank god he believed me.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          hee-hee, I guess PM can’t answer that! I think I would have just said “what are you blabbering about NOW?! When they repeated, I would have said “you’re not making any sense”.

  56. Adam*

    Question about references:

    Does it look weird to list a reference at your current place of employment who isn’t your manager? I want to leave my job that I’ve been at for four years for a whole host of reasons including office climate and have been searching. I do have previous references but they’re from people I haven’t worked with for at least six years so I wanted someone who could attest to my more current skills. I asked a colleague in my department if she’d be willing to act as a reference for me and she agreed. She’s senior to me, but isn’t a manger by job description and has no real authority over my position. But we have worked closely on many projects and she understands very well how I work and what I’ve contributed to my department so I think she can be a great reference. I’m just wondering if it looks strange to have a reference from a current position if they aren’t your direct supervisor.

    My manager doesn’t know I’m looking (and I completely trust my colleague not to let the cat out of the bag), but he would understand completely why I want to leave. He’s enmeshed in the company culture much more than I am and it’s driving him nuts. If I had asked him to be a reference instead he probably would have been more than willing to do it, but the job environment stresses him out so much and my leaving would be one more headache for him to add on and I’d rather not give him that to think about in addition to all the other fires he has to deal with.

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      I regularly list a colleague I’ve done a huge amount of collaboration with. Because my manager is VERY hands-off, this colleague actually has seen me in action more than my manager has, and she also works in an area that I’m hoping to go back into. I list her in addition to my current manager (with request to contact me before contacting current manager) and my manager from my previous position, which was in the field I want to go back to.

    2. MaryMary*

      I don’t think it’s a problem at all, particularly for your current job. It’s very common not to want your direct supervisor know you’re interviewing. Just don’t try to pass off your colleague reference as a manager reference (and make sure it’s clear in how you identify the reference – so no one thinks you’re trying to pull a fast one).

    3. cuppa*

      I did this once and I explained it in the interview stage. I told them they were more than welcome to contact my actual manager, but I literally had only seen her twice (we worked opposite shifts), and this other contact was someone who had actually seen me work. It turned out fine.

  57. Hates Office Gossip*

    I finally talked to my manager about my chatty coworkers who never shut up. She took it well. She said she’ll wait a while before talking to them, but I’m glad that something is being done. I also hope my boss does something about all the YouTube and celebrity gossip they spend their time on.

    Now I want to talk to a coworker about how chatty she is. I sit next to the office chatterbox, go figure. She’s a super nice person though… but tries too hard to be liked and fawns over everyone. It doesn’t help that we sit in an open area, so she’s always talking to other people. She’s like a living, breathing Facebook newsfeed telling us news of people we’ve never met and don’t care about.

    I’m thinking of telling her “Hey, I have a hard time concentrating when there’s too much background noise. Can you keep it down or go over to so-and-so’s desk to chat?” I worry that she would just tell me to wear headphones, which is not fair, because she shouldn’t be chatting so much and not working anyway. Any other ways or advice for dealing with chatty coworkers?

    1. Adam*

      I think your best bet is to keep it focused on you. Every time she gets too loud you can say “I really need to focus on this” or “It’s important I get this done”. Keep asserting that you don’t have time to talk and she’ll probably learn not to approach you when she’s in the mood to chat. If she’s chatty with other people around you can do the same thing but also ask if they can keep it down or go somewhere else to talk.

    2. Jamie*

      Hate to be a cynic, but if a boss told me they were waiting a while to address an issue unless there was a very weird mitigating circumstance I’d assume they were waiting to see if they really had to …or if I was just going to let it blow over.

      Seems like this shouldn’t be a big deal for the boss to address – why the wait?

  58. Ezri*

    Happy Halloween, everyone! :D This is my first year not living on a college campus in a while, so my husband and I are looking forward to handing out candy to the neighborhood children.

    I actually need advice this week. Does anyone have tips or tricks for handling conversation anxiety with one’s boss at work? I’ve been working at this company for almost six months, and I’ve gotten fairly comfortable with the other members of my team (I’m shy and being in groups stresses me out). However.

    My boss has been nothing but kind and helpful, but whenever I need to talk to him about something I start to panic. It sometimes takes me twenty minutes or more to get up the nerve to walk to his desk. If he so much as stops by my desk to ask a question I start sweating. The worst part is, he’s done nothing to cause this stress. I think it’s an escalation of my perfectionism, because I am worried about saying / doing something wrong or silly and making a bad impression. Logically I know I need to chill out , but I haven’t been able to control the anxiety. Does anyone else have this problem? Is there anything I can do to feel more comfortable around my boss? I feel so weird for reacting this way. :/

    1. Sara S.*

      I wish I had good advice, but just wanted to say you’re not alone in this! I am the exact same way. For me personally, it helps to bust my anxiety with logic. Ex: whenever I start panicking, I take a few deep breaths and say to myself, “Boss has always been pleasant and helpful. I have no reason to think she wouldn’t act the same now. What is the WORST possible thing that can happen?” Good luck with this! :)

    2. MaryMary*

      Try writing a script for yourself. Being prepared and being able to think through what you want to say may help. If you don’t want to write everything out, or are worried about sounding like you’re reading something, just jot down notes. Lots of people bring notes to a meeting, and it’ll help you remember what you want to say.

    3. cuppa*

      It is helpful to realize that your boss is a person and they put their pants on one leg at a time like everyone else. I once had a boss that I was TERRIFIED of. Same kind of thing – always scared to talk to her, etc. She left my institution, and I ran into her at an industry function, and now we are really good friends. Now I can’t even imagine being afraid of her, and I told her once that I had been and she was dumbfounded.

    4. Frances*

      I get this. With me it’s a combination of old workplace PTSD that did a number on my self-esteem, and a lifelong desire to not bother anyone that occasionally borders on the pathological.

      I don’t know if your work culture is set up for this, but whenever I’ve been anxious about speaking to supervisors, I find that it gets easier after I’ve had some time to make small talk with them on other occasions (i.e. in the break room, waiting around before a meeting, etc.).

    5. Mister Pickle*

      Immediately before you speak to him, take a deep breath. Then proceed.

      Try to limit the Speed at which you talk. Don’t get excited and begin talking really fast.

      Say what you need to say, then stop and listen for awhile.

      (If it’s not obvious, this is all from personal experience).

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Shift your focus. Not trying to be mean here, I am just saying this is what I do because I am more introvert than extrovert and I used to be extremely self-conscious.
      The problem with all this is that the focus is on me and what I doing. That road goes no where. You will never win on that road. We are a part of a group effort.

      So what other things can you focus on? You could become intensely interested in how the boss wants something handled. or you could decide to focus on what he is concerned about. Take an attitude of “I am here to help and I am going to look for ways to be of help.”
      What I like about this is that it puts you on the road to success. The alternative of focusing on oneself just brings on more of the same and we never learn the job or the boss’ likes or dislikes.

      Another thing you can do is help a coworker here and there. That will eventually get back to the boss and help you to feel more anchored in the group and less awkward with the boss, also.

  59. Jillociraptor*

    I got some tough feedback this week that I’m feeling pretty down about. The feedback itself was really helpful, something I appreciate knowing about, and something I can and will change; that’s not really the problem.

    The issue is that this is an area for growth that I identified on my first three performance reviews, and all three times my managers insisted that it was not a problem, was not something I needed to focus on, and wouldn’t hold me back. My current manager told me that it’s been an ongoing issue that she just brought up due to a particular situation when it caused a bigger problem.

    I’m feeling kinda bummed that I’ve been doing less than my best when I could have been doing better, and that I have been damaging my working relationships by not following my gut. :\

    1. Chriama*

      That’s garbage. If it’s an issue, it’s an issue. The time to tell you to fix it is BEFORE it causes a big mess, not after!!
      Is the manager of your current review different from the managers who kept telling you it wasn’t a big deal? If so, I might bring that up to your new manager — not defensively, but in a way that indicates this is something you already recognize. You might frame it as asking for her help for improvement. For example, “in previous reviews I mentioned that I think I need to improve my teapot-polishing skills, but Xavier and Wakeen always told me they were fine, and that I should focus on spout design. I agree that this is something that needs I need to work on, but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any suggestions?”

      1. Jillociraptor*

        That’s a good idea. I think I actually do have a really good idea of what the problem is and how to fix it, but maybe what I need more clarity on is whether it’s newly gotten worse. I’m taking on some increasingly challenging and sensitive work where a deficit in this skill has more opportunities to be damaging, so that might be a good point of entry. Thanks for the suggestion!

  60. Puzzled*

    What should I do? Last year, I was given a partial raise, due to budget constraints, based on a certification I completed. Some of our raises are based on these–so I do feel that I’m owed the entire dollar amount. And I had high marks on my performance review for the year.
    Anyway I asked about the other part to the raise and was told it was not in the salaried budget. However, my company just listed an opening for a temporary position that would last a year–this opening was not planned for because they let 3 people go last year. Would it be reasonable for me to question them about my raise since now there is money in the salary budget for a temp?

    1. LMW*

      Maybe, but it depends on how your company does budget. Often temps are slotted in as project budget, not people budget.

      1. Puzzled*

        ok but this one seems iffy to me that they didn’t consider me first and the fact that it’s a slated dollar amount for this particular certification leaves me feeling jilted. Not a good morale booster…

        1. BRR*

          It doesn’t seem iffy to me that they hired a temp before handing out a raise. With three people being let go I would find it more important and easier to get the money to hire a temp before giving out a raise.

          It does suck they you didn’t get your full raise but telling people how to spend budget dollars doesn’t really go over well.

          1. Puzzled*

            I don’t intend to tell them how to budget. Just a question about when and if I should expect my full raise one day. Again not a good morale booster and not a good way to retain good employees.

    2. AVP*

      You could bring it up but I can think of a lot of explanations for this that won’t get you a raise. Temp positions are often funded by non-salary budgets, and the reason it’s temp might be because they can’t find a way to add in the expense permanently (which your raise would be). Or it’s because there’s an emergency-level amount of work that needs to be done that takes precedent. Or because they’re using the temp as a way to retain someone senior…lots of possibilities here.

    3. Jamie*

      I wouldn’t ask based on budgeting for a temp – there can be money to hire someone in to do X but not money in the raise bucket for current employees.

      When you say you feel you’re owed the whole amount, is that a company practice which you can point to (hopefully in writing) that when you complete X you get $Y? If not, then raises may be earned but they aren’t really owed.

      An employer decides how much they want to pay for a position (including raises) and the employee gets to determine if that’s acceptable. Nothing wrong with asking for a raise but if it’s not in their budget (or they just aren’t giving it to you for whatever reason) you have to decide if you want to keep working there for that or start looking to see if you can make more elsewhere.

      1. Puzzled*

        “When you say you feel you’re owed the whole amount, is that a company practice which you can point to (hopefully in writing) that when you complete X you get $Y? If not, then raises may be earned but they aren’t really owed.”

        This is a practice. We are grant funded. My supervisor has it outlined somewhere on a piece of paper in his office. Whenever I completed other certifications this paper was his reference point, even for the current raise that’s in question. He looked at the paper and said oh yes, you’re suppose to get X and we gave you Y because it wasn’t in the budget at the time. And subsequently when I asked again, I got the same answer. Another employee, was being paid the wrong amount based on this (a few years ago) and they went back and corrected it.
        It just seems they are being wishy washy, perhaps biased towards me, as other parts of the budget has opened up as well such as supplies. I can’t help but feel some type of way about it. Especially since I know other employees are in the certification process and I honestly don’t see them not getting their raise. Actually I can definitely see them getting their raise because their position will require the certification next year…
        I’m looking for something else…

        1. Jamie*

          Oh, okay – I know nothing about grant based stuff. It sucks to be owed something and not get it – I hope they figure it out for your sake.

    4. Chriama*

      If the only issue is them hiring a temp rather than giving you a raise, I don’t think you should speak up. You can’t physically do the work of 2 people, so if they have to choose between giving you a little more money and getting another body in the door I can see why they went down that route. However, if you’re concerned that other people seem to be getting the raise you’re being denied, that’s worth bringing up. If you hear (actually know, not just suspect!!) of someone else getting their certificate and getting the full raise amount then I would go back to the boss and ask when he thinks the budget will allow for your full raise amount. His response will let you know where to go next.

  61. High Noon*

    OK I have asked this before on a previous thread but I guess it was late then. I am wondering how to deal with an evaluation for an internship. I really don’t think I learned much and was being asked to contribute more hours when they didn’t have work for me. I was then told off for not coming in on time (which I think some readers who commented on that question overemphasized on, as I was already working for them for more than a month and it was the first time they addressed the issue after telling me numerous times that the schedule was flexible). I really would like to tell my school in a polite way not to send them interns but I would also like to pass the class. Does anyone have suggestions on how I should go about this.

    1. HR Manager*

      Welcome to lesson #1 about giving feedback – a life-long lesson for many.
      Be fair – and truthful and factual – but don’t extrapolate with your assessment. You may not have enjoyed it, but are you sure everyone else will hate it too? Did you find all the other managers who managed in a similar style? Were there other interns who you think had a similar experience?

      What are the types of questions that they ask? If they asked did you enjoy it -don’t say yes or no. Write down what you did enjoy: i.e., working on xxx project , experience with yyy in this industry, etc. What you didn’t like, think of as what I would change/improve: had capacity for more projects/assignments – would recommend managers provide more work, or would recommend more clarity around hours and flexibility, as it seemed to be defined differently within the dept. By the way, not to pile on here, but even with flexible hours, I know many managers who still like to be told a specific start time (even if that start time can be 9:30am or 10am or later).

      If they ask you flat out if you recommend it – put yes, but for those who may want this vs that. or put no, if you want to be constantly busy; would be good if you need to balance this with other activities.

      The key is to be factual and diplomatic. Don’t let your frustrations get in the way of how or what you communicate to them.

    2. AVP*

      Not sure if I’m reading this correctly, but giving feedback to your school (that very likely wouldn’t be passed on word for word to the internship coordinator) shouldn’t have an effect on your grade in the class, assuming the grader isn’t your internship coordinator, which would be odd. So I would evaluate away…

    3. soitgoes*

      I would try to find out if your experiences with this particular company (their demands, the hours) are representative of the industry as a whole, provided that it’s the field you want to work in. There may be things that resonate with you as being unfair but will pop up wherever you go – you don’t want to call that out.

      1. High Noon*

        I have been going on interviews within the field and non of them have told me the hours are flexible they just to told me these are the hours and that is all. As for the demands I don’t think most companies hire people to be there goofer for most of the time (meaning the person who cleans the desk or get the coffee) for most of the hours there. It will happen but not most of the time.

        1. AVP*

          Was this a recurring internship? It sounds like they might not have known how to handle an intern, either because it was their first, or there was a new manager, or something like that. Companies will definitely hire interns as gofers in many industries, but the idea is that menial tasks are supposed to be balanced with learning opportunities, exposure to professional norms, etc.

          I know when I was first managing interns I thought I would be “nice” and get them to like me by giving them flexible hours – BIG mistake on my part, it just ended in confusion and some interns felt like I was playing favorites or being unclear. Luckily that was a lesson to me that hasn’t needed repeating.

          1. High Noon*

            I think my internship was a learning experience for them I think I will note what worked but I would like to note the things that really didn’t……. hope that with all that I’ll still pass the class

  62. Paloma Pigeon*

    I know there are a lot of people who read this blog who work in nonprofit, so I am sharing this tumblr that I discovered this week that is hilarious:


    You probably all know it already, but it had me doubled over in laughter.

    1. Selkie*

      Oh my glob.

      I’m alternately sobbing and laughing. I’m the brand new database admin for a pretty big charity, fresh out of uni, and so much of this.

    2. Good_Intentions*


      Thank you for sharing! I am not familiar with this particular Tumblr.

      Well, now I’m off to investigate.


  63. LMW*

    Okay – A long one. I’ve had a rough week.
    I was blindsided by a bad review this week, and I’m trying to figure out how to handle it. I’ll agree (and I stated in my self evaluation) that my program had really slow progress this year. The issue is that some of the things I’m getting dinged on were caused by leadership issues — namely my new boss and his boss. The first 7 months of the year, when I had general direction but worked very autonomously, I was doing really well and growing my program at a reasonable pace. But then the main product my program was associated with was retired, all the materials I’d created for that product were taken down, my boss left and my team was combined with another team under brand new leadership. It was a massive change in direction that left me back at the beginning in terms of building the program. I talked to my new boss (a VP), shared the questions I had, the direction I thought the program should go, the roadblocks I faced and the ways I thought we could overcome them. She asked for some follow up materials, which I sent. Then she traveled extensively and we didn’t really hear from her for weeks. Then she told me I was moving under a director, but that didn’t actually happen for about two months. In the meantime, I decided to stop doing filler projects that didn’t serve a specific strategy and focus on major initiative that some of my teammates were working on. When I finally started meeting with my new boss (the director) after two months of just floating out there with no guidance or support despite my requests, I outlined the same plan I’d given the VP, with an emphasis on the major project and mentioning that we were going silent until we started up again with those materials. We’re proceeding with my plan, and I’ve gotten high marks on that. We started publishing again this week with the new materials. But apparently I wasn’t successful because of the silence over the last few months (in total, one quarter of the fiscal year I’m being evaluated on), while I focused my limited time and resources on a major launch initiative.
    I still don’t know what they think I should have been doing during that period. I’m very angry, and I hate the idea that this is going to be on my record at the company. But I’m not sure how I can fight it, since I think the problem is specifically due to lack of leadership (and I wasn’t the only one with this problem — my entire team had no role clarity for several months and morale is incredibly low). When I started working with this director (and during the two months where he was kind of but not really my boss), I specifically said on multiple occasions that I didn’t have the role clarity or strategic information to move forward and really needed help in that area to move forward.
    I’m also worried that I might not be looking at this through a clear lens and starting to doubt myself. It’s been an incredibly frustrating six months, where I’ve had to rebuild my program from scratch with no direction. I thought I was finally starting to make progress, and I now I just want to leave. Any advice?

    1. Paloma Pigeon*

      Can you officially respond in a way that is not combative? Maybe frame it as seeking clarification. “OK, I hear that I didn’t do XX. Can you highlight for me how I should have proceeded differently so that I can adjust in the future?” It’s possible they don’t know how all the changes affected the folks at the bottom. Frame it in a way so it’s more about ‘how can we prevent these project stalls when the company has changes in leadership, as all companies do?”

      1. LMW*

        I did ask questions like that during my review, but the answers aren’t really things I could possibly have know (like, after we stopped producing teapots, I should have started working with the plates and bowls team right away, even though I’d never had any contact with them and it was never indicated that our team would be working with them on a regular basis. Also, I have started working with the plates and bowls team since I got the direction that that was our strategic direction and we’re making great progress now. But I should have made great progress four months ago, without any cues.) or they counter decisions that I made and shared in July that no one said anything about. If they disagreed with that decision, the time to speak up was in July, not the end of October, when it’s too late for me to do anything.

    2. Jillociraptor*

      I wonder if you could take the tack of a post-mortem on the decision-making process, in the vein of, “It seems like I wasn’t aligned with what your expectations were for this project, and I’d like to walk through the decision-making process to help me figure out how I can get this right next time.”

      I hear your feelings majorly (literally every time I make a mistake at work my first reaction is “whelp, guess I have to quit now because THERE IS NO RECOVERING FROM THIS.”) I encourage you to give yourself a couple of days of really wallowing in how unfair it is to get punished for the lack of clarity from others, and then–though this is much easier said than done–let it go. It happened, you can’t control other people, and arguing about whose fault it is doesn’t really solve the problem. That is, your anger and frustration probably won’t sway them, and it surely won’t get you the clarity you need to do your job.

      This is a really frustrating situation! I’m sorry you’re experiencing this.

      1. LMW*

        Thank you. I think this is what I needed to hear — you’re right. It’s unlikely that anything I do will sway them and all it will really do is deteriorate the relationships. I’m just going to have a really hard time watching my boss pat himself on the back for solving problems he created using solutions I developed. I need to work on my pokerface and ability to smile and nod.

        1. Paloma Pigeon*

          And it really benefits everyone involved to unpack how/why decisions were made and what the consequences were. Once you are not as upset (and you have every right to be), they’ll be more receptive to those questions because it truly has the best interests of the company at heart. Your goal has to be for them to figure out how to not let it happen again on their end, with the (hidden) goal of their realizing’ “Hey, LMW got thrown under the bus here, and that’s on us.” Good luck.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Working on the opposite end of the problem, I have had these quarters where things were not good, at all. I thought it was the end of the world to have this one rotten eval in my file. What actually happened was the eval was meaningless in the long run. I obsessed over a hang-nail. This may or may not apply to your situation, but try to keep an ear out for how one low eval reflects over the long term. I think a bigger picture perspective might help here.

  64. Ali*

    So I have a question/thought similar to the short answers letter from the other day about the new employee who was earning praise/becoming a top performer and other employees didn’t seem to share the boss’s public recognition tactics.

    In the last 1-2 months, we have brought three new hires on to my team, and two are already very impressive. One came up with a new idea that my supervisor liked and implemented, as he even said in the e-mail something like great job to A for coming up with this! There is also another new coworker, B, who “exceeded expectations” (boss’s term; not mine) on his performance review and was publicly recognized on a group e-mail. I think it’s cool in a way that the new people are excelling, but in another way, given some of my own problems at work, it makes me question myself and compare myself to them. When I first started this job, there was a learning curve, and I mean it took me six months to feel fully comfortable. All of a sudden, these people who have been here for maybe less than two months have fabulous ideas, get great reviews and are already getting responsibility increases. There’s no favoritism, and I wouldn’t consider the newbies a threat, but because I’m struggling, I already feel behind the rest of my team. My managers say they still value me in ways, give me a compliment when I do something well, but I find that when it comes to extra responsibilities, they all go to other people, even the less experienced team members. I’m worried I’m falling behind team members and I’m suddenly questioning my capabilities at all and feel I no longer belong on my team.

    Aside from the EAP I’m already going through, what other solutions are there?

    1. Jillociraptor*

      Ah, Ali, I relate. I’m a life-long striver (honor roll, national merit scholar, prestigious college, etc.) and found it really hard to accept that when entering the workplace that it takes longer than four years to rise to the absolute top of the game.

      Here’s what helps me, though it isn’t a cure by any means: find out what you’re really good at. Try new projects, take assessments, ask for input, and find out something that comes naturally to you that you can build on. Then, try to find ways to do more of that.

      I moved from a job I was REALLY good at to one that I feel like I’m struggling every day just to meet expectations, and this is the one thing that has helped me keep hope that I’ll feel competent and valuable again one day. I hope it helps you!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that only time will give you a perspective that is helpful. It could be that the praise is just to pump up the newbies and make them feel settled in,. Or it could be that your boss is turning over a new leaf and when you do something neat he will send out an email blast about you, too.

      I have had times when I felt I was back sliding. My advice is to take action. Pick one or two spots where you could do better and make that happen- do better. Or volunteer to take on some minor thing that needs to be done but will be noticed by the boss. Shake it up a little bit and see if you feel differently.

    3. AB Normal*


      As a new hire that keeps getting public recognition, I’d like to ask you: do you think you are in the right position for you?

      See, I do excel at my job, but I’d be TERRIBLE if I were working as an account manager or sales engineer instead (two positions at my company I know I’d be especially bad at).

      I’m a firm believer that we do great and have great ideas and get recognition for our work if we are in a position that’s right for us. I’d recommend you read the book “Do What You Are” (you can find it at Amazon). See if you what you are doing truly aligns with your personality and skill set. If not, it may be very well that you are falling behind your team members just because you are in the wrong job. Then you can work to move to a more suitable position (even inside your current organization). It will be worth the effort if you can be at a position where you can easily succeed. Good luck!

  65. Ptrst*

    Mostly I just need to vent.

    I just got a new coworker. I was really excited, because we’ve been horribly understaffed for a while and it’s taken forever to hire someone; before he got hired there were, including me, only two people able to work the shift I normally take – which, given how messed up the scheduling has been lately wasn’t working out when I needed time off for doctor’s appointments (which, right now, are plentiful). But he’s awful. Like, really, really bad. I wanted to like him! I like most of my coworkers, and I’ve trained probably at least a dozen different people in this position, but I just can’t. I was out of work for a couple of weeks for something medical-related and when I came back I’d been told that they’d hired someone but he still needed a lot of training. I agreed to come in on a couple of days off to go over stuff with him, and I don’t think it’s been worth my time.

    Based on what he told me when we first met, he thinks he’s too good for the job. He’d done similar-ish things for decades, and this is a low-paying entry level retail job, but he couldn’t find anything else. (He also blamed my demographic, recent-ish college grads, for taking all the good positions, which no.) He also said she doesn’t like being corrected and that he thinks people should respect their elders. All of this within the first hour or so of meeting him, on a day when I came in specifically to train her because higher-ups don’t think he’s doing well enough. It was really weird and pretty annoying to be basically told that he doesn’t think I should be training him (taken together, that’s how that read to me), but whatever. I said I’d try, right? Then he decided to argue with me every time I tried to show him something. I’m not aggressive or rude or condescending, I promise! I’m actually really good at training people. But any time I tried to explain a policy or a standard way of doing something, he either blew me off (“Yes, I know” and then kept doing it wrong) or got really annoyed and demanded to know exactly why we did X when clearly Y was far superior (and wouldn’t take “Because that’s how we do it, and if you start doing it in a different way you’re going to confuse people and not get what you need from them” for an answer). Eventually I got through on one or two things, but he’s still not good. He gets really overwhelmed when he has to do more than one thing at a time which in that position – busy, customer-facing, multitasking basically all the time – is always, and when he gets overwhelmed he raises his voice, sounds annoyed, and basically forgets that a lot of his job is to be nice and pleasant and helpful.

    Then, yesterday. Oh gosh yesterday. After a minor miscommunication (I thought he was doing Task A, and he was doing Task B because that’s what he thought he was supposed to be doing, no big deal) I asked a coworker to call him over, since I can’t leave my area, so I could get him to do Task A. He came over, super mad, and started basically shouting at me (not screaming, but definitely a raised, angry voice), demanding to know why I was making him look bad in front of other people. (Which, man, if you’re concerned about looking bad you probably shouldn’t be shouting at work.) Eventually I managed to get him to calm down, but damn. I decided to not go to a manager or anything over it; no managers or customers were nearby when it happened, and it wasn’t scary or anything, so I can let it slide. If it happens again, I will definitely say something, because wow that was inappropriate.

    It’s just annoying, because I really hope he shapes up and gets his shit together, but especially coming into the holiday season, he’s going to end up yelling at a customer or something when it gets really busy. I don’t think he’s going to last, not if he’s unwilling to be corrected and unable to stay calm, and I kind of wish they’d just hire someone else so we’re not short staffed when he (I think inevitably) quits or gets fired. I’ve also decided that if they ask me to train him some more, I’m going to decline. It’s a waste of my time, and it’s a waste of payroll, and all it does is add extra stress to both of us. If he won’t listen to me, I’m not going to stand there and get argued with for no reason.

    1. BRR*

      I think you should let someone know about everything. Not necessarily the age thing but that he isn’t grasping how to do his job, isn’t responsive to feedback, and lost his temper at you.

      1. Ptrst*

        Sorry, I should have been more clear. Our managers know about the rest of it – that he hasn’t caught on to procedures and isn’t good at being trained. It was just the losing his temper part that didn’t seem worth bringing up.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I disagree- definitely bring up the temper part. It is important for the bosses to understand that you have gone as far as you can go in training this person.

    2. catsAreCool*

      The details you gave us sound like the type of info the higher-ups need to know or at least need to have repeated to them.

      This person seems impossible to train unless he gets a serious attitude adjustment.

  66. Sabrina*

    How do you handle a manager treating you like a child? Our manager constantly sends out emails along the lines of “All, This is the last time I’m going to tell you, when you do X, you must also do Y.” I feel like he should follow it up with “Or I’m turning this car around.” Personally I think he should address these issues with the offenders instead of sending it to the whole team. I feel like I need to be on the defensive when he sends these out, even though I’m not doing or am doing whatever it is he’s emailing about. He’ll also forward something to the team that we’ve already gotten. Yesterday his boss sent something to all of us, he felt the need to also forward it to us. Today it was his boss’s boss that sent something, that he also forwarded. Plus he forwarded a reminder about a training class I haven’t yet taken. I already get those reminders, I don’t need one from him too. I don’t need to be babysat. I know he’s busy, he’s doing the work of two managers since my previous one moved on to a new role, but I also think he’s creating more work for himself.

      1. HR Manager*

        LOL – wrong reply – ignore that above. But I will say that maybe your manager is trying to send a message, even if he stinks at doing this. Sure countless reminders are annoying, but does he really have an expectation that things be done by a certain time (i.e., those training classes)? Maybe this should be asked of him. When I’m getting numerous reminders from you on the same topic, I feel like I must be doing something wrong. Can you share any feedback you have with me about what I should do differently?

        1. Sabrina*

          The due dates for the training classes are set by the company. This particular one is due the 12th. I already get reminders from the automated system. He gets them too. Last week there was one saying that I was overdue for a training class, but the issue there was the original email about the class never had a due date. And we have 4 or 5 sites that online training is conducted on, so it’s not like I can go to one and see when a due date is coming up.

          1. HR Manager*

            Understood, but I think the same conversation is warranted. He may feel like he’s being helfpul, but maybe if you asked him that question, he would realize that the deluge of reminders was moving from helpful to micro-managing.

    1. Jamie*

      Are these things that other people can help police? I have sent out team wide emails when X isn’t being done properly as follow ups to private conversations where the people dropping the ball know exactly what they need to do differently – because I need everyone to know that it’s an issue and I need everyone to be aware. Because if the ball gets dropped they are all affected – and I’m not going to call out individuals in a group email.

      Or some people just send blanket messages which sucks because the person they are meant for never thinks it’s them and all the people doing it properly get insulted.

      1. Sabrina*

        Yes and no. The things he sends emails about are usually noticed either by someone helping out a coworker and noticing something wrong, or when a client complains. These are things we’re all aware of, but I guess sometimes folks forget? I think it’s more the latter answer, he’s sending out blanket messages to everyone and the one or two people it’s meant for think it’s not for them.

    2. soitgoes*

      If this is the worst of it, I’d learn to cope with it. Every time your boss sends you an obnoxious reminder, respond with “Thanks!” Dealing with people who think you’re stupid is an essential job skill, unfortunately.

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Are you sure he does actually know you’ve already gotten the emails he’s forwarding? I get a lot of double-forwards because our office email groups/lists are a huge mess and sometimes people in my office don’t check the recipient list and just forward things to be helpful.

      1. Nicole*


        I get emails forwarded to me that I’m already on, and I just assume the person didn’t look to see who the other recipients were, and I delete the duplicate.

  67. Kate*

    Been 11 months……still don’t have a job. Stuck in a small town, no employment prospects here but I need money to move…..it’s a trap. So miserable and giving up hope with my life right now :(

    1. Lillie Lane*

      Keep your chin up! It can take a while but eventually something will come along. Call a friend and ask if you can talk — might make you feel more hopeful.

    2. HeyNonnyNonny*

      That sucks. I was trapped living with parents for a year while I tried to find a job, but keep looking, you’ll get something eventually!

      One thing I did was a lot of online money-making things (like the legit writing sites or personal-assistant like tasks) so that I had a little extra money saved up. It wasn’t a lot, but every little bit helped!

    3. soitgoes*

      Take an internship if you can. It’ll boost your resume, and you’ll make some great contacts/references.

    4. nep*

      Sorry you’re feeling so down. Contrary to how things seem right now, it will get better. Something’s gotta give. A door will open. We’ve all heard of people finding a job after a year-long search — sometimes it takes that long and longer. I hope you’ve got some outlets for de-stressing and some ways to help stay positive and upbeat; that will help in many ways. All the best to you.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      That so sucks, I am sorry. Look over the things you are doing and decide to do one thing differently. See where that puts you.

    1. HR Manager*

      This is what I meant to reply to. I sign up for working with this manager and his micromanaging style!

    2. fposte*

      Oh, one of those managers that just hangs out over your shoulder while you’re working on your computer!

  68. Jax*

    I got a thank you response for my thank you for the interview email from the department director. I thought it was a really good sign, but now it’s 2 weeks post interview and I haven’t heard anything from the company (even after emailing for an update).

    I’m dejected about the whole thing. I went from a great interview and a positive response to my thank you note to complete radio silence. I know that the silence could mean anything, but after 2 weeks my excitement about the job is fading and I’m just growing resentful from checking my phone and email.

    1. A.*

      I interviewed for a job over a month ago. The hiring manager said the org was moving quickly and that I should have expected to hear from them within a week. After more than two weeks of silence, I put the job out of my mind and moved on. I just received a call from the hiring manager this week inviting me to a second interview. I say all of that to say: You should put the job out of your head and move on–for your sanity’s sake, but the silence doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        Agreed. We had to wait longer than planned to extend an offer to our top candidate for a myriad of reasons (had to interview 1 more person due to an HR policy, couldn’t pin down Boss long enough to approve the salary, HR person who handles offer letters was on vacation, etc). I definitely recommend mentally moving on, but silence isn’t necessarily a no.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      A friend waited 6-8 months to hear back on a job that she was fairly sure she had. FINALLY she heard back. Yep. She got the job. Put it out of your mind and decide it isn’t over until you see that “no, thanks we went with someone else” message.

  69. No Costume Today*

    How much does travel factor into you taking a new position? Would you turn down a job that fits well with your interests, pays decently, has good benefits, etc. if there is more travel involved than you would like/can handle?

    Also, how would you interpret “Travel is consistently required”?

    1. Jax*

      I’m interpreting that as, “We don’t want to hear no from you. Your job is to go where we tell you.” Consistently also tells me that the travel is essential to the job, and it isn’t going to change or be negotiated away in a few years.

    2. AVP*

      Can you ask for a better idea of what “consistently required” means? I could see it being everything from one day a week to one week a month…but it seems like a reasonable thing to ask about, for me. Particularly if you have a family or animals or anything else that would require scheduling or expenses (which would need to be factored against salary and benefits…)

      1. LJL*

        That’s a reasonable thing to ask. Something along the lines of “percentage-wise, how much travel is typical?”

        1. Chriama*

          I actually wouldn’t ask “percentage-wise” but rather, how many days at a time and how many times a week/month. I think people hear 25% and think it’s not so bad, until they realize they have to take 3 month-long trips every year. So putting it into ‘time’ gives you a better sense of how the travel will affect the rest of your life.

    3. Nobody*

      I’ve never had a job that required travel, but I wouldn’t let frequent travel deter me from taking an otherwise good job. However, you should be honest with yourself and the employer about how much travel you can handle. It doesn’t do you or them any good to say you’re ok with the amount of travel and then get burned out and quit because it’s too much. And I would just come right out and ask how much travel is required, because “consistently” is not at all clear.

    4. MaryMary*

      I’m interpreting that as a lot of travel.

      As far as how much travel is too much, it depends on you and your lifestyle. Do you have family members or pets who depend on you, for whom it would be difficult to arrange alternate care? Or even if you could make arrangements, would you be upset if you missed soccer games and bedtimes or couldn’t take your evening run with the dog? Would it bother you if it was difficult to make advance plans with friends and family, or to respond to impromptu invitations? Are you a nester, happiest in you own house/apartment? Can you work effectively with a laptop/tablet and a smart phone, or do you like printing things out and working from physical files?

      We interviewed a candidate last month for a role that requires some local travel and occasional out of state travel. We told her that overnight travel was rare and she would always have plenty of advance notice. She has small children, so even the possibility of a tiny bit of overnight travel made her pause. I’m fine with this level of travel and could do a little more (going out of town for a couple of days every few months would be fine), but being a road warrior would make me miserable.

    5. Chriama*

      I would want to know more about the kind of travel. Do you know ahead of time that you’ll be traveling, or will it be frequent short-notice? Will you be able to come home weekends? Is it within the country or international?

      If they say travel is consistently required, assume it will be a decent chunk of your job. Also, it might start out with just a little and then become more, or the other way around.

      Overall, I would ask about what last year’s travel schedule for this position would be like, and if it’s likely to stay the same this year. If not, what are the differences? I think that’s better than just asking “So how much travel is ‘consistent’?”

    6. Elizabeth West*

      It would depend on the job, really. Something like consulting, where it’s inherent in the actual work, I wouldn’t mind if I actually wanted to do that. It also would depend on what I had going at home. Traveling often is a pain when you can’t go off and leave a pet without paying for someone to come feed it.

  70. Anon for This*

    So I just wrote an (inadvertently) inappropriate email. I was responding to a request from a staff person about one of our organization’s members (a member who is represented on our staff by “Wakeen,” hence the possessive here). In it, I said “We’d love to hear from [Wakeen’s] member!” and then “Here’s the survey kink:”


  71. A Bit Chilly*

    How do you stay warm in your office during the winter? They are finally turning on the heat tomorrow (the building has steam heat and it is only on during certain months), but the circulation is poor. Space heaters are a no go.

    I could put on a heavy sweater, but I’m curious to see if anyone has better ideas.

    1. unemplaylist*

      UGH, the freezing office problem. A space heater can do wonders. Also: I have fingerless gloves that plug in to my computer and warm up! Very cool… I mean warm. A down vest is nice and doesn’t feel as bulky as a big sweater. But really, there is nothing like a wool sweater and wool socks. Believe me, I have tried EVERYTHING.

        1. Hlyssande*

          USB heating gloves are amazing. And you can use them on tense/cramping muscles as well! I got a pair from perpetualkid.com but I know they’ve had them at thinkgeek in the past. Probably all over Amazon by now.

          Mine are both plugged into the USB ports on the side of one of my monitors. Instant warm.

    2. soitgoes*

      I just keep my coat on in the office. People lol at me but they can suck it. I’m a delicate flower okay?

    3. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Mug full of hot water. Sometimes I make tea, but sometimes I just use the hot mug as a nice hand-heater. (This only works if your office has a hot water tap or microwave, I guess.)

    4. HR Manager*

      People do everything here (illegal space heaters, lots of hot liquids, and yes lots of coats and gloves on). Seriously – I am never cold in an office. I don’t get it. I’m not saying you guys are wrong, as nearly everyone else says this in every office I worked in. I will resign myself never to understanding this.

      I have observed that seats near a window in every building seems colder. Move away from windows?

    5. Livin' in a Box*

      I wear a thin down jacket underneath my normal clothes. Stealth warmth! Also, long underwear, fingerless gloves, scarves, fleece-lined pants, etc. On really cold days I wear my regular winter coat, too.

    6. anon in tejas*

      heating pad? Is that allowed? often times when space heaters are vetoed, heating pads are okay.

      I will bring mine on colder days here. Since our temps swing warm/cold during winter. It’s often cool with the AC which is just monsterous to me.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        Ooh! You can also buy/make microwavable heading pads (no cords, so unbannable!). Just fill some fabric with rice, nuke for a minute or so, and enjoy the warmth.

    7. Parfait*

      fingerless gloves. big giant scarf or wrap that can go over the knees or shoulders as needed. Warm socks.

    8. Elizabeth West*

      I have a blanket in my footrest. Well, really it’s a fleece remnant, but it works as a small throw. I put it over me when I get cold if my back-of-chair cardigan isn’t doing the job.

    9. Mephyle*

      A cozy thick sweater or jacket, long underwear, warm socks, gloves, hat, scarf. Hot drinks have been mentioned, but I want to emphasize them again. When you’re cold at the core, a hot drink is really effective for restoring your body temperature. There are also those gel packs that you press to activate some chemical reaction inside and they heat up for an hour or so.

    10. Nicole*

      I feel your pain – as soon as it drops below 55 degrees outside I start freezing at my office. My feet, with wool socks and warm boots, are still ice cold by the end of the day. I can’t use a space heater due to the high wattage, so I’m going to order one of the foot warming mats from this site (http://www.cozyproducts.com/). I’ve heard good things about them and it’s well worth the expense to not feel miserably cold from now until April. Plus there’s no chance they will blow a fuse.

  72. Work in the UK*

    Any professionals from the UK here?

    I am a young professional who wants to live and work in the publishing industry in London. I do work in publishing currently, so I do have experience though I plan to wait a few years to gain more (I graduated just last year). I’m from a Commonwealth country, so thankfully I can easily get a Tier 5 visa for people under 30.

    But I know the unemployment rate is astronomical in the UK and I worry that if I do move to the UK, I would only be able get low-level jobs bussing tables or being a cashier. Can someone from the UK tell me how likely it is they would hire someone from abroad with the right experience for a professional job? The Tier 5 visa does allow me to work legally, but it’s only for 2 years, so eventually, an employer would have to sponsor a visa for me (if I choose to stay).

    1. Cath in Canada*

      My sister’s in publishing in London, so I have some second-hand observations. The first is that it’s incredibly hard to break into the industry – my sister started at the very bottom and was paid terribly (considering London’s COL) for a good few years before she started to climb the ladder. It takes a long time to climb up, too – she ended up making a sideways move into a non-publishing-centric organisation that has a publishing wing (and is now their head of publishing), because she wasn’t getting very far in traditional publishing companies. The people at the top hang on for dear life apparently. I don’t know how easy it is to get in if you already have experience though.

      There also seems to be a fairly high number of small and dysfunctional companies, where you’re at the whim of an eccentric sole proprietor. Or maybe my sister just had a run of bad luck.

      1. Work in the UK*

        I was in a small, dysfunctional startup company where I was at the mercy of the sole proprietor who’s the writer, editor, and publisher here in Canada. She was incredibly egotistic (she’s a writer), blamed me for everything, was super condescending, and even sent me angry, unprofessional emails. Never doing that again!

        I may end up doing something like what your sister is doing. I work for a non-publishing company in their publications department, and I find that this is more stable and secure. We also publish educational material instead of trade fiction and generate steady revenue. I wouldn’t want to work in trade publishers either, just because they are so chaotic and don’t make money.

    2. Minerva*

      I don’t know about publishing specifically, but I know a LOT of well-educated, experienced non-EU citizens who left the UK after studying there because it was impossible to find a job – including my boyfriend (Indian, has a master’s degree and 5 years of experience) who searched there unsuccessfully for a year. Then he came to Germany, where he found a job within 6 months, despite not speaking German.
      So, really sorry to be a downer, but I would be very hesitant to move there without a job offer. If you are white, you may be at less of a disadvantage, but I’d still urge caution.

  73. unemplaylist*

    I’d love to know what people think of this and how/if I should respond.

    A few weeks ago I had a phone interview for a position at a company that serves a variety of clients. I didn’t get invited for an in-person interview because, they said, they were looking for someone with more experience in the coffeepot industry. My experience is in teapots.

    This week I noticed that they have an opening for more or less the same position, this time in teapots! Plus, a few of the special things they are looking for here, but weren’t for the previous position, I have in spades. I also noticed the HR woman, with whom I had interviewed, looked at my LinkedIn profile.

    I wrote and also called and left a message expressing my interest in learning more. She wrote back and said that I am “on her list of candidates” for the position, they have a few candidates they feel are slightly stronger than me, but she will continue to consider me as well, and if they decide to take next steps she’ll “be sure to let me know.”

    I haven’t responded and I’m not sure if or how I will. Is this simply an example of “don’t call us we’ll call you” that I should ignore? Or an opportunity to point out to her the things about my teapot experience that we didn’t even talk about in our previous interview, since we were focused on coffeepots?

    I don’t know much about the company or if I’d fit in with the people or like the vibe, since I haven’t even stepped foot in the place. I’d sure love the chance to get in the door and meet some people face to face.

    Thoughts? I’ve been mildly obsessing about this, and I need to let it go.

    Happy Halloween!!

    1. Jax*

      You could respond with something like, “Great! I’m excited that you have an opening in teapots, since I have 3 years experience with glazing and led a precise pouring design group at XYZ Pottery. I’ve attached an updated resume that focuses more on my teapot work. I look forward to hearing from you, and if you need further please let me know!”

      I’d only respond if you have something more to tell her, like experience she may not realize you have. If the goal is just to keep your name at the forefront I’d only reply with a, “Thanks! I look forward to talking with you again!” and let it go.

  74. Shell*

    I’d like some advice on moving into QA (not QC). My background is in science, so I’d prefer to use that, but manufacturing works too I think. I want to be able to use my technical writing skills (which i enjoy, but seems unstable as its item job) and pedantic attention to detail and procedures without dealing with the billable hours of law. Thoughts?

    I touched base with my old supervisor in my last lab, but he says their QA people work their way up from lab techs after 10-20 years. Seeing as a lab tech job actually injured me, I don’t think I want to burn 20 years that way. Advice appreciated!

    1. Cath in Canada*

      IIRC you’re fairly local to me, yes? If so, contact me (details on the site linked from my user name) – I know some people in QA in my current academic department and also in a local biotech company who I can put you in touch with.

  75. CW*

    Management’s culpability in wage stagnation:

    A lot has been written about the structural reasons behind wage stagnation. While some of this true, I think a big cause of stagnation is individual decidions by individual managers.

    -Laying off a competant worker due to a personality clash.
    -Terminating a contract, then rehiring the employees for less pay.
    -Lousy budgeting skills result in lost revenue that result in layoffs.
    -Allowing senior staff to deposit bonuses in 401k’s, but making junior staff take it as cash subject to tax.
    -Deciding that internal emoloyees can only receive raises in 10% increments across the board.
    -One CEO believing that “karma” leads to raises.

    None of these banal, everyday decisions can be pinned on globalized forces, they’re just bad decisions that can be traced to one person. What do people think about my hypothesis?

    1. HR Manager*