my coworkers were on their phones during a job interview, my work computer breaks daily, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My coworkers were on their phones while we were interviewing a candidate

I have been in my current entry level role in higher education for about three months. Things are going fairly well and I like most of my co-workers.

My staff was recently asked to interview a new, entry level, candidate for our team. During the interview I was in, one of the director-level staff members and his direct report spent most of the interview on their cell phones. This is something that I certainly noticed and I am sure the candidate did as well since she was sitting right next to them. In general, I quite like the director-level staff member and I do not feel this is reflective of his personality. Regardless, it is poor interview practice and something I am more closely aware of after having gone through the process myself so recently. What’s the best way to address this without ruffling any feathers? He is not my direct supervisor but I have a relatively good rapport with him.

You can’t, really. You’re absolutely right that it’s tremendously rude (as well as unproductive; they’re not going to be able to assess the candidate well if they’re not engaged in the conversation). But you’re in an entry-level role, and you don’t really have the standing to correct someone above you in the hierarchy on something like this. The most you could do would be to say something to your own manager, if you have a good rapport with her — something like, “I felt bad for the candidate that Fergus and Lucinda were on their cell phones for most of our interview with the candidate. Do you think it’s worth someone mentioning it to them?”

2. My work computer breaks every day

Technology has not been my friend lately. I started a new job about two weeks ago and my computer at my workstation has not worked right since. IT has come and look at it a million times, yet it stops working every day, and I feel like I keep bothering my manager about this. She seems apologetic, but I am afraid she’s getting annoyed. Am I handling this right by going to my manager?

Ask her. “I hate having to bother you about this every day. Is there some other way I should be handling it?”

But also, at this point, I’d address the bigger picture, not each individual instance — meaning that you probably need to ask IT whether they’re confident there’s a permanent fix or whether you could get a different computer, since this has to be impacting your productivity.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. When should I tell social media followers that I’m leaving my job?

I work for a large media group but soon might in the position where I move on to another publication. A big part of my job is social media branding. In the event I do move, on, when is it appropriate to tell my social media followers I will be leaving my current position? The day I put in my two weeks notice? My last day at my current position? The first day at my new position?

The Twitter account is originally my personal account, but it is now linked with the company’s website (if I use a certain hashtag), and people who read my articles are referred to my Twitter page. It is an account I can continue to use if I leave the position. My Facebook account is entirely personal (we are required to have Twitter, not Facebook) and is something I use just to promote myself as a reporter by sharing content.

I think either your last day at your old job or after you start your new job would be fine. Doing it when you put in your notice is probably overkill; your followers probably aren’t terribly concerned at that point, but rather just want to know once the change is in effect (if even then; most people won’t care too much).

However, there have been some weird court cases regarding who “owns” social media accounts that are used for business, even when they started as personal accounts, so you might want to wait until you’ve left your old employer, just to play it safe.

4. Working for a relative who barely pays me

I work for a relative who doesn’t have money to pay me. I was unemployed and she started her business and needed help, but didn’t have any funds to pay someone. I told her I could work a few months for free, but after the new year I would need some funds for bills. She drove me back and forth to work, but that ended when someone needed to be there full-time. I agreed to work full time for less than my hourly rate and for part-time pay. Then she gave up her pay to pay me full-time. She reminds me of this at pay time. I’m the last one paid since I’m a relative.

The company doesn’t have money because she won’t work it. She comes in at 11 a.m. and leaves at 3 p.m., and gets upset if she has to work until 5. Also, she threatens that if I make a mistake and it cost her money, then she’ll take it out of my pay. If she makes a mistake, she blames it on me and threatens to deduct it from my pay. Also, I’ll do something to pull in money and she’ll screw it up and say the funds are too low to pay me. Am I crazy for staying here to help out a relative? She doesn’t have money to hire anyone else.


You’re accepting abusive behavior from someone who you’re doing a favor for. On top of that, she’s shown she isn’t even bothering to try to help herself. Why are you trying harder to make her business a success than she is?

If she was being kind and appreciative and treating you well, this would still be a questionable undertaking for you (unless you’re independently wealthy and don’t need an income). But she’s treating you like crap. Why stay?

5. Explaining why I’m leaving a job after 19 years

I have several interviews coming up and am excited about them. One thing that is going to be problematic is that I have been with the same company for 19 years. I decided to leave because I don’t like the direction the place is headed and I think there is much more opportunity for me elsewhere.

I don’t want to say anything negative about my old company in the interviews because that is bad form but how should I deal with the inevitable question: “Why do you want to leave Company X after 19 years?”

“It’s been 19 years and I’m eager to do something new” is going to be a pretty understandable answer. No need to go into anything else.

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie*

    #4 – Based in what you’ve said in the letter, this company doesn’t sound long for this world. Go job hunt now.

    1. Nina*

      This. The signs are all there: neglectful and absent boss, dwindling pay, etc. I doubt this is a well functioning company. Relative figures that family ties will make up for the fact that she’s abusing the OP and trying to screw them out of a well-earned paycheck. Start job hunting ASAP.

  2. CoffeeLover*

    #1 Ooooooo definitely let this one go. This is a great way to get on an executive’s bad side early on in your career. I know AAM suggested it, but I think even saying something to your manager is a bad move because it puts her in an awkward situation and brings something fairly inconsequential to her attention (where she may wonder, “why is she telling me this”). It’s not the kiss of death to talk to her if you REALLY want to get this off your chest, but not worth it.

    1. ClaireS*

      I agree. I also question whether anyone could have enough rapport with a manager with only 3 months on the job.

      Best to drop it.

    2. Iro*

      But why is it inconsequential?

      This behavior could easily be driving top candidates to competitors do to something really easy to fix. I think the talking to the manager from a work related POV is key though.

    3. OP #1*

      Turns out a lot of you were right! We did lose the candidate that was involved in this interview to another school.

      I did follow AAM’s advice and decided to hold my tongue.

  3. GrumpyBoss*

    #1: get used to people at a higher pay grade than you doing crappy things to others. Hopefully events like these are minimal and don’t define your employment, but stuff like this happens from time to time to all of us. You can’t fix everything :(

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I’ll be the rebel and say never get used to it.

      I’m serious. I think things like that should *always* bother a decent human being if for no other reason than when decent human being becomes the person with a higher pay grade you don’t think it’s okay to behave like a boor.

      Basic manners take so little effort.

      (I know, of course, what you mean, which is that these things happen that one can’t control and you can’t get all panties in a bunch about it when you can’t change the circumstances.)

      1. SJP*

        Im on board with this comment too. Just cause you get paid more, and are in a higher exec position should not be an excuse, and shouldn’t cause the person to sacrifice basic manners just cause they’re busy/in demand.
        And i’m sure there are execs who post on this blog that would be mortified to suggest that execs can do this over more lower level people.

        +1 on basic manners take so little effort. I’d like to see how that exec would be if they were interviewed and their interviewer was on their phone the whole time. I’d think they’d be pretty pissed.. So why on earth would they do it.

        This totally grinds my gears

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Not to speak for her but I will anyway :) , Grumpy Boss wasn’t saying it is okay, she was saying it as more a fact of life that some people suck. I picked the nit about not getting used to it.

          The big wig people I admired in the business world as I was “growing up” were always gracious. That’s what I allowed myself to become used to and model.

          1. GrumpyBoss*

            Thanks, and this is correct.

            Not saying it’s ok. Just saying that there are things people do that we aren’t in a position to change.

            1. Chinook*

              I think that while it is rude, there are also times when the big wigs need to be rude, like answer an urgent email, because what they do can sometimes be time sensitive. All of those in my company over a certain level in my company do monitor their emails (where voice mail is also sent) in case something goes sideways. I will see them pick it up, check it and then put it back down. If there is an urgent message, they then excuse themselves to deal with it.

              1. Jazzy Red*

                “…there are also times when the big wigs need to be rude,…”, ” I will see them pick it up, check it and then put it back down. If there is an urgent message, they then excuse themselves to deal with it.”

                If they excuse themselves, they’re not being rude. Unless someone is bleeding, there’s no excuse for being rude. What OP’s superiors did was very rude indeed, but if OP knows what’s good for her, she’ll keep quiet about it. OP, this is the kind of thing you want to always remember, and never do.

                If I were the job candidate, I’d cross this company off my list and keep looking.

                1. Iro*

                  I totally agree with you. It’s one thing to recieve a call and say “excuse me I must take this” and leave the interview. The message that sends to the candidate is, “I’m a very buy exec, but I do recognize and value your time as well.”

                  Simply answering the phone and then staying in the room on the call is rude. I would cross this company off my list for sure!

              2. HeyNonnyNonny*

                I agree…not that I condone the rudeness, but a lot of high-level execs are dealing with the sort of thing that cannot be put on hold. My direct manager is on her phone all the time, but I know that she is constantly sending emails, putting out fires, and negotiating time-sensitive agreements.

                Perhaps a better suggestion to your manager would be that someone who’s so high up they need to monitor their phone constantly shouldn’t be sitting in on an entry-level interview in the first place.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  oooh. that’s a good idea.

                  I mean, not while the OP is still so new but, that’s a good idea. For later.

              3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                Yeah, without suddenly trying to grab the Miss Manners of Business title with my decrees, that’s not necessarily rude at all. Monitoring business emails in a business meeting, there are reasons people have to do it and when it is within the norm of the people you are with, I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t think phones = rude.

                Example, when I meet with our technical web team bi weekly, the tech guys monitor their email, politely, while we are meeting. They have to because if somebody else’s (or my!) web server blew up while we are talking, minutes count. Monitor away!

                The rudeness is when you are diverting the bulk of your attention from the human being in the room, and double rudeness when that person is a “peon”, like an entry level job applicant you are responsible for interviewing.

                That’s what I’m saying.

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  True, but in that situation the interviewer should start the discussion by saying that they need to keep an eye on their email and may need to step outto take a phone call. I would find it off putting if someone was interviewing me and kept messing with their phone or sending text messages. But if they had said that there was and issue they needed to monitor while we we’re talking I would understand that.

                2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Agreed Ann Furthermore.

                  When I’m out of reply space, that’s a signal it’s time to turn *my* full attention to my work. :)

                3. Meg Murry*

                  I understand that sometimes people have to take care of situations that are blowing up – but if its bad enough that something’s blowing up, leave the room, and if it isn’t, check quickly and put the phone down.

                  One of the things that used to bug me to no end was when we would have monthly status update meetings on a project that included people from several different departments, and one person was projecting that the meetings were a waste of her time by spending most of the meeting on her phone typing away. Then toward the end of the meeting, she would ask questions that had been specifically addressed earlier in the presentation, so we would have to go back and go over that slide again because she wasn’t paying attention the first time. It drove me insane it was so rude. I understand our project wasn’t the most important thing on her plate, but it was going to cost several million dollars of design and construction work that her team was going to have to implement, so it did matter that she knew what was going on. She would also then email us questions from her phone (that had also been addressed in the presentation, which she also had both electronic and hard copies of), and I always wondered if she was sending them from another meeting she wasn’t paying attention to.

                  Ugh – if you are so important that you can’t leave your email, just skip the meeting. There is a decline button in the meeting request for a reason.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Sing it from the mountain tops, WTL, so all can hear it.

            This is a message that needs to be kept alive. Just because one is is a position of power that does not excuse them from following the rules of basic human decency.

          3. C Average*

            +1 on bigwigs being fully capable of graciousness.

            As a relative peon at my company who frequently interacts with higher-ups, I’m fascinated by the distribution of graciousness in the upper ranks.

            There’s a VP I deal with from time to time who’s responsible for a huge number of very important things and is, I’m sure, a very busy guy. He is unfailingly gracious and personable in person and in writing, and it’s a pleasure to deal with him. In my limited experience with others at his rank, the same is true. Even if I don’t get a lot of time with them, I get their undivided attention when I am with them, and I never have to wonder if they’re focusing on the subject at hand or on something else.

            The senior managers and directors I sometimes deal with, though, are quite frequently clipped and rude and self-important. Not always, of course, but enough of the time that the ones who AREN’T are memorable and stand out in my mind as being unusual.

            I can’t help thinking that part of the reason the man in question got to be a VP, aside from being brilliant and talented, is that every single person he deals with comes away from the interaction thinking “what a great guy” rather than “what an arrogant asshole.”

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I agree with your sentiment, and I’ve certainly called out similar bad behaviour from senior managers, but never within three months of starting work somewhere. It is a political minefield the op would be stepping into, after such a short time on the job (possibly in the work place at all of the role is entry level) they simply do not have the political capital to get involved in managing upwards, and they also lack any form of context about what distraction was about.

      3. Judy*

        It’s certainly something to observe and note about someone, similar to how they treat the receptionist or the staff at a restaurant.

      4. LBK*

        Yes, yes, yes. Learn to not let it distract you from what you need to get done, sure. But don’t learn to accept rudeness as the standard.

    2. Angora*

      She hasn’t been there long enough to say anything. I sure would stir anything up before your six month evaluation. In higher education you will come across many people that lack some basic social and business skills. They have focused on seeking their degrees, than they are working in a field that doesn’t necessarily rate performance on interpersonal and management skills in the evaluation process. I work in higher education, and my boss as gone through 5 admins in two years since getting promoted into the director position, two tenure track faculty left this summer all because of her lack of both. This has been going on for years, but they never called her on her behavior until now. But it’s hard to get rid of someone once they have tenure.

      My advise is keep your mouth shut and see what the social climate is like after six months. At the 3 month mark you’re still in the honeymoon stage of a new job.

      1. M*

        Yes, my interview for my current job (academia) had someone there who was glued to her iphone. She does not have the type of job where she couldn’t put her phone away for an hour, she’s just a bit clueless that it comes across badly. She’s been my colleague for 5 years now, and that’s just how she is, this is not her only foible but one of my pet peeves. She even does the phone thing when it’s really ill-advised. I’ve been walking with her when she was trying to talk and text, and she fell on her face when she wasn’t looking where she was going.

    3. Jennifer*

      Yeah, the point of climbing up the ladder is so that you can do whatever you want to whoever you want with impunity.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think you’re probably joking here, but in case not: That’s not the point for most people. For most people, the point is to have more autonomy in how you pursue your work, to have more of an impact, and to make more money.

      2. Carrington Barr*

        Not so much the *point*, but more of a perk, really. At least, that’s been my experience. :/

        1. MK*

          Having things your own way is one of the perks of advancement, sure. Perhaps even being able to worry less about how your behavior will affect your career. But very few people ever reach a place where they can afford to ignore manners completely.

          I think it shouldn’t be forgotten that, according to the OP, this is not yet another instance of rudeness from a total jerk, but an isolated incident from an otherwise nice guy. Everyone has lapses in manners every so often.

  4. John*

    I feel like I’m missing an inside joke. Where are the names Fergus and Lucinda from? Or do you just use distinctive names to avoid the trap of Jane and John and Bob and the like? (which I wholeheartedly respect, by the way!)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Am chuckling. I’m not sure. I don’t watch tv so I have to wait for someone to explain these things. But you are right, sometimes people pick unique names to see if anyone gets the reference. It makes me laugh. I admire people who can come up with these names.

    2. LBK*

      I’ve Googled as hard as I can Google when Alison uses those names and I’ve never been able to come up with a source. I think you’re right, they’re just randomly chosen distinctive names. The only ones that are usually references are when it’s Game of Thrones characters.

    3. Poohbear McGriddles*

      Fergus and Lucinda were Vaudeville performers from 1911-1913. They were best known for their “loud mime” routine, which was notoriously Francophobic – not to mention sparking the first documented case of Metamfiezomaiophobia. Turns out, Lucinda was terrified of clowns and the mime makeup dredged up all of those emotions.

      The couple were a hit in small town theaters, but never really made it big. Not sure if it was Fergus’ alcoholism or Lucinda’s growing pre-occupation with Marxism, but they just couldn’t get their act together (pun intended). After being chased out of Peoria for a drunken rant against the Pope and the President, the disgraced duo split up and were never seen on stage again.

      Now you know the rest of the story.

        1. Poohbear McGriddles*

          Yep, that’s them. They are also Wakeen’s grandparents. Well, Lucinda is anyway. It’s always been speculated that Wakeen’s father was the product of an illicit relationship with a tea merchant. May explain his lifelong fascination with teapots.

          1. hildi*

            I thought maybe you were totally serious until you invoked Wakeen. Super fun imagination you have there!!!

            1. LBK*

              Same, I actually Googled “Fergus and Lucinda vaudeville” after the first comment. Apparently I’m extra gullible on Fridays.

            2. Poohbear McGriddles*

              What do you mean “imagination”? Are you saying the stories I’ve been told are all lies?

              Next you’ll be telling me that the Great Pumpkin isn’t real.

      1. Poohbear McGriddles*

        I once fell back on Bob and Jane at a corporate retreat. “Team Building Trust Exercise” my hind end. Six cracked vertebrae later I wouldn’t trust those two ever again.

  5. #2 op*

    Since I’ve written this the fixed my computer permenantly (I hope!). They replaced the Internet cable and that seems to have been the issue. I’m crossing my fingers in hopes it’ll work for a while :)

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Great news! I hope this works out for you. And I hope you find confirmation that the boss was not angry with you, rather, she was upset that you did not have a usable computer.

    2. Frances*

      Yay! I’ve been battling my own string of chronic computer issues (I’m about to be on my fourth computer in less than 2 years), so you have my sympathies.

    3. #2 op*

      It stopped working again :( But now it’s working again after 10 minutes. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, and I’m usually so good with computers.

      1. BadPlanning*

        Is there a way to escalate your computer issue — sometimes you need to be the squeaky wheel to get some actual attention other than “we rebooted it, see if that works.”

        Do your coworkers know which IT person is the best — maybe you could ask for someone by name who might figure out the real problem (or know the magic words to get you a new computer – “Sorry, IT Boss, the flux capacitor on this one is blown. We’re wasting our time fixing it every day. We’ll save money by getting a new one.”)

        You have my sympathies!

          1. Deedee*

            I was just wondering this myself yesterday…where IS Jamie?? Haven’t heard from her in the last few days or so.

        1. thatITd00d*

          Rolling my eyes at this– I love the general attitude I see folks have the indicates their IT department sucks. Granted I’ve only been an IT Analyst for 3 years now, but a full 90% of the time the person using the computer is the issue; and then when it isn’t, internal company procedures have to be followed and we get yelled at/blamed for THAT.

          1. #2 op*

            I’m probably insane, but I wish I were good enough with computers to work in IT. It would make my life slightly more easier :P

      2. Chocolate Teapot IT Dept*

        Although you may want to blame IT, sometimes it’s beyond them.

        I once worked IT for a US company that had offices across the whole country. Our budget was so tight that when notebooks came in that really needed to be replaced, 10 years old, parts falling off, etc., all we could do is patch them up and send them right back out. We had to get three levels of approval including divisional vice president, president and the entire fellowship of the ring (a council of a dozen company executives) for anything above $199.99 and more often than not the approval was denied so we just didn’t bother asking most of the time and the following is what resulted.

        Broken USB port causing a short circuit? Fill it with epoxy so it can’t be used anymore and ship it back out.

        Left shift key doesn’t work or sticks? Prop it in the up position, glue it underneath so it doesn’t go down and ship it back out with an instruction to only use the right shift key.

        Need a software package installed? Don’t call us, just “find” one on the Internet.

        When we were able to get a trickle of a few new PCs we hoarded the old ones for parts. So if your notebook came in with a broken screen then we’d replace it with one that wasn’t as broken.

        People loved IT at OldJob. #sarcasm

        1. Stephanie*

          Need a software package installed? Don’t call us, just “find” one on the Internet.

          Wasn’t that just asking for viruses or bloatware?

          1. Chocolate Teapot IT Dept*

            Oh the things we found on those computers! Viruses and bloatware were the least of our concerns. Can you spell pr0n? I didn’t know it could be spelled that many ways with so many different people each putting their two cents in. Sigh. It was bad.

            Licensing headache? We don’t need no stinkin’ licensing. Actually, we in IT kept a log of all the legal/illegal software that was installed so that when the licensing police stopped in we could prove that we had nothing to do with all the unlicensed software. We also kept documentation of all the licensing request rejections so the police would know who to go to and to stay away from us.

            1. thatITd00d*

              Oi. I assist pharma sales reps. For some reason, despite having salaries that track well into the six figures, many of them are too cheap to purchase their own computer, and end up using their work computers for everything, including watching porno.

        2. Wilton Businessman*

          > Need a software package installed? Don’t call us, just “find” one on the Internet.

          Oy vey, can you say licensing headache?

    4. Mallory Janis Ian*

      Yes, I hope this time’s the charm! I had some sort of computer issue a while back in which my computer would not log on to the system until I crawled under my desk — every single morning — and unplugged/replugged the internet cable. I don’t know what finally fixed it, but I know that our internal IT guy had to call upon the university’s upper IT in order to fix it.

      All I can say is, it is really, really nice not to have to crawl under one’s desk every single day in order to connect to the internet.

      1. #2 op*

        It’s been working for the past almost 2 and a half hours. so that’s good. Maybe it not working was just a hiccup with the system – which seems to happen a lot here.

        1. Malissa*

          A box of donuts taken to the IT department will usually solve anything with-in their power.
          That’s how I got a computer fixed when I was a newbie at a big corporation.

          1. thatITd00d*

            The other thing you can do? Treat us like coworkers, not like something unpleasent you stepped in that needs to be scraped off your shoe. :)

    5. Alternative*

      I am curious what stops working exactly. There is no internet connection? The computer freezes up? The computer literally won’t turn on? You can’t access the network? Unable to open the programs you need?

      1. #2 op*

        The Internet randomly disconnects. They found it was a short in the ethernet cord and it’s been working well now that they have replaced it.

          1. #2 op*

            Yes! Me too. I managed to get 91% productivity this week, despite the problems, and I’m working OT tomorrow, so that will further go up, so I feel accomplished.

  6. The Cosmic Avenger*

    #4: This is probably a moot point since you need to just GTFO of there, but if your family member threatens you with payroll deductions for “mistakes”, for the sake of those poor souls who will follow you, you might remind her that she’s not allowed to make payroll deductions on a whim unless there’s actual property damage or missing cash:

    But in a more general sense, there’s no point in bailing out someone who keeps drilling holes in their rowboat.

    1. HappyLurker*

      love this: “there’s no point in bailing out someone who keeps drilling holes in their rowboat”
      I am totally using this some time and will be sure to say The Cosmic Avenger told me so! :)

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    #4: There is nothing about this situation you described to make me think things will improve. You need to start looking for a new job right away. I would bet that your relative will try and make you feel guilty for leaving when you do find a job. She’ll lay it on thick, and likely accuse you of abandoning your family. Stand your ground. If it gets really unpleasant, leave as soon as you give notice. Good luck!

    Working with family can be such a minefield. I worked for a family run business in college, and the dynamic was different than any other place I’ve worked since — and I was not even a member of the family who owned the company. And to add to the mix, the oldest son had a lot of mental health and behavioral issues caused by years of substance abuse, and was not reliable about showing up for work and so on. Any place else, that would have gotten him fired, but because he worked for his family, it was understood that that would never happen. All of that is not to say that it was a bad place to work, because it wasn’t. They were great about letting me flex my schedule and cut back on my hours during midterms and finals, and the mom, who was the office manager, would slip me $20 here and there when she knew I was really broke. (They paid me a decent wage, but I was in debt up to my eyeballs.) It was an interesting experience to work in a place where the boundaries between work life and personal life were pretty much non-existent.

  8. Graciosa*

    Regarding #5, this is one of those things that will seem totally normal to everyone else and only the OP will worry about because of insider knowledge of how the current employer is changing.

    In addition to what Alison suggested, you may consider looking for opportunities to say nice things about your employer when you answer this or other questions in an interview. “I’ve had a great career at Chocolate Teapots Inc., with some terrific opportunities, but after improving the efficiency of our melting process by 20% and revamping the cocoa quality system, I’m looking for new challenges.”

    This serves the dual purpose of making it clear that you’re on good terms with your current employer and that you are only looking for a new job because of your eagerness to continue and expand your great track record of achievement.

    Good luck in your job search.

  9. Artemesia*

    #5 Wish I had had the good sense to leave a business that was showing signs of moving in the ‘wrong direction.’ It had been there forever and people expected it to be there forevermore. It was no fun losing my job with dozens of others; how much better to have bailed timely. No one will blink at making the move; ‘time for new challenges’ is all you need. Keep that ugly truth to yourself.

    #4 Even if you don’t have a new job yet, I’d think twice about continuing to work in this abusive situation. It can’t be improving family life and it is an outrageous way to treat you. It has been my experience that people who are willing to work for little or nothing are viewed by the people exploiting them as losers and not appreciated for their skills and efforts. I bet if she suddenly had enough money to hire a full time person, that it would go to some new and wonderful person she recruited. People who undervalue themselves tend to be undervalued. People who think they are doing someone a favor are rarely appreciated for the fine work they do.

  10. JMegan*

    #1, this is not a situation you can change. In the absence of any other context, I agree that it does come off as quite rude, but unfortunately you’re not in a position to do anything about it right now. File it away under “things I won’t do when I’m in that situation,” and move on.

    #2, I’m in a similar position – my computer doesn’t break every day, but certainly often enough that it’s annoying. I agree with Alison about addressing the bigger picture with your manager, and see if you can get a proper computer that helps you do your work rather than preventing you!

    #4, totally a situation you can change, and should. Your relative doesn’t get a pass on treating you horribly, just because she’s a relative. You probably won’t get her to change her behaviour towards you, but I would definitely be putting your resume out there and looking for another job at this point.

  11. BadPlanning*

    If it makes the OP #5 feel better, I’ve had several coworkers in the recent past move onto new jobs after being at the same company for 15-20 years. There are regions where it’s unusual to stay that long (Silicon Valley, etc), but in my area, it’s not that strange.

  12. Wilton Businessman*

    #5. This is one time I disagree with AAM. I think you’re right to be prepared with an answer. It certainly doesn’t have to be long and drawn out, but “I’m eager for something new” is not going to cut it after a 19 year career with the same company. At least it’s not going to cut it for me. Certainly you must have a pretty big reason for leaving after 19 years. Doesn’t need to be a big, complicated story, but needs a little more teeth than just glossing over it, IMHO.

    1. Joey*

      Agreed. My response would be, “so why now? What triggered you to start looking outside of “acme”?

      Fwiw Id be totally cool with “the company has been going in a different direction for some time now. I thought it was time to look for an organization that was more in line with my goals.”

  13. John*

    I’m OP #5. Thanks for the feedback. I guess I’m just over thinking it. Graciosa, thanks for your tip. I think I will add that on. I feel much better about this question now. The hard part is going to be giving notice, but I won’t be the first rat to abandon the sinking ship :)

  14. Iro*

    #1 I think this is a bigger deal than everyone is letting on. It could discourage valuable employees from continuing to seek the position. I know that if I went through all the trouble of coming in for an interview, and one of my “interviewer’s” spent the entire time on the phone in another conversation I would scratch that company off of my list. If senior management cares this little about the hiring process, what else are they “too busy to care” about.

    I would catch up with your manager about this from a work related view. Something like “Do you have any insight into [Senior Leaders] priorities for being involved in the hire process for [x role]? I ask because he spent the entire interview on the phone, and I’m not sure it’s sending a welcoming message to our top candidates. “

  15. mel*


    Ouch. I always wondered what it was like to feel like part of a family and have bonds with these other people and have love for them etc, etc. But then I see things like this and figure it must come with some pretty heavy strings if familial love makes people willing to endure this level of crap you wouldn’t accept from anyone else! Maybe I’m just a heartless jerk, but the minute someone comes to me for a favour and then starts treating me this badly, I’d drop everything and wish them luck. No one has time on earth for that!

  16. Alien vs Predator*


    OP, please don’t say anything to your leaders about this. First of all, it will put you on The List. Secondly, they are actually providing a very important public service. They are letting potential employees know that the organization is run by rude, disconnected, narcissistic leaders.

    Personally, I secretly love it when stuff like this happens in an interview. I mean, I am kind of disappointed because presumable I spent a good amount of time preparing for the interview. But, ultimately I want to see their very worst behavior during the interview because a few hours of interview prep time are nothing compared to a few years working under CRAZY.

    Keep up the good work, bad interviewers!

  17. Nameless*


    Just adding to the GTFO chorus. I found myself in a situation like this, working for a family friend’s poorly managed business and going unpaid when things got rough because of a feeling that I owed him some kind of loyalty. He wasn’t outright abusive, just an awful manager, while I was working for him, but in the nightmare of trying to get my pay after the fact he has turned out to be the most greedy, manipulative, generally terrible person, and it has gotten truly nasty. Ironically but not surprisingly, his behavior has destroyed the ties I thought were so important to preserve. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from a situation like this, and a lot to lose.

  18. Chloe*

    To No. 3 – I apologize if this is already on here, but the comment threads are long!! A word of advice: Don’t do anything without consulting your current company. I had a social media account that I was the “face” for and my editor and I talked out what tweet I would send and how to remove any branding (cover photo, etc.) from the site. I also updated my social media bio the day I announced I would no longer be working for “X” to say “Former Asst. Editor @XMAGAZINE” so people would know off the bat I was no longer associated with the brand. This helped reinforce the detachment without having to tweet out several times that I wasn’t working for “X” anymore.

  19. Scott R*

    Re #2, computers breaking … I’ve been in I.T. and the most frustrating thing to me is how many companies underbuy computers for their employees thinking it will save money when it TOTALLY doesn’t.

    Here’s an example: my company buys everyone the exact same computer–a mid-range PC with 4 gigs of RAM and a 64 gig hard drive. This is underpowered by almost any standard, though, in fairness, this configuration is fine for someone who schedules appointments, reads e-mail and composes a document or two.

    The problem comes in when you get the power users who are either in I.T. themselves, or people in marketing or graphics.

    To any managers that might read this: yes, you’re saving $500 up front buying a cheaper PC, BUT if it takes your graphic person 45 seconds to apply an effect in Photoshop on that cheap PC vs. 5 seconds on a more powerful machine, you’re going to have a lot of lost productivity especially when you average out that time over the course of a year and multiply it by the number of employees with underpowered machines.

    Also, if you buy a top-notch computer, in two years it will be a mid-range computer and two years after that a low range computer. In other words, you’ll get at least six years out of it. If you buy a bottom rung computer, in two years it’s going to be obsolete so you’re going to replace it more often. In addition to the cost of the new machine, there’s also the time cost of reinstalling all the software, employees getting their documents back onto their machines, etc.

    Unless you know your employees are not going to be doing computing-intensive things, buy them the best machines you can. You will save money in the long run!

    1. thatITd00d*

      Tell me about it. For the last year we have been shipping out laptops that are advertised as entry level/student builds. They cost less than $300, and they break down if you sneeze too hard in front of them. :\

  20. Gene*


    You already know it’s time to go. These lines jumped out at me

    I agreed to work full time for less than my hourly rate and for part-time pay. … I’m the last one paid since I’m a relative.

    Not that I recommend it, but if at anytime you were paid less than minimum wage turn her in to the appropriate jurisdiction in your state. This action will blow up the family into warring camps; I’ve seen it where the laws being broken were environmental ones. One family member just couldn’t do it anymore and called us.

    1. Nameless*

      I would caution against doing that unless the OP is owed enough money to make it worthwhile (and has any hope of collecting it), many other people are affected, and/or the violations are big/widespread enough for any relevant agencies to take notice and take action. Both the USDOL and state agencies are severely underfunded and thus tend to focus only on the big fish (i.e. large revenue thresholds or numbers of employees) and so they may be able to do nothing for OP or, worse, they may only be able to do something like conciliation, which is easy to evade but alerts the employer that someone has complained (and in a small business, it’s often easy to figure out who did that).

      This goes double for an actual lawsuit. It’s a hard slog through the legal system, a lawsuit will almost never improve and likely will only destroy relationships, and it’s just generally often not worth it.

      The best solution for the OP’s finances and mental health is honestly to walk out NOW and never look back.

  21. ZSD*

    I’m just really curious about what type of business this relative owns. (I was going to say, “Is running,” but she clearly isn’t running it.) I’m wondering what type of industry she expects to be successful in while only working 4 hours a day while her business is just starting out.

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